26th Parliament · 1st Session
Hie PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry seen a report of criticism of Australian senior management made on Wednesday by the President of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures? Does the Minister agree with the President’s claim that there has been an over emphasis on building walls around our assets instead of risking some part of our riches in international trade’? Has the Department of Trade and Industry any plans for encouraging industry to further develop its management sector so that it may adequately match its international counterparts?
– I have not read the report to which the honourable senator refers, but now that it has been drawn to my attention I will have an examination made of it. The Department of Trade and Industry has initiated a number of measures to encourage industrial management to match its international counterparts by exports. Among these measures are the export incentives legislation and the establishment of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, which encourages management to seek out export opportunities in overseas markets against international competitors. Also, the Department of Trade and Industry has a section which encourages further efficencies in Australian industry: For example, this section has promoted the use of inter-firm comparisons. I think that this is a very important aspect - encouraging Australian industries to make comparisons amongst themselves which can only result in increased efficiency.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware that on the return of a delegation from Vietnam in July last year attention was drawn by members in this Parliament and by the leader of the delegation to the lack of simple drugs which were itemised in both hospitals controlled by our Australian medical and nursing personnel in Vietnam? Can the Minister advise why my simple question of almost two months ago asking whether these drugs had been supplied ‘ has not been answered? When can I expect a reply?
– I shall take up this matter at once for the honourable senator. If, as he says, it is now two months since he asked the question, I must have overlooked following it up. 1 apologise for that and I shall see that the matter is taken up at once.
– J address my question to the Minister representing th’e Minister for Health. Have any discussions taken place with the Department of Health in regard to financing the tremendous increase in pharmaceutical benefits costs by an insurance scheme on a basis comparable with that of hospital and medical benefits? If so, can the Minister inform the Senate of the results of these negotiations?
– The question of financing the costs of drugs and medicinal preparations by an insurance scheme on a basis comparable with that of the hospital and medical benefits schemes has been carefully examined on a number of occasions. While it might be possible to devise an insurance scheme of that type, the Government is convinced that the present pharmaceutical benefits scheme is the best method of assisting the public to meet the costs of drugs and medicinal preparations. The honourable senator will be aware that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme provides for a very wide range of drugs and medicinal preparations to be supplied free to persons enrolled in the pensioner medical service and at a cost of only 50c a prescription to other members of the community. This assistance is of particular significance in the case of the more expensive drugs and medicinal preparations.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the suggestion is correct that the Department of Civil Aviation intends to transfer the training school for fire fighters from Mascot to Tullamarine.
– I saw in the Press this morning an article containing the suggestion referred to by the honourable senator. I had the advantage of listening to a question put to the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place this morning. In his reply the Minister indicated that because of a re-arrangement of runways and runway areas at Mascot airport it will be necessary to resite the training school for fire fighters which is at present located there. He made the point quite clearly that at a very much lower level in the Depart- ment the whole position was being examined. He gave an assurance in his reply that the school would be resited in the Mascot area.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by reminding him that the people of Australia - particularly the people who have come within the ambit of a disaster - are cognisant of the ready sympathy and prompt offers of aid which flow from the Commonwealth. Does the Government recognise that where mass disaster occurs the sympathies of the public are aroused to a degree which prompts aid by the Government? Does the Minister recognise that financial disaster which occurs in isolation to individuals, whether by drought, fire, or flood, is as important to the individuals concerned as it is to the people involved in mass disaster? Will the Government consider the establishment of a Commonwealth disaster fund or the provision of assistance to State governments to establish such a fund specifically designed to be accessible to people who in isolation sustain personal and financial disaster?
– The Commonwealth Government has always fully recognised what happens in national disasters. It always follows the procedure of awaiting the State government’s assessment of the disaster damage - after all, the State Government is the sovereign government in the area - and information as to what it believes is necessary to assist to the utmost. That is the normal procedure. It is the way in which the matter always comes to the Commonwealth Government. As has been said many times already in this House and in other places, following the recent bush fire disaster in Tasmania the Commonwealth
Government has acted with the utmost generosity towards Tasmania. The honourable senator has asked me whether a policy should be adopted in respect of individual disasters. I have to remind him that as it is a matter of policy, it is not a matter for a question without notice.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government. I understand that the autumn term of Parliament will conclude on or about 11th May and that when the Parliament reassembles the Government will bring down the 1967-68 Budget. Will the Minister and his colleagues consider favourably the question of excluding all ex-service recipients of war pensions from the means test?
– The honourable senator has named a date on which the sittings will conclude. He is a little gamer than I am to do that. I must say that progress to date in passing legislation has not indicated to me that we will complete our business in record time. I repeat to the Senate what I have said many times: 1 am completely opposed to late sittings because of legislation banking up and then being dealt with at the end of the sessional period. Over the last two years we have managed to order our business so that it has been handled in a proper and sensible manner. At this stage I mention no date, as the honourable senator has done, for the conclusion of the sittings. Having said that, I now tell the honourable senator that the matter he has raised is one of policy. If he puts his question on the notice paper I will bring it to the attention of the Treasurer who, of course, considers all such requests when the Budget is being prepared.
– Has the Minister for Housing seen a statement reported to have been made recently by an Adelaide banker in which home ownership as compared with tenancy was discussed? Has there been any movement of emphasis away from home ownership towards tenancy of homes? Does the Department have any plan to include matters of tenancy in its activities, or will the emphasis continue to be placed on a policy of home ownership?
– 1 saw this article but was not able to read all of it. However, I read that portion relating to the aspect to which the honourable senator has referred. This Government’s policy has always been to encourage home ownership; we believe in home ownership. The honourable senator might be interested to know that according to the 1961 census 70.3% of occupied private dwellings were either owned or were in the process of being purchased. Australia has, if not the highest degree of home ownership in the world, at least very close to it.
Because we believe in home ownership we have endeavoured to assist people to acquire their own homes. We introduced the legislation known as the Homes Savings Grant Act which has assisted a number of young people to acquire their own homes. According to figures issued this week, 75,610 young people have been assisted in this way to the extent of $33,920,331, We also introduced legislation to set up the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. To the end of March 1967, this body has insured over 4,000 loans to the value of more than $32m and is currently writing business at the rate of $45m to $50m a year. We also recognise the tremendous importance of rental housing and through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement this matter is looked after. As the honourable senator knows, State housing commission houses, which are under the jurisdiction of State Ministers for Housing, make available rental houses to those persons in the low income group who wish to have rental houses. So I think that our policy can well be said to be designed to assist both those who wish to own their own homes and those who wish to live in rental homes provided by State housing commissions.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform me whether his Department intends to open an office at Townsville, in north Queensland, and if so on what date will the office be established?
– This matter is under consideration in the Department at the moment. When finality is reached one way or another I shall take the opportunity to advise the honourable senator of the outcome.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise elaborate on his recent announcement relative to the easier entry dutywise into Australia of certain articles and vehicles being brought by persons entering Australia? Does the Minister expect any marked diminution in the collection of duty or any adverse effect on Australian manufacturing?
– Answering the last part of the question first, I would say that it would be proper to indicate that if we ease controls in relation to entry of goods there will be some slight variation in relation to revenue, but it is not regarded as a significant figure in this instance, and the relaxation is not regarded as an injury to manufacturing industries in Australia.
As from 17th April certain easings in respect of entry of goods became operative. In the first place, a passenger coming to Australia to settle will be able to bring in furniture and effects free, regardless of value. I am sure that everybody will agree that this is quite a sensible approach to the matter. Persons will need to have had the furniture and home effects for at least 12 months. This will be of significance to people who are coming here to settle. Previously the concession was restricted to goods to the value of $2,000 per adult passenger and to the value of $1,000 per child passenger.
Secondly, it has been decided to ease the restriction in relation to the entry of motor vehicles. Previously it was necessary for a person to have owned and been in possession of a motor vehicle for 18 months before he could bring it into Australia duty free. In special circumstances where there was justification that period was brought back to fifteen months. It has been decided to bring the period back to fifteen months regardless of circumstances, so that if a person has owned a vehicle for a period of 15 months he may bring it into this country free of duty.
The third item relates to such things as sailing boats, motor boats, or like recreational craft of a kind ordinarily towed on a trailer behind a motor car. There is a little difficulty of description here. I want honourable senators to understand that this matter is related really to the motor car question. The article comes in under the same conditions as does a motor vehicle. It has to be owned and in the possession of a person for a period of 15 months. The concession relates only to boats that can be towed on trailers behind motor vehicles. It is calculated to help individual people who have such boats.
The fourth concession will increase the amount of goods subject to free entry. The value of goods and souvenirs that can be brought in free of duty has been increased from $60 to $100 per passenger. Although that amount remains constant, other goods to the value of $160 per passenger can be brought in at a special rate of 25%. Finally 1 refer to electrical goods. The concession in relation to transistor radios remains. Each person may still bring in one transistor radio duty free. There is a concession in relation to the entry of portable, battery operated gramophones, tape recorders and dictating machines. Each person may bring in duty free one of these machines, but no more than one. The normal rates of duty have to be paid on any others brought in. I am certain that this is a sensible extension of the concessions. This extension has been operative since last Monday. I am quite certain that all the concessions will add up to an encouragement of people to come to Australia.
– Has the
Minister for Customs and Excise seen a report that his Department has announced that it has cancelled an import agreement with a book company and that investigations of the company’s activities are continuing? Is it suggested by the Department that there is an attempt to dodge payment of duty or is it considered that the publications imported are not fit to be read by the Australian people? Is this investigation an isolated instance or are inquiries proceeding in regard to any. other book companies? Can the Minister say what is the basis of these agreements between the Department and book companies and how many such agreements have been entered into?
– I would say that the general answer to the question asked by the honourable senator would be no. There is an arrangement between the Department of Customs and Excise and book publishers to facilitate the quick passage of publications, in the main books and magazines. Having regard to the regulations relating to the prohibition of imports, there is an arrangement based on a system under which the Department does not have to clear each individual book and under which the publishers take all the books to their own warehouses. There they hold the books in what we might regard as an internal bond. They take the books there and keep them there for their convenience. A customs officer comes along, looks at them and clears them. When a book is on the prohibited list or when a judgment has to be made on a book and that judgment is pending or the book is actually under scrutiny, there has to be very strict control. As a routine procedure, officers of the Department go along from time to time to satisfy themselves that the arrangement is working effectively. We must bear in mind that the arrangement is calculated to facilitate the work of the Department, to help the publisher obtain a quick clearance of his books and to help the public who may be anxiously waiting to read particular types of books.
In the instance referred to by the honourable senator, an inspection was made and the Department is not certain that the arrangement is working satisfactorily. So it has cancelled the arrangement pending the negotiation of a new arrangement that will be satisfactory to the Department and will make all the necessary provisions for security. This arrangement applies in respect of imports to all book publishers who seek such an arrangement. There is nothing peculiar about it. It is an excellent arrangement. In this particular instance the arrangement has fallen down. Pending the arrangement of a suitable system with this particular company, it has to bring its goods in under the normal system rather than under this special arrangement.
– I rise with great temerity to ask about a question that has been on the notice paper for only a fortnight. I refer the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to question No. 95 which concerns the financial arrangements for the referendum. The main part of the question asks whether an equal amount of money will be made available by the Government to those supporting the Yes case and the No case,I admit that my question has been on the notice paper for a fortnight only, but the referendum is only five weeks off. Can I have an answer to this question?
– I do not know whether or not the honourable member can have an answer. I will try to see that he receives his answer.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army.I also refer to the failure to provide answers to questions on the notice paper. On 28th February last, I gave notice of question No. 30 asking whether or not some national servicemen had been forced to travel without sleeper accommodation between Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, and Queensland. No answer has been given to this question, which would seem to be one that could be readily answered. I wonder whether the Minister can explain the delay in obtaining this information.
– Here again, I cannot give the reason for the delay, but I remind honourable senators that it is outside the control of Ministers who in the Senate represent Ministers in another place to see that answers are provided by their colleagues in a reasonably short space of time. I have mentioned before that when answers to be supplied by other departments are delayed we remind those departments that answers have not been received. I also wish to remind honourable senators that the preparation of answers to quite a number of questions that are asked requires a great deal of investigation. Indeed, many of these questions do not receive precedence over more important matters. If this were not so, there would be a whole army of people doing nothing else but chasing up a lot of information that is not of an urgent nature. This is one of the reasons why it sometimes takes a long time for honourable senators to receive replies to their questions.
(Question No. 23)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Whyis there such a variation in the length of time - from two days to two months - between the date of medical examination of national service trainees and the date of notification of the result of such examinations?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer:
A decided variation is inevitable: it reflects the processes involved in the medical examination of registrants. A registrant found by a medical board not to meet the standards required by the Army can be advised without delay. If this is not the case, he is required to undergo a chest X-ray. If, either as the result of the normal medical board examination or the subsequent X-ray examination, the medical board considers that specialist medical opinion should be obtained, the necessary arrangements are made. In some cases more than one specialist opinion may be needed. The time involved in arranging for specialist medical examination depends on the location of the registrant, the nature of the condition to be investigated and the availability of the appropriate specialist or specialists. The registrant cannot be advised of his position until this process is completed.
(Question No. 34.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
From which displaced persons camps in Austria and West Germany does Australia draw a portion of its European migrant quota?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer:
Refugees living in camps in Western Europe or within the community are eligible to apply for assisted passages to Australia. There is no quota or other numerical limitation on the number who may be accepted. Applications are received from refugees in the Traiskirchen and Reichenau Camps in Austria and in the Zirndorf Camp in Germany.
(Question No. 88)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
Was 75% of the sum of $3,111,000 provided this financial year for the welfare of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory spent by the end of March last?
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answer:
Expenditure at 31st March 1967 on welfare of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory was $2,229,252, that is, 71.65% of the appropriation for this financial year.
(Question No. 89)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
In view of the high expense incurred by the British Government in combating the effects of the wrecked oil tanker’Torrey Canyon’, with its resultant beach pollution, will the Attorney-General advise what liability would be accepted by oil shipping companies in the event of a similar mishap in Australian waters?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
The question has been taken to be directed to the matter of the legal liability of the shipping companies in the circumstances mentioned in the question. This is not a matter that it would be appropriate to advise on in reply to a parliamentary question. However, it should be said that the legal and technical problems raised by the Torrey Canyon’ incident are engaging the attention of the Government. In its examination of the mutter the Government will consider not only the recent experiences of the British Government, with which it has been in contact in relation to the incident, but also the outcome of the study being undertaken by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation - of which the Australian Government is a member - in consequence of the incident.
(Question No. 129)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Is America, with the knowledge of the Australian Government, using in Vietnam bombs with nuclear warheads for underground explosions to destroy tunnels occupied by the Vietcong?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– I ask a question without notice. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration ask her colleague to make a special request to his officers in Great Britain to see whether it is possible to entice male hairdressers to come to Australia? The reason I ask is that although in Australia there is a long hair cult, some of us like to have our hair cut. I have been informed that in Victoria hairdressers are extremely scarce.
– I shall bring this question to the notice of my colleague the Minister for Immigration.
– by leave -I should like to tell the Senate that the third Redstone rocket to be fired in the Sparta research programme was successfully launched at Woomera at 9.07 Eastern Standard Time, this morning. Project Sparta is the result of a tripartite agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia and is intended to obtain information on the physical phenomena associated with the re-entry of rockets into the atmosphere. The programme calls for ten Redstone rocket launchings at Woomera.
The Senate will be interested to know also that Surveyor III, launched from Cape Kennedy on Monday, successfully made a soft landing on the moon at 10.04 this morning. It was a copybook landing and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is to be congratulated on this fine technical achievement. This spacecraft will, among other experiments, dig samples of the moon’s surface to show whether it will support the weight of a manned spacecraft. The digging operations will be televised to earth. A description of the final hour of Surveyor’s journey to the moon was transmitted direct from America to Tidbinbilla tracking station for the benefit of a group of Australian journalists who were invited to the station this morning. Tidbinbilla tracking station will be in communication with Surveyor III from about 4.15 this afternoon.
– by leave - In accordance with sections 3 and 5 of the State Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1966, I report to the Senate that following discussions with the Minister for Education in Victoria, Mr Bloomfield, agreement has been reached in respect of Commonwealth grants to nine colleges in Victoria, which will in future be treated as separate colleges of advanced education.
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the approved maximum Commonwealth grant to each of these nine colleges both for recurrent and capital expenditure for the 1967-69 triennium. The capital expenditure figures are within the total already agreed upon in the 1966 Act but the recurrent expenditure represents an addition to recurrent expenditure provided for in the 1966 Act.
By way of explanation, I recall to honourable senators that in the original Bill a provision called the ‘base year provision’ applied. This was a provision which said that the Commonwealth would only match expenditure which was in excess of a State’s expenditure in a base year. The base year taken was 1964-65. Recently, with the concurrence of all the States, the Commonwealth agreed not to apply that base year provision but instead agreed to match all recurrent expenditure for courses which we approve in colleges of advanced education. Figures in the table that I have just provided take this new decision into account.
Before this decision can become effective, however, it is necessary for Parliament to pass the necessary legislation and such legislation is being prepared and will be introduced into the Parliament in the near future. The remaining eleven colleges of advanced education in Victoria will have Commonwealth grants totalling $7,554,240 for recurrent purposes and $5,562,000 for capital purposes in the triennium. All in all the new arrangements, should Parliament agree, will give Victoria a maximum Commonwealth grant of $8,981,000 for recurrent expenditure, and $6,312,000 for capital expenditure, an increase of $4,589,000 over what was available under the earlier arrangements.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate advising the appointment of Senators Benn, Drury and Poyser to the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures.
Debate resumed from 19 April (vide page 938), on the motion:
That the Bill be now read a second time, but the Senate condemns the Government because it has failed to -
eliminate the injustices of discrimination between the rates of married and single pensioners;
increase adequately all rates of pensions and social service benefits to meet the increased cost of living;
institute a national inquiry into poverty and social welfare in Australia;
carry out its policy of abolishing the means test as promised as long ago as 1949, and
make benefits retrospective to the date of the last elections, 26th November 1966.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I want to touch on only two matters in Committee. One concerns the reply of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to the second reading debate. I hope that the Minister will take note of it. The Minister will recall that in my speech at the second reading stage I referred to cottage and church homes. I informed the Senate that for the purpose of legitimate reduction of assets in respect of the means test a limitation of $2,000 is placed upon people who enter into a contract to buy cottage or church homes of the type which attract a government subsidy. In the Minister’s reply I think she inadvertently missed the point I was trying to make. The Minister stressed the fact that regardless of the limitation of $2,000, the people concerned could still reduce their assets considerably in other directions. I do not challenge that. My point is - and I would like to hear the Minister’s comments on this aspect - that for a considerable time the limitation of $2,000 has applied to people who enter cottage and church homes, whereas at present many people entering into such contracts are obliged to pay added costs of between $3,000 and $3,500. I made the plea that it seemed to me to be unfair, because another pensioner could build a small cottage for about $4,000 and have that amount recognised as a legitimate reduction of assets for the purpose of pension entitlement. Therefore it seems unfair that people who enter cottage or church homes have a limitation of $2,000 placed upon them for that purpose.
I suggested to the Minister that the time may have come when the Government would be justified in giving consideration to increasing the ceiling from $2,000 to $3,000. I am not concerned with what other assets these people may have. I believe the principle to be that in this day and age an amount of $2,000, especially when compared with the benefits open to pensioners in respect of the means test in other directions, no longer meets requirements. I hope that the Minister will look at this matter in the light of what these people can have in addition to the sum of $2,000. I hope she will ask herself whether it is fair that simple, honest people who use some of their assets to buy into a church home should incur a limitation of $2,000 in respect of the deposit they pay, and that the limitation should not apply in any other sense in a pensioner’s reduction of assets.
There is nothing to prevent a pensioner from spending $5,000 in purchasing a motor car. No limitation of $2,000 is imposed on that purchase. It seems to me to be utterly illogical and truly unfair that the limitation of $2,000 imposed in respect of the purchase of a church home should not be looked at. Now that honourable senators follow me in this matter, I think they will agree that my proposition is not unreasonable. I believe it to be just.
At the second reading stage I pointed out that a possible reason for the limitation is that the homes to which I refer attract a government subsidy. While it may be a reason, it is not justification and I think honourable senators will agree with me on that point. I think the very least that the Government can say is: ‘Let us forget about this limitation of $2,000. Whilst it may have been justified five or six years ago it is not justified today. Let us have a look at the possibility of making it at least $3,000’. If the Government did so, I think it would take a step towards giving justice to the people concerned.
The only other matter I want to raise very briefly relates to invalid pensions. I did not have time to deal with this in my contribution to the second reading debate and Senator Poyser was good enough to do it for me. He dealt with the requirement of 85% disability before a person can qualify for an invalid pension in Australia. I do not know where this mystic 85% originated, but I know that the percentage is not uniform throughout the world. I am informed on reliable authority that in Sweden, for instance, a person calculated to have only 50% disability qualifies for an invalid pension. The percentage varies in other countries, but to my knowledge never reaches 85%.
Senator Poyser mentioned, I think quite rightly, the difficulty confronting members of the medical profession when they have to assess the degree of physical disability from which a person suffers. They do not have to consider the question of a person’s employability. All they have to do is try to justify in their own minds the decision whether or not this mystic level of 85% disability has been reached in the person being examined. One doctor has freely admitted to me that the best he can do is make a guess. There may be borderline cases in which a doctor plays safe. You cannot blame him for playing safe, because his medical reputation is at stake. If I were a doctor and had to make a dogmatic decision in respect of the percentage of a person’s disability to meet the rigid requirements of the Act as presently constituted, I would probably play safe too.
Not only the medical assessment of a person’s percentage of disability but, more importantly, the question whether a person is, in the real sense of the word, employable, should be taken into consideration. I cite to the Senate only one case which I think will readily convey what I mean. Some two months ago a woman who was seeking an invalid pension came into my office. She walked with difficulty with the aid of a stick. She told me she had had a serious operation on one of her lungs and that part of that lung had been removed. She told me also that she had had an operation on her back which had left her with a permanent weakness. She had applied for an invalid pension but the medical officer who examined her did not believe that she reached the requirement of 85% disability. I am not disagreeing with the doctor, because I have no medical knowledge and am not competent to say whether he was right or wrong, but after making a reasonable assessment of what I believe the woman’s condition to be I would not regard her as employable in any capacity.
– Would anyone employ her?
– Certainly not.
– Least of all a Commonwealth department.
– That is right. I want honourable senators to note that the woman who had these disabilities was over fifty years of age. I tried to think of any field in which I could employ her if I had a business, but could not think of one. I am positive that no employment agency, no matter how much it tried, could find any place where this woman could be usefully employed and receive a wage which would sustain her. Do we leave people in the condition I have mentioned, suspended forever, like Mohammed’s coffin between earth and sky, because one department says they are not sick enough to receive the pension and another department says they are not well enough to do a job? Surely we can adopt a more humane and practical way of looking at this question of whether people should receive the invalid pension. Let us give the doctor the added right to say not just whether there is an 85% physical disability, but whether in his opinion and in the opinion of other persons qualified in the employment field to determine these matters, the person is in fact unemployable. If there is no employment open to a person because of this disability, the 85% provision becomes meaningless, I am sure the Committee will agree with me. I ask the Minister and the Government that she represents to give earnest consideration to both of these matters. Clause 26 reads: (1.) In so far as an amendment made by this Act that comes into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent affects instalments of pensions or allowances, the amendment applies in relation to an instalment of a pension or an allowance, as the case may be, falling due on the first pension pay day after the date on which this Act receives the Royal Assent and to all subsequent instalments. (2.) In so far as an amendment made by this Act that comes into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent affects instalments of service pensions under the ‘Repatriation Act 1920-1966, the amendment applies in relation to an instalment of a service pension falling due on the first service pension pay day after the date on which this Ant receives the Royal Assent and to all subsequent instalments.
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendments:
In sub-clause (1), leave out ‘the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent’, insert ‘the twenty-sixth day of November one thousand nine hundred and sixty-six.’
In sub-clause (2), leave out ‘the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent’, insert ‘the twenty-sixth day of November one thousand nine hundred and sixty-six.’
The request proposes that the benefits conferred in this legislation shall be made retrospective to 26th November 1966. If it was the belief of the Government just before the election last year that these increases were justified, their implementation becomes a question only of time. I suggest that if the Parliament had met in the week following the elections the Government would have had a pretty clear obligation to implement its promises immediately. This being the case, I can see no reason why the request should be resisted. If a substantial amount of money - millions of dollars - were involved, there might be some reason for saying that the payment of the increases ought to be delayed, but I remind the Committee that the amount involved for the rest of the current financial year is only about $2m, so the amount involved in meeting the Opposition’s request would be, at a rough estimate, no more than about $3. 5m. So it is not a question of the coffers of the Commonwealth being emptied -as a result of making the payment retrospective to 26th November. I leave the matter there. I hope that the Committee will support the request.
