26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the Government’s decision to introduce a twelve mile limit on fishing grounds off Australia’s coast, could the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry advise whether more intensive research is to be undertaken to prove these wider fields and, if so, along what lines?
– I understand that the Fisheries Development Conference discussed matters of this nature just recently. I understand further that the resolutions arrived at by this conference will be submilted to the relevant Ministers at their next meeting.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Does the Postmaster-General’s Department provide telegraphic services for the Press at concessional Tafes? If so, what was the total value of the concession for the year ended 30th June 1966?
– 1 shall obtain the information for the honourable senator from the Postmaster-General.
– My question is also directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and by way of preface 1 would like to compliment the PostmasterGeneral on the noticeable economies flowing to the user, and no doubt also to the Department, from the recent introduction into South Australia of the subscriber trunk dialling method of charging for trunk calls to Melbourne originating in Adelaide. Will thet Minister discuss this matter with his colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ascertain the projected timetable associated with the implementation of the system of subscriber trunk dialling between South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory and between South Australia and Sydney? Will he also ascertain the possi bility of the wider use of this system within South Australia?
– I will present the honourable senator’s request to the Postmaster-General for his consideration.
– Last Tuesday, in a prepared answer to a question I had placed on notice, the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry quoted the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board as stating, regarding wheat storage problems: ‘lt seems to me these problems are generally being met with resolution and efficiency to the credit of all concerned.’ Would the Minister comment on what appears to be a contradiction of this statement by Mr Ridd, President of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association, who is reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald* today as saying: ‘We are getting fed up with the apathy of the Federal Government on this issue, lt is a disgrace that such a major Australian industry should be treated with such apparent disinterest’ ?
– The prepared answer that was given to Senator McManus came, of course, from the Minister for Primary Industry himself. 1 know that there have been problems in New South Wales because my sons have been involved in getting wheat away. Mr Ridd, as was correctly stated, is President of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales. For some years this organisation and other primary producer bodies in New South Wales have been urging continually that the storage capacity of silos in that State bc increased. New South Wales has just harvested what is regarded as the largest crop it has ever had and one that no on-one envisaged the State ever having.
This has brought in its train many problems. First, there is the problem of the farmers getting the wheat off their farms and then the problem of getting it away from country areas. They have been pressing the State Government to increase storage capacty in the country and over the past few years this has increased tremendously. The Australian Wheat Board is confronted with another difficulty. Farmers in Western Australia have themselves contributed funds to provide storage for the wheat crop. Up to this time farmers in New South Wales have steadfastly refused to adopt a similar procedure although at present there is a move afoot to strike a levy on the farmers for this purpose. In view of the fact that some States are doing this, I for one feel that it is only fair that New South Wales farmers should act similarly. The New South Wales Government has further storage facilities in view but it is not moving as quickly as Mr Ridd and certain others would like it to move.
There is still a drought over the whole of the wheat growing area in New South Wales and it is debatable at this stage whether the next crop will be one half or even one third of the crop harvested last year. Rain must fall this month if New South Wales is to have a decent wheat crop. I think that the manner in which the wheat was transported in New South Wales last year was a credit to those concerned, but it was not as good as the farmers would have liked, firstly because there was not sufficient storage and secondly because the railways were not able to handle it any faster than they did, although they did a magnificent job. The other factor was the availability of shipping to transport the wheat from Australia.
All of these problems resulted from the record wheat crop and T feel that it is better to put up with these troubles than to have the small crop that we had in the previous year. I am sure the majority of farmers think as I do on this point.
– Will the Minister for Housing make available to the Senate information as to the number of homes savings grants allocated to persons desiring to build on agricultural land? If this information is not presently available, despite my requests for it since the inception of the homes savings grant scheme, will the Minister now undertake to obtain it, because it is of considerable importance for statistical reasons, for economic reasons and as a matter of common equity?
– An examination of this matter has been made recently by my Department and I can inform the honourable senator that approxi mately 1,000 grants have been paid in respect of homes in rural areas. I will supply the honourable senator with any further information along these lines if it comes to hand.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government. In view of the fact that five Labor senators and only two Government senators will be urging a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum in Tasmania, what proposals does the Government have in mind to offset this disparity?
– I merely say to the honourable senator that I think two Government senators equal five Labor senators.
– I ask the Minister for Housing whether she can advise me of the number of grants approved under the Homes Savings Grant Act, and the total amount of those grants, from the beginning of this financial year to the present date.
– I will get the information for the honourable senator and advise him. I can tell him that since the inception of the scheme grants totalling well over $34m have been approved to about 77,000 applicants
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Is it not a fact that leading newspaper companies which also control chains of television and radio stations have been in their editorials and comments amongst the most bitter and constant critics of the Government’s intention to increase postal, telegraphic and telephone charges? Is it not also true that one of the leading newspaper, television and radio companies in Australia has today announced payment of a dividend of 20% ? It would seem to be in a favourable position to pay the extra charges for the nationally provided means of communication on which it relies for its survival.
– I do not know that the honourable senator’s question requires an answer from me. He has stated some opinions of the relationship between newspaper organisations and television companies. As to his reference to criticism of the proposed increased postal charges, this matter is before the Parliament. At a later hour today I will be bringing down that legislation in the Senate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister lor the Interior to inform me when 1 may expect a reply to a question I placed on the notice paper on 4lh April last. The question asks for information on the procedure followed by the National Capital Development Commission in selecting architects for building projects in Canberra. I would have thought that a telephone call could have elicited that information. It is not an involved question but a month has elapsed and no reply has been given.
– 1 am not sure whether I detected a note of censure of me in the honourable senator’s question. Perhaps 1 am not as good at getting information as somebody the honourable senator has in mind. I can tell him only that his question was referred to the Minister for the Interior who is now absent from Australia. I will try again to see whether the Department can supply the information in the absence of the Minister. If it can, I will be delighted to give it to the honourable senator.
– Having regard to the answer I received a few minutes ago from the Minister for Housing, I wish to remind her in case there is any misunderstanding of my question that I did not ask about grants in rural areas. I asked specifically about grants in respect of persons desiring to build on agricultural land.
– I note the point that the honourable senator has made.
– 1 ask the Minister for Education and Science whether he has received representations urging the introduction by the Commonwealth Government of a school library facilities scheme on a basis similar to the existing science laboratories scheme. Has the Minister rejected the request on the ground that this would be a matter solely for the State government? If the answers to the two questions I have asked be yes, does the Minister see any distinction in principle between a Commonwealth financed school library scheme along the lines suggested and the grants made under the science blocks legislation?
– On, I think, one occasion I have received formal suggestions from a deputation in respect of this matter. As the honourable senator has indicated, school libraries schemes might be approached and assisted in the same way as science blocks. On the occasion of the deputation school libraries in particular were not picked out as a sole project for assistance; a number of similar projects were suggested. However, I did not reject any of the suggested projects on the ground that they were solely a matter for State governments! - I definitely and certainly did not do that. In principle I cannot see any distinction at all between the provision of capital for science blocks and its provision for other education facilities for children in secondary schools, lt appears to me that the attitude of this Government is clearly established, and has led the Australian people to accept that it is reasonable and proper for a federal government to provide capital assistance for better education facilities over the whole field of school children without discrimination. The matter of when sufficient finance can be made available, and what particular field should be chosen when it becomes available, is one question. But my answer has been directed towards the principle of the matter.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As for the past seventeen years I have repeatedly asked for the establishment of a national disasters fund, the necessity for which has unfortunately been shown again this year by the disastrous fires in Tasmania and the drought in eastern Australia, will the Minister inform me whether the Government has examined similar funds in New Zealand and the United States of America to see whether they could be modified to suit Australian conditions?
– The honourable senator has been very consistent over a number of years in her advocacy of the need for a national disasters fund. The Government has given consideration to this from time to time, as the honourable senator knows. However, in a federal system it prefers the States to come to us in times of disaster after they have assessed the damages caused by the disaster; that is to say, we prefer that they come to us with their statistics, after which we can then help the States concerned. That is the precedure the Government follows at the present time.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has seen a report that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has urged the Commonwealth Government to appoint more arbitration commissioners and conciliators to speed the settlement of claims for better wages and conditions. Will the Minister agree that there is no justification whatever for Australian wage and salary earners having to wait unduly lengthy periods for their wage claims to be heard because of a shortage of arbitration commissioners? Because the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in his annual reports for some time has been drawing attention to the need for more presidential and non-presidential members of the Commission to be appointed, and because I and a number of my colleagues have been constantly raising this subject in the Federal Parliament, will the Minister agree that the Government has known for some considerable time of the existence of this problem? 1 now ask: When can Australian workers expect the Australian Government, and the Minister for Labour and National Service in particular, to take some definite action which will overcome this unjustifiable delay in the hearing of wage applications?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator referred in the first part of his question, but if he wants an answer to the question which he finally formulated, then clearly he can only get a definitive answer from the Minister for Labour and National Service who is the responsible Minister. If the hon ourable senator cares to put the question on the notice paper he can get an answer from the responsible Minister in that way, or if he cares, I can ask the Minister to write to him in reply to his question. I leave it to the honourable senator.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In view of recent reports that a research team at the Royal Melbourne Hospital has made a considerable advance in the transplanting of kidneys, and in view of the fact that the costs of the operations which are necessary for such transplants are so high that they are virtually prohibitive to a great many people who are suffering from serious diseases of the kidneys, would the Minister give some consideration to making subsidies available to those hospitals which are engaged in transplanting kidneys so that those persons who are suffering from these very serious disorders can be given the treatment which they need?
– I think we all recognise the wonderful work that is being done in this field. I shall be pleased to bring the honourable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Health.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Is it a fact that building constructions which are carried out by the Department of Works in the Australian Capital Territory are not subject to investigation or examination by the Joint Committee on Public Works? If this is so, why are they not subject to this investigation and examination?
– Answering from the little knowledge I have on this subject, I would think that that is correct.
– It is correct.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate says that it is correct.
– Why are they not subject to examination?
– It is a statutory body.
COMMON WE A I TI i RAILWAYS (Question No. 124)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
In view of the statement in the Commonwealth Railways report of February this year that passengerial traffic to Canberra is not commensurate with the rise in population to near 100,000, and that it may bc necessary to look at the question of some improvement in the existing train service by providing extra rolling stock, (a) has the matter of replacing antiquated services and rolling stock by services worthy of Australia’s capital been looked at, and (b) when can we expect some action?
– I heard the honourable senator speak on this subject during the debate on the Australian Tourist Commission Bill yesterday. I hope that this answer will not he regarded as an anticlimax. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 141)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister lor Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers:
-I present the following paper:
Report of the Australian Universities Commission on tertiary education facilities in the Riverina.
I acquaint the Senate of the fact that the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Commission, which are to the effect that a university or university college should not at present be established in the Riverina.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
Air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.
Hoods and capelines (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to make provision for and in relation to the grant of scholarships and awards to students at universities, technical colleges, schools and other educational institutions.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to repeal sub-section (2.) of section 13 of the Australian Universities Commission Act 1959-1965.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act to give effect to proposed changes in certain postal and telegraph charges. It is also proposed to vary some other postal and telecommunication tariffs not covered by the Act. In our developing and prosperous community, postal and telecommunication services are playing an increasingly important part. The associated demands for expanded and improved services, however, bring with them growing problems of raising revenues to cover costs and to meet substantial and rising needs for capital investment. In general, we must recognise that the Post Office has obligations to the community, especially in outback and developing areas. It has also a responsibility to pay its way rather than incur losses to be made good by the taxpayer. I am sure honourable senators will agree with the principle that costs should be borne by the people who use the service. Increases in the charges for some postal services are proposed but, at the same time, new features are being introduced with the object of improving the range and quality of services available to business and the public generally.
It is nearly eight years since the last increase in the basic postage rate.In fact, the only adjustment since 1959 has been a decrease from 5d to 4c at the time of the changeover to decimal currency. Since 1959, the price index for consumer services in Australia has risen by 22% and other countries, including New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States of America, have increased charges for postal services. Naturally, the Post Office has continued its efforts to raise productivity by improved methods and the introduction of modern and highly effective mail handling equipment. As a result, the postal service was able, despite rising wage rates and other inescapable increases in costs, to maintain a breakeven financial position over the five-year period from 1959-60 to 1963-64. However, losses of $2.6m and Sl0.3m respectively were recorded in 1964-65 and 1965-66 and a loss of about Si 8m is expected this financial year. With current tariffs, the loss could be $25m in 1967-68 and could increase to about S40m to $45m by 1970-71.
