26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will he request officers of the Department to examine the index to judgments and decisions of the Queensland Industrial Commission which appears in the Queensland Industrial Gazette for August 1966? Will he ascertain whether it is possible for his Department to prepare an index to judgments and decisions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and have it published in due course?
– I will bring to the attention of the Minister the request made by the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will he recommend to the Government that top priority be given to the proposed standardisation of the gauge of the Marree-Alice Springs line as the present narrow gauge line is responsible for bottlenecks in the movement of stock between those two towns?
– Clearly this <s a matter in relation to which the Minister for Shipping and Transport would make a decision and submit a recommendation to the Government. I will bring the question to his notice.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that an additional new runway is to be provided at Moorabbin Airport? If this is a fact, can the Minister give us any information in relation to the project?
– The Minister for Works has issued a statement indicating that there is to be a new runway at Moorabbin Airport which, it is estimated, together with new taxiways and associated works will cost in the vicinity of $200,000. Preliminary drainage work which was begun early in the year is to cost another $60,000. Construction staff of the Department of Works has commenced operations. It has moved on to the site some 16,000 tons of crushed rock which has been stockpiled over the past two weeks. A fleet of earthmoving equipment, graders and rollers will be used on the project, which it is expected will be completed by the end of this year. The new runway of 2,500 feet will run parallel to the existing north west-south east runway and will have an unsealed surface.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Housing by referring to a reply she gave me on Tuesday 18th April to a question I had addressed to her. Among other things she said:
Certain arrangements are also made with building societies from which migrants, like other Australians, may obtain loans.
In view of current efforts by certain inmates of migrant hostels in New South Wales to form home finance groups, will the Minister confer with their Sydney spokesman to ascertain whether the proposed home finance groups come within the ambit of the arrangements made with the building societies to which she referred on 18th April?
– I think that when I replied to the honourable senator on 18th April I spoke in the context of what is done through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I mentioned that part of the money made available to the States was used for the construction of houses for rental or for sale and part was allocated through the Home Builders’ Account to building societies. I do not think I gave the figure indicating the proportion. This was the context in which I answered the honourable senator previously. From memory, I think I went on to say that new Australians can apply on equal terms with Australians who have always lived here for loans for the building or the purchase of a home. 1 understand that the honourable senator is now asking me whether any special arrangements are made for migrants. A point that will be of interest to him is that some money has been provided to the building and housing societies for allocation to Dutch and Italian migrants. This is made up of funds provided from the two countries from which those migrants come, those funds being matched by loans made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and also from State governments. This permits these societies to make loans to the migrants from the two countries concerned. As I understand the honourable senator’s question, this is the matter that is of particular interest to him. I think that he also asked me something about the local situation in Sydney. I do not recall clearly what he asked, but if he will inform me later what his request was I shall let him have the information.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is he aware that it is claimed in the potato trade that delays resulting in an accumulation of cargoes for shipment from the north west coast of Tasmania to the mainland caused a 12-ton container of potatoes to take nearly a fortnight to reach the Sydney market? Does he know that it is claimed also that in some instances potatoes have taken up to eighteen days to reach the Sydney market after delivery to the wharves at Devonport? In hot weather, these delays are often fatal to the product concerned. Is there substance in the statements by persons interested in the potato trade that because of these delays the service now provided is more unsatisfactory than that in operation before the advent of the Searoad system? Will the Minister investigate the situation as it affects cargoes shipped from the north west coast of Tasmania to the mainland on vessels of the Australian National Line?
– On 13th April Senator Devitt asked me a question which was identical in substance and which was consequent on my answer to a previous question asked by him. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has now supplied me with an answer to the honourable senator’s last question. The proprieties require that I give that answer to Senator Devitt. I shall do so at the end of question time and in the process I shall then answer the question just asked by Senator Lillico.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education and Science. Following on the creation of the new Department of Education and Science, has the Government yet determined what is to be the relationship between that Department and other Commonwealth authorities such as the Commonwealth Office of Education, the Commonwealth Scholarships Board, the Australian Universities Commission and the several advisory committees, including the Australian Research Grants Committee and the Commowealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education? I also ask whether the functions and scope of the work of the new Department have been precisely formulated and what progress has been made in settling the Department’s structure and organisation. In view of the lively public interest in matters relating to education and science will the Minister consider making an early statement clarifying these matters?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that the relationship between the Department and the Commonwealth Office of Education has been decided and, I believe, announced. The Commonwealth Office of Education will form a part of the new Department. 1 am certain that this has been the subject of a public announcement and will be the subject, of course, of legislation. The Commonwealth Scholarships Board has for some considerable time been in fact a section of what was the Education Division of the Prime Minister’s Department and the new Department will be responsible for the administration of scholarships. The awarding of scholarships will be done, as it is at the present moment, by the various States using their functions to provide a list of those winning scholarships.
I am not at all sure what the honourable senator has in mind when he asks what the relationship between the Department of Education and Science and the Australian Universities Commission will be. The Australian Universities Commission is an authority set up by its own separate Act and will continue to be an authority set up by its own separate Act. The Australian Research Grants Committee will have the same relationship to the new Department as it had to the Education Division of the
Prime Minister’s Department which brought il into being and from which announcements concerning it were made in this Parliament. In the same way the new Department will encompass the Committee on Advanced Education - Dr Wark’s Committee - which was set up by what was previously the Education Division of the Prime Minister’s Department. These are the answers to the specific questions that the honourable senator asked. Just what he means by a statement on the structure and organisation of the Department, I do not know. Does he want to know how many people are in particular parts?
– What sort of work is it undertaking? What is the scope of its work?
– The scope of the work is very wide. One example of it was announced just last weekend - the provision of a new giant telescope in Australia, which will be a great step forward in scientific research in this country. Other examples of the scope of our work are coming before the Parliament now - the provision of $24m for Colleges of Teacher Training, unmatched grants to the States for capital purposes, extra provisions for science grants, the continuing provision for technological advances, and the provision of buildings and equipment for technical colleges. All these matters of assistance in the field of education and some fields of science will be continued. There will not be, as has sometimes been quite wrongly suggested, any variation between the functions that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, for example, had to do before and the ones that it will have to do now. They will be exactly the same.
The honourable senator has asked a very wide series of questions. All I can say is that those who see what is being done now and the great assistance that is being given in these fields of education, I should think, will have some idea of what the Department is doing and has done.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Government given any consideration to extending the national health scheme to include the services rendered by allied professions, such as that of oral surgeons, particularly where referrals have been made by qualified medical practitioners?
– The national health scheme is continually under review by the Government, and the possibility of extending the scheme to include allied professions has, I know, been explored from time to time by the Minister, but as yet it has not been found practicable to do this.
– -I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the representative here of the Prime Minister. Now that the No. 34 Squadron so-called VIP aircraft are arriving, and their estimated cost is between Slim and $13m, which will justify a depreciation of nearly $lm a year if they remain on the ground, and much more if they are utilised, can the Minister say whether the Prime Minister has advised the Leader of the Opposition that he will bc entitled to use these VIP planes and take with him members of the front bench in the other place? Would it embrace the Labor Party executive and include the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber? Is it a fact that a particular member of the House of Representatives will be entitled to be taken with the Leader of the Opposition? What is the position of senators, who represent whole States, if the Leader of the Opposition wishes to take a senator with him?
– The honourable senator has directed to me a rather rambling question.
– lt was not a rather rambling question. It was quite direct. If the Minister is prepared to answer it, let him answer it.
– I thought it was a rambling question. The honourable senator rambled on over a number of aspects of VIP aircraft. I read the Press over the weekend. If I understood the reports correctly, during the short recess last week the Leader of the Opposition was provided with a VIP aircraft to tour the honourable senator’s home State of Queensland. In view of the long distances to be covered in Queensland and throughout Australia, the provision of VIP aircraft gives to the Leader of the Opposition and to other people entitled to use them access to a number of areas within a week which would not be available to them if they were travelling by normal domestic airline services. That situation arises because of the hugeness of Australia. I am all for the provision of VIP aircraft in those circumstances. If the honourable senator places on the notice paper the other points raised in his rambling question I will see what information I can get for him.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen a Press report that grape vines have been smuggled into the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area from Italy, having got past customs and plant quarantine officers? Can the Minister give any information on the report and advise whether a prosecution is pending? Will the Minister indicate the steps taken to prevent the illegal importation of grape vines into Australia with particular reference to checking the spread of phyloxera and fungus diseases in the vine growing areas of South Australia?
– I have seen the Press statement referred to by the honourable senator. I am informed that it was released by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture on 7th April last. I understand also that no prosecutions are pending and, in fact, that when the plants were discovered they had been growing for more than twelve months. The Department of Customs and Excise has no record of any illicit entry of grape vines. Of course it should be appreciated that the Commonwealth Government is debarred from prosecuting offences of this kind later than twelve months after the offences take place. As to supervision, honourable senators are aware that importations of all plant material are subject to inspection by quarantine officers. They are continually on the alert to detect the illegal entry of such material and in fact they intercept quantities of prohibited plants from time to time. At present I can do no more than acknowledge that I have seen the Press report and that I have been informed that it was released by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. By way of preface I extend congratulations to the Government on the Australian medical and hospital services provided in Vietnam and to the Australian people serving there. I ask: What hospital and nursing services on the civilian side are being rendered in Vietnam from Australia at the present time? Has the Government given any consideration in the last twelve months to the extension of those services? If so, has it made any decision and, if so, what?
– About two weeks ago I answered a question asked by Senator Turnbull along these lines. 1 draw now on my recollection of what I said at that time. Australia is providing medical and nursing facilities in three provincial hospitals in Vietnam, those provincial hospitals being the ones nominated by the Vietnamese Government as hospitals to which it wished the assistance to be given. 1 believe that in those hospitals the Australians are providing more than half of the medical and nursing facilities being made available and they are also engaged not only in treating patients but in training Vietnamese attached to the hospitals. As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, my recollection is that some further expansion of the medical programme was made, but 1 ask the honourable senator to put that part of his question on notice so that I may obtain more positive information for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether he is in a position to confirm reports that recently a number of indigenous inhabitants of West Irian were killed as a result of bombing by the Indonesian Air Force. If the reports are correct will the Australian Government bring pressure to bear on the Indonesian Government in order to avoid the spread to that part of Indonesia which adjoins the Australian Territory of New Guinea of massacres like those which have taken place in other parts of Indonesia
– I have seen only the newspaper reports alleging that an Indonesian official has stated that there had been some aircraft attacks on a town in West Irian where there had been rebellion against the Government. I am not in a position to say whether we have or have not official confirmation of that report. I have not seen any. The second part of the honourable senator’s question suggests that somehow or other, in an unspecified way, the Australian Government should bring pressure to bear on the Indonesian Government. I think that would require a very great deal of attention, because we would need to be very sure firstly just how one should do that sort of thing and secondly of the propriety of takings steps which might be regarded as interfering with the internal affairs of Indonesia.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether there is available to the Australian Government any information which would indicate the result of activities of Vietcong terrorists amongst the civilian population in South Vietnam in any recent period of time, and whether there has been any large scale movement of Vietcong defectors to South Vietnam during a similar period.
– The honourable senator’s question covers a field which I thought rather interested the Senate over the past few weeks, especially so far as it concerns civilian casualties. Because of this interest I sought an opportunity to obtain the latest information available. I now have particulars relating to civilian casualties for the week ended 22nd April 1967. I obtained them from the United States Information Service and they indicate that confirmed civilian casualties from Vietcong terrorism for the week were 126 killed, including 10 pacification workers, 2 hamlet chiefs, 1 hamlet chief’s assistant, 4 refugees and 3 national policemen. The total number in this category killed during this year is 909. This week the total number of wounded is 86 including 10 pacification workers, 3 village officials, 1 hamlet chief and 2 national policemen. The total number of wounded for the year is 1,512. There was a total of 100 people abducted, including 3 pacification workers, 3 village officials, 1 hamlet chief, 2 village council candidates, 2 refugees and 1 national policeman. The total number abducted this year is 1,315. The total number of defectors from the Vietcong for this week is 642, including 385 military personnel, 227 political personnel and 30 persons from other Vietcong elements. The total number of defectors so far this year is 13,086 compared with 6,766 for the same period last year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that new excise control procedures, which are commonly called commodity control’ procedures, are likely to be universally applied throughout Australia, resulting from which permanent excise officer positions in various South Australian country towns will come under review? When will the system operate in South Australia? Will the existing permanent and acting staff continue to reside and operate in these country towns? If all country positions and other appointments become redundant or are subject to reclassification, will the status, promotion rights and salaries of officers so affected be maintained? What, if any, are the advantages of the new system to the wine industry?
– The honourable senator asks a most comprehensive question which time will not permit me to answer completely at question time. But I can say that commodity control procedures are methods which are employed to handle excise. It may well be recalled that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in its review of the Department of Customs and Excise, indicated that it held the view that we should move into commodity control much more than we have done in the past. It is equally true that under commodity control we will not need officers at the various points to carry out the various procedures that they are required to attend to now, particularly in relation to the wine industry. The work will be done largely on a documentation basis with periodical supervisory checks.
I can say to the honourable senator that it is not expected that this procedure will come about immediately in the wine industry. It may well be that it will take two years - it may take a little longer. But we are doing all the necessary preliminary work, in co-operation wilh the industry, so that we can bring about a smooth and effective changeover of procedures. I can also say to the honourable senator that it is expected and hoped that no officer will be displaced as a result of this procedure. It is confidently expected that when this procedure ultimately is adopted all of these officers will be absorbed in the Department in the normal way.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question. What is the position as of today regarding payments for Australian wheat sold to Communist or mainland China by the Australian Wheat Board? Are reports correct that some payments are overdue and, if so, what is the extent?
– I am not in a position to answer the first part of the honourable senator’s question about the position as of today regarding payments for Australian wheat. Regarding the second part of the question I can only say that if this is true it would be the first time that payments due to Australia are overdue. If the honourable senator will put his question on the notice paper, I will obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether it is the intention of the Government to grant independence to Nauru on 31st January 1968?
- Mr President, if that is not a question dealing only with policy - if it were, it would not be a question that it is proper to ask at question time - I suggest that it be put on the notice paper. If it is a question dealing with policy only, it seems to me that the answer is that a Minister does not answer questions regarding policy matters at question time.
– My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for
External Affairs. Does the Australian Government recognise the military coup in Greece as an outrage against democracy? Has the Government accorded recognition to the military clique that has usurped power in Greece? As the Italian Chamber of Deputies has strongly condemned the military takeover in Greece, will the Australian Government do likewise?
– The representatives of the Australian Government in Greece are and always have been accredited to the King of Greece, the Head of State, which is the normal practice. As has Great Britain and as has the United States of America, so has Australia not interfered in any way with that accreditation to the Head of State of the Greek Government.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Prime Minister. Is the Public Service Board at present reviewing the yearly remuneration of members of the Fourth Division of the Public Service who have not had a substantial rise in salary for a considerable period whereas members of the various grades of the Third Division have had salary increases? If the Public Service Board is reviewing this matter, when is its judgment likely to be given? If the Board is not reviewing the economic salaries of members of the Fourth Division, when is it likely to review them?
– I am not able to give off the cuff any information about the salary increases of officers of the Fourth Division and the Third Division of the Public Service. As the honourable gentleman is so interested in this matter, I will endeavour, if he puts his question on the notice paper, to get from the Prime Minister all the information about the matter that I can.
– On 13th April last, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question, and I understand that he now has an answer for me. The question that I asked on that date was in the following terms: ls the Minister aware that despite his assurances of one week ago, the position relating to shipping from north western Tasmania is much worse than before? What does the Minister propose now to do to meet this situation?
– This is the matter to which Senator Lillico referred earlier during question time. It will be recalled that I gave an answer to Senator Devitt originally, and this question was asked subsequently. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has now supplied the following answer to Senator Devitt’s question:
As I mentioned previously, in addition to the normal service provided by’Princess of Tasmania’ and ‘Bass Trader’ the support vessels ‘Noongah’ and ‘Nilpena’ together with the recently chartered Lemana’ are fully engaged in the Bass Strait trade. When not undertaking her normal monthly service from Stanley, ‘South Esk’ is also employed in this trade.
I have been informed by the Australian National Line that there is no backlog of cargo at Burnie and, as a result of this, more opportunities are being made available from Devonport.’Nilpena’ called at Devonport on 19th April and 23rd April. In addition ‘South Esk’ also loaded at this port on 23rd April and will continue at regular intervals for the next two or three weeks.
On my information there is no abnormal or accumulating cargo backlog at cither of the ports mentioned and the present tonnage engaged is adequate. It is, of course, quite impossible to immediately place vessels in position to meet requests for additional cargo space made at very short notice. Senator Devitt has not mentioned any particular cargoes butI understand that requests of this nature quite often occur in respect of potatoes where the demand for cargo space fluctuates in accordance with Sydney market prices.
If the senator cares to supply full details of specific instances which caused him to conclude that the ‘shipping from north western Tasmania is now worse than before’I will be pleased to have further inquiries made.
– Is the Minister for Education and Science aware that in recent weeks a very large number of members of the staff of the Perth Technical College, including the vice-principal and the head of one of the science departments, have resigned owing to doubts about their future employment with the Western Australian Institute of Technology? Would it be possible for the Minister to take any action to clarify and remedy the situation before there is a complete breakdown in technical education in Western Australia?
– It is not clear from the honourable senator’s question whether he is talking aboutthe Perth Technical College or the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Perhaps he could interject to clarify that point.
– The point is that, with the establishment of the Western Australian Institute of Technology, most of the members of the staff of the Perth Technical College are being transferred to the Institute and apparently no permanency of employment has been guaranteed to Perth Technical College staff who normally would expect to be employed at the Institute.
– The situation in Western Australia is that the State Parliament has passed an Act setting up the Western Australian Institute of Technology and giving to it a great measure of autonomy as was suggested by the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education. Western Australia, through its Government and Parliament, has carried out the recommendations of that Committee. This is a State Act, completely within the sovereign rights of the State and in line with the recommendations of a Committee set up to inquire into tertiary education. If that has some result in some other area of the Western Australian Department of Education, that would be a matter for that Department.
(Question No. 6)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 8)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Prime Minister check the authenticity of charges made by Mr Kevin Shortis, Burwood, New South Wales that he was forced to endure a nightmare four weeks in a United States
Immigration detention camp and laterin Los Angeles County Gaol when stranded in Los Angeles during a working holiday in November 1966?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Inquiries have been made and I have been provided with the following report -
On November 12, 1966, Mr Kevin Shortis and Mr Denis Doolan, who were working their passage to New Zealand on the British vessel “Cape Colorado”, visited Los Angeles and returnedto San Pedro wharf after their vessel had sailed.
The men reported to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. As they had working passages, the ship’s agents in Los Angeles did not consider them seamen and refused to assume responsibility for their maintenance and repatriation.
The Immigration officials acting on the basis that the men were penniless, knew no-one in the United States of America and had been admitted only for the duration of the “Cape Colorado’s” stay, and in view of the refusal of the ship’s agents to assist, placed the men in the El Centro Detention Camp, California, where the Immigration officials stated that the accommodation and food were good.
No information was passed to Australian Consular officials, the nearest being the ConsulGeneral in San Francisco.
On 25th November 1966, however, a letter from Mr Doolan was received at the Australian Consulate-General, San Francisco, informing the Consulate-General that he and Mr Shortis had missed their ship and were being held at El Centro.
In the letter, Mr Doolan did not make any complaint about their treatment nor about the standard of accommodation but sought advice as to how long they were to be held at El Centro. The Consulate-General immediately telephoned the Immigration officials and was informed that arrangements had been made for the men to be returned to Los Angeles to join another vessel due to depart from Los Angeles on 28th November 1966, and the men had been advised of the arrangement.
The men were in fact returned to Los Angeles but due to delays the ship did not depart until twelve days later. During this delay the Immigration and Naturalization Service had the men held in the Los Angeles County Gaol. No advice was given to the Consulate-General by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that the men were in the gaol nor was anything heard from the men.
The Consulate-General was later informed that the men had departed from the United States of America on the “Cape Finisterre”.’
The attention of the Australian and American authorities concerned has been directed to this case with the request that the nearest Australian Government representative be immediately informed of the detention of any Australian under United States immigration laws.
(Question No. 18)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
How many (a) Australian conscripts, and (b) members of the regular forces, wounded in Vietnam, are receiving hospital treatment in Australia or South Vietnam?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At 5th April 1967 sixteen national servicemen were receiving treatment as battle casualties in hospitals in Australia. One national serviceman was receiving hospital treatment in Vietnam.
Twenty-three Regular Army members were receiving treatment as battle casualties in Australia. One Regular Army member was receiving hospital treatment in Vietnam. (Question No. 21)
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Are the necessary medical supplies required for both soldiers and civilians in Vietnam by Australian expert medical and surgical teams now being supplied?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Medical supplies required by Australian service personnel are being provided promptly. Units proceeding to Vietnam take sufficient unit medical equipment plus consumable stores for 90 days. Further supplies are drawn either from United States sources in Vietnam or, when not readily available in the area, are provided from Australia. The replenishment stores from Australia are forwarded either by air or sea according to the urgency of the requirement.
The position in regard to civilian surgical teams in Vietnam is that under arrangements which have operated since the first Australian civilian surgical team went to Vietnam in 1964, it is the responsibility of the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to meet the surgical and medical supply requirements of the hospitals in which the teams are located. These supplies arc obtained from the Vietnamese Ministry of Health warehouse depots which, in turn, receive the bulk of their supplies from USAID (United States Agency for International Development). A similar arrangement applies to other foreign medical and surgical teams working in Vietnam.