– I wish to make a point in relation to what Senator Toohey has said - again Senator Poyser has directed my attention to this - in connection with the 85% provision. If honourable senators can point out anything sillier and more stupid than this do try to show me. A medical man is asked to say a patient is 85% unfit - unfit for what? If he was 85% unfit as a human being he would probably be semi-comatose, anyhow. This is so nonsensical that one just cannot understand what the Department is chasing. If it means 85% unfit for his job, that is something that a medical officer can within reason estimate, but it is not what he is asked to do.
– It is 85% incapacitated.
– Incapacitated. If a man is unfit he is incapacitated. I believe that my argument still holds. All that a doctor can do when a patient comes to him for this purpose is say that the patient is unfit for the job that he is doing at that time. But after he goes to a rehabilitation centre and is rehabilitated he can probably do another job. The present position is just hopeless. Incidentally, I point out that Commonwealth departments are the worst offenders in regard to the employment of disabled people. I can think of two instances in which the question of the employment of disabled people had to be taken up with the Postmaster-General’s Department. These two people refused to stay on because they were temporary employees. They could not be superannuated because they could not pass the medical examination for entry to the superannuation scheme. Obviously they could not. Surely some arrangement must be made so that such people can be employed by Commonwealth Departments.
I refer now to proposed new sections 133q and 133r. They relate to pensions for mental hospital patients. Taking the jargon out of proposed new section 133q. I take it to mean that a pensioner entering a mental hospital will now be entitled to receive his pension. We have been fighting for this for twelve or fifteen years. It has been on the agenda of every conference of Ministers for Health. Last year, after a lot of trouble, we saw a ray of light. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) decided that a pensioner would receive his pension for the last six weeks of his stay in a mental hospital. I ask the Minister for Housing to inform us, when she stands up to reply, whether this proposed new section means that that provision is being varied and now any pensioner who enters a mental hospital will receive his full pension all the time he is in that hospital.
In proposed new section I33r we have the answer to another .question. I have not had an opportunity to find the relevant references in Hansard, but 1 can remember the number of objections that were voiced when I suggested that a pension could be paid to someone on behalf of a pensioner. Interjections were made from the other side of the chamber to the effect that my suggestion would not work and that these people were mentally ill or insane and therefore could not control their money. But here we have the answer. Is it not wonderful that after thirteen years the Department of Social Services has been able to come up with the answer which is that where the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that, for any reason, it is desirable that payment of the pension should be made to someone on behalf of the pensioner he may authorise payment accordingly? That is all we have been seeking for thirteen years. I hope that this is the end of that matter and that in future all pensioners, when they enter mental hospitals, will have the same rights as other pensioners who enter general hospitals, because there is no difference between mental illness and physical illness.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! Is it the wish of the Committee that the two amendments be taken together? There being no objection, it is so ordered. The question is: ‘That the requests be agreed to.’
[11.58] - First of all I wish to refer to Senator Toohey’s remarks. I thought I answered what he said last night. I am sorry if the information that I gave was not what he wanted. But that information remains factual. I take it that he was referring to homes conducted by church or charitable organisations. Is that so?
– These homes are assisted by the Commonwealth Government by means of a grant of $2 for $1. The maximum amount of subsidy is $3,600 per person. A donation of $2,000 would be more than sufficient to attract the maximum subsidy. This matter has been well considered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). This subsidy is of tremendous assistance to the people who go into these home. The amount they donate, up to $2,000, which can attract the subsidy, is not taken into account under the means test.
The Government is opposed to the request proposed by Senator Toohey. Every honourable senator knows the well established principle that increases in social service pensions operate from the first pay day after the authorising legislation receives the royal assent. I remind honourable senators that this principle was endorsed by the late Mr Chifley when he was Prime Minister and Treasurer in 1948. He stated that his Government would not depart from this principle. Over the years, this Government has adhered to the same policy. This is accepted policy and we do not propose to vary it. The main thing that we want is to see the legislation passed so that the benefits can be paid to pensioners on the next pension day.
Another point raised by Senator Toohey concerned the invalid pension. We should remind ourselves that originally total incapacity for work was the requirement. This was subsequently reduced to 85% incapacity for work. This shows that consideration has been given to this matter. The reduction of the 85% limit would introduce the whole question of payment of pensions for partial incapacity. This would open up a wide field particularly with the progressive alleviation of the means test. I think that it is obvious that any reduction of the 85% incapacity for work principle would lead to the same problem.
– I wish to raise several matters. One comes under section 135r of the principal Act, which is amended by clause 24 of this Bill. The Opposition had in mind to propose an amendment in order to deal with some of the anomalies that seem to arise under the provision. The problem that exists here is one which was created by the case of Watkins and Cumming which was referred to in the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing and which was decided in 1963 in the State of Queensland. According to the generally held view, it was decided erroneously. However, the decision is there.
The decision created quite a problem for the Commonwealth because the effect was that an injured person could not claim for the cost of rehabilitation and training against the defendant. He could not claim effectively because his liability to pay for the treatment or training did not arise or crystalise until it was established that he was entitled to the compensation from the defendant or wrong doer, or, as we know in most cases, the insurance company representing that defendant or wrong doer.
One would have thought that the logical position was that these matters crystalise when the judgment is being given and that the liability to pay for the treatment and training came about at the same instance as the decision was being made as to the liability to pay damages. That would have been the simple and obvious solution and, with a little doubt, the correct legal solution. However, the Commonwealth was faced with the position that the judge actually held that there was no liability in the injured person to pay until liability to pay damages was established on the part of the wrong doer. The Commonwealth therefore seeks to bring about a situation where the payment of the treatment or training of a person injured through the wrong doing of another will really fall upon the wrong doer or his insurance company and not either or. the injured person or on the Commonwealth. That seems reasonable enough.
Our view, and we understand it to be the view of the Government, is that the injured person should be protected so that he is not left in the situation where he would be liable to pay for the cost of treatment or training even though he could not recover it from the defendant. The proposed new sub-section seems to overcome the position to some extent. I do not want to go into the technicalities. It seems to overcome the decision of the court so far as the cost of treatment or training to date is concerned; but it does not do so to our entire, satisfaction. It means that if a person receives any compensation - even a nominal amount of compensation - actually he is liable to pay the whole of the cost of the treatment or training up to the date of, presumably, the trial or perhaps it may be that he is liable to pay that only up to the issuance of the writ and therefore can recover that payment from the defendant or wrongdoer.
– He is not the wrongdoer in every case. It applies to workers compensation hearings where there is no wrong at all.
– I am using the expression in the general sense. I thank Senator Wright for his interjection. It applies where there is not a wrong doing such as in the case of a workers compensation matter where there is a defendant or respondent, a person from whom the plaintiff is entitled to receive compensation which includes, but is not restricted to, damages. That is right. But it leaves the injured person in the situation where in theory he is liable to pay for the cost of treatment or training even though he is not receiving compensation recoverable. That could be corrected under section 135r to which I referred because there is a discretionary power in the Director-General to relieve persons. Section 135r (1b.) provides:
Where the Director-General is satisfied that special circumstances exist by reason of which a person liable by virtue of the last proceeding subsection to pay an amount to the Director-General should be released in the whole or in part from the liability, the Director-General may release the person accordingly.
That is the discretion. No doubt, it would be used wisely. We on the Opposition side are not happy to see discretions of this nature in legislation where the discretion in an administrative official may relieve a citizen from a liability which is otherwise placed upon him by statute. It would be much better if this legislation were recast, as I think it could be, in order to put rehabilitation and training costs in the same position as the costs of other medical treatment or other matters. I think that could be done. But it has not been done. We do not propose to set about to recast the legislation.
I have had the opportunity with Senator Cohen to discuss the matter with the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and also with the officials of the Department of Social Services. We’ had a very helpful discussion with them. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that, in exercising his discretion under section 135r, the Director-General will act according to those guide lines and that where a person is liable to pay an amount to the DirectorGeneral by virtue of sub-section (1a.) of section 135r, and the Director-General is of the opinion that any compensation recovered or received by a person, (1), does not include any amount in respect of that liability or, (2), includes an amount in respect of that liability that is less than the amount of the liability, and that the person is not likely to recover or receive any further compensation, or the person has not recovered or received any compensation and, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral, is not likely to recover or receive any compensation, then, without being in any way confined as to the circumstances in which he otherwise might use his discretion - that is, without in any way suggesting that the generality of this discretion be limited - the Director-General shall, for the purposes of the sub-section, treat the case as one in relation to which he is satisfied that special circumstances of the kind referred to in that sub-section exist. We ask that that recasting be done, but on the understanding that he would not so exercise this discretion if he were satisfied that special reasons existed why he should not do so. Such a reason would exist where there was collusion’ or where there had been no reasonable or proper attempt to recover the whole of the costs concerned in any proceeding or settlement.
What this means, in a nutshell, is that the Director-General would in those circumstances see to it that the injured person would not be liable to pay more than he was getting as a result of the proceedings or from any settlement in respect of rehabilitation treatment or training, with the qualification that the Director-General would be able to refrain from so exercising his discretion if he considered that there was not good faith. An instance of this woUld be where an applicant and respondent had got together and agreed not to make a claim for the treatment or training or to settle the matter on the basis of just wiping out the treatment or training. The provision has to be elastic. It is not the kind of thing that we can see as capable of being simply put in legislation, because there are all sorts of difficulties. We can imagine that in damages cases there may be problems of contributory negligence, there may be reasons why some amount which has been recovered by way of a settlement has been cut down generally and there may be a proportionate sort of reduction in the amount referable to rehabilitation, and there may be other matters. So we believe that this is a reasonable request to make and we think it will give to the DirectorGeneral some indication of how he should act. No doubt the legislation could operate in such a way that no injured person acting in good faith could be prejudiced. Consequently, I make that request.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.14] - In reply to Senator Murphy let me say first of all that the amendment to clause 24 will remove what was felt to be an unfairness to the rehabilitee because of the very things that Senator Murphy expressed in the early part of his remarks. The reason for the amendment is that it was felt that the service by the Director-General of a notice on the rehabilitee that he was entitled to seek compensation would, in itself, make the rehabilitee liable to pay the costs of his treatment and training. This being the case, we propose that in any action for damages the rehabilitee will be able to claim, and the court will be able to award to him, damages to cover these costs. Thus the unfairness which we had felt has been removed.
Senator Murphy very rightly went on to explain that the Director-General has power under section 135r (1b.) to release the rehabilitee from his liability to pay the cost of treatment and training, and where the action for damages was unsuccessful the Director-General would undoubtedly do so. The honourable senator then went on further to express the points he had raised, which really were a continuation of his thinking oh the care and assistance of a person. I am prepared to place these suggestions before the Minister. I have little doubt that, those points having been put forward, the Minister will agree with the suggestions.
– Could we have some indication of the result during the debate?
– I shall endeavour to obtain that information. I am prepared to place these suggestions before the Minister.
– I should like to make two comments on this clause and on what has been said by Senator Murphy and the Minister. I am very troubled to see that paragraph (b) makes the liability profferred by the pensioner to the Commonwealth dependent upon the Director-General’s opinion that the pensioner is entitled to receive compensation from another person. I believe that that is completely outside the function of the Director-General. He is not competent to express an opinion which should determine the fact upon which the liability of a pensioner hinges. The Bill having arbitrarily given to him a judgment on that matter, the next clause goes on to give some other discretion in special circumstances. What is there to indicate special circumstances which’ are a matter for discretion? He takes the right to release a person, in his discretion. The clause allows discrimination and allows him to venture on a field where he is not competent. In my view the approach of the legislation is completely improper.
– I should like the Minister to clear up a point regarding proposed new section 133q. This is the same question as was asked by Senator Turnbull. Does this section mean that inmates of mental hospitals will now be able to receive the pension, or does it mean that it will be payable to those in charge of the mental hospital? What is the interpretation of proposed section 133q?
– I have one point on which I should like clarification. First I must apologise for being out of the chamber when the Minister replied to Senator Toohey in regard to the variation in the allowable income, firstly, for people who have entered church homes and, secondly, for those who have built their own homes. The honourable senator had queried the justification for this variation. Although I have no departmental knowledge of this matter, I believe that there is a logical answer. I would be interested to know from the Minister whether my interpretation is the logical answer. I should say that I have seen quite a few church cottage homes. They are extremely comfortable and attractive and offer some of the nicest accommodation one could hope to find. The purpose of the provision of these homes by I he churches is to make more accommodation available to elderly people, and the basis on which they are occupied is that the occupier pays a certain amount of money for the use of the house during his lifetime. Subsequently it reverts to the church and then the church makes an arrangement with a subsequent tenant or owner, depending on which is the correct word, and any profits that accrue, in the cases of which I know, are used for the erection of further dwellings for aged people. Nobody gets any profit out of it, other than the individuals themselves, because more homes are provided. That is the first point 1 want to make. In my view the second point is more important.
Again speaking of circumstances about which I know, the occupier, during his or her lifetime, is not required to pay rates, taxes or maintenance costs that are inevitable in all buildings. Even in the community area much work is done which is not the financial responsibility of the occupier. Obviously these circumstances are quite different to and are much easier than the circumstances in which a person has purchased some land, built on it and has to meet all these expenses. When I take that into consideration I feel it is quite likely and logical that this is the reason for the variation to which Senator Toohey refers. Having no departmental knowledge of it, I have on doubt that there may be other factors to which I have not referred. I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s reply so as to know whether in fact these factors contribute to the variation to which Senator Toohey referred this morning.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.22] - Firstly in reply to Senator Murphy, the Minister for Social Services has advised me that he will agree to the suggestion that Senator Murphy has made. Senator Lawrie raised’ a point concerning proposed new section 133q which states:
Where - (a) a person in receipt of an allowance becomes a mental hospital patient or is imprisoned … the Director-General may do certain things. Proposed Section 133q preserves the rights of a person who while in receipt of a sheltered employment allowance becomes a mental hospital patient or is imprisoned following upon his conviction for an offence and who is qualified for a pension. Under the section, such a person , will on application be entitled to the same amount by way of a pension on discharge from the mental hospital or when on leave from the hospital for four weeks or more - and this is the point which I think Senator Lawrie raised - as he would have been entitled to had he been a pensioner on admission to the mental hospital: that is, he will be entitled to up to twelve weeks pension. Similarly, if he is imprisoned he will be entitled to be granted a pension and to receive the same treatment, as far as cash payments are concerned, for himself and his dependants as applies to any pensioner who is imprisoned.
Senator Morris referred to age persons’ homes. He gave a very clear comment on the value of the great work that is being done in this regard. I think that perhaps he missed the point that I made for Senator Toohey. The maximum subsidy is $3,600. Of course, the subsidy is on the $2 for $1 basis. Tha contribution of $2,000 would be more than sufficient to attract the maximum subsidy and bring the total up to $5,400, which I think is a considerable amount.
– I thank the Minister for stating that the Minister for Social Services who is responsible for the administration of the Act has agreed to my suggestion. I would like to deal now with the requests which have been proposed by Senator Toohey. These are extremely important requests because there is a great principle at stake. The Minister has stated that it was the practice which had been either introduced or acted upon by the former Labor leader and Treasurer, the late Mr Chifley, that pension payments should be made as from the pension day after the legislation comes into force. If that is so, then in our view he was wrong. Whether Mr Chifley or somebody else was responsible, the practice is wrong.
We have a very good instance of it today. Senator Wright has stated in relation to the legislation which we were considering a little earlier that the form of the legislation was improper. We agree with him. There is no doubt about this, lt is not so much the amendments that are proposed that are improper; it is the whole scheme of these provisions. Too much discretion is placed in the hands of the Director-General. He has to be satisfied and he has to be of the opinion that all sorts of matters are occurring or have occurred or may occur before persons are entitled to recover compensation and so on. This is bad legislation.
Thi proposal that has been made in the Bill is one which tends to relieve an injured person from a position in which he may not be able to recover from a defendant or respondent and yet be liable to pay. We see that it is something in his interest. But it should not be thought that we think this legislation is good. We are not suggesting that the Government at this time would endeavour to defend the form in which the legislation stands. I am talking about practicabilities because in theory it might be said that the Government is defending the legislation because it embraces the Government’s amendments.
We are faced with the situation in this chamber that we cannot endeavour to recast the legislation. It cannot possibly be done except at the expense of denying pensioners the increases which they will receive under this legislation. This is something that arises every time a Bill of this nature is introduced. It means that the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, is stampeded into passing the legislation. We are not able to give it the consideration that we should. It is clear that these matters and other matters ought to be cleaned up while the legislation is before us. That is what we would like to do. I think that we could do it if we had sufficient time, but we are not able to do it because if we endeavoured to postpone this legislation for a week or two weeks in order to clean it up, it would be said: ‘You are stopping the pensioners from getting their pension increases. The increases will not apply until such time as the legislation passes this chamber.’ No legislative chamber should be put in the position in which it is not able properly to consider legislation because it would be alleged - and it will be the fact - that it would mean penalising the pensioners. Why should not the legislation be cast in such a form that the payments begin from a fixed date? That is the principle that should be observed. We have suggested that the increases should date from the time of their announcement, and there is a lot of sense in that. If it is stated that people are entitled to so much money, it ought to be paid from the date of that announcement.
But apart from the question as to when the increases should operate from, they ought to operate from a fixed date so that no matter how long, within reason, this chamber and the other chamber takes to pass the legislation, it cannot be said that the pensioners will be penalised. Is not that a fair proposition to make to the Senate? This ought to be the standard procedure. If Mr Chifley introduced the procedure, let that be. It is up to us to change it. There ought to be a change. Every time similar legislation is introduced the date from which it is to operate should be fixed and it should not be affected by the operations of the legislature. I do not care whether it is dated from 1st January or from the commencement of the session or from 1st June. We should not be put in the position that if we take time to consider the legislation we are thereby not only delaying payments but actually penalising pensioners. If we speak for another three weeks on this Bill, then it means that three weeks payment of the increases will not be received by the pensioners. That is not a fair position in which to place any legislature. Why should there not be a departure from that procedure? Leaving aside retrospectivity, why should not Parliament stipulate a commencing date? Why should not a date be fixed, either forward or back? We do not care which way it goes.
– Did the Opposition give adequate consideration to this point before moving its amendment?
– Yes. The point is that a date should be fixed. Our amendment goes on to say that a reasonable date to be fixed is the date of the announcement. The fundamental point is that a date should be fixed.
– It is done in other legislation; the Aged Persons Homes Act, for example.
– Yes. For that reason the Opposition fully supports the amendment proposed by Senator Toohey and we ask the Senate for its endorsement. We must break away from the practice whereby the Senate, particularly as a House of review, is prevented from exercising properly its powers of review by the type of provision included in clause 26 of the Bill.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.32] - I can only repeat that the Government will oppose the amendments. The procedure in this ease follows parliamentary practice which has proved to be successful.
If the legislation is altered as requested by the Opposition, it will necessitate a budgetary alteration in that the amount of money appropriated for social services will to be adjusted. I think there has been time enough for this legislation to be examined and reviewed. This Bill was introduced some time ago in the lower House and there is nothing to stop honourable senators from studying it and being prepared to discuss it when it comes before the Senate.
By interjection Senator Cavanagh referred to the Aged Persons Homes Act. It is true that dates are fixed in that legislation and in the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill, but there is a difference. The Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill relates to capital subsidies which are available to organisations in respect of buildings and land purchased or buildings in the course of erection on or after the first working day after the last elections; that is 28th November last.
– What is the difference?
– There is quite a difference. This Bill relates to capital expenditure and there is no departure from the principle outlined. We are dealing with payments of a capital nature. For the reasons I have mentioned and which are well knownto honourable senators the Government believes that the procedure adopted is the correct procedure for this type of legislation.
– I have studied clause 24 of the Bill in an attempt to find words that connect the Commonwealth cost of treatment with a third party’s liability to a pensioner, but in vain. It seems to me that the clause has now been so drawn that if I had been injured in 1960 in a road accident and in 1964 was injured in an industrial accident, liability could be imposed on the Commonwealth for the treatment in respect of the industrial accident simply because there was a liability to recover under the road accident. No words appear which necessarily relate the Commonwealth cost of treatment with the circumstances out of which liability arose to a pensioner.
– I think that could be in the definition.
– It may be. I seek clarification. The clause states in part that where a person has received treatment and recovers or receives compensation from any person, the person who has received treatment is liable to pay to the Director-General an amount equal to the cost of the treatment.
– The answer may be found in section 135r (1).
– I have sent for the old section because I want to be assured that the words formerly operative have been included.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.35] - I draw Senator Wright’s attention to section 135r(1) of the principal Act, which states in part:
In this section - “compensation”, in relation to a person who has received or is receiving treatment or training, means any payment that is by way of compensation or damages, or is, in the opinion of the Director-General, in the nature of compensation or damages, in respect of the disability by reason of which the treatment or training has been or is being provided, but does not include a payment for which the person has made contributions; “cost”, in relation to the treatment or training of a person, means the cost, as determined by the Director-General, of and incidental to the treatment or training, including -
any allowances paid to that person under section one hundred and thirty-five d of this Act; and
the cost of providing, maintaining and replacing, under section one hundred and thirty-five k of this Act, any articles used by that person.
– I am obliged to the Minister. I add only one comment. Concern comes from the fact that in the case of a person who received damages today and who has a continuing need of treatment over the next ten or twelve years, great difficulties are experienced in the administration of the section in its present form. Let us suppose that he is awarded damages of $10,000. The degree to which the costs of past treatment are included is usually known, but the degree to which compensation for future treatment is awarded is quite unascertainable. This section is not administered by the Department in all cases with consideration. A rigid insistence upon the liability over the continuance of the period of the treatment could be a grave disadvantage to a person who is injured, becomes a pensioner and is subjected to this rather harsh liability, unless it is relieved. Experience shows that there is not always a sound discretion in that respect. A harsh liability, especially unpredictable, can give rise to great concern where the need for treatment is continuing and the degree to which the continuing treatment has been taken into account in assessing compensation is unknown and un ascertainable.
– Senator Wright has raised a very important matter. Legally if the Supreme Court decision earlier referred to were correct and if the effect of the amendments proposed in this Bill is taken together with that decision, it means that a person injured would be able to recover only the cost of treatment or training to date - presumably that means to the date of the trial, or the verdict or judgment of the court. From that, one could say that he cannot recover anything in any proceeding in respect of future treatment or training. A proper exercise of discretion then by the Director-General would be to hold that such a person should not be liable to pay anything in respect of his future treatment or training because he had been unable to recover in that respect from the other party.
The effect of the legislation is that he cannot get anything. He can get something in respect of matters up to date, but he cannot get anything based on a pre-estimate of the probable cost of rehabilitation training. That may be the proper answer - that it be ascertained. He gets nothing in the proceedings because this legislation prevents him from getting anything. Therefore the Director-General ought not to require him to pay the cost of treatment or training where he has been unable, by reason of this legislation, to prove it in proceedings against the other party.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.41] - We are indebted to Senator Murphy and Senator Wright. I believe that the Minister’s assurance which I have given to Senator Murphy covers the point raised by Senator Wright.
– The position is quite unsatisfactory, not only in the case where the cost of future treatment is not ascertainable but also in relation to the extent to which it is being compensated for in the verdict.
– lt is not compensated for at all.
– I want the honourable senator to bear in mind that a different view has been taken in departmental administration. Therefore he cannot, with assurance, rely upon the view he is asserting. If a person recovers damages such as I have mentioned, and if he has had treatment for only a year up to the date of the verdict and is unfortunate enough to require treatment for another five years, the view is being taken that the general damages awarded have compensated him for future treatment.
– But that will not be so after this Bill is passed.
– Because the injured person will not be able to recover against the defendant except in respect of past treatment or training.
– I regret being difficult. I do not understand it. I have mentioned the first case where the degree to which compensation covers treatment is not ascertainable from the terms of the verdict. I suggest the second case goes much further into the field of what should be impermissible error, because if a court said that a defendant was not liable under the terms’ of proposed sub-section (1a.) (b), the Director-General himself could take a different opinion. Should the Director-General take an opposite opinion to that expressed by the court of law the liability would be there unless the Director-General decided in special circumstances to release the defendant from it. I am merely pointing out that this gives the Director-General the right to establish an opinion that there is liability even though a court of law has already solemnly adjudged that there is no liability. To me that makes it imperative that despite the passage of the legislation the Department and everyone interested should concern themselves about the earliest possible revision of the scheme relating to recovery of third party liability.
That the requests (Senator Toohey’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided.
The Chairman ; Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman
Ayes . . . . . . 24
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 11 April (vide page 663), on motion by Senator Henry:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The States Grants Bill has two main purposes. The first is to amend the formula under which the financial assistance grants to the States are made and the second is to authorise the payment of a special nonrecurring grant of $5m to the States in this financial year. We have been informed that the two proposals were agreed to at a conference held in Canberra in February this year by representatives of the Com monwealth Government and representatives of the six State governments. Because the conference was held in February, the representatives were fully aware of the financial situation of the six States up to the end of January and they had a fairly accurate idea, also, as to how the finances of the Commonwealth Government were running up till the end of January. It is well known that some of the States have been suffering hardships during the current financial year, that is, since 1st July 1966. New South Wales and Queensland in particular endured the effects of a very severe; drought. We would be fully conscious of the fact that, considering that situation, both States would find it rather difficult to balance their budgets.