Statements setting out the changes in postal charges in some detail have been circulated to honourable senators, but I propose to refer briefly to the more important of these. For letters and postcards the existing rate of 4c for the first oz will be increased to 5c. The charge for each additional oz up to 4 oz will be raised from 3c to 4c. Above 4 oz and up to 16 oz the rate will be 4c for each additional 4 oz. Over 16 oz the charge will be 33c or the p. reel rate, whichever is the higher. For other articles, including business and printed papers and merchandise, the existing rates for the first and successive weight steps of 4c and 3c will be increased to 5c and 4c respectively. In addition, the first weight step of 4 oz will be divided into two 2 oz weight units. Over 16 oz the charge will be 25c or the parcel rale, whichever is the higher.
For publications registered at the General Post Office the existing general rate for single copies of registered Australian books, newspapers and periodicals of 4c for each 8 oz will become 5c for the first 6 oz and 4c for each additional 6 oz. The rate for these publications, except books, when posted in bulk, will be increased from 4c for each 12 oz to 5c for each 12 oz, on the total weight of the consignment. In addition, the following minimum charge for each postal article will be made: ic in the case of postal articles weighing 1 oz or less: lc on postal articles weighing between I and 11 oz; and lc on postal articles weighing more than 1$ oz.
The registered Australian publications will still enjoy a substantial concession, even with the higher rates proposed. The current average subsidy exceeds 5c for each individually addressed newspaper and periodical and the new rates will reduce this subsidy by only 15%. About 140 million registered publications are posted in bulk yearly and the losses sustained in giving such heavy concessions contribute substantially to the increasing financial loss of the postal service. The proposed new rates will still offer a substantial concession, especially for lightweight publications, some of which weigh less than 1 oz. In fact, there are many cases where the Post Office processes and delivers six or more individually addressed items for a total return of only lc. lt is therefore proposed that a minimum charge for each article shall be associated with the bulk postage rates. Even then a 1 oz registered publication will COM only 4c, or one-tenth of the other articles rate which will apply normally to printed matter.
The bulk rate for newspapers and periodicals in the domestic service is now limited to three major postal administrations, the others being Canada and the United States of America, both of which incur annual losses of many millions of dollars on this type of mail. Periodicals and newspapers posted at the bulk concession rate in Australia will continue to enjoy much better treatment than publications in Britain and New Zealand. For instance, a small monthly church paper weighing, say, twenty to the 1 lb, would cost the equivalent of about 3c each to post in Britain, as compared with lc at the proposed rate in Australia. In New Zealand, a thousand separately addressed papers each weighing 1 oz would attract postage equivalent to $20.83, compared with $5 at the proposed rate in Australia.
Discounts on postage of up to 25% will be available to large users, provided their mail is pre-sorted and certain other posting conditions are met. The actual discounts will vary according to the size of the consignment and the amount of pre-sorting by the customer. Details of numeric code addresses, called postcodes, will be given considerable publicity shortly and the inclusion of these codes in the addresses will be a requirement for discount mail from 1st July 1968. The current discount of 30% on postage for the householder mail service, by which articles addressed to ‘The Householder’, or in a similar manner, are delivered to each point in a designated area, will be increased to 40%. The higher discount will largely offset the proposed increase in the prime charge for this type of article. All of the new charges I have mentioned are covered by the Bill and it is proposed that they shall operate from 1st July 1967.
Other variations, details of which are set out in the statements available to honourable senators, will be effected by amendment of regulations or Executive action and will also operate from 1st July 1967. These variations include the commission on money orders and the fees on some postal orders, the charges for late fee and lor philatelic services. It will be necessary for the increases in domestic rates to be applied to several international rates for surface mail. The price for aerogrammes will be raised from 9c to 1 0c.
A new special mail dispatch service for highly urgent mail between the business areas of interstate capital cities will be introduced from the 1st July 1967. Through this service, mail posted soon after the close of business will be available for collection or be delivered early the following morning in all except the most distant capitals. This special mail despatch service will meet the need for a highly reliable overnight mail service for urgent items which cannot, be posted until after normal mail closing time. Because of the extra costs involved in providing such a service, the postage to be charged will be double the ordinary postage rates applicable to letters, other articles or parcels, whichever category of mail is involved. Where appropriate, the present airmail fee of 3c per oz would also be payable.
As experience is gained with the demand for the special mail dispatch service, its extension to cover other posting and delivery areas will be considered. Full details of posting points, closing times, and other necessary information in respect of the new special mail dispatch service, will be publicised through the usual media. The postal charges proposed will bring in additional earnings of about $30m in 1967-68. With the extra revenue thus available, the postal service may be expected to break even on its trading, taking one year with another, over the next few years.
The public telegraph service is at present operating at a loss, estimated at about $2m yearly. The current rates for ordinary telegrams of 30c for the first twelve words and Se for each additional two words have remained substantially unchanged since 1956, apart from a minor adjustment in 1964 to the basic rate for telegrams to be transmitted over a distance of up to fifteen miles. It is proposed to make a charge, applicable from the 1st July 1967. for an ordinary rate message of 36c for the first twelve words and 3c for each additional word. Double the ordinary rates will continue to be charged for urgent telegrams.
Higher wage rates and rising capital charges associated with the heavy and rapidly growing expenditure on new facilities are having a pronounced effect on the profitability of telecommunications operations. As a result, a profit of $ 10.2m in 1965-66 is expected to be reduced by more than half in 1966-67 and a loss of some millions of dollars is anticipated in 1967- 68. Adequate and effective communications services are vital to the continued expansion of our economy but the consequent heavy and rising demand for capital imposes growing problems for the Commonwealth Budget. The Budget appropriation for Post Office capital works in 1966-67 was $202. 7m, about 95% being for telecommunications facilities. Much of this was needed for facilities to give effective and economic service to the existing 2.200,000 subscribers.
With Government commitments in other areas rising, the national interest requires us to find ways and means of minimising budgetary problems associated with Post Office capita] funding. An important factor, therefore, in telecommunications charges for the future is the extent to which telephone subscribers may reasonably be expected to contribute something extra, over and above the overall operating costs of the service, to help in meeting the costs of developing and expanding the service. The capital works programme for 1967-68 and subsequent years should be at a level adequate to meet the needs of the existing subscribers for expanded and improved facilities and at the same time provide for extension of the network to meet the needs of new subscribers and to reduce the waiting applicant list as quickly as possible.
After taking all factors into account, it is proposed that there should be some increases in telephone charges to take effect from 1st July 1967. Details of these are shown in the statements which I am presenting to the Senate. All of the adjustments will be made by regulations or administrative action. It is proposed to increase the local call charge from 3ic to 4c and to make corresponding adjustments in trunk rates. It will be the first increase in such charges since 1959, apart, from a few minor adjustments in trunk line rates just before the introduction of decimal currency. Charges for some miscellaneous telecommunications facilities and services are also proposed to increase annual earnings from this source by about 20% but a reduction will be made in the charges for longer distance private telegraph lines. No changes arc proposed in rentals for telephone exchange services nor in the telephone connection fee.
I am sure honourable senators will agree that the Post Office is a higly efficient organisation and I can assure them that it will continue to operate effectively in the interests of the business community and the public generally. The adjustments in charges proposed for operation from 1st July 1967, have been considered carefully and represent, reasonable charges for the services provided. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) LI 0.47] - I am taking this opportunity, under the forms of the Senate, to raise the question of Papua and New Guinea because it seems to me to be the only chance that I will have in this Parliament to do so. Having just spent a further nine days in Papua and New Guinea, I feel that some of the problems of the people there should be raised in this Parliament, otherwise they will have no representation in the Australian Parliament at all, and the people of Australia will not be made aware of their problems.
The first thing I want to mention is that independence for Papua and New Guinea is one thing that should never be mentioned up there because, on a favourable estimate, less than 0.1%, of the population of Papua and New Guinea are interested in independence. I have said before and I repeat now that it is time we took a strong line with the United Nations and told it to keep its nose out of Papua and New Guinea and to let the Australian Government decide when the time is opportune for granting independence to the people of that Territory. We have been urged on by the United Nations to do something for (he native population as fast as possible. They are now bending over backwards in the Territory to please the United Nations, to the detriment of the interests of the native people.
When one goes to the Territory one finds, that outside Port Moresby there is not one native member of the House of Assembly nor any native that one talks to who is in the least interested in independence. All the talk about independence comes from the educated few at Port Moresby. One can readily see that these few, who are the only educated ones there at the moment, are trying to grasp the reins of government. They want to expedite the day when they can take over the government and be the elite of Papua and New Guinea.
J am sorry to say that there is an clement of white people there, mainly intellectual white people, who are encouraging the natives to press on for independence although they are not ready for it. When we analyse these people who press for independence, we find that most of them are job conscious. They are worried about the positions they now hold. They are worried about the advent of independence because they want to be on the right side of the fence when it comes and continue in their jobs. I am not being very cynical about this because all of the white people to whom I spoke who are trying to push independence have rather senior jobs which they want to keep.
– Yes I do, especially in relation to the university, which 1 regard as an example of gross extravagance in a country which cannot even support technical schools, which it needs so badly; those there at present are doing a magnificent job. Mere is a country of uneducated people which needs primary schools, secondary schools and technical schools - and we give it a university. It is a good thing to give these people a university, but who is paying for it? The taxpayers of Australia are paying for it. There are fifty-one fulltime students at that university. Can any State in the Commonwealth afford a university to serve only fifty-one full-time students, thirty part-time students and, to be fair, some thirty students at the medical college which will be incorporated in the university next year? There are ten professors for those fifty-one full-time students.
Sena’.or Devitt - What are the faculties?
– -Arts, law and science.
– What about medicine?
– I have just mentioned that there is a medical college which will be incorporated in the university next year. Medicine is not a university subject yet. To build up its own esteem the university has incorporated what might be called a pre-matriculation year. This is part of the school system in other places and forms no part of the university, but in order to swell its numbers the university has directed that anyone who wishes to enter the university has to do virtually a matriculation year as the first year course. Although this swells the numbers it does not mean a thing. When I spoke to the Vice-Chancellor about the matriculation year and asked whether it had an equivalent in any university in Australia he had to admit that it did not. Here is a university with ten professors each being paid the equivalent of $11,000 a year plus a few perks. It has a registrar, the vicechancellor, the secretary, acting registrar and so on down the line, all paid with Australian money. The cost is tremendous. The fifty-one full-time students at the university could well be sent to Australia, where they would learn Australian ways. In addition, that would be far cheaper than what we are doing now. I mention the university only to show how this is being pushed ahead even though it does not have sufficient students to warrant the vast amount of money being spent on it.
The same thing applies to the medical college, which I criticised three or four years ago as a second rate school. On that occasion I said that the graduates from that college would never be accepted in Australia. I spoke to the Dean of the medical school and it is apparent that he is trying to broaden the course. He is doing a considerable amount of good, but a first-class doctor will not be produced in New Guinea. First year medicine, which I agree is a complete waste of time, has been eliminated, but the expedient has now been adopted of sending the medical students into the country during their third year to do a year of rural work. In Australian universities we are trying extremely hard to ensure that undergraduates do at least a fortnight, if not a month, in general practice and that they do a post-graduate course with a general practitioner. The purpose of the rural training is to give them training out in the field. Originally this training lasted for two months, and 1 think that position is true today. I was told by the Dean that it is proposed to extend the training to a period of twelve months. I have read in the Press a comment by the Dean on my statement. He said that the extension had not yet been approved, but judging by the way he spoke to me it seemed obvious that it would be approved. I asked the Dean why the period should be twelve months and he said that it saved having the students at the university for a whole year. It is a rather shortsighted plan because at the end of three years they will have caught up again and the amount of money spent on training will bi exactly the same as it was when the four year course was conducted. In Australia the medical course takes six years. If a year is to be taken out of a medical student’s training in New Guinea that means he will do only a four year course and, of course, his qualifications will not be accepted in Australia. The reason for the change is the attitude of the United Nations. We can now say to the United Nations: ‘We are turning out doctors. Look at what we are doing for the natives. Are we not wonderful?’ I think the whole thing smells. The natives are being urged on and on in order that they may be educated, but they are not being educated. They are being pushed so far that they will themselves resent the attitude of the United Nations.