Surgical teams are located in provincial areas at some distance from the central supply depot. There have been occasions when the supply of drugs has presented some problems. This is not surprising in current conditions in Vietnam. However the supply system now appears to have been improved. At one hospital, problems remain mainly because there were insufficient stocks at the hospital to meet the increased demands arising from the presence of a highly qualified Australian surgical team. To assist in meeting this temporary shortage supplies are being sent from Australia so that the necessary reserve of drugs can be built up. Given stocks, it is believed that the Vietnamese supply system will operate to meet future needs. (Question No. 33)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 and 2. The Austral ian Government was notified in advance, and in detail, of the United States decision to conduct certain naval actions against North Vietnam’s military and logistic support for its operations in South Vietnam. The necessity of the American Government’s decision is accepted by the Australian Government. These further measures against North Vietnam’s capacity to sustain and build up its military effort in South Vietnam are not to be regarded as an escalation of action against North Vietnam but as consistent with the established pattern of operations against targets related to activity in support of armed attacks against the people of South Vietnam and the allied forces deployed in their defence. It is a matter to be regretted that North Vietnam had not only used the truce period to intensify movement of military supplies into South Vietnam but gave no clear indication that itwas willing either to enter into meaningful discussions or negotiations or to consider the possibility of reciprocal action to reduce the level of fighting. The position of the Australian Government remains that, in common with other governments signatory to the Manila Conference Communique, it is prepared to pursue any avenue which could lead to a secure and just peace, whether through discussions or through reciprocal actions by both sides to reduce the violence. As regards Australian naval forcesI stated on 23rd December that H.M.A.S. ‘Hobart’ will operate as an integral part of the American naval force with similar roles and tasks.
(Question No. 69)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In view of the fact that Australia is at war, and that emergency situations could develop in any city or country area of Australia, will the Prime Minister direct the Royal Australian Air Force, the Army and the Navy to practise emergency procedures to deliver food supplies etc., to isolated areas not only in the Darwin area of the Northern Territory but also at Alice Springs?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There are long standing arrangements whereby the States and Territories are provided with Commonwealth assistance in the event of natural disasters and in emergencies. This, of course, includes military assistance, and the Services have on many occasions demonstrated their ability to assist the civil authorities in such circumstances to the extent practicable from within their available resources. The most recent instances were the tires in Tasmania and the floods in the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland.
I am satisfied that the existing arrangements for the provision of assistance by the Services are adequate to meet the’ requirements of national emergencies.
(Question No. 85)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister has supplied the following answer:
I and 2. A number of estimates have been published concerning uranium reserves in the Western world. The information given below is taken from those published by the European Nuclear Energy Agency in August 1965 and the United States Atomic Energy Commission in August 1 966.
It should be noted that the main difference between the two estimates in. the ‘reasonably assured’ $5 to $10 price range is the increased figure for South African reserves which results from an official statement made by the South African authorities after the ENEA estimates were prepared.
I invite attention also to the published Australian reserves and would merely indicate that these arenot the official Australian figures and are subject to clarification.
(Question No. 86)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Prime Minister inform the Parliament of any financial transactions which have taken place between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland State Government which relate to the development of gas and oil fields in Queensland, including oil search subsidies?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There have not been any financial transactions between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland State Government related to the development of gas and oil fields in Queensland. The Commonwealth’s petroleum search subsidy is paid to individual exploration companies, and not to State governments.
(Question No. 87)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 90)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
Stanton Robbins and Co., are consultants for transportation, tourist and recreation development. These firms were engaged to act together and undertake a comprehensive survey for the purpose of putting forward a basic programme for the planned development of the tourist industry of Australia.
The Commonwealth Government’s action in introducing a Bill to establish an Australian Tourist Commission has in fact flowed from the Australian National Travel Association’s consideration of the report’s major recommendations.
When it is established the Commission will no doubt use the Harris, Kerr, Forster report as a valuable reference source and have regard for the range of suggestions put forward by it which relate to the areas of work which the Commission is to undertake.
Many of the suggestions contained in the report do not however concern the Commonwealth directly. It is understood that the State Tourist Ministers Council and the Board of ANTA have given close and positive study to these suggestions, leading to action by State governments and private industries concerned with the subjects involved.
(Question No. 98)
asked the Minister repre senting the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers:
Section 205 of the Income Tax Assessment Act enables the Commissioner of Taxation, if he has reason to believe that a person who is liable to pay tax may leave Australia before the date on which the tax is due and payable, to make that tax immediately payable. Further, he is empowered by section 213 of that Act to require security for the payment of tax from persons temporarily carrying on business in Australia or in any other circumstances where he thinks it proper so to do. The Commissioner also has power under section 218 to require any person by whom money is due or accruing to a taxpayer who owes tax to pay to the Commissioner from that money the amount of the taxpayer’s indebtedness.
Courts of other nations will not enforce the payment of taxation debts owing to the Commonwealth. However, administrative procedures were introduced on 1st July 1965 to enable Commonwealth officials stationed in countries overseas to seek the recovery of tax which remains unpaid after the departure of the person concerned.
(Question No. 100)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 105)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What supervisory action is taken by the Department of Social Services to ensure that homes for aged persons, which are heavily supported financially by the Federal Government, are used for the purposes intended and in accordance with the Act and that they do not revert to normal housing blocks occupied or sold to persons other than those authorised to do so under the Act?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers:
Under section 8 (3.) of the Aged Persons Homes Act the Director-General of Social Services may require an organisation to enter into an agreement to repay the Commonwealth grant in the event of the home ceasing to be used as a home for aged persons. lt is the standard practice to require a’.l organisations, other than the well established and well known religious bodies, to complete such an undertaking before any instalments of the Commonwealth subsidy are made available.
(Question No. 108)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 130)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Has the Government recently approved the purchase of single items of automatic data processing equipment to the value of some millions of dollars; if so, was this equipment purchased without the Government or the appropriate department calling for tenders for the supply of the equipment’!
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer:
Approval was recently given to the purchase of additional computer equipment from Control Data Australia Pty Ltd to enable the existing installations of the Bureau of Census and Statistics in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne to handle the increasing requirements of Commonwealth departments that use the installations. The equipment also includes a computer installation which is being purchased for the joint use of the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania in accordance with arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth and the State.
The purchase was arranged without calling public tenders because it is imperative that the additional equipment operate closely with the existing installation, and indeed be incorporated in it, and for this reason the additional equipment was ordered from Control Data Australia Pty Ltd, the suppliers of the original installations.
The full background to the purchase is given in a statement made by the Treasurer in the House of Representatives on 13th April, 1967 (Hansard, pages 1220 and 1221).
– On 1st March, Senator Fitzgerald asked me a question without notice about Australian economic assistance to India. The Prime Minister has provided me with the following information which will be of interest to the honourable senator:
India is the largest single recipient of Australian foreign economic aid. The bulk of this aid has been provided under the Colombo Plan - $30.5m as at 30th June 1966 - and as emergency food aid - 524.6m since the beginning of 1965 including a gift of wheat and flour valued at $9m in December 1966. An amount of $10.5m has also been given to the Indus Basin Development Fund, from which Pakistan also benefits. Training awards and other assistance have also been extended to India under smaller aid programmes and through voluntary agencies.
– On 11th April Senator Keeffe asked me the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General Will the Minister advise me of the date on which tenders will be called for site constructional work for the permanent Australian Broadcasting Commission television station at Cairns?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
With regard to the planned permanent television stations to serve the Cairns area there are many complex technical and other difficulties involved in their establishment due to the rugged nature of the terrainin the area and the consequent problems associated with the site access. Detailed and lengthy investigations have been necessary. The work is proceeding as expeditiously as possible butI am unable to indicate at this stage just when tenders will be called for site constructional work. I should add that of the areas in the Commonwealth to which the provision of television has so far been approved, the Cairns area is the most difficult and costly from both technical and other aspects. Temporary television stations have been established and are providing a service to the immediate Cairns area in view of the difficulties in relation to the permanent transmitters.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Social Services Bill 1967.
Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1967.
States Grants Bill 1967.
Income Tax (Aged Persons) Bill 1967.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to correct a drafting error in the Schedule to the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966. In the first column of that Schedule the Northern Territory (Administration) Act was cited as the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1962, whereas the correct citation was the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1965. This measure will correct the citation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
- Mr President, as this is purely a machinery measure designed to correct an error that occurred when the National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1966 was drafted, we do not oppose the Bill. We give it full accord and are pleased to allow it to be passed without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a first time.
– I move:
The current five-year dairying industry stabilisation plan, which is the fourth such successive plan, is due to terminate on 30th June next. In his policy speech on 8th November 1966 the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) stated that it would be the Government’s policy if returned to office to consult with industry bodies on a further five-year plan. This policy was given the endorsement of the Australian electorate. As an element of each of the five-year plans which have operated over the past twenty years successive Commonwealth Governments have provided a production bounty for the benefit of the Australian dairying industry. Such a provision is regarded as a sound investment in a vital area of primary production. The aim of the bounty is to maintain at reasonable levels the cash returns received by dairy farmers who supply milk and cream for manufacturing purposes. Moreover the fact that the farmers receive such returns through the operation of the bounty means that the prices of butter and cheese paid by Australian consumers can be held down to levels that would otherwise not be possible. The dividends from the provision of bounty can be clearly seen in increased production, improved productivity and increased foreign exchange earnings from the export sales of our dairy products in the face of the keen competition that exists in the international trading of these products.
In October last, representatives of the industry submitted proposals for a five-year stabilisation plan to begin on 1st July next immediately after the end of the current plan. The Government looked at these proposals in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement on the dairying industry and decided on the plan which I shall now outline. On the matter of bounty I am pleased to announce that the Government has decided to allocate for each of the five years of the new plan a sum of $27 million as bounty on butter and cheese and related butterfat products produced in Australia. This was the amount provided for each year of the current plan. Under the existing legislation, which authorises the payment of bounty and specifies the procedure to be followed in disbursing the bounty to dairy farmers, bounty is payable only until 30th June 1967.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the provision of the legislation to provide for the continuation of the payment of the bounty on the production of butter, cheese and other related products containing butterfat for a further five years ending on 30th June 1972. The Government has also decided that the bounty payable on the export of processed milk products will be continued for each of the five years of the new plan. The Government’s decision in this regard is reflected in a Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill which I am introducing in conjunction with this Bill and would wish to be considered concurrently with this Bill.
The bounties provided for in this Bill and its complementary Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill are not, of course, the only features of the plan but they are the only two that require immediate legislation. Those points of the scheme that will ultimately require arrangements between the Commonwealth Government, some State Governments and industry bodies cannot be spelt out in legislation at least at this stage.
The Government has also decided to continue for the duration of the Plan the principle of underwriting equalisation values for butter and cheese at levels which will enable the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee through the factories to make a reasonable first payment, including bounty, to dairy farmers.
The level at which equalisation values are to bc underwritten will be determined each year. For the first year of the new stabilisation plan, 1967-68, the values will be underwritten at a level which will enable factories with average manufacturing costs to pay producers 34c per lb commercial butter basis. This is an increase of approximately lc per lb over the rate which has been underwritten since the inception of the arrangement in 1958.
The underwriting arrangement was never intended to be a price support measure and the Government does not intend to underwrite a figure in any year which is going to involve it in a residual financial liability. If returns in any year are estimated to fall then the level at which returns will be underwritten will also fall. The industry is aware of this and appreciates that the value of the arrangement lies in the ability of the Equalisation Committee to make higher initial interim payments than would be otherwise possible. In its submission to the Government the industry made certain recommendations seeking measures of assistance specifically to aid marginal producers to build up their properties to profitable working units, or, in some cases, to leave the industry.
By instituting the Commonwealth Development Bank, by establishing the term loan funds and by setting up a farm development loan fund administered by the trading banks to supplement the previously existing source of farm finance, I believe that this Government has ensured that economically viable dairy farmers, in common with other primary producers, have access to finance for soundly based investment to increase farm efficiency and farm profitability. But there is a group of marginal dairy producers whose farms fall into a different category. These are farms which, for a number of reasons, commonly because they are too small, are not able under normal circumstances to become payable propositions with today’s production methods and today’s markets. If such people are to share in the advantages of increased living standards in our country they will need to be helped. For some this may be to enable them, if they so desire, to leave the industry to take up some other occupation. For others it may be in the form of assistance in the reconstruction of farms to the stage where they can be operated on a payable basis whether in dairying or in some other line of production.
The Government has agreed in principle to assisting the industry with respect to the problem of the marginal dairy farmer but the ways in which this help can most effectively be given have yet to be worked out. Much thought has still to be given to the practicable ways and means to achieve this end and there will of course need to be discussions with the industry and with State Governments. Consequently the Government feels that at this stage it need only signify to the industry that it is willing to provide assistance to high cost and marginal producers. At the same time the Government will ensure that there will not be any undue delays in getting such an important scheme under way.
With the view of further improving the economic position of the industry and of overcoming some of the problems of the changing marketing patterns for dairy products the industry also recommended that Commonwealth assistance be given on the one hand to Australian factories to develop facilities for diversifying production away from butter and on the other to the Australian Dairy Produce Board to expand its overseas milk recombining plants. In this respect where it can be demonstrated that funds are not available from normal financial sources the Government will be prepared to examine applications by factories or by the Board for a Commonwealth loan or guarantee.
Now that I have outlined new arrangements which will operate during the new five-year plan I should like to turn to a further matter, which is of major importance to the dairying industry and which has received considerable publicity lately. I refer to the quotas imposed by the State governments on table margarine production. All honourable senators are aware of the butter - margarine controversy which has engaged considerable public attention for some time. This controversy arose out of the prosecution by the New South Wales Government of Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd, a holder of a New South Wales table margarine quota. The history of the prosecution of this company is well known. It culminated in the refusal by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of special leave for the company to appeal against the unanimous judgment of the Australian High Court that New South Wales legislation had been contravened. During the course of the litigation and since, the Marrickville company has conducted an extensive public relations campaign aimed at arousing public support for its cause and bringing pressure on the New South Wales Government to increase or abandon quotas.
I am sure honourable senators arc familiar with the Marrickville campaign.
The Federal Government is not statutorily involved in table margarine production quotas but through the Australian Agricultural Council the Federal Government provides a forum for discussion between State Ministers for Agriculture on margarine. In the course of the Australian Agricultural Council’s meeting last February, Ministers discussed in detail the situation with regard to margarine quotas in Australia coupled with the related subjects of the position of the dairying industry and of vegetable oil seeds production. Ministers unanimously agreed that the principle of quotas on margarine production was sound and that the quota system administered by the States should continue to operate. It was agreed that the whole question will be kept under constant review by the Council.
It has been claimed that the States’ table margarine quotas are inhibiting the development of the Australian vegetable oilseed industry and that a position of oversupply of oils from these crops, particularly safflower oil and cottonseed oil, is being reached which can only be overcome by additional table margarine production. Members of the Australian Agricultural Council agreed that on figures presented at the meeting such a pessimistic conclusion was not warranted. In reaching this conclusion the Australian Agricultural Council accepted an estimate that Australian usage in 1965-66 of edible type vegetable oils including those used in table margarine manufactured in excess of quotas was about 59,000 tons. Of this some 16,500 tons were used for industrial purposes.
Usage for edible purposes could therefore have been as high as 42,500 tons. Usage of vegetable oils for edible purposes exclusive of oils used in table margarine manufactured in excess of quotas, is in the vicinity of 35,000 tons a year. This quantity, together with the 16,500 tons of edible type vegetable oils used for industrial purposes, would allow an annual total usage of some 51,500 tons of edible type vegetable oils if table margarine production is confined to quotas.
The Council also accepted an estimate of production of edible vegetable oils from Australian grown oil seed crops in 1966-67 of 16,850 tons. Coconut oil produced in
Australia from copra imported from Papua and New Guinea amounts to some 18,000 tons each year. Production of edible vegetable oils from Australian grown oil seeds and from copra imports from Papua and New Guinea will thus total 34,850 tons. The margin between this figure and the total estimated quantity of 51,500 tons of edible type oils which would be used even with table margarine production confined to quotas, is 16,650 tons. As there is a high degree of substitution possible in the usage of various edible vegetable oils, there would be considerable scope for expansion in local production of oil seed crops without cutting into imports of copra from Papua and New Guinea.
Imports need to be made to meet the shortfall between local supplies and the total usage of edible vegetable oils. For instance in the first eight months of 1966-67 3,738 tons of safflower oil were imported into Australia compared with 1,547 tons imported for the corresponding period of 1965-66.
With regard to table margarine itself, it has been claimed that as a result of the enforcement of production quotas there is a shortage of one brand of the polyunsaturated variety of table margarine. I would not wish to enter into arguments over particular brands but it would appear that other brands of poly-unsaturated table margarine made from vegetable oils which have comparable properties, are freely available. The largest Australian manufacturer has stated that poly-unsaturated margarine represents less than 20% of all table margarine production, that many manufacturers produce it and that any increase in demand could readily be met within existing licences. It would therefore appear that supplies of this product which is claimed to have special properties would continue to be available within the existing quota arrangements.
In Western Australia, where a shortage may have been developing, the Western Australian Government has licensed the manufacture of the remaining 200 tons of the State’s overall agreed quota of 800 tons. This should help to overcome any immediate shortage in supplies which may have been developing in that State.
The Australian vegetable oil industry is only one primary industry with a stake in the table margarine quota question. Another industry vitally concerned is the dairying industry, an industry which ranks fourth in Australian primary production. The dairying industry depends heavily on the fortunes of its main product, which is butter, and it is most important that sales are not eroded by the substitute table margarine.
The dairying industry plays an impressive part in Australia’s economy. Current production excluding the value of pigs is worth about $4 15m a year. Capital investment is over $ 1,400m and the industry supports directly and indirectly 600,000 people, providing direct employment for over 100,000 of these. Moreover, no Australian industry does more for decentralisation throughout Australia. This industry assists secondary industries by substantial expenditure on containers and packaging, factory operation and maintenance and at the farm level, on machinery and equipment.
A further valuable contribution to Australia’s economy, which I have already mentioned, is the export income earned by this industry. The dairying industry exports to 94 highly competitive, low priced overseas markets to earn annual export credits of over Si 00m essential to Australia’s development and the maintenance of high standards of living. The industry is only enabled to do this by equalising returns from exports and local sales. The margarine quotas exist to aid the industry in maintaining its position in the home market. Any expansion of margarine production for domestic consumption alone would benefit imports and importers to the detriment of an industry that is decentralised, has diversified its production and markets and is earning considerable amounts of overseas exchange. Opportunities to exploit export markets exist as much for the margarine industry as they do for the dairying industry; but the margarine industry is content to produce almost entirely for the higher priced local market and has shown no inclination to produce for the lower priced export markets.
Though the bounty has been an essential factor in the dairying industry’s operations for many years now, the industry’s own efforts in aiming for stability should not be overlooked. In the current financial year the dairying industry will have contributed over $2m for research, promotion and overseas marketing. Through internal co-operation between the producing, processing and marketing sectors of the industry and through their co-operation with the Commonwealth and State governments, in the fields of research, promotion, extension and marketing, the industry has attained a reasonable degree of stability. Undoubtedly this stability has been assisted by the Federal bounty and the Government has decided that it is essential the bounty should be maintained. The Bill provides for the continuation of the payment of the bounty in the present manner for the duration of the Five Year Plan to commence on 1st July next. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In my second reading speech on the Dairying Industry Bill 1967, I referred to the Government’s decision that the bounty payable on the export of processed milk products will be continued for the new five year play commencing on 1st July 1967. The Government has decided to maintain the maximum amount of bounty payable at $800,000 per year for each year of the plan. The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision by extending to 30th June 1972, the operations of the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 April (vide page 993), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill with which we are dealing has for its objectives something with which we all agree. If any people need assistance they are those of our citizens who have grown old in the service of our country. The Aged Persons Homes Act provides assistance to females of sixty years of age and over and to males of sixty-five years of age and over. These are the people who have been through two world wars and a depression. They are the people who have battled their way through what are termed the good old days, the days of long hours with little pay at the end of the week. They are people who did not have the pill. They are people who reared large families on a mere pittance. They are people who populated this country with native born children and who saw many of their children sacrificed for the efforts of a capitalist war. They are people a great majority of whom have had to buy homes or to save for their old age. Those of them who did manage to buy their own homes had to do so at considerable sacrifice. Every member of the family had to submit to this sacrifice. Surely when we consider the times and circumstances through which these people battled we must realise that worthy as this legislation is we are not doing enough. The debt that we owe to these people can never be paid. Nevertheless, we should use every endeavour to discharge it. We should extend the provisions of the Act to all organisations which wish to take advantage of it. I understand that later on Senator Poke will move an amendment in respect of this question.
There should be an unlimited appropriation of funds for the purposes of this Act. After all, it is a pretty cheap form of home finance for the Commonwealth Government. For homes built by housing commissions and for war service homes the Commonwealth Government has to provide practically all of the money. For aged persons homes it provides only two-thirds of the cost of the home. As time goes on and building costs continue to rise the Commonwealth Government will have to increase the subsidy that it presently pays under this scheme. I think this is borne out by the fact that when the Act was put on the statute books in 1954 the amount of subsidy was fixed on a £1 for £1 basis, which may be regarded as a $1 for $1 basis today. Within three years the Government found ft necessary to double the amount of the subsidy and to pay a subsidy on a $2 for $1 basis to the organisations which are parties to this scheme. This was a laudable increase in the Government subsidy but it decreased the amount that aged persons had to contribute towards a home by only onesixth of the cost. Under the original scheme aged persons had to contribute one-half of the cost and under the amended scheme they still have to contribute one-third of the cost of these buildings.