The budgets for the current year, of course, were made in June 1966. Certain things would be considered when they were being prepared. It would be possible for some of the States in June of last year to base their anticipated revenues and their anticipated expenditures on the normal year’s activities and on the normal economy in the State. But Queensland and New South Wales, which were both suffering severely from the effects of drought, were compelled to incur expenditures which do not arise in a normal year. So it was agreed between the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States that some relief should be made available to the States. I have not any doubt that this would be welcome news to Victoria and South Australia which did not, I think, suffer to any great extent from droughts. Western Australia, on the other hand, would have been required to incur much additional expenditure because of the developments taking place in remote parts of that State.
We know that the Commonwealth Government is the principal financial authority in the Commonwealth. We also know that in 1946 uniform taxation was introduced in the Commonwealth. We have evidence that since it was introduced in 1946 there have been expressions of dissatisfaction by the States as to its operation. At conferences held to consider the impact of uniform taxation the States have expressed their dissatisfaction with the scheme. Nevertheless, it has operated from 1946 until 1966 and, from what I can see of the future, it will continue to operate in that form for ever. The Commonwealth Government, being the principal financial authority, is obliged to collect income tax. We know that income tax is a very attractive field from the viewpoint of all taxing authorities, including State taxing authorities.
Formulas have been prepared to meet the financial situation of the States and, as I said a while ago, the formula operating this year was fixed in anticipation of a normal year being experienced, whereas an exceptional year was experienced and it was necessary for the Commonwealth to make certain financial concessions to the States. The conference did, as a matter of fact, amend the formula that was agreed to in 1965 and that was expected to operate until 1970. I do not think there was much demur on the part of the Commonwealth. One did not read about any clamour in Canberra at the particular time. 1 think the conference that was held to deal with this situation was a very quiet conference. There was no declaration of war on the part of any of the States and the Commonwealth seemed to agree to the requests made by them. It agreed to make a sum of $5m available to them from its revenues and that sum, of course, has gone to the States in the form of non-recurring grants.
The Commonwealth also amended the formula that was operating. I am not going into the matter of the factors that are considered when the formulas are being prepared, but wages is one of them. The result is that the formula now operating is more beneficial to the States. I do not suppose the finances of the States will be wholly satisfactory from their aspect this financial year. If that is so the Commonwealth may be forced to make another adjustment next financial year. This depends, of course, on the flow of migrants into Australia, the increase in population, and the level of wages. We have in mind the fact that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is sitting at present and there may be a substantial increase in the basic wage, followed by increases in the salaries of officers of the various State governments and the Commonwealth Government. These are factors that have to be considered when a formula is examined by the States and the Commonwealth to ascertain whether it is operating satisfactorily.
At the present time the States are committed to certain financial obligations. There are certain expenditures that they cannot possibly escape. For instance, migrants are coming into Australia and they cannot be considered wholly as a labour force. Really, they constitute an economic force. Families come here and provision has to be made for the children of the migrants. Additional schools have to be built and equipped. Additional school teachers have to be trained. This means that additional expense has to be met by the States. Although migration is regarded as a Commonwealth enterprise, the real expense of it is borne by the States after the migrants arrive. This is one of the matters that the Commonwealth, being the main financial authority in Australia, is forced to consider.
The Spates are to receive $5m for this financial year, as it were, as a gift. The formula has been adjusted. The Labor Party has no objection at all to offer to the Bill. It gives the Bill its blessing. It is fully aware that, if there is an adverse season during the rest of the current financial year or the first six months of the forthcoming financial year, another conference will be held, the formula will be adjusted and another non-recurring grant will probably be made available to the States. It is in this manner that we will proceed in the future, from one financial conference between the States and the Commonwealth in one financial year to the next conference in the next financial year.
– This Bill is not very complex, but it certainly is of outstanding value to the States, particularly the smaller States. The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), in his second reading speech, said:
There is no doubt that the present grants formula constitutes a significant improvement on the previous formula.
Undoubtedly it does. He was referring to the formula under which we have been working ‘prior to the introduction of this Bill. This Bill introduces certain new features that will reduce much of the disagreement that has taken place between various Premiers and the Commonwealth during the discussions on financial relations that take place each year.
One of the features of the Bill that I like is an alleviation of some of the disadvantages that have occurred because of the time lag in the average wages factor. This was a very real problem for the States. Under the formula, an allowance was made for the increase in wages costs generally, but the increase was determined on the basis of wages at the preceding June. Under this Bill a vast change is made. In future the calculation will be made as at March - nine months subsequent to the time used under the previous formula. This is of tremendous importance to the States. I believe that they recognise “that very fully.
The second outstanding feature of the Bill is the proposed change in the consideration of population increase. We all know that the formula under which we are working at present is based largely on population and wages factors. Instead of taking the population increase up to the preceding June, the end of the preceding financial year, the increase up to the December prior to the Premiers Conference - that is six months later - .will be used. This also will be of profound importance to financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth in the future.
The third feature which will be very important to the States is that obviously the Commonwealth Government has recognised the disadvantages that have accrued as a result of the lag both in the calculation of population increase and in the calculation of wages. In order to offset what the Commonwealth recognises have been disadvantages for some considerable time, it has made a non-recurring grant of $5m for this year. In addition, further sums of money will go to the States. They will he determined on the basis of wage increases as at March instead of as at the preceding June - nine months before. As the Minister told us in his second reading speech, the States will probably receive Slim more than they would have received under the present formula which itself is better than the formula under which we worked previously.
Because of these features and because I know the difficulties that the States have faced each year when they have faced up to their budgetary problems, I repeat what I said at the beginning: This may not be a very complex Bill, but it is of outstanding importance to the States. When honourable senators are thinking of the financial burdens that are carried by all governments, I believe that in all fairness they should recognise that in this legislation the Commonwealth Government is enabling the State governments to do much more in the fields that we recognise are essentially their own.
I wish to spend a few minutes referring to the principle of uniform taxation. I doubt whether any other factor since Federation has made such a great change in the status of the States vis-a-vis the Commonwealth. Uniform taxation has affected CommonwealthState relations much more than was ever envisaged when it was originally implemented more than twenty years ago. We must recognise that it has had one very profound effect: it has steadily diminished the autonomy of the States. We in Queensland have been very conscious of the degree to which this diminution of autonomy has occurred. At the same time it has increased “tremendously certain aspects of Commonwealth administration. It has increased the authority of the Commonwealth, the responsibility of the Commonwealth and the vulnerability of the Commonwealth to demands on the resources that the Commonwealth now commands. Some of those demands have been reasonable, but I am afraid that some of them have been quite unreasonable.
One of the worst aspects of uniform taxation in practice - I am not discussing this as a financial expert - is that from time to time it has caused a degree of disagreement among the States. I suppose that if we look at the matter in retrospect we can agree that that is only natural. Having attended some of the Premiers Conferences, I recognise that the provisions of this Bill will go a long way towards overcoming feelings that have been generated at those Conferences in relation to the division of the total amount of money allocated by the Commonwealth. Now that there is what I might call this more generous approach to the problem, I hope there will be a greater recognition by each State of the part that is played by the other States in the overall economy and the progress of Australia as a whole. In that regard, I would say that without the industrial strength of New South Wales and Victoria the Commonwealth would not have nearly as high a standard of living as it has. This is something that we extremity States should recognise. But whilst we recognise that, I think the major industrial States should in turn recognise that if it were not for the fact that primary and secondary production of the States of Queensland and Western Australia, assists so much in our balance of payments problems, the economy of Australia would be equally unhealthy, and if I had the power I would plead with the representatives of the States who come to conferences with the Commonwealth to place more recognition on this very important factor in the relationships between the States. 1 should like now to say a word or two about Queensland. I believe that in this Bill we have a much fairer recognition of Queensland’s needs, but I also say that, ever since the introduction of uniform taxation until perhaps the present time, Queensland’s share of the division of uniform taxation revenue has not been at all equitable in my opinion. I believe that it has not been recognised that because Queensland has had a relatively later development than the other States it needs a greater proportion of the amount of money that is broadly available overall to enable it to solve the problems created because of this slower start. I think that recognition of this factor is still needed, and 1 hope it will be taken into consideration by the Premiers at all times when they meet together in conference here.
The second factor I want to mention is that Queensland has the largest area of usable land of all the States in Australia. In many parts of the State there is a total insufficiency of money to give us even reasonable roads for transport. Indeed, on a previous occasion in this chamber I mentioned the fact that the Shire of Cook, which is in the northern part of Queensland, receives what is virtually an insignificant fraction of money to build and to maintain roads. Yet it is larger than some of the States which get not ten times but one hundred times as much finance for road development.
The third factor is that climatic conditions in Queensland create further problems in road development. The fourth factor is that whilst New South Wales and Victoria are, comparatively speaking, infinitely more compact and infinitely more developed than the other States, we in Queensland are not, and, moreover, have been excluded from any beneficial help from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I do not grudge Western Australia or South Australia or Tasmania anything that they have received over the years from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but on many occasions I have seen the very great advantage that has accrued to them because they have been able to use their State development requirements in presenting a case to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, thus getting very much more of the general funds that have been available. I am not suggesting that the cases they have advanced have not been good cases. They have been very good and justifiable cases. But, on the one hand, while Queensland has lacked the advantage of being a compact and advanced State like New South Wales or Victoria, on the other hand it has been excluded from the benefits that emanate from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. There is another factor which militates against us. It is the fact that in relation to grants the Aboriginal population has only very recently been taken into consideration at all. Those factors together confirm me in a statement that I made some little time ago, that, in the general formula for the allocation of uniform tax moneys, Queensland has suffered very badly for many years. In the Bill before us I see a very great improvement in relation to this.
Let me say in all fairness that I have seen what I believe to be a steady improvement in the amount of money allocated to Queensland vis-a-vis the other States over, probably, the past ten years. But we have been tolerant, recognising how very difficult the Liberal-Country Party Government of Queensland, of which I was a member, found it in the early stages of its administration to do the things we wanted to do, and which were reasonable, with the amount of money it was getting. We in Queensland thought that, proportionately, we were not getting what we should have got. That we were not getting what we should have got has been proved because, year by year, the formula has been improved.
Let us not traverse too much of the ground that has been passed over. I would say that at last the problems of Queensland are being recognised more and more.
I feel certain that the Bill we are now discussing goes a little further in that direction. lt is a Bill that is not only to apply for this year but that will help us year by year because of the advancement of the date on which the allocation of money is decided. There is a lot more that I could say, but I see that time is moving a little faster than I thought it was. Suffice it to say that, because of the factors I have mentioned, I am delighted with the Bill. I do most earnestly and most sincerely hope that my colleagues from Victoria, for example, will not feel grudging when we in Queensland get some special help for some special thing that we may have in mind. We do not grudge the more advanced States in the slightest, the advantages that they have in industrial development. Let us work together as a family of States much more closely than we have been able to do in the past because of circumstances. I commend the Bill most strongly.
– We have before us a Bill relating to grants to the States and I rise only because I see in the second reading speech of the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) what 1 would regard as merely a temporary and purely ad hoc arrangement to meet demands that were made upon the Commonwealth this year. I notice - with a desire to know more from the Minister, when he is replying, of its full significance - the statement that this year it is agreed that the long term problems in the field of Commonwealth-State financial relations will be considered further at a Premiers Conference to be held towards the end of the current financial year.
The Bill with which we are dealing adjusts the formula only with respect to details. The formula, being based upon average wages and population, makes some headway towards meeting temporary demands of the States by allowing the population to be assessed as at December of the year in question and the wages to be assessed as at, I think, March of that year, so as to bring the factors which are the basis of calculation six or nine months nearer to the date of arriving at the actual figure reimbursement to the States. The rather small dimensions of that adjustment are easily seen. If we eliminate the non-recurring grant of $5m that was made simply for peace sake, we have an adjustment in the formula whereby a payment to the States of $814.77m becomes $825.94m. So, the actual adjustment achieved by this detailed basis is very small, but it does make some contribution to meeting the needs of the States.
The very smallness of that adjustment - this matter was an item for argument between the States and the Commonwealth a few months ago - shows the narrow limits within which the States claim they are required to exist and finance their governmental functions. Everybody here recognises that the States still have substantial functions to perform regarding the administration of law and order, health and education services, road maintenance, railways and such like. It is one of the bedevilling problems of the Commonwealth, for which a solution is not offered here by any means, to know how it is going to leave the States, with their representative systems of government, with a sufficient field of finance to enable them to carry out policies which their elected parliaments think are proper to those particular functions. It would be a waste of time for me to refer here to past developments in this field. During the war period uniform taxation gave to the Commonwealth predominance in the taxation field which, up to that time, the States had partly shared with it. Since the war the predominance of the Commonwealth in respect of financial power has grown to such a degree as to dwarf the revenues that the States are able to raise upon their own responsibility relative to the money that they derive from the Commonwealth.
After the war, we were bedevilled for many years with the problem of finding some formula that would keep pace with the racing inflation in the 1950s. Every year the Commonwealth had to make substantial supplementary grants to the States to enable them even to look like bridging the gap between their revenues and their expenditures. Then, in 1959, Commonwealth and State treasury officers hit upon the formula that is being adjusted in this Bill and which provided the basis for what they were then pleased to call the financial assistance grants. That was the new name given to the old tax reimbursement grants. The formula was based on average wages and population with an adjustment by means of a betterment factor, which was simply a detail.
It is interesting to note that, in the first year of the payment of the financial assistance grants, the total grant to all States was $489. That was in 1959-60. This year, the total financial assistance grant payable to all the States, and excluding the special grants to the smaller States is $816,581,000. So, in the short span of years from 1959- 1960 to 1966-67, the figures have jumped from $489m to $816,581,000.
It is quite obvious that the Premier of Victoria regards his State as operating under what was called in a public statement ‘a crazy system of finance’. I only rise, Mr Deputy President, because suggestions have been made from time . to time that we could grow out of this system whereby the income tax field, still the most profitable from the point of view of tax yield, could be divided in some way between the Commonwealth and the States. I do not think that there are many adherents to that point of view in the country today. I think most people would look upon a proposal whereby there would be two taxing authorities, even though one were confined to rates and even though the sharing of the tax field did not extend to companies, with a degree of horror as adding a new terror to our already tormented lives.
There still persists an opinion which holds that it may be possible to divide the fields of taxation. Some fields belong to the States in their right and some to the Commonwealth in its right. Each parliament usually discharges its responsibility by exercising its revenue raising functions within a certain field. But I notice that there is a point of view which clings to the idea that if the Constitution were altered so as to enable sales tax to be imposed by the States, a retail sales tax might give the States the flexible field of revenue that would be required to enable them to adjust their finances according to the services they wish to give their people. Some differences of opinion exist as to whether it is necessary to alter the Constitution to give that particular field of finance to the States. I think the preponderating viewpoint is that an alteration of the Constitution would be necessary.
I mention these matters because I have not heard other solutions that are likely to occupy the conference which the Minister said is to be held towards the end of the current financial year and in which the long term problems in the field of Commonwealth-State financial relations will be considered. I mention these matters only because I feel the Senate has a particular field of responsibility in this regard. But I certainly would not regard a second reading debate upon a Bill such as this as the appropriate occasion to engage in a study of the matter in detail. To debate the subject would require a great deal of preparation in consultation with Treasury officers and other people who know, from practical experience, the demands made upon the various Governments for revenue. But when a responsible Premier of the stature and experience of Sir Henry Bolte makes a statement, quite deliberately, during the year that the present system of FederalState financial relations is quite crazy, I believe it means that we have to give the matter real challenging thought.
I may add that when the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was established in 1956 - it sat until 1959 - this general problem was considered over a period of many months, with the aid of Treasury officers and people who had had experience with the actual finances of the Commonwealth. But that Committee was not able to make any recommendation in this most important field. It was not able to offer any solution that would be an improvement to the system that was then operating. I believe that it was just after the conclusion of that Committee’s work that the Treasury officers in conference evolved the present formula that we are using. The States were induced to accept it because the revenue that was returned to them increased from $4 10m to $489m in one year. I have said - not reproachfully but so that I may put it on record - that at that time, 1959, which was quite a measurable time after the cessation of the war and after the post-war formula had run out, when the State Treasurers had had quite a reasonable time in which to gain experience, the States adopted this formula. This, I believe, was a deliberate acceptance of the continuation of the system whereby their income tax rights were changed. At that time, I think the arrangement was for a period of seven years but it has been renewed and it is to operate for another period of either five or seven years. That was a deliberate acceptance of the system whereby revenue collected by the Commonwealth from this major source was expected to be returned to the States.
The importance of that, to my mind, is that this Parliament is given the final right to say what appropriation shall be made in this field for the purpose of the major requirements of the States. Once we recognise that fact, the States’ dependence upon decisions made in this Parliament is all too obvious. Up to the present time, under the present Government I believe that there has been a general sense of satisfaction that the appropriations which have been made have been reasonable attempts to meet the growing needs of the States. But as a long term outlook upon which finance should be regulated, it is a matter of the utmost importance to the future freedom of the States - I abstain from using the word ‘sovereignty’ because it has no real application - that they should be able to exercise their governmental powers and have sufficient finances for the purpose of implementing their policies in, say, ten or twenty years. I expect that it would not be politic to give an indication, but I would like to know whether any further indication can be given as to the Government’s thinking regarding the proposals that may be put forward in relation to the longer term problems of Commonwealth-State financial relations that are to be submitted at the Premiers Conference towards the end of this financial year.
I want to comment upon two other aspects of this subject of States grants. The first one relates to the per capita payments by the Commonwealth to the States over the years. I refer to pages 44 and 45 of the Treasury document entitled ‘Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1966-67’, to note that in 1965-66, the per capita payments of general revenue grants and specific purpose payments including payments of a revenue nature and of a capital nature by way of grants and the payments of a capital nature by way of loans squalled $99.58 per head of population. In the. following year 1966-67 it is estimated that this figure will increase to $106.82. So by reason of the development of policies within this Government, in cooperation with the States, in helping and implementing State policies, notably in the field of education and the field of water resources upon which a debate took place in this chamber last night and which is not a relatively large item - but it takes its place - one can see that in the course of one year the per capita payments have increased from $99.58 (o $106.82.
The other feature that I want to mention is the split up as between the States. It will be seen that in 1965-66 the per capita payments were as follows: New South Wales, $86.36, Victoria, $76.85, Queensland, $105.86, South Australia, $114.08, Western Australia, $194.65, and Tasmania, $170.49. There is pretty well the same relative dissection between the States when one comes to look at the estimates of payments for 1966-67. They are as follows: New South Wales, $92.10, Victoria, $84.04, Queensland, $115.16, South Australia, $120.06, Western Australia, $199.08, and Tasmania, $185.50. Those figures are highlighted, I must admit, by the influence of the special grants that continue to be paid to Tasmania and Western Australia. Although these special grants have been paid in accordance with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission over the years - ever since the establishment of the Commission way back in 1934 - I instance these figures as being comparable with the other figures that I gave, because the special grants to Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia in 1959-60, which is the last year in which South Australia participated to any extent, totalled $16,652,000, and in 1966-67 the appropriation has been estimated at $40,072,000. It can be seen that the Grants Commission has made certain recommendations and that the Commonwealth, in acceptance of those recommendations, has made appropriations which have more than doubled in the period.
I did not rise with any intention of offering a solution to these problems. I rose only so that I could refer to them and perhaps sound any viewpoint that may be dormant in the mind of any honourable senator which might offer a solution. The problems are inherent in the system, which has been described in uncomplimentary terms by at least one State Premier of, I would have thought, great responsibility. I shall be looking forward with interest to see what long term solutions are offered at the Premiers Conference to be held at the end of the present financial year.
– Senator Wright said that he would like to know what the longer term aspects of Commonwealth and State financial relations might encompass, because he had heard them mentioned in the second reading speech and would like a little more detailed discussion of them. I cannot do more than repeat what the second reading speech has to say on this matter:
At the Premiers Conference held last February, the Premiers indicated that they were concerned about two sets of problems - one relating to longer term aspects of Commonwealth-State financial relations and the other relating to their immediate budget problems.
The Bill now before us is designed to deal with the immediate budget problems with which the Premiers were concerned. The second reading speech goes on:
In tha time available, it was not possible to discuss the longer term aspects in any detail. On the longer term problems, the main thesis put forward by the Premiers was that, on the basis of their experience in recent years, the States would need additional financial resources in the form of more liberal Commonwealth grants or access lo new fields of State taxation.
The discussions at the next Premiers Conference no doubt will cover those general fields, but it would be impossible for the Government to indicate even at this stage what the State Premiers might put forward.
I endorse Senator Wright’s belief - I do not quote him entirely but I am sure this is the sense of what he had to say - that the great majority of Australians would be very much averse to having another taxation authority and to moving away from the uniform taxation system, a system which has been ruled on by the High Court in such a way that, whatever theoretical rights the States may have to levy income tax in practical terms such rights are vested in the Commonwealth Government, of whatever political persuasion it may be. I know that the decision indicated that the States had the right to raise taxes, but if they did, they must also accept the penalties which flow from that. This has resulted in what the honourable senator described, I think accurately, as an acceptance by the State Premiers in 1959 of the present situation. However, a general discussion which I could not foreshadow will take place with the States when they want it to take place.
There is only one other matter. I would not place too much weight on ex parte statements by any particular Premier, no matter who he might be, attacking a system of finance, because it is not unknown in political circles that even Premiers and others - in this case even Premiers - of the highest reputation may have other motives in what they say. They may have hopes of obtaining by what they say something which is not necessarily apparent in what they say, and indeed what they say need not always be taken as being entirely correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11 April (vide page 664), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That the following words be added to the motion: but the Senate is of opinion that the adjustment of the age allowance for tax purposes should be for the full year instead of pro rata for ten weeks only’.
The Bill seeks to amend section 8 of the Income Tax Act 1966 and section 7 of the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Act 1966. Those adjustments will flow to the means test provision in the social services legislation. Certainly there is a relationship between the age allowance provision in the Income Tax Act and that provision in the Social Services Act. This Bill is both illogical and discriminatory. It is illogical because only a very short period - in fact only five pension days - remain between now and the end of the financial year. Therefore the provisions of this Bill will cover only a very short period of the income tax year. The Opposition has proposed an amendment so that the provisions relating to increased deductions will cover the full year. We believe that it is quite logical to follow this course, particularly in view of the fact that some retrospectivity was granted in the Social Services Bill. It seems illogical to the Opposition that one Bill should give retrospectivity and that another Bill should cover a period of only about ten weeks.
We believe that at the very least this Bill should cover a period of not less than the period covered by the Social Services Bill; that is, that it should date back to the first working day after the last elections. While we believe that to be the least that should be done, we have moved an amendment to extend the provisions to cover the full year because only a very small amount of money is involved by that procedure. One wonders why discrimination has occurred as between this Bill and the Social Services Bill. For single pensioners this Bill provides new exemption limits for the age allowance of $1,070 and for married pensioners $1,980. As occurs in the social service legislation, the discrimination in this Bill means that married pensioners incur a penalty. What motives has the Government for introducing .this type of legislation? It is continually widening the gap between married and single pensioners at all levels and in all fields. On numerous occasions the Opposition has pointed out the trend in the Government’s legislation to discrimination between married and single pensioners. We believe that eventually pensioners will rebel against this trend and will express their revolt in no uncertain terms through the ballot boxes. If the limit for married pensioners were fixed on an equal basis with that of single pensioners, it would be $2,140. This would be the limit if married and single pensioners are treated equally. We believe that they should be so treated.
I suggest that the Government stands condemned for its illogical approach to this legislation and to pensioners’ problems and for the introduction of legislation which discriminates between married and single pensioners. It is significant to note that such discrimination is always to the detriment of married pensioners. This Bill could be termed a ‘stop-gap measure’. I say that because of necessity, another Bill of similar character will have to be introduced during the Budget sessional period, which is only a few months away.
Why cannot the Government introduce what might be termed a ‘blanket bill’ which would cover continuously the situation covered by this Bill? The Government continually introduces Bills of this character. If my memory is correct, they have to be dealt with on each occasion that pensioners rates are increased, or the limit of permissible income for pensioners is raised, apart from the pensions which they enjoy - if there is any enjoyment in getting a pension.
The result is that the whole field of social service legislation is fast becoming a farce. It is approaching the stage where many hundreds of pensioners will be unable to understand its provisions. I suggest that a considerable number of pensioners would not be able to understand the provisions of this Bill or the provisions of the Social Services Bill which we have just debated. This type of legislation contains a number of provisions which are not immediately known or cannot be easily discovered by people whose standard of education is not as high as one would hope they might have attained.
I pay a compliment to the officers of the Department of Social Services, particularly in Tasmania where I have had quite a number of dealings with them. I have found that if a section of the social service legislation can be interpreted in favour of a pensioner the officers of the Department are only too willing to do so. Naturally, many problems which take quite a considerable amount of unravelling are associated with social service legislation.