– The honourable senator is not a member of the Ku Klux Klan, is he?
– No, nor Jo I belong to the Cargo Cult. I wish now to refer to the plight of settlers on many plantations at Sangara and Wangaroi. These people have been put on the land and have been given a lump sum and told to carry on. Now through the Cantharides bug their cocoa crops are being destroyed. Their cocoa crops are also affected by ‘die back’ which at Wangaroi is causing the complete break up of plantations. It is very doubtful whether the settlers can stay on their plantations. I have raised this matter because people buying private plantations in Papua and New Guinea can obtain loans from the Development Bank. The Bank makes sure that its investment is safeguarded. It sends out to the plantations every three to six months economists, agronomists and cocoa plant advisers who tell the settlers what they should be doing. Of course, the Bank is supplying our money. The Government does not send out economists and agronomists to the people it has put on plantations. Certainly it provides agricultural advisers but no check is kept on the way the settlers spend their money. Many of the settlers have spent their money extremely foolishly. Some settlers have brought troubles on themselves because of their method of spending the money given to them.
I am not sure whether a Minister in the chamber represents the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes). However, I make a plea to the Government that these settlers should be provided with interest free loans to fight the Cantharides bug and save their crops so that they may repay the loans made to them. I am sure that there is no purpose in raising this matter through placing a question on the notice paper. It would be disregarded, like everything else on the notice paper. I suggest that members of the Opposition should all ask why their questions on the notice paper have not been answered. The answer to one question on the notice paper has been given privately, but the question is still on the notice paper because it has not been answered by the Minister. I refer to question 95. If I were to place on the notice paper a question about the matter I have raised nothing would happen. It would go down the line and even if I were not re-elected it would still be on the notice paper. It would be a fitting memorial. I do not know which Minister is interested in this matter. None seems to be. I am not sure which Minister in this chamber represents the Minister for Territories. I have forgotton.
– The honourable senator should know.
– Perhaps J should, but I am not the know-all that some senators are.
– Would the honourable senator like me to look up the name of the Minister who represents the Minister for Territories?
– Yes, 1 would, so that I could then ask him about this matter. I know that it is Mr Barnes, but I want to know who his representative is in this chamber.
– lt is Senator Gorton.
– 1 hope it is conveyed to him that I have suggested the establishment of a Senate select committee or a joint select committee to be the sort of standing committee such as those on defence and foreign affairs and to take an interest in New Guinea. So far as I can see we are rapidly destroying New Guinea and tomorrow it could be another Kenya; there is no doubt whatever about that.
– What is wrong with Kenya?
– There is nothing wrong with Kenya, but a lot of bloodshed could take place before a peaceful settlement is reached. That is what we are trying to avoid in Vietnam, but we perpetuate it. lt is easier to do something in Papua and New Guinea than in Kenya. Some active people there are already reaching out for self government so rapidly that they could easily say, ‘Let us throw out the white people now.’ Of course, I am speaking of only 0.1% of the people, because everywhere in the back country no-one wants independence.
I shall not take up much of the time of the Senate with my next point, but having gained a point with regard to the customs declaration for people coming into Australia I wish to mention another form. No acknowledgement has ever been made to me by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) since 1 raised the customs declaration question in this House about a year ago, when I claimed that the declaration was an absurdity. I now ask the honourable senator who represents in this chamber the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) to suggest that the Minister read the form of declaration that has to be made out by people who seek to enter Papua and New Guinea. If any Australian citizen seeks to enter Papua - which is part of Australia - he has to fill in an entry form. If I ridicule this form I hope it will do the same good as when 1 ridiculed the customs declaration form. I have in mind that the Minister for Customs and Excise is busy, so I shall not ridicule him, but this form for entry to Papua requires Australian citizens to answer a long list of questions that are completely irrelevant to the business of entry. I do not know why an Australian citizen has to declare who his children are and where they were born.
– lt might be difficult for some people.
– It might be, but what reason is there for having to produce a birth certificate in respect of one’s children, as well as declaring information in regard to their age. address and business? What has that to do with entry to Papua and New Guinea?
– The person concerned might be trying to desert his children.
– That might be so, but I regard it as another red tape, bureaucratic form that is completely unnecessary; indeed it is just as unnecessary as the customs declaration that I have mentioned. When I submitted that the customs declaration form should be abolished I was abused by the Minister for Customs and Excise, who said, as reported in Hansard of 22 September 1966, page 673:
We are trying to make sure that there is full end gainful employment for our people. All these things are inherent in the procedure to which the honourable senator has referred but he has not the brains to sec it. He does not understand how elementary it is. The purpose of asking a series of questions on a form is to make sure that if people are found to have brought something in illegally, there will bc a declaration that they have signed.
Despite this, nine months afterwards the Minister abolished the declaration form. I am happy he listened to me, and that is why I am raising the subject of the entry form that has to be completed by people who seek to enter Papua and New Guinea. If I ridicule this form as much as 1 did the customs form, something might bc done about it. In the same speech on 22 September the Minister, when referring to me, went on to say:
The honourable member thinks he is extraordinary
I am not disagreeing with him there -
He gol into this place and now he tries to make a joke of everything. This is serious business. If we did not have measures for the proper protection of our primary industries and also for the health of our people through quarantine regulations, where would we be?
I suggest that we would be exactly where we arc now with the declaration that was mentioned on that occasion. Of course, the Minister has said in this Senate how pleased the customs people were with the abolition of the declaration. The Minister, who virtually abused me for raising the matter, made that acknowledgment. I now raise the question of the entry form into Papua and New Guinea, and I ask honourable senators to obtain a copy of the form so that they may read the stupid, silly questions contained in it. Before an Australian citizen can enter an Australian land - for Papua belongs to Australia and New Guinea is a trust territory - he has to fill in this form. I have raised this point because it is possible for me to raise it only when Papua and New Guinea are being discussed. I have made a few facetious remarks, but I have raised some serious problems that affect the people. Although the Government might abuse me for some of the things I have said during this speech I hope it will take notice of what I have said, just as It did previously when I made some other facetious remarks.
– I intervene in this debate mainly to comment on some of the statements made by
Senator Turnbull, especially those relating to the University of Papua and New Guinea. I know that the honourable senator recently visited the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and I understand that he met the vice-chancellor of the university. Also, he made a statment to the Australian Broadcasting Commission which I heard broadcast over the radio in the Territory. The burden of his statement was that there were fifty-one full time students and ten professors and that he considers this a very great waste of money. 1 ask the Senate to consider certain other aspects of this matter, for I believe that unless Senator Turnbull’s statement is examined in the correct perspective honourable senators might get altogether the wrong idea. The Currie Commission, which consisted of three eminent persons, made a report to the Minister. who eventually submitted it to Parliament, in which it recommended the establishment of a university for Papua and New Guinea; the establishment of this university in Port Moresby; the taking into account of the existing state of primary and secondary education; and in which it included a warning to the Government, and consequently to the Parliament, that, gauged on normal university activities in the States of Australia, the establishment of a university in the Territory would be a very expensive operation. However, it is unfair to say that there are only fifty-one full time students and tea professors and that the ten professors would receive so many hundreds of thousands of dollars among them, and so on, for teaching just fifty-one students. One must remember that secondary education in Papua and New Guinea has been operating for a comparatively few years, and that hardly a person who has completed secondary education there is yet ready in the normal sense for tertiary education. When judging the position of this university one must take into account that there is a preliminary year. I cannot tell honourable senators how many students are in the preliminary year, but I should say that there would be at least fifty. Therefore, at the present time instead of dealing with fifty-one full time students and twenty part time students, the university deals with possibly 130 students altogether, including students in the preliminary year that had to be established because of the lack of normal secondary education facilities.
At the present time this University operates in some temporary buildings. I visited the University last year when the preliminary year students, of whom there are about fifty, were out at the show grounds in the exhibition pavilions. They were being put through their preliminary year studies. I understand that practically all of the students who were in their preliminary year were passed as being fit to do their first year. I personally have met some of the professors of this University. They are young and dedicated men. In particular, I would like to refer to the Professor of Law. He is a man from one of the universities in Victoria. He is a young man who has gone to Papua and New Guinea with a mission* I understand that at the present time there are seventeen students in the first year of law. In the course of five or six years these seventeen students could be a tremendously valuable nucleus for the whole of the Administration, Iel: alone for private legal practice, in Papua and New Guinea.
As I see it, the great tragedy of the Congo was that when the Belgians left about eight years ago there was only a handful of people left with any university training at all. I believe that the University of Papua and New Guinea should not be judged by the fact that there are ten professors nd only fifty-one full time students. Obviously any university in its first year would commence only with first year students. It would be an entirely new concept. Its worth would hardly be known and it could hardly be evaluated in a country in which there are possibly 300 or 400 different languages spoken by hundreds of different ethnic groups. Consequently it is quite unfair to regard the University of Papua and New Guinea as being a waste of public money, just by referring to statistics, as Senator Turnbull did.
asked: ‘What about technical colleges? Why was not a technical college started?’ Already there are some technical schools in Papua and Ne w Guinea. I refer to the agricultural college at Vudal, which is near Rabaul. I have been there and have seen the work that has gone on there. In addition, there is a big project, which will cost, I think, approximately $3m, at Lae. I understand that the construction of the buildings is about to be commenced at Lae. There will be a technical college of great worth at Lae. 1 also refer to the special administrative college near Port Moresby, portion of the buildings of which are being used by the University at the present time. This is doing a magnificent job along what I would call ‘technical lines’ - the training of people in typing and clerical work for the civil service. There is also a police training college in Port Moresby which is turning out sub-inspectors of police at a tertiary level.
asked why this money should be expended on the University when other things are being neglected. 1 contend that other things are not being neglected at all and that Senator Turnbull should be fair to the Senate and acknowledge the fact that other things are not being neglected. I regard the University of Papua and New Guinea as being possibly a Melanesian university. It could take students from the Melanesian area. In time I hope that it will accept students from West Irian. I hope that in time it will accept students - it already has accepted one - from the British Solomon Islands Protectorate and from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. I think that Australia is doing a great job in establishing this University of Papua and New Guinea where the whole of Melanesian culture and learning can be focused. I do not regard it as being a waste of money at all, even though in its first year there are only fifty-one full time students.
In discussing the ability of these students with the Professor of Law, I got the impression that some Papuan and New Guinean law students are showing up equally as well as are part time European students who come out from Port Moresby to attend classes. In other words, they are not dull, even though some of them may have had a rather broken secondary education. But in the course of time the two million people of Papua and New Guinea will be providing a fine group of young people to attend this University. I think that the few million dollars that it will eventually cost Australia to establish this University will be money well spent. When it is considered that the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Dr Gunther, is a distinguished former civil servant of the Australian Government and of the Papua and New Guinea Administration, f think we are very fortunate in having him and in having professors of the calibre of those who are at the University. I entirely disagree with Senator Turnbull’s attack on the University of Papua and New Guinea. I think also that eventually the medical school will become part of the University and that together with its trainees it will be very useful.
While I am on my feet, I make the final point that I hope some day that the Australian Universities Commission will regard the University of Papua and New Guinea as a university which it ought to inspect and on which it ought to advise the Government. I understand that up to date this new University has not been brought under the surveillance of the Australian Universities Commission. I would earnestly suggest to the Government, particularly the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton), that this matter should be considered. I think that the orderly development of the University of Papua and New Guinea is of great importance to this Parliament. We have been receiving great help from the Australian Universities Commission’s work in relation to other universities. I think that the University of Papua and New Guinea should receive assistance, guidance, and if 1 may say so, direction from the Commission. I am sure that the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) would be grateful to have the expert advice that the Commission could give on the University of Papuan and New Guinea.