It is interesting to note that the average subsidy per person accommodated has increased from $1,320 in 1955-56 to $3,292 in 1965-66, which is a period of ten years. This represents an increase of approximately 150% in the amount of subsidy per person accommodated. It gives some indication of the extent to which homebuilding costs have increased over this period of time. Of course this scheme has no regard for the increase in the cost of land which is the biggest single impost in building a home these days. The high amount of entry money now required to acquire one of these homes is pricing large numbers of aged persons out of the scheme. I do not know exactly what amount is required in Western Australia at the present time, but a few years ago the entry money at the Swan Cottage Homes was £800 or $1,600 for single accommodation and £1,000 or $2,000 for double accommodation. Without having any knowledge of this matter today, I would expect that there would have been some increase in the amount of entry money over this period of four or five years. So unless the subsidy is increased the scheme will quickly develop into one of benefit for the rich. I submit that the Government has found this to be a fact in other circumstances, because since this scheme was implemented the Government has found it necessary to pay to single pensioners what is known as a ‘rent supplement’ to the pension. The Government recognises that more aid is required by the people in our community who, through unfortunate circumstances over which they have no control, require to be provided with accommodation for the remaining periods of their lives.
There are many anomalies in this scheme in addition to the one associated with increasing costs. Because this scheme is restricted to aged persons the dwellings will outlive the persons who originally occupy them. In fact, they will outlive a great number of aged persons. If we consider that forty-three years is the amortisation period for housing trust and housing commission homes, if we regard this scheme as providing for people sixty-five years of age and over, and if we adopt a life expectancy of some seventy-two years, it is easy to calculate that the economic life of the premises will provide for quite a large number of tenants. In this circumstance it is possible for quite a large sum of money to be donated by people who are members of organisations which operate this scheme and for quite a large amount of Government subsidy to be paid in respect of one particular premises.
Despite some of the remarks that were made regarding this scheme in another place, it is a fact that particularly in Western Australia, which is the State with which I am familiar, it is impossible for a person to get accommodation under this scheme unless he contributes to a charitable or religious organisation. This is irrespective of whether a previous donation has been made to a charitable or religious organisation in respect of the particular premises. Of course, as soon as the organisation raises sufficient additional capital it applies to the Commonwealth Government for a further subsidy in respect of that capital on a $2 for $1 basis, and the ‘scheme mushrooms. This is not altogether a bad way of providing accommodation for aged persons, but it does have the effect that accommodation which has been paid for by one donor and which has been subsidised by the Commonwealth Government only becomes available to those people who have a sufficient amount of money to be able to donate to charitable or religious organisations. In this way, many people are deprived of the benefits of the scheme.
Prior to 1962, the Government subsidised donations to organisations on the basis of $2 for $1. In certain circumstances, people were entitled to a refund of a portion of their donation. Many elderly people who, because of increasing age, go into these homes, are forced to sell their family homes. This is because the homes are beyond their capacity to look after, because large family homes become lonely places, and because the owners want to be among people in their own age group. These people make donations to an organisation for the purpose of obtaining accommodation in the area. After a very short time, many of them find that they and the conditions are incompatible. Many of them, because of increasing age, become ill and require nursing home treatment. Unfortunately, many of them after a short period of time die. In those circumstances, prior to 1962 it was possible for them, if they found the conditions unsuitable, or if they became ill, to get a portion of their donation to the organisation paid back to them.
Swan Cottage Homes Incorporated charged a rental of £3 10s per week in respect of the period that an aged person was in a home. An amount calculated on the number of weeks that the person was in the accommodation and at that weekly rate that was deducted from the donation and the balance was paid to the person leaving the accommodation. There seems to be some equity in this practice because if people find themselves imcompatible with their circumstances they can move out and they will have a little of their capital available to them in order to buy their way into something else or to invest it in order to assist them to pay rent in some other premises.
In 1962, the Commonwealth Government saw fit to issue instructions that this type of action on the part of organisations was to cease. I wish to quote from a circular letter issued by the Department of Social Services in respect of this particular matter. The Director of Social Services in Western Australia, Mr Humphreys, had this to say:
There has been a trend for organisations approved under the Aged Persons Homes Act to encourage or require aged persons to make a donation’ to the organisation in return for the right to accommodation.
I think honourable senators should listen to this:
Legal agreements have been drawn granting the donor the right of occupancy of a unit in the home, for the remaining years of his life in consideration for the donation. Most agreements also contain a provision for the refund of some or all of the donation upon the happening of certain contingencies.
The whole question has been closely examined by the Government and it has been decided that moneys donated to an organisation cannot be used to attract Commonwealth subsidy unless such moneys -
It will be appreciated that the effect of the decision is that donations making up an organisation’s proportion of the cost of subsidised projects must not give the donor any legal rights to accommodation, or place the organisation under legal liabilities.
There is no objection to a person making a donation on the ‘understanding’ that it will ensure accommodation for himself, or any member of his family or any other particular person. Such understanding’ may represent the intentions of the organisation but must not impose enforceable contractual obligations on the organisation.
It is important also, that the donation must not be subject to conditions which will confer quasiproprietary rights on a person or persons to the exclusion of the organisation, e.g. to permit occupancy by one person of accommodation which was subsidised on the basis that it would provide accommodation for two, or will permit any person or authority other than the organisation to nominate a successor for the accommodation provided under the Act.
Furthermore, moneys held by organisations as their share of the cost of a project, and which are subject to a subsidy by the Commonwealth on a £2 for £1 basis, must not have been received subject to a legal liability on the organisation to refund some or all of it upon the happening of certain events such as the vacation of a home by the donor.
Further on, Mr Humphreys said:
In respect of current undetermined or future applications it will be necessary for the organisation to provide a special certificate in addition to the usual Auditor’s Certificate regarding borrowed moneys and State grants. An example of the form of special certificate required is attached for your information.
I will read a section of the essential parts of the certificate. I have a copy of it, and it has not been filled in. This is an example of an organisation’s certificate covering funds expended or presently available in connection with application for subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The relevant part reads:
. and no part of these funds has been received subject to a legal obligation to -
I revert to what I said earlier. Many of these people find themselves unsuited to the circumstances. Probably their life’s savings have been put into the organisation on the understanding that they will have a roof over their heads for the rest of their lives, but they find that they are unable to live in the circumstances prevailing in these homes. They must then quit the accommodation or put up with the inconvenience. If they quit they lose the little that they have been able to save during their lives and have nothing with which to buy into any other sort of accommodation. They are stripped of the little capital that they have had.
This also applies to people who are unfortunate enough to be taken ill and to have to leave the community home and go into a nursing home or a C class hospital to receive the treatment that they require. I am aware that at the present time money is set aside to subsidise the building of this type of accommodation in conjunction with aged persons homes. I have yet to see this scheme in operation and to know what it will cost the elderly people who are able to take advantage of it and whether they will be able to afford the nursing services that will be available. I reserve judgment on that scheme until I have seen it in operation.
Section 3 of the Act is important. Surely it provides the principle upon which the Government should be acting in regard to aged persons homes. Sub-section (1.) of that section reads:
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, :)nd in particular homes at which aged persons way reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
The people who live in these homes are not expected to be harassed, to be given orders on what they should do and what they should not do, or to be given each week a group of regulations and orders that they must obey. Yet, at the Swan Cottage Homes in Western Australia regular weekly orders are issued by the secretary and chairman of the charitable organisation that operates the establishment. The tenants are given instructions on what they may and may not do in the homes. In support of that statement I quote briefly from information circular No. 23 of February 1965.
– What is the approximate size of this aged persons home?
– Approximately 400 people live in this village. I shall have a little more to say about that later. I do not propose to quote all of this information circular. It is available to anyone who wishes to have a look at it. In paragraph 3 the secretary and chairman say:
Residents have been previously advised of the necessity for consultation with their neighbours whenever new exterior blinds or awnings are contemplated, in order that reasonably matching colours may be used. This need seems to have been forgotten and several instances of badly clashing colours have occurred.
This sentence is important:
The Board trusts that this will not occur again, and reserves to itself the right to order the changing of any items erected which do not conform with existing block colours.
This is an aged persons home. People have paid what I term key money in order to live in it. Despite the section of the certificate that I quoted, saying that the organisation must not guarantee accommodation, we all know that the donations that are made to these organisations are made on at least the understanding that the donor will receive accommodation when the home is built. I quote from this information circular to show that it insists that any complaints made to the person who might be called the ‘caretaker’ must be made in writing. I remind the Senate that these people are elderly and that many of them are past the stage where they are able to put their thoughts in writing. The information circular reads:
Although our information circular No. 17 particularly requested that Mr Warner be not disturbed at his home, far too many residents are still calling at the house, at the most inconvenient times, with verbal requests for assistance or minor matters. Most of these calls are an invasion of the privacy that Mrs Warner is as much entitled to as are our residents. Verbal requests to Mr Warner himself when he is on other duties are also interfering badly with the Board’s endeavour to programme the work of the Homes. It should accordingly bc noted by all residents that:
When Mr Warner is engaged on routine programme lawn cutting he will NOT stop such work to attend to house maintenance, and he is not to be stopped to hear verbal requests.
Calls to his residence with verbal requests MUST stop (except as in paragraph (4) below).
ALL requests for normal house repairs or assistance must be in writing and be left in the letter box at 6 Gordon Way, or the box provided in the Social Centre, and must give briefly the reason for the request.
ONLY in genuine emergency should Mr and Mrs Warner be approached personally with a verbal request, and these wilt be accepted at any time, whether inside or outside normal working hours. 1 ask honourable senators to remember that ] am dealing with the homes of the people to whom copies of this information circular are given. Paragraph 6 of it is particularly interesting. It is headed ‘Sickness or Extended Holidays’ and reads:
This circular is to be accepted by all residents as formal and binding advice that in terms of our responsibility to the Commonwealth Government, who make possible the housing all residents enjoy, we are under necessity to maintain a full occupation rate.
There are more people on our waiting list than there are present residents.
This is the standover tactic - there are plenty of people waiting to come in and we can always let the rooms we have. The circular continues:
We are accordingly limited to allowing no more than ninety days absence for illness or hospitalisation, when we are compelled to reclaim the flat concerned for re-letting.
This is the treatment being meted out to these people after they have paid in their life savings to get a roof over their head.
– Is that actually exercised?
– I do not know, but 1 do know that the circular has been sent out.
– Who conducts the village, an organisation or an individual?
– I shall tell the honourable senator in a moment who conducts it. The circular goes on:
The Board has a full appreciation of our undertaking to all residents to allow private living within our village without interference or dictation, beyond the needs of ensuring peaceful community living. lt has been found, however, that various inconveniences are caused if residents leave their flat for long holiday periods without the Board being aware of their absence.
It is requested accordingly that the Board be advised in writing whenever -
a resident is in hospital for a period exceeding fourteen days, with name and address of the hospital;
a resident intends leaving his or her flat for any extended holiday in excess of three months, with a local address to which communications as may be necessary can be sent, and the date on which absence is expected to commence.
This document is roneoed and of course is not signed personally. However it bears the signatures ‘F. H. Miller, Secretary’ and Richard Cleaver, J. P., M.P., Chairman’.
– The local member of Parliament.
– Yes. Dozens of these circulars have been printed. I had copies at one time, but had to return them to the source from which I had obtained them. They came from a State member of Parliament who unfortunately was defeated two years ago, and he required the documents to be returned to him. However, I have indicated the theme of these circulars, which are being sent out weekly. Do not forget that in addition to making the required donation to the organisation, the people concerned also are required to pay a weekly rental to cover maintenance of, and rates and taxes on, the property. They are not living there on the cheap, but they are being subjected continuously to the kind of pressure tactics to which I have referred.
– Is every aged person seeking accommodation asked to pay the donation?
– I cannot say for certain, but as far as I know a person cannot get into this accommodation unless he is prepared to pay the required amount. Four or five years ago when I last made inquiries I learned that the donation was £800 for single accommodation and £1000 for double accommodation. I. do not know whether the respective amounts have been increased since then. The honourable senator may recollect that after this circular had been distributed I brought to the attention of the Senate the fact that there was no lien on the funds.
Attempts were made by the directors of Swan Cottage Homes to evict certain people. We all become a little cantankerous as we get older, and I have no doubt that in a large group of elderly people there will be some who are incompatible with their neighbours but who refuse to move. A lot of patience must be exercised with elderly people. They cannot be hidebound with regulations of this kind. They must be treated with reason. When I brought this matter before the Senate on a previous occasion seven people who had paid their donation for these homes had eviction orders hanging over their heads. They had paid their life savings to obtain this accommodation but were under threat of eviction.
According to the Director or” Social Services, the Board was not required to refund one penny of the donation but it could put these people on the street. Fortunately they were not evicted because I advised them to force the Board to take them to court and have eviction orders made against them. The directors were not prepared to go to that extent and face the glare of publicity, so these people are still in the homes. However, the intention to evict them was clear. Issuing directives of the kind to which I have referred to these elderly persons only creates conditions which make it very difficult for them to live a normal happy life in the last few years remaining to them.
From its inception until June 1966 the scheme has been subsidised by the Commonwealth to the extent of $66m. I do not quarrel with that amount - I think it is insufficient - but I do say that a greater number of organisations should have the opportunity to take advantage of the scheme and that the Commonwealth Government should place no limit on the amount which will be made available to provide homes for elderly people. The Commonwealth uses public money, money that is gathered by taxation, customs and excise duties and all the other ways in which revenue is raised. It is the public’s money, not ours, but a charitable or religious organisation can take advantage of the scheme. It can set itself up as a body, raise a certain amount of money and then apply to the Director of Social Services for a subsidy equal to twice the amount it has raised. If the Director of Social Services approves the scheme that is advanced the subsidy is paid to the body concerned, admittedly over a period. As construction work progresses progress payments are made. Once approval has been obtained from the Director of Social Services and the subsidy has been paid to the organisation the Commonwealth has nothing more to do with the matter. It just wipes its hands of the whole thing; and this is public money. That is wrong. If public funds are used the Commonwealth should know what happens to the money it provides. It should know not only the purposes for which the money is required but also whether it is used for those purposes.
To this end, a member of the Commonwealth Public Service or a person nominated by the Government should be appointed a trustee of such organisations, whether charitable or religious. An annual or even a three-yearly report should be submitted to the Parliament indicating how the subsidy is being used. There should be at least one Government trustee on the board of each of these charitable and religious organisations in order to protect the funds of the people who are accommodated in aged persons homes, and to see that funds donated and subsidies paid are used for the purposes for which they are provided and that once such homes are built and their capital cost paid off substantial sums will not have to be paid by ingoing occupants. I appreciate the fact that continued donations will help aged persons villages to grow. But there is a limit to everything. In this instance, the available land limits the size of the village that may be built. Other villages may be built, of course, but one that is completed should not require further substantial payments by ingoing occupants and should not thereby attract further subsidy. If the principles inherent in the Act are adhered to the accommodation thus provided will be made available to women aged sixty and over and men aged sixty-five and over without the payment of further sums by new occupants. I acknowledge that money is paid by the original occupants on going into the accommodation, and I have no quarrel with the sums that are paid. It is reasonable that payment be made to cover rent, and rates and taxes. But that is as far as it should go. The Commonwealth should exercise some supervision.
I wish to say only one thing more before I conclude, Madam Acting Deputy President. I have already referred to the author of the document under the name of Swan Cottage Homes Incorporated. I state without fear of contradiction that the Government subsidises this scheme in Western Australia and that the scheme is being used for political purposes. It is known that the electorate in which the accommodation concerned is situated was a marginal seat on the occasion of the State general election in 1965. Four hundred votes were involved in the village, and its residents received from the Chairman of Swan Cottage Homes a circular requesting each to vote for a particular political candidate. The Swan Cottage Homes village is in the Federal electorate represented by Mr Cleaver, and I have no objection to his asking these people, for whom he has helped to provide accommodation, to vote for him at a Federal election. He is entitled to get as many votes as possible anywhere in his electorate by fair means. But I object to Commonwealth money being used for the provision of buildings of the kind constructed at this village and the use of that accommodation in this way for political purposes in fields outside the jurisdiction of the Chairman of Swan Cottage Homes Incorporated. This is the sort of thing into which the Commonwealth Government should look in relation to the payment of its subsidy of $2 for $1. 1 support the Bill.
[4.54] - in reply - Madam Acting Deputy President, I want first of all to thank honourable senators for the manner in which they have supported this Bill and for the obvious interest that they are taking in what I believe is a very important piece of legislation based on a programme which has been initiated by this Government, and which has been in progress for some years now, to assist in the provision of accommodation for aged people under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Since the original Act was passed, many aged persons have been enabled to spend the twilight of their years in pleasant circumstances without fear of loneliness and free of the fear that there will be nobody to care for them should they become unable to look after themselves. This Bill will extend the work that has been done in this way. I noted that Senator Cant said that he wanted more organisations to participate in the scheme. This is the very object that the Government had in mind in bringing in this measure. Its purpose is to widen the scope of the assistance given by the Commonwealth. In my second reading speech 1 stated:
The purpose of this Bill is to widen the scope of assistance the Commonwealth may give by way of grants for homes for the aged by including local governing bodies in the organisations eligible for such grants and accepting contributions by them towards aged persons homes as qualifying for Commonwealth subsidy.
So the purpose of this Bill is to extend and widen the scope of this excellent work. 1 believe that this measure is of great impor tance not only to this Parliament but also to very many senior citizens in Australia. 1 now want to deal with a few matters that were raised in the debate. I direct attention to the work of the many dedicated men and women throughout the community who are doing excellent work for aged people in various church and charitable organisations which benefit greatly from the aged persons homes scheme. Speakers who implied that those who undertake this dedicated service are not carrying out thentask as it should be done do a disservice to the many dedicated men and women who are doing their utmost to care for aged persons. We all know of the excellent work that church and charitable organisations are doing throughout Australia. I was indebted to Senator Morris) who brought out this very point. Senator Poke said that pensioners are not being assisted as they should be. He may be interested to know that a fairly recent survey has shown that most beds in the majority of subsidised homes are in fact occupied by pensioners. Indeed, in at least 90% of the subsidised homes the majority of the residents are pensioners. In Victoria at least 70% of the persons accommodated in subsidised homes are pensioners.
One matter that has caused considerable discussion in this debate is the subject of donations by intending residents of aged persons homes. I want to make it very clear, Madam Acting Deputy President, that the Commonwealth does not require that donations be made by ingoing tenants. It is known, of course, as has been pointed out in this debate, that a number of organisations receive donations from persons seeking accommodation and that such moneys are used, together with the Commonwealth subsidy, to meet the whole or part of the cost of constructing and running the home. However, acceptance of the donation must not confer on the donor legal rights to occupancy or to repayment in the event of certain contingencies, since it is necessary that organisations retain complete control over the allocation and management of subsidised accommodation. If a donation were subject to repayment in the event of certain contingencies it would in essence be a loan. This is a point on which we have to be very clear, I believe. In that event, the donation would be a loan. The Act expressly precludes the use of borrowed moneys to attract Commonwealth subsidy. I point out, as did Senator Morris, that in respect of a great many aged persons homes intending occupants do not have to contribute a donation.
Senator Cant and Senator Poke both suggested that the Act ought to be amended to bring trade unions and credit unions under the scheme. I should like to direct the attention of honourable senators to the fact that under the Act it has always been possible for a trade union to participate in the scheme of providing homes for the aged as an eligible organisation, if it wishes to do so and if its own constitution permits it to do so. If it is ‘carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members’ - this is the condition - it may be accepted as an eligible organisation under section 5 (i) (b) of the existing Act and approved by the Governor-General. I direct attention also to the fact that it is possible for a trade union or credit union to establish a separate trust and for that trust to operate on the same basis as any other charitable organisation and be approved by the GovernorGeneral under section 5 (2.) of the Act. lt would not be possible or desirable to name specifically in the legislation all the types of organisations that could be assisted. I think honourable senators realise that.
I am sorry that Senator Cavanagh is out of the chamber. It seemed to me that he had given a great deal of thought to his speech on this Bill and had raised a number of interesting points. I should like to answer them because I recognise that his speech showed real concern about the matters that he raised. He discussed the annual report of the Director-General of Social Services and I understood him to say that the report showed that the average cost per person of subsidised homes was $2,516. He went on to say that this represented a government contribution of $1,676, that only $838 was contributed by the organisation, and that the organisation required the occupants to pay $1,000. My reply to Senator Cavanagh is that the amount of $2,516 that he mentions is the average grant per person since 1954. This, of course, is quite different from the point that he made. It covers subsidies at both the previous rate of £1 for £1 and the present rate of $2 for $1. The average grant over the past five years has been about $3,000, which means that the organisation’s contribution has averaged at least $1,500 and not, as Senator Cavanagh calculates from his figures, $838. I felt that this was a point that I should clear up a little and explain further.
Senator Cant and Senator Cavanagh spoke about the amount of subsidy for each unit. In reply to Senator Cant I say that an organisation gets a subsidy only once for each unit. The Government subsidises money spent in providing additional accommodation and the subsidy of $2 for $1 represents two-thirds of the capital cost of an accommodation project.
Senator Cavanagh said that money should be used to provide confortable accommodation for the largest number of persons and not, as he put it, to provide luxurious homes for a smaller number. I think he implied that the Government provides a two-thirds subsidy of the actual cost of any home without limit and irrespective of the cost of the home. This is not correct. The amount of subsidy granted is limited to a maximum of $3,600 per person accommodated. This is the point which I think was missed by the honourable senator. This is to ensure that the Commonwealth’s money is used to provide comfortable homes for the largest number of persons. If an organisation wishes to build homes that are more luxurious and cost more than this amount, they themselves must bear the additional cost. This is the maximum grant payable. Senator Cant, Senator Cavanagh, and perhaps Senator Poke, spoke about guarantees.
– Wrongly accused.
– Then I withdraw the reference to Senator Poke. Senator Cavanagh and Senator Cant mentioned this matter. I think I should clear up a point about this. I was interested to discover that about two years ago in this chamber Senator Cavanagh inquired about this very point. He was given a reply which I think is of interest. He inquired regarding the continued use of homes for aged persons and the fact that guarantees were sought. He queried why organisations which were not religious, charitable, benevolent or ex-service should want to enter this field, and he asked which were the fifty organisations approved in the previous year by the Governor-General and which received subsidies totalling $8,887,163. When Senator Cavanagh posed this question he was told that undertakings or agreements were not required in the case of religious organisations but that it was standard procedure to obtain them from all non-religious bodies.
