25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Mon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, arises from the Government’s regrettable refusal to support the establishment of a broadly based university to serve northern Victoria and the Riverina. Will the Government favourably consider the establishment in this area of a university college giving full degree courses as the first step towards setting up an autonomous university within a reasonable time? Has the Government received advice from the University League through Dr. Merrylees emphasising that the League is not satisfied wilh Senator Gorton’s undertaking to investigate the establishment of a junior college - a college covering only first and second year courses in arts and science, after which the student must transfer to the parent university to complete his course? ls it a fact that accommodation for students in capital cities is expensive, scarce and in many instances unsatisfactory?
– If I heard the honorable senator correctly, I think he referred to somebody being dissatisfied with an undertaking that I am alleged to have given about the establishment in the Riverina of a university college. The first point I would like to make is that no such undertaking has ever been given by me or by anybody else. There has been a request by the New South Wales State Government that there should be established in the Riverina a university giving two year courses, but no undertaking has been given that that would be clone. If the honorable senator refers to the statement on tertiary education made in this Senate on 21st September he will see that the question of the establishment in the Riverina of some sort of tertiary college of this kind is to be further discussed between the New South Wales State Government and the Common wealth Government, lt is quite untrue to say that any undertaking has ever bv-en given for the establishment of a university college giving two year courses. The second point I make is that the Government has not received from Dr. Merrylees the sort of statement to which the honorable senator has referred. I personally have received from Dr. Merrylees a letter saying how pleased he was that this matter was to be the subject of further discussion.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that many country people who require telephone communication facilities are required to supply, install and maintain the telephone lines running to their properties? Would the Minister seek the abolition of this cost which acts to the disadvantage of a section of the community?
– lt is a fact that in certain country areas intending telephone subscribers are required to provide certain facilities within the area of their own properties. As this is a matter of policy for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I can only refer the honorable senator’s request to the Postmaster-General.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Having regard to the gloomy prospects for Australian growers of apples and pears exported overseas arising from factors beyond their control, such as greatly increased production of these commodities in other countries, depressed prices and increased freight rates, will the Government confer with the industry regarding the establishment of a system of organised marketing with minimal prices guaranteed by the Government and/ or a subsidy on overseas freight charges? What charge per bushel is levied on growers by shipping agents licensed by the Australian Apple and Pear Board to handle the export of these products?
– I will convey the honorable senator’s questions to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will he ascertain whether the Prime Minister will make a statement giving some reliable information on the dispute thai is reported to have occurred in the Government of South Vietnam? Does the Australian Government, as an ally of the Government of South Vietnam, support the policy of Marshal Ky or the policy of those who resigned because of corruption in I he Army and in the belief that South Vietnam is becoming a police State? Will the South Vietnam delegation to the Manila Conference be weakened as a result of the division in its Government?
– J think the honorable senator is asking me to refer this matter to the Prime Minister. I shall do so and see whether 1 can obtain a statement from him.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General again ask the Postmaster-General to have a further check made in an endeavour to overcome problems which exist in the trunkline telephone service from Canberra to the north west of Tasmania? At present it is almost impossible lo carry on an uninterrupted call to that area. I can offer certain comments to the Minister if he requires further details.
– Yes, J will ask the Postmaster-General to have another look at the matter raised by the honorable senator.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can he advise why the Government has repudiated ils policy on Australian flag tankers, laid down by Prime Minister. Sir Robert Menzies, in 1964. which guaranteed the firm of R. W. Miller & Co. Pty. Ltd. a reasonable share of the coastal trade after it had broken through the foreign coastal tanker monopoly? ls the Minister aware that a meeting of key maritime unions threatened a stoppage on the waterfront unless the right thing was done by this Australian firm, thereby saving the jobs of Australians in this industry?
Will the Minister take up this matter with the Government and ensure that justice is done to an Australian firm and Australian employees?
– There has been no repudiation of policy by the Government in relation lo its endeavour to have Australian tankers on the Australian coast manned by Australian crews. I give a denial to the suggestion implicit in the question. The fact is that there has been a staging of the period, in collaboration with the oil companies, and indeed with R. W. Miller & Co. Pty. Ltd., to provide Australian built tankers on the Australian coast. This collaboration is proceeding. Quite recently the Minister for Shipping and Transport made a statement in another place in relation to this matter and he made that point clear. Question time does not lend itself to a full exposition of the position. Therefore, 1 do not propose to repeat what the Minister said in another place beyond denying the proposition that there has been a repudiation of policy and saying that there is provision for Australian tankers manned by Australian crews to operate. In fact, these vessels are now engaged in the carriage of oil.
– My question to the Leader of the .Government iri the Senate follows the question asked by Senator Cavanagh. I ask the Minister whether he has seen a report that a number of Cabinet Ministers in the South Vietnamese Government have accused Air ViceMarshal Ky of racial discrimination and have said that South Vietnam is heading towards a police state, and that because corruption is so rife there they are finding it impossible to carry out their duties honestly and efficiently, ls this the type of government in power in a country to which young Australian conscripts are being sent, because the Australian Prime Minister, on his return from Vietnam earlier this year, said that the Ky Government was one which was bringing about conditions whereby stability could be achieved? In view of the importance of this matter lo Australian servicemen already serving in South Vietnam-
– Order! The honorable senator should ask his question. He is making too much comment.
– I ask: Will the Prime Minister undertake to raise this matter as one of urgency at the forthcoming Manila Conference, in order to ascertain the facts for the Australian people?
– I shall ask the Prime Minister whether he will comment on the request of the honorable senator, but I cannot help noting in passing that every opportunity is taken by some honorable senators opposite to weaken the position of the Western forces in Vietnam.
– Comfort to the Communists.
– Yes. This does not apply to all honorable senators opposite but it is quite noticeable that a small coterie lakes every opportunity possible to ask questions, based on newspaper reports or indeed on any reports whatever, with a view to weakening the position of the Western forces in Vietnam.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Housing. Is it a fact that the Minister is considering amendments to the Homes Savings Grant Act which will liberalise entitlements and remove existing restrictive “ prescribed savings “ sections of the Act? If so, will the Minister have regard for present borderline cases submitted to her? When is it likely that the new provisions will apply?
– I remind the honorable senator that the Prime Minister made a statement recently to the effect that, as this legislation had been operating for two years, it was felt there were some anomalies which could be ironed out. The Prime Minister has agreed that the legislation will be reviewed, and I can assure the honorable senator that it will be reviewed. It is good to know that the legislation is being of great assistance to very many young Australian couples. Since the inception of the scheme, more than 62,000 couples have received grants which now total more than $28 million. This shows the value of the legislation in assisting young people to get homes.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minis ter for Primary Industry. Will he ascertain whether the Minister for Primary Industry has received the nationwide petition sponsored by Captain Colin Bailey of Southport, Queensland, calling for a cessation of the indiscriminate killing of dolphins on the Australian coast?
Senator McKELLAR__ I shall convey the honorable senator’s question to (he Minister for Primary Industry.
– I address a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Has the Minister seen newspaper reports to the effect that Australian universities intend to increase tuition fees, to reduce academic staffs and to impose more stringent quotas on the admission of new students owing to the Government’s granting to Australian universities over the next triennium some S56 million short of what the Australian Universities Commission recommended? Are these reports correct? If so, what does the Government intend to do about this position?
– 1 have not seen the newspaper reports referred to by the honorable senator. I should doubt very much whether they were significantly correct. After all, the universities of Australia are to receive during the next triennium $120 million more than they received during the last triennium. It seems to me very odd that this is going to require a reduction in staff, as the honorable senator suggested. However, I have not seen the reports.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is it true that the people, including honorable senators, who demand political reforms in South Vietnam, which is suffering as a result of Communist threats and aggression, never, and I repeat never, demand democratic reform by the Communist dictator in North Vietnam?
– All I can say is that I have not noticed in this chamber that the honorable senators who seek constantly by means of questions to denigrate the Government of South Vietnam, also suggest that North Vietnam is an undemocratic Slate. Nor do they mention that the disputes and the problems which are occurring in Communist China at the momentlead not to resignations but to murders in the street. No attention is directed to that matter at all. It is left unquestioned. Questions are directed only against a government which recently has held an election in its country and which is seeking to stop aggression from countries of the kind to which the honorable senator referred.
-I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Will he provide details of the voluntary code operating in regard to cigarette advertising on television?
-I shall inquire of the Postmaster-General whether the information is available and if it is, I shall forward it to the honorable senator.
-I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister heard any questions by Liberal Party, Country Party or Democratic Labour Party senators, who are so anxious about undemocratic behaviour in North Vietnam and China, concerning the recent massacres in Indonesia?
-I have not heard such questions asked by any one in the Senate, although there may have been questions on this subject of the alleged massacres. I believe that a number of people were killed in Indonesia as the result of a revolt or an uprising. A number of generals were massacred and this led to reprisals. But I cannot quite see what relevance that has to the question asked by Senator Mattner.
(Question No. 962.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice - 1.How many Australian personnel are engaged in Vietnam and, of these, how many are national servicemen and how many are members of the Regular Army? 2.How many (a) companies; (b) platoons; (c) sections; and (d) other units were engaged in the recent action in Vietnam in which 17 Australian soldiers were killed?
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Are any members of the Australian Communist Party or the Eureka Youth League who are called up for national service included among the national service trainees selected to fight in Vietnam?
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
All members of the Army including national servicemen must meet the required standards. The assessment of the suitability of any individual must therefore be considered in relation to the particular circumstances of his case.
(Question No. 1021.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
(Question No. 1029.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer -
The Prime Minister draws attention to the detailed statement that was made by the then Minister for Labour and National Service in Parliament on 1 8th October 1962, giving information about the Government’s attitude on the subject of equal pay for men and women and the Government’s attitude to ratification of the 1951 l.L.O. Convention on this subject. Senator Gorton also provided additional information on this subject in the Senate on 1 1th May 1965. As has been stated clearly, it is not the Government’s policy to ratify an l.L.O. Convention unless the law and practice in the Commonwealth, States and Territories conform with the instrument in question and unless the States agree to ratification.
Commonwealth departments pay equal margins for skill to men and women where they occupy positions for which both men and women are eligible, but in general departments adhere to the differential between the basic wage rates for men and women which are prescribed by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
(Question No. 1057.)
Senator KENNELLY__ I thank the
Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral for his speedy reply to the following question, which was placed on the notice paper on 1 2th October -
Has the Trade Practices Act 1965, which was passed by Parliament approximately ten months ago. been proclaimed?
Has the Trade Practices Tribunal, to be constituted under the Act, been so constituted?
What progress has been made with the appointment of the staff necessary for the efficient working of the Act, and to have the provisions of the Act put into operation?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 1063.)
asked the Minister for Works the following questions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee -
Eighty-seventh report - Report of the AuditorGeneral - financial year 1965-66.
Mr. President, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– On previous occasions your committee has expressed the view that it should adhere to the practice established in 1959 of critically examining each year the Reports of the AuditorGeneral and where it sees a need, of proceeding to a public examination of matters referred to in those Reports. We would again endorse that view on the basis of this inquiry.
Our inquiries show that in recent years the Reports of the Auditor-General have been tabled during the latter half of August. As in our Seventy-Eighth Report, we would emphasise again that the early tabling of the Report is appreciated greatly by your Committee and we pay tribute to the AuditorGeneral and his staff for the sustained effort they have made over the years to achieve that result.
Your Committee’s inquiry into the Auditor-General’s Report for 1965-66 covered a somewhat smaller field than that traversed in the previous year but was designed in part to afford an opportunity for review of certain matters relating particularly to the Departments of External Affairs, Interior and Trade and Industry, which had been the subject of material criticism by your Committee when examining the report of the Auditor-General for the previous financial year. In the case of the Department of the Navy, on the other hand, your Committee felt that whilst that Department had recently established a policy relative to vehicle replacement, it should examine the basis of that policy and the circumstances surrounding its establishment. I commend the report to honorable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work -
Erection of a Migrant Hostel at Springvale, Victoria.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report and recommendations of the Committee are as follows -
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
This Bill will enable a national serviceman who wishes to stand as a candidate at Federal parliamentary elections to be discharged - or in the case of a national service officer, to be transferred to the Regular Army Reserve - if the Military Board is satisfied that he intends to become a candidate. This legislation is necessary because section 44 of the Constitution provides that any person who holds an office of profit under the Crown shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. Legal opinion is that this disqualification applies to servicemen serving on a full time basis. Existing legislation enables members of the permanent forces other than national servicemen to be discharged for the purpose of contesting elections but the provisions of the National Service Act do not permit national servicemen to be discharged for this purpose.
The Bill provides that a national serviceman who has been discharged to contest an election can be required to complete his period of national service if he does not nominate or if he fails to be elected. Appropriate provisions are made in relation to a national service officer who is unsuccessful or docs not nominate. He is required to make application for transfer back to the Regular Army Supplement and if he does not make such an application his appointment as an officer may be terminated.In this case he will be liable to complete his period of service as a national serviceman in the ranks.
Under the Bill a national serviceman or a national service officer discharged or transferred to the Reserve to enable him to contest elections will be entitled to travel at public expense to his former place of residence or to some other place agreed upon with the Military Board. Where a national serviceman is discharged, he acquires rights of re-instatement in employment under the Defence (Re-establishment) Act 1965. Provision is made in the Bill for the preservation of these rights in the event of his being called upon to complete his period of national service.I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Although the rates of pension payable under the Superannuation Act for the children of deceased contributors and pensioners have been increased from time to time, the circumstances of those who suffer the loss of both parents have continued to be a source of concern to all contributors with young families. The main purpose of this Bill is to establish a new basis of pension for orphan children.
The present provision for orphan children is$ 10 per week payable until the age of 16 years or, where the child is in full time education, until the age of 21 years. However, unlike the pension payable to a contributor on his retirement, or to his widow, which is directly related to the salary of the position he last occupied, the orphan’s pension is a fixed rate which bears no relationship to the father’s salary or pension entitlement. Thus while the total income of a fairly large family would not be significantly lower after the death of the mother, a single orphan child could suffer a serious reduction in his or her previous standard of living.
Whilst money cannot compensate the children for the loss of both their parents, lack of money can certainly add to their misfortune. The Government has therefore decided to establish a new basis for these orphan pensions by relating them to the father’s former salary and pension entitlement. This will enable the orphan children, like the widow, to maintain a standard of living and education which will bear some reasonable relationship to thatwhich they enjoyed prior to the death of their parents.
Under the amendments contained inthis Bill, a family of four or more orphan children will be provided with the same family income that would have been paid if the mother had not died. It would be unlikely that such a number could be absorbed into the household of a considerate relative, and the new provision might permit the children to continue to live together in the family home, perhaps in the care of a close relative, without imposing a financial burden upon the one who accepts the not inconsiderable responsibility of looking after the children. For a smaller family of orphan children each child will receive the standard $4 per week child’s pension currently payable to a widow plus one quarter of the pension that would have been payable for the widow herself.
The new basis will apply to all new orphans’ pensions as they become payable, and also to all existing pensions. However, the existing pension of $10 per week for each orphan child will be retained as the minimum benefit. The increases will be payable as from the first fortnightly payment of pensions made after the Bill receives the Royal Assent. Two minor amendments to the Act are also included in the Bill - one to ensure that orphans’ benefits are payable to the children of a deceased pensioner’s first marriage if the father married again after retirement and is survived by a widow who is not entitled to pension; and the other, to permit members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force to retain their superannuation rights if they move to any other fulltime employment with the Commonwealth, or an approved authority of the Commonwealth, on the same basis that now applies to employees of approved authorities. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Toohey) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is a companion measure to the Superannuation Bill which I have just introduced and is designed to extend to the children of serving members of the permanent forces and pensioners under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965 the new basis of pension entitlement that is proposed for the orphan children of contributors and pensioners under the Superannuation Act 1922-1965.I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Toohey) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I have already introduced legislation to establish a new basis for orphans’ pensions under the Superannuation Act 1922-1965 and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965. This Bill makes similar provision for orphans’ pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1965 and corrects a defect in the present related wording of the Act. The Bill also seeks to make minor drafting alterations to the Act. It is proposed that the existing rate of orphans’ pension of $6 a week will be increased to a minimum of$ 10 a week and that this may be increased to an amount calculated by dividing the pension that would otherwise have been payable to the widow by the number of eligible children in the family or by four, whichever is the greater number. The pension for orphans will thus be related to the pension for the widow.
Orphans’ pensions under the Superannuation Act 1922-1965 and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965 were increased from $6 to SIO a week with effect from 24th September 1965. A corresponding increase in orphans’ pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1965 was deferred as there were then no orphans’ pensions being paid. There are now, regrettably, three orphans entitled to pension and it is proposed that the increased pension should be made effective from 1st January 1966 to grant increases to the orphans concerned. The new basis for calculation of orphans’ pensions will have effect from the date of royal assent to this Bill. The maximum age for orphans’ pensions will also be raised from 16 to 21 years for children undergoing fulltime education, with effect from 1st January 1966, to correspond wilh amendments already made to the Superannuation Act 1922-1965 and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1965.
The Aci now provides that if an exmember remarries after retirement and subsequently dies, and is survived by a widow and also by eligible children of his former marriage, those orphan children are not eligible for pensions until after the death of the widow even though she has no pension or benefit entitlement in her own right. lt is proposed that these orphan children should be eligible for pension upon the death of their father and that this provision should also take effect from 1st January 1966.
On the death of a member or ex-member who is not survived by a widow or eligible dependent children, a lump sum is paid to his personal representative of an amount equal to his contributions, plus any Commonwealth supplement less any pension paid or due to him during his lifetime. The Bill corrects a defect in the drafting of the Act by providing for the payment of a similarly calculated lump sum to the personal representative of a deceased ex-member who is survived by a widow who has no pension or other benefit entitlement. Finally, the opportunity is being taken to change various provisions in the Act now expressed in pounds, shillings and pence to their equivalent in dollars and cents. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Toohey) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 1 9th October (vide page 1279).
Department of the Army - proposed expenditure $328,498,000- noted.
Department of Air
Proposed expenditure $253,739,000.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) 110.491. - I have only one question to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air in this place, Senator Mckellar. How much of the proposed allocation of over $62 million for pay and allowances in the nature of pay for members of the permanent Air Force, referred to in Division No. 732. comprises pay and allowances for Air Force personnel in charge of the V.I. P. aircraft? I think this is the appropriate time for us to discuss the whole question of V.I.P. planes because the fact that the Government hides their usage in this item shows that it has a very guilty conscience. Neither 1 nor the Australian public opposes the purchase of V.I.P. planes and the use of the Air Force personnel to man them. The public has every right to know what the use of these aircraft is costing the taxpayers. If the Government is not ashamed of the use of these planes, it has nothing to hide. If it is ashamed of the use of them, obviously it will try to hide the facts so well that nobody will ever find out the costs involved.
Any business using capital equipment knows, simply by orthodox accounting processes, how much the use of the equipment costs per hour. There is no reason whatever why the Government cannot give us an exact statement of how much it costs to fly a V.I.P. aircraft. In reply to criticism in the past, the Government has said, I think, that the Royal Australian Air Force does not use log books. 1 forget the exact terms of the reply, but it was stupid and deceived nobody. Everybody knows that an aircraft must have a log book and that the crew must record in the log book what the plane is used for.
We cannot query now the expenditure of $12 million on V.I.P. planes, but we can query the fact that R.A.A.F. personnel are being used to man them. I know of one case of the use of a V.I.P. plane, involving a Minister whom I shall not name. He was probably only carrying out what has become Government policy, although it is a policy of which the Government apparently is pretty much ashamed. This Minister travelled to Tasmania in a V.I.P. plane with two officers of his Department. There were only the three of them in the aircraft. That was an absolute waste of the taxpayer’s money. There was no justification whatever for the use of such a large aircraft to transport a Minister and a couple of departmental officers. Probably it was used for the convenience of the Minister or for the convenience of the members of the Department. lt would appear that this practice of using V.I.P. planes costs a considerable amount, and the public is entitled to know the cost per hour. These costs should be the subject of a separate item in the Estimates. I am not sure how we should go about this, but perhaps a motion could be moved in the Senate to the effect that there should be a completely separate item showing the cost of the use of V.I.P. aircraft. The Government has nothing to be ashamed of if it is using them correctly. It should have V.I.P. aircraft. My only quarrel with the Government is that those in use are too big. I know the Government must have some big aircraft, but perhaps it would be a good idea to purchase some executive planes to take four or five persons. I am not sure whether this is being done now, but it does not enter into this argument. We should know the cost per hour of operating V.I.P. aircraft. Any Treasury officer could work this out. Can we have an assurance that in future costs associated with V.I.P. aircraft will be shown as a separate item in the Estimates and will not be hidden in the general Estimates?
– I wish to refer to Division No. 736, Administrative Expenses and General Services, and particularly to item 1 0 - “ Training of personnel at other than R.A.A.F. establishments “. Would the Minister be good enough to provide details concerning the proposed expenditure of $587,000 in this respect? I make the brief comment that the aero clubs throughout Australia which provide a very high degree of training within their organisations, ought to be able to play a significant role in the training of pilots for a future Air Force and thus assist in defending this country in the event of it being under attack at any time. In Germany prior to the Second World War there was a high degree of pilot training, and we found out a good deal about it later on. Apparently the people who served in the Luftwaffe in the early stages of the Second World War were ex-trainees of aero clubs and gliding clubs.
In recent years we have seen greater recognition of the role of aero clubs in pilot training throughout Australia. 1 was very pleased to see recently the statement by the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) that an additional sum had been provided for the assistance of aero clubs in their work of pilot training. I criticise the system under which scholarship grants are made available to aero clubs. While these grants certainly are acceptable to the clubs. 1 believe that their experience indicates that a wider range of assistance could be given by means of grants on a per hour flying time basis. I understand that the grants formerly were made on this basis. The aero clubs consider that the present method is unnecessarily restrictive so far as the broad range of their student pilot training programme is concerned. It benefits only the more highly skilled trainees and excludes the great majority of people who are associated with flying training in the clubs. I commend the aero clubs for the tremendous amount of work they are doing in this field. I hope that as time goes by the Government will give greater recognition than it does now to the importance of the role which these clubs can play in pilot training, particularly in view of the defence character of their operations.
I pass to Division No. 740, Aircraft and other Equipment - Repair and Overhaul. The proposed expenditure is $7,560,000. I would like to know the position regarding the repair and maintenance of Royal Australian Air Force equipment in the workshops of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. 1 understand that a contract exists between the Air Force and Ansett Transport Industries regarding certain maintenance and repair operations which are carried out on Service aircraft and equipment. Does the same position apply to Trans-Australia Airlines? I pass to Division No. 744, Aircraft and Associated Initial Equipment - Purchase and Manufacture. First, I wish to refer to the Mirage aircraft. It may be recalled that some little time ago I asked a question concerning the use to which the Mirage aircraft was being put. I wished to know the reason, if any, why the Mirage had not been used as our front line fighter aircraft to replace the Avon Sabre which was used in the Asian sphere. I received a reply from the Minister for Air to the effect that there was no evidence to suggest that there was a problem of integration of this aircraft with other similar type aircraft being used at the present time. I wonder about the economics of this situation. 1 understand that we have more than 100 Mirage aircraft in operation at the present time, but we are still using the Avon Sabre as a front line fighter. Clearly, we are using the Mirage as a training aircraft and no doubt also for home defence purposes. Perhaps the Minister would care to make some comment in due course concerning the economics of this situation.
I refer next to the ordering some years igo, and the expected delivery to Australia, of an aircraft formerly known as the TFX bomber and now commonly referred to as the FI 1 1 A. 1 understand that it is a very good aircraft. In fact, we have the assurance of the Minister for Air that it is. I was interested to read recently that the Minister lor Air had flown the aircraft in the United States of America and had reported very favourably on its performance, capabilities, and so on. One would expect that. The unit cost figure that was given to the nation at the time when this aircraft was ordered, or very shortly afterwards, was the equivalent of $4i million. I understand that the last unit cost figure mentioned was something like $7i million. I have even heard S9 million mentioned as the ultimate cost of each of these aircraft. That is a fantastic amount to pay for an aircraft. It is no wonder that the Minister reported so favorably on it. I would expect everything that opens and shuts in any piece of equipment that costs $9 million, if in fact that is the ultimate cost to Australia. Initially, we are ordering 24 of these aircraft. Depending on the kind of service that they give, in the course of time we will probably order further aircraft of this kind.
I raise the question whether this constitutes an effective defence measure. I have referred to this matter on previous occasions. Have we done the right thing, in a country of this size and with a tremendous length of coastline, in ordering 24 aircraft which eventually will cost the nation about $200 million? They are highly sophisticated and highly technical aircraft. The people who fly them - the pilots and other crew members - will need to be very highly skilled. I wonder how many pilots we will train to fly them. Looking at the broad concept of the defence of this nation, I wonder whether these very sophisticated aircraft fill the bill or meet our requirements, when we will have to have such highly skilled personnel to fly them. Again this is a question of economics. I would like to hear the Minister’s comments on it. No doubt some attempt will be made to justify the ordering of these aircraft on all sorts of grounds. But, on a broad interpretation of the defence situation in Australia. I wonder whether these aircraft really fill the bill and whether, in a nation with the area of Australia, it might not have been better to order a greater number of aircraft at a much lower unit cost, with greatly reduced sophistication and greater diversification and movement ability.
I do nol think we have looked, as we should have, to the capability within Australian industry to manufacture aircraft. I refer to the recently announced decision to purchase the Italian designed Macchi twin jet aircraft, which is to be used by the Royal Australian Air Force as an all through trainer and which, I believe, will be manufactured in Australia. 1 draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that in other parts of the world - notably in the United States of America and the United Kingdom - the air force authorities departed from the former practice of using small piston engine aircraft for initial flying training and moved to jet trainers for all stages of flying training; but experience has shown the wisdom of going back to the former practice. 1 believe that Australia should have another look at the situation in this respect, in the light of the tremendous cost involved in equipping the R.A.A.F. with the Macchi twin jet all through trainer. I seriously suggest that, if an examination of the situation warrants it, we should adopt the practice that has been found to be best suited to pilot training in other parts of the world.
I suggest that it is within the capacity of Australia to provide from within its own shores a type of aircraft that would be eminently suitable for pilot training. The Victa aircraft company in New South Wales produced a light aircraft. I believe it was called the Aircruiser. It was a twin seater, fully aerobatic aircraft. When it was entered in a competition against similar types of aircraft from other parts of the world, it took the prize for the best aircraft of its type. So within Australia we have the ability to produce an aircraft which would be quite suitable for initial pilot training and which might save Australia the tremendous expense involved in setting up factories and organisations for the manufacture and subsequent servicing of the Macchi trainer.
We have a strange habit of buying from overseas equipment which we could well and truly make in Australia and which, in a number of instances, is already made in Australia. The Victa aircraft company got into serious difficulties in the sale of its Aircruiser, but sold quite a number of these aircraft in Great Britain, which is the home of a highly developed aircraft industry. I believe that that in itself indicates that within Australia we have a capability to produce this sort of equipment for this branch of our defence services. It is remarkable that, despite the fact that this sort of aircraft is available in Australia and we could be self-supporting in this field, we buy light aircraft from overseas. At the present time the Army is introducing an American Cessna light aircraft, when a similar aircraft could be bought in Australia.
These are some of the questions that are perplexing me. We are trying to build up a defence system in this country. We must always be conscious of the fact that, if we did get into a situation in which we had to bring our defence services into operation, we would be vulnerable because we are so dependent on overseas sources for the supply of equipment which could and should be produced within Australia.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– About 12 months ago, when the first casualties in Vietnam - who included men of the Royal Australian Air Force - were notified,I raised the matter of bringing home the bodies of Australian servicemen killed in Vietnam. Of course, that was a new idea and I did not get very far with it either with the Department of Air or the Department of the Army. The then Minister for the Army was not anxious to commit himself on it. After a few weeks the Government decided that the bodies of servicemen killed in Vietnam would be flown home to Australia and buried here. This is a very delicate question I wish to discuss, andI do not want to be disrespectful. But I thought this was one instance where we could very properly follow L.B.J. The American dead in Vietnam are flown home to the United States. Thefull costs of the flight and of the funeral are borne by the United States Government.
I have received communications from people and I want now to refer to one of them. I. shall not mention names. The other day I received a letter which referred to the costs of a funeral of a serviceman killed in Vietnam. It is addressed to me and also refers to Senator Hendrickson.It states -
As you both were so good to me when my son . . was killed in Vietnam on -
I am not mentioning names or dates because this is a rather delicate matter. The letter continues -
I am writing to ask you if you can find out if the Government is paying expenses for the funeral of my son and when I can expect payment. I am at the moment in very straitened circumstances.I am threatened with losing my home asI am behind in payment (not rent). My husband is an old age pensioner and I am getting too sick to work much longer and my wages are restricted as he is on a pension. The Government said that I am only to get the ?157 I paid for the costs of bringing my son home.
The writer then mentioned another name, referring to the parent of a serviceman killed in Vietnam. The letter states -
Mr. . . . was paid ?200 but he says the money is to be given to me. He does not want it back. The same goes for . . . whose husband was killed with my son. She is now fighting to get the cost of the funeral.
I would like the Minister to give serious consideration to whatI have said because the public has the general idea that the Government meets the costs of bringinghome the dead from Vietnam.
– This matter has nothing to do with the Department of Air.
– Yes it has. It involves airmen as well as soldiers.
– It is a matter for the the Department of Defence, not the Department of Air.
– I have no other chance of discussing this matter. The general public has the idea that the Government pays all the expenses of bringing home the bodies of servicemen killed in Vietnam, and the cost of their burial, but the Government does nothing of the kind. The pensioner parents of sons killed in Vietnam are often destitute, according to correspondence I have received. The public believes that the Government is paying , all the costs, just as is done by the United States Government. The United States Government meets the cost of flying home the soldiers’ bodies and of their burial. The Australian Government brings the bodies of servicemen killed in Vietnam home to Australia, and asks the parents to meet the costs of the burial. I thought that in the name of humanity this is a matter the Government, should take up and see that justice is done.
– I shall deal first with the matters raised by Senator Turnbull. 1 can assure him at the outset that the Government is not ashamed of any of its policies. Having got. that off my chest, I would like to say to him that 1 have no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the flight of a V.I.P. aircraft to Tasmania referred to by him. Senator Turnbull condones the existence of V.I.P. aircraft. I doubt very much whether the honorable senator is aware of all the circumstances affecting the particular flight to which he referred.
– The Minister does not know and I do not know.
– That is the point. But at. least I am not making out that I do know. The honorable senator has asked questions on the assumption that he knows the position. I am of the opinion that he does not. There could well be reasons for the trip to which he referred. I just do not know, but I do know that the use of V.I.P. planes is not abused. 1 also want to point out to the honorable senator that the V.I.P. planes provide training flights for the personnel using them.
One of Senator Devitt’s questions related to the repair and overhaul of aircraft. Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines both receive orders for the overhaul of aircraft and ancillary equipment. The value of the orders is not known at this stage. I am afraid I neglected to answer Senator Turnbull’s request that a separate account should be kept in respect of V.I.P. aircraft so that the public could be made aware of their cost. So far as I know, a separate account is not kept. However, I think it would be possible after considerable trouble to obtain the costs and if the honorable senator is sufficiently interested, we will see whether we can get that information for him.
Senator Devitt commented on the cost of the FI IIA aircraft. . I think the latest estimate ls that they are to cost SU.S.217 million. Senator Devitt is not in the chamber at the moment so 1 will not pursue the subject.