I am inclined to agree with Senator Turnbull on the other points which he made. The people of Papua and New Guinea, who are spread over the two Territories and their islands, are not in any way anxious to sever their connection with Australia. The intellectuals look upon this matter as an exercise. As Senator Turnbull said, perhaps there are people who are looking ahead for a job. But the rank and file of the native people in Papua and New Guinea is not in favour of this severance. With regard to the other point which Senator Turnbull made regarding entry forms, of course, these forms were designed by the Administration of Papua and New Guinea. Obviously it is a matter that the Administration finds important. Most of Senator Turnball’s points related to the question of quarantine and health. I think he would agree that questions relating to quarantine and health are very important in relation to people entering a country - whether it be Papua and New Guinea or Australia. On my recent visit to attend the Anzac Day ceremonies, 1 was not put about in answering the few simple questions that I was asked, mostly relating to quarantine matters.
– Because of the remarks made by some honourable senators about entry to New Guinea, I believe that J should place before the Senate representations that I have just received from an organisation of new Australians. The members of “this organisation, because of their own experience in seeking political asylum, are very much interested in the question of political asylum in New Guinea. I have received from the organisation a letter dated 1 0th May, which states:
Yesterday the Australian Government refused the plea of 23 West Irians to stay in Papua-New Guinea. In March 140 were turned back. The Minister for Territories, Mr Barnes, is reported to use the term ‘were permitted to return’.
Sir, after the second war hundreds of thousands of former Soviet citizens asking for political asylum from the Allied forces were also persuaded to return. That was done with the help of heavy weapons and tanks and only the good Lord knows where their graves arc today.
The Indonesian Govt, admits that from S-S January Indonesian armed forces were using heavy weapons and Air Force against rebels al Nerawake.
West Irian representative in Indonesian Parliament named casualties at 1,500 including women and children; Indonesian Council said 4; top officer in Jakarta 40. One can only guess how many after a battle of 2 weeks.
The Government officers at Port Moresby have refused to say what reason the majority of the 170 refugees gave for fleeing West Irian.
Sir, 350,000 Australian citizens of political refugee origin are very worried in what manner the Australian Government is solving this problem, and if international law of refugees is being implemented.
Those are serious statements and they deserve a serious reply. We all know the history of the incorporation of West Irian in Indonesia. We all know that Australia, after initially expressing its opposition, at a certain stage ceased to oppose what was done. But I think that all of us had certain reservations about what happened and I believe that many of us will be gravely concerned at any suggestion that we in Australia are nol implementing what are recognised international attitudes towards refugees, particularly those who are refugees on political grounds. The statements made in the communication that I have received are subject to examination as to their truth or otherwise. But I do not think it can be doubted that many new Australians who have faced this problem themselves have feelings of grave uneasiness. I hope that the Government will take steps to eliminate the causes of that uneasiness.
– Mr Deputy President, now that we have embarked on an excursion into New Guinea 1 think it convenient to mention a matter that has troubled me for some time. This is the question of trial by jury in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Apparently until 1964 there was, under the Jury Ordinance 1907-1956, trial by jury at least for persons of European descent charged with serious crimes such as capital offences. Perhaps I may refer to the passage dealing with this matter in the annual report for 1964-65 of the Territory of Papua. It reads:
One of the basic principles of English law is equal treatment of all in the courts, irrespective of race or nationality, and this principle is always observed throughout the Territory- The indigenous inhabitants have the right of free recourse to the courts and are guided in such matters by officers of the Department of District Administration and by the Public Solicitor, whom they may approach on any matter.
It is considered that at the present stage of development of the indigenous people, a judge sitting alone with the responsibilities of judge and jury still affords the best assurance of justice for an indigenous person on trial. The Jury Ordinance 1907-1956, which provided for persons of European descent charged with a capital offence to be tried before a jury of four persons, has been repealed. There is now no jury trial iri the Territory and the provision of the law regarding trial of issues is the same for persons of all races.
The report goes on to deal with matters such as penalties and capital punishment. The ordinance that effected the change was ordinance No. 49 of 1964. which provided:
A reference in any law in force in the Territory or a part of the Territory to a jury or to trial by jury shall be read, mutatis mutandis, as a reference to a Judge and a trial before a Judge.
The Australian Constitution provides, as I mentioned last night, that trial on indictment of any offence against the law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury. Let it not be thought, Sir, that trial by jury is sacrosanct in this community. We once thought it was. Even now many people would be surprised to learn that a citizen of this country, perhaps from New South Wales, could go to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea - always provided that he could get across the threshold to which Senator Turnbull referred - and there could be put on trial for his life on a charge of having committed an extremely serious offence, perhaps a capital offence, and would not be entitled to trial by jury though he was a citizen of Australia.
Let us not think that trial by jury is here to stay. All over the Commonwealth there has been a steady erosion of the right of trial by jury, not only in civil matters but also in criminal matters. Step by step this right has been eroded away. Now we are setting apart the people of Papua and New Guinea. We are gradually breaking down the barriers and abandoning trial by jury. We are setting the people of the Territory apart from the traditional legal principles that we have inherited. We are denying them the right to trial by jury. In order to achieve uniformity we arc destroying this principle altogether. Instead, we should be extending it and educating people to it. lt is nonsense to suggest, as is sometimes done, that people cannot bc found to serve on juries. They can be found in country towns. They can be found in countries like India. I have been to India and have heard Indian juries instructed in words almost exactly the same as those with which juries are instructed in the criminal courts at Darlinghurst in Sydney. Yet, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, we are setting the people apart and denying them this basic right. Once this happens, it is extremely difficult to get such a right back again. It is disturbing to me that this sort of thing can happen and that people who are extremely highly placed in the legal fraternity and in the community can be completely unaware of what is happening and can be shocked by and receive almost with incredulity the suggestion that such a thing could have happened in Papua and New Guinea. Yet it has happened.
– Mr President, as the discussion on the motion for the first reading of this Bill has taken the course of comments by a number of honourable senators on matters relating to Papua and New Guinea, I take the occasion to raise briefly an other matter which has been referred to me by the Public Service Association of Papua and New Guinea. It relates to a serious situation in the Territory concerning the standard of housing of indigenous public servants. Apparently the situation is that the housing conditions in the broad sense are, generally speaking, deplorable. A resume of the position as it exists was recently published in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 14th and 15th April. These articles came from a correspondent in New Guinea. Mr David White. As I understand the position, these articles accurately report a state of affairs which should attract, I think, the urgent attention of the Government.
The articles state:
The House of Assembly Public Accounts Committee has just completed a survey of the housing and is expected to table a highly critical report later this year.
The committee found that many indigenous public servants were without permanent housing and that many others were living in sub-standard and over-crowded Public Service homes.
It found that houses frequently lucked adequate sewerage, water and cooking facilities.
Many public servants had little or no furniture. Among the worst examples was a group of houses in the north-coast town of Madang, where 13 families were forced to share one pit toilet.
Reference is made to the situation in Vanimo, which is a town near the West Irian border. The acting district medical officer there, Dr Mellefont, made certain statements. The articles by Mr White state:
Or Mellefont said: ‘Speaking of the indigenous married quarters in particular they are undersize, under-ventilated and underlit ‘and there is no provision for toilets. There are open fireplaces and so on, and all these things are health hazards. 1 would say that if we wanted to design a house in which we could cultivate the spread of tuberculosis we would probably come up with something similar to this style of house. [ think these houses arc shocking - there is no room at all. It is all right for the average indigenous person who has a family of two to live in them, but when a man has five or six children it is absolutely hopeless. Vanimo is a fairly disgusting station from the sanitation viewpoint in that there are a lot of houses without toilet facilities. For instance, at the hospital there are only two toilets for the single boys who share a common mess and ablutions block, and so forth. However these are the only toilets in the area and the families of the hospital orderlies also have to use these toilets.
One could recite other instances that are given in these articles, which place the matter in perspective in this way:
There are, of course, a number of the 10,000 Papuans and New Guineans in the Territory Public Service who are well housed. And it is true that the Administration is gradually improving the housing situation.
The House of Assembly Public Accounts Committee found this month that many Public servants - perhaps a majority of them- are living in substandard conditions.
I raise this matter and ask that it be given close consideration. It is the view of the Public Service Association of Papua and New Guinea that the only solution is the urgent injection of funds into the Territory for the purpose of providing better housing facilities, and the matter is urgent. I suggest that this is one of those many serious problems relating to Papua and New Guinea that should engage the serious attention of the Government when it is considering She provisions for Papua and New Guinea in the Budget for 1967-68.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill and of the associated Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1966- 67 is to obtain Parliamentary authority for expenditure for which provision was not made in the Appropriation Bills Nos. 1 and No. 2 of 1966-67. The total appropriations sought in this Bill amount to $270,869,000.
The various items included in this Bill can be considered in detail in Committee and I propose at this stage to refer only to some of the major provisions. Further appropriations totalling $8. 7m are required for departmental salaries mainly because of the increases in salary rates arising from the national wage cases, reclassifications of offices and additional staff. The additional requirement for departmental administrative expenses is $7. 9m, including $1.3m for the referendums to be held this month. Additional appropriations amounting to $ 17.2m for departmental other services include $9m for emergency food aid to India, $1.6m for Commonwealth university scholarships - tuition fees and allowances - and $2. 3m for repatriation pensions and benefits.
An additional amount of S23m is sought in the appropriations of the Service departments to carry out the current defence programme, but as a result of shortfalls in expenditure under other appropriations mainly in respect of deferred payments on aircraft purchases, lags in shipbuilding and deliveries of stores, the estimated total expenditure on Defence Services for the year is not expected to exceed the original appropriation of $886.2m.
At the time of the Budget, it was tentatively estimated that net loan raisings and drawings against defence credits in the United States of America would fall short of the excess of expenditure over receipts by about S270m. However, mainly because of the uncertainties that attach to the various estimates - particularly the estimate of net loan raisings - it was not possible to estimate precisely the amount that it would be necessary to obtain by way of temporary borrowings to finance the shortfall. Because of this, authority to borrow up to $300m and to use the proceeds to finance expenditure on defence services, was obtained in the Loan Act (No. 2) 1966. The amount that will have to bc obtained by way of temporary borrowings could prove to be substantially less than originally expected - in which case it would not. be necessary, in order to make these borrowings, to use to anything like the full extent the existing authority to charge expenditure on defence services to Loan Fund. If, however, a large proportion of the total expenditure on defence services is to be charged to Consolidated Revenue rather than to Loan Fund, additional authority will be needed for this.
At this stage of the financial year it is still not possible to make any precise estimate of how much will have to be obtained by way of temporary borrowings and how much expenditure on defence services will have to be charged to Loan Fund. To cover all possible eventualities, therefore, we are seeking authority to charge to Consolidated Revenue up to $200m of the expenditure on Defence Services which we are presently authorised to charge to Loan Fund. This will not affect the total of expenditure on Defence Services; it will simply provide scope for altering the distribution of such expenditure as between the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the Loan Fund.
Under Business Undertakings an additional amount of$1 2m is sought, including $8.3m for the Postmaster-General’s Department mainly to cover increases in salaries and wages$1. 7m for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and$1. 7m for the Commonwealth Railways. Additional appropriations totalling $2.4m are sought for the Territories, including $1.4m for the Northern Territory and $0.9m for the Australian Capital Territory. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in 1966-67 amounting to $12,742,000 on various items relating to capital works and services, payments to or for the States and certain other services. Although additional appropriations of $ 10.9m are sought for capital works and services, it is expected that after allowing for savings in other appropriations the total expenditure on capital works and services will not exceed the Budget estimate of $467m by more than about $8m. The major requirements are$1.lm for war service homes, $4m for capital expenditure on telephone and telegraphic services, $729,000 for acquisition of sites and buildings and$770,000 for expenditure of the National Capital Development Commission. Additional appropriations of $1.5m are sought for payments to or for the States, including $900,000 for research grants and $625,000 for flood relief in Queensland. An additional amount of $265,000 is required for other services. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10 May (vide page 1289), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Senate concurs in the Resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 30 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That the provisions of the Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by Message.
Upon which Senator McManus had moved by way of amendment: ). At end of paragraph (1), add - subjectto the following modification - That at the end of paragraph (2) the following words be added - ‘and one Senatorto be appointed by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate’.’