The intention of the Bill is to give a measure of relief to a certain percentage of pensioners, but in my opinion it does not cure many of the anomalies which exist under the present legislation. I believe that the only way to overcome those anomalies is to abolish the means test. If the means test were abolished the necessity to introduce much legislation of this nature would disappear. But we must remember that if the means test is abolished, it will have to be replaced with social service legislation of a different type. I suggest that we could profitably examine the prospects of a national superannuation scheme similar to those which operate in New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.
As I said earlier, this measure is similar to the Social Services Bill in that it will impose further injustices on pensioners. The earnings of a considerable number of male and female pensioners over the ages of sixty-five years and sixty years respectively provide quite a substantial proportion of income tax revenue. Perhaps the abolition of the means test would result in a loss of revenue. However, I suggest that the Treasury has always been able to devise another means of raising finance when a certain avenue has been closed. The means test tends to embarrass people and to cause some to attempt to smother some of their earnings. I realise that very few people do this; but there is the odd person, who, because of sickness or the need to provide a little extra in the home, is inclined to do so. That person commits a breach not only of the Social Services Act but also of the income tax legislation. By retaining the means test we tend to make people petty in their efforts to improve their lot in life. This is particularly so when we remember that with present day costs it is difficult to make both ends meet. Quite recently at Devonport the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Labor Party held a conference over which I had the pleasure and the distinction to preside. The conference approved an item on the agenda which sought a national superannuation scheme. That resolution will be forwarded to our Federal Conference, and I see no reason why it will not be endorsed
I have been generalising about the operation of the means test. Now 1 wish to refer specifically to the case of a man who is seventy-eight years of age and whose wife is in her early seventies. Even though this man has worked for the whole of his life in the interests of underprivileged people, he is unable to qualify for a pension. He holds down two or three very small jobs, the payment for which takes his earnings above the limit permitted under the means test. Consequently he cannot obtain a pension, nor does he qualify for a reduction of income tax payments. Why should these two people, who are in the evening of their lives, be penalised to such a degree? I know that they could well do with a small pension. This kind of thing is a disgrace to our society.
In his second reading speech, the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) said:
As honourable senators know, the Government proposes to increase by St 56 per annum the means test for age pension purposes. It is expected that there will be five pension pay days in the period from the date on which the libera “isa tion of the means test becomes operative to 30th June 1967. On a pro rata basis, what is, in effect, the permissible income will be increased by $30 for that period.
As I said earlier, it seems almost useless for a Bill of this kind to be introduced when pensioners will qualify for an increase of only $30 in their permissible income between now and the end of the taxation year. In other words, the measure imposes a penalty of almost $130 on a pensioner couple for the current twelve-month period. Therefore the Opposition cannot accept the Bill as it stands. We commend the amendment to the Senate and trust that it will be accepted.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– This legislation, which provides for an extension of the exemption limits of the age allowance provisions of the income tax law, is consequential upon the Social Services Bill which we debated yesterday and today. That legislation provided for an increase of $156 a year in the permissible income of pensioners, and it will come into effect as from the time it receives royal assent. I should like to say that I, too, am disappointed that the Government is so niggardly about the extension of this means test, first in the social services legislation, and secondly in this Bill. However, if I am to be consistent, I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Poke for the reason that if the $156 extension of permissible income is not being applied to the full year and is restricted to ten weeks, it is very difficult to argue that we have a case for the application of the $156 as far as the Income Tax (Aged Persons) Bill is concerned. That is the position as I see it. Nevertheless I want to say - and very forcefully, too - that it would not have hurt the Government very considerably to make the $156 extension of income applicable particularly to those people who are not in receipt of the pension and who are disqualified from receiving the pension because of their assets.
As this is a matter that affects the Income Tax Act, and as income is defined by that Act, it is necessary to have a clear understanding, I believe, of the various definitions in the Act of the word ‘income’. There are a number of definitions. Four are the most frequently used, and we are particularly concerned with three of them. Briefly, the four definitions of income are as follows: Assessable income is usually regarded as all income in its pure state before any deducations or - as the Income Tax Act expresses it - expenses incurred in earning that income are taken away from it. Thus sales, interest, dividends, rents, salary and wages, tips and fees, are all regarded as assessable income. Then we have exempt income. When income in its pure state is not assessable, it is exempt. Into this category fall the income of certain people such as consular officials, people not resident in Australia, war pensions, social service pensions and so on. While in the ordinary course of events exempt income does not enter into the picture of the taxpayer, when we discuss the age allowance it does.
Net income is defined as the income that remains after all allowable deductions are taken from assessable income. For example, a man may have an assessable income of $100,000. It may be made up in this way. sales of products, $95,000; salary and wages, $2,000; interest and dividends, $2,000; rents, $1,000; making a total assessable income of $100,000. He has expenses incurred in earning the assessable income, say, of $90,000. That gives him a net income of $10,000. Taxable income is net income less any concessional deductions allowed under the Act. Concessional deductions are usually regarded as deductions not incurred in earning income but incurred in living our daily lives. These are applicable to deductions for dependants, deductions for medical expenses, insurance, rates, gifts, and sundry other types of expenses. These are the ones which are usually shown on the last page of our income tax returns. They are called concessional because they would not be deductions in the normal accounting sense but are allowed in the nature of a concession by the Government to taxpayers generally, and they have varied from time to time over the years.
In considering the question of age allowance, we are concerned with all four incomes. A person’s eligibility to obtain the benefits of the age allowance depends upon the following factors: a person’s age, in the case of a woman sixty years and in the case of a man sixty-five years; the total amount arrived at by adding together a person’s net income and his exempt income. A person’s marital status enters into it, too. While an individual may have an income which renders him liable for taxation or conversely, outside the provisions of the age allowance, a married person with the same income would fall within the ambit of these regulations and be free of tax. I shall not enumerate the provisions of the age allowance which can be read at length on the ordinary form of instructions issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation or which are given on the back of an income tax return. The statutory minimum and maximum amounts are shown on these sheets as they are applicable to single and married taxpayers. The idea behind this submission is to increase the statutory minimum and maximum amounts so that relief can be given in certain cases both to single or widowed and to married taxpayers.
It is not intended to indicate that pensions are too high. I have already expressed myself very clearly on this matter on many, many occasions. I do not believe that pensions are too high. I believe that there are good grounds for increasing the pensions today, particularly when we have regard to the great increase that has taken place in wages and salaries. When we relate our pensions to salaries and wages we find that the pensioners of this country are not receiving the pension to which, I think, they are entitled, and of which they are greatly in need to make ends meet, having regard to the ever increasing cost of living. However, I want to say that people who have spent a lifetime in providing for their old age and in doing so have denied themselves many of the pleasures available to others and who have also ultimately saved the Commonwealth Government considerable moneys in pension and social service payments generally are placed in an unfavourable position.
It is further my intention to point out that a person on an income up to approximately $1,600 - £800 in the old currency - is little, if any, better off - and this dip-ends on his state of health and other matters - than a person on a pension. It is not generally realised that although the pension is a cash figure many other benefits which are in themselves worth a great deal of money accrue to a pensioner. Pensioners, for example, have free medical service benefits and free pharmaceutical benefits. They have concessional rates on telephones, licences for television sets and radios, fares, and local authority rates. They are entitled to free rail trips once or twice a year according to the generosity of the States.
Many of these concessions are of great value. The medical and pharmaceutical concessions are of very great value to people in advancing years, when their health starts to fail. A man who does not qualify for a pension because of the means test receives none of these concessions. Yet his income need not be very much more than that of a pensioner. When we add the value of these fringe benefits to the cash value of the pension on the one hand and deduct the cash value of these fringe benefits from the income of a person not receiving a pension on the other hand, we find that the person who has spent a lifetime saving and has made capital investments to provide for his old age is very little better off than the pensioner. If we take the matter a step further by considering the negative investment required by governments to finance pensions, the disparity passes from the sublime to the ridiculous.
This legislation does two things: It negates the principle of social justice and fair play and it makes a mockery of the encouragement given to people to save for their old age by means of superannuation funds, insurance schemes, investments or other similar types of arrangements.
Let me take the cases of two taxpayers - taxpayer A and taxpayer B. Taxpayer A receives a pension. Taxpayer B does not receive a pension but has an assessable income of $1,600. We deduct from that figure $100 for expenses such as telephone charges, accountancy fees and fares. That brings his income down to $1,500. Taxpayer A has an income of $624. We deduct from the net income of taxpayer B medical and dental costs that he is required to meet. I have put them down at the very conservative figure of $104. That makes his taxable income $1,396. On that he has to pay $109 tax. So he finishes with a net income of $1,287 compared with the $624 that taxpayer A has. If we add to the income of taxpayer A the $104 that I have allowed as a deduction from taxpayer B’s income for medical and other costs, because? he does not have to meet those costs which are covered by concessions under the Social Services Act, and $104 for other concessions, that brings the figure for taxpayer A to $832. If we deduct the $104 for other concessions from the figure from taxpayer B, his income becomes $1,183. So the difference between the incomes of the two taxpayers at this stage is $351, or roughly $7 a week.
Taxpayer B is and has been required to invest a considerable sum to earn the $1,600 - the income that prohibits him from receiving a pension and for which he receives very little consideration in the tax field. It must be remembered that many people with a gross income of $1,600, if they were not in good health, would be much worse off than a pensioner who enjoyed good health. If the taxpayer with a gross income of $1,600 is in bad health he must meet big medical and pharmaceutical costs that the pensioner is not required to meet. The figure that I took for medical and pharmaceutical expenses is merely an arbitrary figure chosen for the purpose of my case. It is difficult to say whether it would be too high or too low. But, having regard to the age of such a taxpayer and his constant need for medical attention at this time of life, I would regard the figure as conservative. However, if that figure is increased, obviously the relative position of the taxpayer receiving a pension improves and the relative position of the taxpayer with an investment income worsens.
The difference of $7 a week may appear to some people to be significant. But let us examine it in relation to the capital investment required in each case. The investment required at 5% to produce a gross income of $1,600 would be $32,000. The direct contribution to Commonwealth revenue is $109. That would service loan funds of $2,180. That makes a total investment, provided or serviced, of $34,180. I come to the direct cost to governments - Federal, State and local - of a pension of $832. The negative investment required to service that sum at 5% would be $16,640, compared with the figure of $34,180 in respect of the taxpayer with an investment income. That makes an investment differential of $50,820. Thus, taxpayer B, as compared with taxpayer A, has a $50,000 stake in his country. For that his country’s thanks represent a paltry $7 a week. This position exists in this country which is desperately short of investment capital.
Let me lake the case a step further by assuming that both taxpayers earn the $364 permitted by the pensions legislation. Taxpayer A - the pensioner - receives $364. But taxpayer B receives $364 less $62 tax, making $302. The further negative investent required to service that amount of tax would be $1,240. So the new investment differential would be $52,060, or an income differential of approximately $6 a week. Taxpayer B would then have increased his stake in the country to $52,000, but his relative position would have worsened. We could, of course, apply similar calculations to a number of cases wilh different levels of income and with different conditions of marital status. It all boils down to the fact that the legislation, as it now stands, makes a mockery of superannuation or investment schemes, particularly those which produce moderate incomes.
The two questions which I wish to pursue here are social justice and the promotion, in the interests of this country, of the incentive to save. Social justice requires, certainly, that taxpayer A - the pensioner - be adequately cared for. We all trust that he will always be adequately cared for. In making this comparison, it is not my intention to convey the impression that I think the pensioner is too well off compared with his fellow taxpayer who is not able to get a pension and who is being penalised because he invested money in a superannuation scheme, a pension scheme or some other form of investment. Nevertheless, social justice demands that a taxpayer in that category should be given recognition for the service he has performed and is still performing for this country. If he makes these savings, then, surely, it is in the interests of the Government to give some quid pro quo in return for that.
At the present the exempted income for aged taxpayers is approximately $1,000 or £500. It is submitted here that, as an initial step only, the minimum provision for age allowance should be increased to two. or three times the pension rate. I suggest that, for a start anyway, and to prove that it is genuinely concerned for this big section of the people who are being handicapped today because of their thrift and sense of responsibility. Because they made provision for themselves and their spouses in their old age, in a spirit of independence, so that they would not become a charge on the public purse, the Government should provide immediately for exemption of income at least twice the amount of pension, and later increase the exemption to three times the pension. If that were done, then we would probably have some sense of equity and some sense of justice being demonstrated towards these people.
Where the income is not more than $1,250, no tax is payable. If income exceeds $1,250 but is not more than $1,500, the tax payable shall not exceed ninetwentieths of the excess over $1,250 less all rebates or credits allowable. Honourable senators know as well as I do that the taxpayer who takes advantage of this age allowance enjoys none of the deductions for medical, pharmaceutical or other expenses that he would enjoy if he were a normal taxpayer. No doubt it will be argued by the taxation authorities that he gets benefit in another way, through the exemption that he enjoys. I say that that is not sufficient. I also say, with all the force that I can, that the rate of tax - nine-twentieths or 45% of all income in excess of the exemption figure - is far too high. It is too big a penalty on the person who has been provident and has shown a sense of responsibility.
Let us now consider the position of married couples. If the taxpayer contributes to the maintenance of his spouse who has been resident in Australia for a full year, and if the combined incomes of the couple is not more than $2,500, no tax is payable. Where the combined incomes exceed $2,500, but do not exceed $3,500, the tax payable shall not exceed nine-twentieths of the excess over $2,500 less any rebates or credits allowable. I repeat that there is a very strong case in favour of this section of our people.
Apparently the Government is determined to continue to have very little regard for the merits of the case that can be put for these people. As I said here a day or so ago when speaking on the Social Services Bill which, in some respects, was similar to this measure so far as permissible income is concerned, I am not here with a brief from the rich or the very rich. I think that the rich and the very rich are not greatly concerned to take advantage of this age allowance in our income tax laws. But there is a big section of our people which includes thousands of former Crown employees, former employees of private enterprise such as insurance companies and banks, and indeed employees in many other callings, who have made sacrifices at the same time as they paid taxes during their period of active life, in order to contribute to some superannuation scheme or another. These people find that, as a result of their responsible way of living and their desire to be independent of a government pension scheme they are penalised and are not even as well off as some pensioners. I am sure that no one could countenance a continuation of that unjust state of affairs. I know from my own personal experience from contact with men with whom I have worked at different times in my life, and from correspondence that I receive, how unjustly the means test has reacted against this section of the people.
Twelve months or more ago I viewed the tax assessment of a man who had occupied a very important position in the Queensland Public Service. This was before the changeover to the new currency. From memory, I think his income was in the vicinity of £1,150 a year. He was required to pay £148 or thereabouts in tax on that amount. That brought his income down to approximately £20 a week, which is not much more than the basic wage today. Yet, the bulk of his income was much of his own money. He had contributed to a superannuation scheme from which he was getting approximately £600 a year. That cost him a great sum over the many years of his active working life. The balance of his income was interest on small investments in Commonwealth loans and similar investment schemes.
Here is a man approaching 70 years of age who has been a good citizen and who has contributed to the community life of his country. He is required to pay £148 tax on that minimum income towards which he contributed greatly. He is unable to get a pension. He is unable to receive the fringe benefits that are granted to pensioners. He has to pay the normal rent for his telephone and licence fee for his television and radio. He has to pay full fare on the tram and he receives no free trips on trains. Above all, with failing health, he has to meet big medical accounts and pay for his pharmaceutical requisites.
Mr Acting Deputy President, you have heard me speak on this matter before. I have spoken on it because I believe lt is one of the great injustices that is being imposed upon a big section of decent people. Last Tuesday, during the debate on the Social Services Bill 1967, I related a story of two public servants who are now in retirement. One had been improvident with his money and had contributed for the minimum of one unit in a State government superannuation scheme. This man was able to obtain the whole pension or almost the whole pension. The other man who had saved and who had made good use of his income over his active years was debarred because of his assets from receiving a pension. How long will the Government continue to be deaf to the appeals by these people for some measure of justice? These are not people with great wealth or unlimited assets. They are people who are trying to make ends meet in the later stages of their lives. They require the same as the rest of us to meet increasing costs. Because of their years they have no means of building on their incomes. They have to be content to accept the miserable, niggardly allowance under this taxation scheme that applies to women over 60 years of age and males over 65 years of age.
This is a niggardly approach to the matter. It would be so even if the $156 was provided for the complete year. I cannot support the Opposition’s amendment because, after all, the $156 increase in allowable earnings will not apply. The advantage gained by the pensioner will be $3 a week for ten weeks. For that reason, I cannot see that I can be consistent if I support the amendment. But I would urge-
– Is not the honourable senator up against the difficulty of having to draw the line somewhere?
– On the matter of the means test?
– On the question of the man who is just above the allowable means limit compared with the man who is just below that limit?
– I think that we are a long way below the line of justice, Mr Acting President. Let us have regard to what has been done in other countries concerning the abolition of means tests. I said here on Tuesday - I do not want to make the same speech again notwithstanding the fact that I remember a great man once saying: Never be self conscious about repeating a good thing, over, over and over again’-
– No my author was not a Goebbels. Let us get down to tin tacks on this matter of the means test. As I suggested the other day, let us adopt a system of phasing out the means test. If we are not going to introduce a national insurance scheme such as the one that has been spoken about for generations almost now, and about which no government irrespective of its political colour has done anything, let us dispense some justice instead of penalising people because of their thrift, because of their sens: of responsibility and because they have had the spirit of independence and provided for themselves and their spouses without relying on Commonwealth aid. Let us give them aid in the form of some relief, in the form of some taxation concession or in some other way. I believe that this is one way by which we could return to these people something for the contribution that they have made for so long to the community and to this country.
– I do not think that it would serve a useful purpose at this stage for me to go, nor indeed that the Senate would want me to go, point by point through the matters that have been raised in this debate, particularly by Senator Gair, pointing out what appear to him rn» difficulties, injustices and anomalies in this whole field of pensions concerning people who save up so much money that they do not require to draw a pension. All I need to say on this matt r is that the points which the honourable senator raised, together with other similar points that have been raised during the debate on this Bill by honourable senators and by members in another place, will not go without close examination by the Government to see what could be done and to see whether anything along those lines can be done. Senator Gair knows that I am not undertaking that anything in particular will be done other than that the points raised will be closely examined. I can say that will happen though what the outcome of that examination will be I cannot say.
The Bill now before us is designed to exempt from income tax a particular sum of money in the case of aged people who are not drawing pensions. For reasons which have appeared to be obvious up to this point of time, income of aged persons who are not drawing pensions has been, up to a certain point, exempted from income tax. But again for reasons which appeared to be obvious, the amount of income so exempted has always been so regulated that it was not greater than the sum of a full pension plus the maximum permissible earnings that the person drawing the full pension could earn without having his pension reduced. In other words, that balance has been kept. In the Bill now before us the Government, as a result of a promise that was made during the election campaign, is easing the means test in the case of those who are drawing pensions. The Government has thought it right and proper that it should make a similar concession to aged persons who are not drawing pensions. As Senator Gair has pointed out, in order to be consistent, it is necessary that the benefit to those aged persons who are not drawing pensions should be the same as the benefit now flowing to those who are drawing pensions.
– For the time being, anyway.
– For the rest of this financial year. If this were not done and if the amendment moved by Senator Poke were accepted - and I ask the Senate not to accept it - the result would be that we would be giving for a short period of time a greater benefit to those aged persons who are not drawing pensions than we are prepared to give to those who are drawing pensions.
– The Government makes no allowances for the man who cannot get a pension. It does not give him any concessional deductions. It does not give him any rebates on his telephone rental or anything like that.
– The honourable senator is raising the general matters now that he has raised previously. The present proposal seems to us to be right for this financial year. To put into operation the kind of approach that the honourable senator suggests would mean a complete new policy approach which, if it needs to be introduced, would have to be considered in budgetary discussions for the coming full financial year. This Bill is designed to provide for the rest of this financial year the same rate of concession to aged persons who are not drawing pensions as we have already provided to those who are drawing pensions.
– Next financial year the Government will be required to introduce a similar Bill to provide for a complete year?
– This is what would happen. In the past this has always happened in the Budget session.
– When the Government introduces the Bill next year it can provide for the situation that I have described.
– That would be possible, but it is certain that when one introduced a Bill next year it would provide for the full year. The terms on which it would run are matters for further discussion. For the reasons which I have given to the SenateI ask that the amendment be rejected. If the amendment were accepted I suppose it would have to be followed by an amendment to the Bill. It seems to me it would be fairly futile to add an opinion to the motion:’ That the Bill be now read a second time’, unless we went on to change the Bill. I would hope that we would not express that opinion and then go on to change the Bill but that we would, as the Bill provides, give to aged persons who are not drawing pensions for the rest of this financial year, a benefit equivalent to that which we have provided for those aged persons who are drawing a pension.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1967.
States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill (No. 2) 1967.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate advising the appointment of Senators Bishop, Cavanagh and Wheeldon to the Select Committee on the Container Method of Cargo Handling.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 2nd May, 1967, at 3 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18 April (vide page 839), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill which is now before the Senate is a welcome measure in that it extends, as the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has stated, the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Consequently it will result in more aged persons being housed. I feel it is true to say that the Act is not working as the Minister claims it is in her second reading speech.I shall refer to some of those sections at a later stage. The main purpose of the Bill is to bring local government bodies within the scope of the Act. I think honourable senators will recall that this has been the Australian Labor Party policy for a considerable time. We feel that this is necessary. In fact we put forward a policy along those lines in the 1961 and 1963 election campaigns. It will be recalled that in 1966 we advocated an increase in the Commonwealth’s contribution from $2 for $1 to $3 for $1. Consequently we do not oppose the Bill. However I feel obliged to indicate now that in Committee we will be proposing an amendment which will seek to extend the provisions of the Bill to bring trade unions and credit unions within its scope.
Although we welcome and support the Bill we naturally reserve the right to criticise it, because we believe it contains many restrictions and imperfections. I suppose it would be impossible for any government to introduce a bill which did not contain some imperfections. It is the role of the Opposition to pick out what it considers to be imperfections in the legislation in the hope that the Government will see the wisdom of our criticism and give effect to our proposals, at least at some stage if not at this stage, to remove those imperfections.
In her second reading speech the Minister had this to say:
The success of the Act is a matter of record. Since its inception, subsidies in excess of $66m have been approved and accommodation provided for more than 25,000 aged persons. Subsidised homes are situated in every state, in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory.
That sounds very good, but when one takes into consideration the number of pensioners in the community who are paying rent or living with relatives one realises that we have not even scratched the surface of this problem, lt is reliably estimated that in the vicinity of 300,000 pensioners are paying rent or living with relatives. That being so, there must be some 275,000 pensioners who are outside the ambit of this legislation.
– Many do not want to live in homes.
– The honourable senator can have his say when he returns to Tasmania. He should let me develop my argument. If he wants to try to pull my case to pieces after I have concluded my speech, he has the opportunity to do so. He can put his name on the list of speakers and the Deputy President will give him the call. If he thinks he can destroy my argument he can have a go later on, but he should let me continue with my particular method of stating my argument.
– Do not lecture me; make the speech.
– I do not want the honourable senator to make my speech for me. I am capable of doing that myself.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! Kindly return to the Bill.
– I will return to the Bill if I am left alone. I was referring to pensioners who pay rent. Many pensioners are paying from $6 to $10 a week for sub-standard accommodation. When one remembers that a single pensioner receives $13 a week plus an allowance of $1 a week, one can see that he is left with only about $4 a week to pay for food, medicine, clothing, fares, insurance and so on, as well as perhaps buying gifts for his family. The 275,000 pensioners to whom I have referred are therefore in a very difficult position.
Normally many pensioners do not come within the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act because they do not have sufficient money to pay the required deposit to a charitable organisation in order to obtain accommodation. The pensioners I mentioned a few moments ago are the ones who fall into that category. I will develop that aspect later. The Act has operated since 1954. When the first Bill was introduced into the Parliament it provided for the Commonwealth to contribute on a £1 for £1 basis. That contribution continued for some time and then it was increased to £2 for £1.
I have referred already to the restrictions and imperfections of the Aged Persons Homes Act and to the aged persons who do not come within the ambit of the legislation. I propose to deal with some of those aspects now. It is necessary for a pensioner to have between $4,000 and $6,000 for his initial payment to a charitable organisation to obtain accommodation. This means that the pensioners to whom I have referred, who are paying between $6 and $10 a week rent, cannot, in any circumstances, save sufficient to pay the required deposit to qualify for accommodation. I am not accusing the Government of acting intentionally to bring about that situation but it does exist. There is no denying that there is discrimination.
There are further restrictions. Not all organisations will accept elderly people who are not reasonably healthy. The reason for that probably is that sufficient nursing facilities for that type of person are not available. They are prepared to accept people who are reasonably healthy and they will look after them up to a point. I am pleased to be able to say that such homes are very much in the minority. The majority of homes supply good nursing and medical facilities. In some such homes conducted by charitable organisations the taking of medicines at regular times is supervised and the elderly people are relieved of that worry. In most instances first class accommodation is provided. It is of a standard similar to that to which many of these people have been accustomed. The units are particularly good and I give full credit to the organisations that supply that type of service.