– I am interested in it.
– Very well, 1 will carry on. The latest estimate of the cost of the Fill A aircraft is SU.S.217 million.
– Senator Devitt said $4i million.
– The amount of $217 million is the cost of 24 aircraft and support equipment. I ask honorable senators to note the words “ support equipment “. The appropriation in the Estimates for 1966-67 is based on that figure. It is a tremendous amount of money to pay. but surely to goodness no-one would imagine for one minute that the Australian Government or its officers would pay large sums for tiny type of equipment, whether for the Air Force, the Navy or the Army, if it could be obtained at lower prices. Fighting a war is a dreadfully expensive business today. We all recognise this fact. On the other hand, if large sums of money were not expended on modern arms, the Government would be criticised - and rightly so - because if we are to survive, we must have the weapons to use in our defence against aggression. I am afraid that there is nothing much we can do about it, because we cannot buy equipment of the type we need at lower prices.
– How many FI 1 1 A aircraft did the Minister say we are buying?
– Twenty-four. Senator Devitt also referred to the Mirage aircraft. 1 have said in this chamber on more than one occasion that the Mirage is a very good aircraft. That is the opinion of our top men in the Air Force. The honorable senator said that he thought we should bc able to build aircraft in Australia. At least we are assembling the Mirage and Macchi aircraft, and if we could do more than that, we would be doing so.
The honorable senator queried whether we are buying the right types of aircraft, both fighters and trainers. Surely to goodness it is appreciated that our military advisers are amongst the world’s best. When we accept their suggestions it is only after lengthy consideration of all the facts involved. These decisions are not made in five minutes. The matters referred to by the honorable senator, 1 know very well, would have been fully considered by our military advisers before making their recommendations to the Government. After the Government receives those recommendations, it considers the matter of costs. 1 think it is rather futile to say that we are not getting the right type of aircraft. That type of criticism is all right providing it is made by an expert. 1 am very glad to see the interest taken by Senator Devitt in this matter and I. commend him on the fact that he did stick to the estimates. I think that 1 have dealt with the questions that Senator Devitt raised. I can provide him with a list of the items that he wanted detailed.
Senator Ormonde then raised the question of the return of the bodies of servicemen from overseas. Might I remind the Committee that the decision arrived at, as I understood it, was that this would be done where practicable. The honorable senator has left the chamber. He said that he had no opportunity to obtain this information. I would like to point out to Senator Ormonde that he did have an opportunity when the appropriation for the Department of Defence was before the Committee. This matter does not come under the Department of Air. The honorable senator has already had his opportunity. If the honorable senator wants further information regarding the return of bodies to Australia and the cost of funerals. I will try to obtain it for him. But this is not the time nor the place to get it. That is the point I was trying to make to the honorable senator.
.- I wish to make only a passing reference to the subject matter of the speech delivered by Senator Ormonde. I only make this reference: This Committee sits for the purpose of the exchange of views. Whether an honorable senator for the moment is out of the chamber or not, I would like it to be understood that when I am in the chamber I am interested in matters that are raised from all quarters. This matter concerns me greatly indeed. But having regard lo the nature of the subject I forebear to make any further reference to it because I am determined that this, along with other matters, will receive the most searching scrutiny before a great deal of time has passed. I say that because what Senator Ormonde said to this Committee is a matter of the greatest concern. I have views on it, I think, different from those held by Senator Ormonde and certainly, I think, my views may differ from those of some honorable senators on this side of the Committee. I express in the quietest terms my determined interest in the matter, but I will not raise it as a subject of debate. 1 think that we could go to a committee room and have this out much more satisfactorily in discussion among the persons interested.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is of much greater magnitude. This is the matter thai Senator Devitt raised. The Committee is indebted to him for raising it. I was waiting for somebody to raise the question of the American bombers which are being purchased by Australia. We are told now that 24 units with their equipment are to cost SUS2I7 million. Each will cost $US10 million approximately. Senator Devitt set the figure at about $US9 million. *I do not want to express an opinion from the point of view of efficiency or expertise. I want to have a complete statement, factual and in detail showing us the contract. If it is not convenient to provide this this morning, I will accept the usual statement from the Minister in charge of these estimates that it will be furnished before the end of next week. I want to see the original contract. I cannot imagine that units at this cost would be ordered except on the basis of a most carefully settled contract. I want to see also each adjustment of that price made by way of variation of the contract. Then I want to see a brief statement of the circumstances that have been thought sufficient to justify the increase in cost.I say these things in this way because we are charged with a very special responsibility in regard to all expenditure but a unique responsibility at the present time regarding defence expenditure.
It is not sufficient to say that we can be satisfied that these commitments would not have been undertaken without the most careful examination. I credit Ministers and those advising them with sufficient competence and conscientiousness to obtain what they think, in their best judgment and in the light of the information available, is the best deal that they can get. But war expenditure and defence expenditure are notorious, first, for profiteering and, secondly, for waste. That fact imposes upon this Committee a special obligation to examine items such as this.It is in the commercial and the economic respects of our ordinary duty to look into the economics of this cost that I ask the Minister to indicate, to the degree that I have mentioned, the structure of this cost because it is to meet part of that cost that we are being asked to appropriate money today.
– I point out to the honorable senator that this order was on a cost basis. Having said that,I will certainly see whether we can provide the honorable senator with the information for which he asked.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $11,509,000.
Proposed provision, $3,174,000.
. - I refer to Division No. 250 - Administrative, which has overriding authority in relation to the administration of the Department of Health. MayI in passing congratulate the present occupant of the position of Director-General of Health on the facility with which he provides the annual report of his Department. Some years ago the Opposition was constantly attacking the Government because of its dilatory approach in this matter. The report of the DirectorGeneral of Health was made on a biennial basis and was received at the end of the year, six months after the expiration of the two year period. In recent years, we seem to have been furnished with reports from this Department with desirable rapidity.
I should like to draw the attention of honorable senators to a statement made by the Director-General in the annual report which was unbecoming of so capable and astute a person. It was unbecoming that someone with his talents should lay what appears to be a false trail relating to medical detailers. He has taken up the position and mentioned that medical detailers employed by all the drug firms are, on an average, in the ratio of 1 to 5 or 6 general practitioners. He infers that calling on medical practitioners is the only responsibility entailed in this occupation. The Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) was most evasive when a question was put to him in another place on this matter on 20th September 1966 by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). I am not bearing a torch for the drug firms. Nobody would expect that from me. I have attacked their profits repeatedly. But let us be fair at least in any attack that we do launch on the drug companies.
There is probably the best part of1 2,000 medical practitioners in Australia. Most are in active practice. Admittedly, some are in particular services such as Commonwealth or State services and the detailers may not visit them. A few medical practitioners may be retired. But the great majority of them are in active practice, and the detailers call on all them. Now, calling on practitioners is not easy, as anyone who has been in practice knows or as anyone who has been engaged as a medical detailer knows. It is very hard to interview, and a deal of time is taken up in interviewing, practitioners whether they are general practitioners or otherwise. Often, detailers must call three or four times because the doctor has been called away. Sometimes they have to wait for an hour before they can interview doctors. It may be said that this could be avoided, but this state of affairs still seems to exist.
In addition to calling on doctors, medical detailers have to call on veterinary surgeons also. They call on all hospitals. I do think that, in fairness to the drug firms, the Director-General was ill advised in his remarks. He did not show his usual astuteness in laying what we could term a false trail. I do not say that he did. this intentionally. At least, his action was ill advised. It does not show that he gave so very much serious consideration to the position. It was reprehensible of the Minister for Health to try to avoid the issue when a question was put to him. The Government has taken credit for the present scheme of health, hospital and ancillary services. The Government says that it is the best in the world. Many doubt the truth of that statement, lt certainly is not a complete scheme, and it certainly is an expensive one.
– Order! To which item is the honorable senator relating his remarks?
– I am relating them to Division No. 250 - Administrative. I was about to ask whether the Director-General of Health had tendered a report to the Minister on the cost of our hospital and medical services scheme or called for an inquiry. I am trying to justify my asking whether the Director-General has tendered such a report. With all due deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that this matter is embraced by Division No. 250, which includes provision for salaries and allowances. It may not be the actual responsibility of the Director-General of Health to work out the figures, but I take it that it is his responsibility to make the necessary submissions to the Minister. I am about to indicate what health and medical services cost Australia. I am not certain that the Director-General has not made a submission to the Government on this matter, but I propose to establish why such a submission should be made - a submission which will justify the setting up of a committee of inquiry.
With regard to the capital cost of constructing medical hospitals the Commonwealth makes a contribution of $1 for $2. Provision is made in the estimates for approximately §5 million for this purpose in 1966-67. In addition, the National Welfare Fund will provide $249,209,000 for medical and hospital benefits, nursing home benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, milk for school children and tuberculosis allowances. But that is not the whole story. More than S54 million is to be provided for hospital and associated services and payments to general practitioners and specialists under the vote for the Repatriation Department. When all is said and done, that expenditure must be regarded as providing medical and hospital services. To these items we must add the contributions that are mace by people to the various medical benefit funds. There are 80 such funds. The administrative charges must be tremendous. There must be a tremendous amount of overlapping in advertising, in collecting contributions and so forth. There are 1 1 1 hospital benefit funds. Again there must be a lot of overlapping in advertising and in collecting contributions. We must add the payments that are made by contributors to medical practitioners and hospitals. Then we must add the tremendous sum that is paid by individuals who are not contributors to medical or hospital benefit funds but who pay the full amount of their medical and hospital expenses.
On top of all this we have the expenditure that is incurred by the States. Queensland is the only State that has a completely free public hospital service. The hospital finances of almost every other Stale are in a bad shape. Tens of millions of dollars are provided each year by the States for the maintenance of their general public hospitals. We must keep in mind also the cost of building mental hospitals and the care of patients. We must add the cost of rehabilitation centres and of the care of mentally retarded children. We must lake into account the cost of establishments for the care of spastics, the Red Cross service and the blood bank that is under the control of the Red Cross Society. The Royal Flying Doctor Service must be included. When we take all these services into account and add other items too numerous to mention, we note that medical, hospital and ancillary services must cost from S900 million to $1,000 million a year. Yet the Government takes pride in its medical and hospital service.
All these services more or less come under the control of the Director-General of Health. He is responsible to tender to the Minister and the Government the best possible advice and to indicate what is the most desirable and most efficient service that can be provided for the medical and hospital care of the people of this nation. Has the Director-General pointed out to the Minister the tremendous amount of money that is involved in the maintenance of this incomplete service? In spite of the existence of the present scheme, nobody is really free from financial burdens associated with medical and hospital care.
As I have–already indicated, the Minister for Health and supporters of the Government in this chamber repeatedly take pride in the services that are provided. I say that our medical and. hospital service probably is one of the most expensive in the world. Compared with institutions, in other nations, in ‘many -cases our hospitals are a disgrace. We adopt a more or less happy-go-lucky approach to the care of mentally retarded children. The. service provided for spastics is not complete. I know that admirable people associated with charitable organisations are doing a wonderful job, but what they are doing is not the complete answer to the problem. The same applies to the care of the deaf, the dumb and the blind. In most cases a hit or miss approach is adopted. Far be it from me to take the credit from the admirable people who are engaged in such efforts to assist unfortunate people and who have undertaken such work over a long period. But let me emphasise that those who are in control of the Treasury bench have an inherent responsibility lo care for the health of the people of this nation. Probably one of the most fundamental requirements of any government is that it should endeavour to have people as healthy as it possibly can and to alleviate the conditions of those who are handicapped by nature. This Government has not done much in that direction.
The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Health in this place, has a responsibility to place before us the true facts in relation to medical detailers. 1 am not bearing the torch for the drug houses, but I do think that we must be fair in these matters. Finally, I pose this question: Has the Director-General of Health made a submission to the Government about the tremendous cost of our incomplete medical and hospital service with which absolutely nobody other than, say, the drug companies, the medical practitioners and the pharmacists are satisfied?
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) 111.38].- I refer to Division No. 250 - Administrative, sub-division 3, and in particular the provision for a grant in aid to the Australian Pre-school Association. Can the
Minister inform me in what areas this grant is to be applied? Can she indicate how provision for it comes to be made in the estimates for the Department ‘of Healths I refer also to the’ “provision for’ sirex wasp control and eradication. Provision -has ‘been made for a sum of $200,000 to be paid through the Department of National Development. Iri’ ‘the past provision- for- this payment has been included in the estimates for the Department of Health. I do not know whether this activity has been taken from the control of the Minister for Health. However, I should like to know whether control of this pest has been established. Does the provision of a sum of $200,000 again this year indicate that there is no need to extend the eradication programme?
The further point on which I wish to comment - and this relates to sub-division 3 of Division No. 250 - refers to the incidence of mongolism in the community. I am informed that there is no actual record in the various States giving this information. I request the Minister to inform me whether the Federal authorities are aware of the extent of this problem. In view of the crowded institutions and the waiting period that people who have children affected in this way have to face, I request that a survey be made to find the cost of helping these people and to ascertain the ability of the community to assist in this matter. I am informed that there are up to 700 children waiting to get into various State institutions in Victoria to receive assistance, particularly in the field of education. Would the Minister care to comment on this matter and to take note of my plea that some Federal inquiry should be instituted into this problem?
– 1 have only one short question to ask the Minister. I think that we have been given information that the capital cost of the Canberra Community Hospital is being heavily subsidised by the Government. Is this subsidy to apply only to the Canberra Community Hospital, or is it foreshadowed that in the future private hospitals throughout Australia will be able to approach the Government for a similar subsidy?
– I have only one brief comment to make under Division No. 250. I ask the
Minister to consider the injustices that occur under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, Especially to pensioner patients. Certain drugs are dispensed free under the scheme, but some doctors prescribe drugs which are not on the free list although they have the same beneficial effect as do alternative drugs on the free list. This results in the patient having to pay for his medicine. 1 believe that this is particularly true as far as tranquiliser drugs are concerned. An alternative drug on the free list could just as easily be prescribed and have the same beneficial result as that of a drug which is not on the free list.
In communication with the Department, it has rightly pointed out that it does not interfere in the relationship between patient and doctor, nor does it tell the doctor what he should prescribe. The Department leaves it to the doctor to prescribe what in his opinion is the best prescription for the patient. However, if the general medical opinion is that there is an alternative drug on the free list which has the same beneficial effect as that of a drug which is not on the free list, and if the doctor knows that this alternative drug is available, I suggest he should prescribe it. I would like to know whether the Department has some means of informing the medical profession on this, perhaps a medical journal. Then, if a doctor prescribes a particular drug which is not on the free list, it will be known that he considers it to be the most beneficial drug that he can prescribe for the patient and is not just one that he had picked out without considering whether it is on the free list or not.
Another point is that before drugs, which arc listed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, can be dispensed free, they must be prescribed on a particular form. There are doctors who on occasions do not use this form. We find that on occasions although a drug is on the free list a pensioner does not receive the drug free because the doctor has failed to write the prescription on the required form. I have had correspondence with the Minister regarding a case where on several occasions a doctor wrote a prescription on his own form and not on the one specified by the Department and the patient had to pay for the prescribed medicine. This has happened on a number of occasions over quite a few years. The doctor showed some annoyance when it was pointed out to him - that he should have written the prescription on the official form.
The Department stipulates that before a person is entitled to free medicine, the prescription form must be made out in duplicate and it must be endorsed with the letters “ N.H.S.” and, if the person is a pensioner, with the pensioner’s number. There have been cases where a pensioner who has all the qualifications to receive free medicine has had to pay for it because the doctor did not write out the prescription on the prescribed form, either through neglect or because he did not know the requirements of the Department or refused to prescribe on the particular form. I therefore ask that when proper representations are made on behalf of an individual who, although entitled to free medicine under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, has not received it because of some action or omission by a medical practitioner, consideration should be given to those representations in order to rectify the position.
[11.47]. - I shall reply to a few comments that have been made before 1 get too many of them. Senator Dittmer referred to the obtaining of drugs. I have a note here which says that health authorities in all countries that provide assistance to their people in obtaining drugs - not only in Australia - have the duty to keep before the community the problems associated with the unnecessary prescribing of drugs. Unnecessary prescribing has adverse effects medically in many instances. As we know, because of resulting increases in the cost of pharmaceutical benefits, it has adverse effects financially also. But many patients expect their doctors to write prescriptions, and the health authorities must help the medical profession to see that patients maintain a proper perspective concerning what drugs can do. Whenever opportunity offers, medical officers of the Department of Health provide information to medical men in private practice regarding the value of particular drugs. Tn this respect, T would like to mention that the Department arranged with the United Kingdom authorities to distribute here what is known as the “ Preservers’ Journal “, a publication issued quarterly, which gives doctors a balanced and authentic account of the use and value of the drugs that are available. lt is believed that this has played a part in reducing excessive and unnecessary prescribing under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
Another point that Senator Dittmer made referred to the multiplicity of health insurance funds. I have a note here which says that this factor has been attacked as being wasteful of resources, conducive to high expense rates and not in the best interests of contributors. First, I would say that many of the organisations are mutual benefit societies for the employees of a particular firm. Many others are regional entities based on the local hospital or on the district. Most organisations provide both medical and hospital benefits and while they are, under the Act, two separate funds, for all practical purposes they are single entities.
Secondly, the funds are non-profit making and are highly competitive. Therefore, they are forced by competition to provide the highest possible benefits at the most competitive contribution rates. They can do this only by ensuring that their management expenses absorb the least possible proportion of their income. They simply cannot afford to be extravagant or wasteful in their expenditure on administration. The result is that the funds have every incentive to carry the service to the contributors, lo provide the most attractive and satisfactory benefits at a minimal cost in contributions and to ensure that the maximum proportion of this income can be returned to the contributor in benefits. It is felt that all this is in the best interests of the contributor. The honorable senator may be interested to know that the percentage of contributions represented by management expenses for ] 964-65 were medical 15.6 per cent., hospital 12.4 per cent. 1 pass from there to Senator Webster who raised three matters. One relates to the grant in aid to the Australian Pre-School Association. The Australian Pre-School Association, as a Federal body, undertakes responsibility for the general direction and supervision of pre-school child development in Australia as demonstrated by the Lady Gowrie child centres in each capital city. The Association promulgates standards of education to be adopted by Lady Gowrie child centre committees and controls the professional appointments made by those committees. Additionally, the Australian Pre-School Association conducts all negotiations with the Commonwealth in respect of grants and other matters affecting Lady Gowrie child centres. Both the Australian Pre-School Association and the Lady Gowrie child centres in the States have received a Commonwealth grant since 1940. The additional $2,500 provided for the Association in this Budget is to meet increased operational costs particularly in relation to salaries.
The honorable senator then raised a matter in connection with the sirex wasp. I inform him that the administration of the sirex fund was transferred to the Department of National Development and it is envisaged that activities will continue under that Department. He then asked whether we had any information concerning mongoloid children. I understand his inquiry was directed to whether the number of such births was increasing.
– Mainly whether there was a Federal survey of the incidence of mongoloid births.
– 1 have no information to give the honorable senator on this nor do I know of any. 1 will make further inquiries to see whether I can obtain some information for him.
Senator Turnbull mentioned the Canberra hospital. I inform him that the proposed Commonwealth assistance in the capital cost of a religious hospital in Canberra applies only to the Australian Capital Territory. The various States provide capital assistance for such hospitals in their own States.
Senator Cavanagh mentioned pharmaceutical benefits. 1 inform him that a list of pharmaceutical benefits is issued to doctors. The question of prescribing a particular drug is essentially a matter for the doctor having regard to the medical requirements for the treatment of the patient.
– Having listened to Senator Dittmer’s denunciation of the present health scheme in Australia I consider tha* nothing much is left for me to say. However, I should like to know from the Minister whether the Government has any policy, or whether it is at all worried or concerned, about spiralling prices and the high cost of being ill. 1 get the impression that the Government has not the foggiest notion what it is all about and does not want to do anything about it. I would say that worry about the spiralling costs of public health killed a former Minister for Health, Senator Harrie Wade. He had to face the problems associated wilh the increase from .£5 million to something like £50 million in the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme because of the monopolisation of drug production and the proliferation of drug manufacture in Australia. These problems have been in existence for years but there is no prices control even for public health.
I know that the Minister is sympathetic and is interested in these things, but surely to goodness the Government should be able to say that a limit will be placed on the costs in hospitals. There must be a limit on these costs because people on the basic wage, or close to it. cannot meet the cost of being sick, lt is utterly impossible for them to do so but no-one is doing anything to help them. 1 have here a list of the prices charged in public hospitals. Do not forget that people in this country received free treatment in hospitals once but today hospitalisation costs a fortune. How can the Government claim that the present system is good? Free treatment in public wards was given to people not only in Queensland-
– It was all over Australia.
– Of course it was.
– But the Commonwealth Government stood over the other States and forced them into the plan.
– I know that. Here are the charges announced last week. Treatment in a public ward in a public hospital now costs a minimum of S57.40 a week and treatment in an intermediate ward costs SS I a week. That is scandalous. How can a working man on the basic wage meet a charge of $8 1 a week to put his wife in hospital? And the Government claims that this is a good system. It gives Dr. Earle Page credit for starting something wonderful. I think it is terrible. It is a sad commentary on Australia and I do not think it would happen in any other part of the world. Treat ment in private and semi-private wards costs $104 a week. That is the basic charge. Just imagine paying $.104 a week to share a ward with other patients. And that is before one starts worrying about paying the doctors.
– One can stay at the Southern Cross Hotel for less than that.
– That is right. Today a patient does not see only one doctor; he sees three or four. One is not good enough now and the patient has to be referred to another. It is all a great money making machine. I have great respect for the medical profession. Generally speaking, I believe when a man starts out to be a medical practitioner there is something good in him and his motives are right, but even doctors now are in the money making rut race and I believe the medical profession generally has forfeited a great deal of the respect the public had for it previously.
Here is another problem, one of many that 1 am trying to cover quickly. The great health system this Government talks about cannot even provide doctors for towns in western New South Wales which have a population of 5,000 or 6,000 people. The experts claim that only general practitioners are any good in towns of that kind and today everyone is specialising. It is no good putting a doctor who specialises in broken legs or gynaecology into a town that has no other doctor or has only a very ill equipped hospital. General practitioners are needed in the west but this Government has produced no . plan to keep up the supply of general practitioners. The Government is examining the ramifications of education and all sorts of things, lt has almost taken control of education because of the duplication of education services in the States. This is all to the good, but surely to goodness the Government has a responsibility to examine the position in relation to hospitals and medical services all over Australia. All these things affect the people very seriously and are helping to create neurosis. This is the popular disease now, because worry about becoming ill gets families down. The Sydney “ Sun “ recently published an article under the heading “ What’s Wrong with our Hospitals?” It stated -
At Crown Street Women’s Hospital, one of the biggest maternity hospitals in the State, there is a labour ward which consists of five tiny cubicles. “ Privacy “ for patients is provided by a plastic sheet- - just like a shower curtain - which separates the cubicles.
Another newspaper published an article under the heading “ Wards Rise too Steep “. Everywhere there is criticism. Honorable senators might have read a report by a well known Sydney doctor on the outpatients’ department at Lewisham Hospital. Although our hospitals handle a fabulous amount of money, they are still, technically speaking, down where they were 20 years ago. The Government does not appear to bc doing anything about this. I ask the Minister: Does the Government intend to do anything? ls it looking at the overall problem of keeping down the cost of being ill in Australia? The problem is above politics, lt is serious because everybody is a candidate for illness. Hospital attention costs from Si 00 down to $50 a week. How can a man with a margin of $5 on the basic wage afford to pay these charges?
Senator Gair is probably largely responsible for the fact that Queensland has a free hospital system. It should be possible to have a free system; in public wards at least. We had such systems all over Australia at one lime but this Government does not seem to know anything about that. You can look back too far sometimes, but it is good to look back occasionally to see whether things are improving. In this case, they are not improving.
The high cost of drugs is a positive disgrace. We have talked about it for years, but the Government does not attempt to oppose its friends. The late Senator Harrie Wade, when he was Minister for Health, used to rise in the Senate and plead: “ Do not press me too hard. We are doing what we can with these drug monopolies. We are having a conference next week and they have agreed to cut 5 per cent, off this or that drug “. He was genuine and he was trying, but officially he was not allowed to do much. Drug prices have skyrocketed because nobody attempts to stop the drug companies increasing prices. Principally, American capital is involved. There used to bc five or six prominent Australian drug manufacturers but there is none now. The drug companies are almost completely controlled- by foreign interests.
– They are 97 per cent, overseas owned.
– That is so. Has the Government any intention of taking an overall look at this great problem of the high cost of being ill? I should like the Minister to answer a second question, although it is probably on the borderline of these estimates. I mention it now because 1 do not want to speak again on health matters. Recently I went to the rehabilitation unit at Hornsby and spoke to the doctors. I congratulate the Government on that unit, which is doing a fine job. lt is worth going to see. However, two or three doctors there informed me that there is a rehabilitation section at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, and that, due to an argument between the New South Wales Hospitals Commission, the Commonwealth Government, the hospital authorities and a few other agencies, only one doctor is functioning at this rehabilitation centre, which has a turnover of 1,000 patients a year. Two of the top medical men at the Hornsby centre asked me to do something about it. There is a conflict of control or a conflict of interest. In the meantime, one doctor functions there with a yearly turnover of. 1,000 patients. Specialists come to the centre but he is the man responsible administratively. He is, I suppose, the superintendent. He is working with a couple of female attendants in that centre with a turnover of 1,000 patients a year. Will the Minister examine the situation and see whether anything can be done to provide medical aid?
.- Relating my remarks to Division No. 250, I shall refer to the matter of quarantine. 1 shall do so because of some observations I made in Darwin, which is one of the main points of entry for overseas air services. I compliment the officers of the quarantine service there for their arrangements for the destruction of food waste and other material from aircraft. The destruction of this material in incinerators is done very effectively. The incinerators are covered with wire netting to prevent birds from removing any of the waste before it is burnt. But there are some other aspects of this matter which concern me and I ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to ask her colleague, tha
Minister for Health, to see whether anything can be done to tighten up the regulations affecting the entry of people into Australia in view of the possibility of introducing human and animal diseases.
When an aircraft lands, the passengers disembark, go down the steps, walk across the tarmac and then go into the upstairs lounge. This is common practice in most airports. Later, they return to the aircraft. In the meantime, some of the local staff enter the aircraft to service it or possibly to load more food. When the aircraft departs, some men go out to disinfect the whole of the tarmac area. This is very good, but no attempt is made to disinfect the steps used by the passengers. There is no check on the staff going into and coming out of the plane, nor is there any check in the passenger lounges. In view of the situation of Darwin and the possible introduction of foot and mouth disease - the worst thing that could happen to the animal industry of Australia - all possible precautions should be taken. There should be provision for disinfecting passenger lounges, steps and staff entering the aircraft, in addition to the tarmac area. I ask the Minister to consider these suggestions.
– Other speakers have raised the question of the cost of illness. 1 want to direct my remarks to the prevention of illness and disease, and I refer to Division No. 250 and the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness. According to the Auditor-General’s Report, $200,000 was set aside last year for the National Fitness Fund Trust Account. Over a period of about 15 months 1 have endeavoured to get action to ensure that the booklet on national fitness is available for general distribution. I know that wonderful work is done from the top level with these funds and that that work is supplemented by the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A. and various religious groups which encourage active support of the national fitness campaign. No doubt people in the mean stream of youth play sports of various kinds, but I suggest that if we were to study the pattern in most of our capital cities today we would find that there is a host of adolescents and perhaps also people in the mid-twenties and even up to the thirties who virtually do not engage in this kind of thing. It is probable that only by means of a high pressure campaign, in the form of pamphlets and so on, shall we be able to inculcate in them the wisdom of seeking better muscular tone.
In several countries in Europe and Asia the cult of daily callisthenics is encouraged. 1 know that we have our beaches and that there are other facilities which provide the vast bulk of our youth with an opportunity to keep physically fit, but nevertheless a small section of the community, which I think is growing in size, does not keep fit. This is an age of advertising. 1 sometimes think that if as much money were to be spent on advertising the benefits of physical fitness as is spent on telling us of the virtues of a particular soft drink or some other commodity, the percentage of young men in army callups rejected on medical grounds might be a lot lower. My criticism is that the delay in circulating the pamphlet to which I have referred seems abnormal. In this age of public relations, when there is so much inducement to use particular commodities, we need to encourage teenagers and also older members of the community to keep themselves physically fit. If we read magazines published in the United States of America we are given to understand that one of the qualifications of many public men, including senators and congressmen, is the number of push-ups they are able to do in the morning. In my opinion, this kind of cult should be encouraged.
Most of the organisations which benefit from the $200,000 provided for the National Fitness Council do a wonderful job, but I do not think they are reaching some of the fringe groups of youths who do not participate directly in their activities. We must do more than simply act as pamphleteers. If we can convince those people of the bodily strength and grace that can be achieved by means of callisthenics, they will be a lot fitter and are not so likely to become addicted to the tablets which, we are told so often, cure headaches and other ills. This is a serious challenge to the Commonwealth Government to do something positive on these lines. I know that some of the tobacco companies have been making donations for scientific research, but I think I can think of ways and means by which they could make a better contribution to national health. Earlier this year I raised with the
Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) the question of cancer detection in women. She was good enough to give me an answer which stated that the Commonwealth Director-General for Health contended that my attempt to draw a parallel between the detection of tuberculosis by X-ray and the detection of cancer was not entirely valid.
I think that 1 can answer that contention on two counts. I sent the Minister’s reply to a number of trade unions in Sydney which had a membership largely consisting of women, and the concensus was that, with all due respect to medical opinion, they felt that apart altogether from economic considerations it would be of benefit, particularly in country areas, if greater encouragement were given to the advisability of broad surveys to detect cancer, as is the case with tuberculosis detection. 1 found that 1 had an unexpected ally in. a leading cancer expert from the United States who recently emphasised the benefits of early detection. I asked many female trade union members about the advisability of conducting such surveys to detect certain forms of cancer, and they were of the opinion that many more cases of cancer would be detected and subsequent surgery avoided if the same detection facilities were provided for cancer as are provided for tuberculosis.
My final plea deals with the claims of the New South Wales Division of the Goat Breeders Society pf Australia. The Division has pointed out to me that under our National Health Scheme, while powdered goat milk is included as a pharmaceutical benefit, fresh goat milk is not included. 1 think it goes without saying that powdered goat milk is imported, while fresh goat milk is produced locally. I do not suppose that there is an honorable senator who has not attended an annual agricultural show. I think it will be agreed that the goat breeders in the various States have improved their stock over the years. Those who have seen the goats in the grand parade at the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney will not dispute that the breeders take a pride in the industry and deserve encouragement. In this modern age when there are various types of containers in use, I cannot see why we should not include in the list of pharmaceutical benefits fresh goat milk when it is prescribed by doctors.
– 1 wish to deal with two matters that have been raised by Senator Mulvihill, but I propose to deal with them along different lines. The first matter concerns the National Fitness Council. I feel that this is the only way in which I can bring this matter once again before the notice of honorable senators. In a health budget which is so very high, the fact that we are spending less than half a million dollars on youth education and physical fitness is very bad. I have just received a reply to a question I asked some weeks ago regarding the necessity for some kind of action by the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the number of illegitimate births among teenage mothers and the increase in venereal disease among teenagers, which is very definite. These are serious social problems which affect not only honorable senators but all persons in the Commonwealth.