– I suggest that the two amendments be taken together. There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– This motion deals with the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I understand that an agreement has been reached between the leaders of the parlies in the other House - and,I assume, with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) - on the amendments that have been moved. Therefore, I have no opposition to those amendments. However, 1 point out that this is not a parliamentary committee in the strict sense; rather is it a ministerial committee. What was said on an earlier occasion in respect of amendments similar to these amendments with regard to the constitution of a select committee of the Senate is not properly applicable to the constitution of a committee such as this one.
– Firstly, in relation to what has fallen from Senator Murphy, I make the observation that the constitution appropriate to a committee depends entirely on the circumstances. I suggest that the Foregin Affairs Committee is a committee of the Parliament which is appointed by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament and which deals with a subject of transcending national importance. Secondly it gives me great pleasure to see that there is no attempt within the Parliament to exclude from representation on this Committee a party that has played a notable part in the development of the foreign policy of this country, particularly in the Pacific area, over the past fifteen critical years. I merely express my pleasure that the Australian Labor Party will now participate in this Committee and will bring all its energy and consideration to the formulation of policy for the security of our country and the point of view that will guide us in our foreign affairs.
– I have no objection whatever to the Australian Democratic Labor Party being mentioned specifically; but on general grounds f object strongly to the fact that, because that Party has some power with the Government, the Government is prepared to agree to its nominating a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. There are other members of the Parliament. At one stage there was only one independent senator. Al the present moment there are two. Tomorrow there could well be three. There is the possibility of an increase in the number of senators on this side of the chamber. I object to the independents being completely obliterated, as far as the Government is concerned, in all parliamentary matters. Not only in this matter but also in other parliamentary matters we are given no rights. Yet at the moment the two independent senators represent one-thirtieth of the number of senators, just as the two Democratic Labor Party senators do. I rise to protest. Obviously the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party are in agreement on this matter and have the support of the Democratic Labor Party, I presume. Therefore, nothing will be done about what 1 have said; but I voice my protest.
– I wish to reply to Senator Turnbull. He knows my approach to and feelings about independents in the Senate. There is no need for me to repeat them. He raises a protest. He raises it in ignorance, because he had all the forms of the Senate that the Democratic Labor Party had to enable him to move a similar amendment to the one that the Democratic Labor Party has moved, in order to secure whatever he wants for himself and the other independent senator, if he represents that other independent senator. I do not know whether the Senate has an independent party. All the forms of the Senate are available to the honourable senator. So what is he protesting about? He does not understand, if he does not make himself conversant with the forms of the Senate, which he is entitled to use just as the Democratic Labor Party has used them, he cannot rightly protest. So his protest must be dismissed. The only reason why no amendment comes from him is that he is ignorant.
I understood the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to say that he was supporting these amendments. 1 could not understand why he moved that the debate be adjourned yesterday. I thought this was a simple proposition - one on which he could have made a decision yesterday. I understood him to say this morning that he understood that some arrangement had been made in the other place. I do not consult this ‘other place’ about little decisions such as this one. I believe that this was a very small decision to make. So I could not understand why the Leader of the Opposition moved that the debate be adjourned. The Government will support the amendments.
– I think it is only right that I should express pleasure on behalf of my Party that the amendments giving us representation on the Foreign Affairs Committee are unopposed.
– Nol exactly.
– Senator Turnbull made it clear that he did not oppose the Australian Democratic Labor Party’s having representation. He merely made a plea that the claims of the independents should be recognised. I am grateful to all sections of the Senate which are prepared to recognise our claim to representation. I merely add that it would have been strange if we had been denied representation on the Foreign Affairs Committee because the DLP has had representation on the Committee ever since it was constituted. Senator Cole was a member of it on the first occasion when it was appointed. He remained a member until eventually I succeeded him. I might also point out that according to Hansard when my appointment was made on 26th August 1965, on a motion by the late Senator Paltridge, the Senate appointed the representative of the DLP as a full member of the Committee. Certain members w;re appointed only until such time as the Australian Labor Party made its members available. We were not among those who were, as it were, filling in for the ALP; we were appointed in our own right and I am pleased that the Senate is continuing that recognition.
Amendments agreed to.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
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 authorise the payment of up to SI 4.5m to assist the Stale of Tasmania in financing the cost of measures designed to alleviate the effects of the disastrous fires which occurred in that State during February of this year. Honourable senators will recall that on 7th March the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) announced in another place that the Government had agreed, in response to a request from the Premier of Tasmania, to provide the State with special financial assistance to enable it to undertake various restoration and relief measures. It was agreed that the actual measures to be taken would be State measures while the Commonwealth would provide adequate support for the State’s overall financial position.
There were consultations between the Commonwealth and the State and, as a result, agreement was reached between the two Governments on the terms on which assistance would be made available, the amounts that would be provided under the agreement and the precise measures of assistance to be undertaken by the State. Because there has been some comment as to the spheres of responsibility, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) recently discussed the matter with the Premier of Tasmania. He assured the Treasurer that he adheres explicitly to the terms of the agreement and has no wish to create the impression that there is anything but agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. He emphasised that, in his view, the proposed measures are the most generous ever known.
The measures which have been agreed between the two Governments include grants and loans for housing and loans to businesses and industry and to primary producers, in addition to expenditure on the relief of personal hardship and distress, emergency expenditure by State and local governments and expenditure on the restoration of public assets destroyed or damaged in the fires. I should point out that the assistance being afforded to individuals, businesses and primary producers on this occasion goes far beyond that provided in any similar instance in the past. In particular, there is no precedent to the assistance being provided for what can be described as insurable risks.
It is estimated that the maximum amount of Commonwealth assistance will be S 14.5m, and, accordingly, provision is made for the appropriation of this amount in the Bill. The Bill provides that the terms and conditions of the Commonwealth financial assistance are to be as determined by the Commonwealth Treasurer. Honourable senators will be glad to know, however, that agreement has been reached on this matter with the Tasmanian Government. It has been agreed that the Commonwealth’s financial assistance to the State will be provided partly by way of interestfree loans and partly by way of grants. The level of the assistance provided by the Commonwealth in each form will be related to the proportions in which the expenditures by the State on the agreed relief and rehabilitation measures take the form of loans and grants, respectively.
Under the terms of the agreement, Commonwealth assistance will be provided by ay of grant and loans for the followingtegories of estimated expenditure by the ate:
Relief payments from the Government Fund including payments to primary producers, commerce and industry to meet debts; assistance to primary producers left without income and emergency assistance to fire-affected primary producers in purchasing fodder for livestock; payments to non-profit organisations, to persons who in certain circumstances lost motor vehicles or tractors while fighting the fires and miscellaneous emergency payments. Grants S75O,000; Loans Nil; Total- $750,000.
Grants to enable the State to provide minimum standard housing and to meet the cost in excess of insurance recoveries. Loans to finance loans by the States for re-mortgaging, where mortgages have been paid off from insurance and funds are no longer available, and to enable the State Agricultural Bank to provide loans to those wishing to build slightly higher standard houses.
Loans to enable the Stale to make advances to businesses and industry destroyed or affected by the fires. Grants Nil; Loans $1,000,000; Total $1,000,000.
Loans to enable the State to make advances to primary producers for the rehabilitation of fire-damaged farms. Grants Nil; Loans $5,000,000; Total $5,000,000.
Assistance by way of grants for the restoration of public assets - including some betterment where appropriate. Grants $1,250,000; Loans Nil; Total $1,250,000.
In addition to relief payments financed from the Government fund, the Commonwealth is to provide grant assist ance to recoup the Slate for emergency expenditures arising from the fires. Grants $800,000; Loans Nil; Total $800,000.
As indicated in the table above, outright grants to the State are expected to total $6. 8m. The estimated advances of $7. 7m are to be made available to the State on an interest free basis for a period of fifteen years but repayments will not commence until the fourth year of the loan and will then be made in twelve equal annual instalments. It has been agreed that the State will charge interest, where appropriate, on advances for housing and on loans to businesses and primary producers. The interest thus received will be available to cover administrative costs and also to enable the State to meet any losses arising from bad debts. Should the interest received by the State be in excess of these requirements, that excess is to be applied to reduce the State’s financial dependence on the Commonwealth. It is expected that the assistance being provided to Tasmania will be spread over a period of three years, including the current financial year.
Over the years it has consistently been the policy of the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance to States in the event of natural disasters where the cost of the appropriate measures of relief had clearly been beyond the resources of the State governments concerned. Usually this assistance has been limited to half the cost to the State government of the relief of personal hardship and distress, emergency expenditure by the State government and expenditure on the restoration of public assets damaged or destroyed in the disasters. In the case of the recent widespread drought, as well as not imposing any matching requirements, the Commonwealth Government recognised that the States concerned would need to provide loans to primary producers to enable them to carry on and, ultimately to restock when the drought had ended. Accordingly Commonwealth assistance is being provided to enable the States to make available to primary producers the necessary loan finance, where this is not available through normal commercial channels.
The measures being undertaken by the Tasmanian Government towards which the Commonwealth has agreed to provide assistance, go considerably beyond those which the Commonwealth supported in the case of the drought and no matching requirement is attached to the Commonwealth assistance. In adopting this approach, the Government has been actuated by the very special circumstances of the Tasmanian disaster. I want to make it very clear that the scope and level of Commonwealth assistance in this case must not be taken as a precedent to be followed in the event of natural disasters occurring in other States, as undoubtedly they will. This applies particularly to the scheme for housing assistance. In all, over 1,300 houses were destroyed in the fire as a result of which some thousands were made homeless in the space of a few hours. A disaster of this magnitude in a comparatively small community called for extraordinary measures and it is for this reason that the Commonwealth agreed to support the proposals for re-housing that were announced by the Premier shortly after the 7th February.
The Government has also had regard to the special position of Tasmania as the smallest State in the Commonwealth, the State most heavily dependent on the Commonwealth for financial assistance and the State whose economy could least bear the impact of a disaster of this type and magnitude. It also recognises that Tasmania, as a claimant State, does not have available independent financial resources to enable it to bear more than a small share of the financial burden of the measures necessary to meet the situation. Consequently, the Commonwealth has indicated that it is prepared to meet by far the greater part of the cost of rehabilitation measures and this Bill will authorise the payment of up to Si 4.5 million for this purpose. Because it has no independent financial resources, the State’s contribution is expected to be limited to the $750,000 it will be making available for the relief of personal hardship and distress.
Honourable senators will, of course, be aware that a very successful public appeal was conducted by the Governor of Tasmania and that over $4 million has been subscribed to the Governor’s Relief Fund. In addition, of course, a very large sum is being paid out by insurance companies in Tasmania. All told, it has been estimated that the total expenditure from all sources on relief and restoration following the fires may be as high as $35 million or even more. This is a very large amount indeed, the expenditure of which will have significant effects in the comparatively small area adversely affected by the fires. 1 feel confident that with the measures we are supporting we can look forward to a very complete restoration of the fire-damaged areas of the State. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Devitt) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 10 May (vide page 1353).
– I think I should cover some of the ground that we had reached when the Senate adjourned last night. During the evening, the second reading of the Bill was passed; the Opposition indicating its general support of the Bill. Then it was decided to take the Bill as a whole. In the circumstances. I am beginning to wonder whether that was the best technique to adopt. However, we committed ourselves to that course and I think that with a bit of co-operation from all hands we will cope.
I have now had the opoprtunity of rending the Hansard pull of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) last night. As I understood his speech, he concentrated the criticism he offered on the penalty clause, which is clause 20 and I propose to deal with the points that he made. I am conscious that this morning he handed me a copy of an amendment he proposes to move in relation to this clause but I think it is not proper for me to discuss the proposed amendment until it is moved and the Committee has had the advantage of listening to the arguments he wants to adduce in support of it. So I shall not go into that particular aspect now.
The first proposition put by Senator Murphy was that there was undue haste wilh relation to the consideration of this Bill and he set about attempting to make a powerful case in connection wiLh this point. Although it is not recorded in the Hansard pull that I have, as I recall the position, Senator McClelland, in a loud voice - and we were on the air al the time - said: ‘We have not even had time to read the interpretations’.
– The Schedule.