It appears from the debate that there is some misunderstanding regarding organisations approved by the Governor-General. Since the inception of the Act, fifty grants totalling $1,887,663 - not, as was suggested by the honourable senator, $8,887,163 - have been made to this group. The point that I want to clear up is that the number of individual organisations in this group which have received grants is actually twenty-eight, but some of them have received more than one grant. In fact, I understand, some have received a considerable number, and this has brought the number of grants up to fifty, although actually there arc only twenty-eight organisations in this group. These organisations are mostly trustees under charitable trusts but they include also a few voluntary organisations such as the Country Women’s Association and Rotary Clubs. I know of my own personal knowledge, and we are all very well aware, of the work that is being done in this field by organisations such as the Country Women’s Association, which come into the group of organisations approved by the Governor-General.
I think I have covered the major points that have been raised. This legislation was originally brought in, I believe, as a recognition by the Government of the excellent voluntary efforts of church and charitable organisations and the role that they play in the special care of our aged people, making it possible for these senior citizens to live under the conditions referred to by Senator Cant. These organisations provide accommodation so that aged persons may be secure in the twilight of their lives and be able to live together in suitable, happy and normal surroundings. I believe that all over Australia - in the suburbs of the big cities and as far away as Alice Springs - men and women living in homes for the aged are being given dedicated service and care by people devoting their lives so that our senior citizens may find security, happiness and care in the twilight of their lives.
Because it recognises this situation the Government has assisted these people in the past and through this Bill it is seeking to extend further assistance to the aged. I thank honourable senators who have supported the Bill and I thank the Senate for its speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the definition of “ eligible organization “ and inserting in its stead the following definitions: - “ ‘ eligible organization ‘ means -
a religious organization;
– I indicated in my speech during the debate on the second reading of the Bill that I believe the Bill should be extended to cover trade unions and credit unions as organisations which may participate in the benefits of this legislation. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) said in her reply that twenty-eight organisations had received assistance under this legislation since its inception. I move:
After paragraph (b) in the definition of “ eligible organization “ insert “ and (ba) a trade union registered under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State”.
It is significant that the Minister did not refer to any trade unions that have been afforded assistance under the provisions of this legislation. It has been said that trade unions and credit unions can participate under this legislation as it stands. That may be so, provided the approval of the GovernorGeneral is sought and obtained. But why not spell out in the terms of the Act which organisations are eligible for assistance? The Minister also stated that provided the rules and constitution of a trade union conform with certain provisions of the Act it can receive assistance. Probably there are unions which are not aware that their rules or constitution would need to be amended to comply with this legislation. Therefore it seems to me to be a reasonable proposition to amend the Act so that the unions which wish to participate can do so.
Trade unions and their members are very important factors in the life of Australia. Official recognition has been given to the working conditions of union members by Commonwealth and State governments. Why not spell out in this legislation the conditions under which trade unions may avail themselves of the assistance provided by its terms? The membership of trade unions probably totals between two million and three million. If the trade union movement were encompassed by this legislation a great number of people could be assisted. Probably between 300 and 400 trade unions are registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If the amendment proposed by the Opposition is accepted an opportunity to participate will be extended to those unions. The purpose of the amendment is to extend the provisions of the Act. The Minister in her reply to the second reading debate said that the whole purpose of the Bill was to extend the Act. She even went so far as to read portion of her second reading speech in this connection. Surely if the Government wishes to extend the Act it will accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
It is pleasing to note that the Government has accepted a principle that has been part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party for a number of years. In my speech at the second reading stage of the debate I referred to Labor’s 1961 policy speech in which it was proposed that the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act should be extended. The same proposal was included in Labor’s policy speeches of 1963 and 1966. The Government introduced assistance on a basis of $2 for $1. Labor wished to extend assistance on a basis of $3 for $1.
Sometimes it is rather interesting to refer to history and I wish to refer to a debate which took place on the Disabled Persons Accommodation Bill in another place on 10th October 1963. At page 1730 of Hansard of that date is set out an amendment in the following terms moved by Mr Makin, then the honourable member for Bonython:
In sub-clause (3.), omit ‘or of a State; or (b) a local governing body established under the law of a State,’.
In this Bill the Government seeks to give effect to exactly the same principle as proposed by that amendment. At page 1731 of Hansard of 10th October 1963 Mr Roberton, then Minister for Social Services, is reported as saying:
Mr Chairman, the amendment is unacceptable to the Government.
If that amendment was unacceptable to the Government in 1963, why has it seen fit in 1967 to bring forward such an amendment to this legislation? I believe that the Government has not been particularly constant in this matter. It rejected some similar amendments proposed to similar legislation four years ago and now has brought forward legislation to extend the Act in the terms of the rejected amendments. I submit to the Committee that the amendment I have proposed should be carried so that the Act may be extended to make clearer the organisations which may participate in the assistance provided by this legislation. I think the proposed amendment would do just that.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) a few questions. I was surprised when I understood her to say that no such thing as a deposit is required before entry to these homes.
– I said that some of the homes do not ask for a deposit.
– Then let us call it a contribution. Early this afternoon Senator Cant spoke of people who were being evicted -
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! I remind honourable senators that when I asked whether they wanted to take the Bill as a whole they said that they wished to take it clause by clause. I therefore must now ask the honourable senator to confine his remarks to clause 3.
– I am confining my remarks to clause 3. Senator Cant referred to people who were being evicted without having any of their money returned. I personally know people who have paid as much as ?1,000 to get into it was a donation, a loan, or a gift I do not know. If no deposit is required, then I do not think the general public is given sufficient information about that fact, for there is a popular belief that in most instances a deposit is required. If no deposit is required then greater publicity should be given to that fact so that people will know of it. I know that many people are refraining from trying to enter aged persons homes because they have not got the money required for entering. I would like to ask this question. Would a person who was prepared to pay ?800, either by way of loan or gift - call it what you like - have a better chance of being accommodated than a person who has not any money? I thought the Minister said that there would be no differentiation between the two. Did I misunderstand the situation? The general public believe that the person with the money would receive preference. I do not know what the position is.
– Clause 3 of the Bill proposes to amend section 2 of the principal Act in a particular way. I have taken particular note of this point. Clause 3 defines a local governing body as an eligible organisation and provides that an eligible organisation shall include trustees, or corporations established by any of the organisations referred to. The definition will also cover the trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes and approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of the Act. There is one point that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) might clarify for me.
In her second reading speech the Minister said that the Commonwealth’s contribution is to be increased from one third to two thirds of the capital cost. She also pointed out that land would attract a subsidy. It would appear that this provision should enable municipal bodies to enter further into the field covered by the Bill. Many rural municipal bodies have ample land available and could attract benevolent institutions to their areas to establish homes for the aged. I should like to know from the Minister the basis upon which land made available by a local governing body would attract the Commonwealth Government’s contribution of $2 for $1 .
[5.25] - Senator Poke has proposed an amendment which seeks to include in the definition of eligible organisations a trade union registered under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State. When replying to the second reading debate I endeavoured to explain to the Senate just what the position was. I can only repeat now what I said then. It has always been possible, and still is possible, for a trade union to participate in this scheme of providing homes for the aged if it wishes to do so and if its constitution permits it to do so. If the trade union is carried on other than for the purpose of profit or gain for the members of the union, it may be accepted as an eligible organisation under section 5 (1 .) (b) of the existing Act as an organisation approved by the Governor-General. I refer honourable senators to that part of the Act which speaks of organisations approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of the Act. I refer in particular to that part which relates to the trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes and approved by the GovernorGeneral. It is clear, therefore, that if the Governor-General so approves, the trade union may be accepted as one of the organisations referred to in the preceding sub-section, and I think that covers the very point that Senator Poke was endeavouring to make.
I was interested to hear the honourable senator’s reference to the disabled persons accommodation legislation which came before the Parliament in 1963. If my memory serves me correctly - I am certain that it does - it was made quite clear then that trade unions could participate in the scheme for the provision of homes for aged persons. The interesting point is that up to now no trade union has sought to be included in the scheme, despite the fact that it is possible for trade unions to participate. Why no trade union has applied I do not know. I repeat that as the Act stands it is possible for a trade union which complies with all conditions to be regarded as an eligible organisation.
asked certain questions. He was somewhat out of order. 1 should like the indulgence of the Senate to reply to him. Senator Ormonde referred to sums of money donated by some people to church or charitable organisations before entering their homes. I say as I did before, that this is entirely a matter for the organisation concerned. There are many organisations that do not require applicants for accommodation to make any donation. But I do emphasise that there is no requirement by the Commonwealth that a donation shall be made by a prospective tenant.
– ‘Donation’ is a euphemistic term.
– The honourable senator was the one who used it. He spoke of people making donations. If people give money, surely they are making a donation.
– But they are paying a deposit on a home.
– But they are not buying a home. It is not a deposit.
– They pay in the money as a voluntary gift.
– That is so. It is a matter entirely for the organisation. There are numerous organisations which do not require prospective tenants to contribute one penny by way of donation. They are expected to pay something when they are occupying the accommodation, but they do not have to make any donation before becoming tenants. Other organisations do require some payment so that they may have funds to provide a greater amount of accommodation for aged people. But I say again that there is no requirement by the Commonwealth that a donation shall be made by incoming tenants. Senator Webster also raised a point and I have a reply for him. Land otherwise than Crown land donated by a local government body would be admitted for subsidy at the valuation made by the valuers of the Commonwealth Taxation Branch. I think that covers the point which he raised.
– The Minister referred to section 5 (1 .) (b) of the Act which, as she said, includes trade unions. Then she went on to indicate that no union had made an application under that particular section of the Act for inclusion as an approved organisation. Surely this only proves the point that I made a few minutes ago, that if the words of this particular amendment were included in the Act, it would be a clear indication to the unions that they can participate. Let us face the issue as it stands. Quite a number of union officials do not have time to study particular Bills or Acts of the Parliament so that they know in what they oan participate. I would say that the principal unions which would be interested in this particular Bill or Act would be those belonging to the building group. Many of these unions do not have research officers who can go through these Bills and Acts in order to ascertain their entitlements. If the words of the amendment were included in the Act the unions would immediately see that their entitlement was spelled out in the Act. I am endeavouring to have the matter spelled out clearly in the Act. That is what the Opposition’s amendment would do.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [5.32J - Senator Poke’s remarks were a good illustration of a state of affairs that was recently debated concerning the efficacy of members of Parliament in keeping in touch with their constituents. I once thought that the Australian Labor Party claimed especially to represent those working men who were proud to be organised into trade unions. Ever since this Act came into force I myself have been saying that if I were a member of the Labor Party the trade unions would be housing their aged members from day to day at a cost to the Commonwealth Government. Under this Act the trade unions have the unique opportunity to get homes for their aged personnel on a concessional basis. If they were to erect homes and pay £1 in every £3 of the cost it would then be entirely for the management of the trade unions to say whether or not they would ask for donations from those who occupy the homes. Instead of engaging in carping criticism in this chamber, honourable senators opposite could come forward with a positive and expanding programme to make the benefits of this legislation available to their constituents in the spirit of the Act.
In previous debates I have forewarned senators as to the completely unspecified method of making grants under this Act. This is left entirely to the discretion of the Director-General of Social Services and now, as the Act is being amended, to his delegate. As Senator Cant pointed out, it is public money that is to be expended. One of the defects of the Act is that proper rules are not stipulated to ensure that people receive the benefit of this public money in perpetuity, in accordance with the purposes of the Act. The Opposition makes the complaint, which is thought to be worthy of an amendment, that trade unions are not specifically nominated. Members of Parliament are supposed to be letter carriers and fetchers of communications, especially those in another place whose electorates contain no more than 85,000 people in any one electorate. I should have thought that it was their special province to interpret these provisions for the benefit of their electorates. No doubt the amendment which the Opposition has moved originated in their caucus in which members from another place predominate. This demonstrates that it is not even yet appreciated that trade unions could be made predominant beneficiaries under this Act. Consequently it is now thought proper to move an amendment which seeks to include trade unions in the Act.
That is a matter for tears, lt shows how poorly the working men of the trade unions are being represented in Parliament today, tt is an explanation as to why repeatedly in successive elections these people when they go to the ballot boxes are looking to tha Liberal Party for some degree of assistance. lt is unusual for me to make a political point in the course of a debate at the Committee stage, but there it is. I point out, from a purely disinterested public point of view, the deficiencies in the Act and also the benefits which are available to the trade unions for whom we on this side of the chamber have a jealous regard. Having said that, I want to say, following upon the reference that has been made to donations-
– Order! I think that the honourable senator can refer to this matter when we are dealing with another clause of the Bill. We are dealing with clause 3 now.
– J was just following along a previous ruling.
– I ruled one speaker out of order. The Minister was only replying to the question that had been raised.
– Mr Chairman, if you will be good enough to indicate, at the appropriate time, when you think it is relevant to raise this matter, I will do so.
– I am prompted to enter this debate because of the remarks made by Senator Wright. I inform him and the Committee that the Opposition can justly claim that it is truly representative of the trade union movement and that it looks after the interests of the trade union movement.
– Is that only a thought?
– No. The many occasions on which we, on behalf of the trade unions, have fought oppressive Government legislation show that we have a keen and realistic interest in the welfare of the trade unions. For some considerable time I have been of the opinion that it may be possible for trade unions to become approved organisations under this Act. Some two years ago I wrote to the South Australian Trades and Labor Council stating that in my opinion trade unions could obtain benefits under this Act. But we have no more than an assurance from the Minister today as to whether or not they can obtain such benefits.
– it is in the words of the Act.
– It is not in the words of the Act. The Act, as amended, will provide: eligible organisation’ means -
an organisation . . . that is carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members and is -
If organisations come within these categories, without question they are approved organisations for the purpose of the payment of subsidy under the Act. But then the Act covers another section of organisations:
The question as to whether or not a trade union is eligible must be in doubt until such time as the Governor-General has considered the application from a trade union. Although the Minister has told us that in her opinion a trade union is eligible, we do not know whether the Minister fully understands the constitution, rules or purposes of a trade union. We do not know whether the Minister is in a position to make such a statement, and until application is made by a trade union under the Act it would assist greatly if we could find some line on what is an acceptable constitution of an organisation that is to be approved by the Governor-General. It is obvious that every application made by an organisation for approval cannot be granted automatically. The bona fides of the organisation must oe investigated. If we knew what was required under this section before an organisation could receive the approval of the GovernorGeneral, we could then find out definitely whether trade unions met those requirements.
I can visualise that the requirement could be such that though some trade unions came within the ambit of the section other trade unions would not. All the Opposition’s amendment seeks to do is to put a trade union on the same basis as a religious organisation or a charitable organisation for the purposes of being accepted as an approved organisation without the necessity for an inquiry into the whole ramifications of a trade union, before it is accepted as an approved organisation by the GovernorGeneral. Trade unions wish to be on a par with the organisations specified. Why is there the need to specify religious organisations under the Act? Why is there the need for the definition of ‘eligible organisation’ as set out in paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) of sub-clause (a)?
– Why could not the definition provide for any organisation the principal objects of which are benevolent?
– Because all of these organisations are not benevolent.
– Because they are not the principal objects of the organisation.
– Order! Senator Cavanagh has the call.
– I think we would begin a long debate if we discussed the question raised by Senator Wright as to whether the purposes of these organisations were entirely benevolent. But the Minister does not accept-
– The trade unions are not benevolent.
– I think that they are to some extent. But for them to be declared benevolent organisations might necessitate some money being paid at times for the purpose of defeating the Democratic Labor Party.
– Surely a trade union could establish a trust for housing its aged persons and the trust would be an organisation that was benevolent?
– I do not know whether it would be.
– The honourable senator needs to get some good legal advice.
– Apparently it is free. One is hesitant to accept free legal advice; but one cannot disregard the source from which this advice comes. Nevertheless I would say that the legal advice is still a legal opinion. Is there anything wrong with putting the matter beyond a legal opinion? If there is some doubt about the matter, is there anything wrong with clarifying the position so that we can understand it and say definitely that a trade union comes within the definition?
– Then, by the same token-
– Let me come to this point: it is a question of legal opinion versus ministerial opinion-
– It is not.
– lt is. The Minister tells us that trade unions can be accepted as approved organisations by the GovernorGeneral. The Minister refers to the particular provision where, in the Minister’s opinion, a trade union can be qualified to receive the benefits under this Act. Because 1 have raised some doubt about this, the legal mind says: ‘Well, forget that. I will find something else.’ In the legal mind, this provision can be used for the purpose of a trade union. A legal view offered on this point from this side of the Committee doubted that opinion somewhat. I am not rejecting or accepting it. While it is only a legal opinion I say that it must be subject to doubt until at some time it is decided, a judgment is given on it, and perhaps a further judgment is given on that judgment. But instead of being faced with the necessity to go to a tribunal to find out whether the opinion from Senator Wright on this point is correct, could we not make the point clear regarding what Senator Wright and the Minister have said will happen under the Act and ensure that there is no doubt that the intention of Parliament is that trade unions should qualify under the Act? Let us insert this provision in the legislation. One of the reasons I rose was to bring up this question of the necessity for donations, but 1 submit to your ruling, Mr Chairman. If you could forewarn me of the clause under which we will have the opportunity to discuss this question of donations, it would greatly assist me.
– The honourable senator may raise the matter during the consideration of clause 6, if he wishes.
Silting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– I cannot understand why honourable senators opposite are pursuing and persisting with the amendment that has been moved. If I understood the Minister correctly - I think I did - she made it very clear earlier in the debate that unions as such may not register under the Act, but that any union may form a trust which then may register and qualify under the Act. That seemed perfectly clear to me. But honourable senators opposite talk about the problems and difficulties that would be associated with changing the rules and regulations of the unions themselves. I repeat that that is quite unnecessary. All a union needs to do is form a trust. If it does that and conforms with the requirements of the Act, there is no reason in the world why it cannot take advantage of the Act as it is at present.
I now move to the next point that I want to make, which is that it would not be possible for the Minister to accept this amendment even if she desired to do so, for the simple reason that it would bring into the definition of ‘eligible organisation’ a classification of organisations whose rules may not permit them to qualify. For example, one qualification for an organisation to benefit from this legislation is that it be non-profitmaking. Unions could not come under that provision. But I repeat that every union could, if it wished, form a trust and then qualify and be a beneficiary under the Act.
I say quite frankly that I was staggered to hear Senator Cavanagh say that about two years ago he raised this point with the Trades and Labour Council in South Australia, which advised to the contrary. I cannot understand why it would do that. I do not pretend to belong to the legal fraternity - I will have something to say about that later - but it is obvious to me that if unions want to qualify and to be beneficiaries under the Act the door is open for them to do so. I am sure that they could have been qualifying for quite a long time and could have made a great contribution to the housing of aged people had they taken advantage of the opportunity.
– I rise to make a couple of observations about this clause. As Senator Morris now says, a trade union certainly has to make special provision if it wants to Obtain the benefits of the Act.
– The Minister said that before.
– All right. That is quite different from what was said in the debate this afternoon. That certainly was not the basis of Senator Wright’s complaint about Senator Poke’s contribution to the debate. I suggest that when the Minister answered the question that was raised by Senator Poke or Senator Cavanagh - I am not sure which it was - she should have made it clear that if trade unions wanted to receive the benefits of the Act they had to make special provision. That was not made clear in the other place. Senator Wright would know that better than I because he has been engaged in the legal side of industrial matters. He knows what the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the rules of court provide in relation to unions encompassing matters other than their specific aims as set out in their rules. 1 would have thought that the Minister would have referred to that when she replied to Senator Poke.
– What is the honourable senator’s proposition?
– My proposition is that the Minister should have said that trade unions can avail themselves of the provisions of (he Act only if they make special provision in their rules.
– She did say that. She made it as clear as day.
– 1 am also saying that that certainly was not the interpretation that anybody would have put on Senator Wright’s criticism of Senator Poke. The Opposition has moved a straight out amendment which says that trade unions as such should be allowed to benefit from the Act and that the relevant provision should be made in clause 3 of this Bill. The unions can do only two things under clause 3: They can come under the definition of ‘eligible organisation’ in paragraph (iv), under which the Governor-General, after looking at the rules of a union, may decide that it is eligible; or they must make special provision in their rules to obtain the benefits of the Act.
– Do not churches have to do that? They have to set up their committees.
– The point that I am trying to make is that the Opposition has moved an amendment, the purpose of which is to make it clear that trade unions, although subsequently they might have to alter their objects or rules, should be entitled to be regarded as eligible organisations. I can see no reason for the attack that was made on the mover of the amendment. That is the main reason for my entering this debate. lt is well known that the unions are fashioned to fit into the Commonwealth arbitration machine or the respective State arbitration machines. They have to have registered objects and constitutions which state that they cater for nominated employees and nominated industries. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, if a union seeks to do something outside its constitution a malcontent can hold up its operations. So a union has to take separate and distinct measures to become an eligible organisation under the Act. I raise the objection that this point was not made in another place. It is true that if the members of a union made a decision at a properly constituted meeting and in accordance with the rules of court and procedures under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the union could allocate so much of its revenue towards the establishment of an aged persons home. It cannot do that automatically. It is possible for one member of the union to raise an objection before the Commonwealth industrial Court and to say: ‘This is not a purpose which this union is designed to serve under its registered rules.’ Such a person could impede the operations of a union.