The fact that the incidence of these two social problems in the community is increasing shows that there is something wrong with our education system which does not provide sufficient education for leisure. Also, it indicates that there are shortcomings in our national fitness campaign in that it reaches only a very small proportion of our adolescent population. Often it reaches only the young people who do not really need such education. Those who do need it are not attracted to the idea of physical fitness, and that is why there is so much delinquency and disease and why there are so many illegitimate births, which is the greatest tragedy of all. Illegitimacy has reactions which none can foresee on the life of a child who is brought into the world in those circumstances. Throughout the whole of his life he may suffer, as the innocent victim, because of the social disease which is in the community at the present time.
I would like the Commonwealth not to bypass its responsibilities in this matter. It should not say that this is a matter only for the States. In my view it is a matter for Australia as a whole. 1 would like to see something done about it instead of mere talk about it. There should be a conference between the State and Commonwealth authorities to discuss this very important problem which is reflected so much in the lives of many people in the community. People in government are apt to forget that in these matters we are not dealing only with statistics. In fact we are dealing with people, with their lives and their happiness. On those scores I would like to see the grant to the National Fitness Council increased considerably so that the work of the Council might be able to embrace more young people and perhaps supply a solution to the problems I have mentioned. 1 come now to the provision for the purchase of radioactive isotopes and also our donations to the various cancer authorities. I do not think that cancer victims should be expected to pay for radioactive isotopes used in the treatment of cancer. It is bad enough for people to be stricken by this terrible disease without also having to pay huge sums for treatment. 1 should like’ to give an example which is very close to my own experience. When my brother was- so stricken and went to. a cancer clinic for treatment he was told that he had to pay so’ much down. Then he was told what the ultimate cost would be. The doctor in charge said: “ You had better know what you are up for before you start because it is no good going half way through the course and then finding you cannot pay.” I was disgusted. I said to my brother: “ Money does not count. You have to get well.” But I thought of the many thousands of other people who, perhaps, could be denied treatment on this account.
I ask the Government to provide free treatment for cancer victims so that they do not have financial worries in addition to all the other agonies through which they must pass. I ask the Government to give the same attention to this, terrible problem of cancer as has been given to tuberculosis, so that everyone who is stricken with cancer will receive, at no cost, the very best treatment that is available. We cannot afford to lose the many young citizens whom we are losing. Many cancer victims cannot face up to the vast expenditure involved. I know that in one year alone my brother had to pay more than £700 for operations and clinical treatment. Ultimately his cancer was accepted as a war caused disability and the Government took control of things from then on. So I know what [ am talking about.
It is dreadful to think that people who are already distressed by this fearful disease have to bear this additional financial burden. If they are poor, how can they do it? I do not think poverty or wealth should come into this matter at all. We have taken the financial burden away from the tuberculosis sufferers. We have given them special pensions and other benefits to which they are entitled. In view of that policy, which was originated by Senator McKenna in this very chamber, and the success of the tuberculosis campaign over the years, I say that now is the time for every honorable senator to look seriously at this problem and to ensure nol only that every, cancer sufferer receives free treatment but also that members of his family are. freed of financial embarrassment during the period of such treatment. 1 believe’ that that would do-a great deal more for- the health) of the community than spending large’ amounts of money on pills, potions and: -so on.
I ‘do not’ propose to- enter into the realm that has been covered already by other honorable senators, namely, the high cost of hospital treatment. 1 know that a great deal of the cost is covered by hospital benefits. That is all right for people who can afford the hospital benefits funds contributions. But it becomes an additional burden on people on small incomes when they have to pay so much a week more in taxation - after all, that is what it is - to ensure that they and their families are covered. They cannot afford not to be contributors to these funds. This is a retrograde step, when we consider the original policy that was introduced about 18 years ago for free hospital treatment up to public hospital standard. Instead of patting ourselves on the back in respect of how much we have done under our national health scheme, we should be really ashamed that over the years we have retrogressed to such an extent that it is now a tremendous financial burden to be ill at all.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.23]. - I wish to reply to some of the comments that have been made. Senator Tangney spoke about national fitness activities. I appreciate her very real concern for the young people of the community. I point out to her that this year the grant for the operational expenses of the national fitness activities is being increased substantially from $200,000 to $300,000 and that there is a capital programme involving a Commonwealth contribution of $200,000 over u period of three years. I was also interested in and concerned about what she said about cancer research. My information is that radio-active isotopes are generally supplied free to medical practitioners and hospitals.
– What about to the patients’?
– They are for the treatment of patients. The expenditure involved is charged to the National Welfare Fund. The administration of hospitals is a State matter. But the Commonwealth Government supplies these isotopes, without cost, to medical practitioners and hospitals.
I draw the attention of Senator Tangney, and also Senator Mulvihill, to a reply that 1 gave to him earlier this year. He mentioned this in his remarks. He asked about facilities for cancer detection, particularly for women, and referred to the X-ray scheme for the detection of tuberculosis. I quote the following from my reply o his question -
The Commonweatlh Government has, for many year*, very materially assisted the State Governments in the treatment of cancer by lending to hospitals and universities suitably mounted radium from the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory. The Laboratory also provides a radon service, has the responsibility for calibration of deep X-ray equipment and the circulation of dosage tables, and controls the importation of radioactive isotopes for use in the treatment of cancer. No charge is made to hospitals which use these isotopes for the treatment of patients. The National Health and Medical Research Council has also established committees whose work has a direct implication in the treatment of cancer. . . .
Facilities for applying this examination technique to detect cancer of the cervix exist in the Australian Capital Territory and in all States. 1 agree very strongly with Senator Mulvihill and Senator Tangney when they speak about the terrible tragedy that this disease so often causes and the tremendous importance of early detection and early treatment.
Senator Lawrie spoke about the Quarantine Aci. I was very interested in what he said about Darwin. I know that the Department of Health is very anxious to ensure that adequate quarantine precautions are taken to avoid the introduction of disease into Australia. It is very conscious of the need for such precautions, lt believes that they are tremendously important. 1 will be very pleased to bring before the notice of the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) the remarks that Senator Lawrie made in relation to Darwin.
Senator Ormonde spoke about hospitals. I felt that a great deal of what he said was a matter for the States. I remind honorable senators that only recently we passed amendments to the National Health Act under which the rate of benefit payable to public hospitals for the free treatment of pensioners in public wards was increased from S3. 60 to S5 a day and the special account hospital benefit rate was also increased from S3. 60 to 55 a day. I could not quite follow the point that Senator Ormonde made in connection with a rehabilitation centre. I do not know whether he was referring to a rehabilitation centre that would come under the Department of Social Services - not under the Department of Health - or one that is part of a Sydney hospital, which would be under the administration of that hospital.
– He referred to one centre and said that he did not know whether he should raise the matter under these estimates or those for the Department of Social Services.
-I think that is where the confusion arises.
– At the same time he spoke about another centre at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
– That centre, of course, would come under the administration of that Hospital.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) I2.28.. - I wish to ask a question about the item “ Purchase of radio-active isotopes for sale”. The Minister said that these isotopes are supplied free to hospitals and doctors. Why does this item include the words “ for sale “?
– I hope that the Minister will be able to give me an answer to the question that I raised about goats’ milk. I referred to representations made by the New South Wales Division of the Goat Breeders Society of Australia. I stated that, according to that Society, powdered goats’ milk is included as a pharmaceutical benefit under the national health scheme, whilst fresh goats’ milk is excluded.I requested that that anomaly be rectified.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.30]. - Senator Tangney asked about the sale of isotopes. They are sold to medical research units. As I said, other isotopes are made available to medical practitioners and hospitals. The cost of them is met from the National Welfare Fund. I am sorry that I forgot to answer Senator Mulvihill’s query about the national fitness pamphlet. He and I have corresponded about it. I cannot give an exact date as to its publication, but I am given to understand that it is expected that it will be published early next year.I will be very pleased to take up with the Minister Senator Mulvihill’s request in connection with goats’ milk.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed expenditure, $43,606,000.
Proposed provision, $1,400,000.
– I wish to make a few comments in relation to the very important Department of Immigration, the appropriation for which is about $45 million. I relate my remarks to Division No. 270 - Administrative. I have noticed that the number of positions in the Department is to be increased, both in the central administration and in the State branches. Like many other people I am alarmed at the number of migrants who are shown by the recent survey not to be registering in accordance with the legislation passed last year by this Parliament. I would be interested to hear from the Minister information as to the number of migrants who have not registered as is required by that legislation.
When discussing the measure last year, a feature of the debate was that about 250,000 migrants who were eligible to become naturalised had not done so. Since that time, legislation in respect of social services providing for payments to unnaturalised migrants has been passed by this Parliament. The effect of that legislation may have been to cause a lot of migrants to believe that naturalisation has lost its significance. I hopethat is not the case. I would like to know the Department’s viewpoint on this matter. What has been the reaction to that legislation? It may be too early yet to obtain that information, but I would be grateful if the Minister would comment upon the position.
I have noticed in a newspaper a heading, “ Conscription makes our migrants angry “. I should like to know what governments have protested on this matter. Perhaps the Minister could give us some information on that aspect,I wish also to be advised upon two or three domestic matters. I have often said in debates in this chamber that political clearances ought to be secured by intending migrants before medical examinations are undertaken by the Department.I do not know why that is not done, because many complaints have been made in this respect. I have in mind a particular case on which I am awaiting further details from my Sydney office. I understand that Mr. Lionel Bowen M.L.A. has made a protest that a constituent of his has advised that his wife had gone back to Poland with the intention of bringing his stepdaughter to Australia. The girl travelled 600 miles to Warsaw for an x-ray to be taken at the British Embassy there. Apparently the British Embassy carries out this function for the Australian Government. She was told that the x-ray technician was on holidays and that she should go home and wait. That visit to Warsaw was on 20th August last and they are still waiting. I appreciate that it is difficult for the Government to control a situation in which other people are acting for the Government in other parts of the world.
The Schedule shows that we have 15 migration offices overseas. The Schedule also refers to “ Migration Offices - Other Overseas Posts “, for which an appropriation of $27,500 is made. I think this matter should be examined. We have a fairly big staff overseas in 15 migration offices, as well as those people covered by the appropriation described as “ Migration Offices - Other Overseas Posts “. Our overseas officers ought to be much more prompt and should be able to do a job much more efficiently than is indicated by the complaint of Mr. Bowen. I know of people from Sydney who, seven or eight months ago, applied for their mother who lived in Budapest to come to Australia on a visitor’s visa. I have been in touch with the central office of the Department and with the New South Wales office but I do not seem to be gelling very far. The people want a tourist visa for their mother and are eager to have her come to Australia by next Christmas. 1 do not know for what Christmas she will arrive here. These are very important matters affecting the welfare of migrants to this country. I should like lo say that I have nothing but the highest praise for the efficient staff and capable officers of the Department of Immigration, but I feel that matters of this nature should be dealt with more expeditiously. 1 wish to refer now to a matter raised with me by Mr. Grassby, the honorable member for Murrumbidgee in the New South Wales Parliament. On 19th October 1966 the following report appeared in the Press -
European grandparents of children in Australia had to wait up lo four months for visits to Australia, Mr. A. J. Grasshy, M.1..A. (Labour, Murrumbidgee) said yesterday. He said American visas in similar cases were being issued in 30 minutes.
J am aware that in the Victorian office changes are being made to ensure that visas are issued much more quickly. 1 think it is important that satisfaction should be given to migrants and their relatives, and I would like to know when the position will be improved.
I would like the Minister to tell us the expected number of migrants in the coming year and of any problems arising in securing migrants. I sometimes feel that migrants are being misled in many ways. English and European migrants arriving here are concerned about the cost of living. They are misled by propaganda on the housing situation and on the question of skills. 1 think it is important that they should know exactly what is expected of them here by the Australian trade unions. Advertisements placed in other parts of the world state that bricklayers can earn here $88 a week, but when they arrive they find that there are difficulties with the unions, because their skills do not meet the required standard. Honorable senators may remember the difficulties experienced by migrant doctors some years ago. Marine engineers in the shipbuilding industry have also had difficulties. lt seems that the qualifications of migrants do not measure up to the requirements of our trade unions and I think that matter should be explained very fully to intending migrants before they come to this country. If the situation were explained to them overseas, on their arrival here they would not experience half the difficulties they seem to encounter at present. I do hope that the Minister, with the help of the very efficient officers alongside her, will be able to give me answers to the questions that I have asked. If answers cannot be given to all of them now, perhaps she will supply them later.
-Order! I point out that the Chair has been rather lenient with honorable senators when they have been dealing with items under Division No. 270 - Administrative. 1 suggest that henceforth honorable senators link their remarks with items in the estimates.
– I desire to relate my remarks to Division No. 270 - Administrative, and refer to embarkation and passage costs. The few remarks that I have to make apply to this subdivision. I wish to refer to a single case, and hope to receive an answer to the facts, as I understand them, that I will put before the Committee.
Some years ago, a young English medical practitioner came to Australia at his own expense and practised in a country town in South Australia. He cost the Australian Government nothing. He then moved to Africa as a medical missionary. After several years as a medical missionary, he returned to England to do a postgraduate course. He is eager to come back to Australia as a qualified medical practitioner. But he is unable to receive an assisted passage. I am told that this is because he had been in Australia before as a visitor. Therefore he has not been able to receive an assisted passage.
This is the matter on which I should like to receive some information. I wonder whether this is correct. If the details that I have given are correct - I believe that they are true in every respect - I wonder why in cases such as this some alteration of the rules cannot be made or some means found to allow people in such circumstances to come to Australia as assisted migrants. Australia is crying out to medical people to come here, yet this person is not allowed an assisted passage.
[12.43]. -Senator Fitzgerald mentioned the recognition of trade skills. Technical advisers on trade skills are included in Australian selection teams overseas. They advise applicants before they leave their home countries, about the recognition of. their particular skills.
asked also for the latest figures available relating to the number of aliens registered in Australia. The latest figure available is that during the month of September 228,814 aliens were registered. Some registrations are still being received. The honorable senator asked whether it was true that the nationality provision had been removed from the Social Services Act and how this might affect naturalisation. I point out to him that it has never been the concept of the Government that Australian citizenship should be sought for material gain.
– I wishto raise a question under Division No. 287 - “ Migration Office - Hong Kong “. I see that the appropriation this financial year for salaries of locally engaged personnel is$16,100. I should like to know what migrants Australia has received through this office in Hong Kong? What is the purpose of this office asI understand that Australia is not seeking the migration of nationalists from this area? I also ask whether the Migration Office in London is giving correct advice to and properly informing migrants in relation to what they can expect in Australia? Is this office informing prospective migrants sufficiently, or are prospective migrants subject to individual advertisements and business firms that would like to make a profit out of migration from Great Britain?
This matter is important in South Australia at the present time where employment prospects in the trades followed by most migrants reaching Adelaide are very poor. I refer to the 120 migrants in the Finsbury Hostel. After nine days there, only two migrants had found employment. Some of the migrants are demanding that they be returned to their native lands. At another building site of the Fairfield Company, conditions were supposed to be excellent. Migrants were told that they would be provided with a home that would be purchased for them when they signed on. They were given a guarantee of employment. But it was found that this was employment for a week at gardening or labouring. This work was unsatisfactory to the migrants. They were dismissed after this period and put on the labour market. But no jobs are available for them. A meeting held in this area last Friday night was addressed by the Premier of South Australia. Some 200 people attended, and the British migrants demanded that they be returned to their homeland because they had been brought here under false pretences. Whether that is the fault of the Department or not, I do not know. I am not suggesting that the Department is giving false information. But I ask whether it is giving insufficient information and whether promising migrants are receiving ideas from other sources?
– Does the honorable senator not think that when he brings forward a suggestion of that sort he should have some particular fact as his basis for doing so?
– I do. If the honorable senator will be patient with me, I will try to develop that fact. As some basis for the point I have made, I refer to advertisements which appeared in the London “ Daily Mirror “ on Tuesday, 26th April 1966. A number of organisations had advertisements grouped together with an editorial heading “ Any Questions? “ at the top of these advertisements. The first advertisement reads -
Can I get a job there? How about accommodation? . . . houses? ShouldI take my furniture? . . . my car? How do I transfer my money?
Between them, the advertisers privately sponsoringthis feature can answer all your questions and assist you in a personal way with every aspect of immigration.
Under a further sub-heading “All the Facts are Available “, this advertisement continues -
These advertisers are all specialists in their own field. They have the facts at their fingertips and the experience to help all migrants - including those travelling under the Australian Government £10 assisted passage scheme. There is also an official series of fact-filled booklets obtainable from the Chief Migration Office, Canberra House,. Maltravers Street, Strand, London. W.C.2.
The facts will leave you in no doubt that Australia is a sunny land where people rather like yourself are leading a very good life indeed - with a great future!
After the sub-heading “ The Personal Approach “, this advertisement concludes -
The specialists prepare you with personal migration plans to suit your individual case. Take advantage of Australia’s extra migration services - their “ know how “ is yours for the asking. Write - now - for full details.
Beneath this advertisement I find a further advertisement 3 in. x 1 in. It is headed “Emigrating to Australia?” It is inserted by the Bank of Adelaide. Another advertisement alongside it reads; .” Moving to Australia? Consult Bonners, of Welling Ltd., 35 Upper Wickham Lane, Welling, Kent . for collection, packing, shipping, baggage service, to all docks.” Beneath this advertisement there is an advertisement inserted on behalf of the Mutual Hospital Association of South Australia. . Another advertisement in this group is for Worldwide Baggage Agents, Seven Seas Transport Co. Ltd. The final box on the page is filled with an advertisement for the Realty Development Corporation Pty. Ltd. The heading of this advertisement reads -
A new home in sunny Australia. First choice for families. R.D.C. Family Migration Plan for Adelaide and Perth.
The advertisement states -
New completed bungalows. Modern and Traditional, freehold, detached, 3 and 4 bedrooms. From £3,950 stg. Loans arranged. R.D.C.’s. competitive prices and current U.K. home values enable migrants to afford a superior home with money in hand for new furniture, etc. in Australia. The sunshine costs no extra!
EXPERT EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE..
Complete Advisory Service both here in U.K. and Australia.
Send for FULL details of R.D.C. family plan . . .
– These are Australian firms advertising in London?
– Yes, in London newspapers. When the migrants get here they are given the address of the nearest Commonwealth Employment Service office. That is the employment agency in question. It is proposed that when the families sign the contract, they should provide £2,000. Of that sum one third is to be used as a deposit on a house to save a second mortgage, one third is to purchase a car, and the other one third is for furniture. 1 have before me the details of one case in particular. The firm had two houses for the migrant to inspect. One was at Morphett Vale and the other was far out to the north of Adelaide. The migrant selected the second place, not knowing at the time that it would be impossible to get employment anywhere near the residence. He was given an order on the Myer emporium for one third of the sum of £2,000 to purchase furniture. He was given another order on a used car firm. In other words, he was committed to one building firm, one furniture supplier and one car dealer before he left England. But, of course, the sunshine was free. This is what is being offered to migrants in England.
Task this pertinent question: Cannot the Department of Immigration step up its publicity so that intending migrants will make inquiries at the Migration Office rather than act on advertisements by private individuals? 1 do not know whether the Migration Office in the United Kingdom knows about the difficulties experienced by people who act on advertisements inserted in the United Kingdom Press by Australian firms. I have mentioned only one case. As I said, over 200 people attended the public meeting held last Friday night. Numerous other cases could be mentioned. Intending migrants should come here under a proper scheme drawn up by the Commonwealth Government. The Department should try to overcome the efforts of individuals who are seeking to gain some benefit from advertising in the London Press.
– Are these Australian or English firms?
– They are Australian firms. The one I have been speaking about is a South Australian firm. The Fairfield company had made arrangements to lend money to migrants on second mortgage. The first mortgage finance was obtained through the banking institutions. The company brought migrants here with a guarantee of employment. It employed them on building construction, but within a month of the migrants’ arrival the firm became bankrupt and the men were unemployed. There is some doubt about the legality of the financial transactions and about whether the finance companies - four finance companies in Adelaide are involved - can repossess the properties on which the migrants have paid deposits and for which they have continued to pay rent. The Premier made representations to the finance companies with a view to helping these people until the legal implications of bankruptcy were studied. The companies were prepared to permit the migrants to remain provided they paid their weekly rental as stipulated in the contract. But how they can pay a weekly rental when they are out of employment is the problem that faces those migrants.
This sort of thing is happening more particularly to British migrants. They are given false information in England. Intending migrants should be advised not to sign contracts until they arrive in Australia and have had time to satisfy themselves. I ask the Minister for Housing whether she or the [Minister for Immigration will look into the matter to see whether something can be done to prevent other migrants from being dis::d antaged
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) 112.571. - Senator Cavanagh has mentioned a number of firms selling houses to migrants. 7he.se firms are operating under arrangements wi h the South Australian Government. One of the conditions of the scheme to which the honorable senator referred is thai migrants cannot be committed to the purchase of a home before they arrive in Australia. This is part of .’he arrangement with the South Australian Government. Such an arrangement, of course, is designed for the protection of the migrants.
– The South Australian Government is a Labour Government.
– Yes. In regard to publicity, I point out to the honorable sena or that migrants are given excellent information. The migration officer in London is fully informed of the employment position in South Australia, and the recruitment of migrant workers is controlled accordingly. No migrant is given a guarantee of employment by migration officials before he arrives here. Of course, assistance is given through the Commonwealth Employment Service. But 1 repeat that no guarantee is given. Honorable senators should be aware that a great deal is being done to provide publicity for people who intend to migrate to Australia. Detailed information is provided about almost every aspect of life in this country. That information is contained in a wide range of publications which are issued in 15 languages. Those publications are freely available to people who are interested. The pamphlets are kept thoroughly up to date. They are reprinted at least once a year, and some are reprinted several times a year. They are attractive and can be easily read. The one 1 have in my hand deals with housing in Australia. It is an excellent publication and contains a great deal of detail. This year we are spending $299,100 on publicity in the United Kingdom. We have there a very competent publicity staff who are equipped to inform prospective migrants accurately about conditions in Australia. These pamphlet s, which we call the “ Fact “ pamphlets, cover a very wide range of subjects. They set out the position in very clear detail and are available for issue to intending migrants.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Senator Mattner referred to an individual case. We would have to know the details of it before we could give an answer, but previous residence in Australia would not necessarily preclude the granting of an assisted passage. There was one answer that I omitted to give to Senator Fitzgerald. He referred to delays experienced by people coming from Warsaw and Budapest in particular. The answer to his query is that we have no Australian migration officers in those places. British representatives assist us there and act on our behalf in dealing with applications for entry to Australia. Of course, this assistance which they give is of tremendous help to us. The honorable senator will realise that there are difficulties in dealing with these matters in the Iron Curtain countries. This, of course, causes delays.
I have an answer to a question which Senator Cavanagh raised concerning migrants from Hong Kong. I inform him that we do not receive any assisted migrants from Hong Kong. The Hong Kong migration office deals mainly with Asian students, tourists and business visitors coming to Australia. Settlers from Hong Kong are mainly White Russian refugees from Mainland China. I think that the honorable senator will be interested to know that 274 of these settlers came from Hong Kong in 1962-63, 304 in 1963-64 and 433 in 1964-65.
– While my remarks will refer mainly to the administration of the Department of Immigration, 1 join with Senator Fitzgerald and other honorable senators in paying a tribute to the assistance that members of Parliament receive from the Department, both in Canberra and in the other capital cities. I think that we all appreciate the job that is being done by the officers in the Department, ft is pleasing to note that the Department adopts a humanitarian approach in dealing with the public. I think that the most complex aspect of migration is our relations with Asian countries. 1 shall refer to a case in which I feel some reform may be required. I think that we all are aware that at the last Australian Citizenship Convention, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Whitlam, made a courageous statement on Asian migration. From the attitude of the Government, J think that a reasonable approach has been adopted to the statement. I think that we have gradually had an improvement in this field of Asian migration. We know that the operations of the Department of Immigration in this field have a bearing on our good relations with Asian countries.
To illustrate the problem that I have in mind, I refer to a particular case. Earlier this year a Singapore dental graduate received permission to stay an additional 12 months in Australia so as to acquire additional experience in his profession. At the end of the 12 months period he was told that he would have to leave Australia. The Department’s argument was that there was ample opportunity for the graduate to use his skills in his Own country and thus help to raise the standard of living in that country. He disputed this ruling. He subsequently went to Britain. I received a letter from him in which he claimed that his own Government was not worried whether or not he returned to his own country. However, I think that we have to be objective. On the one hand, I have always felt - and I. think that most people do - that the question of colour should not enter into professional appointments. On the other hand, developing countries need all the skills that they are able to acquire.
To put the matter on a reasonable plane, I draw the Minister’s attention to a statement which appeared in “ Newsweek “ of 10th October 1966. The United States Congress was told last year that as a result of what is called the “ brain drain “, India and Korea, to name just two countries, lost professional and technical men to the United States. It does not happen to the same extent in Australia. 1 understand that the United States Congress is seeking to amend the law and allow special treaties with have not countries to control the outflow of this desperately needed brainpower. This is a complex question which has to be considered very carefully. I have referred to the case of the Singapore graduate who claimed that our Government was hard on him. I would much prefer to- get a proper evaluation of the situation by having the Singapore Government confirm our Government’s attitude, rather than relying on an individual’s, perhaps, selfish views. I respectfully suggest that we should have a close look at the situation and consider whether we could have some ties or treaty obligations with some of the Asian countries so that we can assist them in their own development, and if they give the green light for the appointment in this country of a professional man from their country, he should have an even break with the people in This country.
The other matter which I want to raise relates to Division No. 302 - Migration Office - Yugoslavia. 1 know that the question of the migration office in Yugoslavia is linked up with the question of the appointment of an ambassador to that country. A migration office has been established in Yugoslavia. I feel that we should make every effort to accelerate the conclusion of a migration agreement with that country. Yugoslavia is one of the countries which provides a fair amount of the foreign work force in West Germany and other countries. I think that we could tap that work force effectively. A great number of Yugoslavs have played an important part in the metalliferous mining and other heavy industries in Australia. There is no doubt that they can be absorbed into our industries.
Earlier this year the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) referred to the fact that 148,000 migrants were expected lo come to Australia this year. I feel it is obvious that we should be able to tap the work force of countries such as Yugoslavia to supply our heavy industry. I know that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is anxious to help in this regard. I know that Mr. Shortall, an organiser of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia in Sydney, and Mr. McMahon, of the Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees’ Union have both visited Yugoslavia. They spent six to eight weeks in that country. They had reasonable ties with the trade union movement in that country. It is also true that the trade union journals in some eastern European countries have not always seen eye to eye with the Western powers or the middle countries such as Australia. But I know from reading the English editions of the Yugoslav journals that the trade unions in these countries would be very receptive to a proposal such as that which I have suggested. I am sure that if we receive assistance from the trade unions and the governments in those countries, we could increase the tempo of the migration from those countries, which would be valuable to all concerned.
I hope that the Minister will bc able to tell us whether in the next six months an agreement along the lines that 1 have suggested is likely to be signed with Yugoslavia. I say that deliberately because we all know that there have been certain internal adjustments in that country. Perhaps some of the people who are returning from West Germany to their homeland in Yugoslavia and who will be redundant to the work force in that country could be signed on as future Australian migrants.
There is one other matter on which I seek information. I refer to page 60 of the report of the Auditor-General upon The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure, which deals with assisted migration - embarkation and passage costs. I refer to the responsibility of Australia towards the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration. The point that intrigues me is the paragraph in the report -
Australia has agreed for the 1965 and 1966 calendar years to contribute towards the passage costs of the movement by I.C.E.M. to Australia of migrant nationals and refugees. 1 think that the use of the word “ refugees “ is a far cry from the early postwar years when displaced persons’ camps were bursting at the seams. On 18th August 1966 the Minister issued a Press statement in which he referred to grants to the Australian Council of Churches, the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee, the Federation of Jewish Welfare Societies, the Lutheran Federation World Services and International Social Services. I should like the Minister to analyse or fragment for me the type of people who are termed refugees. Are they the aged parents of migrants at present in Australia? Would it not be better to have direct agreements with countries in central and eastern Europe and, to be blunt about it, get able bodied and vigorous people? What is the definition of refugees? On the other side of the coin - I am not playing politics now - it is equally dangerous if we allow little groups of people from, say, West Germany and Spain, who have a grouch against their home country, to enter Australia. If they come here claiming that they are refugees from their own country it does not necessarily follow that they will not perpetuate some feuds from their country of origin. That is a subject on which I should like further information.
I should like to refer now to the Australian Citizenship Convention. The time between conventions has now been extended. I know that Senator Cavanagh and other members of Parliament who attended the Convention last year agree with me that there was a good interplay of ideas. I want to repeat a suggestion that J made earlier this year. With all due respect, I say that some of the organisations represented at the Convention are a far cry from organisations concerned with the initial problems which confront the migrant. My mind turns to some trade unions which have a big migrant membership. I am thinking of the Greek worker with the British Motor Corporation who is probably a member of the Vehicle Builders Union, and the migrant in the steelworks at Port Kembla who is possibly a member of the Federated Ironworkers Association.
I think encouragement should be given to migrants of three or four years standing to seek an invitation to attend the Convention under the sponsorship of their unions. We would then hear some down to earth summaries touching on subjects of which some of the well meaning people who now attend the Convention are not aware. I am sure Senator Cavanagh will support me when I say that one of the most vigorous and constructive speakers at the last Citizenship Convention was a Dutch detective sergeant in the Queensland police force. Each time he spoke he had something constructive to offer. The ratio of old : new Australians at the Convention should be increased because I believe that some migrants who are now members of trade unions would make a positive contribution to the discussions.
The only other point I wish to raise is this vexed question of whether Tomislav Lesic has been naturalised. I believe this is relevant to the discussion. I have raised this matter several times with Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. and she told me on the last occasion that it was still under consideration. 1 am only trying to establish a principle on this point. 1 leave it at that.
– I thank the Minister for her reply on the question of the importance of the office in Hong Kong. I found the figures very informative, ft could well be, when they are worked out, that we are paying a high price for migrants from that centre. 1 found the Minister’s reply in relation to the United Kingdom most pathetic. The firms mentioned previously are not necessarily acting under the direction of the South Australian Government. However, I recall from answers given to questions 1 have asked previously that certain licence is given by the South Austraiian Government to certain building firms to approach intending migrants. I was referring to firms which advertise in the Press. There is no restriction on that. No-one needs a licence to advertise in the British Press or to have a representative in Britain to advise intending migrants. The Minister has come out with the startling statement that an intending migrant in Great Britain cannot be permitted to purchase a home until he arrives in Australia. I believe this is the position under South Australian law. 1 do not know where that hails from, but the fact is that intending migrants are signed up in Great Britain and pay deposits on homes in Australia.
I ask the Minister to investigate my complaint. I substantiate my request by referring to a report which has been received by the Christies Beach Branch of the Good Neighbour Council. 1 see from the estimates that the good neighbour movement receives a subsidy from the Government. The report to which 1 have referred states -
Two migrant families have complained about approaches by South Australian builders and land agents lo enter into contracts to purchase a home in South Australia whilst still residing in the United Kingdom.
Am I to understand (hat this is an unlawful action on the part of the contractors? The report goes on -
The firm of Alan Hickinbotham approached a family in the United Kingdom and offered to have a home waiting for them in South Australia if they paid a deposit there and then and also deposited the sum of £2,000 sterling in the bank.