– Very well- the Schedule. But I remind the Committee that the second reading was moved on 4th May. A short time before that, on the same Jay, immediately I had received a clean copy of the Bill, I made it available to the Leader of the Opposition.
– We had a stack of other legislation.
– He was saying that the paper work is terrific.
– I let the honourable senator have a very good go last night, and 1 think that in fairness he should do the same for mc.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition meant-
– The Leader of the Opposition, who is an eminent lawyer, is capable of saying for himself what hi meant, and I am going to hold him to what he said. Will the honourable senator please let me make my speech? He can have a go afterwards for as long as he likes and 1 will not give him any worry. I wanted to point out that the argument that Senator Murphy used was quite unfair because in fact he had had a week plus some hours to consider the Bill. and. as I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will admit, 1 made officers of my Department available to him. As for Senator McClelland’s interjection, all 1 can say is that he must be an awfully slow reader. Perhaps he has had other things to occupy his mind in more recent times. The facts are that the argument put with some force by Senator Murphy is not valid. Senator Murphy did not put this up as a trifling argument. He submitted it as his first argument, so it must have had some significance in his mind. But it does not hold water because in fact there was a week between the presentation of the Bill for second reading and the resumption of the debate. I had given Senator Murphy the assurance that the Bill would not come on for discussion until after his party had had time to consider it in caucus.
Senator Murphy referred to the Constitution in an effort to support his arguments. He trotted out the Constitution and then proceeded to argue on the principle that there should be a bench mark of twelve months in relation to summary offences. He then proceeded to destroy his own argument. I want to reply to him with some particularity.
He referred to section 80 of the Constitution which, as he pointed out, provides that the trial on indictment of an offence against a law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury. He also pointed out that this provision was the subject of judicial interpretation by the High Court many years ago and the High Court had held that provision to mean that jury trial was required only where the proceedings against the accused person h..d been instituted by the procedure known as ‘indictment’. I now come to the nicest part of this argument. The honourable senator went on to suggest that the High Court decision was of doubtful authority. I know the honourable senator’s legal eminence, but I am rather surprised at the stand he takes in relation to that.
– Is the Minister referring to the speech he made yesterday?
– Yes. I am referring to the speech the honourable senator made yesterday. As I understood his speech, from my reading of it in the Hansard pull, he argued that all serious offences should fall within section 80 of the Constitution and be tried by jury. I feel that 1 should not let the honourable senator’s remarks go without comment. From inquiries I have made, it appears that the High Court decision referred to by the honourable senator has always been acted upon by the courts of law in this country. That is important to remember. Any criticisms that have been made of the decision have been made by legal writers and similar people. But the decision stands and, as 1 understand the position, there has never been any serious suggestion that it would be overruled in the way in which the honourable senator has suggested.
Most of us here are lay people. Senator Murphy dangled the Australian Constitution in front of us but then he backed away from it to a degree by suggesting that the ruling of the High Court in relation to this matter has been accepted. Nevertheless, he told us the position he believed we should adopt. I do not think he advanced a very good argument and, quite frankly, I think he would have been well advised not to have produced the argument at all, because it did not help his case. After all, the law of the land is the law of the land. Some people may say that it is a bad law or it may not be acceptable to certain people for purposes of argument, but the fact remains that the law under discussion is the law of the land and it has been supported by the highest court in Australia.
– But the principle may still survive.
– That may be so, but it was not argued with us on that basis. Senator Murphy intended to impress us with the Constitution. He proposed a penalty of imprisonment for one year in lieu of the two years imprisonment and the $1,000 penalty. I want to make it perfectly clear that that was Senator Murphy’s inferential argument, but if one looks at page 1352 of Hansard one can see spelled out quite clearly that he suggested the penalty should be imprisonment for one year. However, as Senator Gair very properly interjected, that means a reduction in penalty. In case there is any doubt about what Senator Murphy said last night I shall read from Hansard. He asked:
Why does not the Government provide in any event that the penalty should not exceed one year?
– Ten years may be the maximum but one year on summary conviction.
– I make the same comment to Senator Wheeldon as I made to Senator Cohen - if he has something to say he will have plenty of opportunities to say it.
– That is not the correct interpretation. I had been addressing myself to that aspect earlier when my time expired and the Minister then gave me the opportunity to continue.
– So that there will be no misunderstanding I will read Senator Murphy’s remarks on to the record. After expressing thanks to me he said:
If what I have suggested cannot be done, I ask alternatively: Why does not the Government provide in any event that the penalty should not exceed one year? That provision would be in line with the classic thread which runs through the Constitution.
– On summary conviction.
– That is right. There it is in Hansard. It is on the record for all time.
– It is not the record. It is taken out of context.
– It is in the daily Hansard. In a climate in which we are introducing legislation to provide heavy penalties for certain offences, Senator Murphy suggested by argument that the penalty on summary conviction should be reduced to one year. In fairness to him, let me say that he docs not quibble with the heavy penalty of up to ten years imprisonment on an indictable offence but he did advance the proposition that the light penalty of one year should be adopted on summary conviction. He cannot escape his own words.
In my reply to the second reading debate last night I said that the offences which will be dealt with by summary jurisdiction are still serious offences. One cannot escape that fact. If Senator Murphy pursues his argument he will have to live with the fact that, if we never have another Bill, the existing law contained in the Customs Act relating to narcotics and even to offences in relation to literature provides for a penalty of up to two years imprisonment or a fine of $1,000 or both, on summary conviction. Despite the sudden righteousness which is emerging, I remind honourable senators that the Customs Act has been in operation since 1910 and there have been ample opportunities since then for it to be amended.
I think Senator Murphy will agree with me when I say that, with all logic, the argument he is advancing now must be the argument he will advance when the Bill relating to penalties is before us, because the penalties in that Bill are identical with those prescribed in this Bill. The arguments he is advancing now will apply to the next piece of legislation. Section 233b of the Customs Act relates to prohibited imports such as narcotics and other things. For the convenience of the Committee I shall read only that part of the section which relates to penalties. It provides for a penalty of imprisonment for not less than three months and not more than two years for certain offences and it goes on: 233b. - (2.) This section shall apply to all prohibited imports to which the Governor-Genera) by proclamation declares that it shall apply.
I remind honourable senators that the proclamation dealt with narcotics and literature - (3.) An offence against this section shall be punishable on summary conviction. (4.) This section shall not prevent any person from being proceeded against for an offence against any other section of this Act, but he shall not be liable to be punished twice in respect of any one offence.
As Senator Murphy said last night, one would hope not. This provision has been in the Customs Act since 1910. I remind honourable senators that section 232, which was amended as late as 1963, provides for imprisonment of up to two years on summary conviction. Section 231 also has something to say about penalties. The offences covered by these penalties are not necessarily restricted to narcotics. They have been part of the law for many years. Now in a climate in which we are providing severe penalties for offences in relation to narcotics, Senator Murphy is advocating that the penalty of two years imprisonment for what he regards as small offences should be reduced to one year. One could not live with such a proposition.
– They can be dealt with by a jury and given up to two years. It is not a reduction.
– It is of no uss the honourable senator becoming emotional about legal matters in the climate surrounding this matter. I suggest that if he wants to become emotional he should become emotional about the people who are being subjected to cruelty in relation to narcotics.
– And the evils of them.
– And the evils of them. Let us concentrate on that. We say that it is just as wicked to reduce the penalty on summary conviction in cases in which we believe, having regard to the nature of the offence and the advice tendered us by the Attorney-General, that the penalty should be heavier. I do not think that the honourable senator can get away from the fact that what he is advocating is a weakening, not a strengthening, of the structure in relation to offences. For that reason we are tot prepared to accept his proposition.
I want to deal also with Senator Murphy’s broad band argument. He asked in effect - and I appreciated it - ‘What is the necessity for clause 20 which provides for a penalty on summary conviction of up to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for up to two years and, on indictment, of a fine of $4,000 and imprisonment for up to ten years, or both?’ It is not to be assumed that on summary conviction a person will be fined $1,000 or sentenced to two years imprisonment. There is tremendous scope within the framework of the law for a magistrate to say: ‘In my view, because of the relationship of this offence to the Act a fine of $100 would be appropriate’.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– 1 rise merely to allow Senator Anderson to continue his remarks
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for granting me time to finish the Government side of the argument. In respect of a summary offence heard before a magistrate and an indictable offence heard before a court there is scope to arrive at a penalty of much less than two years imprisonment. Therefore I do not think that it is necessarily a good argument to say that every offence should have a grading of penalty in relation to this legislation. The fact is that the offences relate to narcotic drugs. Quite clearly there is a seriousness attached to any minor offence involving narcotic drugs. Senator Murphy said that he was not impressed with what the Attorney-General had to say about penalties.
– 1 think I referred to the method.
– Yes. I am told that when the Attorneys-General considered this matter they had clearly within their knowledge the existing customs offences and customs law. They said that the penalties in the customs law were reasonably appropriate for the narcotics legislation. They have legal obligations in relation to the Convention. Senator Murphy may not have been impressed but I think I should inform him of the status of the Attorneys-General who made that decision. The meeting was presided over by the Commonwealth Attorney-General - Mr Snedden. Q.C. Clearly he is a man of great legal standing. Also present were Mr McCaw. Q.C. the New South Wales Attorney-General; Mr Rylah of Victoria, a barrister: Mr Fagan of Tasmania, a barrister: Mr Dunstan of South Australia, a barrister; Dr Delamothe of Queensland; and Mr Griffiths of Western Australia. The last two gentlemen I have named are not legal men but they were accompanied to the meeting by their legal officers. While Senator Murphy may not be impressed with the decisions of these gentlemen as to reasonable penalties to be included in narcotics legislation, it was an impressive gathering of great legal brains and men of great knowledge of the law and of the country.
Senator Murphy has said that he is not impressed by the provision of penalties of up to two years imprisonment. One could reasonably infer from his remarks last night that this legislation, whilst not being inconsistent with the Constitution, was out of touch with it. I have demonstrated the weakness of that proposition and I now want to deal with penalties provided in Stale legislation. The Stale laws provide for imprisonment for two years or more on summary conviction. In Victoria the Crimes Act provides for a penalty of imprisonment for up to two years on summary conviction for larceny of a motor vehicle.
– Without an option?
– 1 am talking of the provisions o. the State laws and directing my mind to Senator Murphy’s argument in relation to the provision for a penalty of two years imprisonment. In
Victoria the Vagrancy Act 1966 deals with prostitution and makes provision for summary convictions. Quite obviously anybody who is convicted-
– What is the penalty?
– Imprisonment for up to two years. The Summary Offences Act 1966 in Victoria provides for the offence of assault by kicking or with a weapon, imprisonment for up to two years. In New South Wales the Police Offences Act provides for penalties in respect of narcotics offences of a fine not exceeding $800 or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a period not exceeding two years, or of both.
– Without an option?
– That is in relation to the Police Offences Act.
– Senator Wheeldon is asking whether a defendant is deprived of the right to trial by jury.
– He obviously has a right to appeal. I am directing my argument to Senator Murphy’s submissions. I am not directing my argument to some though I that Senator Wheeldon may have. Provisions exist in the Slate laws for penalties on summary conviction for periods in many instances exceeding that provided for in relation to the evil of narcotics peddling covered by this legislation. Penalties arc so provided in Queensland for the illegal use of a motor car. The Police Offences Act in New South Wales provides for a penalty not exceeding two years imprisonment, on summary conviction. In Queensland section 131 of the Health Act 1966 deals with the possession of dangerous drugs or the supplying or procuring of dangerous drugs. The penalty for a second or subsequent offence is a fine not exceeding $2,000 or up to two years imprisonment. In South Australia the Police Offences Act deals with unlawful possession of personal property. There is nothing unique in the proposition contained in this legislation for imprisonment for up to two years on summary conviction.
I repeat that the penalties imposed for summary offences can be imprisonment for less than two years, or the imposition of a fine. That is also true of indictable offences. 1 think it is unreal to say that any person charged with a minor offence in relation to this narcotics legislation - where he may even be prepared to admit guilt, or was caught in possession of drugs - should be able to go to a higher court. The Customs Act virtually since 1910 has provided for penalties similar to those contained in this legislation.