I rise to ensure that it is well known and recognised that because of the way trade unions in Australia arc designed and established - whether within the Commonwealth framework or the State framework - they would be limited in the extent to which they could embark on an excursion such as this. Let us get that very clear in our minds. That is why Senator Poke’s amendment is a general proposition that trade unions should be included. It may be said - in fact, I think Senator Wright said - that trade unions could come under the provision which states that the Governor-General may approve eligible organisations. I am inclined to believe that that would not be possible. The rights of members are so rigidly enforced by the courts these days that I would say that there would be no chance of a union automatically providing for an excursion into the aged persons homes field. There would be a great legal tangle. Let us recognise that now and let us say that there is some merit in the proposition advanced by the Opposition.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.9] - 1 can only repeat what 1 said about three times this afternoon, lt appears to me that it would be wise for me to say it once more, so I will do so. With reference to the inclusion of trade unions, I again inform honourable senators that it has always been possible for a trade union to participate in the scheme of providing homes for the aged as an eligible organisation if it wishes to do so and if its constitution permits. If it is. to use the words of the clause, ‘carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members’ it then may be accepted as an eligible organisation under section 5 (1.) (b) of the existing Act and approved by the Governor-General. It is also possible for a trade union or a credit union to establish a separate trust and for that trust to operate on the same basis as does any charitable organisation and be approved by the Governor-General under section 5 (2.) of the existing Act. 1 can only repeat that it would not be possible or desirable to name specifically in the legislation all the types of organisations that could be assisted. They are already covered in this particular section of the Act. ls it reasonable to specify, for example, trade unions? Surely it is just as reasonable to specify the Country Women’s Associations, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Apex Clubs and all the various clubs and organisations which are doing very fine work and are accepted under the Act as it stands. That is the point I have made to honourable senators ever since Senator Poke, in his speech at the second reading stage, foreshadowed the amendment.
Let me mention here the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, an organisation to which I belong in my own State of Queensland. The Victorian section formed a separate organisation controlled by a committee of members. The new organisation was able to meet all requirements and was accepted under section 5 (1 .) (b) as an organisation the principal objects of which are charitable or benevolent. This group of people is now able to assist aged persons.
As I have said several times this afternoon, I do not see any necessity to enumerate all the organisations which are already covered by the legislation.
– The answers which have been given by the Minister are obviously insufficient, as is the argument advanced by Senator Wright against the proposed amendment. An examination of the arguments suggests that there is no need for inclusion of trade unions registered under a Commonwealth or State Act because already there exists some provision under which the trade unions might become eligible organisations - that is, if they were approved by the GovernorGeneral. Why, then, is there the necessity for the specification of a religious organisation? Why should that be specified if there is no necessity to have specifications of bodies? Why is there necessity to specify an organisation of former members of the defence force established in every State, or a State branch of such an organisation? What is the necessity for such specification if there is no benefit to be gained from it? According to the clause, an organisation the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent may also be an eligible organisation without the necessity to obtain the approval of the GovernorGeneral. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to provide that trade unions which are registered under a Commonwealth or State law should also be eligible. They should not depend on approval by the Governor-General.
There is purpose in this, because the provision that an organisation must be approved by the Governor-General means that a condition which is not a permanent condition must be satisfied. These are bodies which will raise sums of money. They will be responsible for the expenditure of sums of money and they may even have to borrow sums of money. A condition of approval inserted as it is in the legislation in its present form is also subject to the legal interpretation that the approval may be withdrawn. If an organisation is to engage in such activities it must do so on a solid and permanent basis. It must know where it stands.
As in the case of religious organisations or other bodies the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent, it is necessary for trade unions to know that they are legally entitled to undertake and carry through these activities on a permanent basis and that the basis does not depend on the approval of the Governor-General, which is subject to withdrawal. Why should the trade unions be placed in a situation inferior to all these organisations the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent? Trade unions are registered organisations which must have rules, whether under a Commonwealth or a State Act, which are determined by regulations made under those Acts, which are subject to approval by registrars under those Acts, which are subject to control by the Commonwealth Industrial Court, in the case of Commonwealth organisations, or of the State courts or commissions in the case of others. Why should these bodies which have been set up for great ‘public purposes be in the situation where they cannot engage in these laudable activities without the approval of the Governor-General? Why should they be placed in a position inferior to some voluntary organisation which has as its principal object or purpose one which is charitable or benevolent? Trade unions have principal objects which are-
– Not benevolent, the honourable senator said this afternoon.
– True, not benevolent. They are bodies which may be described as industrial.
– But they may be benevolent in certain aspects.
– They may have objects that are benevolent. There is no doubt about that. The trade unions originally commenced as bodies which provided funeral benefits for members-
– They still do.
– They started with certain objects in view. They had purposes. In fact, if Senator Gair would examine their history he would learn That it became necessary for the trade unions, so that they could exist, to set themselves up as bodies which would provide funeral and other similar benefits. They were illegal at common law, and in order to form some kind of an organisation which would have the appearance of being legal they were forced to adopt the status of bodies which were providing such benefits for their members. So in truth they started off as what one might describe as benevolent bodies. Nowadays, however, their purposes clearly are primarily industrial and they could not properly be described as having for their principal objects or purposes ones which are charitable or benevolent in the legal sense. In that case, why should these bodies, described as great public bodies set up for great public purposes, and controlled in the ways that they are controlled - their finances, their rules, their activities - be placed in a situation inferior to such bodies as the Country Women’s Association or Apex Clubs or branches of all sorts of organisations in this country?
– They are not. They are included.
– Will the Minister bear with me? Although those bodies are not named in the Act, they become eligible organisations without the necessity of the approval of the Governor-General if they can establish that their principal objects or purposes are charitable or benevolent, yet the trade unions cannot become eligible organisations without the approval of the Governor-General.
– Why? Because they cannot establish that their principal objects are benevolent?
– Of course. As the honourable senator would know, their principal objects are the objects set out in legislation. They have been set up to carry out the great purposes of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the similar Acts in the States. Their purposes are not primarily charitable or benevolent. The test in the relevant paragraph of the clause is that an eligible organisation must be an organisation the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent. It is obvious that Apex or any of the other bodies can become eligible organisations if they conform to the rules laid down; and any lawyer could draw up rules which would ensure that their principal objects were charitable or benevolent. Under the legislation, clearly they would then eligible organisations.
– Why is a trade union not an eligible organisation if it is established for benevolent purposes?
– The Act does not use the words ‘benevolent purposes’. It uses the words ‘an organisation the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent’. That is the criterion. If the words used were ‘charitable or benevolent objects’, perhaps one could say that trade unions would clearly meet that criterion. But that is not the criterion. So trade unions are being placed in a situation of inferiority compared to well meaning and nebulous bodies that may exist throughout the countryside, provided that their principal objects or purposes are charitable or benevolent. I am not running those organisations down when I use those words. I want that to be clear. It is plain enough that the specification should exist in respect of religious organisations, charitable organisations and organisations of former members of the defence forces. A generic description of those organisations, the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent, is given. Why is it that the trade unions are not similarly given a generic description and included in the way proposed by the Opposition?
Why should the trade unions be left in a situation in which they have to be approved by the Governor-General - a requirement that these other bodies do not have to satisfy? No one here has said that the trade unions should not come within the provisions of the principal Act. Everyone says that they should. The only argument advanced is that they already come within the terms of the Act. Clearly, one cannot say that they come within the terms of any of the first three sub-paragraphs of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of section 5 of the Act. If my argument as to their charitable or benevolent purposes is correct - as I believe it is - why should trade unions, and they alone of all the great organisations representing millions of people in this community, be placed in a situation in which they have to be approved by the Governor-General? Their right to be recognised as eligible organisations should not depend on the approval of the Executive. Why should there be this dis crimination between registered trade unions and these other bodies which are charitable or benevolent? I submit that the case in support of the amendment is incontestable.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.24] - I have already replied to the arguments advanced by Senator Murphy, but I must do so again, because one of the statements that he made was not correct. Earlier I explained the reasons why the Government does not accept the amendment. Surely it is not necessary to go over them all again. I explained that a trade union already could be approved under the provisions of the principal Act. I also explained to Senator Murphy, both in an earlier speech that I made and, in my rudeness, by interjection when he was speaking, that section 5 (1) (b) (iv) provides for the Country Womens Association, and Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Rotary, Lions Clubs and Apex Clubs. This same provision could cover trade unions. So they are not subsidiary to the other organisations mentioned. Exactly the same provision covers them.
– Is the Minister saying now that they come under subparagraph (ii)?
– 1 have said that all along. I am not merely saying it now. I have said that they could come under the provision relating to ‘an organisation approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of this Act’.
– That is not subparagraph (ii); that is sub-paragraph (iv).
– Will the honourable senator wait a moment? They could be covered by the reference to ‘a trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes’. Senator Murphy assumes that trade unions come under sub-paragraph (iv) which provides for organisations approved by the Governor-General. My understanding is that he objects to that. Am I correct?
– The honourable senator does not want trade unions to be subject to the approval of the Governor-General. He says that if they had to be approved by the GovernorGeneral they would be subsidiary to the CWA and the other organisations that I mentioned earlier. I say that trade unions are covered by the same provision that deals with those other organisations.
– That is not what the Minister said before.
– That is what I said before. This is something that I know about. I have said that both before the suspension of the sitting and since. Trade unions are in exactly the same position as the other organisations. This is the situation now and matters stand as they have always stood. If I may say so, what I say is proved by one point. Trade unions could have sought to do whatever was necessary for them to qualify. This matter was discussed in 1963 when another measure was before the Parliament, as Senator Poke mentioned. We were informed then that this was so. I think, speaking from memory, that Senator Cavanagh said that he had discussed the matter a year or so ago in testing the eligibility of trade unions. I. am informed that no trade union has ever sought inclusion in the scheme. So it seems to me now that they have not wished to be provided for in the manner proposed by the Opposition. The Government remains opposed to the amendment.
- Mr Chairman, I do not think that I have ever heard a debate to which the description ‘a storm in a teacup’ could be more appropriately applied than it could to this discussion. I. support the amendment. I am amazed that the Government does not accept it and save us all the trouble that we are being put to. What is the purpose of the amendment? It is designed to make specific provision for the inclusion of trade unions in the aged persons homes scheme. The Government says that it has no objection to trade unions participating in the scheme because in the normal course their participation is provided for in section 5 of the Act. I think it is very pleasant in any parliament for a government to be kind enough to say to an opposition: ‘We accept your amendment. We do not see any harm in it.’ I am amazed at the heat with which what seems to me to be an ordinary amend ment that ought to be accepted is being opposed as if it involved a vital principle. Let us look at the situation that exists. The Government does not think it is necessary specifically to provide for trade unions because it claims that they are provided for in section 5 (1) (b) (iv) which provides for an organisation approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of this Act’. If that argument is valid, why does not every organisation come under this provision? Instead of adopting this view, however, the Government says that special provision has to be made for religious organisations, for charitable organisations, for former members of the defence forces and for local government bodies, if trade unions should be provided for as organisations that may be approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of this Act, surely the other four kinds of bodies enumerated could be provided for in the same way and special provision for them would be unnecessary. So why did not the Government move to eliminate those special provisions from the Act?
As 1 have said before, I believe that there is in the Senate too great a tendency for the Government to adopt the attitude that every amendment must be fought tooth and nail regardless of whether it presents any danger. The Government’.; altitude is: ‘We must never let the Opposition have a win’. That is a bad principle to adopt, particularly in a House such as the Senate. I see no reason at all why, if other organisations are to be mentioned specifically, an amendment should not be moved to mention specifically trade unions. I am not impressed by the fact that none of them has taken action up to date in regard to this matter. Most people who know the trade union movement realise that trade unions are very much understaffed. Their finances are not good and many of them up to date have not been in a position to do anything about it. But there are moves on foot, even in my own State, to make union payments what they ought to be. If these moves are carried into effect we ;r)ay well get a situation such as exists in the United States of America, where trade unions are doing very fine work along these particular lines.
I conclude by saying once again that in regard to what is a simple machinery amendment which would add, 1 think, to the section by specifically including a very reputable body of organisations, 1 am surprised that intense opposition is being exhibited, although the Government itself indicates that it does not object to trade unions being included. It all boils down to a mere statement that the Government is determined that their name is not to be mentioned, even if it makes no difference to the Bill. Frankly, I am disappointed. I support (he amendment and I look forward to the day when on occasions the Government will say in this place: ‘We are not the repository of all of the ability in the chamber. We will occasionally accept a good amendment from the other side.’
– If I thought this was a storm in a teacup I would not persevere with this debate, but I think this is a debate in Committee upon a real matter of substance the importance of which is indicated by the attendance in the chamber. Between thirty and forty senators are now endeavouring to get a proper understanding of this provision. Therefore I refute the suggestion that belittles this debate. It is not a storm in a teacup. It involves, if nothing more, a tremendous section of people in this country who deserve to be considered in the context of the Aged Persons Homes Act, namely trade union members, so it is a matter of vital substance.
I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) that the rights of a trade union under this Act should not be made to depend upon the approval of the Government. Of course they should not. Where trade unions have carried on political contention for years, they are more prone to engender political antipathies than are other sections of the community. Therefore the argument that their rights should not be made to depend upon the approval of the Executive is more cogent than it is for other sections of the community.
This is a matter that is not to be considered with heat. There are fallacies on both sides. Let me try to present the matter as I see it. We ought to attend to the definition that we are including in the provision - not the old section - ‘because in clause 3 we are giving a new definition to eligible organisation’. According to the clause, this means -
a religious organisation:
There I wish to stop for a minute and emphasise that the criterion of benefit in this Act is really the charitable or benevolent object of the organisation. We enumerate a religious organisation which is only one type of charitable organisation. We enumerate an organisation of former members of the defence forces. That, too, is a charitable organisation, lt has been well decided by the High Court of Australia that trusts for the benefit of ex-servicemen, conducing as they do to the spirit of defence, are for the purposes of charity, when we speak in this context. Then we have a dragnet provision which brings in all other organisations that can get the approval of the Government. That provision is badly drawn, lt should read an organisation of like purpose which is approved by the Governor-General’, so as to ensure that the Government can approve only organisations that are similar to organisations which have their principal objects in charity and benevolence.
So I assert that this leads to the conclusion that we must confess, in answer to Senator McManus’s argument, that there are some trade unions whose objects are so expressed that they would not be characterised as organisations which have their principal objects in benevolence. It would bc wrong to read into this legislation a statement that trade unions as such arc entitled to the benefit of the Act. Furthermore, I want to put forward for further discussion the view that it is inapt in the language of the amendment to refer to a trade union registered under the Jaw of the Commonwealth. I have just sent for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to see whether or not that does authorise the registration of trade unions. My recollection is that it refers to industrial organisations.
– No, organisations of employees.
– It refers to organisations. Section 132 commences Part Vlll, which relates to Registered Organisations. lt refers to any association of employers in or in connection with any industry and any association of employees in or in connection with any industry. Then there is reference to an association of employees for the pursuit of an industry. Nowhere in the Act appears the expression trade union registered under a law of the Commonwealth’. The relevant law of the Commonwealth contains a specification of industrial organisations which is altogether too wide to make it the proper category automatically to attract the benefits of this legislation. 1 leave it to the discretion of the Minister as to how she wishes to draw a conclusion from the arguments 1 have put. She may well wish to have progress reported and to consider the matter. Perhaps time can be employed so that the matter can be adjusted on another occasion. I have said sufficient to show that it would be completely inappropriate to accept the amendment because all trade unions are not benevolent organisations; many of them are, but all are not. I have said sufficient to show that according to my knowledge of the nomenclature of Commonwealth legislation it does not contain reference to a trade union registered under the law of the Commonwealth. The definition closest to that expression includes an association of employers just as it includes an association of employees. Therefore this matter should not be brought to a conclusion on the language of the proposed amendment.
I submit that there is substance in what I have said. If the Senate is to specify the trade unions that are to attract automatically the benefit of this legislation, will it accept an amendment that includes chambers of commerce, law societies, the Australian Medical Association, nurses associations and so on? A great many organisations could be enumerated that perform public beneficial services, but before the Senate is satisfied that their principal objectives are either charitable in the legal sense or benevolent as I have pointed out, I submit it would be wrong to include organisations which by themselves do not qualify for that category.
– I would like to answer the arguments put forward by Senator Wright so that the Senate will not be misled - however innocently. Senator Wright has endeavoured to make a contribution to the debate ,nd to give us the benefit of his knowledge, for which we are thankful. However, I would recall to his mind - since he has referred to the use of the words - that some judicial consideration has been given to the meaning of ‘trade unions’ when used under Commonwealth law. Several years ago a decision was given in connection with the income tax laws, with which the honourable senator is very familiar. As I recall it, the High Court then decided that it was an apt description of an organisation of employees under a Commonwealth Act to call it a trade union, but it was not an apt description of an organisation of employers under the same Act to call it a trade union.
– Douglas Menzies argued for the Chambers of Commerce.
– Yes. So that, in fact as well as in law, the commonsense of the amendment is well borne out. There would not be the slightest legal difficulty about the wording which has been used. ‘A trade union registered under Commonwealth or State law’ is an expression which means exactly what it says. We all know what it means and what undoubtedly the courts of law would say that it means. It does not include an organisation of employers. It is a compendious description which applies to an organisation of employees under a Federal Act and to the trade unions and the industrial unions under the State Acts. It is the best expression which could be used to describe them. So there is no real substance in what Senator Wright has put forward.
As to the rest of the arguments advanced by the honourable senator, the underlying logic is that trade unions should not be subjected to the conditions set out in subclause (a) (iv). He says that they should not be put in a position where their eligibility depends on the approval of the Governor-General.
– I said that trade unions whose principal objects are benevolent should not be put in that position.
– So that the honourable senator concedes that at least there are trade unions whose principal objects or purposes are not charitable or benevolent. Undoubtedly most trade unions have charitable or benevolent objects. There is no doubt at all about that. Practically all of them have those objects - looking after members, providing superannuation funds, funeral benefit funds and so on. They are set up to look after the interests of thousands, tens of thousands, or even over one hundred thousand members. If these great organisations can be encouraged to undertake this task they will be able to do a great deal to effectuate the purpose of the legislation.
The problem is that trade unions do not fit within sub-clause (a) (ii), because their principal objects or purposes are not charitable or benevolent. It is commonsense that their principal object is the industrial one of acting as a representative organisation of persons under Federal or State Acts. That is the great public purpose for which they are set up; not for charitable or benevolent purposes, although they may have those subsidiary purposes. Logically it looks as if the trade unions would not come within (a) (i), (a) (ii) or (a) (iii), except in some rare instances suggested by Senator Wright. I cannot conceive of trade unions having principal objects to be properly described as charitable or benevolent. Senator Wright has conceded that trade unions should not be forced into the position of asking for the approval of the Governor-General when other organisations do not have to do so.
Why does not the Government act with commonsense? It states that trade unions ought to be covered by this legislation. Why should they not be specified in the generic way, as are religious organisations, former members of the defence forces and local governing bodies? Why should not trade unions be specified? Other provisions exist for dealing with organisations which do not fit into the general categories.
– 1 had not intended to enter this debate. 1 pointed out to Senator Poke, who moved an amendment on behalf of the Opposition, that the hair-splitting and distinguished senator from Tasmania would certainly come into the debate and would raise the question of trade unions and organisations of employers. If Senator Wright wishes to move an amendment to cover organisations of employers or chambers of commerce, 1 would think that it is up to him to do so. He referred to benevolence and charity, and to political aspirations and affiliations. 1 have not used his exact words, but have stated the inference to be drawn from his remarks tonight. I do not know whether he dislikes trade unions or organisations of employees. I do not think he does dislike them. I would not think that that would be his nature. Trade unions may not be charitable or benevolent organisations. They may even have political aspirations and may have given support to political parties on occasions but, after all, these organisations of employees, or trade unions - call them what you will - do endeavour to be of assistance to their members. Consequently, because of this very factor in their make-up, they are recognised in the Commonwealth law and in the laws of every State as being composite bodies serving the interests of their members and as bodies entitled to have as one of their objectives the making of provision for their members, financially and otherwise, in their old age. Like Senator Murphy, I cannot understand the Government’s quibbling over the amendment. We have no quarrel with the inclusion of religious organisations, nor do we object to the inclusion of organisations the principal objects of which are service to their members, or to the inclusion of charitable organisations. Provision is even made for organisations of former members of the defence forces established in each State, or the State branches of such organisations. Who is to say that these bodies do not become political on occasions? Who is to say that they do not support one political party or another? Everyone knows that they have their own political views and that they battle on behalf of their members, with whoever happens to be the government of the day, for recognition of the rights of their members. And all credit to them; they have done a magnificent job for their members. But no-one would say that they have not on occasions disagreed with the government of the day or (hat on occasions they have not had a political approach towards the solution of the problems confronting their members. Nor would anyone ever believe that they had not. There is nothing to prevent the hair splitter, the cheese parer, term him what you will, from Tasmania moving an amendment to specify the organisations he mentioned. The honourable senator says that in Commonwealth law the trade unions are termed organisations of employees. Senator Murphy has pointed out that organisations of employees have been accepted by everybody, including those who have adjudicated upon the Commonwealth law, as being trade unions and nothing else.
If the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment because she feels that the wording should be different, then surely she should have said: ‘I suggest with all deference that the mover of the amendment alter the term from “trade union” to “organisation of employees” and so conform with the term embodied in Commonwealth law.’ We argue, however, that these organisations should not be subject to the arbitrary decision of the Governor-General. We say that their right to benefit under this legislation and to become eligible for the subsidy of $2 for $1 should not be at the discretion of the Governor-General.