The report then cites the whole history of the case, lt is not. correct to say therefore, that representatives of Australian firms are not ‘ permitted to sign up migrants in England, because migrants are being signed up. Is this an illegal action? The knowledge I have gained would suggest that no law of the South Australian Government or of this Commonwealth Government could operate in the United Kingdom. If some firm does sign up an intending migrant I do not see why that contract is not enforceable. I acknowledge that privilege is given to certain firms which receive a licence from the South Australian Government, but the whole point is that intending migrants are being signed up for the purchase of homes, they are being offered employment and they are being offered assistance in the purchase of furniture and a motor car while they are still in England. When they come to Australia they find that these offers are valueless.
I ask the Minister, first, to help intending migrants so that they will not fall into these errors. Could not the Department’s officers in England give greater publicity to the fact that the Department is the source from which intending migrants can obtain correct advice about what to expect in Australia? Could not. the Department’s officers advise intending migrants not to commit themselves to contracts before they arrive in Australia? 1 ask the Minister, secondly, whether the Department could investigate the claims that are made to see whether some injustice is being done. ‘If there is any possibility that the firm of Alan Hickinbotham is engaging in an illegal action, could not the Department assist the migrants concerned to obtain redress from the firm through the courts of Australia?
– I wish to refer to that section of the estimates now under discussion which relates to the repatriation and deportation of migrants. Has the Minister any figures which differentiate between the two categories because there is a big difference between people being repatriated and people being deported? 1 shall deal first with migrants being repatriated.
I congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) on and thank him for the compassion and consideration he displayed in two cases which were brought to my notice and which, I regret to say, link up a little with what I was mentioning this morning, in relation to people who come to Australia from England and, within a very short time of their arrival, find themselves ill from cancer. In one case a mother of four children under seven years of age had had an operation for the removal of a growth. The doctors assured her that all was well but within four months she was dying in Perth. Upon her death, her husband was left with four little children, living in a migrant hostel. I applied to the Minister for Immigration for some help to pay their fares to England so that the husband’s mother could look after the children. I put the case as best I could.
I I was better than I thought, because the Department repatriated the family to England. I thank the Minister for his compassion in that case.
The second case was somewhat similar. After a few months in Australia, a father died of cancer, leaving his wife wilh a young family. The money they had brought with them and what they had saved while the father was working in Australia had been spent on a deposit on a house. They were happy in their new laud until tragedy struck. Again the Minister complied wilh my request and paid for the family to go back to England. They had no relatives in Australia. For a young woman in that predicament, with young children to be brought up, it was heartbreaking to be so far from home. The other migrants in the Graylands hostel were very helpful. 1 know a great deal about this hostel because I live close to it. Sometimes I think that perhaps I live too close, but it brings me into contact with a number of the migrants who are resident there.
In connection with the medical examination of migrants and would-be migrants, I would like to know the length of time between the examinations being carried out and the departure of the migrants for Australia, ls there any immediate check if any illness is suspected? I think it is vital that those who come here should be able to stay here and should be in good health. Good health is one of the criteria of selection.
I express my thanks to the Minister for Immigration because he went beyond all reasonable expectations in his treatment of the cases I have mentioned. Quite often we approach the Department of Immigration with impossible requests. As members of Parliament, we are approached by people who give us only one side of the picture. When we consult with the Department we see there is another side which, in most cases, makes the departmental decision the only possible decision. Quite recently 1 had a letter full of woe about somebody who was refused admission to Australia. The wife was Australian by naturalisation and the husband could not come here. On the surface, it was a terrific case, lt seemed that the Department was flat out to cause human misery. But, on investigation, I found there were factors you would not read about in a James Bond thriller. You had only to name a crime and this man had committed it. lt was a case for Interpol rather than for the Department of Immigration. The Department had suppressed the real reasons for the rejection of this man’s application for admission to Australia out of consideration for the wife, and had to put up with a good deal of abuse from various quarters as a result.
There is one aspect of administration which does not apply only to the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. I mentioned this recently in another debate. I refer to the multiplicity of immigration agencies. There is competition between the States for migrants. Western Australia and Victoria, for example, send missions to London to get migrants. People wonder whether Victoria and Western Australia are parts of Australia. In many cases, the work of these missions overlaps the work that is being done by the Department of Immigration. The Department has all the information that is available about all the States. From my own experience in London, I know that the Department gives the best information it can in respect of all States to intending migrants. But we have this overlapping of functions by the States and the Commonwealth, and consequently an overlapping of expenditure too.
I know that it is going to be difficult to get more migrants from European countries as their conditions improve. The flow will gradually lessen. But when I was in Austria and other countries a couple of years ago, 1 found the immigration officers in many cases were carrying out duties for the Department of External Affairs as well. They were the people we had to contact because there were no diplomatic missions. Although they were most diplomatic in their attitude, they were carrying out these extra duties without extra pay and without diplomatic status, at great personal inconvenience and expense. They were the only officers representing Australia. I know the position in Austria has been rectified by the appointment of an ambassador after all these years, but when I was there the immigration officer was the representative of Australia and he was without any diplomatic status whatever. That applied also in other countries. We had immigration missions but no diplomatic missions.
On the whole, the Department of Immigration is a Commonwealth Department of which we can be well and truly proud. Ever since the inception of the post-war immigration policy under Mr. Calwell, the policy has been carried out, irrespective of the political complexion of governments in office, by a devoted band of public servants who owe their allegiance not to any political party but to Australia itself.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [2.28]. - Senator Tangney has mentioned the multiplicity of agencies and missions from various Australian States going overseas and the feeling that these overlap with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. When a State decides to send a mission to recruit migrants overseas, the Commonwealth feels bound to offer every cooperation. After all, the States are anxious to attract people. Sometimes they want migrants for a particular industry. They want to get as many migrants as they can. Senator Tangney also referred to immigration from Ceylon. The policy governing the admission of people from Ceylon has been liberalised in recent years. This is borne out by the increase in immigration from Ceylon. More than 10,000 immigrants have come to Australia from Ceylon in the past 10 years.
asked a question about the time between the medical examination of migrants and their departure for Australia. The Department is constantly reviewing procedures and every effort is made to reduce the time taken to complete the necessary formalities. The departmental officers know of these matters and are doing what they can to review the procedures.
Senator Mulvihill referred to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. We have no migration agreements with Communist countries. Refugees are accepted by Australia through the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. The refugees who are coming now are mostly Yugoslavs from Italy and Austria. Senator Mulvihill also referred to the Australian Citizenship Convention and made some observations concerning it. 1 shall be very pleased to bring his comments to the attention of the Minister. The honorable senator spoke about Asian students studying in Australia. Of course, the whole purpose of the Asian students scheme is to train these young people in Australia so that they may go back to their countries and use their training for the benefit of their own people. There would be more than 11,000 students in Australia at any one time. The purpose in requiring graduates to return to their own countries is, as I have said, to help in the development of those countries.
Senator Cavanagh and I have been discussing the matter that he raised in connection with certain firms in South Australia. The point I made earlier was that the South Australian Government lays down the conditions in connection with these firms. In relation to housing for migrants, to which I referred earlier, the firms in question nominate migrants through the State migration officer in South Australia. The State Government has laid down the conditions under which nominations will be received. The Commonwealth Government has been informed that one of the conditions is that there is no commitment to purchase a home before arrival in Australia. Senator Mulvihill spoke of Yugoslav migrants. The number of Yugoslavs nominated and granted visas in recent years is as follows -
– I wish to ask the Minister a question concerning Division No. 270, Administrative. Item 08 in subdivision 2 relates to education of migrants in the English language. Expenditure in this respect last year was $825,629 and this year the proposed expenditure is $939,700. I refer also to item 02 in subdivision 3, which is concerned with the contribution to the Good Neighbour Councils. Last year the expenditure was $126,560 and this year the proposed expenditure is $171,000. My query concerns the appointment of a departmental officer to assist in the assimilation of migrants through extension of education in the English language and assistance to the Good Neighbour Councils. I take it that the work of this officer will help to broaden the activities of the Councils, and I should like the Minister to say whether his work is covered in any way by the increase in the proposed expenditure in connection with the Good Neighbour Councils. The work of the Councils needs no praise from me. I am sure that all honorable senators are aware of the wonderful work that they have done ever since the introduction of the immigration scheme. Am I correct in assuming that their work will be assisted by the appointment of this departmental officer?
.- Under Division No. 270, Administrative, I wish to refer again to the submissions I made and the questions I asked earlier. The Minister has not yet replied to them. One of the matters I mentioned related to visitors’ permits. As I have said, it takes up to four months in this country to get a visitor’s permit while in America such a permit may be obtained in about half an hour. Other questions which I asked were dismissed by the Minister on the basis that they concerned Iron Curtain countries. I realise that there are difficulties involved in the matters I have raised, but I do not want them to be dismissed by the Minister with the comment: “I have already given answers to those questions “. I want to be informed by the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration thatI shall receive official answers to my questions when they are referred to the Department or to the Minister for Immigration.
I ask: What countries have protested against the callup of aliens? What is the estimated number of migrants who have not registered? EarlierI referred to the case of a Polish migrant in connection with X-rays for people who had travelled hundreds of miles and then had to come back to be examined again. No doubt the expense involved in doing so would be burdensome for these unfortunate people. The departmental officers having made a mistake somewhere along the line, the people concerned should be compensated to some degree. I have posed those questions and I hope they will be submitted to the Department. I also hope that ultimately I will receive an official reply.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [2.36]. - MayI say to Senator Fitzgerald that the matters he has raised will go to the Department. They will be looked at and he will receive a reply. Senator Breen referred to the education of migrants in the English language. The migrant education scheme is provided free of charge for nonEnglish speaking migrants above school age to help them overcome difficulties they experience both in their personal affairs and in their dealings with fellow workers and thus to expedite their integration into the Australian community. It provides for class instruction in English on ships and at migrant centres, factories and metropolitan and rural areas throughout Australia where migrants have congregated. Persons unable to attend the classes can enrol for correspondence lessons. In addition, radio lessons are broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in co-operation with the Commonwealth Office of Education. The increase in the estimates will enable this work to be extended and will be of great advantage in the integration of migrants into the Australian community.
– I wish to conclude my remakrs in connection with the estimates for the Department of Immigration by informing the Minister that of the group of 200 at Fairfield in South Australia to which I referred, there were only three families sponsored by the South Australian Government. The remainder were sponsored by the Federal Government.
– Is the Minister able to tell me whether the Government has yet concluded an agreement with the Italian Government on immigration? As we know, the previous agreement was broken some time ago. I know that negotiations are proceeding and I am wondering about the stage they have reached.
– I am informed that the negotiations are still in progress. I cannot give the honorable senator any further details concerning them.
– I thank the Minister for the statistics she has given me in relation to Division No. 302, Migration Office - Yugoslavia. To crystallise the matter, I am trying to elicit information concerning Slav migration to Australia. The Minister has indicated that there are Yugoslavs who come within the definition of refugees. I now ask whether, in the next 12 months, an agreement will be signed by the Government of Australia and the Government of Yugoslavia to put Yugoslav migrants on a par with Greek and Italian migrants who are granted assisted passages. Perhaps on a slightly different plane, I want to supplement Senator Cavanagh’s comments regarding British migrants. I have attended several meetings at the Broughton Hostel at Burwood, New South Wales. I know that there are problems in this connection and I appreciate that both Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. and the Department of Immigration often inherit situations that are not of their making.
Let me give a case history. A man who is a crane driver in a workshop in Huddersfield in England is told that if he comes to Australia and works for the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. or someone else he will be a production worker. The term “ production worker “ sounds very good. But when he comes to Newcastle he finds himself working as a general labourer in the steel works. He may have to work there for two years before he becomes even a tradesman’s assistant. When he reaches that point he may say: “ I want to be a crane driver.” Notwithstanding the fact that he has his crane driver’s ticket and has worked for eight or nine years as a crane driver in England, he finds that he has to wait. That may not mean a lot to some people; but it irks other people to think that, despite their qualifications, they earn barely the basic wage.
In this case there are obviously no language difficulties. The term “ production worker “ gives these people a false sense of security. This is a facet of British migration in which, unfortunately, there is some distortion. 1 do not blame the people at Australia House for this situation. I know that some of our governmental and semigovernmental instrumentalities and some sections of private enterprise have gone out shopping for migrants. Senator Tangney referred to the competition to migrants. When people arrive in Australia and find that it is not all that they expected, this irritation develops. I am not an expert on housing, as Senator Cavanagh and other honorable senators are. We hear complaints about reciprocal agreements. I know that we have reciprocal agreements of some sort on social services. These people start making comparisons. They say that if they had stayed in Lancashire for two more years they would have received housing loans. It seems to me that there is a gap. All of these things create an unfavourable reaction.
At the Broughton Hostel in Burwood there are people who have been caught up in semi-skilled or unskilled occupations. The months go by. They develop chips on their shoulders and a feeling of bitterness because they believe that they are the victims of a gigantic confidence trick. This applies only to a minority of migrants. Unfortunately, many of these people left good positions because they thought they would better themselves in Australia. It is all right to talk about Australia being the land of opportunity. But, speaking bluntly, some of these fellows leave jobs which, although they are not tradesmen’s jobs are still well paid, and have no guarantee that when they come to Australia they can walk into comparable jobs. I do not say that they should be able to do that. As a former trade unionist, I believe that seniority is a valuable safeguard in the trade union movement. But let them know in advance just what the score is.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [2.43]. - Senator Mulvihill has raised points in regard to reciprocal agreements and an agreement with the Yugoslav Government for assisted migration. These relate to matters of Government policy. I will be very pleased to see that they are put before the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and his Department.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed expenditure, $23,063,000.
Proposed provision, $43,000.
– The Department of Social Services is seeking an appropriation of $23,063,000 for its administration. Nearly 50 per cent. of that amount - in fact, $9 million - is earmarked for homes for aged persons by means of grants to eligible organisations under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Since I raised this matter in this chamber some weeks ago, I have received a large number of letters from persons in homes for the aged. The file that I now have in my hand contains only the letters that I have received this week. They refer to instances of overcharging or requests for donations - in fact, to various defects in the system.
We members of the Opposition appreciate the worth of these homes for the aged. We also appreciate the work that is being done by churches and other bodies in the housing of the aged. Where we part company with the Government is on the way in which the Government is spending this money year after year, without having any knowledge of the conditions under which it is used. We are being asked to appropriate $9 million. Surely to goodness the taxpayers of this country are entitled to know the conditions under which that money is made available. I have received letters from people who have paid £2,000 for their units. In view of the fact that they are subsidised by the Commonwealth to the extent of £4,000, it means that those people are occupying units valued at £6,000 each. That is not the end of the story. They have to pay maintenance charges. I have received complaints about increases in maintenance charges of as much as 400 per cent. These charges have been imposed on tenants, many of whom cannot afford to get out of their units. They just have to stay there.
I believe that it is about time the Government or the Department of Social Services made an inquiry into the running of some of these homes. I do not want it to be thought that I am condemning them all out of hand. That is not so. I condemn the principle under which the Government gives away this money without asking how it is being spent. I doubt whether any other government in the world would do that. Some people might say: “ It is quite all right. The people running these homes are performing a public service.” But are they? Are not many of them building up assets for themselves? Many of them are not catering for the people whom this scheme was intended to benefit when it was introduced in 1954. I have referred previously to a statement made by Mr. MacKinnon -the Liberal Minister for Health in Western Australia - on his return from a conference of Ministers held here in Canberra in July. He stated that this scheme catered only for the affluent and the healthy. Until the introduction of legislation that was passed recently by this Parliament, that was so. Under the new legislation, money will be made available for the addition of hospitals and bed units to these homes. But people will still have to be fairly affluent to get into most of them.
Recently I received an invitation to attend the opening of one of these homes. When I read the publicity about it in the “ West Australian “, I found that £1,750 was being paid for single units and £3,250 was being paid for double units. I began to think that I was attending the opening not of a social service establishment, but of another housing estate. It just did not seem to me that this establishment was really providing a service to the elderly people of the community who need such a service.
I believe that it would be much better if, in addition to money being made available to the churches, some money was made available to municipal bodies and State Governments for the housing of the aged in their areas. Very few of these homes for the aged are in country areas. Most of them are in the cities. Many of the old people who have houses in country areas are brought from the neighbourhoods in which they have spent most of their lives into another environment altogether.
– There is a condition in this legislation preventing a payment to a municipality, is there not?
– That is so, but I fail to see why it is so. I think that the municipalities and the shire councils who know the needs of their districts in which the old people have lived for most of their lives could do an excellent job in the provision of housing in the form of flats or home units. They could develop new schemes which would be assets to the municipalities.
In Western Australia the housing schemes for aged people are being centralised in the Bunbury area. One is being developed in the Goldfields area, but there are many other areas in Western Australia which would benefit from this legislation if there were co-operation between the Government and local government authorities.
– Does the correspondence the honorable senator receives come only from Western Australia, or from other States as well?
– Most of it comes from Queensland, the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) will be pleased to know.
– Does it come from Western Australia and the other States?
– lt comes from all States. I have had quite a number of complaints about units in Victoria, particularly those which come within the ambit of the War Widows Guild. I have not had any complaints from South Australia or
Tasmania. Complaints have come from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. I have been surprised at the volume of mail I have received on this matter. I do not make any apologies for reiterating my remarks on this subject this afternoon. I would like to know whether it is beyond the bounds of possibility for the Government, before it grants payments to these bodies, to obtain a copy of any literature issued by them, such as a prospectus, in which are set out the terms under which units are to be let to tenants.” That is all I am asking.
Surely it would not be too much for the Government to take cognizance of the manner in which the bodies receiving grants are to spend them. The Government should ensure that the grants are to be spent to the best advantage of the community and perhaps that could best be done by obtaining copies of prospectuses issued by the various bodies. I have here a prospectus which incorporates an application for occupancy rights. It is very enlightening if you read the small print, but by the time people get to the age where they are entitled to one of the home units I am doubtful that they would be able to read the small print. Perhaps that is why it is there. The same position applies to insurance companies. It is possible to get taken in if you do not read an insurance policy thoroughly. The tenants are called unit holders, but they are only tenants despite the fact that they have paid in about 54,000. That is my point.
A letter I have received from Victoria points out that an amount of $4,000 has been paid on four different occasions for occupancy of the same unit. It had been subsidised only once by the Commonwealth, when it was originally occupied, but on four occasions a donation of $4,000 has been made. “ Donation “ is a very polite way of saying “ key money “. Originally a donation of $4,000 was made, and as the number of incoming tenants increased, so the key money, or the donations, rose as well, to the point that one “unit has already returned more than $24,000 to the people who are in control of it.
I believe that the Committee should consider these matters. The whole idea behind finance for housing for the aged is that those people who need it most should receive the benefits. Yet in all States there is a lack of accommodation for those people who have nothing. That is the whole point. The State Government institutions and charitable institutions which do not charge for ingoing, or key money, or whatever you like to call it, are overcrowded. There are waiting lists. What happens? In many cases in Western Australia where people cannot get into a home for the aged they are put into a C class hospital when they are ill. The Government pays a certain amount towards their upkeep. Their pensions are taken and they are left without a farthing towards personal expenses. They lose all their human dignity. I have visited some of these places and I think they are the biggest racket ever run in this country. They are battening on the need of old people for shelter and they say that the old people must pay for it.
I know of many cases where nieces and nephews of elderly people, just beginning to raise their families, have been called on to pay the difference between the social service payment and the cost of accommodation in so called C class hospitals. Nothing could be further from the truth than to call them hospitals of any kind. The answer is given that such places are the responsibility of the States. Hooey. The States might have a responsibility, but those places would never exist if they had not received a Commonwealth grant. The Commonwealth cannot dissociate itself from any responsibility for them simply by saying that it is a matter for the States. If the Commonwealth Government withheld its payments to these hospitals until they conformed to a decent standard, they would quickly come into line.
I get very worked up about this business. While it is true that some charitable organisations are running excellent homes for the aged without taking every penny from them as key money, there are other homes which are run as a racket. I am not just speaking from my own knowledge - from my own personal experience. I have also the advantage of letters I have received from the States.
I ask the Minister whether the Department of Social Services has any knowledge of how many homes for the aged it has financed since 1954 demand payment of a donation. I have always thought that the word “ donation “ means a freewill gift. It is absolutely fallacious to talk about the payment of key money as a donation. It is not a donation. It is a demanded payment. I would like to know whether the Government has any knowledge of how many institutions demand payment from the aged. It is not necessary to be a pensioner to get into these homes. In fact, very few pensioners can afford them. I also ask: What is the range of the payments; that is, how many of the homes demand, $1,000, $1,600, $2,000, or $4,000? I think $5,000 is the upper limit, according to my knowledge of the amount claimed for entrance to a home.
The appropriation in respect of grants to organisations eligible under the Aged Persons Homes Act is $9 million, which is almost half of the total appropriation for the Department, and it is just one item. Honorable senators will therefore appreciate that some elucidation is needed not only for the benefit of the Senate, but also for the taxpayers, not one of whom would hesitate to give to the aged all he could. I do not mind what we give to the old people. The more we give, the happier I will be, but I object to giving away money to organisations which do not have to produce a balance sheet, or show how that money is distributed, or the conditions under which it is used for the housing of people in whose welfare Australians have such a vital and obvious interest.
.- I rise to refer to the subject on which Senator Tangney has just addressed the Senate. I have listened to her speak on the subject of homes for aged people on two or three previous occasions. I have been criticised for exercising great restraint in this chamber. But I think the Parliament is entitled to exercise restraint. Having listened to Senator Tangney, I have drawn attention to the extreme looseness with which the Aged Persons Homes Act is drawn. There are no safeguards of the ordinary character that safeguard the proper application of the public money for the perpetual purposes for which it is given. I have tried to embrace in that one sentence several thoughts. If one reads the poorhouse history of England one will see there that the whole maintenance of those homes was dependent upon public money. Of course, in the mingy days of the early and late parts of the last century, those homes became a scandal because of the poverty of money that was given and the conditions in which it was given. I mention the poorhouses of England because they were based upon the municipal idea of local control entirely, the reverse of the scheme that the Commonwealth of Australia adopted as the central point of its social services legislation after 1946 when we focussed the fons et origo of social services in this place. That does not matter; 1 mention that fact. One may be better than the o.her or vice versa.
At the end of the last century such was the abuse of charities generally that provision was made for organisations by statute for the general supervision of moneys that were subjected to charitable trusts. We came along in 1934 with a perfectly general statute which really says only this: The Secretary of the Department of Social Services - not the Minister but the Secretary - may pay out amounts - unlimited - to persons - unspecified - in conditions not indicated so long as it is for the acquisition of a home in which aged persons live. I have had occasion recently to draw a distinction between the completely loose general nature of that statute and the hidebound pettifogging detail of the Homes Savings Grant Act that we passed in the last two or three years to grant the sum of £250 in respect of the purchase of homes by married couples. That Act was built up with all the obstructions in the world as to detail and legislative conditions. I make that observation in general. It is because of what Senator Tangney has so purposefully put before us that I think we take an interest in this matter from that point of view.
When I raised the generalities of this statute some seven or eight years ago and pointed out that loose and ill drawn legislation of this character was calculated to give the opportunity for abuse, apparently I spoke with some insight into what was happening. I spoke with the greatest restraint. I have remained silent in deference to some comments from my colleagues who in a practical way contribute to the charity of this cause by their interest and effort much more than I do. I was easily subdued by the remark that mine is a legalistic approach compared with the philanthrophic approach of my colleagues. But what Sena- tor Tangney has said to us today is such as to provide a base for my statement If Senator Tangney will make available the material part of the correspondence that she has and if this shows that in any real field abuse or failure to achieve to the best effect the purposes of this Act, then it seems to me that we should give earnest consideration to setting up a select committee of this Senate to inquire into the operation of our statute and what is being done in the country.
I wish to give the greatest credit to the people with whom I have come in contact and who are in charge of these homes. I have never taken the opportunity to put myself before anybody as a person who provides this money. It is taxpayers’ money. I will never appear as if I am the donor of it. The people who take the responsibility and have the anxiety of managing these homes for charitable purposes are deserving of very great credit and thanks. If there are some institutions where the asset is being sold four times - I do not know over what period, but let us assume since 1954 - then this is a matter which should come under some regulatory provision so as to ensure that the opportunity for abuse will not be there and that this public money is used for its proper purposes. This is all the more imperative when we realise that this is a lump sum grant made to an organisation the constitution of which is not even prescribed by the legislation. But that organisation is expected to carry on the purposes of the grant in perpetuity-
– I thought the organisation had to be approved?
– Yes, but it is approved by-
– I wanted to find out the definition of the word “ approved “ in that sense.
– It is approved by one departmental officer and, of course, by his subordinates according to his intention and according to such directions as the Minister gives expressing the policy of the government of the day. We usually do not vote money on that basis. There are statutory safeguards which ensure the proper application of the money. The point that I make is that it is a capital payment. It is not to secure an asset on the part of an approved organisation for use for. its purposes in perpetuity. It is because of that element that I think the requirement is that charity - I use the word in the legal sense, shall I say, so that the Committee will not think that I am confining it to property alone - is performed throughout the time that the asset exists that has been purchased by public money.
I hope that those remarks will indicate a practical interest in this subject, which has been raised by Senator Tangney. If the documents are put before me and I am left then with the same sense of uneasiness as I am left with after hearing her speech, then I should think that the Senate ought to give serious consideration to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the matter.
– I share concern for the aged and about the matter discussed by Senator Tangney and Senator Wright I agree that something must be done regarding the powerful indictment that has been made out with reference to the Aged Persons Homes Act. Something ought to be done to provide increased safeguards. The estimates before us are for a proposed expenditure of $23,063,000 and a proposed provision of $43,000 for the Department of Social Services. Before I deal with the major issues that I am concerned about I should like some explanation of another matter.
Whilst an additional amount of approximately $1.5 million has been appropriated over actual expenditure in last financial year in relation to salaries and payments in the nature of salary, I find that there are a number of items in subdivision 2, Administrative Expenses, of Division No. 470 - Administrative, in which the appropriation this financial year has been reduced when compared with the amounts expended last financial year. I refer specifically to items 05, 06, 07 and 08 of subdivision 2. I note that the proposed provision for payment for services of magistrates, police, registrars and agents has been reduced by approximetely $10,000. The provision for payments for services of registrars of births and deaths is slightly lower than the expenditure for last year, the provision for medical examinations is about $2,500 less than the expenditure last year, and the provision for commission on benefit pay ments made by post offices is less than the expenditure last year. The grant to the National Old People’s Welfare Council of Australia has been reduced from $100,000 last year to $60,000 this year. I would like some information about these matters.
While departmental officers are present in the chamber, I would like to refer to the funeral benefit, about which I have asked a question within the last few days. I should like to know under what authority officers of the Department refuse to pay the miserable and contemptible benefit of £10 upon the death of a pensioner. Submissions have been made to me by the president of a pensioners’ organisation in a country town. This gentleman pointed out to me that the daughter of a pensioner relative of his who had passed away had paid certain expenses. Many costs are incurred upon the death of a person, including the cost of the grave and a headstone. Because this person had been paying into a funeral benefit fund and the relatives had received back more than the undertaker had charged, the Department refused to pay this miserable sum of £10. I have never heard of anything more contemptible. I have had the greatest admiration for the Department of Social Services; I believe that in general it has been administered by a fine body of men. But when one sees this sort of thing happening, one wonders what the Public Service is coming to.
I should like the Minister to tell us whether the payment of the funeral benefit is to be subject to a means test. Why does the Department not make certain of the ramifications of these things before it penalises a person who thinks he or she is entitled to a benefit of this kind? This is the first time I have heard of this sort of thing. I was appalled to find the Department denying a person the right to a benefit of £10 for the burial of a pensioner relative.
[3.14]. - Senator Tangney and Senator Wright asked me the basis upon which a subsidy for the provision of an aged person’s home was approved by the Department of Social Services. Before a grant is approved the Commonwealth must be satisfied that the proposed home will provide permanent accommodation for aged persons in conditions of normal domestic living.
– It must be permanent accommodation?
– Yes. In addition, the organisation concerned must have in its possession funds which, when added to the Commonwealth grant, are sufficient to meet the capital cost of the project. The Department considers also the constitution and reputation of the organisation, and other matters such as its permanence and standing. All these matters are examined before a grant is approved. Plans and specifications for all projects are examined to ensure that a reasonable standard of accommodation is provided. The Government does not interfere in any way in the internal management of the homes, the selection of particular persons for admission, and other details of a domestic character. The Government believes that these are matters for the organisations themselves. The same applies to rental charges.
Honorable senators might be interested to know that a survey made by the Department revealed that the greater part of the accommodation provided in subsidised homes is occupied by age pensioners and that up to 30th September 1966 the number of aged persons who had received such accommodation was 23,769. We should realise that not all the people who go into these homes pay a sum of money such as was mentioned.
– The Minister does not know how many?
– I have not that information. The only survey we have shows, as I said, that the greater part of the accommodation in these homes is occupied by age pensioners. I shall certainly see that the comments of Senator Tangney and Senator Wright are brought to the attention of the Minister for Social Services.
Senator Fitzgerald referred to the provision for payment for services of magistrates, police, registrars and agents. The provision this year is $106,800 as against an expenditure last year of $1 16,105. I am informed that the reduction is brought about by the fact that the payment to the Postmaster-General’s Department will be lower because some administrative costs incurred when the telephone rental concessions scheme was introduced will not recur. The honorable senator referred also to the provision for payment for services of registrars of births and deaths. He drew attention to the fact that the proposed provision for 1966-67 is slightly less than the expenditure for 1965-66. In reducing the estimate, allowance has been made for an arrears payment in one State for 1965-66. Senator Fitzgerald drew attention to the proposed provision for commission on benefit payments made by post offices. Payment of a lower amount of commission in 1966-67 is expected because fewer payments of social service benefits will be made in cash at post offices. An increasing number of age, invalid and widow pensions is being paid by cheque, and child endowment is being paid by cheque or quarterly bank credit. In 1966-67 a large number of pensioners receiving cash payment at post offices will transfer to cheque payment. This will involve a substantial reduction in commission payable to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
During consideration of the estimates for the Department of Health, Senator Ormonde referred to a matter which really calls for comment during consideration of the estimates now before us. I am pleased to be able to tell him in reply to his inquiry about only one full time medical officer being available for duty at the rehabilitation centre at Hornsby-
– At the Prince Alfred Hospital.
– The honorable senator asked that steps be taken to increase the full time coverage. The appointment of a second full time medical officer was approved recently and action is being taken at the present time to have the position staffed. My understanding was that the honorable senator referred to two matters. I thought he referred to the rehabilitation centre.
– That is the answer to that inquiry. The honorable senator referred also to the hospital. That, of course, is a matter for the hospital administration. The matter that I have explained was one which I thought came within our consideration of the estimates for the Department of Social Services.
– I would like to ask the Minister whether these donations are legally allowable deductions. I have some receipts before me which state that donations of £1 and upwards are allowable as taxation deductions. 1 understand that in 1963 the writer of the let.er which I have before me raised this aspect with the Brisbane office of the Taxation Branch. The result was very plain. The donation was not allowable as a taxation deduction because it was not a donation in the real sense of the term. It was pointed out that the £2,000 was paid for a certain purpose and therefore it could not be claimed as a taxation deduction in the ordinary sense of the term. The Taxation Branch termed the donation an ex gratia payment. I do not know the legality of that situation. Perhaps Senator Wright could tell me what it is.
– Did anybody suggest that the payment of this money would be allowable as a taxation deduction?