– What is the penalty for summary conviction under the Customs Act?
– The honourable senator may not have been in the chamber when I explained this matter. Sections 231 and 233 (b), which have been included in the Act for many years, provide for imprisonment on summary conviction for up to two years. Insofar as summary conviction is concerned we are doing in this Bill no more than what is contained already in the Customs Act. Senator Murphy is submitting on several levels that we should do something less than that, but in a climate in which we are dealing with narcotics, and in a worldwide climate where everyone is saying that the penalty of the evildoer in relation to narcotics must be severe, one cannot agree to a proposition whereby the situation would be weakened rather than strengthened. For that reason, and without adverting to the other foreshadowed amendment, the Government is unwilling to move away from the proposal already contained in the Bill.
– I refer to sub-clause (3.) of clause 20, which reads: (3.) Where proceedings for an offence against [his part are brought in a court of summary jurisdiction, the court may cither determine the proceedings or commit the defendant for trial, but, where the court of summary jurisdiction determines the proceedings, the court shall not impose a line exceeding One thousand dollars or sentence the offender to imprisonment for a period exceeding two years, but may impose both a fine and a period of imprisonment in respect of the offence. and I move:
This means that, in relation to these extremely serious charges the person charged would be entitled to trial before a judge and jury and liable, if convicted, to a penalty of len years or S4..000, or both. That would be the position under this legislation. For the purpose of this particular amendment I think it is common ground that the matters that would be charged against the defendant would be extremely serious matters, and therefore we do not need to quarrel about that or talk about the evils of the drug traffic or other matters. These are extremely serious offences, which are in much the same category as the offences of manslaughter, rape and all sorts of serious offences dealt with under the criminal code. We submit that a person charged with such an offence should be entitled to trial by jury, and the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that he will not be deprived of his right except with his consent.
This follows out a provision that I referred to yesterday in section 12a. of the Crimes Act, which is a similar kind of provision whereby an indictable offence may be, with the consent of the defendant, heard and determined by a court of summary jurisdiction. I emphasise the expression with the consent of the defendant’. Let the Minister not say that the charges might be minor matters and that the defendant might wish to plead guilty. If he wished to plead guilty, and if this amendment were adopted, there would not be the slightest difficulty, for he could consent to the case being dealt with by the magistrate; he could do that by merely pleading guilty. Or, if it were dealt with by a judge, he could still plead guilty and there would be no necessity for a jury, in view of the fact that there would be no contest on the question of guilt. There would be no difficulties at all.
It amounts to this: Is the Parliament to say that in these most serious matters a man may be deprived of his right of trial by jury without his consent? I am speaking of what happens in Australia in 1967. Are we going to pursue the path that the Minister is following? He says that because something is in the customs legislation we should extend it to this legislation. If the path becomes clear we shall go on as they did in New Guinea. There fs this plea all the time that because matters are serious, therefore citizens should be deprived of the right of trial by jury. To clear up what the Minister said concerning the Constitution,
I point out that 1 referred to the Constitution because it has been mentioned on many occasions as an example of where a provision intended to achieve a certain purpose has failed by reason of a constitutional interpretation. The purpose in this case, as is well known, was to ensure that serious offences should he triable by jury. There should be no departure from that principle, and it was proper that the Senate should be informed of what the constitutional provision was, and that an interpretation had destroyed the intent of that provision. The Senate was so informed.
There is no doubt of the existence of a strong feeling in the community - a feeling which we have inherited - that the right to trial by jury is traditional and that it should not be eroded away any more. Let us deal with this offence on the simple basis that it is punishable by ten years imprisonment. Is a man charged with such an offence entitled to trial by jury? I am referring to one of these dreadful offences mentioned by the Minister.
– Up to tcn years.
– The Minister says in effect that the seriousness of the matter is to be gauged from the penalty and not from what happens ultimately. Here we have a most serious charge and we must not speak of it as being only a two-year matter, or say that it can be dealt with summarily. It is the charge that is important. But concerned here is perhaps a very serious charge under the Narcotic Drugs Act, and it must be decided how it is to be dealt with? Is the person charged with the offence to be deprived of his right to trial by jury? We arc talking of an offence which under the statute, if the proper procedure were taken, could lead to his being imprisoned for ten years. Why is he not entitled to say, ‘I want my trial by jury’? Or is he to be put in the same position as Australian citizens who visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and are not entitled to trial by jury?
– There seems to have been a misunderstanding. It is clear that if he goes to summary jurisdiction, he goes to court where he can be put in prison for a period of up to two years.
– We know that. The question is not into what court he shall go.
The question is: In this country in 1967 is a man, without his consent, to be subject to a trial on a most serious charge without an opportunity to be tried by a jury? Is that the precedent that the Government seeks to establish? There are many other extremely serious offences - offences as serious as those dealt With here. One cannot deal with these matters on the basis of saying that these are terrible offences but they can bc dealt with summarily. They are terrible offences, and that is one reason why a citizen charged with such a serious matter should be entitled to trial by jury. What the Government is starting here will continue, because this is the argument that always conies up in these matters: it is said: ‘It was done in the other Bill. Let us do it in this and the next Bill.’ This is the way in which liberties are eroded away. It is no use saying what is done in others Bills in numbers of areas. Parties on both sides of the House have failed to stand up and fight for these principles. In the past our Party has been just as guilty as others and it is no use just saying that these provisions exist in the law and nothing has been done about it. The Minister mentioned two-year penalties that can be imposed by a court of summary jurisdiction, but he did not deal wilh the question of whether a person was entitled to trial by jury or, as now suggested, that he should have no option al all.
– Is it not strange that a similar provision has been permitted to remain in the Customs Act and that .Labor governments have done nothing to alter them?
– The Minister deliberately referred to the question of two-year penalties, and not the question of consent. The Customs Act, I might say shortly, is notoriously one of the worst Acts on our statute book from the point of view of the rights of citizens. It contains some dreadful provisions which have been allowed to go untouched, such as the averment provisions which have been very much criticised.
– Great legal luminaries have occupied the position of AttorneyGeneral over the years.
– Yes, but we have to deal with these matters as they arise. If we take up the stand that no longer are these matters to go through, we will look at them and deal with them as they arise. The fundamental criminal law, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, is the Crimes Act, which provides that the consent of the defendant is necessary if one of these indictable matters is to be summarily tried. Honourable senators will recall that I read this provision before. We propose to insert a similar provision in this Bill. Section 12a of the Crimes Act states, in part: (1.) Any proceeding in respect of an offence against this Act, although declared indictable, may, with the consent of the defendant, be heard and determined by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
We say that this should be the position under this Bill. 1 am not dealing with the other question which relates to the number of years of imprisonment when matters are dealt with summarily. That question can be considered later. My only comment on it is that the number of provisions to which the Minister was able to refer is extraordinarily low. 1 thought that there would have been more than he was able to pick up. because for every one of those which he was able to show, there would be a thousand in every State which did not carry more than one year’s imprisonment. There would be thousands in every State. There are hundreds of provisions in the law of the Commonwealth which provide for no more than one year’s imprisonment in cases dealt with summarily.
The simple proposition is: Is a man in this community who is charged with an extremely serious offence to be denied the right of trial by jury if he wants it? Let us take the case of a man who is charged with a serious offence. The prosecution wants to force him into a summary trial in which the penalty will be only two years’ imprisonment but the man says: ‘I am charged with a serious offence and I want a trial by jury. I am prepared to face the possibility that if I am convicted I will be given ten years’ imprisonment. But I want a trial by jury.’ Are we going to say that in our community that man will not be able to say that? That is exactly what the amendment provides for. It provides that such a man will have to give his consent before he is deprived of the right to trial by jury and exposure to ten years’ imprisonment if he is convicted, is not a man entitled to that?
– 1 rise, not with any thought of cutting off any other speaker, but to deal, with the amendment because the point that I want to make may have some effect on the subsequent debate. The effect of the amendment is to make sub-clause (3) of clause 20 of the Narcotic Drugs Bill read as follows:
Where proceedings for an offence against this Part are brought in a court of summary jurisdiction, the court may either with the consent of the defendant determine the proceedings or commit the defendant for trial . . .
– Determine summarily.
– Let us take the words which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has used in his amendment. The amendment reads:
– The sub-clause would read: ‘. . . the court may either with the consent of the defendant determine the proceedings or commit the defendant for trial
– Yes. It would seem that the proposed amendment is most ambiguous. I know that Senator Murphy seems to intend it to mean that the defendant has to consent to summary proceedings. However, the words could be read as having the effect that unless the defendant consents, the court can neither proceed to hear the charge nor send the accused on to the Supreme Court.
– Oh, no. It would read: either with the consent of the defendant determine the proceedings or commit the defend: nt for trial . .
– I am suggesting that as the sitting will be suspended very soon for lunch, perhaps the Leader of the Opposition might have another look at the amendment which he has drafted and what he intends by it. I am informed that .he amendment contains most ambiguous drafting. I am putting it on no higher a level than that at this stage. Whilst the intention is clear from what has been said, so far as the amendment as drafted is concerned, it could te read as having the effect that unless the defendant consents, the court can neither proceed to hear the charge nor send the accused on to the Supreme Court. Quite clearly when we are dealing with such a serious matter - and I do not want to overemphasise that too much - we have to be sure that if the amendment were carried there would be no ambiguity about it at all. Whatever else we might do, if the amendment were to be accepted, it should be completely free of any ambiguity. Under no circumstances can we accept an amendment that is ambiguous. The amendment could mean that the accused by failing to give his consent - and this is the Gilbert and Sullivan touch - could prevent the court from doing anything further. That -s a construction that could be placed upon the amendment, and 1 suggest that Senator Murphy, in his legal eminence, might care to have a look at it. I think that he will shortly have time to do that. The point I make is that there must not he any ambiguity so far as the proposed amendment is concerned.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) [12.471-1 want to speak briefly in support of the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I would suggest to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) that there is not any real room for ambiguity in Senator Murphy’s amendment. I remind him that the words which the amendment proposes to insert, namely, ‘with the consent of the defendant’, are after the word ‘cither’ and not before it. If the amending words were inserted before the word ‘cither’ I could understand the problem of the Minister and of anybody who was advising him. It is clear that under the amendment two courses are open. The court may either with the consent of the defendant determine the proceedings or - and this is the second thing that the court can do and it does not involve the consent of the defendant - cornmil the defendant for trial. I would suggest thai it is completely without ambiguity. But. of course, as the Leader of the Opposition has indicated, if the amendment is acceptable in principle, then there would be no trouble about finding some alternative words to make the proposition exact.
The Leader of the Opposition has indicated that these are very serious matters. Of course we realise the gravity of the offences that are committed. We have asso ciated ourselves with the general purposes of the Bill. But no man’s right to trial by jury should be lightly taken away. Very extreme circumstances are necessary before that long-established right should be placed in jeopardy. What is intended in the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition is that if a man says: ‘I could bc liable to ten years’ imprisonment if 1 were convicted by a jury and I know that there is a maximum of two years or one year or whatever it is if I am dealt with summarily; nevertheless I want to be tried by a jury,’ then he should not be forced into the position of submitting to summary jurisdiction against his will and having to be dealt with in that way.
Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Customs and Excise) TI 2.49] - I want, to make it clear - and perhaps I did not make it clear to the Committee before - that the Government does not accept the principle which is contained in the amendment. All of my main argument was directed against the principle. We do not accept the principle which is contained in the amendment. Senator Cohen said that we are taking away the right of trial by jury. In fact, we are not taking that right a wa V. We are leaving the position as it is and as it has existed since 1910, to my knowledge, in the Customs Act. relating to narcotics.
– This is a new Bill.
– That is so. I think the trouble is that Senator Murphy did not respond to my earlier comments when I pointed out that clause 20 is identical with proposed section 235 of the Customs Act, which is to be inserted by clause 3 of the Customs Bill, with which I hope we shall deal this afternoon.
– But that does not give it any greater sanctity.
– I am directing my mind to another argument. The point is that if the Committee accepted the principle that Senator Murphy has enunciated in relation to this Bill, logically we would have to adopt the same principle when we come to consider an identical provision in the Customs Bill. I think the honourable senator will agree that that is so.