Would Senator Wright say that local governing bodies are not sometimes opposed to the government of the day, whether it be the present Government or a Labor government? He knows only too well that shire councils all over Australia vary as to political colour. Yet we hear no quarrel about their inclusion amongst those eligible to benefit under this legislation. But the moment there is any suggestion that some benefit should be conferred upon an organisation of employees or trade union, we have this spectre raised as to what is to be done with those people, who by and large are opposed to the government of the day. Is opposition to the Government something that is inherently wrong? If these organisations are established for the benefit of their members, are they to be denied these rights? Surely not. I should say that Senator Wright would be the last to deny anyone the right of an individual opinion. He claims the right to an individual opinion on particular issues, no matter what they might be. Surely he cannot deny that same right to organisations established for the benefit of their members. If these organisations have the finance and are prepared to provide accommodation and, unlike some other organisations, do not ask for a deposit, they should be specified in this legislation. I feel certain that the trade unions will act just as the majority of religious organisations do. It was suggested this afternoon that some religious organisations have asked, not for key money, which is a crude way of describing it, but for a deposit prior to occupancy. I do not know of any religious organisation in my State that has ever asked for a deposit prior to occupancy.
– That comes under clause 6.
– I am dealing with this matter in my own way. I do not want any help from either my own side or the Government side, Mr Temporary Chairman, and I hope you will protect me. 1 do not know of any trade union that would ask for a deposit if it were in the financial position to provide accommodation for its aged members. I do not see any reason why the Government should not allow trade unions to benefit under this legislation.
Any member of the Government is at liberty to move an amendment, just as Senator Poke has done on behalf of the
Opposition. Senator Poke has moved his amendment because he is interested in the struggling classes of the community and the welfare of those who are not in the position to fight for themselves on all occasions. He is interested in the progress of this country and the welfare of the majority of its citizens. Just as he has seen fit to propose a simple amendment, there is nothing to prevent anybody on the Government side, including members of the Ministry, proposing that chambers of commerce, manufacturers’ associations and so on be included. Surely honourable senators on the Government side do not expect us to agree to the denial of the rights of the people with whom we are associated because they themselves have not seen fit to make provision for those who furnish the financial sinews which enable them to win elections. Surely it is their responsibility to provide for their own supporters. It was far from my mind to bring politics into this debate which, until now. has been on a high level, but when I think of the way in which trade unions and organisations of employees have been slated tonight I feel that I should remind honourable senators on the Government side that it is time they realised that we have a responsibility to these people. Hundreds of thousands of people are involved in trade unions. They play a very important part in the development of this country. They make a substantial contribution to the economic welfare of the nation and they arc entitled to consideration from this Government. Surely there can be no reason for denying them this benefit. I earnestly ask the Minister to give serious consideration to deferring this matter with a view to examining the position to see whether the term ‘trade union’ can be included in the legislation. We have had lawyers from both sides speaking on the matter. One says it is not a correct term to use in a Commonwealth Act. The other says it is. They are equally eminent in their profession. They are equally brilliant and they are equally acceptable to all members of the Senate. If there is a difference of opinion, let us adjourn and leave the jury to consider the matter overnight and to come down with a sensible suggestion as to what is the correct term.
One honourable senator said that organisation of employees’ is the only term used in Commonwealth law. Another honourable senator said that in Commonwealth laws the term ‘trade union’ is accepted as meaning an organisation of employees. Surely it should not be too difficult for us to adjourn consideration of this matter while the Minister has another look at it. I know that the Minister in her charity and with the overall knowledge which she now possesses in the light of submissions that have been made since, I think, half past four this afternoon will realise that this is a new feature and that it is no use saying that the GovernorGeneral has authority to authorise bodies. We know that. But how many trade unions has he authorised? How many local governing bodies did he authorise when they had to be authorised? The Government has now specifically included local governing bodies in this clause of the Bill. The Government did not, of necessity, have to include them. The Governor-General, with his overall power, could have authorised them. We admit that he could authorise trade unions, too, but is he likely to do so with the Government of the day in power? We know that he is not.
– Local authorities are in a different category altogether.
– I know that, but they are mentioned in this clause. The Governor-General could have authorised them. He has authority to authorise any organisation.
– The Governor-General does not have authority to exclude local governing bodies.
– I did not say that he has authority to exclude them. Local authorities arc now specifically included in the Act.
– They were not formerly.
– 1 know that. Surely the Government is not going to exclude trade unions because of a difference of words. Surely it is not going to exclude trade unions because of its antagonism towards them due to their support of the Opposition. Trade unions are organisations of men and women. A number of trade unionists must vote for the Government which claims to represent trade unions. Surely there must be an approach that would be reasonable, sensible, honest and worthwhile. I make the plea to the Minister in all humility to have a look at this matter very carefully and not to say arbitrarily: No, we resist the amendment. We have counted the numbers and it looks as though they might be even. Consequently the amendment will be defeated.’ The Minister does not know what the numbers may be. Why does the Minister not derive the benefit of a sensible and charitable approach and accept the amendment, couched in whatever terms she wishes. I commend the amendment to the Minister as being something worthwhile and something from which a large group of people will derive benefit, lt will be of mutual benefit to the members of the trade unions, their wives and all those who may in the process of time be able to make a worthwhile contribution to these old folk in what I heard the Minister refer to this afternoon as the ‘twilight of their lives’.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– 1 rise to oppose the amendment. I am not speaking as a man with a legal mind because I am not so qualified, and 1 do not propose to advance submissions on the interpretation of the term ‘trade union’. I respect a majority of trade unions very highly. But I think that by this amendment some move is being made to try to raise the term ‘trade union’ or ‘trade unionism’ to the level of the term ‘religious organisation’. I cannot understand this for a moment.
– That was not suggested by any honourable senator on this side of the chamber.
– This is my interpretation of it. The Bill refers to eligible organisations which are listed. They include church organisations. I think that this afternoon the Minister cleared the air very ably when she said that trade unions were able to participate in the building of aged persons homes. I think that the importance of the amendment to the Opposition has almost surpassed the importance of the Bill itself, and I am sorry to see this.
– Do not be nasty.
– I am never nasty. 1 am charitable and benevolent. Sub paragraph (iv) of paragraph (a) of proposed section 2 of the Act refers quite clearly to ‘an organisation approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of this Act’. I myself think that this matter was cleared up this afternoon. If we are to bring the term ‘trade union’ into the Bill, as has been suggested -
– The honourable senator thinks it is a naughty term.
– No, I do not. I respect trade unions.
– Why does not the honourable senator want to bring the term in?
– I once worked with the trade union associated with the furniture trade but we had a Communist trade union against us in the factory and I do not like Communist trade unions. I do not like the idea of a union such as the Council for Membership Control, which would have been recognised as a trade union in Mt isa if Mr Mackie had got his way, being recognised as an organisation to conduct aged persons homes. This is beyond the thought of any reasonable Australian. But I support 99% of Australian unions. The furniture union to which I have referred was one of the best trade unions in the world. I do not know what other bodies could be brought into this Bill if we were to accept this amendment. I have spoken only very briefly because I think that the Minister has covered the main points, but I wanted to add my views to what she has already stated.
– I rise to make a few further remarks. On most occasions debate does a great deal to clarify a bill and to let us know what we are considering. But if we review this debate we will find that we all knew what we were considering at the time when we commenced the debate. The Government has decided that the amendment is not necessary, because trade unions are already covered in the Act. Senator Poke who moved the amendment did not totally disagree with this proposition. I do not want to misquote the Minister but I understood her to say that trade unions are already covered either as organisations which could be approved by the Governor-General or as organisations which could appoint trustees. That was very clear. The Minister said that we knew what the Act meant and that the amendment was not necessary. I rose and challenged this statement. Then senator Wright introduced a legal opinion into the matter. He said: ‘No. Trade unions are covered as organisations the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent.’ Then confusion arose between the ministerial and the legal attitude. But whichever one was right, there was the firm conviction that trade unions were covered.
Now legal definitions have been advanced and there have been arguments between legal luminaries. I suggest that we should not agree that both legal men are equal. I do not know who I should say is the senior, or whose opinion we should accept. We have some agreement as to that question. This must raise the point as to whether or not trade unions are covered by this legislation at all. To consider this matter on a rational basis, we must acknowledge that any word has a dictionary meaning which we normally follow. But this does not mean that we should always accept the dictionary definition. We can list the dictionary meaning as the accepted meaning of a word or we may take the meaning of the word for the purposes of a particular document. I think that the meaning of a word for the purposes of a particular document would be more or less the meaning that the legal profession would seek in the interpretation of a word.
We have been told that before a trade union can qualify under this provision of the Bill it must be an organisation that is carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members. How do these words fit into the definition of a trade union? I cannot give the legal meaning. That is to say, I cannot give the Committee the meaning that we should accept as the definition of these words for the purposes of this document. But as a trade unionist for many years I thought that a trade union existed for no other reason than the profit or gain of its individual members. If that is not the intention of the Act, let me say that I think Senator Murphy has dealt with the definition of an organisation the principal objects of which are charitable or benevolent. I thought that there was some agreement between the two legal personalities involved that at least in respect of some industrial organisations this was not the principal object. I interpreted the position as being that Senator Wright may have given a different legal opinion on the second occasion he spoke from the opinion that he gave when he spoke on the first occasion.
– Rather, a change of emphasis.
– Well, I give Senator Wright more credit in view of the further information that had been made available. A legal opinion can be given only on the information made available. We had reached the conclusion that at least some of the trade unions could not qualify under the provisions of the Bill as charitable or benevolent organisations. We are indebted to Senator Wright, who pointed out that there is another type of organisation that can he approved by the Governor-General in addition to religious organisations, charitable organisations and organisations whose principal aims are charitable and benevolent. Do trade unions come within the definition of this category of organisation to which Senator Wright referred? We do not know, because the matter has never been tested. In reply to Senator Morris, let me say that it is true as I said that I told the Trades and Labour Council in a written statement-
– I did not doubt it. I did not cast any doubt on that.
– No. I told the Trades and Labour Council in a written statement that that was my opinion. But how could any organisation reasonably accept my opinion when so much legal opinion on this question is available to it? The organisation has its own legal advisers. Obviously if the organisation has not tested the matter the reason is that it is of the opinion - an opinion which it is possibly more justified in holding than my opinion - that it is not covered by the provisions of this legislation. An eligible organisation is an organisation approved by the GovernorGeneral for the purposes of the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Governor-General - the Executive Council - has to approve an organisation before it becomes an eligible organisation. Why are trade union organisations not approved? It is because they do not come within the category of the organisations mentioned.
Some standards must be established for the purpose of granting approval to an organisation. But I ask whether the trade union movement complies with those standards. It is of no use for the Minister to. say that the trade union movement does comply unless we know the conditions that the Governor-General requires to be met by an organisation before it is granted approval. We have heard Senator Heatley from Queensland ask: ‘Who would permit certain trade unions to administer this Act?’ The honourable senator said this because trade unions are degraded in his opinion. They are not worthy of being granted permission to operate under the Act. Nevertheless, trade unions are accepted industrial organisations under the legislation of the Commonwealth and the States. They are registered organisations. It could well be that the courts of the Commonwealth and the States are correct in their recognition of trade unions and that Senator Heatley - I do not say this in a derogatory fashion - could have been wrong on this point. The organisation in which Pat Mackie had some say could be just as concerned with the welfare of its elderly people as the organisation of which Senator Heatley is a member.
– Never was.
– I do not know. Senator Heatley’s organisation puts its members into the Senate to provide for their old age and the other organisation puts its members into the wrestling ring. Whether or not that is the criterion, I do not know. Who is to say? The State and Federal industrial courts register trade union organisations as organisations that are capable of carrying out the aims and principles contained in their constitutions. Registration is granted when these requirements are met. A trade union is subject to deregistration if it does not carry out its aims and principles. Whatever we have said about Pat Mackie - I do not want to raise this matter now - and whether the action he took was correct or otherwise, I think that Pat Mackie had good intentions regarding the people whom he was seeking to assist in the Mount Isa dispute. But here we have an honourable senator justifying his attitude which is contrary to the attitude of the Department. The Minister says that trade unions are eligible organisations. But the doubt is raised that these organisations cannot be approved because there is a Pat Mackie in some of them. Surely some trade unions would not qualify and would not be approved by the Governor-General. But which trade unions are these? Why are they unable to qualify? Is this because they have Pat Mackies in them? Is it because some of them are under Communist control? When do we decide this point?
But it appears that there are some trade unions that do qualify. It has been submitted that the trade union movement is put in a different category from religious organisations, or organisations of former members of the Defence Force, or organisations the principal objects or purposes of which are charitable or benevolent. The fact that the trade union movement is put in a different class would suggest that the Department does not accept that the principal objects of the trade union movement are charitable or benevolent. If the trade union movement is in a different class, why should it be excluded on these grounds? Senator Heatley during the course of this debate had reservations regarding some organisations. But has anyone from the Minister down suggested that trade unions should not participate in this scheme if they raise an amount of money for this purpose? No one has suggested that. It is said that they are covered. But a doubt has been raised as to whether they are. If they are, there must be some criteria that we do not know about. So no-one can advise trade unions whether they are covered. In the Minister’s opinion, they are. She says that a trade union could establish a trust under paragraph (e) which reads:
The trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes and approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of this Act.
The trust has to be approved specifically for the purposes of this Act before it can obtain the benefits of the Act. There may not be disagreement between the Minister and Senator Heatley. The Minister said that trade unions could be approved. She did not say that they would be approved. The amendment seeks to make approval mandatory, as it is for religious organisations.
One may be able to name individuals who have been guilty of malpractice, but one cannot name a trade union that has not carried out its objects, that has misappropriated money or that has engaged in malpractice which has not been rectified over a period. There is a code of principles with which unions have to comply in order to be registered wilh the Federal or State arbitration tribunals. Why should unions be treated differently from religious organisations? If the Act provides for unions to be approved, they may be approved only after a long legal battle. Should we not seek to make the dictionary meaning and the accepted meaning on the one hand and the meaning for the purposes of the Act on the other one and the same? There would be a feast for the legal profession if the courts had to decide whether the great Australian Workers Union came within the definition of a charitable or benevolent organisation.
In order to overcome this problem, should we not include the words of the amendment in the legislation, whether unions are covered at present or not? In my view we should put it beyond doubt that they are covered. In view of the discussion that has taken place today, it appears to me that we are more confused now than we were when we commenced the debate. I should like the Minister to consider the plea made by Senator Dittmer that the debate be adjourned to enable the Minister to obtain advice on whether the amendment should be accepted.
– I do not propose to detain the Committee for very long. I am rather amazed to see this amendment come forward. It is quite obvious, as all speakers have emphasised, that up to this time the trade unions have never tried to become bodies that are eligible to function under the Act.
– They were never of the opinion that they could be eligible.
– Had they tried and been rejected I could see the reason for an amendment of this nature. But they have not tried. So I oppose the amendment. There are many very fine trade unions. It is quite wrong to say - I do not think members of the Opposition really mean it when they say this - that we on this side of the chamber are opposed to trade unions. There are some trade unions to which we are and always will be opposed. They are the unions that are Communist controlled. I would oppose the amendment on the ground that, if it were passed, we would be putting our imprimatur on those unions being registered under the Act. I do not think that would be for the good of the country or of the other bodies that are connected with the aged persons homes scheme.
In addition, the amendment is getting right away from the principles that were laid down when the Act first came into being. If the amendment is carried, we will be faced with this situation: the next time this matter comes before the Parliament, or even before that, there may be agitation by employers federations and chambers of commerce. Are we to have all these groups of individuals named in the legislation? The definition of an eligible organisation is in the Bill. Surely it is broad enough for anybody. If a certain organisation - a trade union or whatever it may be - wishes to be registered and fails to achieve registration, in my view then and only then will the time be ripe for an amendment of this nature.
I think it was Senator McManus who said that he would like to see the Government accept an amendment for once. He must have a short memory. I have seen amendments accepted in this chamber. If an amendment is considered worthy of acceptance it is accepted, no matter whether it comes from this side of the chamber or the other side. I am sure he will agree that amendments have been accepted, if he thinks back a little while. I believe that there is nothing at all to be gained by continuing this discussion along the lines that it has been following while I have been in the chamber; that is, for the last hour. There has been a lot of repetition. I conclude, as I began, by saying that if the unions had applied for registration and had been rejected there would have been some reason for the amendment that is now before us. That has not happened. So I oppose the amendment.
– 1 have not yet spoken on this matter. We seem to be going on and on with honourable senators confusing each other.
I rise, firstly, because I am the chairman of a committee that is building one of these homes for the aged. Consequently, I commend the Government on its proposals. I believe that they are exceedingly good, especially the one under which local governing bodies may join in this scheme. I must support Senator McManus. If there is not much difference between the amendment and the original proposition, it seems quite absurd that the Government will not accept the amendment. I am also 100% behind the Minister on this matter. She says that trade unions are able to build homes under the Act. As the amendment only underwrites that very point, I must support it.
– I wish to make the briefest possible contribution to this debate. I am impelled to enter it only by the contribution made by Senator McKellar. He said, in effect, that his main reason for opposing the amendment proposed by the Labor Party was that some unions that may be under Communist control would come under the provisions of the Act. I put this question to him: What would be the position if one of the charitable organisations fell under Communist control? Would he then ask for the removal of that portion of the Act-
– With great gusto, yes.
– Would he then ask for the removal of the portion of the definition of an eligible organisation relating to charitable organisations? He says that he would do that. By penalising the organisation that fell under Communist control, he would at the same time penalise all the organisations.
– I did not say all of them.
– I cannot put any meaning other than that on what the Minister said. Let me take him back to the question. I do not want to misquote him or to put him in a false position. 1 distinctly understood him to say that his main reason for opposing the amendment was that he believed that some Communist organisations would be able to obtain some benefit under the Act.
– I said that Communist controlled unions might be able to come under the Act.
– The Minister said that was the reason why he was strongly opposed to the amendment. I do not think he can escape from that. I believe that that is what he said. I say that if his argument holds good in respect of organisations which may have some Communist control - they would be in a very small minority in the trade union movement - he would have to adopt the same line of thinking in relation to any charitable organisation.
– To that particular charitable organisation, not all of them.
– I do not think that permits the Minister to escape the consequences of what he said, because his argument was that this constituted a basic reason for opposition to the amendment. I say that it is false reasoning. It is not sound reasoning in any shape or form.
It seems to me that the Government, in the main, is of the opinion that trade unions should be included but not defined whereas the Opposition feels that they should be both included and defined. In what I thought was a very worthy contribution Senator Wright raised certain points that I think the Senate should consider, but I gained the impression from his remarks - he can correct me if I am wrong - that he wanted the trade unions neither included nor defined. As to what constitutes a charitable organisation, I agree with Senator Wright that there are some unions which would not fall within the category while there are others which definitely would do so. I have in mind an organisation of which I am a member. I think it would qualify as a charitable organisation.
The Opposition’s proposed amendment has merit in that it asks for a definite statement that trade unions come under the legislation. In the present circumstances it seems to me that at the whim of Senator McKellar, Senator Heatley or any collective group of senators who may have some feeling about trade unions, this alleged inclusion that the Government talks about could disappear overnight. That I believe, is a basic reason why the amendment should be carried.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.32] - I shall make only one or two comments without going over all the statements I have made previously. I direct the attention of honourable senators to the Act itself, because I think it covers some of the points which have been raised, particularly those raised by Senator Cavanagh. As I have said already, it has always been possible for a trade union to participate in this scheme as an eligible organisation if it wished to do so and if its constitution permitted it to do so. Alternatively it could establish a separate trust. Section 5 of the Act is in these terms: (l.) Subject to this section, a society, association or other organisation is eligible for assistance under this Act if -
a religious organisation;
Here is the important paragraph -
– But we are repealing section 5. Should we not turn to the new definition?
– The point is thatI have been saying the trade unions have been included all the time. They have always been covered by the Act. We now move on to the next part of the section which states that they are eligible and can come into the scheme either with the approval of the Governor-General or by forming a trust. Therefore the proposed amendment is not necessary.
– What is that supposed to answer?
– I think it answers the questions honourable senators have asked me. As I have said, we believe that trade unions may participate in the scheme and for that reason the Government will not accept the proposed amendment.
– The Minister seems to have overlooked the whole point of the argument.
What she has said is perfectly correct. The paragraph of the section to which she has referred provides that trade unions may come within the scheme if the GovernorGeneral approves. There is no requirement that the Governor-General must approve. There is nothing definite to say that a trade union is included if the GovernorGeneral approves or, alternatively, if the organisation establishes a trust for charitable or benevolent purposes. Trade unions must first establish their charitable or benevolent purposes and then they must obtain the approval of the Governor-General. Incidentally, having regard to these requirements there is some legal doubt as to whether certain organisations are covered.
What are the requirements for an organisation to obtain approval from the Governor-General? We can only accent the Minister’s statement that a trade union meets the requirements. But is she correct in that? In any case the trade unions must establish something because, unlike a religious organisation, they are not included automatically. If the proposed amendment is accepted trade unions which are registered under Commonwealth or State laws will come within the ambit of the scheme. Their inclusion will not be left to the whim of the Executive Council. But as it is, if ever the trade unions applied en masse for inclusion an anomaly would be created because some might be accepted and others might be rejected.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Poke’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
- Mr Chairman, I wish to make some observations about donations to organisations that conduct aged persons homes by aged persons seeking shelter. As I understand the matter, simply by some Executive minute, the Director-General of Social Services has been instructed that one of the conditions on which an organisation is accepted as eligible for assistance under the terms of the principal Act is that it shall enter into no immediately enforceable contract or arrangement giving to any aged person in the home any right of occupancy of any part of the home. The Government stipulates in that way that an organisation shall not give to a person a right of occupancy for any period, whether determined at will, from week to week, quarterly, yearly or for the term of his life. The Government does not stipulate that organisations shall not accept donations, gratuities, moneys - call them what you will - from persons entering aged persons homes.