– In 1963 the Brisbane office of the Taxation Branch rejected the claim. The writer of this letter was told that al. hough the donation in question would not be accepted as a taxation deduction, it would be so accepted if made to an aged persons homes organisation conducted by a church body because a gentleman’s agreement could then be made which would be more binding. I am just referring to parts of this le ter because some of it is personal. 1 would like to know whether it is legal for these organisations to demand a donation and to say that it will be allowable as a tax deduction. I think it is time that something was done about it. I am not talking for the sake of talking. I am trying to get the mess cleared up. The letter that I have before me appears to me to be a genuine one. I also have photostat copies of three receipts that were given. The first receipt was for £100, the second for £400 and the third and final one for £1,500. These three amounts added together make a total of £2,000. The letter goes on to point out that the person was allocated unit number A7, once the £2,000 was paid.
– What did the honorable senator say about it being tax free?
– The receipts that i have here state that donations of £1 and over are allowable taxation deductions. This person went to the Taxation Branch which said that the donation was not allowable as a taxation deduction in the ordinary sense of the term because it was really payment for a benefit that was going to be received. I would like to know the present position regarding donations which are still being made to the various organisations - not necessarily to the one to which I have referred. I would like to know whether it is true to say that these donations are allowable as taxation deductions.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [3.24]. - After listening to Senator Tangney, I would think that this is a matter for the Treasurer because it relates to the question of taxation. I cannot give an answer to the question, but I shall be very pleased to see that the matter is drawn to the attention of the appropriate Minister, whether it be the Minister for Social Services or the Treasurer. Senator Fitzgerald raised a question concerning the grant to the National Old People’s Welfare Council of Australia. An appropriation of $60,000 is provided for this year and the expenditure for last year was $100,000.
– What about the question of funeral benefits?
– I will come to that matter in a moment. I am dealing with the question the honorable senator raised concerning the National Old People’s Welfare Council of Australia. The purpose of this grant is to support the National Old People’s Welfare Council of Australia and its State Councils in organising and developing effort concerned with the welfare of the elderly in the voluntary field. The objects of the Council include the co-ordination of the activities of statutory, governmental, municipal and other bodies and voluntary organisations, and the investigation of any action necessary or desirable for the welfare of elderly people on a national basis.
In 1965-66 an initial grant of $100,000 was made to the Council to be followed by two further annual grants of $60,000 each. Provision of $60,000 has been made for 1966-67. When the initial grant of $100,000 was made in 1965, it was decided that it would be appropriate to follow that up with two further annual payments of $60,000 each year, and then for the position to be reviewed at the end of that period.
Senator Fitzgerald also referred to the question of funeral benefits. As I recall, the honorable senator recently asked a question on this matter in the Senate. I am informed that if a deceased pensioner’s funeral expenses were met in full by a contributing funeral benefits fund, other than from such a fund of a friendly society or a trade union, the funeral benefit is not payable under the Social Services Act. . If the funeral expenses are not met in full by a fund, a funeral benefit may be paid.
– That is the position despite the fact that the pensioner has contributed all his life to a fund?
– That is the information that I have received.
– I want to support what Senator Tangney has said regarding the Aged Persons Homes Act. I think that she is to be commended for raising it. I have raised the matter myself. To use the vernacular, if there is any act that stinks, it is the Aged Persons Homes Act. The whole thing is corrupt.
– 1 rise to order. I submit that to use the word “ stinks “ and to say that the whole Act is corrupt is to use language that is not on the level of parliamentary usage. 1 ask that they be withdrawn.
– Senator Cavanagh, did you use the word “ stinks “?
– Yes .
– You have been asked to withdraw it. Will you withdraw it?
– In deference to the Chair, I will withdraw it. I want to point out that on 11th November 1964 I raised a question concerning section 8 (3.) of the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Minister can require from an institution to which the Government lends money a guarantee that homes will be held for the purpose of housing aged persons. The question which I asked on 11th November 1964 was -
The reply which I received was -
This is important because in South Australia a private company has been established for the purpose of receiving benefits under the Act so as to provide homes for aged people. While I do not think that the company is doing other than providing homes for those who have the necessary deposit, which can only be described as key money, what is the future of the homes unless some guarantee is given that they will continue to be used to house aged people? These homes could become a profitable investment in the future.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that this is a dividend paying company?
– I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting that it is an individual company that solicits support by publishing advertisements in the Press. I am not suggesting that the company was established to make profit out of building homes for aged persons with the assistance of a Government subsidy, but we should have a guarantee that these homes will be used to house aged persons. The company holds the capital asset. As one occupant dies or is evicted from one of the homes for any reason, another deposit is claimed from the next occupant. Although I used strong language earlier, I believe that if any act needs a thorough inquiry it is this one because it defeats the very purpose and the high motives for which everyone thought it was intended.
.- What Senator Cavanagh has said adds to the gravity of what other honorable senators have said this afternoon. My intervention from the point of view of the proprieties of debate is no indication of any difference in purpose. I rise only to express surprise at the last matter mentioned by Senator Tangney in relation to donations. She said that donations are sought on the representation that they are free from income tax. From what she read it appears that it is usual for those who seek donations to offer the donor the inducement that the Taxation
Branch will allow them as a deduction from income tax. It surprises me that people who make these donations are those whose income is such that the prospect of a deduction of $1,000 or $2,000 is a substantial inducement.
I have in my hand the consolidated Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act because I am preparing myself for the debate on a Bill to be presented in the chamber a little later. Section 78 of the Act indicates the donations which are permissible deductions for income tax purposes. Amongst other things they are gifts to funds, authorities or institutions in Australia- . . being a public hospital, or a hospital which is carried on by a society or association otherwise than for the purposes of profit or gain to the individual members of that society or association; a public benevolent institution; a public fund established before 23rd October 1963 . . . for hospitals or institutions … or a public fund established and maintained for the relief of persons in Australia who are in necessitous circumstances.
I will not read the whole list of nominated funds and authorities, contributions to which are allowed as deductions for income tax purposes but it would surprise me if many of these came within the categories mentioned. I am at a loss to understand in what way good faith can accompany any statement canvassing for subscriptions that the donations are free of income tax. Generally speaking I would think that contributions to the operation of many of these homes would come within the spirit of a deduction. However, the Minister has said that she will obtain a specific explanation from the Treasury. I thought that while the Committee had the matter in mind it might be useful to make those incomplete comments.
– Can the Minister tell me whether “ permanent “ is the same as “ in perpetuity “? What exactly does “ permanent “ mean in relation to these homes? I ask this because, as Senator Cavanagh has said, in my own State companies formed for this specific purpose have not been proven to be companies of great stability. What guarantee does the Government have that these homes will remain as they are at present? They are heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Is there any guarantee that the company which is running the homes will remain permanent or will it vanish in the morning mist as other companies have? I am only trying to help. It is excellent that the Government is willing to pay out these sums to house the aged and I hate to see it being exploited.
The people who should be getting the advantage of this Act are those who are being excluded because they have not the capital to invest in this way. If they have £2,000 or £2,500 they can use it as a deposit on a house and have an equity in it. Houses and flats are still available on a deposit of £2,500. A person pays maintenance costs in one case and rent in the other. If this Act is being observed in the spirit as well as in the letter, I cannot see any need for these large payments. I am not worried about the churches because they are here to stay, we hope. We know that they have centuries of tradition behind them and that they have been the leaders in all kinds of welfare work, but I am genuinely worried about some of these fly by night companies - perhaps I should not use that term so I will say untested companies - which have been set up. These companies have not been tested by time. They have sprung up suddenly to take advantage of this legislation. They are not helping the destitute or the poor in the community; they are helping only those who have money.
.- I interpose again but not because I pretend to be a spokesman on this matter. Perhaps I can shed some light on the position. When the Act provides, and the departmental instruction states, that an approved organisation is one which provides permanent accommodation, it is in relation to a person having accommodation that the word “ permanent” is used. In the nature of things, it applies only during one life and not necessarily during the whole of that life. The word “permanent” is used as distinct from a weekly, a yearly or a casual occupancy. Then when we come to consider the dedication or the legal purpose that is stamped by law upon these public moneys mated to other moneys in the form of a building, it is common to use the term “ in perpetuity “ because it is designed that the property shall be devoted to that purpose in perpetuity.
– The Act exempts;-
– If the honorable senator will pardon me a moment, I am only trying to help because we are all interested in this for a common purpose. As Senator Tangney has said most properly, the sooner an incipient abuse is nipped in the bud, the better. The idea of perpetuity with property is best effectuated by incorporating the body in the form of a company or a corporation, but when one refers to a private company it usually indicates that the members will divide their profits year by year and, on liquidation, divide the capital by way of dividend. There can be companies formed solely for the purpose of profit which prohibit that. Therefore the property that they are constituted to acquire would be held for the purposes of that company. That is a convenient form of doing so for perpetuity. But then there can be a non-incorporated association and, unless legal safeguards are provided as to the purposes of that association, if it decides to wind up in 10 years to whom does the money belong? It depends upon the original constitution of the unincorporated association - upon the deed of agreement. I intervened in the debate before for the purpose of getting proper legal conditions and terms for these institutions, which are erected by the recipients of public money and matching charitable grants. It is only by having a proper legal structure consonant with the purposes of this Act that we will prevent the abuses that are causing disquiet to honorable senators today.
– I agree with Senator Tangney and Senator Wright that many people are concerned about the administration of some of the projects under discussion. One reason for this is that it is possible for a person to make an initial payment and, very shortly after entering the home, to be hospitalised and leave the home, never to return. Some organisations refund the deposit, donation or whatever it might be called. Others do not. For the reason that there is no uniformity regarding the associations or organisations, I agree that there is need for a tightening in some directions.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [3.43]. - I thank honorable senators for the consideration they have given this matter. I think the discussion is invaluable. I shall be pleased to bring the points that have been made before the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair). Senator Cavanagh spoke about an organisation in South Australia. I am informed that undertakings have been signed for all the grants received by that organisation. I come now to the point raised about the life or permanency of a home. The relevant section of the Act reads - . . includes an undertaking by the original organisation with respect to the continued use of the home as a home for aged persons and provision for the repayment of the gram to the Commonwealth in the event of a breach of the undertaking.
– There is nothing there about the perpetuity of the organisation.
– My legal friends might help me here, but my understanding is that a home must be used for all time as a home for aged persons - for so long as the building is in use.
– But what does the Act say - “ the continued use “?
– Yes. There must be continued use; otherwise they pay back the money. This means that a home for aged persons cannot be used for any other purpose. Is that Senator Wright’s understanding?
– Quite so; but I still think it has loopholes. I was going to refer to another passage in our legislation which used the term “ indefinitely continues “.
– I am indebted to Senator Wright for that added information. If I sit down now, he might give us some more.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
.- I take this opportunity to speak on a matter that has caused me concern for some time. I have listened in this chamber to honorable senators accusing the previous Labour Government of jeopardising the defence of Australia by its refusal, as the Government of the day, to allow the United States of America the use of Manus Island. This has caused me great concern because I could not believe that a government which played such a great part in the bad years from 1941 to 194S would in fact jeopardise the defence of Australia. It is not my purpose to say that persons have deliberately told untruths but I believe from records I have now that statements made about the Labour Government were very wide of the whole truth.
I met Mr. Dedman, who was the Minister for Defence in the Labour Government of 1941 to 1949, and I asked him what the position was. I went to the extent of giving him a copy of a speech that was made in this chamber by Senator Cormack. I asked Mr. Dedman whether I could get the correct story. I understand that Mr. Dedman, through the courtesy of the Prime Minister, was permitted to inspect the official files and that from those files he wrote the story in relation to Manus Island. Some honorable senators may know that Mr. Dedman has printed his observations in an issue of “ Australian Outlook “. With Mr. Dedman’s approval, 1 made a precis of his work and I now want to place it on record. I hope that the Senate will bear with me while I read it. I shall do so as quickly as I can, taking all things into consideration. It is as follows -
Manus is one of the Admiralty Islands situated about 200 miles north of New Guinea, and about ISO miles from the Equator. At Manus there is a magnificent natural harbour - Seeadler Harbour - sheltered at the north and east by a string of islands. Prior to World War I., Manus was a German colony. In 1921 it was mandated to Australia by the League of Nations on terms which precluded the erection of fortifications. In 1942 Manus was captured by the Japanese. In February 1944 it was recaptured by the United States Forces who were accompanied by a token force of Australians representing civil authority.
During the United States occupation the island was transformed into an important naval base at an initial cost of $US71 million of which $US9 million was in the form of equipment, the remainder being for labour and pay for enlisted personnel. Prior to this, in January 1944 the Prime Ministers and other Ministers from Australia and New Zealand met in Canberra to plan a joint approach to matters of security in the South Pacific in the postwar era. One particular matter they discussed was the future of Manus and in clause 13 of their agreement they stated -
The two Governments agree that within the general system of world security, a regional zone of defence comprising the South and South West Pacific areas shall be established.
Clause 16 read -
The two Governments accept as a recognised principle of international practice that the construction and use, in times of war, by any power, of naval, military or air installations in any territory under the sovereignty or control of another power does not, in itself, afford any basis for territorial claims or rights of sovereignty or control after the conclusion of hostilities.
The agreement was made public and was well received nationally and internationally. In June 1945 when it was clear that South West Pacific Command would shortly be dissolved, General MacArthur was informed that the Australian Government expected that on its dissolution control of territories over which it had a mandate would revert to it. When South West Pacific Command was dissolved in September 1945 Manus was exempted from immediate transfer to Australian control and it was left for the Government to negotiate its return with Washington. Within the United States certain groups were demanding that the United States should retain all territories captured from the Japanese, including Manus. A subcommittee of the Naval Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives recommended that the United States should be given full title to Manus, Noumea and Guadalcanal “ because other nations were not capable of defending them “. This, however, was never the view either of the United States Department of the Navy or of the Administration.
On 6th September 1945 the United States Assistant Navy Secretary, Mr. H. Struve Hensel, listed nine bases which he said “ the
United States should intend to maintain “. These bases included Manus. On 16th February 1946 Admiral Forrest told the Senate Naval Affairs Committee that the Navy wanted to maintain bases in a number of places, including Manus. The United States’ first move was to approach Britain and France for discussions. The Australian Government demanded that Australia should be represented in any discussions affecting the disposition of territory in the South Pacific. The British Government suggested that the Commonwealth countries should take the opportunity to secure reciprocal support from the United States for British requirements, including the right of joint user of such United States bases as might be thought desirable. New Zealand’s reaction was to remind the Australian Government of the 1944 agreement and to express the hope that no Commonwealth Government would enter into any separate commitment with the United States.
In December the Defence Committee comprising the three Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of the Defence Department, recommended to the Government that in relation to those islands in the Pacific for which the United States might seek joint user rights Australia should adhere strictly to the United Nation Charter, and that Manus should be dealt with only as part of an overall security plan and not separately. On 14th February 1946 United States ViceAdmiral Sherman told the United States Naval Affairs Committee that Manus should be maintained in “caretaker status” as a subsidiary operating base. Early in March Australia received a report of discussions between the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand concerning disputed sovereignty of a number of islands in the Pacific. Australia, in accordance with Government policy, was not represented.
At the same time, the Australian Government received reports of United States-New Zealand discussions regarding United States bases at Samoa, for which New Zealand held the mandate. The United States put forward a draft of a bilateral agreement which it wished to conclude in advance of the Trusteeship Agreement Conference to be held under Articles 77 to 85 of the United Nations Charter. The United States hoped the agreement would serve as a model for a subsequent agreement with Australia on
Manus. It insisted, however, that the draft should not be taken as representing the views of the United States Government. While the draft agreement was in Dr. Evatt’s hands before 13th March, the day he made his statement in Parliament setting out Australia’s conditions under which the bases could be used, the official United States memorandum relating to Manus was not handed to Australia until 19th March.
Under the terms of its mandate, Australia was prohibited from erecting permanent fortifications on Manus. What the draft agreement proposed was that while the mandate was still operating we should enter into an agreement about United States fortifications on Manus, so that the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, when it got round to replacing the mandate by a trusteeship agreement, would be faced with a fait accompli. In other words, we were asked to circumvent the United Nations Charter. The United States draft agreement did not propose any cession or transfer of Australian jurisdiction over Manus; it was not offering to make an outright gift of, or to sell to Australia, the installations it had erected there; it was not offering, and did not offer later, to maintain its installations on Manus. Nor did it offer to pay one single cent towards their maintenance.
What it did propose was that Australia was to maintain existing installations at Australia’s own cost. The U.S. was to have the right, whenever the United States judged it necessary, at any time, and for as long as it wished, to assume complete control of the base. The facilities in the base could not be made available by Australia to any other power, except with the consent of the U.S. In fact, what the U.S. proposed was to exchange its installations on Manus for an undertaking by Australia to maintain the installations at its own expense on these four conditions: First, the U.S. was given joint user rights but was not committed to maintain any forces there.
Secondly, the U.S. was given the right to deny the base to any third party, including Commonwealth countries. Thirdly, the U.S. had the right at any time during the 99 year period to assume complete control of the base for as long as it wished.
Fourthly, the U.S. was to be given the right to prevent, if it so wished, the establishment of any other base on the mandated territory.
Were we - that is Australia - to accept these terms, which would commit us to spending millions of dollars, and which were a breach of the mandate we held at the time, merely in exchange for the wasting physical assets already there? It is quite obvious that the proposed treaty was one which no nation could accept. It would have breached our mandate; it would have cost us millions; and it would not even have secured our defence since, if the U.S. was not a belligerent, it could conceivably deny our other allies access to the base.
Cabinet rejected the plan for these reasons and because it made Commonwealth defence planning impossible, and declined to conduct negotiations with the U.S. over Manus until an agreed plan of defence had been determined. The Prime Ministers’ Conference in London adopted this Australian viewpoint as its own. It decided to approach the U.S. for a four power conference to discuss regional defence arrangements in the Pacific. This proposal was rejected by the U.S. Between March and June, Dr. Evatt pressed the U.S. to agree to a revision of the clauses of the draft treaty. As a result, the U.S. agreed not to oppose other interested parties having the same rights as the U.S. in the use of bases. In July Dr. Evatt was able to report that the U.S. favoured accepting the principle of reciprocal use of bases. Guam was mentioned. The only matter he was not able to get agreement on was a Pacific defence pact. He had to be satisfied with an informal agreement to have regular staff talks.
In July 1946 the U.S. Congress slashed the naval budget by $750 million. From that moment Manus was doomed. The U.S. Navy then reviewed its naval defence strategy and decided to concentrate on its bases in the northern hemisphere, which were obviously of much greater strategic importance. Between July and October 1946 valuable equipment was dismantled and removed from Manus. In October a contract was entered into with the Chinese Government for the sale of certain stores and equipment. By mid 1947 Manus had been stripped of all that made it an important base. Australia was then given the oppor tunity to purchase what was left - which it did, at a price of $1.25 million. In November 1948 the U.S. finally handed over Manus to the Australian civil administration.
It is quite clear from this that Australia’s approach to the Manus question throughout was principled, responsible and reasonable. The U.S. decision to evacuate Manus was not due to Australia’s recalcitrance or laying down of impossible conditions. It was brought about by a cut in the U.S. naval vote and a revision of naval strategy.
I thank the Senate for bearing with me in reading that statement. As a representative of the Australian people, I could not understand any reasonable government, irrespective of its political colour, being charged in the way the Labour Government has been charged - wrongly of course - in this chamber. I have read an official statement on the matter. It is true that it is a precis of what was written by Mr. Dedman, who was the Minister for Defence at the time. As I said, what he wrote was written by courtesy of the present Government, which allowed him to view the relevant files, and whatever he wrote as a result of doing that was shown to the Government.
– Is the full text of what he wrote available? The honorable senator described what he read as a summary.
– That is only a precis of what Mr. Dedman wrote, which appeared in the “Australian Outlook” a few weeks ago. I hope that we will not hear any more of these rash statements. I appreciate the kindness of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) and other honorable senators in permitting me to read that precis. It is much easier for me to stand up and make my own speech than to do what I have just done. That was a bit of an effort. This matter has worried me for a long time. I believe that, irrespective of what our political beliefs are, no one in this chamber would do anything that would affect adversely the safety of our country.
– Senator Kennelly has used the forms of the Senate to express a view on a circumstance of history on a motion for the first reading of an appropriation bill. The Senate acknowledges his right to do so and, I am quite certain, the Senate has not the slightest objection to the subject matter to which he referred. I want to say only that we are dealing with history. We are dealing with something that happened in relation to Manus Island in the period from 1942 to 1948. As I listened to the honorable senator reading a summary of a report by Mr. John Dedman, the Minister for Defence of that time,I appreciated that Mr. Dedman’s views and understanding of what happened were being recorded in “ Hansard “. Mr. Dedman had access to official documents to make his judgment. I will not reflect upon that. I felt that Senator Kennelly recited the basis of my understanding of events - that the United States Government had proposed to the Australian Government of the day the joint use of Manus Island. For reasons which the Government of the day thought to be valid - because the proposal might be in conflict with its mandate - it chose not to accept the proposal of the United States Government to have joint use of Manus Island and the possibility of a validation by the United Nations following the drawing up of an agreement.
I am not being critical, beyond saying that people have a habit of forming a judgment on history. Senator Kennelly has done what he wanted to do. He has put into “ Hansard “ in an abridged form - but a fair one - the views of Mr. Dedman, the Minister for Defence of the period. For my own part, speaking personally, I did not hear anything in the report contrary to my understanding that the Government of the day had, for reasons it considered appropriate, declined to enter into joint use of Manus Island.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate the amounts required for expenditure in 1966-67 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund other than those amounts provided by special appropriations and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1966-67. The amounts sought for each Department are shown in detail in the Second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these amounts being $2,250,128,000. This Bill seeks an appropriation of $1,371,147,000, the balance of $878,981,000 having already been granted under the Supply Act (No. 1) 1966-67.
The expenditure proposals of the Government were outlined in the Budget Speech and the details included in the Schedule to this Bill have already been examined under the procedure whereby the Senate in Committee has taken note of the amounts included in the document “ Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30th June, 1967 “. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1966-67 on -
Details of the amounts sought by each department are shown in the Second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these amounts being $546,576,000. An approppriation of $343,369,000 is sought in this Bill, the balance of $203,207,000 having already been granted under the Supply Act (No. 2) 1966-67.
The main points regarding the proposed expenditure were dealt with in the Budget Speech. The Schedule to the Bill is the same as that contained in the document “ Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the Year Ending 30th June, 1967” which has already been examined in detail by the Senate in Committee. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to -
That the Committee approves the Statement of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts Charged thereto pursuant to Section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-196S.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1140), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labour Party does not oppose the Bill. This legislation has become somewhat of an annual event because under the Airlines Agreements Act the rate of increase of these charges is limited to 10 per cent, in any one year. The Bill has been introduced to increase the amount of air navigation charges relating to facilities and services. It is estimated that the full amount that will be contributed this financial year will be $8,950,000 which represents an increase of $2,062,000 compared with last year’s receipts. This has to be compared with an increase in expenditure in administration by the Department of Civil Aviation of $4.3 million. I wish to direct some remarks to this fact.
It is the stated objective of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) and the Department of Civil Aviation, as set out in the annual report of the Department, to increase charges until they equal the outgoings. At this rate, we shall never catch up because the increases represent approximately 50 per cent, of the increased expenditure. The increased expenditure to which I refer does not include any capital expenditure, which is provided for in a separate manner. Nevertheless, there appears to be an ever expanding gap between the receipts and expenditures of this Department, lt would be helpful if the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), on behalf of the Government, would give some details of the measures that it proposes to adopt in order to overcome this gap. Up to this time, all we have had is a statement of intention or objective by the Government to the effect that this is the objective towards which the Government is working. But if one examines the operations of this Department - I am not critical of its operations in any way - one finds that each year the cost of administration is greater than the amount of revenue that the Department is able to gather.
The increased charges are related to the all up weights of the aircraft and are graded into four sections. When the weight of the aircraft does not exceed 25,000 lb., the rate of charge is 6.04c per 1,000 lb. This includes aircraft of the Friendship type. If the weight of the aircraft is between 25,000 lb. and 50,000 lb., the rate of charge is 9.39c per 1,000 lb. This includes aircraft of the Viscount type. Where the weight of the aircraft is between 50,000 lb. and 100,000 lb., the rate of charge is 12c per 1,000 lb. It is expected that the DC 9 will be included in this type. Where the weight of aircraft exceeds 100,000 lb. the rate of charge is 14.09c per 1,000 lb. This charge refers to the Boeing 727 aircraft that are operating in Australia at the present time.
When we look at the administration and operation of the Department of Civil Aviation and the amount that is received from all sources by the Department, we find that the public purse is subsidising the aviation industry to the extent of approximately $33 million per year. This raises some interesting questions. If we take the obligations of the Government under the Airlines Agreements Act and the cross charter agreement, we see that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. - I am not being critical of it at this stage - is guaranteed a 10 per cent, profit. Each time we increase charges we must agree to either an increase in fares so that the airlines can recoup this amount or the public purse contributing a greater subsidy to the industry. This process is never ending, lt is a system of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The Government, while it has this stated objective, should be able to say to the Parliament and particularly to the Senate, “ We have a way in which we think we can reach this objective”, instead of bringing a bill before the Senate annually and asking it to agree to a 10 per cent, increase in the charges on airlines each year. When this is done, the airlines ask the Minister to approve an increase in fares. When the Government agrees the public pays the increased fares.
Looking at the subsidy that the Government pays, we find that it is approximately $8 per passenger per flight. Thus, the public purse is subsidising the fares in order to pay the charges on which we have agreed. I wish to draw attention to the fact that the great bulk of this expenditure is incurred in the major city airports. Of course, the great bulk of the revenue also is collected at the major city airports. Nevertheless, some plan must be worked out to improve the facilities and services in the outer areas of the Commonwealth. The whole of the State that each honorable senator represents is his electorate. That being so, he must go into outback areas. We realise the lack of facilities in those areas. Despite the fact that the greater portion of the revenue is collected at the major city airports, at some time or other the Government must adopt a plan for the upgrading of facilities and runways in outback areas. Unless better facilities and services are provided in those areas, the quality of the airline service that is available will never be improved.
One of the burning questions that face us in Australia today is the continual drift of people to the great metropolitan areas. A responsibility is cast upon the National Parliament and the State Parliaments to adopt policies that will encourage people to live in the outback. People can be encouraged to go there only if they are provided with the amenities that are available in the city areas. Most present day Australians are not of a pioneering spirit; they want to live in areas where good facilities and services are available. As the amenities that exist in the metropolis probably will not be available in outback areas during the lifetime of any of us here, transport becomes a matter of great importance for people in the outback.
The outback areas are serviced largely by DC3 aircraft. These aircraft have performed a major task wherever they have been used throughout the world; they can be said to be the work horses of the aviation industry. However, this type of aircraft has almost outlived its usefulness. It was first produced in 1937. That means it is now nearly 30 years old. A replacement for it must be found. That replacement will require better and more modern facilities and services at airports. Therefore, if we are to continue to provide services to outback areas we must do more to upgrade and strengthen runways, to improve landing facilities and to increase meteorological services.
A great responsibility is cast upon this Government in the handling of the nation’s economic affairs. All of us are aware of the existence of the Airlines Agreement Act, which is designed to give effect to the Government’s policy to maintain a two airline interstate - not necessarily intrastate - system in Australia. Under this legislation the private operator, while operating in competition with an airline that is owned by the public, is guaranteed a profit of 10 per cent. Surely if this Parliament is to be asked to appropriate moneys and to impose charges in respect of the airline industry, it is entitled to have some information about the operations of the private airline which we subsidise. If this Government desires to maintain a two airline policy, we are entitled to expect it to apply that policy to two airlines. We should not be expected to subsidise the subsidiaries of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. which operate road buses, tourist resorts, vehicle building works, television stations, hotels and motels. The legislation does not require that AnsettA.N.A. shall be guaranteed a profit of 10 per cent, but that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., which embraces all the undertakings that I have mentioned and more, must show a 10 per cent, profit. We subsidise the airline activities of this company fairly heavily in the form of facilities that we provide at less than cost and in the direct subsidies that we pay in respect of rural and developmental routes. Nobody would complain about the payment of a subsidy in respect of developmental and rural routes, although one may well ask when a route is regarded as being developed. I point out that we are still paying a subsidy to MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd. in respect of a service which was established by this organisation’s predecessor in 1922. It is time that we considered when a route becomes a developed route.
I say quite frankly that if any sanity is to be brought into the two airline system, then the industries that are operated by the subsidiaries of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. must be separated from the airline operations. We in this chamber cannot be expected to agree to appropriations and charges that guarantee the continued existence of one profitable television undertaking. The television stations that are operated by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. are the only ones in Australia that are guaranteed existence until 1977 and a continuing profit of not less than 10 per cent. Because all of these industries can be grouped and operated under the one head, the public purse is obliged, as a result of legislation passed by this Government, to give this guarantee. Nearly every bus service that operates throughout Australia is encouraged by a subsidy or something of that nature to continue in existence. Ansett also operates tourist bus services. I am not able to say whether these tourist bus services pay their way, pay profits or contribute towards the profits that are made by the airline. I do not think that anyone is in a position to say this, because I do not know of anyone who has the right to look at the accounts of Ansett Transport Industries so as to determine these particular things.
We cannot be expected to impose charges upon the Australian people to subsidise tourist resorts. We cannot be expected to pass legislation in this place that will impose charges to support, not the vehicle building industry as a whole, but one section of it. We cannot be expected to impose charges in this place that will guarantee a 10 per cent. profit on the operations of hotels and motels. When we have legislation similar to that which we are considering today before us next year, I would hope that the Minister will be able to give us some information concerning the stated objective of the Minister and the Department to narrow the gap between the receipts and expenditure of this Department. I hope that the Minister will take into consideration what I have said about separating the accounts of the airline operations from the other operations of Ansett Transport Industries. The Australian Labour Party does not oppose the Bill.
– in reply - I am only going to reply briefly because the Opposition has indicated that it supports the Bill, and because we spend three and a half hours last night and in the early hours of this morning dealing with the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. Some of the comments which Senator Cant has made have general application in the airlines industry. It is sufficient for me to say that the Airline Agreement Act does not guarantee any particular dividends or profits for private operators. The 10 per cent, increase in air navigation charges is less than four-tenths of 1 per cent. of the operating costs of the domestic airlines. Senator Cant asked a question concerning the other revenue that the Department receives. If he turns to page 114 of the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation he will see that this matter is spelled out in appendix 38.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 4.45 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1141), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Bill now before the Senate is designed to authorise the raising and expending of a sum not exceeding $300 million for defence purposes. The terms of the Bill, though short, are very interesting. First, the Bill authorises the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) before 30th June 1967 to borrow or to raise by way of treasury bills a sum not exceeding $300 million, and restricts the expenditure of the moneys so raised to expenditure incurred in the borrowing and for the services expressed in
Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Appropriation Act under the heading “ Defence Services “. The items and amounts specified in the Appropriation Act are as follows: Department of Defence $17,765,000; Department of the Navy $193,673,000; Department of the Army $328,498,000; Department of Air $253,739,000; Department of Supply $78,052,000; and general services coming within the ambit of Defence Services $3,747,000. This means that of the $875,474,000 chargeable to the Defence Services, the sum of $300 million provided under this Bill is chargeable to the Loan Fund. I emphasise the amount of $300 million because, comparing the Treasurer’s Budget speech with the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), the amount in the round seems to be one that has been plucked out of the air and arrived at willy nilly in guesswork fashion.