Pensioners may be divided into three categories. The first category includes people who are fairly active and quite independent. They are able to move about quite freely even though some of them are well into their 80s. They are capable of looking after themselves almost completely and do not need the intensive care required by other elderly people. They can be accommodated in cottage type accommodation or in flats. They enjoy a normal life much as they did before entering the homes. They retain their individual comforts such as television, wireless and so on and therefore do not need to share the communal facilities used by elderly people in other categories.
The next category to which I wish to refer includes elderly people who because of a physical disability or illness require assistance. These people can be cared for by a small staff and housed in a form of communal accommodation. They may be accommodated in bed sitting rooms or may share rooms and facilities. The next category probably includes the majority of pensioners. I refer to people who require great care. They present a much greater problem because a more highly trained staff is needed to look after them. Many of them are chronically ill and require nursing. They may be crippled with arthritis or suffering from old injuries received during their working days. It is most difficult for them to do anything for themselves. They present a much greater problem in respect of housing than the other categories and offer the greatest challenge to people engaged in the humanitarian work of caring for our aged and infirm citizens. Because they require greater attention, a greater amount of money is required to look after them as they should be cared for in their last few years of life.
The question immediately arises of where they are to spend the evening of their lives. Many of these pensioners do not have sufficient money to enter homes for aged persons or to enjoy the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. A number of them have no families. Quite a number have been deserted by their families, in some cases wives have been deserted by husbands and in other cases husbands have been deserted by wives. There are other people who have outlived their families. There may not be many people in that position, but there are some. Not all these people can be admitted to public hospitals because the hospitals could not cope with them. The hospitals admit the chronically ill. Because public hospitals cannot admit all of these people, a number of them must be admitted to mental homes. I believe that this is very wrong. Many of them are not mentally ill but simply need care and attention. In the Minister’s second reading speech she referred to other aged persons who are not so crippled or ill. She said:
We are all aware, Mr President, that adequate housing in congenial surroundings is one of the greatest needs of old people.
I quite agree with what the Minister said. Quite recently I had the opportunity to purchase a book entitled ‘The Hidden People - Poverty in Australia’ written by John Stubbs. I propose to quote a couple of passages from that book. The Minister will probably agree that they substantiate her statement that adequate housing in congenial circumstances is one of the greatest needs of old people. This passage appears in the book:
The pensioners in the most tragic circumstances are those who live in rented rooms in lodging houses and tenements in the inner city slums of our big cities. Miss Jessica Sumner, a social worker for the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, who has assisted the needy aged around Fitzroy and Carlton in Melbourne for many years, described to me the accommodation in which hundreds of pensioners are forced to live.
They are mainly large old houses where the rooms are let separately, and in many cases partitioned so that more than one person can live in them. The only purpose of these buildings is to make money for the landlords, and in most of them the facilities haven’t been changed since they were built. The electric wiring is ancient. They are fire hazards - because of the greed of the landlords and the lack of attention by local authorities. The average rental is $5 a week. Quite a number pay $4, some pay $6 and some $7 just to have something a little more respectable.
The conditions in these houses are the most offensive thing forced on old people. Old people with arthritis live at the lop of long flights of stairs. There is often no light on the stairs - the landlord doesn’t put one there because someone might leave it on.
In most of these houses there is no hot water and an unusable bathtub, or a bathtub that cannot be used with any daintiness. Tenants empty slops in it and urinate in it because there is no upstairs lavatory. In some houses frail old people have to carry every drop of water they use up and down the stairs. You see them struggling up with it and hoping it will last two days.
In the kitchen, which all tenants share, you have to put money in a slot meter for the gas. Often a more dominant person in the house will remove your stew and put something else
On - and get the benefit of the gas you have Paid for too. You can’t leave your washing on the line in the backyard in these areas or it will disappear, and old people can’t be nipping up and down the stairs. So you have to have the washing soaking in a bucket of cold water in your room and hang it round the bed to dry. lt is against the regulations for landlords to prevent tenants using the laundry - but you can’t talk about legal rights if you are frightened of losing your room.
There was a time when anyone who took a room was supplied with linen, blankets and towels. Now they are frequently not even supplied with a mattress.
An effect of poverty on these people is that it forces them to break down standards they have kept up for a life time. There are numbers who have a deeply ingrained aversion to wearing second-hand clothes ‘Especially if you can’t boil it, Miss Sumner,’ or ‘Anything you wear next to your skin.’
One of the greatest difficulties is in trying to maintain a supply of warm underwear. When you can no longer move around to keep warm and can’t afford a fire, you really need warm clothing. I have nightmares haunted by the shortage of long woolly underpants. Another problem is that these are worn until they can’t be worn any longer and have to be thrown away. These people haven’t got the facilities to wash and frequently aren’t strong enough to do it anyway and they can’t afford to send them to a laundry. You can imagine the laundry and clothing problems of a lonely, weak, old man, who has been kept waiting eighteen months for a prostate eland operation, or the situation recently when an epidemic of vims dysentery swept through this area.’
These things cause me quite a lot of concern. This is why I said that such people constitute the greatest challenge to our humanitarianism. To illustrate my point, I quote the following additional passage:
The position in Victoria was described by Leonard Radic in the ‘Age’. After outlining the difficulties social workers had in finding suitable accommodation for people who were living in dingy rooms and pretty terrible apartment houses,’ he said:
Hospital and institutional accommodation is even harder to come by. The biggest institutes for the aged in Victoria are Mount Royal, the Cheltenham Home for Aged and Kew Mental Hospital. The total number of fully supported aged people is more than 8,000. This, however, is a long way below requirements. Mount Royal for example has a two-year waiting list for inpatients. What chronically il. old person can wait that long for a bed?’
I contend that this Government did a disservice to pensioners when it discontinued the arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States which provided for pensioner housing at reduced rentals. If that provision had ‘been retained, quite a number of these pensioners about whom I have spoken would not now be faced with the situation that confronts them.
In my opinion, the Act should he amended to enable trade unions and credit unions to participate in the scheme. We shall move an amendment at the Committee stage with a view to enabling them to participate. The figures that I have obtained show that from the beginning of the operation of the aged persons homes legislation in 1954 to June 1966 a sum of $58.4m was made available by the Government. The Minister’s figures are different from mine, but probably her figures show the position up to the present time. The expenditure of this sum of $58.4m together with the funds raised by various organisations has provided accommodation for approximately 25,000 persons. Whilst this is very good, we have to face the ever increasing spiral of building and living costs. It will be much more difficult in future to finance these homes that have been operating over a period. For instance, in 1955-56 the average subsidy cost per person was approximately $1,320. In 1965-66 the subsidy cost had risen to $3,292. This is an increase of $1,972 in ten years. Put in another way, the cost is two and a half times greater now than it was at the time of the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act.
I desire to speak now about the conditions imposed by some charitable organisations. One of the bad features is that the deposit required is retained by the organisations irrespective of the circumstances of a person at some future date. Should a person for some reason or other desire to vacate one of these places, there is no provision whatsoever for a refund of the deposit that has been paid on the living quarters. Occasionally a pensioner couple pays a deposit, one dies, and the other is left in the accommodation that has been allocated, in some instances, organisations insist that the pensioner occupy a smaller unit, and the previously occupied unit is allocated to another pensioner couple from whom the organisation obtains a deposit of $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000 as the case may be. This gives the organisation an opportunity to extend its activities to bring in another couple. These are some of the bad features. However, I do not intend to offer any solution as to how they can be overcome. Probably it would be a difficult situation to overcome. Unfortunately, it is the situation that does exist.
We have an ever increasing problem of more pensioners. The report of the Director-General of Social Services for the year 1954 shows that there were 477,979 age and invalid pensioners when the Aged Persons Homes Act came into operation. 1 have mentioned the amount of the subsidy at that time and the fact that it has now been increased. Within three years the total number of age and invalid pensioners had increased by 76,128 to 554,107. This indicates that there is an ever increasing need for homes of this type to be built. It also shows that the Government must be expected to increase the subsidy progressively over a period of years. One can only anticipate the amount to which the Government may decide to increase it. I mentioned earlier that in the 1966 election campaign the Australian Labor Party went to the people with a policy of increasing the subsidy to $3 to $1. 1 feel that in the near future the Government will have to adopt this policy. I foresee that not many years will pass before the government of the day, irrespective of its political colour, will have to give at least $5 or $6 or perhaps $7 to every $1 provided by organisations to assist in supplying the housing that the pensioners of this country deserve.
– I should like to say just a very few words on this Bill. Firstly, I am thoroughly delighted to see that local government bodies will become eligible for assistance in the same way as religious, charitable and other organisations, with certain qualifications. Secondly, I am pleased that the Act will be amended so that both funds raised by a local governing body towards the establishment of a home of its own and contributions of money or property by such bodies to another eligible organisation will attract the subsidy. The reason I mention this is that 1 know that certain local authorities in Queensland have already done quite a considerable amount of work in this field, even without the subsidy. I have been approached on more than one occasion by other local authorities with the suggestion that if they were brought into the ambit of this scheme they could do much more work in the same field. I have in mind Rockhampton, where the Rockhampton City Council is doing a lot. I mention it specifically, because it is the one with which I first came in contact in relation to this matter.
This legislation will be a very big help in extending accommodation for our aged people. I want to correct a comment that was made by Senator Poke. Speaking of aged persons homes, he said that many people were debarred from taking advantage of this accommodation because they could not find the money for the deposit. At one stage I think he mentioned $3,000 and $4,000. On another occasion I know he mentioned $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000. I feel that in all justice this must be corrected, because there are many charitable organisations which provide this accommodation for amounts infinitely less than those that he mentioned. Sometimes they do so for $1,000. Sometimes they do so without any charge at all.
– Only some organisations.
– Yes, that is correct. Some organisations provide this accommodation without any deposit at all, but there is a regular maintenance charge which is quite low. It would be, I feel, very unjust to the wonderful work that these people are doing if that point were not made clear. Senator Poke said that one of the bad features of the scheme was that some organisations retained the money and also the accommodation when it was vacated by a tenant or occupier either by death or of his own decision. Surely this should not be described as one of the bad features of the scheme. It is the basis of the whole scheme, because frequently the people who occupy the dwellings could not afford to build their own homes. They very happily pay money to obtain a life tenancy of a unit. The organisations that I know - I know quite a few of them - .bring in new tenants again for low payments. By doing that they are able gradually to extend the accommodation that they provide. It is not as though these organisations were profit making or business undertakings. They are not. They are entirely charitable. Therefore, I do not believe that we should be critical of a scheme which is growing, although perhaps not as fast as we would like, and which is rendering a magnificent service.
I do not intend to traverse the whole field that Senator Poke traversed. The Bill deals very specifically with one matter; that is aged persons homes. I repeat that this scheme is rendering a wonderful service to many people. I would be delighted to think that this type of accommodation would become available to more and more people so that nobody would need to live in substandard accommodation such as that which Senator Poke described when he moved outside the ambit of the Bill. This Bill is a splendid move and I support it most warmly.
– I rise to participate relatively briefly in this discussion. I wish to bring out some of the anomalies that I believe exist in the Aged Persons Homes Act and to ask the Government to consider making an inquiry into the operations of the Act after the money leaves its hands and goes into the hands of the organisations. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), in her second reading speech, said:
The Aged Persons Homes Act has now been in operation for a little over twelve years.
I say with all respect that after twelve years of operation it is time a thorough inquiry was made into the operation of the Act. The Minister went on to say:
We are all aware, Mr President, that adequate housing in congenial surroundings is one of the greatest needs of old people. In approaching this problem the Government decided that, because of the long experience of churches and voluntary organisations in caring for aged persons, an effective contribution would be made by entering into a partnership with such bodies. This was achieved through the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act which has given encourage ment and financial help to the religious and charitable organisations and enabled them to expand their activities.
So the concern of the government of the day was that old people should be housed in congenial surroundings because that was one of their greatest needs. We endorse that concern. Everything possible should be done for these people. Twelve years ago it was thought that the solution was the Aged Persons Homes Act which then gave a subsidy of only $1 for $1, but which has since been amended to give a subsidy of $2 for $1.
Whilst I am not condemning this legislation - I believe that this is a very generous offer by the Government to these organisations - I say that the matters that should be inquired into are whether the Act has achieved the purpose for which it was established and whether there is a better system of providing homes for aged people in congenial surroundings. We have to look at the operations, not only of the churches and voluntary organisations, but also of the other organisations which are approved by the Governor-General as- organisations coming under the Act. I notice that last year fifty such organisations received grants. Although people refer to the achievements of this scheme in its twelve years of operation and the grants that have been made, this method of providing homes is not providing the greatest possible number of homes for aged folk and is not providing for all sections of the aged community.
Senator Poke referred to people living in apartment houses in which someone else takes the stew off the stove or uses the gas. Similar situations can be found in other capital cities and in many country towns. Old people are living in damp rooms with poor facilities or are sharing facilities. This Act does not make provision for such people because they have not the necessary deposits to enable them to go into the homes that are subsidised under the Act. They might be able to get into one of the homes to which Senator Morris referred - homes that do not require payment of a deposit. We senators mostly hear complaints when homes are charging deposits. Those cases remain in our minds. We do not hear of cases in which deposits are not demanded.
At our caucus meeting at which we discussed this question, I discovered that some organisations in New South Wales require comparatively low deposits and others do not require any deposit at all. If that can be done by one organisation surely it can be done by all organisations. Does not this necessitate the making of an inquiry? Some organisations require a deposit on each occasion on which a unit is relet to another aged couple. Whilst it is true that these organisations are not profit making, the money that some of them receive in excess of what they require to cover their capital cost is going somewhere. It may be going into high administrative costs. Someone might be getting a good job out of it.
– What about the estate agents?
– The estate agents might be getting some of it. Is this the best method of providing homes for aged people? As I said before, it is not the only method and it is not a method that is providing enough homes for our elderly citizens at the present time.
– Do not some organisations - 1 do not say all - use the money that they accumulate to build more homes for more people?
– If the money goes towards building more homes for more people, the additional homes are also subsidised and deposits are required in respect of those homes. The Twenty-fifth Report of the Director-General of Social Services, under whom this Act is administered, states that last year 1,333 grants were made under the Act and those grants enabled 23,218 people to be accommodated. The total amount of the grants was $58,418,529. If we divide that figure by the 23,218 people accommodated, we find that the average cost of accommodating an elderly person under the scheme we are considering was $2,516. Of that sum the Government provided $1,676 by way of subsidy while the cost to the organisation of accommodating a single person was only $838. But the important point is that the occupant is required to pay $1,000 to enter the unit. When the occupant leaves, or dies, quite a number of institutions covered by this legislation require the new occupant of the same accommodation to pay another $1,000 by way of deposit so that in effect the organisation earns an additional $1,000 without undergoing any further capital cost. Although this money may be used to build another unit, I point out that if it is, then the Government will contribute another $1,676 and the organisation will be responsible for only $838.
It will be noted that the various State housing authorities provide homes for elderly people. In fact, they provide more homes for elderly people than are provided under this legislation. Unfortunately, all State housing authorities do not state separately in their annual reports the number of elderly people that they accommodate. I do know from my own knowledge that they have a good system in South Australia. There, a group of homes for elderly people is built in conjunction with all housing projects. These aire rented at approximately $3 a week. So successful has this scheme been that the waiting period for prospective occupants is some years. 1 no:e from the annual report for 1966 of the New South Wales Housing Commission that last year the Commission built 825 units for aged people, while the number of people accommodated under this legislation was 6,633. In Western Australia, the State Housing Authority inaugurated a somewhat similar scheme in 1957-58, and to date has constructed 561 units for aged people. On the other hand, the 91 grants made- available under this legislation provided accommodation for only 2,110 persons.
But let us compare the accommodation provided under both systems to decide which is providing the better facilities and whether it would be better to make more money available to the various State housing authorities for this purpose than to increase the grants to the organisations covered by this legislation. The report of the Western Australian Housing Commission points out that its cottages are specially built for elderly people. The facilities provided include Roman type recessed baths so that the elderly may sit down to shower. They also include hot water services throughout the dwelling. A small washing machine is also supplied and every dwelling has hand rails on all sets of steps. For homes with all these special facilities for the elderly the average rental is $6.10 a week, and certain rebates are also granted. If only one pension is received by the occupants the rental is only $3 a week. This is reduced to $1.90 for the survivor in the case of the death of one spouse. So a single person may rent one of these homes with all modern comforts without payment of any deposit and upon payment of a rental of only $1.90 a week.
Flats for elderly ladies are rented at $3 a week for a single unit and $2.50 per person if a unit is shared. It would seem obvious, therefore, that the Housing Commission of Western Australia is doing a better job than the organisations covered by this legislation in meeting the demand for accommodation for the elderly. I have no information as to cost, but it could be that if the $1,340,279 which was paid under this legislation to organisations providing for the aged in Western Australia last year were made available to the Western Australian Housing Commission more elderly people would be housed in ideal conditions. I do not say this would be the position; I merely advance it as a reason why I feel that some inquiry should be made.
I note from the annual report of the Tasmanian Housing Commission that the average rental for aged persons homes is $2 a week for a single pensioner. This is subsidised by the State Government. The Commonwealth Government refused all requests by the States for grants for subsidies. We have a clear indication here that the State Housing Authority in Tasmania is prepared to do more but the Commonwealth Government refuses to subsidise Housing Commission homes.
Why is this so? Is the scheme under consideration a better one? The Minister said in his second reading speech that twelve years ago inquiries were made of charitable and religious organisations who had had some experience in looking after the aged. In these Housing Commission reports we have evidence of the experiences of other authorities to whom we should be looking with a view to deciding whether the financing of State housing authorities would be better than increasing grants under this legislation. According to its annual report for last year, the Tasmanian Housing Commission housed nineteen lone persons and forty-one aged couples during the year. Its activities are not great, but they are effective. At the moment, 116 aged single females and 43 aged couples have applications with the Commission for accommodation. The demand for this type of accommodation is increasing. Neither the State housing authorities nor the organisations covered by this legislation are meeting the demand at the present time. More should be done in this regard. I do not want to take anything away from the organisations that are providing this service. But the whole of our thoughts regarding this legislation should be directed towards the question: What is the best way of achieving what the Act set out to achieve twelve years ago and is any alternative accommodation available?
I have received a letter from a Mrs Dougan of New South Wales, who supplies some information on this question. I think that copies of this letter were sent to all members of the Parliament. Mrs Dougan offers to supply proof of the allegations that she makes. In her letter, she indicates the class distinction that exists in these particular homes in one organisation in New South Wales. The examples that Mrs Dougan gives are as follows
Outside donors may pay for same units as have already been paid for by occupant. There is no equity. Each time a vacancy occurs the Founder’s Fee is re-imposed.
– The woman does not say which home it is?
– I am inclined to believe that the lady did say in her correspondence which home it was. Unfortunately the correspondence is in my Adelaide office.
– Perhaps it is best not mentioned.
– 1 rang my office in Adelaide today to find out about this point. In the absence of the girl in my office through illness, the letter could not be located today. If any honourable senator doubts the bona fides of this correspondence or if any honourable senator agrees with me that this is a question that needs inquiring into, I can provide the information and the address of this lady who will be pleased to give further information. I accept her statement because similar circumstances exist in some of the homes in Adelaide.
The question that is raised is this: Should the Government be subsidising two-thirds of the capital cost of a unit that is so superior to what is described in the letter as a unit involving a founder’s donation of from $1,500 to $1,800. The occupant of the superior unit has to pay from $3,700 to $3,900 for the purpose of renting it. Only a limited amount of money is available for the Government to use to provide housing for aged people. Should not this money be used to obtain comfortable homes for the largest number of old people rather than to provide luxurious homes for a smaller number of people? Some units attract a bigger entrance fee than others. Some attract an entrance fee in excess of $3,700 which is some $1,000 in excess of the average cost of accommodating a person under this scheme. When we see this, must we not reach the conclusion that aged persons homes are being provided for wealthy people under this Act at the sacrifice and to the neglect of poorer people who cannot afford to pay the entrance fee asked?
– In some instances on the figures that the honourable senator has given only.
– 1 do not make the sweeping statement that this happens everywhere. When I began my speech I said that I had sympathy for the purposes of the Act. 1 have said today that we should all be resolved to achieve the most good with the limited finance that is available. I think in all sincerity that the Government twelve years ago, being familiar with the work of religious and charitable organisations in looking after aged persons, considered that these were acceptable organisations for the purpose. I am not saying at this stage that they are not, but in view of what is happening in some of these homes - this is common knowledge - surely it is time for an inquiry to be held to see whether or not the scheme is being abused. If such an inquiry proved that the abuses were only the isolated cases, should not the provisions that allow abuses to occur in even an isolated case be tightened up?
A company in Adelaide has advertised as a non profit company for the purposes of building homes for elderly folk. The company appealed in the newspapers to people to donate money - they would retain an equity in their investments - for the purpose of providing homes for old folk. This will be subsidised by the Federal Government on a $2 for $1 basis if this company becomes an organisation approved by the Governor-General under the Act. The Act provides that the Director may seek some guarantees that the homes to be approved will be maintained for the housing of elderly people. Some time ago - possibly two years ago - I asked how many organisations had such a guarantee demanded of them. I was told that a guarantee was not sought from benevolent and religious organisations but that a guarantee was sought from other organisations. One argument has been put to me in these terms: if an organisation comes to own a home for aged people and decides not to continue to use it for the original purpose, would the company refund to the Commonwealth the amount of the grant that the Commonwealth made to it?
This is like an investment or speculation in land where the speculator does not have recurring interest. But when a person buys property, the value of it nearly always increases from that time and continues to increase. To illustrate this, let me point out that a person who purchased land for £800 during the depression days would be wealthy today. Property values continue to increase. If at some time in the future an individual body - it is not a religious or voluntary organisation - decides to dispose of the aged persons home what it has to do is assess the value of the property at that time less the amount of the grant received from the Commonwealth. In effect, what the organisation has is its original investment plus any additional value that has accrued to the property over the period it has been held.
– Less the charges that have been attracted to it.
– That is what I am saying. The value is that amount less the charges that have been attracted to it. But the individual body still has the security of its investment. One questions why individual organisations other than religious, charitable, benevolent and ex-servicemen’s organisations, want to enter this field. Last year, a total of fifty such organisations were involved. Then there is another group of organisations - and we do not know who they are - which has been approved of by the Governor-General. Fifty of these organisations accommodated 771 people last year. Amounts granted to them last year totalled 88,887,163.
We do not know to whom this money has been paid, but we do know that in most homes for elderly people in South Australia a deposit is necessary. We find that politicians are associated with many of these organisations which are constructing homes for elderly people. It may be that a politician’s normal function is to look after the elderly people and to associate himself with voluntary or religious organisations. I suppose that these organisations incur administrative costs and that someone has to pay for them. But cannot an inquiry be held into this matter to see whether the Act is being abused? Cannot an inquiry be held to see whether a housing commission would not be a better organisation to build homes for elderly people? Under the present scheme local government organisations can build a few houses. Is this more desirable than having a housing authority build the homes in a large block? Would the costs be higher?
We do not know what check is made on the cost of a home, but we find that the cost per unit differs from State to State. Last year New South Wales accommodated elderly people for $2,501 per unit. I understand - and this is reflected in the C Series Index figures - that New South Wales has higher production costs. Wages are higher and materials are more expensive in that State. At the same time, Victoria accommodated elderly people for $2,648, which is $147 more than it cost in New South Wales. Is Victoria providing a better type of accommodation? Is the New South
Wales type of accommodation not good enough for Victoria? Should not there be Government supervision in this matter? Last year Queensland accommodated elderly people for $2,297 per unit. But in South Australia which is one of the low wage States of the Commonwealth and which can build housing commission homes at a cheaper rate than can the other States, it cost $2,568 to accommodate elderly people. That is approximately the same cost as in New South Wales.
– Can the honourable senator make that clear? Is that the State’s contribution or the capital cost of the unit? Is that the figure without the Government subsidy?
– No, this is the Government subsidy. I am quoting from the annual report of the Director-General of Social Services for the year 1965-66. This is the Government subsidy. The figures have to be increased by one third in order to get the actual cost. This is the amount by which the Government has subsidised the homes. As I have said, in South Australia which can build housing commission homes at a lower cost than can the other States - and it is notorious for this - it costs more to house elderly people than it does in New South Wales or in any of the other States. When compared on a population basis with the other States, last year South Australia built the largest number of these homes. In Western Australia these elderly people can be housed for a Government subsidy of $2,474. In Tasmania they can be housed for a Government subsidy of $2,179 and in the Northern Territory they can be housed for a Government subsidy of $1,963. It could well be that in the Northern Territory a different class of home is built because there are not the facilities that there are in the other States. This question could well be looked at. Are we providing a suitable type of home in the Northern Territory? Why is there a disparity between the price of a home in the Northern Territory and in South Australia and the other States? There is so much left unsaid that it makes one wonder. This is a loose Act. If a capital cost is incurred in buying land and building homes for these people, subject to the approval of the Director-General the Government will pay a subsidy on a $2 for $1 basis.