These are aged persons, usually entering a home in the evening of their lives. They are in a somewhat unprotected position. They are people in respect of whom the law has always recognised a special need for protection and advice. An organisation is at liberty to enter into an agreement to take money, though not an immediately enforceable contract. An organisation is at liberty to accept from aged persons seeking accommodation what are described as donations. These may be of any size and need not necessarily be commensurate with the occupation of accommodation to which they are related. We have been told that there are organisations that evict aged persons. I have come across the case of a widow who paid £3,000 for the occupancy of accommodation and who, finding conditions incompatible, found herself compelled to leave the home without any redress. I recall another aged person who was a man of considerable business acuity and experience. He, reached a stage at which he could not keep on his own home. He accepted shelter provided by an organisation, but found the incompatibility of tho management such as to make his life a continual aggravation. But that the friend of us all, death, intervened, he would have suffered a serious injustice, because he had no right to the return of the substantial sum that he had paid to the organisation in question.
I suggest that the time is overdue for a revision of outlook on this matter. The Government should be concerned to scrutinise the fairness of these arrangements and to protect aged persons, in individual instances, from what one may describe as an unconscionable bargain, undue influence or an improvident transaction. For example, if a widow converts her cottage, worth £3,500, into money because she can no longer attend to the garden or perhaps is not safe with the gas heater, seeks shelter in an aged persons home and in good faith donates to the organisation running the home the sum that she received for her cottage, only to find in three months that conditions in the home are completely incompatible, the machinery of the Act should provide some means by which somebody could assess the sum that it would bo appropriate for the organisation to return to her.
– Does it appear to the honourable senator to be abhorrent that, one person having left a home, a new occupant going into the same accommodation also is required to make a donation?
– This euphuistic term donation’ is used to cover up obscurities in these transactions that camouflage what may be injustice. I do not take up this matter just because I am a lawyer and I speak subject to all the reproaches that have been made in this debate concerning lawyers being about. But, in all humility, we in this chamber should recognise that the process in which we are engaged is a process of making law. Whether or not we like it, in our system those who finally interpret the law are lawyers who have been promoted to the Bench. Therefore, we should invoke from the experience of centuries of equity scrutiny of these transactions a few considerations that have been thought relevant in the law as it applies to the poor and to charitable institutions. These considerations go back to a time long before this Act was ever dreamt of. This matter should be considered before it grows into a scandal. I know, Mr Chairman, that when I say these things I hurt the feelings of some people who sometimes call me a colleague. They believe that the mere statement of these matters indicates a lack of appreciation of the many wonderful works that are done in the cause to which the principal Act is devoted. Nothing that 1 say detracts from the wonderful work that the managements of many organisations do in the administration of this Act, but we must not leave still open the possibility that aged persons may be imposed upon by reason of organisation being ready to receive a donation that really represents the whole of an aged person’s property in the world, the whole of his or her independence. If some misfortune leads to a miscarriage of the arrangement, means should be incorporated into the Act whereby justice may be done and a proper refund made to the person who has paid his or her money to the organisation.
– I want to enter this discussion because I think sufficient has been said about donations to justify some inquiry into the practice of various organisations. I agree with Senator Wright that the word donations’ could be a camouflage for grave injustices and the matter should be investigated. We have heard from the Minister and, T think, from everyone who has spoken in the second reading and Committee debates that not all organisations could be the subject of allegations of injustice in relation to initial payments or donations, which have been referred to in other terms. I refer to them - this seems appropriate to me - as key money. If during this discussion I refer to these payments as key money, honourable senators may accept this as a reference to what they recognise as donations, whatever the intention is. Some organisations do not demand this key money, and they receive commendation from both sides of the chamber. It is agreed that this Act is a worthy Act. I think it is a most laudable Act which we can all support in its application to those organisations which are giving service to aged folk. Questions have been raised as to the activities of some organisations. The Government replies that it does not stipulate conditions. Let us look at the Act itself. Section 3 provides: (1.) The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
If that is the purpose of the Act, surely the Minister and the Department have some responsibility to see that it is carried out. Senator Cant from Western Australia has described an organisation that conducts homes wherein persons cannot have blinds of the particular colour that they want. Is this money being provided for the purpose of housing aged persons so that they may live in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life? Surely the Englishman’s home is his castle. Is it right for some authority to tell him what will be the colour of blinds, awnings and other things about the home? Is it right that someone who has paid key money to go into a home can lose possession of it if he is absent for ninety days, even as a result of hospitalisation? Is this just? Would the Minister say that it was just? All that we can say is that an allegation has been made by Senator Cant, who has read a circular issued by an organisation. Surely what he described is not in accordance with the intention of the Act or the intention of the Department. An appeal has been made for an inquiry into this matter.
The intention of the Act is to make available homes providing as nearly as possible the conditions of normal domestic life and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife. If the organisation is a religious or charitable one it is not subject to Executive approval. Section 6 provides:
Where the Director-General is satisfied that a building or buildings erected or to be erected, or purchased or to bc purchased, by an eligible (organisation is or are intended to be used per manently by or on behalf of the organisation as a home or homes for the accommodation of aged persons, he may, in his discretion, approve that building or proposed building or those buildings or proposed buildings as a home for the purposes of this Act,
One of these organisations that do not have to get Executive approval as approved organisations has to establish that the building is for the purpose of housing aged persons, and that is all that it has to do. lt does not have to satisfy the Department that the building is to house the aged in suitable accommodation so that they may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life. We say that the Director-General has approved payments to many organisations in regard to which allegations have been made that they are demanding key money. The Minister has not justified the demanding of key money. I have cited instances in New South Wales of class distinction in relation to better type accommodation. I have cited cases in relation to which additional key money was sought every time a new resident came in. Surely these questions need investigation by the Minister or the Department. If what has been alleged is correct, a different attitude to the particular organisations is needed.
The Opposition will support in every way a scheme that makes provision for homes for aged persons, whether on a subsidy basis of 2:1 or on a subsidy basis of 3:1, but how do we get over the position that pensioner A with nothing cannot get accommodation while pensioner B with $2,000 can get accommodation, although both are applicants for similar accommodation? Surely there must be some concern by the Government with this question. If there is any exploitation or if any harsh laws are applied to residents in this type of accommodation the Government, being responsible for the handling of public money, should be concerned with the question. The Opposition will not move an amendment for the purpose of doing anything about this. It makes an appeal to the Minister and an appeal to the Department. Those organisations referred to by honourable senators opposite, which are doing a good job and are not demanding a key money deposit, get our support. We ask for an inquiry into any allegation of a demand for key money for entry to a home. Is it right that public money should be subscribed to provide homes for selected aged persons and not for aged persons generally?
– In entering this debate 1 do not deny that faults have existed in respect of homes for the aged. The term ‘key money’ has been used in this debate. In respect of housing that term smells. It recalls for me the days of rent control and postwar housing shortages. I hope that the term ‘key money’ does not truly apply to homes for the aged in Australia.
– In many cases it docs.
– I am not prepared to agree with that. I cannot argue specifically against it but I have heard of only one such case. I believe the aspect of key money must be watched by the Government because any wrongdoing should be wiped out. A lot of good is coming to aged people at present and much good will come to the following generation through the ability of people desiring accommodation to make donations to organisations providing accommodation. I hope that the cure for any ills that may be now suffered will not be such that it will prevent a lot of the good that now flows from what is, I believe, a just practice that should be encouraged.
Many organisations providing homes for the aged have spent the money they have been able to raise. They have collected the subsidy payable by the Commonwealth Government. They have provided accommodation and to all intents and purposes they are at the end of the road of raising capital to rate for subsidies to provide increased accommodation for aged persons. There are old people who look to the future and realise that with their outlook on life it is not wise for them to live with the younger generation. They do not want to be left alone. They want to enjoy life as it is experienced in homes for the aged. They approach reliable church or charitable organisations, religious bodies and now perhaps trade unions, and say: ‘If I pay you $1,000 it is equal to an additional $3,000 capital for expenditure by you on building small apartments or additions to your homes for aged people. If I make this donation to you, can I come and live in one of your homes?’ I believe this is a wonderful form of insurance for aged people. It is a great asset and has helped this great social legislation to become of increased benefit to many aged people throughout Australia.
These elderly people may live for a few years or a number of years, but when their time on earth is finished the accommodation is available for other aged people. I believe that the thought of that result has helped to stimulate the flow of original donations. Instead of frittering away their last SI, 000 on rented accommodation that will go to the next bidder in the open market, these aged people are prepared to give it to a home for the aged where it becomes §3,000 and will provide decent accommodation for other aged people as the years roll by.
Senator Wright referred to people who make donations to a home for the aged with the end in view that it will provide accommodation for following aged people, but who then find that they are not content there. 1 believe that Senator Wright was correct in bringing this point to the attention of the Senate. They find that something is wrong - perhaps other people there, the matron in charge, the local climate or anything else. They find that they are unhappy and cannot go on comfortably and happily living there. They want to go somewhere else but they have expended all or a large portion of their money in the gamble - the would-be insurance scheme for their future happiness. To all intents and purposes the donation has been spent and has rated for and received a Commonwealth subsidy. Therefore the organisation running the home cannot give the money back, lt cannot return the sum of $1,000 because it has to be spent in order to attract a subsidy.
– The organisation receives the same amount from the next customer.
– Perhaps Senator Poyser would suggest that the people running the organisation should tell the aged person: ‘We have to sell this flat or apartment for $1,000 because we owe it to the former incumbent.’ That sum of $1,000 would not grow into $3,000 because lt would not be capital expenditure. Therefore it does not rate as a donation to attract a Commonwealth subsidy. That problem faces the organisations which accept donations in all honesty. The donations are not forced out of people. They are given of free will. Where a person becomes unhappy in an aged persons home, I do not believe that problem can be overcome by legislation. A lot of good has resulted from the donations given by aged people and we should be careful that we do not dry up that river of good that flows in line with the other benefits of this legislation.
– I wish to refer to the matter raised by Senator Wright and Senator Cavanagh. I met a group of people living in homes for the aged and made representations on their behalf to the Minister in July of last year. I am referring to the general issue of the necessity for aged people to make an initial donation of about $2,000 to an organisation before they are entitled to accommodation. I do not want anything I am to say to reflect on the general benefits of the legislation and the provision of accommodation for aged people in South Australia. However we did have occasion to meet people who had paid money to a particular organisation. We met a group of pensioners and made representations on their behalf to the trustees of an organisation. While we did not get any change agreed to in writing, alter the representations were made some of the faults were cured. We have put to the Minister that there should be a written agreement or requirement of some sort which would provide by rules the sorts of standards which ought to be observed by trustees of organisations providing homes for aged persons.
We found that before 1960 aged people were being required to pay an initial donation of $1,800. Last year they were paying $3,000. On payment of that amount they could occupy a home unit. In some cases after a married couple had paid an initial donation, one partner had died and the remaining partner had been ejected from the premises. It took a lot of negotiating to get an arrangement whereby the surviving partner was compensated in part. In one case a couple had been married for only a month and had occupied a home unit for only a month before the husband died. All their life savings had been used to pay the donation. According to the trustees and the Minister, the widow was not entitled to any compensation although such agreements were quite commonplace and recognised formerly. I am confident that finally this person received some consideration because of her position, but I mention this as one of the injustices that can arise. I am told by the Minister and by the Department that once an arrangement is made to pay the subsidy that is the end of the matter so far as the Government is concerned, in that no supervision over the expenditure of the money is exercised by the Department of Social Services. I think this is bad, and I mention it to emphasise the issues involved.
Another point concerning this particular establishment is that it increased its rental charges from 10s to 15s a week. The inmates thought that this increase was somewhat steep but had no means of ascertaining by way of deputation or through any welfare committee whether the organisation’s budget was properly drawn up. The tenants were also asked to sign an agreement to the effect that in future 20% of any increase in the general rate pension was to be paid to the organisation to enable it to maintain its property. This requirement might have been found to be justified after a proper check by qualified investigators, but the point I make is that in this establishment nobody but the trustees of the organisation had authority to make an investigation. The organisation would not recognise any welfare committee of the people concerned, nor would it accept investigation by senators.
Another point comes to my mind. I have heard that in other States there are three or four cases similar to the one I am about to mention. The people in this establishment have asked for a recreation centre to be provided. I should like the Commonwealth Government, when granting subsidies, to require, just as it requires that accommodation of a certain standard shall be provided, that welfare centres be established. The Government and the Department should also suggest to the organisation concerned that the tenants should be entitled to form a committee to make representations on their behalf. A trustee should be appointed from among their number. The members of a composite community should be able to establish a committee to act on their behalf.
The Minister for Social Services has stated that most of the things I have suggested are not within the province of his Department, but he has said that he is prepared to suggest the establishment of a welfare committee. I must admit that most of the faults which I have mentioned relating to this organisation have been rectified, but only after the adoption of means which were tantamount to using a steamhammer to crack a nut. I repeat that the Minister should give some attention to this matter and at some stage apply certain conditions to the granting of subsidies to these organisations.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.14] - I can only repeat what I said this afternoon. There is no requirement by the Commonwealth that a donation shall be paid by incoming tenants. We do know that some organisations require the payment of a donation but, as I said earlier, there are a great number that do not. I think Senator Marriott made an excellent point when he stated, as I have on other occasions, that the payment of these donations enables the organisation concerned to provide more accommodation for aged people. That is a good thing. I have noted with considerable interest all the points that have been raised and the concern that has been expressed on both sides of the Senate. As honourable senators know, the administration of these homes is not a matter for the Government. It is the sole responsibility of the organisations providing the homes. All I can say now is that I have noted the comments that have been made and I shall be pleased to bring them to the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair).
– I thank the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) for her concluding assurance that consideration will be given to the comments that have been made. I feel that she must be concerned about the things that have been mentioned during this debate. She has said that it is not the Government’s policy to control the organisations which erect the capital structures, but I draw her attention to section 8 of the Act to support the argument 1 advanced with relation to section 3. Section 8 reads:
A grant to an eligible organisation under this Act may be made upon such terms and conditions, not inconsistent with this Act, as the DirectorGeneral thinks fit
That gives the Director-General a very wide discretion. He may make grants under conditions not inconsistent with section 8 of the Act, sub-section 2 of which states:
Before making a grant under this Act to an eligible organisation the Director-General may require the organisation to enter into an agreement with him with respect to the terms and conditions upon which the grant is to be made.
I do not know how far this provision can bc extended, but I would say that at least under section 8 the Minister has power to stipulate conditions when making future grants. lt has been accepted that the Act provides for the granting of sums of money to be used for the provision of accommodation for aged people, but I draw attention to the fact that it goes even further and requires that accommodation shall be made available for aged people under conditions enabling, as near as practicable, normal domestic life. It has been alleged that in certain instances there has been so much interference as to make conditions of life in the accommodation provided anything but as near as practicable to the conditions of normal domestic life. All these things must be considered. 1 emphasise that no-one has justified the payment of what I have called key money, a description at which some have expressed resentment. Senator Marriott has argued that the payment of a donation is made for the purpose of obtaining security, but if the regulations imposed by the organisations controlling the homes are too rigid, there is no security. I respectfully submit that the donation cannot be looked upon as a voluntary payment if the only condition under which accommodation will be made available is the payment of a sum of money. Senator Marriott has argued that the payment of a further sum if the accommodation is relet will not attract a subsidy because the money is not being used as part of the capital cost of a new structure. That may be so, but the point he raised opens up the question that I brought to the notice of the Senate earlier, as to whether there is an alternative and more suitable method of providing accommodation for aged persons.
I praise the legislation and the subsidy which is paid to organisations which use it for the purpose of housing aged people. But during the debate we have heard a great deal of criticism of some organisations. The Minister has promised to look into this matter and to refer it to the Minister for Social Services. I suggest that strong representations be made to the Minister for Social Services indicating that there is power under section 8 of the Act to stipulate conditions. A complete investigation should be held into the allegations that have been made in the Senate during the debate. A wider investigation should he held into operations under the Act by those organisations which have received a subsidy and which, in the opinion of the Government, have abused it. If as a result of the investigation it is found that hardship has been suffered by a particular organisation or that some unreasonable demand has been made for entry to an organisation, there should be stipulations in connection with future grants in order to ensure that this does not happen in the future.
– Does not the honourable senator think that these organisations should be prosecuted for their misdemeanours?
– There is no provision for instituting a prosecution. We are speaking of the present Act. If the Government wanted to make these abuses an illegal offence it could pass additional legislation.
– It should do so.
– I do not know whether we would get anywhere by simply prosecuting these organisations. If organisations are exploiting the subsidy and are not using it for the purpose for which it is intended, surely we should ensure that they do not receive further grants or that further grants stipulate the conditions under which they are made. As I have said, I make a plea to the Minister only to refer this question to the responsible Minister, as she has promised to refer other questions that have been raised in this debate. I make a more earnest plea that everything should be considered. Wider conditions than those which are now imposed under section 8 of the Act should be stipulated in connection with future grants in order to prevent any abuses that may have occurred in the past from occurring in the future.
– Senator Cavanagh’s reference to the power fo the Director-General under section 8 of the Act brings me to my feet to indicate that it should be now apparent to the Government that the doorways of this Act are going to be opened very wide. We have had such a period of experience with this Act as to make it wise that its administration no longer depends entirely upon terms and conditions which a civil servant lays down for the purpose of each individual application. The administration of this Act is unsoundly based unless there are rules which prescribe an upper or lower limit and which prescribe in terms of a model deed the terms and purposes for which the property is to be held. Under section 8 there is power to prescribe terms and conditions. It refers to agreements. It would be much more appropriate if it were in terms of trusts. But if we look at the annual report of the Director-General of Social Services for the year 1965-66 we find that in the year ended 30th June 1966 approval was given for a grant of $790,476 towards the cost of a second phase of a home in New South Wales, and this remark was made:
The estimated cost of the phase, for grant purposes, is $1,185,713. This is the first time a grant has been approved for a project or part of a project the cost of which exceeds $1,000,000.
Now as a result of the amendment passed tonight there will be a multiplicity of applications from one section of the community, namely the trade union section. Whether the amendment passed tonight ultimately becomes part of the legislation or whether the Act stands as interpreted by the Minister, it is quite obvious that the industrial section of the community will make demands upon the moneys available under this Act in dimensions hitherto undreamed of. 1 rose only to say that terms and conditions of a general nature long since should have been laid down. They should not be dependent upon the individual discretion of one civil servant who can give one organisation $2m and another organisation $200,000. You want a reasonable discretion to vary the limits, but you want a model deed in which the general purposes and regulations are laid down and which shows the amount that shall be available first for an individual application by an organisation. Then in some way this amount should be related to the number of units for which the organisation provides accommodation. I make the plea only that the legislation be put into shape. At the present time it is merely a skeleton piece of legislation which hands out money from the Treasurer and which is to be administered at the individual discretion of the head of a department. The legislation should formulate the basic rules and principles according to which the expenditure should take place.
– I think that Senator Wright has made an excellent suggestion, when we consider the tremendous amount of money involved and the way in which it is dispersed. Statements have been made tonight that in some instances possibly the money is not well dispersed even though the Government may have good intentions and desires to help to provide adequate and reasonable accommodation for old people. When we consider that public finance is involved in this matter, I think that, irrespective of the many occasions on which Senator Wright and I disagree we accept basically that there is a fundamental responsibility entrusted to the Government to ensure that public moneys are spent wisely and that there is adequate provision in relation to the expenditure for the creation of assets. Here we have a Bill in which there is apparently no limit as to the amount that can be dispersed under it. There are no limits in relation to the provision of personal accommodation. Even if it is in terms of tens of thousands of dollars, the money is paid on a $2 for $1 basis. Surely there must be a sense of responsibility inherent in the Government to see that this money is spent wisely and that something adequate is created in relation to the needs of the community. Yet there does not appear to be any real supervision. The organisations meet the immediate demands, as stipulated by the Act, in relation to what is actually required. They make their submissions. Yet we know that in particular cases $30,000 is required in order to accommodate nine or ten elderly people.
The Act actually specifies that for the purposes of the Act a part of a building is to be construed as meaning a building. We have a lot of hesitation in relation to a minor amount, but when it comes to hundreds of thousands of dollars there seems to be little hesitation once they make their first submission, submit their plans and tell the story of their purpose.
– Order! In conformity wi h the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– As 1 was saying, Mr Temporary Chairman, this comparatively small amount is involved. The Government wants to know exactly what the accommodation is, how many people are to be housed in it, whether it is part of a building or a building of itself. Yet the legislation specifically provides that a part of a building is to be construed as a building for the purposes of the Act. Why this is held up for a few thousands dollars, 1 would not know. Yet the honourable senator from Tasmania, Senator Wright, says that a tremendous sum is involved in a particular project. There must be a limit to these particular projects. There must be a limit to the amount that the Government can make available. The need must exist to supervise these buildings after they are constructed to ensure that they fulfil all the obligations in relation to the original terms of the Agreement. Apparently there is no obligation or desire on the part of the Government to follow the process through, as it should.
As you have heard, Mr Temporary Chairman, in the various speeches that have been made there would appear to be a measure of - I will not say a measure of malpractice because I hate to suggest that - neglect of responsibility. Little doubt exists that payments have been demanded from people who occupy homes that have been built under the provisions nf this excellent legislation. Why the Government has not seen fit to carry out and follow through the objectives of the Bill I do not know. The Government should see that what it intended has been carried out. It should see that the people whom it intended to help have been helped and that public money has been spent legitimately for the purposes for which it intended it to be spent. Far be it from me as an individual to think nastily of the Government but sometimes I wonder whether the Government thought that this might have been a vote catching measure.
– Why does the honourable senator not end his soliloquy so that we can go home?
– 1 beg the honourable senator’s pardon?
– Oh, forget it.
– I thought the honourable senator might be implying something. I give him credit for his good intentions. But the point is this: I would be the last one to think that the Government would seek to catch votes by this form of legislation. But 1. cannot understand why the Government has not followed the matter right through. Is the Government interested merely in the vote catching possibilities of this legislation, legislation of a similar type or other types of legislation that have been introduced? Is it interested in the election winning potential of such legislation? Or is the Government really interested in trying to help people? Surely we are entitled to wonder at the way the Government carries on. Here millions of dollars are being spent.