In his Budget speech the Treasurer pointed out that last year Australia’s net public borrowings amounted to $252 million. He went on to say that capital for international investment was drying up; that there is intense competition for what is available; that interest rates are high and are tending to rise; and that both Great Britain and the United States of America have placed restraint on the export of capital. The Treasurer further stated that Australia faces the prospect of heavier redemptions this year than it did last year and that, therefore, net loan raisings are always difficult to assess. He then indicated that whilst no temporary borrowings were necessary during the last financial year, provision would be made this year for $270 million to be raised in this way. But at about the same time that the Budget was brought down the Appropriation Bill set out an amount of $300 million for this specific purpose. The amount referred to in the Treasurer’s Budget speech was $270 million. The amount set aside by way of appropriation is $300 million. This Bill, because of all the economic vagaries that exist, and because any net loan raisings in 1966-67 is necessarily conjectural - a term I borrow from the Minister’s second reading speech - provides for normal borrowings to the extent of $300 million.
The borrowings involved are tied to defence services. When one examines the position this seems to be merely a bending of the long bow because in actual fact the $300 million referred to in this Bill is part of the $6,000 million budgetary provison mentioned in the Treasurer’s Budget speech. All of this seems to be wrapped up in the Financial Agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States as far back as 1927. In Part 1 of that Agreement under the heading “ Australian Loan Council “, sub-clause (9.) of clause 3 reads as follows -
If the Loan Council decides that the total amount of the loan programme for the year cannot be borrowed at reasonable rates and conditions it shall decide the amount to be borrowed during the year, and may by unanimous decision allocate such amount between the Commonwealth and the States.
But in the financial Agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States in 1927 an escape clause was provided for the Commonwealth. This is in sub-clause (8.) of Part 1, the Part to which I have already referred. The significant words of sub-clause (8.) are these -
Loans for Defence purposes approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall not be included in the Commonwealth’s loan programme or be otherwise subject to this Agreement.
Therefore, under the terms of the Financial Agreement, provided the Commonwealth ties its loan raisings to defence purposes there appears to be no restriction on the amount that the Commonwealth can raise in this matter. Surely this illustrates the hopeless position in which the ordinary wage and salary earner, the ordinary breadwinner, is placed so far as the Commonwealth and State financial arrangements are concerned. The facts of political life today are that the State Premiers, whatever their political persuasion, are charged with the responsibility of providing, as it were, local community services year after year. They have complained and indeed are complaining today about the niggardly handouts they have received from the Commonwealth under the financial arrangements that now exist. The Premiers are saying that they want more money for education, more money for hospitals, more money for agricultural extension purpose, more money for transport services and more money to provide in general terms the necessary amenities in what are called local community services.
The Premiers are restricted in the fields of taxation open to them. They are restricted in their borrowings and, in order to provide some of the essential services required by the local community the poor old taxpayer, the wage and salary earner, the breadwinner of the family, once again has to come to the aid of the party. He of necessity is hit right along the line. In recent times we have noticed in the States that fares have increased, that hospital fees have increased, that education is no longer free because the parents of children at State schools are paying as much as 15s. to £1 a week to provide books and other essential educational requirements for their children. Stamp duties have been levied and the Commonwealth, by tying its loan raisings to defence, is completely uninhibited in its resort to treasury bills, which in this case, as evidenced by the second reading speech of the Minister, will amount, in round figures, to $300 million.
While dealing with this point, it is rather interesting to study the document headed “ Australian National Accounts “, giving details of national income and expenditure between the financial years 1948-49 and 1964-65. Tables 63 and 64 at page 61 of the document show that in 1948-49, taxation by Commonwealth Government authorities amounted to $950 million, whereas in 1964-65 the amount involved was $3,786 million. That represents a fourfold increase in taxation imposed by Commonwealth Government authorities between 1948 and 1964. Corresponding taxation by State and local government authorities - which again I emphasise has to be carried by the ordinary wage and salary earners and by the ordinary breadwinners - increased from $127 million in 1948 to $805 million in 1964. This is an increase equal to about 7i times. Between 1948-1964, as a result of the financial arrangements that exist between the Commonwealth and the States, while the taxation yield of the Commonwealth increased by about four times, the taxation imposed by the States increased by Ti times.
In the short time available to me, let me return to the aspect of round figuring about which I spoke earlier. It seems to be a deliberate part of the Government’s policy merely to pluck a figure out of the air, so that it can say to the Australian people at election time: “ Because we, the present Government, have been able to allocate a round sum of such and such towards this or that type of expenditure, and because this sum has been appropriated, your wants, your demands, your requirements and, so far as defence is concerned, your protection are catered for “. But, of course, allocation of money does not necessarily mean expenditure. To take this thought one step further, the mere expenditure of X millions of dollars does not necessarily mean wise or prudent expenditure.
For example, the Government has said that this year it will provide $1,000 million for defence. It implies to the Australian people that in that way they are properly defended - that it has catered adequately for their protection. But I suggest that the Australian people, in analysing statements of this sort, must remember what was said by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) in his Budget Speech, namely, that defence costs have risen by $480 million in the last three years and that - I emphasise these words - “ some allowance must be made for price and cost increases “. I pointed out in May of this year when speaking on a subject similar to that which is now before the Senate that a package deal between the Australian authorities and the United States of America which was estimated 18 months ago to cost $US320 million will now cost $US450 million. This is an increase of $US130 million, and apparently the increased sum is for the purchase of the same items of equipment as those stated in the original package deal. The cost of the Fill aircraft, referred to during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Air and about which we have heard so much recently, has jumped by about $US80 million, using the round figures so much favoured by this Government, from the time these aircraft first went on the drawing board. The “ Australian Financial Review “, in an article published on 25th March 1966 and written by the journalist John Gunn, pointed out that -
Although Australia has boosted spending on the R.A.N, by about 40 per cent, so that $200 million a year has been budgeted for a three-year period ending mid-1968, the Navy will remain incapable of all but minor offensive action.
That is, roughly, in two years time from now. The article continues -
Since World War II, but particularly in the past decade, we have forced the R.A.N, to disarm by the simple expedient of denying it money.
Its annual vote has been consistently less than that for the other Services.
This, of course, is epitomised in the appropriation referred to during this debate. The appropriation for the Department of the Army, in round figures, is $328 million; for the Department of Air, $253 million; and for the Department of the Navy, a mere $193 million. The article by John Gunn adds that because of these strictures on finance, the naval authorities have been forced to allow ships and shore establishments to run down, lt adds -
Garden Island, once the most significant of all strategic military installations in Australia, has suffered from enforced neglect and is in urgent need of modernisation.
There is an increasingly painful shortage of officers. Shore accommodation and facilities of all kinds lag behind modern needs.
. this dismal picture of material shortages is in the main the result of Government neglect. . . .
So I take advantage of the debate on this Bill in the sober solemnity of this chamber to indicate to the Government that it is not satisfactory, either from a parliamentary or an electoral point of view, merely for it to pluck a figure out of the air - as appears to have been done in this case - and to say that because we are spending so much or have appropriated $1,000 million for defence purposes, the Australian people are adequately defended. The people of Australia are entitled to know with some precision how their money is being expended so that they, in analysing the situation as best they can in their own minds and on the evidence available to them, may form their own judgments. 1 agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Wright earlier today, during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Air. The honorable senator suggested that all of the items and all of the cost increases that, have been incurred in connection with the purchase of the FI IIA aircraft, which I. adopt for purposes of illustration, should be itemised and set out for the benefit not only of members of this Parliament but also of the Australian people.
One could go on at length and cite figures to show that over the years millions of dollars have been appropriated for defence purposes but have not been expended. Because the hour is late and 1 know that there are other matters to be discussed, I simply use as my reference the appropriation that was allotted for defence purposes last year and the amount of expenditure actually involved. Doubtless, in the next four weeks parliamentarians of all political parties will be having a lot to say to the Australian people about the motives and intentions of the various political parties concerning defence. 1 wish to say that we of the Australian Labour movement are as loyal Australians as those who, for the time being, occupy the Treasury bench in this Parliament. We of the Labour movement are loyal citizens and love our nation greatly. We tlo not support totalitarianism in any form whether it be from the left or from the right. Our heritage, our history, our future and the future of our children are wrapped up in the security of this country. We lake advantage of the discussion on this Bill to tell the Government and the Australian people that, just as past Labour Governments loyally and faithfully have served the nation in times of peace and in times of war, so too will future Labour administrations work for the defence, the security and the prosperity of the Australian nation.
– in reply - I would not like Senator McClelland to think that the amount of the loan raising referred to in the Bill was plucked willy nilly out of the air. The honorable senator suggested that it was, and he repeated the suggestion. The explanation which every Government must give in circumstances such as these is perfectly simple and understandable. Noone can tell during the course of the year what the amount of loan raisings will be, nor is it possible to tell what the amount of redemptions will be. All that can be done is to take the average of five or six years as an indication of what the amount of redemptions will be. Interest rates may harden. People with loans maturing may say: “ We can get a better investment at the moment than the 54- per cent, long term bonds.” They may cash their bonds and invest the money in other ways. On the other hand, money may ease, in that event people may say: “ The long term bond rate is a better proposition than the return from other investments.” lt is always difficult to arrive at an estimate of the amount of redemptions because the position fluctuates.
I think that the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) did a good job in narrowing the figure to $270 million for temporary borrowings. Because fluctuations occur whichever government is in office, every Treasurer encounters this problem. The Treasurer has fixed the amount of temporary borrowings at S300 million, or only $30 more than the $270 million which was the figure used in the Budget. That was a natural and a sensible precaution to take. If in fact the money is not needed it will not be borrowed. I would not like anybody to think that a Treasurer, a government or a body of civil servants would simply pluck figures out of the air. That is not correct. The fact is that it is almost impossible to say precisely at the beginning of a year what the amount of loans and redemptions will be during the year. It is possible only to estimate those things. As the Treasurer stated in his second reading speech, the figure was narrowed down to $270 million, that being the amount which we would need to borrow on short term to cover any contingencies that might arise.
The round figure of $300 million was adopted because of the uncertainties to which I have referred. Under the Financial Agreement with the States the Commonwealth itself may borrow for defence purposes or it may borrow after consultation with the States and with their permission. The Commonwealth is not going to subject its borrowings to the scrutiny and agreement of the . States. It prefers to manage its own financial affairs and to borrow the money that is necessary for defence purposes. The Commonwealth could obtain the money in either of the two ways I have mentioned. It has preferred to borrow it in the way proposed, and I think that is the right way to do it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1141), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this Bill is to declare the general rates of income tax for the current financial year 1966-67. Those rates are the same as the rates which applied last financial year. The major change proposed by the Bill is that the income limits within which the averaging system may apply to primary producers are being raised from $S.000 to $16,000. The Bill also makes some minor alterations on account of the increases in social service payments. Apart from those two matters, this Bill is similar to the one that came before us last year. The Opposition supports this Bill.
.- I give my support to this Bill. 1 rise to draw attention to the fact that it applies the same rates of taxation as applied in the last financial year. I believe that we should give credit to the Government for being able to conduct the affairs of this nation without increasing taxation. An important matter for the primary producing section of the community is that the Bill deals with the averaging provisions. Those provisions, which apply only to primary producers, mean that, in determining the taxable income for the current year of income, the primary producer’s incomes of the last four preceding years of income are taken into account and he pays tax on his average income over those five years.
Under the existing averaging provisions, a taxpayer is excluded from their operation once his income exceeds $8,000. It is particularly of note that under this Bill that figure is increased to $16,000. I know that many people in the primary producing community will be delighted with that provision.
– That is net taxable income, is it?
– That is correct. The general provisions of the Bill are as stated by Senator Kennelly. I have great pleasure in supporting it.
.- I am provoked to inquire the reason for the averaging provisions in relation to primary producers’ incomes being limited to primary producers whose taxable incomes do not exceed $8,000. We have gone through various vicissitudes in regard to this matter, and a Treasurer is always permitted to change his mind. But I venture to suggest that the Senate will need a good deal more debate on this matter before it will understand even the rudiments of the factors that prompt this distinction. I take advantage of this second reading debate to indicate that 1 am yet uninformed, and therefore without adequate understanding, of why primary producers whose taxable incomes do not exceed $8,000 are conceded the right to average their incomes, but other people are denied 1 hat right. As a matter of fact, in the spirit that this debate permits, 1 express some degree of interest in knowing why the averaging provisions apply only to primary producers.
This would seem to me to have a general relationship lo the principles that will govern taxation for the next 20 years. .1 suggest that we should bc alert to the possibility that, if wc thrust too much of the load on the income of the nation, it will, as a source of revenue, decrease instead of increasing. Therefore, it is necessary to see what factors in the income lax field are frustrating the producers of income. If it is appropriate for a primary producer to have the advantage of having his rate of tax based on his average income over a span of five years. I would like to have explained to me the principles that make that system inapplicable to other types of income. I suggest thai today there is a great inclination for the individual producer of income, once he has reached a certain income figure, not lo go on and produce more income just for the benefit of the waste that is quite obvious once his money is paid into the Treasury. I suggest that, if such a person’s rate of lax were to be based on his average income over a span of five years, that would give him more scope for improving not only his income position but also his capital position.
– Fluctuations in income levels would be the reason why primary producers pay tax under this system.
– But there can be great fluctuations in trading and manufacturing incomes. I would like to know the substantial reason why primary producers whose income exceed $8,000 a year are denied the benefit of the averaging provisions.
.- I support the Bill. I would be guileful if the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) could give me some information on a rather serious claim that has been made in a constituent’s letter. The claim is tha! the new section 221 of the Income Tax Act gives the Commissioner of Taxation priority to claim all - I emphasise the word “all “ - overdue taxes, even before claims for workers’ compensation, long service or annual leave-
– That matter comes under the Income Tax Assessment Bill.
– I am indebted to Senator Wright for that information. I will leave this matter until the debate on that Bill.
– 1 will try to explain to Senator Wright, as best I can, why the differentiation to which he referred is made. I believe that it is made because people in primary industries are controlled by seasonal factors over which they have no control. Other industries are controlled by economics-
– M anagement
– Yes, and management. That also comes into primary industries. People in primary industries cannot control the seasons, although they can provide, to the. best of their ability, financially and managerially, against future droughts or hard times. However, they cannot so provide ad infinitum. The manager of a properly has no control over when it will rain, when it will frost or when it will snow. 1 believe that that is why this differentiation is made between people in primary industries and people in secondary industries. That might be of some assistance to Senator Wright.
– in reply - Senator Wright has raised a query regarding the averaging of incomes up to S8,000. This provision stems from 1951 when the boom incomes were being obtained in primary industry. At that time a huge increase in the price of wool caused a corresponding increase in the incomes of primary producers. The primary industry was faced wilh the prospect of enormous income tax in one year, suddenly out of the blue, and the averaging system was introduced. However, it was found that the averaging system was not of such advantage in respect of a continuing large income. Therefore the amount of $8,000 was decided upon at that stage. The proposed increase in the income groups will extend the benefits of the full averaging system to a considerable number of primary producers whose incomes have, over the years, increased above $8,000. However, the retention of the limits on the operations of the averaging provisions will act as a safeguard against undesirable effects which were highlighted in 1951 when, on future occasions, primary producers may again experience boom conditions which last perhaps for a year or two.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1142), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- As was the case with the previous Bill, this Bill proposes to derive tax from certain superannuation funds, trusts, estates and members of partnerships. The rates declared in the Bill are similar to those of last year. They were introduced in an attempt to frustrate tax avoidance which was brought to the nation’s attention in the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation 1959-1961. The Opposition supports the Bill.
.- Senator Kennelly has adopted almost word for word what the Minister said in introducing this Bill. That explanation has been adopted repetitively year by year since 1964 and is designed to convey the impression that this Bill is an antidote to tax evasion and tax avoidance. It is a very astute way in which the Treasury officers have arranged for the introduction of this Bill, but it camouflages much more tax evasion - and discriminatory tax evasion of which the Taxation Branch is cognisant - than it represses. The parent of this Bill, introduced last, year, should never have been entered on the statute book. This Bill, being its first offspring, needs to be opposed with all the vigour that we can summon in this Parliament. Until 1964, it was a cardinal principle of Australian income tax that a tax evader had the right to have his case determined by an independent court of law.
A person who was proved to have entered into transactions with the intention of evading tax had all sorts of penalities inflicted on him, and his tax had to be paid according to law. Not only was that the position, but for many years now the legislation of this country has contained a most rigorous provision that any arrangement made with the intention, or which has the effect, of evading or avoiding tax is void as against the Commissioner of Taxation.
The decisions that have been made under that provision - to some extent, before 1960 when the Ligertwood Committee’s report was furnished, but more significantly after that year, and even more significantly after 1.964 when the Commonwealth Parliament adopted the report to which this Bm gives effect - have shown that section 260, which provides that any arrangement made with the intention of avoiding or evading tax. or which has the effect of avoiding or evading tax, shall be void against the Commissioner. Those decisions show that that section is capable, if properly administered by the Taxation Branch, of acting as an adequate safeguard, according to the ordinary principles of British law whereby a transaction that is entered into for the purpose of evading or avoiding tax, or which has that effect, can be ignored by the Commissioner of Taxation. If the Taxation Branch would put forward cases to court day by day so that the courts could enlighten the Taxation Branch into a true interpretation of the legislation, there is no doubt that section 260 would be an adequate safeguard.
However, particularly with regard to metropolitan lease arrangements, it has not been appropriate for the Taxation Branch to bring certain cases to court. 1 will not clutter up this debate by reference to them, but I remind those people concerned that there will be discovery before very long. With those provisions in the legislation.- a wholly subversive and new idea was brought into the income tax legislation in November 1964 which was designed to exclude - and that was its purpose - a taxpayer from any right to have access to a court for the adjudication of his tax liability in respect of trusts and partnerships, and some superannution funds. The only purpose of the principle underlying that taxation provision was to exclude a taxpayer from any right of access to the courts. The method that was substituted for court adjudication was initial decision by the Commissioner of Taxation in his discretion and final decision by the Commissioner of Taxation in his discretion. The Taxation Branch is presided over by the Commissioner and armed by officers with an intricate system of law to administer within that bureau of enormous power, not merely factual power but minatory power. The threat of hostility from the Commissioner of Taxation is enough on many occasions to daunt many men. The mere threat of hostility can do this. But within the province to which this Act applies - trusts and partnerships - we have left the field to the determination first and finally of the Commissioner of Taxation.
The way that, we do it is this. Instead of saying that the proper tax shall be paid only by a person who has made a transaction offensive to proper taxation principles, or who has entered into the partnership or made the trust which is obnoxious to proper taxation principles, we say that the person’s guilt or innocence will not be decided by a court of law. No, the Commissioner of Taxation recommends and the Parliament accepts his recommendation that the innocent and the evil alike in a taxation sense, who have entered into all kinds of trusts and partnerships, shall all be subjected to the initial penal tax that is to be imposed by this Bill, namely 10s. in the £1. Because of the provisions of this Bill, a person who two years ago created a trust of £ 1 ,000 for a retarded child, the income from which trust was £50 a year, and by reason of the terms of the trust the income was not presently payable to that retarded child, will have 10s. in the £1 of that income confiscated. Those are the terms of the Bill that the Senate is asked to pass tonight. This income is subject to a penal tax of 10s. in the £1 irrespective of amount, and irrespective of the bona fides or mala fides of the purpose of set law.
What is it that will give relief to that trust? It is only the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation. The terms in which he is entitled to exercise that discretion are that -
This section does not apply to a trust estate in relation to a year of income if the Commissioner is Of the opinion that it would be unreasonable that this section should apply in relation to that trust estate in relation to that year of income.
That is to say, the Commissioner is given complete right to form an opinion as to whether it is reasonable that our legislation be applied. So, relief from this penalty tax does not come by any decision of a court of law before which a person can put his case, hear his adversary’s case and have a decision taken by an independent judge. lt is available only if the Commissioner can be persuaded in his discretion that it is unreasonable. He may have on his file all sorts of hearsay tittle tattle that have come to him from everywhere. He may disclose only half of the material on which he is acting. He is not even obliged to give a person a hearing before he exercises his discretion adversely to that person. A person would never know what was put up against him by those who collected the information that persuaded the Commissioner of Taxation to exercise an adverse discretion.
The same iniquitous principle is introduced in relation to partnerships. Partnerships are resented by the high public servants. We heard in the original speech introducing this legislation in 1964 the expression that many sections of the community are not permitted to share their income. There was obviously a resentment of the fact that if a person is the Secretary to the Treasury and receiving £8,750 a year, he cannot enter into a partnership to earn income for him. But if a person is engaged in one of the ordinary vocations of life - if, for instance, he is a grocer, a butcher or a farmer - in this modern time when the whole family may contribute to the undertaking, there is a good deal of resentment on the part of public servants that a partnership is still a permissible form of entering into a joint enterprise which some people still imagine can be free in this country. Yet if any member of that partnership either as to the terms of the partnership or by the means in which it is carried on is considered not to have a real control of his income, then whether that income is less than the basic wage or whether it is £10,000, that partnership is subject to the penalty liability of 10s. in the £1. That person has to carry that liability by reason of the provisions of this Bill. Irrespective of the amount, or irrespective of the bona fides of the purpose of the partnership, he is denied an adjudication through a court to say that the partnership was entered into for bona fide business purposes and not for the purpose of tax evasion.
Again, he must seek his redress from the law by invoking a favorable discretion from the Commissioner of Taxation.
This is a system of arbitrary bureaucracy that is wholly opposed to the judicial system of this country which has had a special purpose and a special application to the area of taxation ever since the ship money case. The ship money case was waged for the mere exaction of £2 - 40s. - and in it one of the greatest constitutional issues in English history was fought. Where was it fought? lt was fought before the courts, then not completely independent. But the whole of our freedom was built up so that the exactions of the Crown could be levied upon us only after enactment by free, independent and vigilant parliaments, if the taxation imposed was decided to be applicable to the individual by an independent court of law. That system is wholly subverted by this legislation where a penalty tax is imposed upon a partnership irrespective of its innocence or its intent to evade taxation. What is the way of escape? Is it the ability to persuade the Commissioner of Taxation that it is not reasonable? No. It is to be found if the Commissioner is of the opinion that, by reason of special circumstances, it would be unreasonable to apply the section.
– Why should the incidence of tax depend upon the state of mind of the person involved?
– That is an interesting question. I should have thought that anybody who gave a moment’s thought to such transactions would have to decide the true criterion as to whether a transaction is a proper disposal of income or business as distinct from a disposal that is obnoxious to income tax principle. Let me emphasise that intention is not the sole criterion. Section 260 selects intention to evade which has the effect of evading. The court sums up the whole proposition by saying: “That is evasion of tax “, “ That is a bona fide disposition of property “ or “ That is a bona fide business arrangement”. Unless you have a system whereby the courts distinguish the guilty from the not guilty, then you have no protection and no freedom in business.
– Would not the Commissioner of Taxation distinguish between the guilty and the not guilty?
– Let me say with all respect to the Minister that after all I have said, apparently the idea is still acceptable to him that the Commissioner of Taxation should usurp the judicial role of independently hearing both sides and then deciding upon a man’s liability.
– I do not want to leave my submission incomplete. When I have completed it I shall be eager to turn to the honorable senator’s question. I have put the proposition, that from first to last one’s only hope of evading the penalty tax is to persuade the Commissioner of Taxation, in the exercise of his discretion, that it would be unreasonable in the circumstances. That is subject to one qualification which I desire to state so that I will not be misunderstood, ft is this: The legislation does provide that the discretion is reviewable by an income tax board.
– By an independent Board of Review.
– Yes. I do not quarrel with that method of stating it. lt is independent in the sense that it has as chairman a former officer of the Taxation Branch who has security of tenure for seven years only: That is the very antithesis of judicial tenure. Since 1688 the very sinew of judicial tenure has been to make judges completely independent of re-appointment.
– Could he not live dangerously?
– The poor fellow who is waiting for the seventh year to come round could live dangerously. I have referred to the chairman. On one side of him sits a barrister who has a tenure of seven years and on the other side sits another person, usually an accountant, who also has a tenure of seven years. Because of the spirit that prevails in this country, we owe much to the integrity with which these boards perform.
– Their performance is no better or no worse than that of the courts.
– I am not dealing with this matter on a cheap basis. I rise tonight only to say that I am opposing the provision. I am choosing only one occasion this year on which to oppose it. But it is my purpose to choose every possible occasion next year to prevent a similar measure from appearing on the statute book. I shall choose every possible occasion to take action which will have that effect, cither directly or indirectly, despite the consequences - unless I can be persuaded that this fundamental principle which is being subverted is properly being subverted.
The short title of this legislation is a misnomer. Clause 1 states -
Tin’s Act may be cited as the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Act 1966.
Then clause 5 provides -
Income tax is imposed in accordance willi this Act, and at the rates declared in this Act, upon-
Then follow four paragraphs. Paragraph
After some inquiry this week, 1 have been obliged to receive some further treatises from the Commissioner of Taxation. Lel mc point out the sort of thing that we are getting pursuant to the exercise of discretion by the Commissioner of Taxation. Under Section 79, the principle of which I venture to say has never been considered by this Parliament and the purpose of which is of very doubtful validity, anybody who is employed gainfully whether in a partnership or any other company connection or as an individual may create a one man superannuation fund. According to the decision of the Commissioner - not of this Parliament - that person may make contributions to the fund amounting to $800 a year if he is below the age of 40 years and $1,600 a year if he is between the agc of 40 and 55 years. If he is more than 55 years of age and if he continues contributing until he retires at 70 years of age he may tuck away $1,200 a year. The income on that investment, to the extent of 5 per cent, of the cost of the initial investment, is free of tax. Then by the application of some principle which I would be delighted to have explained to me the excess is subject, under the terms of this Bill, to a taxation penalty of 10s. in £1.
I do not intend to take up very much time in referring to the complex provisions that are applicable. One is that the terms and conditions applicable to the fund must be approved by the Commissioner, having regard to the reasonableness of the benefits. It is pointed out that the deed may provide for such larger amounts as the Commissioner may approve from time to time to be contributed by the individual. So those who gain a favorable decision from the Commissioner, in the exercise of his discretion, can get much more than the sums I have mentioned. Others may get less under the decision of this one nan.
– 1 believe that amounts up to $160,000 have been granted.
– That shows the enormity of the discrimination. I am surprised at the philosophy of an Opposition which permits this sort of thing to happen. I am surprised that this can comply with the philosophy of any government. I am pointing out tonight that the Commissioner has the right to approve of this deed having regard to the reasonableness of the amount and having regard to the amount of the fund in relation to the benefits and such other matters as the Commissioner thinks fit. The Commissioner unblushingly says first that he wants the trustee to be a stranger. In all the trusts that exist in this country - trusts by will and those created otherwise than by will - it is often better and more effective, certainly for family trusts, if the trustee is a member of the family. If the Commissioner has the idea that just because the trustee is a trustee for the members of his family he will therefore blink at his obligations as a trustee, he really does not know what goes on in courts of equity which have administered these trusts as a matter of legal obligation for centuries.
As to investment, the Commissioner purports to tell the trustees of the permissible type of investment they shall make, such as shares and stocks in public companies listed on the stock exchange, fixed or flexible unit trusts, especially of certain companies - the Bank of New South Wales, I suppose, or one of the insurance companies - and interest bearing deposits in a bank. So what the Government took the trouble to do in the housing loans insurance corporation legislation and the homes savings grants legislation, the Commissioner docs for it here and Parliament becomes superfluous.
This is all done under authority. The Commissioner can approve of the deed, having regard to such other matters as he thinks fit.
Then it is necessary for the deed to include a provision prohibiting loans to relatives. Trust money in a superannuation fund of this description cannot be loaned to a relative, no matter what the security might be. All this is arrogated by the Commissioner. Give him one line of discretion and he will become a dictator and invoke every consideration. It is not my purpose to say whether this is wise or unwise. If I, as a solicitor, were advising on the constitution of a superannuation fund, I would use the ordinary precepts of prudence and principle. But is the Commissioner, the paterfamilias, the supervisor of our family superannuations and trusts going to tell us in particular circumstances and in particular cases that it is not permissible to invest these funds except in listed stock exchange companies or in loans to persons who are not relatives? How silly can you be? Bill Smith’s fund could lend to Jim Jones’ wife and tomorrow Jim Jones’ fund could lend to Bill Smith’s wife. All that is tendentious, bureaucratic, usurped, not given under this Act, is an illustration of the enormity of giving administrative discretions of this sort to a bureaucracy, when the proper function of a court of law is to administer the law according to the written law. Here we have all the evils in a very trenchant form. In this field the power of commerce and of money is exerted over every transaction big or small. We have all the evils with that increased power that we discussed this afternoon in relation to unlimited discretions given to the Secretary of the Department of Social Services to hand out moneys to organisations under loose arrangements that are not properly covered by well thought out principles of law.
I have said sufficient to indicate that my objection to this legislation abides. Notwithstanding what has been said, I hope that I will be supported in the chamber tonight in throwing out this Bill or deferring it - anything honorable senators like. I point out that if we did this the Commissioner of Taxation would still go on. There would be no holdup in collecting the revenue of the country. This is a special penal tax which applies to partnerships and trusts. We had this matter divorced in a separate Bill last year. One of the effects of doing that was to make its import of limited effect. 1 ask honorable senators to join me tonight in rejecting the measure. As I said when I was provoked - perhaps I said it a little strongly but I cannot seem to get my understanding on this point through to the front bench - for the last 18 months I have declared that every opportunity that is given to me by parliamentary authority will be used to prevent the establishment of this principle in our law, because I regard it as being obnoxious to the fundamental principles by which taxation should be imposed and administered in this country.
– in reply - There are one or two points on which I would like to reply to Senator Wright. We have had a difference of opinion on this Act for many years. I have heard him voice his opinion on it many times in the Senate. I am glad to say that he made one comment tonight with which I can really agree. He said that he does not seem to be able to get his point of view over to the front bench. As I occupy a front bench at the present time, I want to tell him quite frankly that he has not got it over to me. I would not for a moment like anybody to think that the title of the Bill is a title which would mislead anybody.
It was suggested that the title “ Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1966”’ is misleading because it does not refer to superannuation funds whose incomes are subject to tax at the rates declared by the Bill. The Bill declares that the special or 50 per cent, rate of tax shall be payable by superannuation funds that are not exempt on taxable income of the 1966-67 year where the fund derives income from a trust, using that word in its general sense. This is so even where the superannuation fund arises from a contractual arrangement between employer and employee. In these circumstances the title of the Bill is considered adequately to describe the matters dealt with in it.
I might add that the Bill does not declare that the rates of tax payable by a superannuation fund on its investment income is not exempt from tax because of failure to comply with the 30-20 public security investment rule. These rates of tax are declared by the Income Tax Bill 1966. Senator Wright placed a lot more faith in section 260, to which he has referred in is chamber many times, than the Treasurer does. But the Treasurer is guided fey experience gained from having taken cases to court and found that section 260 is not nearly as strong, in effect, as the honorable senator suggests it is. The question of these trusts and partnerships is a very complex one in this modern world. We are Jiving in a modern world and we have to deal with matters in a modern world. We have seen a series of very complex trusts and partnerships set up with only one point of view - to evade taxation. That is the reason for these measures. The Ligertwood Committee examined this matter and recommended that the Commissioner of Taxation be given certain discretion in certain cases.
– I do not think the Committee recommended it in respect of either partnerships or trusts.