As I stated whenI rose to speak, I do not want to condemn anyone. From what I have heard I think that there are organisations which are doing a commendable job under this scheme. But to my mind the scheme fails in two respects. Firstly, you cannot commend the activities of some of these organisations because of the high price that these elderly people have to pay. Secondly, as far as I know, the scheme does not provide for those who are in destitute circumstances and who badly need a home. That is the work of the housing commissions, but they are doing it only to a limited degree at the present time. Would it be better to give the money that we have available to provide homes for elderly people to housing commissions to use for this purpose or should we continue as at present? I do not know. I put these questions to the Senate to indicate some of the matters I would like to have examined. I would like the Minister to consider what I have said and if possible to reply to it.
– I enter the debate becauseI believe that the Bill which is before the Senate is one that should be supported by everyone in principle. Mr President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– On behalf of Senator Murphy I move:
The subject raised by this motion is of very considerable importance, not only to those many individual students who are disadvantaged, often cruelly, by the operation of the quota system in university faculties but also to the nation itself because of the enormous wastage of talent that is involved in the rejection of students who have prepared themselves for a university course and have qualified for admission to a university course by reaching the required minimum standard in the matriculation examination, and then find themselves shut out because of factors outside their control.
In the course of my remarks on this motionI shall address myself to some of the factual background of the situation, to some of the difficulties which confront people of good will in attempting to tackle this problem and eliminate it, to some of the principles which in my opinion should govern the selection of university students, and finally to some of the Commonwealth and State financial considerations which could elevate this problem on to the plane whichI think it deserves to occupy.
In 1966 some 1,934 qualified students out of 8,153 applicants were rejected by Melbourne and Monash Universities. That represents almost one in four. In 1967 there were sonic 14,000 applications to the central admission office which operates in Victoria for the three universities, Melbourne, Monash and La Trobe. Although there has been no final calculation of the number of students excluded under the operation of the quota system it has been reliably estimated that over 2,500 matriculated students will not obtain a place in the three Victorian universities.
Quotas are applied in most Australian universities. The University of Melbourne was perhaps the first in Australia where quotas really started to bite. Victoria seems to be the State most badly hit by the quota system. There seems to be some temporary respite in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, primarily because of the introduction of the Wyndham schooling plan in New South Wales. Quotas affect not only internal students but also external students. Take the University of New England, for example, a university with some 2,900 external students. Some hundreds of these students have been rejected because of lack of staff, caused ultimately by the financial stringency that is operating in universities. There are many other instances of exclusion of capable and dedicated students from the career of their choice.
I have no hesitation in saying that university quotas are the result of inadequate funds and lack of planning. The evidence of lack of planning lies in the fact that the number of students allowed into the various faculty quotas seems to be a trifle haphazard and to bear little relation to the community’s actual needs. The financial squeeze which is now operating in Australian universities is likely to make the quota system of entrance a permanent feature of university administration unless some urgent attention is given to the problem of arresting and reversing the trend.
It is not part of my case tonight that this problem can be remedied in a day or a week or a year. It is obvious that an accumulated problem faces the universities, a problem of finance, a problem ultimately of how far they are to expand and a problem of what relationship their potential bears to the community’s needs. But it is part of my thesis that something should be done. We must begin to assess the situation and make a start upon the basis which I suggest, that is, that we should not assume that the open door policy of the universities to matriculated students, which operated until recent times, is just a thing of the past. On the contrary, I think that in our educational planning we should assume that we must aim to get rid of the quota system ultimately and that in the short term we must do what we can to reduce the extent of the operation of the quota system.
The only way out of the enormous logistical problem which caused the institution of quotas is for the Commonwealth Government to accept an ever expanding responsibility for providing sufficient finance to enable the universities to take all qualified students. That is why we of the Opposition move this motion. We want to bring the problem as forcefully as we can to the attention of the Minister for Science and Education (Senator Gorton) who has assumed very important new responsibilities as Minister in charge of the newly created Department of Education and Science. We want to bring these matters clearly before his attention so that some of the issues can be debated. Without anticipating at this stage what the Minister will say in reply, I expect that there will be a difference of emphasis between us arising out of the view he has taken, and publicly stated in the past, on two matters. Firstly, as to whether there exists a crisis in education today, I think his views are well known; he regards the proposition that there is a crisis as coming fairly close to being nonsense, to use his words. Secondly, as to the criterion according to which students are to be admitted to universities, there is an argument between us, I suspect, as to where to draw the line.
On many occasions in replies to questions in the Senate and on public platforms at educational forums which he frequently addresses and to which he presents his views and the views of the Government, the Minister, as I shall show in the course of my remarks, has stated that the mere passing of the matriculation examination should not of itself entitle a student to enter a university. That is where we come into conflict, and 1 want to make our views known as the debate unfolds.
We must look at this problem broadly. Shortly I shall deal with some of the particular features of the problem and the way it affects individual students and universities and the country. It is our contention that the Commonwealth Government must be held responsible for a great part - I do not say the whole, because it would be absurd to do so - of the indefensible squandering of talent in the field of Australian education. Future generations of Australians will lament the shortage of trained technicians, scientists and administrators. The Commonwealth Government has yet to accept the full implications of its responsibilities in the field of education. It has firmly insisted that education is a matter for the States while at the same time depriving the States of the financial means to solve their problems. This has resulted in a piecemeal set of measures entirely lacking a co-ordinated plan for the education system from primary through to tertiary institutions.
It is part of the approach of the Australian Labor Party that a thorough going inquiry should be held into all aspects of the education system - primary, secondary, technical and tertiary. By this means the relationship of one phase of the educational system or systems to another can be examined and the overall needs of the country can be assessed. How do we know in Australia what the national needs are in all these fields? The Government has consistently declined to meet the challenge that it should appoint a national committee of inquiry. We believe that to be an indispensable part of any thorough going national approach to education problems.
As a consequence of the Commonwealth’s attitude to university quotas and the Commonwealth scholarship system, it has aggravated what I think may fairly be called the great Australian rejection of potential intellectual talent. I do not want to debate the Commonwealth scholarship system now because it is the subject of a later notice of motion which the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has given relating to its inadequacies. In some respects - not all - the Commonwealth scholarship system is unsound.
I wish to examine for a few moments some of the quota figures of universities to see what progress has been made; whether the universities with the assistance of the Government have been gradually overcoming this problem of quotas and moving back, however gradually, to the scheme of things that operated in years gone by when a boy or girl who passed matriculation in the required subjects would enter the faculty of his or her choice. There they would pass or fail according to many circumstances, including ability and the environmental factors that everybody has to contend with.
– And application.
– I said to pass or to fail according to many factors including ability. I accept application as being one of the factors. If we were moving back to that sort of equilibrium, then the motion the Opposition is moving tonight perhaps would not have been necessary. Then it would have been a matter of swimming with the current stream of history and getting back to a position which I think most of us would welcome.
The problem of quotas exists in other States but I think it is particularly acute in Victoria. The figures show that the position is getting worse rather than better. In 1958 there was only one university in Victoria and the number of qualified students rejected by that university was 41. A total of 52 was rejected in 1959; 126 students were rejected in I960. In those days, as I recall, quotas were imposed only in the medical faculty. In 1961, 362 students were rejected; 655 students were rejected in 1962; 686 were rejected in 1963; and 660 in 1964. Honourable senators will note that in the period from 1962 to 1964 there was a state of equilibrium. About 600 students were rejected annually. In 1965 the number rose from 660 to 1,680. As I have said, in 1966 the number rejected was 1,934. The estimate by a very reliable source is that it is likely that over 2,500 students will be rejected this year.
– And my son is one of them.
– I did not know that he has yet reached the stage of being rejected.
– I was not making a special plea on behalf of a young man whom I know to be a very fine lad.
– Is he Liberal or Labor7
– We will leave it to him to answer that question and not to mischief makers to impute the views of fathers to sons. We will leave it to the boy to grow up and form his own opinions. I believe he will form the right ones. I regard Senator Poyser as a first class educationist and I think he will help his son to reach the correct attitudes on a whole host of problems.
I think honourable senators appreciate that university quotas represent a problem of considerable dimensions. I have cited the figures for Victoria where the position is worse than in the other States. It has reached the stage where bodies such as the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures have criticised the high rejection rate. That was back in 1965 when a mere 1,680 were rejected. In August 1965 the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures had this to say:
Unless such facilities as are necessary are made available, all forms of progress will tend to move down into slow gear. Action is vital, not in 20 or 30 years time but now. By the time La Trobe University is ready, the spaces available at all three universities will probably be insufficient to cope satisfactorily with the demand. In ideal circumstances anyone eligible for entry to a university should be able to gain a place without difficulty. But ideals are hard to attain and we must in many instances be satisfied with less. How much less is the question. Ways .and means must be found whereby the youth of today can be given a chance to acquire the knowledge that will fit them for leading roles in the future.
They are not the views of a political party but of an important body in the community representing business interests. It sees the problem, the challenge and the danger. On 21st January 1967 Kevin Randall, education correspondent of the Melbourne Herald’, asked the question: ‘Do we need the fourth university now?’ He presented in a very succinct way the problem as it seems to present itself to me. He wrote:
Should Victoria continue year after year to refuse higher education to thousands who have shown themselves capable of higher learning by passing the Matriculation examination? . . . They are particularly burning questions for the ‘just passed’ students among the 21,000 young Victorians who sat for the matriculation examination in November 1966. For them seven long weeks of frustration, fear and anxiety ended in elation at the sight of that final ‘P’ (for passed) at the end of their line of computerised results. Then comes the great let-down like a knife between the shoulder blades - the realisation that a matriculation pass is not enough any more to ensure entrance to one of the State’s three universities. The very word “matriculation’ has become a misnomer, lt had its birth many generations ago in the old universities of Europe, which demanded a ‘certificate of maturity’ from prospective students.
With the passing of time it came to mean any certificate which proved a student satisfied certain university entrance requirements.
Mr Randall with some wistfulness wrote that the meaning of ‘matriculation’ has been extended even further. A person is not entitled to call himself a matriculant, he wrote, unless he has passed the matriculation examination, has reached the age of seventeen years, gained selection in the quota for his chosen university course and has signed a university matriculation roll. We suggest that the existence of restrictions of this kind cannot be allowed to become a permanent part of the education system of Victoria or of any other State.
I return now to the point I was making earlier - that the number of students allowed into the various faculty quotas bears little relation to community needs. I refer, for example, to the critical shortage of secondary school teachers with university qualifications in mathematics and science subjects. University quotas for these subjects have had the effect of cutting off the student intake at a number which does not allow for sufficient graduates for community needs. The teaching service has not been able to compete with industry or research undertakings for these graduates. Matriculants most affected by the mathematics and science quotas have been those who have obtained secondary school scholarships. I believe that every matriculated student deserves a chance to enter the faculty of his choice at a university. It is a cruel blow for any student who has worked hard and has passed a matriculation examination to find that because of a quota he is unable to gain admission. Too many dreams of students and parents are shattered by rejection of the students by a university. Often after many years of financial sacrifice on the part of the family, such students have to rethink their whole future.
The quota system means two things: It means injustice to the individual student and a critical loss of talent to Australia. In my view it can be justified only by a critical shortage of funds for university accommodation, equipment and staff, lt would be utterly wrong to regard this system as being here to stay and to accept that situation submissively or complacently. It must be eliminated in the not too distant future, and the extent of its operation must be reduced at the earliest possible time. We allege that the quota problem is another example of the Commonwealth Government’s failure to provide leadership in the field of education. The Commonwealth has been content to drift into expedients. I do not want to withhold a measure of appreciation of what has been accomplished in this pioneering field and of the work that has been done by the Minister for Education and Science, who has shouldered some of the responsibility for a number of years. However, wc suggest that the Commonwealth has approached its task pragmatically and empirically and, as I have indicated already, has drifted into series of expedients, lt has taken steps which have been dictated by political expedience.
The Commonwealth secondary scholarship scheme which I referred to earlier followed a hastily concocted promise which was made before the 1963 election. This promise was made without consideration of the modern, progressive movement in education circles to de-emphasise external examinations and examination results. I am not an educationist in the professional sense, but I am aware of the agitation, the lively controversy, that genuinely exists amongst educationists as to the best method of testing ability and as to whether the examination method is the one to utilise when awarding scholarships or when determining entry into the universities. All these are formidable problems about which people may hold legitimate differences of opinion. I emphasise the fact that in education circles over recent years there has been a move away from the old, static concept of the examination as being the sole test of a student’s ability.
– Has the honourable senator any comment to pass on from the Vice-Chancellor’s committee or the Australian Universities Commission on this topic?
– No, I do not think so. I do not wish to quote any of the ViceChancellors but, having discussed this matter with a number of them and knowing something of their views, 1 do not think they like the quota system, lt involves a lot of extra difficulty for the universities and involves them in agonising problems when dealing with students who do not make the grade. However, they must do the best they can with the finance they have. This is only one of the many problems they experience in keeping their great institutions going while being left substantially independent to conduct their affairs as they see fit. Probably the Minister and I would be on common ground in saying that one does not lightly attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of the universities. A lot of trouble awaits anybody who does so. The universities themselves, the students and the community would suffer many ill effects if these institutions of higher learning were not left free to pursue their work in their own way, even if they made some mistakes in doing so.
Let me emphasise certain views that are held by the Minister. Perhaps he is not alone in them. 1 am aware that it is believed in some places - perhaps the belief is not as widespread as I have heard the Minister suggest - that some university authorities no longer regard a matriculation examination as the best means of determining entry into a university. Those authorities may either be accepting what they regard as being inevitable and may believe that soon there will be no open door to the universities or perhaps they are accepting the fact for the present, knowing that it will extend into the indefinite future as one of the problems that flow from stringent or drastic financial measures to restrict their resources. They are operating not in a vacuum but in a situation in which there has been a substantial reduction of the funds available to them. The Minister will not like my saying that. I know it will be said that more is being spent this year than last year or that more is being spent in the current triennium than in the previous triennium. I would be very surprised if that were not so. If more was not being spent now than in the past, the position would be absolutely disastrous and not just disastrous. The universities are operating in a period of financial stringency. A sum of $56m was slashed off the amount recommended by the Australian Universities Commission for the current triennium. The universities have suffered a serious setback in their post-graduate research work because of the recent Commonwealth-State impasse over who is to pay for research - over who is to pay for the Robertson committee grants and who is to pay for the Universities Commission research grants. In the end result the students and the community are suffering.
– Docs the honourable senator think that the university councils spend their money wisely?
– If the honourable senator wants a royal commission into the administration of the universities, let him ask for it.
– I am asking the honourable senator whether he thinks the money is being spent wisely.
– I am not a public accountant, but I have a great deal of confidence in those who guide the destinies of the Australian universities. They manage as well as they can. I am not alleging, and I would not be a party to alleging, that they do not spend their money wisely.
– Sir Philip Baxter alleges that they do not spend it wisely. He says that they ought to be sacked.
– He is the ViceChancellor of a very important university. He is always screaming for more money. Whether he is talking about a university other than his own I do not know.
– I think the honourable senator may assume that he is.
– He will be chasing the Minister for more money. The Minister should persuade the Cabinet that it is time we began to think big about universities and to think about education in the national sense. If we did so, we would really get things moving. On many occasions the Minister has expressed the view that it would not be unrealistic to expect that a matriculated student could enter the faculty of his choice at any time. Does the Minister forget that matriculation is the qualification for admission to a university and not, as he has suggested in the past, the successful completion of secondary education? I reject the concept which he has often enunciated that matriculation is not enough to put a student into a university and that it should be regarded merely as the successful completion of a period of secondary education. Quotas are imposed, I suggest, for one reason only - because of what I would call logistical problems, problems of accommodation, equipment, facilities and staff.
In simple terms, universities have to impose quotas because of lack of money, and it is here that the Commonwealth has to pull its socks up. Australia must begin iO open the purse for education and step up significantly the percentage of national income spent on education. We spend much less than other advanced countries. I am rather anticipating what may be said against this argument. Allowing for some difficulty in comparing like with like, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation figures, which I think ought to be taken as reasonably reliable for this purpose, show that our 3.8% of national income spent on education compares unfavourably with the United Kingdom’s 5.8%, Belgium’s 7.1%, Germany’s 6%, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ 8.1%, Italy’s 6.3% and the United States’ 6.3%.
– What UNESCO figures are these?
– The UNESCO 1965 figures.
– From the last statistical year book?
– 1 will not undertake that it is the last but I believe it to be the last, lt is the ‘UNESCO Statistical Year Book’ of 1965.
– It is the one that refers to percentage of national income?
– Yes. It does not use gross national product; it uses national in come. 1 said 3.8%. Its last figure was 3.4%. It was 3.9% in the year before. 1 think 1 have rather accepted 3.8%, a figure that Professor Nossal gave recently as a percentage of gross national product. I have been a little more favourable on this figure than the UNESCO figures suggest for the most recent year.
– Be a little more accurate.
– 1 do not mind. It only makes my argument stronger if I can make a few concessions which will make the Minister feel that I have not been unfair lo him. The Opposition, for which I am speaking tonight, wants to see a great expansion of the educational system, lt does not like quotas, lt does not like alibis or excuses, which always have to be offered for the lack of facilities for all qualified students. The country needs graduates in many and diverse fields. The corner stone of Australian Labor Party thinking on education is equality of opportunity for all students, city and country, male and female, lt is perhaps an interesting fact - I do not know whether the Minister has any explanation for it - that according to the university statistics of 1965, which are part of the Social Statistics Bulletin’, there were in that year a total of 83,320 university students of whom 61,300 were males and 22,000 were females.
As I understand the position, when completing secondary school education males and females are almost equal in number. Somehow or other we lose the girls at that stage. I do not doubt that it is due to a complex of reasons, some of them social, some of them environmental attitudes, some of them springing from views as to the proper role of women in society. I am looking across the chamber for some encouragement from Senators Wedgwood and Breen. I think that they are following me very closely at the moment. They might know what happens to the young ladies and why they do not go to universities in the same numbers as young gentleman.
– They get married.
– Not all of them get married.
– These two did.
– They do not all get married at seventeen. There would be some other explanation. Some of the difference is due to the different way in which women are regarded for the purposes of educational opportunities. Some of it may be due, as I say, to social or environmental factors, but I am satisfied in my mind that there is another ingredient operating somewhere and this is the anti-egalitarian argument or attitude so far as women are concerned. However, I do not raise that as the major issue for tonight.
I have said that the corner stone of our thinking in the Australian Labor Party on education is equality of opportunity for all students, city and country. We want to see the disadvantages and disabilities of country students compared with metropolitan students counterbalanced by some kind of special, specific attention to country areas. The activity of recent years, especially, following upon manifestations of Commonwealth interest in the field of education has, we think, not been at a fast enough pace and has so far failed to make any significant impact on existing disabilities and inequalities.
This is something that I think honourable senators ought to know, because it is part of the background pattern of our education system and we have to test whether we are really getting somewhere in providing equality of opportunity by what we might call socio-economic factors. The Martin report - only within the last few years - which the Senate has debated at length, noted that of the school leavers whose fathers were in the category ‘unskilled or semiskilled’, who totalled 33% of the fathers of male school leavers, only 1.5% entered a university. Those fathers totalled 33% of the fathers of all male school leavers but only 1.5% of the sons entered a university. By contrast, only 2% of the fathers of male school leavers were classified as ‘universityprofessional’ but 35.9% of their sons entered a university. Those are very startling statistics in my view and they show how far we have to go to achieve equality of educational opportunity. There is absolutely no justification for Government complacency or smugness about quotas or scholarships or any other aspect of its actual and potential responsibilities in education.
I want to do two more things before I conclude. I want to read to the Senate that portion of the Australian Labor Party’s education policy which deals in a particular way with what I have been talking about generally tonight, with specific reference to quotas. We say that to meet Australia’s rapidly growing educational needs, specific policy objectives should be based on these considerations:
The necessity for immediate action to relieve the crisis in Australian education.
The raising of public expenditure on education to a point where it no longer compares unfavourably as at present with that of other countries at a similar level of social development.
The necessity to improve not only the quantity but the quality of educational effort by reviewing all important aspects of the educational system.
The recognition that these objectives can only be attained by vigorous action on the part of the Commonwealth, in collaboration with the States.
I pause to say that the last part of our motion tonight calls upon the Commonwealth and the States to put their heads together to establish a sounder basis of providing finance for universities and other institutions of education. We cannot allow this tug-of-war between the Commonwealth and the States to continue to the point where it seriously undermines the position of teaching institutions, their staffs, and the students who go to those institutions. It is the students in the community who suffer. We invite the Senate to express its concern about this immense problem. We invite the Government to begin to think big about its responsibilities. Surely this should be a challenge to the Minister and his new Department of Education and Science. Their response will show how genuinely the Government is concerned about the educational crisis.
Quite recently a very distinguished scientist in Melbourne, Professor Nossal, the Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, delivered a very challenging address in which he suggested - and I agree with him 100% - that one of the important tasks to which the new Ministry might address itself is what might be called a ‘five-year plan’ - a plan to increase the percentage of Australia’s national income or gross national product spent on education over that period by one third; that is, from 3.8% to 5%. The Minister might tell me precisely what that means in millions of dollars. I will not be the slightest bit abashed by any statistics that he cares to produce. 1 believe that this should be the minimum objective for Australia, situated with its responsibilities in this part of the world. If it takes the Minister seven years to achieve the fiveyear plan, we will be a little disappointed because of the slowness of the progress but we will regard that as a pretty good effort.
Certainly, the Ministry of Education and Science should set itself some broad national objectives in the field of education policy. lt should lift our sights a little in the way in which we approach education, it should accept the implications of being the provider of finance. That would not mean that the purse would be completely open. It would mean that some assessment would have to be made of the nation’s needs in education. A realistic attempt would have to be made to meet those needs, instead of just threshing about in the air in an empirical way. Even though particular aspects of the present system may bring benefit to particular sections of the community and a great deal of pleasure to people who personally have benefited from the scheme, the problem about which I have spoken as to what members of the community ultimately get to university remains unsolved.
We arc a little inclined to assume that, because today we spend millions and millions of dollars more than was spent in the old days, somehow the problems that existed only a decade ago no longer exist. In a way. that is part of the outlook of the so-called affluent society. The majority of the community becomes accustomed to a standard of effort and seems to forget that there is an underprivileged one-fifth of the population. People who are receiving benefit from the current education system and the general community tend to delude themselves into thinking that we have really got the problem beaten. In fact, we have only begun to scratch the surface of it. Returning to the subject of quotas-
– I make no apology for saying what 1 have said. The reason why we have quotas is that we have all these other problems. Quotas cannot be divorced from those problems. .1 am not asking the Minister to fix up this matter in five minutes. But 1 am saying that these problems are related one to the other and, as grown up people, we should be able to discuss them and have our differences about them.
There should be specific goals at which we are aiming. One cannot pat oneself on the back unless one has achieved a particular target. This is not directed at the Minister personally; the Government suffers from this attitude in many respects. It is no good saying: ‘We have spent so many million dollars. Look what was being spent in Chifley ‘s time, ls not this wonderful? We are now spending five or six times as much.’ In fact, we would be spending only twice as much because money today is worth only one third of what it was worth in those days. In any event, such a statement means very little. All it means is that in the aggregate we are spending more, lt does not mean that we are solving more problems. It does not mean that the problems are any nearer to solution.
– The Government can find more money if it wants to send conscripts to fight in Vietnam.
– The Government seems to be prepared to find the necessary money for a matter that it says is one of national priority. We have always found the necessary money in war time and we would find it again. I would like to think that some of the enormous amount of money that is being spent on the war in Vietnam and other conflicts at the moment could find its way into human betterment. If that happened we all would sleep a little easier at night.
I want to say something about one or two problems that the existence of quotas poses in the educational sense. A Mr Anderson, who is a research officer at the University of Melbourne, wrote a paper on the problems and performance of university students in a book called ‘Higher Education in Australia’ which is edited by Professor Wheelwright, the Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Sydney. Mr Anderson dealt with some of the problems that arise in relation to selection. First of all, he spoke of the examination system being the best known system to date. He went on to say:
The effect of selection on pass rates is of immediate interest, now that universities are being forced to restrict the admission of qualified applicants. . . .
He referred to studies of students at the University of Melbourne and said that the findings were in line with results from overseas investigations. Then he said:
There are two main conclusions. First, of the many possible predictors of academic performance, the best is school examination results. Second, the relation between predictor and criterion, while positive, is not sufficiently strong for more stringent selection to lead directly to substantial increases in university pass rales.
He proceeded to give some information in statistical terms. Perhaps that passage would be a little too technical, so I will not quote it. He referred to Schonell, Roe and Meddleton - three educationists in Queensland - who reported a similar pattern in Queensland, and quoted their words as follows:
The price for not admitting to the university fewer than twenty students who would not have graduated was the exclusion of another twenty students who would have been entirely or relatively successful. At the same time the proportion of the 1955 enrolment making satisfactory progress (that is, normal progress or delayed one year) would be 70.5% instead of 68.5%.
The price for excluding from the university about thirty students who would have failed to graduate was the rejection of forty-four students who would have been entirely or relatively successful. The proportion of the total enrolment making satisfactory progress would be 71.8% as against 68.5%.