Various members of the Government - members of the Ministry in particular - are boasting of what the Government has done with the money it has collected over the years. Yet the Government does nol seem to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion. The Government never seems to grasp the problem and say: “Here are so many millions that we intend to spend in order to help a particular group of people, to support a particular group of charities or defence organisations’ or, as the Minister will have to report now to the other place, ‘to help trade unions’. Apparently in the mind of the honourable senator from Tasmania there is a measure of doubt because trade unions are included. Frankly, 1 do not care how the Government tightens up the rules in relation to providing this money because, after all, it comes from Consolidated Revenue, from public funds, collected by the Government of the day through the Treasury. These funds are devoted to the multifarious purposes that the Government decides, one of which is included in this Bill. I do not think that anything which binds the spending of public money is wrong. I think that the chains that bind the spending of public money can never be too tight. Now that the Government has faced up to this responsibility, it is time that the Minister, perhaps in the recess, had a look at the Act and laid down the absolute conditions. The Government should not think of this legislation with the idea that it has served its purpose in winning votes. That is what my friend, Senator Ormonde, suggested. He has now left the chamber.
– He only implied it.
– Senator Ormonde suggested that it was a vote catching measure. Frankly, I never thought that it was. I thought that it represented a desire on the part of the Government to help aged people and to assist charities and
Other organisations in their worthwhile objectives. Senator Ormonde has returned to his place, but I have already used his remark. He said that the Government used this legislation over the years as a vote catching measure. It had derived the benefit from the Act. It had been returned to office irrespective of the inadequacies and inefficiencies associated with its various administrative methods. In view of the tremendous sums that are involved in relation to the rights of the people who have derived benefit under this legislation, the Government has a responsibility to look at this Act carefully and to police it, if that is the correct word, as rigidly as it likes. The Government should lay down preliminary conditions and see that they are observed.
But the Government should not finish the matter by saying: ‘Here is the cut off.’ That has been the approach of the Government. The Government should pursue the matter through and, if necessary, in particular instances have a body composed of public servants, if it likes, to attend to this matter. I have the greatest respect for public ser vants both Commonwealth and State. Not only are they competent but also they are honest. They do their jobs and they do them fearlessly. This body of public servants could see that the money is spent for the purpose for which it has been allocated. This body would carry the work through in relation to the objectives that have been outlined and which the Government said it was prepared to observe. The way the situation is at present, millions of dollars are being spent and most of it, I would say, in a worthwhile way. Some of this money, according to the speeches delivered here today and tonight, has not been spent in such a worthwhile way. Some of this expenditure seems ready to be queried. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) is entrusted with the responsibility of the administration of this Act and the disbursement of tremendous sums of money. He must have a sense of responsibility. It is said that he will finish up as the Leader of the Australian Country Party. I do not know whether he will or not. It is a matter for the Country Party. It can fight the matter out. It is fighting enough with the Liberal Party in Victoria, Western Australia and other places. But that is the business of the Country Party.
– The Victorian election is over. Did not the honourable senator hear the result?
– Give me a break. Let me develop my story in my own way without help from this side or that side of the Committee. I do plead with the Government to police the spending of this money. 1 know that the Government asked for preliminary plans from the organisations involved. It asked the organisations for their names and for their purposes. Is there any reason why any organisation entitled to an allocation of money from the Government should be frightened if the Government asks to have a look at its building? This is why the money is provided. This is the purpose for which it is sought, whether it is to accommodate elderly gentlemen or elderly women. The elderly people enter these homes. They may pay portion of their pension for their board and lodging. Their accommodation is good and they are happy in the homes. I cannot see anything wrong with the Government pursuing that which it sought to achieve - the provision of reasonable accommodation and reasonable living conditions for people in their declining years. As the Minister said earlier, in the twilight of their lives let them be happy and let them be in a comfortable and satisfying environment.
But the Government owes an obligation to the people of Australia to ensure that the millions of dollars that it spends in this way is spent in accordance with the Act and that the money is serving the purpose that the Government intends it to serve. In the past the Government has not cared what has happened. I know that almost every institution that has been built under this scheme has deserved the assistance, has been grateful for it and has fulfilled its obligations under the Act. On the other hand, on occasions there has been a measure of questioning. I know of one place where incoming tenants were asked for £2,000 each. That place cannot carry on now. So it is trying to obtain another £2,000 from people who have walked out or the estates of people who have died. That place is not run by a religious organisation. Let mc make that quite clear. As I have said, I know of no religious organisation in Queensland that has ever asked for a penny from anyone entering its homes.
The Government has been completely recalcitrant and neglectful in relation to the tremendous sums of money that it has made available under this scheme. It has never ensured that the scheme has been carried through or has fulfilled its purpose. However, I must admit that the scheme has served the purpose of gaining thousands of votes for the Government throughout Australia. I would give all credit to the Government if its purpose was a worthy one. In certain fields the Government has served a worthy purpose, however unworthy the purpose that it has had in mind has been.
Order! The honourable senator’s lime has expired.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– When I returned to Canberra after the break of ten days, I found on my desk two roneoed sheets from the United States Information Service. Apparently this will be a weekly feature in the future. The point about which I am rising to protest is that this is not an information sheet. It is the most blatant propaganda. Actually, it is puerile propaganda. It is unintelligent propaganda because it . presumes that all the people who receive it are as unintelligent as the American people who sent it to us. AH honourable senators may have seen it. It contains statistics on Vietcong terrorist activities. We are to be told week by week what members of the Vietcong are doing and how they are maiming their fellow countrymen. I hold no brief whatever for the Vietcong. Neither do I hold any brief for the Americans or Australians who are also maiming, killing and injuring Vietnamese citizens. If honourable senators do not believe that this is happening in America, let me refer them to Arthur M. Schlesinger’s book. At page 51 he says:
Just the other day our bombs killed or injured more than one hundred civilians in a hamlet in the Mekong Delta - all on the suspicion that two Vietcong platoons, numbering perhaps sixty men, were there. Even if the Vietcong had still been around, which they weren’t, would the military gain have outweighed the human and political loss?
On the one hand we have information supplied to us about what the Vietcong are doing, but on the other hand there is not a word about what we are doing to them. I propose now to quote another extract. This is a statement by General Johnson, the Army Chief of Staff of the American forces. He said to another of his Generals:
We have not enough information. We act with ruthlessness, like a steamroller, bombing extensive areas and not selected targets based on detailed intelligence.
Here we find that we are doing exactly the same sort of thing as the Vietcong, but there is not a word about this from the Americans although it has been dcoumented in Arthur Schlesinger’s book. The publication quotes also a comment by a reporter from the ‘New York Times’, Charles Mohr, who said:
Almost every provincial hospital in Vietnam is crowded with civilian victims of the war. Some American doctors and other officials in the field say the majority are the victims of American air power and South Vietnamese artillery.
Does not that equal the trash that we have been given here? I do not say that either account is right - I believe that both are wrong - but 1 believe that the United States Information Service is providing us with unintelligent information. We also are to blame for maiming the South Vietnamese people. A few days ago 1 addressed to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) a question relating to aid for the people of Vietnam. The question was passed on to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), because apparently the Department of External Affairs rules the health services in relation to matters outside Australia. I asked whether the Government would assist these people by building a hospital. I was told that we were doing enough in sending two or three teams to Vietnam. But it is not enough; it is nowhere near enough. Honourable senators have only to read those extracts and to consider what we are doing to the Vietnamese people to see whether we are doing enough. We are maiming them just as much as the Americans are. We may not have the explosive power that the Americans have, but we are aiding and abetting them.
Surely if we want to be of some help we can assist by building a hospital and staffing it for them. It is true that we have in Vietnam already four teams from various hospitals in the States. They are all volunteers, but they are under the direction of the Vietnamese Government. In other words, we adopt the American system - that we must not lead in Vietnam but must follow. This practice does not help with the training of future Vietnamese nurses and doctors. Vietnam has so few doctors that it is impossible for them to provide enough staff for their hospitals. What I want the Government to do- I shall keep on pressing for this; I believe there is much public support for it - is to build a hospital in Vietnam and to put in our own medical staff and our own nurses. We should staff a complete hospital. In this way we could vindicate at least some of the wrong we are doing.
– Stop the bombing. Prevention is better than cure.
– I am happy with that suggestion, but unfortunately our Government is bomb happy. I do not want to get into a dispute on Vietnam. We have discussed this before, and the honourable senator knows where 1 stand on the matter. If we must insist on maiming or killing these South Vietnamese people, surely the Government should consider helping them by building a hospital instead of fobbing off the suggestion and saying: ‘We are doing something.’ The Government is doing nothing. Its aid is so small that it would not even be noticed in the Budget deficit of $300 million. The Government is happy to spend that amount, but when asked to build a hospital in Vietnam to show the people of that country that we are really trying to help them it just shudders at the thought and says: ‘We will send you a few volunteer teams.’ I do not think this is enough. There is a case for establishing a hospital. The Government should come to the front and lead. It should not always be pushed into these things. It should give a lead by building a hospital - something which will be a permanent mark in Vietnam when this horrible war is ended, if ever it is ended. If it does not end soon the maiming will go on for perhaps many years, and at least we can be doing something.
I plead with the Government to give further consideration to my request to provide some funds for this project. I would rather the Government spent on this project the money it is now spending on Colombo Plan aid. At least it would be doing some good. With the aid of Colombo Plan funds people come to this country and learn a profession. They are then supposed to return to their own country but many of them will not go back, so our money is being wasted. Why not give aid to these people, who really deserve it? That is my plea.
– I rise at the behest of the New South Wales branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union to direct some remarks to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents in this chamber the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), on the Department’s conception of industrial rehabilitation. I refer to Mr D. Barney of Haberfield, New South Wales, who was employed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as a motor driver. In September last year he had the misfortune to suffer a coronary occlusion. He returned to the Department last November. Although he has had several medical examinations and although some time ago his own doctor gave him a clean bill of health, he has been kept on selected duties. As recently as last month he was examined by Dr Brodziak of Macquarie Street, Sydney, at the request of the Department. He is still awaiting a final decision by the Department on his position.
According to the background information submitted by the union, anyone who suffers from a heart ailment is apparently given a life sentence by the Department. There seems to be no likelihood of returning to one’s former occupation, in this case to the position of motor driver. This really means that Mr Barney’s take-home salary has been reduced considerably due to loss of penalty rates, tonnage rates and that kind of thing. In addition, his recreational leave has been reduced from four weeks to three weeks a year. In his former classification he worked a forty hour week in five days. Now he works it in six days. Mr Barney has pointed out that if he worked for private enterpise he would now be able to carry out his former duties without any danger because his doctor gave him a clearance. He has, of course, a C class licence, and he has been driving for over twenty years without accident.
The Department’s slowness in implementing industrial rehabilitation causes many men in such callings considerable monetary loss as well as subjecting them to inferior rostering. Without wanting to delay the Senate unduly I point out that the rehabilitation of people suffering from heart ailments is exemplified in no less a person than President Johnson of the United States. When he was majority leader in the United States Senate he suffered a heart attack, but after rest he was able to return to his duties. Whatever one’s conception of world problems may be, no-one can deny that the stresses and strains on Mr Johnson’s constitution, and particularly his heart, must have increased one hundredfold upon his election to the Presidency. 1 ask the Minister to take up this matter with the Postmaster-General and, at the very least, to request that Mr Barney be advised of the outcome of the investigation by the departmental specialist on 5th April. I go beyond that and remind the Minister that in these modern times one does not say to a person with a heart ailment: ‘You are finished. We will put you back to work in some second rate position’. People should be encouraged, mentally and physically, to go back to their former work. If - and I say ‘if* advisedly - the only objection that the Department has is that such a person is a potential risk on the road, then one might argue that there are many people driving cars or trucks today who might have coronary occlusions at any time. In any case, if the New South Wales laws, or any other State laws do not debar the person from driving how can you rationalise the rather outmoded concept of the PostmasterGeneral in regard to industrial rehabilitation? I will leave the relevant facts with the Minister. I hope that in the not too distant future justice will be given to Mr Barney and to other members of the union who may be in a similar position in the future.
– I would not normally bother replying to remarks made in this chamber by Senator Turnbull. But when he criticises the Government of the United States of America which, through its information services and other facilities, makes known to the Australian people what damage and casualties the Vietcong are inflicting on civilians in Vietnam then I believe some reply is warranted. I believe that the American Information Service is doing a just and reasonable thing in letting the Australian people know what the Vietcong are doing to civilians. Senator Turnbull, in his meandering, then criticised not only the Americans but the Australian servicemen who, he said, are causing death and injury in north Vietnam.
– I did not say North Vietnam. I said Vietnamese. The honourable senator should get his facts straight.
– Well, the Vietnamese. Senator Turnbull should know sufficient about the terrors of modern war. Starting with the Second World War, unfortunately the civilians have borne the brunt of war as it is fought in this age. All through the piece, in questions from the other side of the chamber, in the Press and on television, the Australian people are being told specifically what harm is being done to me Vietnamese people, but when the Americans tell us what harm is being done to south Vietnamese civilians by the Vietcong, they are criticised.
I remind Senator Turnbull that at Elphin camp in Launceston in 1939 he was medically examining and passing for service people who went overseas to take part in a similar sort of war - a war which caused death and injury to civilian populations. Did the honourable senator have any qualms of conscience then? No. He was prepared to sign the medical certificate which sent these people away. But now, for the sake of politics, because he hopes his dream of China controlling south east Asia can come true, he is trying to belittle the Australian effort. I think he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
– I take this opportunity of speaking on the adjournment to raise a matter which we are not likely to have an opportunity to debate before the Budget session. In very strong terms 1 want to register complaints about our postal services. To clarify my point I shall give some statistics. According to the last available report, which is for the year ending June 1966, 2,556m postal articles were handled during 1965-66. This was a rise of 4.6% over previous years. Parcels traffic increased by 0.9% to 18,327,000 items. In the same period air mail traffic increased by 5% to 408,465,000 articles. At 30lh June 1966, 8,882 post offices were operating in Australia and at Australian bases in the Antarctic Territory. At the same date 2,120,378 telephone services were in operation. During 1965-66 342,148 applications for telephone services were received, including 50,000 for removals from one address to another. It is significant that during the year 39,523 applications were withdrawn. Earnings of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the year ended 30th June 1966 totalled $401. 3m, and expenses $401. 4m. After providing for interest, trading operations resulted in a loss of $124,117. I venture to suggest that organisations such as H. G. Palmer Pty Ltd which have gone on the rocks would be happy to finish with a trading loss of that magnitude for a year. But we must remember that in the previous financial year the Department really came into the field of big business with a profit of $4,212,391.
We have heard, particularly in the other place in the last few weeks, references to the Sydney Mail Exchange and some of the problems that have been encountered there. An Opposition member adequately described that Exchange as a mix master. A booklet describing the activities of the Exchange in detail has been published. For the record, 1 want to read the following paragraph from it:
Sydney, with a population of almost 2.5 million people, is the centre of the New South Wales mail network and of Australia’s overseas postal service. Most of the mail from one Sydney suburb to another, between the city and the country, other Australian States, and other nations, comes to the Sydney Mail Exchange for sorting and onward dispatch. The new Sydney Mail Exchange handles an average of almost forty postal articles a second with an expected annual total of 1,050 million in 1966-67. Traffic is estimated to double in the next twenty years.
So it is obvious that the great bulk of the mail that is handled in this country goes through this Exchange, which is popularly known as the mixmaster
What are the problems that are being encountered in the Postmaster-General’s Department? We have isolated complaints in some areas. In others complaints have reached alarming proportions. It is obvious that the Department is understaffed, for a start. It is equally obvious that the staff is underpaid. A cheeseparing attitude is being adopted by the Department, and this does not make for happiness among its employees. If one wanders away from the metropolitan areas and the larger provincial cities, it is obvious that some of the facilities provided for country people are almost primitive. From time to time we have received complaints about delays in the delivery of airmail. With the air services that now operate between all the major centres in Australia one would think that airmail would be delivered much more expeditiously than it is being delivered at present. Have delays arisen because the Department, again, is attempting to save a few cents and dollars wherever possible by dispatching airmail by means other than air services? I pose that question to the Minister for Customs and
Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme).
Why are so many applications for telephone services being withdrawn? Is this because of excessively long waiting periods for installations in some areas? These tremendous delays, 1 understand, apply not only in my own State. Queensland, but also in other States. Are withdrawals of applications occurring because of the continuing increases in rentals that we have seen in recent years? Have these rental increases made it economically impossible for applicants to have telephones installed? It is significant, also, that there are 50,000 transfers. I can speak from personal experience of a recent transfer of a telephone that had been installed at premises for only a few months and is now required to be transferred to new premises, and the transfer fee of §30 must still be paid. It is obvious from the figures I have quoted that the profits of this Department are in a fairly healthy condition.
I shall refer again to the problems being encountered in the sorting of mail in Sydney. I understand that up to 100 letters a week are completely destroyed. In other words, there is insufficient left of the letters to be delivered to the people to whom they are addressed. One might say that this is only a small percentage of the total number of letters handled by the Department, but irrespective of the number damaged in this way - whether it be 50, 80 or 100 - they could contain material that is most important to the addressees. In addition, over a period of time thousands of letters are mutilated, and no doubt these would contain personal mail, valuables and other items. There is evidence that union ballot papers in some cases have been destroyed in this way. When postal votes are being transferred during a general election from one State to another and a close margin exists between the candidates, the destruction of a number of postal votes could be a very serious matter. I am not particularly worried about the votes that might favour the opposition parties, but I am sure that we do not want any of ours destroyed.
I wish to mention also the very considerable delays in the delivery of mail. This is no fault of the staff, who work efficiently in their various departments; the whole, complex is understaffed. I can describe a personal experience. I received on 14th April two letters that were sent to me from Sydney, where they had been posted on 10th March. That is to say, it took more than one month for those two letters to reach me. One was from a private individual, asking for a reference which was to be used when he applied for a new position a few days after the letter was posted. Needless to say, that letter was completely useless. The second letter was from a Minister, relating to some submissions that I had made to him on a certain problem. That letter also was useless; indeed, a subsequent letter that had been posted by the Minister reached me earlier than the original one.
I was probably more annoyed when, because of my absence from my own local government area in Queensland, my wife and I, after applying for postal votes, did not receive them in time. We posted our applications in Townsville last Friday week. However, the ballot paper did not arrive here until fairly late on Saturday morning. The two envelopes are here for inspection if the Minister wishes to examine them; they are clearly dated 24th April 1967. After being posted in Townsville on Monday 24th April they did not arrive here in Canberra until late in the morning of Saturday 29th April. In effect, I could not take delivery of those two documents until today.
If this is an example of the efficiency of our postal services, it is obvious that other most important documents must be delayed in this way.
My final point relates to the delay in telephone services, which in some areas are absolutely atrocious. In the past two weeks my secretary and I have had occasion to contact Darwin on a couple of urgent matters. A week before the House rose there were controlled calls, and we were told that we could not send a lengthy telegram because of the same problems. If people are to live in isolated areas in this country, we must provide them with facilities to make their lives in those remote parts fairly comfortable. I can say quite clearly and truthfully that it took me two days last week to get one call through to Darwin. When I finally got through, the caller had left the telephone, so it was completely useless. It should not take fortyeight hours to get a telephone call over that distance. We tried both ways, through Mount Isa and through Adelaide. I make this plea on behalf of the people who have to put up with these services that the Minister responsible take a serious look at the Department so that by the time we come back for the Budget session we shall have seen a very great improvement in these directions: Firstly that the staff of the Department receives an adequate wage or salary; secondly, that sufficient staff is employed to handle all of the problems associated with the Department; thirdly, that the people of this country get the services for which they pay.
– in reply - Apropos of the submissions made by both Senator Mulvihill and Senator Keeffe on the Postmaster-General’s Department, let me say that I most certainly will bring their comments to the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). Much of what Senator Keeffe said, of course, would be more appropriately stated when we are dealing with the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.It would be very difficult for me to make much comment on these matters in an adjournment debate. In fact, contrary to what he expects, he will possibly get. an opportunity to speak on the Postmaster-General’s Department in relation to some supplementary estimates that may come before the Senate before we rise.
– Does the Minister not think it is the duty of somebody to effect an improvement long before then if his complaint is justified?
– If the honourable senator wants to make a speech he should get up and have a go. I shall then listen to him and make a reply. I cannot hope to follow my train of thought if he is to make a speech while sitting in his place. I am making the point ‘that much of what the honourable senator said was so wide in its coverage as to be more appropriate to an other form of debate.I said at the outset that I would in fact draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the comments made. I say this for Senator Wright’s benefit, as he may not have heard. Senator Mulvihill’s comment, of course, raises a very difficult matter in that medical questions may be involved and it would not be for me to comment on the substance of it. I can appreciate the implications to a person who, when he comes back to work, finds himself called upon to act perhaps in a lower grade. This has very real, human consequences to any employee of the Post Office.
As far as Senator Turnbull is concerned, I say to him that I should think the fact that the American information people supply information, even though it is not apparently acceptable to Senator Turnbull, is a very good thing. For my part, I find it rather odd that because Senator Turnbull reads something in a book he proceeds to say what he reads in the book is true and that what the American information people publish in a document, which the whole of the nation has to stand behind, is false. That is a most extraordinary comment in any circumstances. I should think that it is all to the good that we are getting information which indicates the type of situation that occurs in Vietnam. I find it an extraordinary attitude of mind on the part of the honourable senator that he should pick up a book written by a person, read it and say that it goes to prove that what the Americans are saying is not true. I think he is rather gullible.
As to the other matter raised by Senator Turnbull, namely the establishment of a hospital in the area, Senator Gorton has made it clear in reply to questions that there are Australian medical teams in the area doing a magnificent job in Australia’s name. I think Senator Turnbull conceded this, but he said that we should go even further and establish a hospital staffed completely by Australians. I will refer his suggestion to the appropriate Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670502_senate_26_s34/>.