– That may be so, but it recommended discretion because of the very complex trusts and partnerships which have been set up. We know that a person having an income of, say, £5,000 has set up a series of trusts over which the income has been so dissipated that he would not be required to pay income tax on any of it. In other words, the £5,000 income would be put into several trusts which would earn an income which would not attract any income tax. Thousands of partnerships in this country are never queried because they are genuine, dinkum partnerships which have been set up without any intention of defeating the law.
Senator Wright has said that these discretions, once exercised, are the end of the matter. He gives the impression that the Commissioner of Taxation sits in his office and says to a partnership: “ I don’t care what you say. I think you are trying to evade tax so you will pay this amount of tax and that is the end of it”. He knows very well that there is an independent Board of Review. The Commissioner knows that when he makes his decision the Board of Review can set aside that decision and say: “ We take no notice of the Commissioner. We will make a completely independent review of the matter “. And it cos.’s a taxpayer a quid - at least that was the charge and I. do not think it has been raised since I last heard of it - to take a case to the
Board of Review. It is completely wrong and misleading to say that once the Commissioner exercises his discretion that is the end of the matter. That is not so. If I appear to be a little heated about this it is because I like the facts to be plainly stated and not clouded.
An independent Board of Review hears these cases. The honorable senator himself has paid tribute to the way in which the Board deals fairly and squarely with cases that have been put to it. Of course, one does not always win. Some people set up partnerships comprising kids two years old as partners. A child two years of age receives an income which attracts a certain amount of tax. The adult members of the partnership use the income and the child never sees it. Many devices of this kind have been adopted for the purpose of evading tax. But. as I have said, there are thousands of genuine partnerships and trusts which do not have to worry. Anyone who wishes to set up a trust has only to approach the Commissioner of Taxation and say: “ This is what I propose to set up as a trust. Will you advise me whether it is in accordance with the law?” The Commissioner will say: “ If you do this you can run into certain difficulties. I advise you to do that “. A person can be assured that the advice he receives will accord with the taxation law.
– The Minister mentioned a right of appeal against a discretion exercised by the Commissioner. When a discretion under the Act is exercised by the Commissioner is there any right of appeal?
– I am advised that there is a right of appeal to the Board of Review.
– Even under the Act?
– Yes, I am so advised. This is a very intricate subject. I do not pretend to match the legal eminence of Senator Wright but I know a fair bit about this kind of legislation because the Senate will recall that when a similar measure was before the chamber on a previous occasion the honorable senator proposed five amendments and every one of them was blown out. Every one of them would have closed some doors but opened others. The great difficulty has been to evolve a written law which will cover all these individual trusts, partnerships and other devices which have been set up in this complex world to evade tax. According to the Ligertwood Committee they have been successful to the extent of £14 million a year. I had the onerous duty of sitting on a sub-committee of Cabinet which sweated for months to try to evolve a written law. The Commissioner himself does not want these discretions. In fact he has said so publicly many times. No-one wants them if he can avoid them, but noone wants to leave the doors open for the evasion of tax. These discretions have been given to the Commissioner and anyone who feels that a wrong decision has been made in his case has a right of appeal to the Board of Review. The Commissioner himself knows, before he makes a decision, that this right of appeal is open so he does not make decisions lightly. He knows that they can be set aside and shown to be shallow and unjust. He takes full cognisance of all the relevant facts before arriving at his decision.
I do not wish to say anything further except that we still have not given up the chase to evolve some written law which will cover all these devices. We will continue our investigations. AsI have said, the Commissioner does not want these discretions. There would not be any need for them if we could cover all these cases by a written law.
– There hasbeen no written law. What has been the guide?
– We cannot get one law to cover everything so when we find a means of closing a loophole we write it into the law. We have given these discretions to the Commissioner and he will use them if he thinks there is an intentionto evade tax.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not know whether my remarks will be strictly relevant but I should like to say that we of the Opposition have supported this measure because at the moment we do not see any alternative. The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) has said that he disapproves the thread which runs through this Bill. We would not like it to be thought that we approve it either, because one of the major planks in the platform of the Australian Labour Party is that the rule of law is to be the right of all. We stand strongly by this. Throughout history, whenever discretions about major matters have been placed in the hands of powerful officials, it has been demonstrated that the rich and the powerful have been those who benefited most from these discretions and that the weak and the poor have suffered most. One might say that the struggle of the workers has been to achieve the rule of law in industrial affairs. Where there is no law, the employer can do what he likes and then the workers suffer most. So we have struggled to establish in the industrial area and in other areas of life definite rules so that everyone will know where he stands.
This Bill represents a serious departure from this principle, but we are in the same situation as is the Government. We do not like it.If we could see an alternative, we would strive for it. It is only because at this moment we do not see an alternative that, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, we support the Bill. We feel that we are in a situation where some action is called for. We believe that certain persons ought to be paying taxes in certain situations and ought not to escape taxation. Perhaps it is because of our incapacity that we allow to pass through this chamber a measure which, in substance and certainty in form is contrary to what we think is the proper way any measure, especially a taxation measure, should be framed.
The message of Senator Wright certainly has got across to this side of the chamber. I would not want it to be thought that the Opposition is not as sensitive about these matters as Senator Wright, or that it is not as conscious of them and not as ready to react as soon as a suitable way can be found to get away from this principle. Certainly it is a bad principle and one which should not exist in the taxation law. The Commissioner of Taxation, the Opposition and, as I understand from what the Minister has said, the Government too, are all at one in saying that as soon as possible we should substitute for this sort of measure legislation which sets out clearly what tax has to be paid and in exactly what circumstances it should be paid, and that discretions in this regard ought to be removed from the Act.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1142), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the principles of this Bill. We agree with the Government to the extent that, because of the acute drought and its attendant difficulties, action had to be taken to ease the financial burden suffered by a large segment of the rural community. Of course, this gets us back to the criticism the Opposition has expressed previously - that in some cases the Commonwealth and the States should have done more in the way of water conservation. But we are faced with the situation that there has been individual hardship, and on that basis we support those provisions of the Bill.
However, there are some other features which require comment. We notice that the Bill provides for what might be called gift incentives, and that such laudable bodies, as the Australian Council of National Trusts and the Australian Conservation Foundation are likely to be recipients of the gifts. We welcome this proposal, but when I listened to the statements made earlier by the Minister for Supply about the obligations of companies and individuals in relation to taxation, I felt a little sceptical about the reaction we will get to these incentives. The two organisations mentioned are worthy of support, but I felt that at the back of the mind of the Minister in his general discourse on taxation was the feeling - I would agree with him - that anybody who entertains the idea that those who occupied the big board rooms and who constitute the management of some of our big companies are dewy eyed innocents trying to do their best for others, has a rude awakening coming.
We know that in this age, all big corporations have their accountants and legal advisers to steer them through taxation difficulties. They regard this advice as part of their ordinary commercial armament. At the same time, it is obvious that the State has to have counter organisations. These commercial organisations come up with vast publicity campaigns, claiming they are being ill done by, and sometimes crocodile tears are shed for them in some quarters, but that does not happen to the same extent in relation to a section of the community consisting of people on low incomes who do not have the wherewithal to put their arguments forward.
I have rambled on a little about the philosophy of taxation, but let me say now that, having the gift incentives, we hope that the Australian Council of National Trusts and the Australian Conservation Foundation will, with the assistance of donations from various estates, assume the size of the Ford Foundation in’ the United States of America and one or two of its counterparts as time goes on. That would be very good. Perhaps on the occasion of the visit to Australia by the President of the United States of America, it is pertinent to recall in this context his land and water acts and his activities to beautify his country. This is very laudable. If these two organisations in Australia get the support to which they are entitled, we could go a long way in that direction. However, we will have to have a long hard look next year at the Australian Conservation Foundation in particular to see what the response has been.
I do not think that the big organisations - the oil companies, the shipping companies and the tobacco combines - will do very much. If we look back over our shoulders to the past we can always point to a particular sector of the community which has not pulled its weight in a world crisis. That is often the case with organisations which should know better. When we examine the major infringements of national security regulations during the Second World War, we find that on one occasion the Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, had to apply the full rigour of the law to the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. for an illegal lockout at Newcastle. Of course, it may be argued that that was counter trade union activity. The point I am making is that one of our major industrial organisations was not always imbued with patriotism, either. Therefore, I have, some sympathy for Senator Henty in trying to dissipate some of the crocodile tears that are apt to flow when people in the high income brackets claim that they are acting in the interests of democracy and taxation justice. This amuses me and does not stir in me the same response as apparently it does in other people. I have expounded my philosophy on taxation generally and I conclude by saying that the Opposition supports the broad principles of the Bill.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) 1.9.41].- Governments often make rash promises and arc then unable to fulfil them, but that cannot be said of the present Government in relation to the Bill before the Senate. The promises made by the Government in the recent Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) and also other promises made by the two parties in this coalition Government certainly have resulted in great benefits being conferred on various groups in the community by means of this Bill. That comment applies particularly to the primary producers. A predominant feature of the Bill is the benefits that it will bestow on those who have suffered as a result of the drought. Wool growers who, because of the drought, advanced shearing dates during the 1965-66 income year will be permitted to elect to transfer the net proceeds of the second wool clip to the 1966-67 income year.
Again, in relation to forced sales of livestock the Bill proposes a benefit which the primary producing community should note well. Under the proposal contained in the Bill, primary producers will have the right to elect to have the proceeds of a forced sale of livestock, principally to maintain breeding stock for restocking purposes, taxed over a period of five years. This will be of great benefit to the economy of Australia generally. When the Senate was dealing with a previous bill reference was made to the limitation of losses of past years and to the averaging provisions. Under this Income Tax Assessment Bill, the limit of seven years in relation to losses of previous years will in certain circumstances not apply. A further provision at which primary producers should look very carefully will permit producers who have elected to withdraw from the averaging system to come back into the system. [ urge primary producers, in strong terms, to consider the benefits to be obtained under this measure.
The Bill provides another benefit for many primary producers throughout Australia including those in some areas of northern Victoria, lt is proposed that the total cost of fencing which is used to exclude livestock from areas affected by soil erosion will be deductible. In the recent drought it was not possible to halt soil erosion in many areas, and in the coming season we shall see some of the effects of this. The Bill proposes to allow not merely depreciation for fencing and the cost of fencing that is erected but also an outright deduction for the cost of fencing erected to exclude livestock from areas affected by soil erosion.
– Was there not a deduction for fencing before the introduction of this Bill?
– The cost could be written off over a period, but under this Bill it is to be a total deduction. I heartily commend the Bill to the Senate.
.- I should like the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) to give me some information on a matter that has been raised with me by a constituent. He has said that new section 221 gives the Commissioner of Taxation - and these are important words, particularly from the point of view of the working man - priority to claim all overdue taxes, even before claims for workers compensation, long service leave and annual leave. I ask the Minister whether that is so. My correspondent has suggested, and 1 think with some reason, that that section should be amended to bring the priorities into line with those in section 292 (.1) (e) of the Companies Act. He also suggests, again with some reason, that they should be in line with the relevant section of the Bankruptcy Act under which the Commissioner has priority only in respect of the last 12 months taxation. I should like to know why this change is being made. Why is the Government proposing to allow a claim for all overdue taxes, and not just for 12 months taxes? Why is it proposed to give priority even over workers compensation, long service leave and annual leave?
– in reply - In regard to the point made by Senator McManus, I inform him that the present priority provided by section 221 for the payment of
Income tax has been in the law since 1942. The amendment proposed by this Bill will limit this priority to that provided in the Bankruptcy Act 1966. 1 think that is what the honorable senator’s correspondent suggested.
– That is what is required.
– Yes. Under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 workers compensation up to $2,000, the liability for which accrued before the bankruptcy, will have priority over income tax. The new priority will have effect from the date the Act is proclaimed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I wish to raise one point, and having regard to Senator Webster’s comments it is a matter which I wish he would consider. It refers to clause 4 of the Bill which proposes to introduce new section 26ba. Honorable senators will see from the shoulder note that the section deals with double wool clips in the 1964-65 and 1965-66 income years. I shall not read the whole of the section. Mr. Justice Ligertwood was commissioned to simplify this legislation, but since the date when he undertook this task, the volume of the legislation has increased by about 50 per cent., as honorable senators will see. In order to achieve the purposes of this provision it is necessary to cover about three and a half pages of print. The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) stated in his second reading speech that one amendment that is proposed will assist wool growers who, because of the drought, advanced shearing dates during the 1965-66 income year. Without this amendment, the proceeds of the two wool clips would be brought into account as income of the one year. The Minister stated -
It is proposed that these wool growers will be permitted lo elect to transfer the net proceeds of the second clip to the 1966-67 income year.
The shoulder note to the section and the Minister’s statement in this respect severely delimit the application of this provision to two particular years and has effect only in relation to the case where two wool clips are taken off the backs of one flock of sheep in one tax year. One would think that this was a concession to wool growers. But the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation - the Ligertwood Committee - contains three short paragraphs on this subject in answer to representations that were made to it. This report was made before the recent drought. According to the vicissitudes of the seasons, a wool grower may take two wool clips off the backs of one flock of sheep and sell one and put the other in the shed within one financial year.
– That happens frequently.
– It does.
– Even without a drought.
– I will ask the honorable senators who are interjecting to listen to what the Ligertwood Committee said about the general situation. It said -
A submission stated that it is administrative practice, where a grazier has his shearing delayed beyond the end of a financial year because of circumstances beyond his control, to allow that grazier to bring the net proceeds of the shearing to account as assessable income in the year in which it would normally be received. It requested that the Act be amended to give the Commissioner of Taxation a statutory discretion to approve this present accepted practice.
As the section appears to be operating satisfactorily, we do not favour alteration of the existing law, because the Commissioner recognises the contingency, and any further proviso in this special case might create other inconsistencies.
The Committee recommends that no alteration to the Act is required in regard to the case of a grazier who would receive the proceeds of two wool clips in one financial year.
So the Ligertwood Committee thought that, in the commonsense administration of the statute, it was quite permissible for the case of a grazier who receives the proceeds of two wool clips in one financial year to be ironed out by bringing the proceeds of one wool clip to account in each of two years.
It seems to me that the second reading speech says that this provision is a concession to wool growers because of an unusually severe drought. I would think that, if this provision w,ere passed, it would eliminate the whole basis of the Ligertwood
Committee’s view that it is within the commonsense administration of the statute to separate the proceeds of two wool clips, which because of some circumstance come into a bank account in the one year, by taking them into account in two years. If this provision goes on the statute book, the Commissioner will point to it and say: “ The Parliament inserted that provision in respect of the year 1965-66 or the year 1966-67 because of the drought. Special legislation was necessary. So I am precluded from applying the principle that the Ligertwood Committee said was already capable of being applied administratively.”
– The Ligertwood Committee dealt with shearings that are delayed by circumstances beyond the wool growers control. Where that happens, the present law allows the proceeds of the delayed clip to be taxed in the year in which the sale of the wool would otherwise have taken place. Where a shearing has to be advanced or brought forward because of drought, it is necessary to amend the law to allow the proceeds of that clip to be taxed in the year in which the sheep ordinarily would have been shorn. A clause of this Bill provides accordingly. It extends to the 1965-66 income year the same provisions as were inserted last year for advanced shearings in 1964-65.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report, adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1 144), on motion by Senator Henry -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Labour Party offers no opposition to this Bill. The eulogistic comments that I made previously in relation to the objectives of the National Trust generally apply to this Bill. All it does is put the Queensland, Western Australian and Tasmanian branches of the National Trust on a par with the branches in the other States in respect, of estate duly. So we support this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page I 1 44), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), in his very brief second reading speech on this Bill, stated -
One proposal is that certain non-government schools providing education at the secondary or a lower level of education are to be exempt from payroll lax . . .
The other matter dealt with bv the Bill concerns the payroll tax rebate for increased exports that was introduced by this Government in 1961.
In concluding his speech, he stated -
Detailed explanations of the technical provisions of the Bill are contained in a memorandum that is being made available to honorable senators.
That memorandum states -
Salaries and wages paid by non-government schools providing education at or below, but not above, the level of secondary education are to be exempted from payroll tax if the schools are conducted by organisations not carried on for the profit or gain of members.
On behalf of the Labour Opposition, I state that we support that proposal, but we regret that, because of the wording of the title of the Bill, we are prevented from moving a desirable amendment which we have moved in previous years and which would grant exemption from payroll tax to municipal and other local government authorities.
In respect of the second part, the explanatory memorandum states -
Recoveries in the sale price of goods of excise duty and sales tax paid by an exporter in respect of the goods are to be excluded from the “ gross receipts “ of the exporter for the purposes of calculating the rebate of pay-roll tax related to increased exports.
The Labour Party again supports the stated intention of the Government in amending the legislation, but we have extreme doubt whether it is equitable in its application to large exporting manufacturers as against small exporting manufacturers. We are supported in that view by the Australian Manufacturers Export Council. The Council prepared a report entitled “ A Report with Recommendations on the Australian Taxation Incentives for Manufacturing Exporters “. The report states -
The survey illustrates the grave anomaly that the smaller manufacturers, who achieved the belter export performance, received the lesser benefit from the payroll tax incentive.
The people who conducted the survey support the view I have expressed that it is inequitable as between the larger manufacturing exporters and the smaller ones. About 12 months ago I saw on television a series of television films entitled “ Export Action “. My memory of those films is that almost invariably the company highlighted as having a good record in increasing its exports was a smaller firm. I cannot remember one exporter whose activities were on a large scale.
I repeat that while the Opposition has extreme doubts whether this legislation will in any way improve the position that I have described, we support its intention. I might add that the Opposition is not completely satisfied that there would not be a better measure of incentive for export than by the provisions proposed in this amending legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I would like some information on Clause 3. I have sent for a copy of the original Act. Clause 3 of the Bill states -
Section 15 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (ba) the following paragraph: - “ (bb) by a school or college (other than a technical school or a technical college) which -
I would like the Minister to advise me why the exemption does not apply to a technical school or a technical college. Exemption is provided for a school or college which provides education at or below, but not above, the secondary level of education. Exemption is provided for schools or colleges other than a technical school or a technical college and I would like an explanation on that aspect.
– The explanation sought by Senator Cavanagh is bound up with the fact that all State Governments are subject to payroll tax. Schools controlled by State Governments are therefore subject to payroll tax, and most technical schools are controlled by State Governments. It would not be advisable for technical schools controlled by a State Government to be subject to payroll tax and technical or semitechnical schools not controlled by the Government to be exempt from payroll tax. Therefore the exemption is confined to secondary education.
– It seems to me that we should have a further explanation than that provided by the Minister. Clause 3 states - (bb) by a school or college (other than a technical school or a technical college) which -
I would have thought that the words “ not carried on by or on behalf of a State “ were sufficient to exclude all State instrumentalities, and that there must be a wider and different explanation of the words in parenthesis that exclude a technical school or technical college. I believe we ought to know why a line of distinction is drawn between a school or college and a technical school or a technical college, if I am correct in thinking that the difference does not lie in the fact that one is usually State owned and controlled and the other is not.
I rose in the hope that the Minister might add to what he has told us as to why a distinction is drawn. Of course, we are all familiar with the oddity that payroll tax is payable by State instrumentalities. I had never thought, until it was stated by the Minister a few minutes ago, that payroll tax was payable by a State in respect of its Education Department. On the question of whether a State should be subject to payroll tax, I would have thought that it was a lot of nonsense to carry it on but for the fact that the tax reimbursement agreement of 1959, which was renewed in 1965, specifically includes an undertaking by the States that they will not object to payroll tax in respect of their commercial instrumentalities. However, I draw attention to the phrase in clause 3, “ is not carried on by or on behalf of a State “. I would have thought that is the distinction between a State and a non State college. Perhaps the Minister can help me on that matter. I would have thought that clearly a State is not liable for payroll tax in respect of the payroll of its Education Department.
– The employees of State Education Departments and State schools are subject to payroll tax. The position in this case. I am advised, is that there are some technical schools that carry on technical education above the secondary level.
– That is the point at issue.
– Yes. There are also some technical schools which are part government owned part government controlled and part private controlled. This causes some difficulty in assessment of whether a school is classed entirely as a private school or as a State owned school. To make sure that the Act covers this point, the provision has been laid down in the terms in which it appears in the Bill.
. -I would like more clarity on the matter because, frankly, I do not understand it. I was under the impression that State governments did not pay payroll tax on the salaries of their teachers. I have now learnt that they do. Religious organisations do not pay payroll tax. I understood that this Bill was to bring into line with religious colleges individual colleges that are not State colleges. Let us look at the section that is to be amended in the Principal Act. Section 15 of the Principal Act provides -
The provisions of this Part -
I take it that this is relating to the payment of payroll tax-
. shall not apply to wages paid -
by the Governor-General or the Governor of the State;
How that links up with State Government schools I do not know -
Then the section goes on to deal with trade commissioners and others with whomI see by examination we are not concerned in relation to schools.
It does not appear to me that schools are covered under that section unless it is by-
The State Governments pay payroll tax with respect to their staff. But I seek information on one point. Does the Bill seek in clause 3 to give private colleges the same benefit as religious colleges and therefore, a greater advantage than State schools? In the past we have subsidised religious schools. Now is it intended to extend that subsidy beyond religious schools to individual schools other than State schools? Frankly, that is the only definition I can obtain from a quick reading of the amendments in the Bill.
– The wages paid by a State Government including wages and salaries of teachers are subject to payroll tax. This comes as in accordance with the financial agreement entered into between the States and the Commonwealth under which the States agree to pay payroll tax. Wages paid by religious institutions are exempt from the payment of payroll tax. This means that the wages paid to secondary school teachers who are employed at schools controlled by a church are exempt. The amendment puts other private schools on the same basis.
– Now I understand that the position is this: Previously some subsidy was provided because payroll tax was not collected from religious organisations that conduct these schools. This Bill proposes to extend that subsidy to private schools other than religious schools. These private schools will be placed in a more advantageous position than State schools but the provisions shall not apply to technical schools or technical colleges. I think that is the position.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page1 145). on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labour Party does not oppose this Bill. It is one of those little bills that the Government has the habit of introducing that contain advantages for a minority of people. This Bill will confer a very good advantage in that it will make a section of our pensioners in Australia a little happier. The purpose of the Bill is to extend to certain persons in receipt ofan allowance under the Tuberculosis Act the right to be granted concessional broadcastlisteners’ and television viewers’ licences. The Bill takes the opportunity to state more precisely the conditions under which pensioners generally may be granted concessional licences. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) explained this in his second reading speech when he said -
Allowances under the Tuberculosis Act are available to persons suffering from infectious tuberculosis as an inducement to them to cease work and undergo treatment, thereby minimising the spread of the disease and promoting its better treatment.
This is a very good thing. It is an innovationthat we welcome. This will help to give these pensioners an interest in life.
The Minister went on to say -
Should a person in receipt of, or eligible for, a Social Service Act pension contract tuberculosis, however, acceptance of the allowance automatically disqualifies that person from receipt of the normal pension, by specific provision in the Social Services Act. in addition, of course, the disqualification extends as well to concessions that go with a pension.
While there is no compulsion on persons to accept a tuberculosis allowance, it is desirable that sufferers do so for the sake of the individual and the community, and the Bill therefore seeks to provide that a person in receipt of a tuberculosis allowance who, but for that allowance would be eligible for a pension under the Social Services Act, may be granted concessional broadcasting listeners and television viewers licences.
The Australian Labour Party supports that idea.
These concessional licences are now granted to a certain type of pensioner only. For the benefit of honorable senators, I point out. that the ordinary rate for broadcast listeners licences in zone 1, for example, is$5.50. The rate to the pensioner in that zone is $1. In zone 2, the ordinary broadcasting listeners licence rate is $2.80. The rate for a pensioner is 70c. For a television licence, the ordinary rate is $12. The pensioner rate is $3. For a combined broadcasting and television licence, the ordinary rate is $17. The pensioner rate is $4. The reduced rate may be granted to persons in receipt of an age pension or a widow’s pension under the Social Services Act and under the Repatriation Act. That is the close of my second reading speeech. The Opposition will move an amendment at the Committee Stage. Generally speaking, we support the Bill. We think it is a very good measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3 which reads, in part -
Section 128 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (4.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section - “ (4.) In this section, ‘ pensioner ‘ means a person who -
is in receipt of a service pension, or a pension in respect of total and permanent incapacity, under the Repatriation Act 1920-1966; or
I move -
In paragraph (c) of proposed sub-section (4.), after “ service pension “, insert “ a pension payable to the widow of a member of the Forces.’*.
We think that the Government should have gone just a little further to cover a number of people who otherwise will suffer financial loss. I do not think it would cost the Government a lot of money to do this. I believe that in the past the Government has not made provision for this category because many war widows are excluded by the means test. At least, that is the explanation that has been offered to me. It seems strange that these people should have been forgotten, if not excluded deliberately, by the Government When it was extending this concession to widows and pensioners generally. The incomes of pensioners have risen very slowly in the post-war years. Small concessions of the kind that are envisaged in the Bill do much to make life happier for pensioners. The Government has done well to extend the concession to tuberculosis sufferers. But we believe that war widows should get the concession too, particularly as it would not impose a great financial burden on the Government.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. A similar amendment was moved in another place but was rejected. As Senator Ormonde indicated in his speech at the second reading stage, the Bill seeks to extend the concession to a specific class of persons. I am sure that it is the desire of us all that sufferers from tuberculosis should enjoy the benefit of a tuberculosis allowance. It is desirable that such people should get treatment in the early stages of the disease. The proposal to extend concessional broadcast listeners and television viewers licences to these people is part of the broad concept that was expressed in the original Commonwealth and States tuberculosis agreement.
The amendment seeks to include in the definition of “ pensioner “ a person who is in receipt of a pension payable to the widow of a member of the Forces. A widow of a member of the Forces would not neces sarily be a war widow. A war widow is the widow of a person whose death is the result of a war caused disability. Senator Ormonde referred to the cost of the concession. If the concession were confined to war widows, the cost would be $400,000 in a full taxation year. I do not want it to be thought that it is not realised that other classes of people might well want to enjoy the concession. However, the Bill deals with a restricted class of people. Other classes have been considered, but it has been decided to restrict the application of the measure to persons who are in receipt of a tuberculosis allowance.
.- 1 have considered the measure. If it were not for some of the remarks made by Senator Ormonde, I would not have chosen to speak. As I understand the situation, a tuberculosis sufferer is subject to an income means test but not to a property means test. I understand that he is entitled to a tuberculosis allowance if he is in receipt of not more than $7 a week but that no means test is applied to his property. However, I am not sure of that. I should like to have some information on the matter.
– May I interrupt the honorable senator? I think he was referring to the weekly income, not the fortnightly income.
– I am not very much concerned about the amount. I understand that a certain amount has been fixed, not by regulation or statute but by some ministerial determination. I understand that under the Broadcasting and Television Act the concession relating to radio and television licences is confined to age and invalid pensioners, service pensioners and T.P.I, pensioners under the Repatriation Act, and to T.P.I, pensioners under the special area repatriation legislation. The T.P.I, pensioner is not subject to a means test - except in relation to earned income, as I have just been reminded by Senator Marriott. The recipient of a concession under the Broadcasting and Television Act is subject to a severe restriction in relation to income. Moreover, he must live alone or with ‘a person who is a pensioner. The amendment, which seeks to have the concession extended to any person who is in receipt of a pension payable to the widow of a member of the Forces, is unacceptable to me. The terms of the amendment do not correspond with anything contained in the Broadcasting and Television Act or the Repatriation Act.
I should like to have seen the concession made available to widows of T.P.I. pensioners. It is unconscionable that the widow of a T.P.I. pensioner should have her income reduced to less than one-half of her husband’s pension and then fail to receive the concessional television licence that he received during his lifetime. But there again, if we were to do this it would provide a benefit for that widow of £3 or £4 per year. I think it is mocking at the situation. She is entitled to a greater pension increase than that. I simply rise to express my interest in the general purpose of Senator Ormonde’s amendment and to say why I cannot accept it. I have expressed the other point of view that I think would achieve that general purpose.
Question put -
Thatthe words proposed to be inserted (Senator Ormonde’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 1 1 45), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959-1965. At the present time, a person who is a director, officer or employee of a corporation the business of which is wholly or mainly that of banking, is not eligible for appointment to, and may not continue to act as, a member of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. The recently established Papua and New Guinea Development Bank will need to have very close liaison with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. The proposed amendment will enable a member of the Corporation to be appointed as a member of the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank. We of the Opposition do not oppose the measure. We feel that it will facilitate and co-ordinate the activities of the great Commonwealth Banking Corporation.I am very pleased to see the development of the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank.I feel certain that its future will be as solid and secure as that of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. We support the measure and commend it to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in .1966-67 of special grants totalling $40,072,000 to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania. The payment of these amounts has been recommended by the Commonweal di Grants Commission in its thirty-third report which has already been tabled. The Bill also authorises the payment of advances to Western Australia and Tasmania in the early months of 1967-68 pending the receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and the enactment of new legislation. This provision is similar to that included in previous years in the legislation authorising the payment of special grants to the claimant States
In arriving at its recommendations for 1966-67 the Commission has continued to apply the principle of “ financial need “ under which special grants are designed to enable the claimant. States to provide government services at a standard not appreciably below that of the standard States, provided they make comparable efforts in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. As in recent years, the Commission has again taken New South Wales and Victoria as the standard States for the purpose of these comparisons. The Commission has also adhered to the method of recommending grants composed of two parts. One part represents an advance payment based on the Commission’s assessment of a claimant State’s financial needs in 1966-67 and is subject to final adjustment two years later when the Commission has completed its examination of the audited budget results of the States for that year. The other part of the grant represents a final adjustment, of the advance payment made two years earlier - in this case in 1 964-65 - and is now known as the completion payment.
The special grants recommended for payment in 1966-67 are compared with the grants paid in 1964-65 and 1965-66 in a table which, with the concurrence of the Senate. I incorporate in “ Hansard “.
The total amount of special grants recommended for payment in 1966-67 is $1,698,000 less than the grants recommended and paid in 1965-66. The reason for the decline in the total special grants this year is a fairly large reduction in the recommended grant for Western Australia. On the other hand, the special grant recommended for Tasmania for .1966-67 is larger than that for 1965-66. To explain these variations in total grants, it is necessary to look at the composite parts of the grants.
The recommended completion payments for 1964-65 are, in aggregate, $1,502,000 higher than those for 1963-64. When recommending the amount of the advance payments for 1964-65 the Commission worked on the assumption that the two standard States would have sizeable budget deficits in that year and the advance payments recommended were therefore
designed to leave the claimant States with comparable deficits. In fact, the budget results of the standard States were better than expected and the deficit budget standard finally adopted for 1964-65 was only 30 cents per head. Accordingly, the advance payments for 1964-65 were less than was subsequently found to be justified, and the completion payments now recommended are correspondingly greater. In addition, the Commission’s investigations revealed that Western Australia’s relative revenue and expenditure efforts were above those of the standard States, and it has therefore recommended a final completion payment which is sufficient to offset the deficit, budget standard and leave Western Australia with a small budget surplus for 1964-65. On the other hand, Tasmania’s relative efforts were judged by the Commission to have been slightly below standard and, consequently, the final completion payment now recommended leaves that State with a final budget deficit of about $450,000 in respect of i 964-65.
The effect, of adopting the Commission’s recommendations relating to the completion payments for 1964-65 would be to give Western Australia a total final special grant for that year of $20,506,000 - an increase of $5,668,000 or 38 per cent., on the total special grant paid in respect of 1963-64. Tasmania would receive a total final special grant for 1964-65 of $14,784,000- an increase of $3,252,000 or 28 per cent., on the total special grant paid in respect of the preceding year. In each case, the rate of increase in the special grants is considerably faster than that of the financial assistance grants paid to these States under the formula laid down in the States Grants Act 1959.