What those three men were really saying was that, when we apply a rigid selection system, whatever the system be, we can never be certain that we will not pick the wrong students; that we will not pick students who will not make the grade; that we will not exclude students who would have made the grade had they had the opportunity. It is because of the uncertainty of any kind of education test that one realises that one can play havoc with the lives, ambitions and prospects of individuals by subjecting them to an arbitrary system of selection after they have already qualified in the matriculation examination.
We do not feel that we can ever be willing parties to such a system of education. We do not feel that we should condone it. We do not feel that we should ever have to apologise for it. We believe that the important areas for the concentration of national assistance in the field of education are areas such as scholarships. We note from Mr Anderson’s figures that about 55% of Australia’s students have no financial assistance, that only 27% have Commonwealth scholarships and 38% of those, or 10% of the total have Commonwealth scholarships with living allowances. That is the real hard core of the problem of education in Australia - the equalisation of educational opportunities for men, for women and for the sons and daughters of working men so that they may really be said to enjoy full opportunities in the same way as those who come from more privileged homes.
Because I have concentrated on the solid area where one can talk about actual conditions of exclusion, the solid area where we talk about finance, real or imaginary, present or potential, that does not mean that we want to overlook either quality or quantity in all these matters. We are not concerned simply with the amount of funds that can be supplied to our education system; we are concerned with the quality of the system and the kind of citizen it produces. I wanted to say that, only by way of caution, because I would not want it to be thought that 1 do not regard that aspect of the education system as important. Necessarily, in dealing with the matter in an arena like this, we concentrate on the practical question of how we can offer the opportunity to the underprivileged student, of how we can stop this rot of saying that we no longer have an open door to the universities.
We want to see the end of it. We will co-operate in any way with the Government in any practical steps that are taken to arrest a trend which we regard as nationally dangerous and as demonstrably unfair to individual students. For that reason we invite the Senate to express its concern about the problem and we trust that the matters to which I have drawn attention on behalf of the Opposition will strike a respondent chord in those who are listening and that we will work together to get national targets in education. That means establishing a system of priorities. We might not always agree about what the priorities should be, but we welcome .a genuine and far reaching attempt by the Government to put a new aspect on our education system.
– I think I should begin by sketching in the factual background against which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) spoke and against which I shall be speaking, because one might have gathered from what one has heard so far tonight that, somehow or other, Australia was lacking in relation to the number of university places it provided and in relation to the assistance it gave to students. This seemed to form quite a part of the argument advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quite distinct from the direct question whether quotas should or should nol be imposed.
In relation to the number of university students in Australia I think honourable senators might find interesting the comparative figures relating to the number of university students in the United Kingdom. In 1966 Australia had 91,160 university students. In a comparable year, but not the same one - 1964-65 - the United Kingdom had 162.018 university students. That means that Australia had more than halt the number enrolled at universities that the United Kingdom had enrolled, yet the population of the United Kingdom is nearly five times that of Australia. If these terrible dangers which Senator Cohen says threaten us do in fact threaten us then they threaten the United Kingdom in a much greater degree. The fact of utmost significance which ought not to be overlooked is that we, with our small population, have half the number of people enrolled at universities that Great Britain, with her much larger population, has.
Then we have heard that perhaps proper assistance is not given by the taxpayers of Australia, the people outside of universities, to those who are enrolled. When we hear that, I think we should test it not against what a political party says, not against what I say, but against what the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia says, a committee appointed under the chairmanship of Professor Martin and which had independent chairmanships on this subject. Those who examine the report will find this statement on page 200 relating to aid to students:
Expenditure on direct government aid to tertiary students in Australia compares favourably with that of most other countries. The Economist Intelligence Unit survey disclosed that in 1960 Australia stood third among 44 countries in direct government aid per student, and equal third per head of population.
I emphasise that this relates to aid to students, not aid to universities. On page 201 of the report is published a table showing that in aid per student we stood behind the United Kingdom and Sweden but above all the other countries referred to, and that in aid per head of population we stood behind the United States of America and the United Kingdom, but ahead of all the other countries referred to. So it is, I think, difficult factually to make out a case either that great numbers of Australians are not attending universities or that those who attend are not greatly helped in the world context by those who pay taxes and who do not go to universities. I just put that in to sketch the background against which we now need to look at this question of university quotas.
It is, of course, true that quotas are required in most, but not all universities - I shall come back to that later - and in many faculties. But there has never been a time in Australia’s history when quotas were not imposed by universities and by faculties at universities. They were not imposed openly, but, up to 1950 or so, it was necessary for those who went to universities to be able to pay for their education there. This in fact imposed a wrong sort of quota, a wrong sort of limitation as to those who were able to attend university. Let us not think that at some golden age these university faculties were open to all, that anybody could attend. There was a financial bar upon attending.
– Not in Western Australia.
– Well, there was in rive out of the six States and, to most of the population of Australia, what I have said is true.
– You are using ‘quota’ in an entirely different sense.
– No, I am not. I said it was a limitation not openly imposed but certainly financially imposed. Limitations can be imposed in many different ways, but in the end result they come to the same. They can be imposed, as they once were here, financially; they can be imposed as they are now in the United Kingdom by requiring a very high standard of qualification for admission to a university, or they can be imposed in other ways.
However, it still remains true that there arc not quotas in all Australian universities. There are not any quotas now for example in the universities in New South Wales, including the University of New South Wales and the University of New England, and also in the Australian National University.
– There are quotas for part time students but not full time students at the University of New England. At least, there are quotas for external students.
– There may be some quotas for external students but I do not believe that there are quotas for full time and part time students. In Tasmania there are quotas in one year in respect of one subject. In other universities, the position varies. I do not want to labour that point other than to say that there are opportunities in Australia for people to attend universities if they cannot gain acceptance to the first university of their choice.
What is more important in a discussion of this question is to form one’s opinion as to whether there ought or there ought not to be any limitation upon entrance to a university or to a faculty in a university. If there arc limitations, then the question is: on what grounds should those limitations be based? It is not a matter of thinking big or thinking small. It is a matter of thinking straight. There are good solid grounds for believing that now that we have reached the stage where four-fifths of those who go to universities are paid for by the taxpayers, there ought to be some test before admission to university is granted. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seeks to make out that all that ought to be required is the passing of an examination at the end of the secondary period of study which is quite wrongly called matriculation. I say quite wrongly because matriculation in its proper sense really means qualifying for admission to university.
– The standard could be raised.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests that the standard of that examination could be raised and that only those who could attain that standard could enter university. I do not see the difference between that proposal and having the existing examination where a student has to obtain more than a mere pass but has to reach a particular degree of pass before he or she is admitted to university. That is the test that exists now.
What is before the Senate now is an examination of the proposition: should the entrance to university be wide open or should it not? Ought there to be higher standards required before entry? This is, I think, a matter of thinking straight. It is not so much a matter of disputation between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and myself as it is a matter of disputation between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and that Committee which was appointed to inquire into the future of tertiary education in Australia and to make recommendations as to what should happen in tertiary education in this country.
– The Minister did not accept all of the recommendations of that Committee.
– No. I did not accept all the recommendations of that Committee. But I propose to put to Senator Cohen and to other honourable senators a whole sequence of remarks that that Committee has made on this subject so that what Senator Cohen has said can be assessed against the background of what this independent Committee has said on this subject. I find the Committee troubled by this very question. An examination exists which is used to signify that a student has satisfactorily completed education and that ought to be enough to ensure the admission of the student to university. This is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition put up in his argument. I refer to page 36 of Volume 1 of the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia and direct the attention of the Senate to paragraph 2.59 which reads:
The present processes employed in Australia to regulate entrance and selection in universities call for immediate scrutiny. The examination held at the termination of secondary schooling usually serves as the university entrance examination. This examination is also used for a variety of other purposes in the community, with the result that it falls short in the original intentions of educationalists in both areas.
This is a different and, I suggest, a completely opposed view to that which has been put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which was, if I quote him correctly and if I followed his drift correctly, that this examination ought of itself automatically to admit to the faculty and to the university of his or her choice, the student who passes the examination.
– It did before the institution of quotas.
– And the honourable senator thinks it should. . . .
– And this Committee does not believe that it should.
– Is the Committee not saying that the examination has been allowed to fall short and that that is a shortcoming?
– -No. The examination does fall short of the original intentions of the educators in both areas. That is what the Committee said. That is to say that the examination falls short of selecting those who will be admitted to universities and it falls short of showing those who should have passed their secondary field.
Let me continue with a further example of what the Committee had to say in this field. I refer honourable senators to page 49 of the report where, again, the Committee is dealing with the standards of entry to university. At paragraph 3.19, the Committee had this to say in greater length:
The matriculation examination should be pitched at such a level that a pass indicates the ability to succeed in university studies. It should be made to serve the purpose of indicating to those who fail or who pass by a narrow margin that their prospects of graduating are not high. The moderate correlation that typically exists between performance in the matriculation examination and in the university means that many students who barely matriculate will fail in the first year of their course. However, to raise the standard of entry to a level which would ensure that virtually all those admitted pass the first year, would also mean the exclusion of many with the ability to graduate.
Here the Committee is saying that the existing matriculation examination is not the criterion which ought to be used for admission to university but that there is a danger in raising it too high.
– Matriculation is the true test if placed on the proper standards.
– -But the Committee is saying that it is not placed on the proper standards. The Committee goes on in paragraph 3.20 to say:
It would have enlarged the task of the present Committee unduly to have considered in detail appropriate standards of entry. However, both the universities and the secondary schools might benefit from the broad consideration, perhaps at a national level, of the content of subjects and the skills to be tested by the entrance examinations. The primary object would not be to achieve uniformity in courses, but to exchange information and ideas about the content of courses, about the introduction of new topics, and about the secondary school and the university approach to subjects.
There is merely the suggestion of the Committee as to how a test which is unsatisfactory for university entrance, but which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asks us to take as a satisfactory test, might be improved.
– Would the Minister not concede that the formulation of the test is the responsibility of each university?
– It ought to be the responsibility of each university and in fact in a sense it is. But this can only be the responsibility of each university if it is to be a true matriculation examination in the sense of an examination for entry to that university and if it is not also an examination which must be passed in order to get a certificate to show that secondary education has been successfully completed. In other words, clearly running throughout this report there should be two ideas. One is that of an examination that shows that a student has successfully completed secondary education. The second is either the high standard at that examination or another examination which the universities regard as justifying matriculation and entrance to them. In fact, this is what now happens. The universities decide what particular percentage of pass they require before they will accept entrance. This theme runs all through the report I find on page 69 that the Committee returns to this subject. It states:
Since in general the final examinations for secondary education also serve as the matriculation examinations for the universities, difficulties arise as to the standards to be applied. The minimum standard for a pass, viewed in terms of completion of secondary schooling, may be lower than that necessary for success in ternary studies
That is exactly what, by interjection and answer, Senator Wright and I were just debating. The Committee continues:
Furthermore, it is apparent that many parents, as well as their children, have no idea of the nature of university study nor of the level of ability and application required for success. Some students who have reached the limit of their academic potential in obtaining unimpressive examination results at matriculation level embark on university courses. Sometimes, only the minimum matriculation standard is reached after repeated attempts, and investigation has shown that such performance is associated with a small, chance of successfully completing a university course.
Vet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has urged that these people with such a small chance should be able to do a university course. Even if they pay their own fees four-fifths of the cost of putting them through it will be at the taxpayers’ expense.
I suggest two things. The first is that it is not financially responsible to take the attitude that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken in the face of these expert opinions and say that no matter how small a chance a person has of getting through a university course, nevertheless the community ought to pay $2,000 a year to give that person a chance to attempt the course and ought to pay the $2,000 capital investment that is required to enable him to attempt it. My second point is that from the educational point of view and from the point of view of those concerned with human aspirations it is equally wrong to put into institutions people who have little chance of passing.
– You say that people who have a matriculation pass would have little chance of passing?
– Exactly. If these educators are correct in this report, certain people would have little chance of passing because they had only just got through the matriculation examination. If these educators arc correct - and after all they are experts in their own fields - these people are striving for something which they are unlikely to be able to achieve. They have been failing, as we know, in large numbers over the years. They become frustrated and perhaps discouraged when they do not need to be discouraged, particularly if other areas of education are open to them which they can properly fill.
– That is the American social problem.
– It could well develop here. That leads me to another observation of this expert committee which states: . . there is a danger of higher education becoming identified in the minds of the community with university education, and of a university degree becoming the single symbol of intellectual aptitude. Ability is a complex human quality; and emphasis on university studies to the exclusion of others in higher education is wasteful of much human talent.
I think that one of the problems that besets us in Australia today is precisely that kind of social approach. It is the sort of thing which quite wrongly tends to make a parent push a child into university education. Even if the child has just got through the matriculation by a whisker, it tends to make the parent push him into a university and to try to push him through a course.
– It is becoming a status symbol.
– It is becoming a status symbol rather than what it ought to be which is a method of training people in the kind of skills Australia wants and training them so that they can as individuals develop their own capacities and their own chance of thoroughly expressing themselves. It is quite easy to become a second rate physicist but it is not much satisfaction to an individual to be a second or a third rate physicist. It can be a great deal of satisfaction for such a person to be a really first rate technologist and to know that he is able to contribute and is contributing as well or better than anyone else, for that matter, in the particular field. This is from the individual’s point of view.
Apart from that there is a requirement in Australia for people to be trained in this way. If we are to achieve a moral or spiritual civilisation it can only be built on a material basis. We must have capacity to produce and capacity to provide which will enable steps to be taken in other directions. The root of the argument between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and myself is: should there be quotas or should there be not? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted Sir Frederick Schonell; or he may have quoted somebody who quoted Sir Frederick Schonell.
– 1 quoted from something by Sir Frederick Schonell and two other researchers.
– I have here a quotation from a report very apposite to this subject made by Sir Frederick Schonell to the Queensland Parliament in his capacity as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland. Referring to the University of Queensland, he said:
I suggest that St Lucia cannot afford to cater for any student of mediocre quality - whether that mediocrity results from inadequate native ability, poor early training, lack of industry or inadequate social and emotional adjustment. The costs of financing a first class modern university are go great that we must look closely at who is allowed to enrol and at what courses we should offer. Students with average results should certainly not be denied the opportunity of further education; but the onus should be on them to demonstrate that they are worthy of subsidy by the community in the State’s top university. . . University teachers must necessarily spend more and more of their time on ill prepared students and must correspondingly reduce the time devoted to the able. The validity of this point is readily appreciated by any teacher required to spend a great deal of time on the correction of elementary errors in the written assignments of poor students.
In my opinion, we should now review our responsibilities at St Lucia with a view to ensuring that admission and course policies are devised for developing more intensely the unique individual abilities of better students.
That is the view of one Vice-Chancellor, but what is he sacrificing by this? What is the change that he has suggested? What will the results be? This is mentioned again iri another quotation I have from him. I admit that this is a quotation, not from a report to Parliament, but from what a journalist attributed to him. It refers to quotas which the University of Queensland thought it might apply but in fact did not apply this year. It was planned to freeze out minimum matriculation students who would have one chance in six of surviving their first year of university study.
Should the community be disturbed if people who have one chance in six of surviving their first year at university are not admitted to a university but are provided with alternative sources of tertiary education. There was a requirement of five C level passes for entry to the University of Queensland. The university authorities believe that students who get five C level passes have, at best one chance in six of surviving a university course. A student with five low level C passes, which previously would have permitted admission to the university, has no more than one chance in ten of completing a course. If we were to accept as a proper course what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has propounded to us, we would say: ‘Never mind, we should admit these people at public expense even though they have only one chance in ten of completing a course, and we should pay what is required in -order to enable them to have their chance although nine out of ten fail in the first year’.
– Out of the taxes of the workers.
– Out of the taxes of all of us.
– They pay their fees, which is all students ever did in the days before quotas.
– They pay their fees, I admit, but in the days before quotas, and in the days to which neither you nor I would want to return, those who went to university and were admitted only because they could pay fees, paid fees which paid for their courses. Today those who pay full fees pay no more than one-fifth of the cost of their course per year, the other four-fifths being borne by the taxpayers of Australia. I think that is the nub of this argument.
On the one hand we have a suggestion from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that an examination which is designed - it varies as between States - to give a student a certificate that he has successfully concluded secondary education should be sufficient to ensure that the student is admitted to a university; on the other hand we have evidence from people of great distinction in this field that if that submission were accepted we would be admitting large numbers of people who were not qualified to do a university course. Honourable senators have to make up their minds whether the expense involved in doing that should be incurred or whether the money might not better be spent in providing alternative avenues of tertiary education, particularly since the alternative avenues provided through the colleges of advanced education will permit late developers to transfer, should they wish to do so and should they do well enough, to a university at a later stage.
– When will someone state that matriculation does not mean automatic admission to a university?
– I think the honourable senator is out of date. I have stated publicly in Victoria more than once that in my view that is so.
– In the Minister’s view.
– Did not the honourable senator ask when someone would state it?
– Someone should say it in the schools where the students are.
– I believe many teachers and headmasters are doing that now. This does not apply in the honourable senator’s State, Tasmania, because there matriculation, which means passing a secondary examination, allows admission to the University of Tasmania. There are no quotas in Tasmania, so the question does not arise, but there is no doubt that in other places it is clearly understood that the mere passing of the matriculation examination, which is wrongly named - let us call it a leaving examination - with a 51% or 50.5% mark is no longer sufficient for admission to a university. Quite apart from the quotas imposed, the universities themselves require a higher standard of pass than that before admission.
The choice is whether money taken from the taxpayers should be spent on placing in the universities students who, according to the eminent people I have mentioned, have very small chance of passing, or whether the money should be spent on building up alternative methods of tertiary education. However, I will agree that any student who does well enough at a matriculation examination to satisfy members of the university board that he has an 80% chance of passing his course in minimum time, or minimum time plus one year, should go to a university. I contend that in fact that is the situation now.
– Would he have to be put outside the quota, if necessary?
– I do not think that would occur. I believe that what I said is happening now. As the honourable senator mentioned in his speech, it is a matter of fixing the level of quality at which admission takes place. But this is a different matter from taking an existing matriculation examination and saying that anyone who scrapes through should be admitted to a university.
– Very well, fix it at a higher level and establish a basis.
– If you fix it at a higher level you will eventually reach the stage where there will be very little difference between us as to the stage at which quotas are fixed now.
– One cannot always judge quality on examination results either.
– I would admit that to be true without doubt. 1 would also put to the honourable senator that if he intended engaging a lawyer he would want one who had managed to obtain a university degree rather than one who had failed in his last year, even though that might not be a proper measure of the person’s quality. If the honourable senator intended engaging a doctor I think he would prefer to have one who had managed to meet the requirements of the examination board. Yet there might be someone practising outside who would do quite well. This is not a perfect world, but .1 think the test I have mentioned is the best which can be applied, particularly when there is being established now an alternative system of tertiary education in which someone who has just managed to get through the matriculation examination can, if he is a late developer - he may decide to work harder or his mind may develop more - have a second or third chance to reach the required level. If that practice were adopted I think we would be providing a better system of education for the young people of Australia.
If this Senate accepts the proposition of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and says that without altering the present matriculation, so-called, examination we should so govern ourselves that places are made at universities for everyone who manages to scrape through the present examination then we, as a Senate, will be rejecting the advice given Over and over again in the report of the tertiary education committee. We will be acting differently from the United Kingdom which, as I have mentioned, is much more savage than we are in its requirements as to who will be admitted to its universities. As a concurrence of doing that, we will be spending large sums of public money which I suggest can be much better spent in other fields of education in Australia.
– And also doing a disservice to the young people.
– And I believe we will also be doing a disservice to the individual development of many young Australians. 1 think we will be doing a disservice to the future of this country. Not only are lawyers, doctors, arts graduates and engineers required - although 70% of our engineers do not now come from our universities - but we also need electronics experts and technologists. We need to devise a system of education for them which will turn them into great technologists and into people who are fully developed through their contact with the liberal arts during their courses.
For my part, I would prefer to follow the path of developing these systems of education side by side rather than to make it possible by a great diversion of public money for people who have one chance in ten of success to go to university, to fail, to be frustrated, and not to provide what Australia needs in the future; perhaps also to destroy their own chance in life, their own enjoyment of life far more than they would be destroyed by what at the moment is happening in Australia.
– I wish to speak only briefly on this subject. In doing so I do not want to discuss in detail figures and statistics relating to tertiary education in Australia but rather to recall the original motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen). The Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) has the advantage of having attended a very ancient university One of the consequences of that, I think, is that he ‘has derived a certain benign urbanity which is usually concealed behind an armour of political partisanship. However, I do not think nhat while he was at Oxford - I hope I am not being offensive - be studied philosophy. If he did sp, he must have studied before the development of the Oxford School of Logical Analysis. Had he studied under that School he would have made a somewhat different speech from the speech he made tonight and would have dealt rather with the terms of the motion than with the matters to which he addressed himself. I would like to recall to the Senate and to the Minister the terms of the motion moved tonight by Senator Cohen:
That the Senate expresses its concern at the existence and extent of the quota system in the universities and requests that the Commonwealth Government consult with the States with a view to eliminating or reducing the quota system.
I do not believe that the terms of the motion could reasonably be opposed by any honourable senator. No condemnation of the Government is involved. No one is saying that the Government should immediately abolish university quotas or that it should immediately take steps so that everybody in Australia who wishes to attend a university can do so. Nobody is saying that anybody who has the educational qualifications should be entitled to attend a university. The motion states by implication a criticism of the quota system as it operates at present in Australia. It states that instead of the quota system continuing indefinitely consultation should take place between the Commonwealth and the States with a view to its elimination. What the Minister has said about certain persons being admitted to universities and proving to be inadequate to the course which faces them may be perfectly true, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with the quota system. That is a criticism of the standards of matriculation of the universities.
The Minister has said that this is the same thing - that if the standards of matriculation are raised, it is the same thing as applying a quota. In fact, it is not the same thing at all because the application of a quota means that only a certain number of persons are eligible to take a certain course within a university. However high the standards of matriculation are raised and however many people achieve the raised standard, if a maximum number of persons had been fixed as the number able to attend that university, obviously there would be people who had attained the standard and would still be ineligible to attend.
I do not wish to be parochial about this matter and to refer solely to Western Australia. The Minister has said that the universities did not fix the matriculation standards; that in fact what was called matriculation’ was a misnomer and that all it really meant was that somebody had qualified sufficiently to be able to show people that he had completed his course of studies at high school. Western Australia is one of the last States to be affected by the quota system, but it is now being affected. The relevant examinations in Western Australia are conducted by the University of Western Australia through its Public Examinations Board. The Board is responsible for two examinations: One is the junior certificate which high school pupils generally take at the age of fifteen years to show that they have satisfactorily completed three years high school education. At the completion of five years at a high school an examination is set. As a result of that examination a student may be awarded a leaving certificate which shows that he has adequately attended five years of high school. To the same examination a higher standard is applied to judge whether a student has matriculated.
The University of Western Australia prescribes what is matriculation and by that term the Public Examinations Board means that it is setting a minimum requirement for admission to the University of Western Australia; that is to say. that in the considered judgment of the University of Western Australia a student who attains a certain standard at this exam has matriculated. Whether he has barely matriculated or with a flourish, he is a person who one would assume would have reasonable prospects of coming out of the university with a degree if he devoted the same attention to his studies at the university as he had at high school.
The last relevant figures given to the Parliament were given on 2lst September 1965 by Sir Robert Menzies, who was then Prime Minister. He was asked to enumerate the universities and faculties which had a quota system. He said that at the University of Western Australia there was a quota in the Faculty of Commerce, a quota in the second year of the dental science course and a quota in the second year of medicine. I am sure that if I am incorrect the
Minister will correct me, but I understand that the number of faculties in which there are quotas in the University of Western Australia has increased since 1965. What a ludicrous situation existed in 1965. A quota was fixed for the commerce course. In dental science and medicine the quota was fixed for the second year. In those circumstances students not only would have matriculated - that is to say, satisfied the University that they were fit and proper persons to attend the University - but also would have attended university and passed the first year of the course before becoming subject to a quota. Only the top bracket of the students who passed the first year were eligible to go on and attend second year. One might well say that the best people in the first year would go on to complete the second year. Surely it is logical to say - I cannot imagine that there is anything unreasonable about this - that if a student has been able to pass in the first year he would be able to pass also in the second year, the third year, the fourth year, the fifth year and the sixth year.
– Why have a pass standard in the first year if it is not a pass standard?
– I quite agree with the honourable senator. If the pass standard in the first year does not mean that one is qualified to proceed to the second year, what on earth does it mean? How can we say that a person who has passed in the first year is not qualified to proceed to the second year? To say that would be absurd and preposterous.
The Minister has quoted figures relating to England and has said that we are doing better than England is. I do not want to go into detail about what is happening in England. Everybody in England admits that the university education which is provided in that country is quite inadequate. Neither the Government nor the Opposition in England is saying that England has a perfect system of tertiary education. The position is not that the people of England claim that they have a perfect system of tertiary education and we claim that we are doing better. It is acknowledged on all sides in Great Britain that that country’s entire education system –including the primary, secondary and tertiary levels - is inadequate.