In the case of the advance payment for 1966-67, honorable senators will observe that the total amount recommended for payment is $3,200,000 less than in 1965-66. One reason for this reduction is that the Commission look the view that, unless the standard States increased taxes and other charges or restrained the rate of increase in their expenditures, they would have larger budget deficits than in 1965-66.
Accordingly, the Commission decided to adopt a considerably larger deficit budget standard than it used for purposes of framing last year’s recommendations. The effect of this is that the advance payments are framed on the basis that, in 1966-67, the claimant. States may have to make a greater effort than in 1965-66 to finance their expenditures from their own resources. Of course, the advance payments now recommended are subject to adjustment by the Commission in 1968-69 when the actual budget results of the claimant and standard States for 1966-67 have been reviewed.
Mention should also be made of the reduction of $6,300,000 in the advance payment recommended for Western Australia. This decline is partly due to the larger deficit standard adopted for 1966-67 and lo the Commission’s assessment of Western Australia’s relative efforts, but it also appears to reflect a decline in Western Australia’s need for special grants. The favorable seasonal conditions in Western Australia, combined with a general buoyancy in economic activity there, have had a beneficial effect on the State’s revenue, particularly from railway operations. The Western Australian budget is also beginning to benefit from the large mineral developments which are presently under way in that State. Although it is too early to be sure of this, a continuation of the rapid growth in Western Australia’s economy could lead to a further reduction in that State’s dependence on special grants.
The advance payment recommended for Tasmania is $3,100,000 greater than that recommended for 1965-66. This is a somewhat larger increase than occurred in the previous year and it appears to indicate continued growth in Tasmania’s dependence on the special grants.
In conclusion, I would like to take tha opportunity to pay a tribute to Mr. P. D. Phillips, C.M.G., Q.C., whose retirement as Chairman of the Commission was announced recently. Mr. Phillips served as the Commission’s Chairman for a period of six years. During his term as Chairman, Mr. Phillips upheld the high standard of his predecessors in this office and made a considerable contribution to the continuing work of the Commission. Mr. Phillips has been succeeded as Chairman by Sir Leslie Melville, K.B.E., who is already a member of the Commission.
The Grants Commission’s recommendations have been adopted by Parliament without amendment in each year since the Commission’s establishment, and the Government considers that they should again be adopted this year. I therefore commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Reports on Items.
– I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Vanillin and ethyl vanillin.
Co-operative Building Society.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Last night, speaking to the motion for the adjournment,I undertook that at the first opportunity I would use the forms of the Senate to quote from the report of the AuditorGeneral in Tasmania to illustrate the serious nature of charges made by the Auditor-General on the administration of a group of terminating building societies operating on the north west coast of Tasmania. It has been difficult to obtain the correct names of these societies as they are known as the Democratic Building Society, the D.L.P. Building Society and the North West Building Society. But a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Senator McManus, in raising the matter, placed strong emphasis on the name “ D.L.P.” being associated with the building society. It is very interesting to see Senator McManus trying to dissociate himself from the erstwhile leader of the D.L.P. in this place and also from Mr. Doody. He tried, using bluster and bluff, to intimidate me and to dissuade me from pursuing this very important matter. Senator Henty saw fit to cast aspersions at the Minister for Housing in Tasmania for not having taken action in this matter earlier. To clear up the matter, I would like to quote from page 57 of the report of the Auditor-General.
– For which year is this?
– For reference purpose, this is headed “ State of Tasmania “ and is the report of the Auditor-General under the Audit Act 1918 and the statement of public accounts prepared by the Treasurer for the financial year ended 30th June 1966, as presented to both Houses of the Parliament in accordance with the provisions of section 29 of the Audit Act.
– Have you a copy of the 1965 report, too?
– No, I have not.
– I thought the 1965 report contained a reference to this.
– To clear up the matter, I quote from the report. The Auditor-General said -
The provisions of the Co-operative Housing Societies Act 1963 fail to give the Minister or the Registrar power to act immediately on a report of the Auditor-General in circumstances such as these. It is difficult also to implement relative provisions of the Audit Act, for the accounts of the Co-operative Societies have for several years clearly shown deposits to the Building Society as investments, and have included improper drawings and interest arrears under Sundry Debtors.I can only conclude by saying that in my opinion the Chairman and Directors of the Societies have failed to carry out their responsibilities as trustees far the members, and I would be failing in my responsibilities if I did not bring this matter immediately to the attention of the Parliament.
It was brought to the attention of the Parliament on the day before I raised it in the Senate. He continued -
Eight of the nine Co-operatives are financed by loans from the Treasurer out of the Home Builders Fund established under the provisions of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, totalling in all $1,071,000, while the ninth hasa private loan of $100,000 guaranteed as to repayment by the Treasurer.
Last night Senator Cormack challenged me to produce this report. It was not readily available to me, but an extract from it had been published in the Launceston “ Examiner “. I was able to procure that before the debate concluded. The newspaper reports that were referred to last night mentioned a question asked of the Minister for Housing in Tasmania. The “ Mercury “ of Wednesday, 12th October - only a week ago - reported that the Minister had said that the officers and directors of the group of societies that were causing concern and worry to him were George Ronald Cole, Chairman of Directors until 6th October 1966, and, as directors, David Garfield Bird, Rex Alfred
Grundy, Bouke Koops, Terence Harold Midson, Simon Peter McQuillan, John Wyndham Nicholson and Kevin William Poison. The secretary was Terence John Doody. I promised the Senate that I would get in contact with a director of this society, and I havebeen requested to do so. TodayI phoned Mr. Rex Alfred Grundy of Oldaker Street, Devonport, relating to this matter and he told me of his great concern about his involvement in this publicity. He said that his name had appeared in a newspaper as a director of the society. He told me that he had never been officially nominated as a director. He had never lent his nameto any document as acquiescing in becoming a director. The first time that he knew he was a director was when his name appeared on this list, and the only contact he ever had with George Cole was when he went to negotiate a loan with George Cole who was the chairman of the society.
Mr. Grundy was rather in the position of having to choose whether he. should spend hard cash to engage legal assistance for the purpose of going to court to clear his name, or whether he should ask me to attempt to clear his name in the Senate. This I am attempting to do.I am trying to dissociate Mr. Rex Alfred Grundy completely from any knowledge of this position in which he had been placed, and without any knowledge by the chairman of directors of the North West Co-operative Building Society. If any further check was made with other directors, that is someone else’s business. I would like to tell the Senate that this man is very shocked and very aggrieved. He told me that people had come into his place of business and had criticised him for being in this position. He said that it was completely outside his control and that he was not responsible for being placed in the position.
– The honorable senator is just repeating a telephone conversation, is he?
– I did not have any other means of contacting him.I promised the Senate last night that I would contact him, andI did so. Otherwise I would not delay the Senate tonight. I gave an undertaking that I would do just that.
I propose now to place on record extracts from the Auditor-General’s report. At page 56, under the heading “ Audit under Section 50(6) “ the report states -
Subsection 6 of Section 50 of the Co-operative Mousing Societies Act 1963 provides as follows: -
The Minister may at any time require and authorise the Auditor-General to audit the accounts of a society and when so required and authorised the Auditor-General has, in respect of those accounts, all the powers conferred on him by law in relation to the audit of the public accounts, and shall at the completion of any such audit report thereon to the Minister.
At 30th June, 1965, there were 52 Societies registered under the 1963 Act and the accounts of each of these Societies are subject to audit by private auditors appointed by the Societies. On 2nd February, 1966, the Minister for Housing informed me that he was dissatisfied with the financial affairs of a group of nine societies operating in Launceston and on the North West Coast and as their auditor had not seen fit in the past to make any report to the Directors on several matters that had come to the notice of the Registrar, he authorised me to conduct an audit of the accounts of the nine societies concerned. On 22nd February the Societies’ auditor submitted reports to the Directors of the Societies in which he drew their attention to a number of matters of concern, including improper drawings from Societies’ funds, incorrect handling and withholding of insurance commissions, members’ arrears, failure to receive interest on investments, and a number of other matters reflecting on the financial administration of the affairs of the Societies.
Despite these belated reports some four months after the Annual Meetings of the several societies, I decided to carry on with a special audit by my own officers. Delays occurred because of the unavailability of officers of the Societies, but finally I submitted a report to the Minister under date 23rd May, 1966.
IfI could interpolate here, the AuditorGeneral just could not catch up with the officers of the societies. The report continues -
In this report I drew attention to: -
The improper drawings of the funds of the Societies by an officer of the Societies and the failure of this officer to repay these moneysto the Societies. At 30th June 1965 the amount concerned was $1,426.98 but by 4th April 1966 it had increased to $2,719.82.
The withholding by an officer of insurance premiums properly payable into the revenues of the Societies. The amount concerned in the two years 1963-64 and 1964-65 was $209.81.
The failure of the Societies to receive interest on investments made in a Building Society registered under the Building Societies Act 1876. At 30th June 1965 the sums invested totalled $7,000 and interest accrued and owing over a period of four years was $1,085.70. By 31st March 1966 the sums invested including accrued interest had increased to approximately $8,912.
– This was read out to us last night.
– Last night I was challenged to produce evidence, and I undertook to do so. The report continues -
The matters referred to above were brought to the attention of the Chairman of the Societies by my auditor in the course of audit and by the Registrar both before and after receipt by the Minister of my report of 23rd May. The Minister was obviously concerned at the matters raised in my report and the failure of the Societies to take positive action to correct the unsatisfactory position revealed, and on 22nd July, 1966, requested the Regis trar to write to the Chairman of the Societies expressing his concern and enclosing full details of my report.
On 10th August, one of my auditors again examined the books of the Societies and reported that there had been little improvement except that the Building Society had met interest payments to 30th June, 1965 and had repaid $5,000 of deposits, a total of $6,082.73. This latter amount would appear to be not unrelated to a discharge of the mortgage of $6,000 to which reference has already been made. The Building
Society still owed the Co-operatives $6,600 on account of deposits and approximately $300 accrued interest. The number of Directors of the Building Society would appear to have been reduced to one.
There are now no directors, because exSenator Cole retired as chairman of directors on 6th October, so now this group of building societies has no chairman of directors and its secretary is about to retire, too. The report continues -
The Building Societies Act 1876 requires a minimum of three. On receipt of this information I wrote to the Chairman of the Co-operative Societies drawing attention to the punitive measures of the Audit Act and requested the immediate attention of his Directors to the problems reported. On 2nd September a further letter was sent emphasising the need for immediate corrective action and a copy of this letter was sent to each Director personally. At the time of writing this Report no action was apparent despite a lapse of at least six months since the Chairman became officially aware of the State of the financial affairs of the Co-operative Societies.
The provisions of the Co-operative Housing Societies Act 1963 fail to give the Minister or the Registrar power to act immediately on a report of the Auditor-General in circumstances such as these. It is difficult also to implement relative provisions of the Audit Act, for the accounts of the Co-operative Societies have for several years clearly shown deposits with the Building Society as investments, and have included improper drawings and interest arrears under Sundry Debtors. I can only conclude by saying that in my opinion the Chairman and Directors of the Societies have failed to carry out their responsibilities as trustees for the members, and I would be failing in my responsibilities if I did not bring this matter immediately to the attention of the Parliament. Eight of the nine Co-operatives are financed by loans from the Treasurerout of the Home Builders Fund established under the provisions of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, totalling in all $1,071,000, while the ninth has a private loan of $100,000 guaranteed as to repayment by the Treasurer.
On further investigation, I discovered that it is difficult to find the registered names of these building societies, which are known locally as the D.L.P. co-operatives. Some of them are called Democratic Building Societies. They were formed during thetime when Mr. Cole was the Leader of the Democratic Labour Party in the Senate. His office was next door to the office of the “ Devon News “. The offices of these building societies were in the same office.
There we have the whole story of a crazy, mixed up organisation using large sums of money and not accounting for them in the way in which it was obliged by law to account for them.
– Under what names were the societies registered with the Registrar?
– It is such a devious type of thing that one cannot find out. Everyone is trying to defend this organisation. Senator Gorton is now trying to defend it. Last night Senator Cormack tried to do so, and Senator Henty tried to run a hare by saying that it was the fault of the State Minister. Senator McManus just about went mad last night. I have never seen any other man as ropable and as irresponsible as he was last night.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order !
– One would really think that 1 was in the box. The outcome of this matter will probably be that other people will finish up in the box. I suppose we all will finish up in a box. However, this is far too serious a matter for comments like that.
Senator McManus challenged me to make my statements outside the Senate. If he is not disillusioned since I have produced the documentary evidence on this matter and if he is not thoroughly ashamed of the conduct of some of his colleagues, if they are still his colleagues, or his former colleagues, he should be. Many of these organisations were formed while Mr. George Cole was a member of the Senate and was carrying responsibilities as leader of a party in the Senate. For the purpose of extending the activities of these societies, there was a close association between their names and that of his Party. Let me throw back an old saying that has been thrown at us quite often: If you waddle like a duck and you quack like a duck, people have every reason to believe that fhey are looking at a duck.
– I am looking at one now.
– You look at one every morning when you shave.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– However, the main point I wished to make was that 1 would produce this document here tonight. Evidently the Commonwealth Government is not very interested in the eventual destiny of the funds it makes available. It is pre pared to take a defensive attitude rather than show its concern and alarm that this type of thing could happen. It should be expressing the view that unless a new agreement is made between the Commonwealth and the States the legislation will be tightened up to the extent that this cannot possibly happen and should say that those associated with it have conducted themselves in a most reprehensible way. If there is any defence whatever that any Government supporter or any member of the D.L.P. can put up to justify this kind of conduct, then values have changed since my set were established.
– Senator O’ Byrne began his remarks with a statement that he was interested to see that in what I said last night I was dissociating myself from Senator Cole. Is that what the honorable senator said?
– I implied that.
– Last night 1 made it clear that I was making certain statements at the request of Senator Cole.
– Ex-Senator Cole,
– All I will say is that if by putting forward a statement on behalf of a man who cannot be here to defend himself I am dissociating myself from him, then I do not understand the meaning of the word. I tell Senator O’Byrne that I was a friend of ex-Senator Cole for many years and I am still his friend. I have never known him to do a dishonourable act. He is prepared to stand before any tribunal and meet any charges. But what I resent is that charges are made against him in a place where he cannot answer them by a man who, if Senator Cole had been here, would never have been game to stand up and face him.
– The charges were made against him in the report.
– That is all right. No-one objects to an investigation of these matters. What 1 object to is the snide way in which the matter has been brought before the Senate. Senator O’Byrne has been here long enough to know that although housing moneys are made available by the Commonwealth, the administration of housing is a matter for the States. It was a snide action on his part to stand up on the pretence that lie wanted the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to take action so that he could give publicity in this place, where ex-Senator Cole could not defend himself, to charges against his personal honesty. The honorable senator knew that it was not a matter for the Minister to deal with. The honorable senator knew that the matter was being dealt with by the
– I am getting into the honorable senator and he does not like it.
– I do not mind it. but the honorable senator is making a fool of himself.
Hie DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Senator O’Byrne was heard in silence. Senator McManus should .be afforded the same privilege.
– Mr. Deputy President. Senator McManus has a very loud voice and I do not like having this voice thrown at me. I would like him to moderate his voice a bit.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– J hope that these interruptions will not be taken off my time. My objection is to the snide way in which this matter, which has been investigated by a government of the honorable senator’s own Party, has been brought before this Federal House in a snide and unjustified way by a political trickster. If Senator O’Byrne was anxious-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator cannot reflect on ano:her honorable senator in that way.
– I withdraw the remark.
– 1 ask for the remark to be withdrawn and for an apology.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Senator O’Byrne has asked that the statement be withdrawn.
– I want him to apologise loo.
– 1 have already Withdrawn the statement completely. I want to point out that if Senator O’Byrne’s only desire was to look after the widows and orphans of Tasmania, all he had to do was to say: “ There are rumours in connection with the North West Housing Co-operatives, and there is a report by the AuditorGeneral. I would like the Minister to look into this matter as far as Commonwealth responsibilities permit.” But Senator O’Byrne did not want to put a straight, clean and normal question. He said: “ 1 would like the Minister to look into the Democratic Labour Party Housing Cooperatives.” Last night he explained that they were the North West Housing Cooperatives. In his question he went on to name two members of the directorate who happened to be members of the Democratic Labour Party. Tonight he announced that there are seven or eight who have been criticised. Continuing his question, he invited Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin to investigate whether money belonging to the housing co-operatives had been used for propaganda for the Democratic Labour Party and to finance a bankrupt newspaper. But he has not attempted tonight to produce a tittle of evidence that the money was ever used for those purposes.
– The court will do that.
Senator McMANUS__ The honorable senator says that the court will do that. Can there be any action lower than to get up and ask a question suggesting that money had been used for certain dishonest purposes by the Democratic Labour Party, when not one scrap of evidence has been produced by the Auditor-General that that was ever done?
Some years ago in the other place the point was reached when scandalous imputations of dishonesty were being made repeatedly against individual members of the community under the shelter of privilege. A kind of gentleman’s agreement was reached among members to cut this out in future. I do not object to any investigation. I have the authority of Senator Cole to say that he will welcome it, but I object to people on the pretext of high and noble motives asking for an investigation of a housing society that does not exist and then adding the dirty smear that money has been used for a political party when there is not a scrap of evidence of this.
I have the authority of the Secretary of the Democratic Labour Party in Tasmania to say that the Party has never been associated with any housing co-operative. As a political party obviously it could not and would not. No housing co-operative has ever been under the control of or associated with the Democratic Labour Party and there is no housing society with a majority of members who are members of the Democratic Labour Party. All honorable senators are aware of Senator O’Byrne’s personal hatred for ex-Senator Cole. It has been manifested in this chamber on many occasions. It has been plainly shown that Senator O’Byrne, while claiming to be acting from motives of humanitarianism, has been acting from motives of blatant personal dislike and political antagonism. This happens when ex-Senator Cole has just announced that he will be a candidate in the next Senate election. Senator O’Byrne knew that and, behind the shelter of privilege in a place where a man cannot speak for himself, he launched an attack upon him. He smeared his personal character, and I say-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I think the honorable senator is imputing improper motives. I ask him not to continue in that vein.
– Of course it is remarkable that I should impute any improper motives to Senator O’Byrne. But that will be examined, I have no doubt, in a court of law. Although you have said that the Minister for Housing in the Tasmanian Labour Party has failed in his duties-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! 1 suggest that Senator McManus address the Chair.
– I just say this in conclusion: There was, after all, a certain humour in the question asked by Senator O’Byrne. A question had been asked on this side which members of the Australian Labour Party thought reflected on them, and a number of them, including their leader, Senator Willesee, got up and made a plea for us to keep our questions on a high and noble plane, and some of us said”Hear, hear”. Then Senator O’Byrne got up and where did he finish? He was lower than the lowest tunnel in the Snowy Mountains scheme.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator cannot say that.
– He must withdraw that.
– 1 withdraw completely and fully.
– You are just a roughneck.
– I learned to be a roughneck in political circles in which you did not learn to take it. All you learned >vas to give it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– He was sneaking away in a cowardly manner while I was away doing a job for my country.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I suggest that good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary debate.
– He was bludging while f was doing my bit, and now he wants to send people to Vietnam.
– I do not want to have the Chair ask you to withdraw the suggestion that 1 was bludging and so on. I do not want the Chair to protect me, although you ask it to protect you. You have asked for protection a couple of times tonight. You will smear anybody, but you cannot take it.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy President. Senator McManus has been deliberately breaching your rulings. He has persisted in speaking directly to Senator O’Byrne in order to provoke him. He has persisted in making derogatory statements about Senator O’Byrne, contrary to the Standing Orders, and then using the device of withdrawing those statements. This is a clear breach of the Standing Orders.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator has made his point of order. It is not upheld. Senator McManus may continue.
– I will not detain the Senate much longer. I just want to say that ex-Senator Cole has authorised me to say thai he will welcome any investigation, and also that he will be very glad if Senator O’Byrne will make his statements outside the Senate, so that they can be rapidly tested in a court: of law. I just want to draw an analogy from Senator O’Byrne’s action in asking his question. He wanted to know whether a certain building or housing society’s affairs had been mismanaged, but instead of asking that question he asked a question about a body that does not exist. Then he added smears about the purposes for which the money was to be used, and he now admits that he has no evidence that the money was going to be used and there has been no statement by anybody to that effect. In other words what he is trying to do it to say that he believes two members of the Democratic Labour Party have acted wrongly and that therefore the D.L.P. is responsible for everything that he alleges those members did.
Let us take a parallel case. Suppose it was alleged that a member or members of the Australian Labour Party were guilty of tax evasion and I felt that the matter should be investigated. Would the proper course be for me to get up and say that I feared the laws of the country were being evaded in certain respects and that I wanted an investigation, or would it be for me to act as Senator O’Byrne has done and ask the Minister to investigate the Australian Labour Party Investment Company, although I knew such a body did not exist? Would it. be right for me to ask the Minister further to investigate, in particular, X and Y. two of its directors and say that I would like him to find out whether they had been using for some improper purpose money that they had saved up by evading taxation? If I asked my question in that way the whole of the Opposition side of the Senate would accuse me of being a smearer.
– That is what the honorable senator is.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– That is all right. I do not want that remark withdrawn. I have learnt to defend myself. All I wish to say is this: If I asked a question in that way, I would be a smearer according to the Australian Labour Party. But the Australian Labour Party will smear anybody in the country; it will collect every garbage can possible and throw it at other people-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– I withdraw, Mr. Deputy President. Then when the A.L.P. has thrown its garbage cans and smeared everybody in sight-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Senator McManus, if you persist in using these remarks you wm have to sit down.
– Very well. The members of the A.L.P. have done a number of reprehensible things, if 1 may go that far. But if the least thing is said about them they rise to their feet and ask the Chair to protect them.
– Mr. Deputy President, last night some controversy arose over this question. When tempers were very heated I entered the debate and tried to calm the troubled waters. I think I succeeded to some degree because some measure of logic came out of the argument. But the argument has continued tonight. We have heard accusations and counter accusations as to whether Senator O’Byrne is a lowdown heel who brings up-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I do not want the honorable senator to use such terms.
– I would not endorse that term. But I say that that is the impression one gains from the remarks of Senator McManus who puts himself forward as the-
– Angel of purity.
– Yes, as the angel of purity and the protector of the interests of the unfortunate individual who has not the right to defend himself here. The whole of the question that has been discussed over these two nights arose out of accusations against a particular cooperative building society that we now learn is the North West Housing Co-operative Society.
Although Government senators have joined in with “ hear, hears “ to what Senator McManus said, no-one has repudiated the damaging evidence that has been produced concerning the activities of the North West Housing Co-operative Society. Therefore, we come to the point that tha activities of this society were nol all fair and above board. As a result of the activities of the society certain people in Tasmania have suffered. The society acted in breach of certain laws. It used up CommonwealthState housing grant moneys in its activities. I do not think there is any disagreement on that point. The activities of the North West Housing Co-operative Society certainly cannot be condoned and must: be condemned by us.
The mistake seems to have occurred when Senator O’Byrne - it is claimed for political advantage - referred to this society as the Democratic Labour Party Housing Society or some other name. The reason for that, as Senator O’Byrne stated in his address this evening, is that the society is known locally as the Democratic Labour Party Society. That was the statement made by Senator O’Byrne. Apparently it is not known by that name. But when we look into the matter it is not only a questoin of two directors out of seven being members of the Democratic Labour Party. It is a question of two key members of the organisation, the chairman of directors and the secretary, being permanent members of the Democratic Labour Party. That is not disputed in this discussion. We also find that funds of the organisation were invested in a publication, now defunct or bankrupt, the purpose of which was to publicise the Democratic Labour Party. Can we condemn Senator O’Byrne for coming to the opinion that this was a Democratic Labour Party organisation?
– Did the honorable senator say there was evidence that money was invested in that publication of the society?
– Senator O’Byrne said that funds of the organisation were invested in the publication. The fact that the offices were next door to the publishing house, and the linking up of the activities of the personnel justify a belief that this was a Democratic Labour Party organisation. I do not think we can hide the justification for this belief, no matter what name the organisation might be registered under.
It is an entirely different thing if a question of tax evasion arises in relation to an individual or a company. But when you have a small party like this operating in Tasmania, when the number of its recognised leaders is limited, and when two of them are the chief administrative officers of an organisation that is investing its finances in some other activity in order to support that particular political party, and when the activities in which they are investing are found to be improper - the words used were that there were improper withdrawals on the account and improper handling of the society’s funds - surely it is logical to draw the conclusion that has been drawn - that there was an association between the party and the organisation. I do not think that we can take the issue much further. No-One, not even Senator McManus. seeks to justify what has been done by the North West Housing Cooperative Society.
– I rise to order. Senator Cavanagh has said that nobody, not even Senator McManus, seeks to justify what has been done. I made no statement in regard to justification.
Hie DEPUTY SPEAKER.- Order! The honorable senator will have a chance to explain that after Senator Cavanagh has finished his speech.
– A point of order can be valid only if the Standing Orders are breached. They were not breached on this occasion. The honorable senator cannot rise to make an explanation because someone has been -
– We will remind the honorable senator of this at some other time.
– Would you name the Minister, Mr. Deputy President? He is very impertinent. There was an accusation supported by documentary evidence, including the report of the AuditorGeneral, that the North West Housing Cooperative Society was doing something other than in accordance with the law. That is not disputed by anybody in this chamber, including Senator McManus. It may be that he has not raised the issue. I repeat that it has not been disputed by anybody in this chamber that the society is acting improperly. If an organisation is acting improperly and, as a result, the house hungry public including, as we were told last night, a widow with a certain number of children, are denied accommodation, then Senator
O’Byrne is prompted by a high and noble motive when he brings the matter before the Senate. He had a responsibility to bring the matter before the Senate.
Of course, if we were not interested in the organisation in question, there would be no protest against Senator O’Byrne bringing the matter before this House. If it were merely the North West Housing Cooperative Society that was involved, nobody would be concerned about whether it was brought before the Senate or not. The fact that some of us have an interest in the link up of the political organisation in question lends support to the claim that we want to protect its integrity. What interest would my friend from South Australia have in objecting to the high and noble motive of Senator O’Byrne in bringing this matter forward if it were not that his re-election is depen-dent upon a Democratic Labour Party that is sufficiently strong to thwart the opponents who threaten him with extinction at the next election?
– ls the honorable senator referring to me?
– is the honorable senator raising a point of order? If he is not, he has no right to rise.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! ls Senator Mattner raising a point of order?
– Yes, under the Standing Orders. I ask whether Senator Cavanagh was referring to me when he passed a remark which indicated that I was supporting an allegation that is supposed to be against the interests of widows and children?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– lt was obvious that I was referring to the honorable senator when I said “ my friend “. I have no 0’her friends. I did not accuse the honorable senator of supporting an organisation in ils efforts to rob widows and children. What 1 accused the honorable senator of was having a vested interest in trying to dissociate this corruption from a party upon which he is relying for his permanence in this chamber. I think his criticism of Senator O’Byrne arises from the fact that it has been shown conclusively that corruption has taken place and that there is a close link between that corruption and the political organisation which the majority of honorable senators opposite wish to perpetuate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator must not reflect on other honorable senators in that way.
– Far be it from me to have any such intention. I think they were prompted by the highest motives of self-preservation. 1 do not want to take the matter any further than to convey to Senator O’Byrney not only the appreciation of this side of the Senate but also the appreciation of the whole of the Australian people who believe in justice, fair play and the ending of corruption in business activities.
– I thank Senator Cavanagh for his kindness, but I Think that when he reads “ Hansard “ tomorrow hp will have quite a different conception of what the words he used actually mean. So far as my political future is concerned, 1 have no interest whatsoever in the Democratic Labour Party. I have never been interested in that Party, and I resent and reject the honorable senator’s insinuation that I. ever supported that Party or ever looked for any support from it. Senator Cavanagh would have us believe that he is full of the milk of human kindness. We could almost see it dripping from him. Actually, it was something worse than the sap of the Scotch thistle. If, after sitting in his chamber listening to him tonight, I. dared to suggest that Senator Cavanagh’s name should be Senator Khrushchev, or Senator Ho Chi Minh he would be the first one to jump to his feet, and demand a withdrawal. And rightly so.
I did not want to enter into this debate because a third party in an argument usually gets it from both sides but I do want to make perfectly clear to Senator Cavanagh and to all other honorable senators opposite that I have never, either inside or outside this chamber, supported any action that would hurt a widow, a child, an orphan or anyone else.
– in reply - I should like to enter this debate very briefly because it seems to me that one important point was touched on and skated over by Senator Cavanagh. I do agree with one thing that he said. He said that if Senator O’Byrne when bringing this matter before the Senate had referred to the North West Co-operative Building Society as carrying on in the way described by the Auditor-General, nobody in this chamber could have raised any objection. We might have pointed out that it was basically a matter for the State Government to deal with, but further than that I do not think anybody would have had any objection. One would have imagined that the sole motive for his question was to draw attention to certain wrong things which had been done by certain companies - a good motive. But that was not what he did. What he did was to draw the attention of the Senate to the actions of a company which he called by a wrong name. He called it the Democratic Labour Party Co-operative Building Society, which, apparently, is not its name.
– We do not really know that, either.
– We are told now we do not really know the names of the company or companies. Presumably, if the law of Tasmania requires, asI imagine it does, that companies shall be registered, then the proper names of the companies would be found in the companies register of that State. I would imagine that somebody who had devoted such attention to this matter as Senator O’Byrne obviously has would have known the names of the companies. But it is apparent from what he has told us now that the company is called the North West Co-operative Building Society and not the Democratic Labour Party Co-operative Building Society. That is one significant thing which could lead somebody to object to the matter being brought before the Senate in that way that misdescription of the company concerned. One may be pardoned for having some doubt as to the motives in this matter. Suggestions were then made to us by Senator O’Byrne, not only that the company was called by the wrong name, but also that the funds which were alleged to have been misappropriated were wrongly used for the Democratic Labour Party. There appears to be no jot or tittle of evidence to justify this statement.
It does not seem to me to be an indication of a high and noble motive to call a com pany by a wrong name when you do it so that some party to which you are opposed is held up in public as having misappropriated funds. It does not seem to me to be an indication of a high and noble motive to suggest without evidence that some party to which you are opposed has benefitted as a result of some wrongdoing by some company. On many occasions it has been pointed out that certain organisations in this country which have on their controlling body one, two or three Communists, the others not being Communists-
– I take a point of order. Is the Minister referring to the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– Mr. Deputy President,I would like to assure you that I was not referring to the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party, butI am sure that Senator Keeffe knows more about it than I do. On many occasions it has been pointed out that certain organisations have on their controlling body one, two or three Communists out of a group, and it has been suggested that the body is under the Communist Party influence and is working on behalf of the Communist Party. Senator Cavanagh has leapt to his feet and said that there are people other than Communists involved in this matter; that it is quite wrong to suggest that just because this has happened the body is working on behalf of the Communist Party and that this is a frightful smear. I wonder whether he would regard it as a true and noble motive if that was suggested. I think that this is on all fours with the present matter. I would think that if this company is brought to the courts and if it is found that it has acted wrongly, it is a good thing that it has been brought to the courts. But it is a pity that that should have been tarnished by what has all the indications of being a deliberate attempt to attach blame to people who are not directly connected with the matter, when there is no evidence at all to justify the accusation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19661020_senate_25_s32/>.