Both the preceding Conservative Government and the present Labor Government in Great Britain have done everything possible to increase the number of universities in that country so that a greater number of persons may enjoy a university education. To select a country in which lt is admitted that the number of universities is inadequate and then to say that we in Australia are doing better will lead us nowhere. Any such claim would lead us somewhere only if it could be established that the education system of Great Britain is adequate.
I can well understand that there might be circumstances in which it would be quite reasonable to apply a quota. I can well imagine that the government of a developing country would say that that country needed engineers, technicians and doctors. 1 believe that in India a large number of people who have matriculated have, instead of wanting to work in outlying territory on technical matters, studied to become lawyers, economists or journalists with the result that a city like Bombay is flooded with lawyers but there are not enough engineers to go out into country areas.
In Australia it would be quite reasonable in such a case for the Government to support a quota for the faculties of law: The Government could say: “The legal profession is overcrowded. It is necessary for the well being of the members of this profession and the community as a whole to reduce the number of people who are entering this profession.’ I do not think anybody could take exception to that. But the Government is not doing this at the present time. It is not saying: ‘Too many people are graduating in these spheres. In order to regulate the number of people entering these professions and so they will not be overcrowded, we are ensuring that a quota shall be fixed. Overcrowding would damage the other members of the profession, would damage the people who are entering the profession and would damage the community as a whole.’ In many universities quotas have been fixed in the faculty of law. A number of people would say that there are too many lawyers at the present time. Senator Gair seems to think that is so.
– There are too few good ones.
– I think that in all States there are many country towns which have not a lawyer but which could support one. There are just not enough lawyers to go around these towns. There is a gross shortage of dentists and medical practitioners in Australia at the present time. In Western Australia innumerable complaints have been made about the shortage of dentists in that State. Yet we find that a quota has been fixed for the faculty of dental science. The quota has not been imposed for the benefit of the profession or of the community, but simply because the Government is not providing enough money to enable people to be trained as dentists.
– As a matter of interest, what is the honourable senator’s authority for saying that there is a dentistry quota in the University of Western Australia?
– I would accept the Minister’s correction if that position has changed, but my authority is an answer given in the House of Representatives on 21st September 1965 by the then Prime Minister to the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister was asked to enumerate the universities and faculties in which a quota has been established. In relation to the University of Western Australia, the Prime Minister mentioned the faculty of commerce, the second year in the faculty of dental science and the second year in the faculty of medicine. I stand to be corrected, but I understand that the number of faculties in which there are quotas has been increased and not decreased since 1965. ,
– I have checked that. My information is that there is one.
– As I said, that was in 1965. However, I am open to correction. I am relying on the answer that was given by the then Prime Minister. That was the latest information we could obtain from Hansard. In 1965 the courses in which quotas existed at the University of Sydney were agriculture, architecture, dentistry, economics and engineering. The Minister has said that this country is in need of engineers.
– But not necessarily university trained engineers.
– As I have indicated, at the University of Sydney there is a quota for engineers. I admit that people who have not a university degree can do practical engineering, but I think the Minister will agree that at certain levels of engineering a university degree is essential.
– No, I would not.
– I think the Minister will agree that Australia is short of university trained engineers. I do not think he will suggest that we have so many university trained engineers that as a matter of policy we should limit the number who graduate. If he is prepared to suggest that, then I would be very interested to hear him do so. I have not heard it suggested so far.
– The vast majority of our engineers have never been to a university.
– Quotas have been fixed in the faculties of law and medicine. Does the Government suggest that the health services of Australia are so magnificent that we need to limit the number of medical practitioners in this country? Is it the policy of the Government that there should be fewer medical practitioners in Australia? If so, I would be very interested to hear the Minister say so. I am sure the people of Australia would be very interested to learn that that was the Government’s policy. Again I speak, subject to correction, but I understand that there is a gross shortage of medical practitioners in Australia and that there are many country areas where people experience great difficulty in obtaining adequate medical attention. This is because, as the result of the imposition of a quota, insufficient doctors are being trained. The Opposition believes that quotas are being fixed not because of a deliberate policy to reduce the number of people entering the various professions but because of a shortage of funds. I am sure the Minister would say: ‘We would like to have more people at the universities’. I am sure he would agree that the basic reason why quotas have been fixed is a shortage of funds. If this is not so, I fail to understand the references that he has been making to the expenditure that has been financed by the taxpayers.
In the motion that has been proposed by Senator Cohen the Opposition is not condemning the Government. It is not saying: There is plenty of money around. Why are you not spending it?’ What the Opposition is saying is that certain professions and occupations in Australia are understaffed and the universities are unable to provide that staff. The Opposition is expressing its concern at the existence of a quota system in the universities and is requesting the Commonwealth Government to consult with the States with a view to eliminating or reducing the quota system. We are not saying that there should not be high standards of matriculation. We are not saying that the Government can change things overnight. We are saying that the present quota system is based purely on the shortage of funds and not on the necessities of the profession, the demands of the universities or the benefit to the public generally. The Minister in the course of his remarks - I know that they were not strictly relevant - said that at one time everybody had to pay to go to a university. This is not true; I think he has acknowledged it. At one time one did not have to pay to go to the University of Western Australia.
– That makes it marginally untrue, I admit.
– That University has very many distinguished graduates sitting in the Parliament of Australia at the present time, including the Minister’s colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) who I am sure would be most hurt if he were to think that the Minister for Education and Science were to deprecate his alma mater. Although I am surely the youngest senator, I am growing rather long in the tooth, and I can remember when it used to be said in Western Australia that this was only a beginning, that here we had a free university but one day all of” the universities in Australia would be just like the University of Western Australia. Well, seventeen years of Liberal and Country Party Government have accomplished that. At last the University of Western Australia and the other universities are just the same, and it has been accomplished, not by making the other universities free universities but by making people pay to go to the University of Western Australia. This was a major achievement of this Government with regard to free university education - and the Minister rather deprecatingly said that there was only one free university. At least, there was one of them when this Government took office and now there are not any.
The Opposition submits that the whole field of tertiary education requires intensive study. We are condemning nobody. We know that there are difficulties and we know there are difficulties in every country of the world. But we think that the quotas which are being imposed at the present time are being arbitrarily imposed because of the shortage of the moneys which are made available to the universities. There may or may not be good reasons for that. It may be that there is just not enough money available, but we do say that the Government should confer with the States so that steps can be taken to eliminate the quotas. 1 believe that no reasonable person can object to such a proposition and 1 believe that the motion which has been proposed by Senator Cohen deserves the support of every member of the Senate.
– I think that the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) effectively replied to Senator Cohen and did not leave a great deal for me to say. Senator Wheeldon has not altered that situation. Lel us put a bit of realism and a little less emotion into this debate, ft is quite obvious that the Australian Labor Party still holds the belief that every person who matriculates - and we are speaking of the present standards of matriculation - has a right to go to a university. I believe that this is a fundamental error in its thinking. It is outdated thinking. Tonight we have not heard, except in passing, one reference to tertiary institutions other than universities. We heard about the right to go to a university, as if the university were the beginning and end of all tertiary education, which of course it is not.
– The motion relates to university quotas.
– I shall deal with the point that the honourable senator is trying to raise. He should sit and listen for a little while. I listened to him but I was growing a bit impatient, I admit. The point that the Opposition avoided was to give a definition of tertiary education. Some time ago, as recorded in the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia, Dr Darling made a reference to this subject. The Committee’s report at page 174 records that Dr Darling stated:
We have accepted as needs we must the doctrine of educational equality as a necessary corollary of democracy, but we have never made up our minds clearly as to what we mean by this education for all.
Now, Sir, I would accept - although it is debatable - the point that prior to the introduction of, other forms of tertiary education there was a basis for the argument being put forward by the Opposition that any person who reached the standard accepted by universities had this right to a university education. But this has changed and we are debating this matter in the context of the change, not in the context of what happened prior to the introduction of other forms of tertiary education. The Committee dealt with the subject of what is meant by tertiary education. At page 1 75 it had this to say - I think the Minister made a passing reference to it:
In particular there is a danger of higher education becoming identified in the minds of the community with university education, and of a university degree becoming the single symbol of intellectual aptitude. Ability is a complex human quality; and emphasis on university studies to the exclusion of others in higher education is wasteful of much human talent. a pattern of higher education, to be acceptable, should fit young people for a full adult life in contemporary society, limited only by their innate abilities. The Committee believes that an acceptable pattern can be developed in terms of existing institutions, if fundamental amendments to the educational programmes and administrative structures of some of these are effected.
The Committee went on to refer to the major groups - universities, institutes of colleges - which we know today as Colleges of Advanced Education - and boards of teacher education. This comes back to the question of quotas. The Minister made the point, which is dealt with fully and effectively in the Committee’s report, that there is a great waste in universities of students who reach only a minimum matriculation standard. I shall go through the figures which the Committee presents, which show a rather terrifying picture. Today the quota system - whatever one likes to call it - is based to a large extent on the knowledge and experience of the universities that unless students reach a certain standard their chances of passing in the minimum period or the minimum period plus one year are indeed small. The figures prove this. Therefore we have provided now for those people whose chances of graduating from universities are small another system of tertiary education which provides for people that this community wants just as much as it wants graduates from universities - technologists - a standard which is most acceptable. Surely this is not a waste of talent. Indeed, the Committee points out that the waste of talent is in allowing to go to universitie’s people with little hope of qualifying, when the first year failure rate is so terrifyingly high. I shall come to that in a minute. The position will come - we have no figures available at this state - where the quota rates being applied today eliminate the people at the lower level. These are the people of whom Sir Fred Schonell has spoken. The Minister quoted a statement by Sir Fred Schonell in order to show the tremendous amount of time that is wasted at the universities because of this type of student. Sir Fred called for a review of earlier policies and said:
Too often university teachers must necessarily spend more and more of their time on ill prepared students and must correspondingly reduce the time devoted to the able.
That is the very situation that we are trying to avoid or eliminate. The able student does not receive the attention that his qualifications and abilities warrant because too much time has to be spent on the less able student whom the records prove has little chance of qualifying. So, based on that standard, there can be little quarrel with a quota system at the universities to eliminate such students.
I would challenge anybody who said that under the conditions that exist today every student who matriculates, at whatever standard, has an inherent right to enter a university. I believe that that is implicit in the arguments advanced by the Opposition, although in all fairness I must say that there may have been a shift of emphasis by Senator Cohen when he acknowledged that universities could well have a higher entrance standard. My argument is that if we have a higher entrance standard many of the arguments advanced by the Opposition will cease to exist because quotas will not be necessary, at least to the extent that they exist today.
The Opposition, in identifying solely the question of universities, has failed to look at the whole picture. The talent that members of the Opposition claim is being wasted is not being wasted; it is being absorbed in the new colleges of advanced education which are equipped to deal with this level of student. Therefore, we have not a waste of talent. We will use all of our talent. Indeed, the great waste of talent occurred at the universities where students failed in their first year and were lost for ever. Today they are not lost for ever; they are able to go to colleges of advanced education and reach a very acceptable standard of tertiary education.
I come to the argument about the failure rate at the universities which, to a great extent, is the reason why quotas have become necessary-. The Martin Committee, in paragraph 3.97 of its report, said:
There is evidence today that, where Australian universities have not imposed limitation of entry based on results in matriculation examinations, they are receiving amongst the greatly augmented number of new entrants a larger group of ‘tail enders’. a fact which does not necessarily reflect a decline in the average scholastic or intellectual standards of newly enrolled student’s but which is simply an accompaniment of the phenomenal increase in the numbers seeking admission to universities. These larger numbers of less wellqualified students - still worthy -of some kind of tertiary education - are tending to restrict the effectiveness of education that can be given to first year students as a whole. By their failures and repetition of courses, they are increasing the difficulties occasioned by the already overburdened resources at first year level - laboratory space, basic equipment, essential reference textbooks, tutorial facilities and even accommodation for study and discussions.
Is it justifiable to ask a government to provide all the facilities for such students whom the records that we. have clearly show have little chance of passing first year and still less chance of qualifying in the minimum time plus one year? It is certainly difficult, as the Martin Committee found, to obtain figures on this matter.
The report of the Murray Committee summarised the results of a Commonwealth Office of Education survey of students who enrolled for the first time in 1951. This showed that of every 100 students who entered the universities only sixty-one passed the first year examination, only thirty-five graduated in the minimum time and only fifty-eight were expected to pass eventually. What a tremendous waste there was in the first year. The Martin Committee’s figures show that the same situation applies at the present time. The Martin Committee pointed out that in some faculties a higher qualification is required. It referred to the faculties of engineering and science. Speaking from memory, a 10% higher pass is required for entry into those faculties. It seems that more research should be done in this field.
The Committee gave the following figures in respect of Australian universities in 1.961: The number of entrants was 8,620, of whom 8,259 sat for examinations, 5,430 passed, 2,829 failed and 361 discontinued. Only 63% of those who commenced passed. It is even more interesting to note - I believe that this is the basis of the argument tonight - that of those who commenced with a matriculation score of 420 and above, 100% passed first year; of those who commenced with a matriculation score between 380 and 419, 92% passed; of those who commenced with a matriculation score between 300 and 339, 48% passed; of those who commenced with a matriculation score between 260 and 299, 22% passed; and of those who commenced with a matriculation score below 260, the minimum standard, 10% passed. If that is not waste in our universities, what is? The plain fact is that prior to the action of this Government in respect of colleges of advanced education the majority of these students were being lost and the talents that they possessed were not being used. But today the talents of such students are being used. I believe that these facts alone justify the application of quotas, provided we maintain the present matriculation standard. I emphasise that proviso. The onus is on the Opposition to state outright what qualifying standard it would set.
I do not want to say a great deal more on this matter. I believe that, on the evidence presented, the Opposition’s motion falls to the ground. It is based on outdated thinking. If we are to debate this matter, let us debate it not on the basis of the situation that existed in the past but on the basis of the situation that exists today. We have developed and are developing a number of tertiary institutions at different levels to enable all our students to reach a standard that qualifies them to enter the professions. Surely our aim is not only to have universities and to rely solely on them as tertiary institutions but to develop a well balanced system of tertiary education. That is what is happening. It is for that reason that I strongly oppose this motion which has no basis in fact and no realism either.
– I wish to join with the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) and other speakers on this side of the chamber in contributing to this debate on a motion which has been moved by the Opposition and which asks the Senate to express its concern about a certain matter. The Opposition mounted the debate through the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen), on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). The Labor Opposition has asked the Senate to express its concern about certain things. Yet at this stage of the evening no member of the Opposition is prepared to carry on the debate. This is extraordinary. Surely if these people feel so firmly, so strongly, so absolutely convinced that there is a case to be made out in opposing or condemning or criticising the quota system there should be an army of Opposition speakers ready with fact after fact. We have still some time to go, but the debate from the Opposition side of the chamber breaks down absolutely and completely because there is not another person to carry on the argument.
I want to draw the attention of the Senate to the facts which the Minister has put to us in terms of the history of quotas, in terms of the history of universities and in terms of the history of the reasons for the establishment of quotas. I think one might point out with all relevance that this all stems from certain national and historical developments. Whereas, not so very long ago, the case for education in Australia was a matter of literacy, today it is a matter of places in universities, quotas and procedures of this kind. We have come quite a long way since the middle of the last century, before there were any universities, to a situation where it is not only a matter of primary and secondary education being available to everyone but also a matter of our primary and secondary students now wishing to have tertiary education.
These factors, of course, have created what might be termed an education explosion. But we have not got this on our own. This is a fact of life in many other countries. Here in Australia the Commonwealth Government has only limited constitutional power in education, but in recent years it has come into the picture far more adequately by reason of its financial involvement and a general realisation that, because of the new situation in which the Commonwealth Government finds itself, it has a wider and greater degree of national responsibility. Our population has risen, our world role as a nation has changed, improved and advanced, our standards of living have mounted to an amazing degree, and in these factors we have the background to the system of quotas.
It should be said, although it may be a simple argument, that in establishing universities to cater adequately for all the people who would desire to use them we have to take into account that we do not establish a university in the same way as we establish even a secondary school and that we do not establish a university in the same way as we establish a business. A university is a large and complex organisation. It is an expensive organisation which takes a great amount of the taxpayers’ and the Government’s money. It has to be established with certain things in view. It has not only to serve the community; it has to serve a generation. More than that, it has to serve several generations. It has to last 100 years, or 200 or 300 years. Therefore its planning and establishment must be slower, and it may not always grow as quickly as the community grows around it. It must be established to serve areas of consolidated population.
Additionally, it must be borne in mind that we live in a time when there are rapid changes in the whole of the academic and related spheres of life. Education, research and mental development are proceeding at a phenomenally fast rate, and it is not an easy matter for the education authorities of the world to keep up with the needs of the time or indeed, always to be a step ahead of the demand. Therefore any university that is established must be capable of adjustment not only to the needs of one generation but also capable of adjustment to meet the changing needs of future generations.
I return to the direct subject of the Opposition’s motion, which it has failed miserably to sustain in this debate tonight - the quota system. I think it is an error to assume that everyone who is a matriculant could be described as university material. I refer again to the Martin Committee’s report at page 69. It has been quoted already tonight, but I should like to emphasise it because, in dealing with admissions to universities we have of necessity to deal with a level, we have to deal with a standard. Many people would like to be university material; everyone is aware of the contributions made by people with a university background to our society, but nevertheless society runs to a total range of ability, intelligence and capacity. Having this in mind, the Martin Committee, in dealing with the matter of admissions, which, of course, is directly related to quotas, had this to say:
Since in general the final examinations for secondary education also serve as the matriculation examinations for the universities, difficulties arise as to the standards to be applied.
This surely points out that in dealing with or thinking about the system of quotas and the standard for admission, the standard of education has got to be taken very seriously into account, and those people who would succeed in university life surely must be expected to have reached a certain level before moving into it. The report continues:
The minimum standard for a pass, viewed in terms of completion of secondary schooling, may be lower than that necessary for success in tertiary studies.
Furthermore, it is apparent that many parents, as well as their children, have no idea of the nature of university study nor of the level of ability and application required for success.
This is not only interesting but, I think, so very true, because unless people have been brought up in a university atmosphere or have some association with it they have not any idea of university requirements, of university studies or indeed of the level that is necessary if people are to take the maximum advantage from a university education. The report continues:
Some students who have reached the limit of their academic potential in obtaining unimpressive examination results at matriculation level embark on university courses. Sometimes, only the minimum matriculation standard is reached after repeated attempts, and investigation has shown that such performance is associated with a small chance of successfully completing a university course.
This proves, surely, that there must be some standard, some level which is not a low one, but a high one. Although my reference may not be complete, at least it says something about the situation so far as it concerns students who may be matriculants but not necessarily university material.
The question is posed as to whether there should be university places for every matriculant or whether some should be quota-ed out if they do not reach the required standard. Again, if they are quota-ed out, what then? Obviously there must be some other form of higher education, some other form of tertiary education. If we say that there is to bc another form of higher education and another form of tertiary education we turn again, as I do, to the Martin Committee’s report which states that there is a danger of higher education becoming identified in the mind of the community with university education and of a university degree becoming the single symbol of intellectual aptitude. The Government, bearing in mind that not everybody may be university material, sets out, in accordance with the Martin Committee’s recommendation, to establish an alternative form of tertiary education. This, as everybody knows, is the College of Advanced Education.
In dealing with the matter of quotas, 1 think it is interesting to observe the percentages as far as Australia is concerned and to note that percentage not so much in comparison with other countries but in comparison with the extraordinary growth in the university population in this country which means that along the line provision and places have been made for these people. The present total of 91,000 students is nearly three times as large as the total twenty years ago. We must bear in mind not only that this means that the number of students at our universities has nearly trebled in those twenty years but also that this growth has taken along with it the whole programme of buildings, faculties, staff, equipment and all the organisation that goes to make up an establishment that is a university.
I return now to the point I made a few moments ago when I mentioned that, for those students who cannot meet the standard required for entrance to university, an alternative form of education must be provided. The institution of colleges of advanced education appeals to me very much indeed. I turn now to the speech delivered by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, in another place. This speech was presented also in this place by the present Minister for Education and Science. As reported at page 269 of Hansard on 24th March 1965, the then Prime Minister said:
I turn now to consider the new concept which is the heart of this report.
I emphasise these words because in no circumstances was the then Prime Minister pointing out that the colleges of advanced education of which he was about to make mention were a form of second class tertiary education. In no set of circumstances were these colleges to be any less in importance or in status or in contribution to the community. Let me read the remarks of the then Prime Minister on this matter. He said: [ turn now to consider the new concept which is the heart of this report. It is, that Australia, during the next decade, should develop advanced education in virtually new types of colleges. These colleges would provide for those students who, although qualified, do not wish to undertake a full university course, or whose chosen course is not considered appropriate for a university, or whose level at passing matriculation indicated a small chance of graduation from a university in minimum time or minimum time plus one year. The recommendation for the development of these colleges and the recommendation that new universities should not be established - honourable members will see this in the report - taken together with other observations of the Committee, indicate a belief on its part that universities should grant entrance only to those matriculants whose standard of pass was good enough to indicate a reasonable likelihood of graduation in minimum time or minimum time plus one year.
The Committee suggests that the new colleges, to give advanced education, should be developed from, and around, the existing tertiary segments of existing technical colleges. But it is clear that what is envisaged is not merely a bigger and better college for teaching technical subjects, for the suggestion is that technology should be only one of the education fields in which these colleges should provide advanced instruction. In them there should be, says the Committee, appropriate courses in the liberal arts for ‘young men and women taking up administrative positions in commerce, industry, and government’.
This could be developed in a number of ways.
Before I bring this contribution to a close, I think it would be proper to place on record some extracts from the first report of the Commonwealth Advisory
Committee on Advanced Education. I do so because in this debate this is one of the answers to the motion proposed by the Opposition, lt is that, in addition to providing a high standard of entrance to university, if students do not make this standard this alternative form of tertiary education is available. My first reference is found on page 22 of the report. Paragraph 2.30 reads:
Students entering colleges of advanced education will tend to have a different outlook and different needs from those attending the universities, being more interested in the application than in the development of knowledge. They will have already decided on the career they will adopt. University courses, which are often orientated towards academic studies, would be less suitable for many of them who would find the courses at the colleges of advanced education more in lune with their particular interests and aptitudes.
Whatever may be the reasons for the success of the graduates of the colleges, it is clear that the community has an urgent need of them and the ranks of our professional personnel will never be adequately filled if we rely on the universities as our only source of recruitment at the professional level.
Colleges of advanced education, Sir, will provide those students entering them with a breadth of opportunity, a wide range of activities and other facilities for the total development of their mental faculties. The colleges as envisaged will not cater for a number of fields of little or no direct industrial interest in which the universities provide their own training such as Greek, Latin or some branch of mathematics. On the other hand, the colleges offer courses in areas that the universities, by their very existence and set-up, may regard as being marginal or inappropriate. Another matter in which these colleges will have a particular relevance and importance to our community is their close association with the areas of research and of teaching and also their close association with industry and with other groups.
The report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, in referring to this matter, points out:
The degree of emphasis on research differs greatly in the two types of institution.
We have become accustomed to the type of research done in universities. The report continues:
Within the universities, research and postgraduate training for research has steadily increased. In the colleges there is comparatively little scope for research. However, we would expect that some members of staff would devote a measure of their time to investigations which had a direct application to industry.
Then in the association with industry and other groups, the colleges will be set up with the main object of providing specialised training for vocations and it follows that a close and continuous association must be maintained between college staffs, industry and government.
That is not the complete story regarding colleges of advanced education, but I submit that it does set out very plainly the fact that the Government is aware that there is a section of the community which, if it is unable to reach university standard and gain admission to universities, is provided with the rich experience and the varied and complete opportunity not only to develop into good citizens but more particularly to develop minds, spirits, courage and principles of their own.
Turning again to the motion that Senator Cohen has proposed and which 1 repeat the Opposition has failed to sustain during the debate. I say that we reject any feeling of concern at the existence and extent of the quota system. We reject it emphatically. We reject it all the lime. We reject it because universities require a standard of admission to them. Universities have grown with Australian life. They have grown in education with the Australian standard of living. They maintain a comparable and even improved standard in relation to universities in other parts of the world. Our student bodies have grown in enormous degree as the Minister pointed out in his remarks earlier this evening. Here we not only keep our universities at a high standard, but also provide this alternative so that tertiary education is kept going not only for the benefit of the people who live here but also for the students and the nation as a whole.
– Mr President, it is amazing that the Australian Labor Party has taken the time of the Senate on several Thursday evenings to discuss higher education and the spending of more of the taxpayers money. AH that the Opposition has said is that more research and more money are required, because if all forms of quota are to be lifted from university education, many more staff members will have to be obtained.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
- Mr President, I present the following reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Augers and bits
Class fibre, yarns, fabrics, etc.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m. until Tuesday, 2 May 1967, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670420_senate_26_s33/>.