– That being so, we would get ourselves in a situation in which we would allow the Customs Bill to move away from the customs law as it has existed for many years. That is the point that I made to Senator Cohen. It is not a case of taking away a liberty for the first time, lt is a case of adopting a principle that has been recognised in the customs law for a very long time. I would think that the legislators, when they passed the Customs Act 1901 and subsequent amending measures, were always conscious of the fact that customs law is severe compared to other seclions of our law. Of necessity customs law is severe because it deals with the kind of things that we are discussing today. It has always had to be severe because it deals with matters that fundamentally affect our economic security.
– We are not questioning the severity of the customs law.
– I know that. What the honourable senator said was that the customs law in general has always been more severe than other law and that it has presented difficult problems. I accept that. But there are very good reasons why it has been more severe down through history. I do not think that Senator Murphy or his colleagues in the Opposition would argue about that. As a starting point we come to the proposition that the customs law is severe. What we propose to do in this instance is to adopt in this Bill provisions of similar severity. So we are not introducing some new element.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, the Minister earlier this morning made one of the most outrageous statements that I have heard in the Senate. He said that this Bill deals with a serious matter and that therefore we should not become emotional about legalities. I say frankly that I am emotional about legalities, especially legalities of the nature involved here, for these legalities protect the rights of individuals who are charged with serious offences. These legalities ensure that such persons have the right to trial by jury. The Minister may regard these things as mere legalities. I regard them as essential legalities. I believe that the sort of provision that is em bodied in this Bill is contrary to the provisions of the English and the Australian law. To say that because a matter is serious we should not argue about legalities is the same as to say that merely because a matter is serious we ought to ; bandon Magna Carta, the principles of habeas corpus and any other safeguards provided for a litigant. We on this side of the chamber submit that this is a matter of the greatest importance. In a number of instances this Bill will deprive people of the right to trial by jury. Senator Murphy has mentioned the provision of the Australian Constitution that, provides for trial by jury. He related this to the penalty of imprisonment for a maximum of one year on conviction in summary jurisdiction.
This matter has been discussed at some length by the Minister who has been constantly receiving advice. If I may say so, I suggest that it has not been good advice. Let us look at the Crimes Act. That is an enactment on which I certainly do not look with great favour. I refer to provisions in that Act which were drafted by Sir Garfield Barwick, the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. Section 12 (3.) provides:
A Court of Summary Jurisdiction may not impose a longer period of imprisonment than one year in respect of any one offence against this Act.
Obviously, this tradition was being maintained by Sir Garfield Barwick when he was Attorney-General. Section 12a (1.) states:
Any proceeding in respect of an offence against this Act, although declared indictable, may, with the consent of the defendant, be heard and determined by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. lt specifically provides that this may be done only with the consent of the defendant. The Opposition supports the general provisions of the Bill. We do not say that the matters with which it deals are not serious. But we are concerned about what I regard as a fundamental provision in the criminal law: the more serious the offence and the heavier the penalty that a convicted person may attract, the greater must be the safeguards for an accused person. The safeguards should not be smaller in this instance. Are we to say that because murder is a very serious offence murder cases should be dealt with summarily by a magistrate? Is that what the Minister says? Thai is thc only construction thai I can put on his argument. We on this side of the Committee say (hal because an offence is serious and the penalty on conviction is heavy there is good reason to ensure that the individual is safeguarded. Because these are matters about which there are emotion and strong feelings it is all the more necessary that the individual’s traditional liberties should be safeguarded and that he should not be submitted to trial in summary jurisdiction without his consent.
There has been some discussion about whether the period of imprisonment provided for on conviction before a court of summary jurisdiction should be two years or one year. The amendment does not deal with that. It deals merely with the requirement that the consent of the defendant to trial before a court of summary jurisdiction shall be obtained. I have not heard from the Minister, even though he has the assistance of his advisers, one argument why this safeguard should nol be incorporated in the Bill, except that he has said that such a safeguard is not incorporated in the Customs Act. It is as if the Minister maintains that all our liberties arc enshrined in, and our traditions of justice and legality flow from the Customs Act. They do not. 1 think everybody would agree with Senator Murphy, who said that in the past in a number of Acts there have been departures from the basic safeguards for the liberties of the individual. Merely to say that a principle was departed from in 1910 in relation to the Customs Act and that therefore we should always depart from that principle is to propound a ludicrous argument that cannot bc taken seriously by the Senate. If, as a consequence of the amendment now proposed, some amendment of the Customs Act were required in the future, we would attempt to amend that Act. The fact that something wrong has been done once is no argument for perpetuating the wrong.
I agree with Senator McClelland, who said the other day that we have had insufficient time to consider this Bill. The Minister very graciously said that we have had one week to consider it. Senator McClelland stated that we had not had time to consider the Schedules, particularly the
First Schedule. In response to thai observation, the Minister said that the honourable senator must be a slow reader. 1 do nol think that the fact that one needed more than a week to work his way through the First Schedule would indicate that he was a slow reader. That Schedule incorporates a lengthy list of drugs. I readily admit that I cannot understand that list. Since the Minister regards Senator McClelland as a slow reader but knows all about these matters himself and has been able to absorb this list of drugs, I would like him to read the list and to tell us precisely what the drugs are and why their import is to be prohibited under the terms of this measure. Let him show us that he has been able to get a grasp of the subject, which he expects us to understand. 1 certainly do nol know whether all the drugs listed should be mentioned in the Schedule. I do not think that anybody is capable of knowing this without: having submitted the liSt to an expert for his advice. But this has not been clone.
Considerable emotion is aroused in dealing with this question of drugs. I should have thought that the Minister or his eminent advisers would have had a look at the corresponding English legislation. It makes provision not only for penalties but also for the treatment of drug addicts and similar matters. There is no provision of this kind in the Bill before us. It is a purely draconic measure sired by terror out of incompetence. lt will deprive the Australian people of some basic civil liberties. I see that Senator Wright is not at present in the chamber. Senator Laught, however, is present. I would think that anybody who, like those honourable senators, has any background in the common law would do his utmost to ensure that basic safeguards for the freedoms of the Australian people are not denied them by this piffling piece of legislation. The Opposition insists that the amendment should be agreed to.
– I should like to answer Senator Wheeldon in the minute that remains before the sitting is suspended. What I said was that if there was any emotion it should not be emotion concerning the niceties of the law. I was more interested in emotionalism over the victims of those who traffic in drugs. I do not detract for one moment from my earlier observations on that matter, despite the rhetoric of Senator Wheeldon. Senator McClelland’s interjection was to the effect
I hat he had not had lime to read the Schedules. He said nothing about digesting them. There is a nice point of difference, even though my legal friend. Senator Wheeldon, may not understand it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) [2.0J - During the suspension of the sitting I have had the opportunity to discuss my amendment with the Parliamentary Draftsman. To remove any possible ambiguity we have decided that the sentence could be inverted. The amendment that I propose to move will have exactly the same effect as the amendment now before the Committee. It is only a matter of inverting the order of the words.
Hie CHAIRMAN (Senator Deke.Brockman) - Order! Does the honourable senator wish to withdraw his amendment and proceed with the new amendment that he has foreshadowed?
– Yes. I ask for leave to withdraw my amendment to clause 20 (3.).
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I now move:
In sub-clause (3.), leave out ‘cither determine the proceedings or commit the defendant for trial’. Insert ‘commit the defendant for trial or, with the consent of the defendant, determine Iiic proceedings’.
The position simply is that if that amendment is made to the Bill the penalties remain unaltered. The ten years imprisonment provision remains and the fine of $4,000 remains also. The position is that if the prosecution wishes to seek the ten years penalty and brings the accused before a judge and jury, he has no option. If the prosecution desires to bring him before a magistrate and have the matter dealt with without a jury, then if the man agrees the matter will be dealt with before a magistrate or similar official, such as a justice of the peace or a summary official. The man before the court will then be liable only to the reduced penalties of two years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000. But if a man says: ‘I want trial by jury. I think this is a mistake. If I am guilty I am prepared lo be exposed to the penalty of ten years imprisonment.’
– This is the main point.
– How many would want to do this?
– It might be only one but if-
– Order! Senator Murphy has the call.
– Senator Branson asks how many might want to do this. Even if only one man wants to do this, is he to be denied in this country the right of ‘rial by jury? He may say: ‘1 am prepared to be exposed to the penalty of ten years imprisonment. I say that I am not guilty and therefore I want trial by jury.’ If he says this, are we to take the stand that he is not permitted to do so and that he cart be deprived of his jury trial and this great traditional remedy? Is he to bc subjected against his will to what in effect is the present that the Government hands him Ibr having the matter determined without a judge and jury? The Government says !o this man: ‘You will be up for two years imprisonment or a fine of $1,000. We are depriving you of your rights but we are giving you this in return.’ He may reply: That will do me.’ That can be done under this amendment. But the man might say: M am prepared to undertake the risk of the heavier penalty. I say that I arn not guilty and 1 want to have trial by jury.’
– How will clause 20 ‘3.) read if the honourable senator’s amendment is accepted?
– If my amendment is accepted, clause 20 (3.) will read:
Where proceedings for an offence against this Part are brought in a court of summary jurisdiction, the court may commit the defendant for trial-
That is, trial before a judge and jury - or, wilh the consent of (he defendant, determine (he proceedings, but, where the court of summary jurisdiction determines the proceedings, the court shall not impose a fine exceeding One thousand dollars or sentence the offender to imprisonment for a period exceeding two years, but may impose both a fine and a period of imprisonment in respect of the offence.
There is no question at all that the consent of the defendant is necessary for committal for trial. That has been removed from the matter. I say to the Committee that it is a clause that could not be clearer. Is this citizen to be deprived of his rights of trial by jury even when he insists upon it and says that he is prepared to expose himself to those very heavy penalties if he is found guilty by judgment?
– Mr Chairman, I listened with great interest to the second reading debate on this important Bill. I was gratified to learn of the consciousness of all honourable senators of the necessity for a very strict Act in relation to the manufacture and distribution of narcotics. I was gratified to know that honourable senators were so conscious of this diabolical, nefarious, pernicious and illegal business that seems to have gripped this young country in common with other countries and that they were equally conscious of the necessity for governments, both State and Federal, to take the strictest action to arrest the drift of this evil and impose penalties in the hope at least of creating the best deterrent possible against the spread of it.
I cannot imagine in the list of crimes anything worse than the legal manufacture of drugs which have such a destroying effect on the lives of young people particularly and of older people also. The drug addict is an unfortunate person with whom everybody must have sympathy. I repeat: in the list of crimes I cannot see anything worse than the illegal manufacture of drugs. Wilful murder, even in cold blood, could not be compared with the gradual destruction of a life by the feeding into a body of drugs that destroy the mental capacity as well as the body fibre of a human being. I feel that every responsible individual shares my views on this matter. For that reason surely every responsible individual is as keen as I am, and as conscious as I am of the need, to see that a law is introduced to give authorities as much power as is possible regarding narcotics. lt is of very little use to have a law through which a horse and cart can be driven or one that attacks a problem or issue very feebly or with kid gloves. We have to have in this Bill penalties that will deter people from engaging in the illicit or illegal production of drugs and deal with people who peddle and traffic in these drugs and make it possible for them to be dispensed and distributed among unfortunate young people in our community who are the victims of an element in our community that we could very well do without.
It is no consolation for us to know that in other countries this evil is attracting the attention of many people and organisations - governmental, private and denominational. It is a growing evil. People who are intimately associated with or interested in it tell us just how rapidly it is growing. It is being introduced in many of our institutions - education and others - in the form of pep pills, keep awake pills and other pills that all have a tendency to build up a dangerous habit. We have to do something very firm about this. For that reason, as I indicated last night, I would never be a party, in this Parliament or any other, to breaking down the penalties in this field. As I have said, I view this matter just as seriously as, if not more seriously than, I view murder. Many murders that are committed in the heat of the moment may be justified. But this is a cold-blooded, premeditated crime committed for filthy lucre. For that reason I view it very seriously.
I repeat that all the penalties mentioned in this Bill are maximum penalties. I do not think they can be regarded as being too harsh. There was a time, when I was charged with responsibilities in another field of politics, when I thought there was some virtue in providing minimum penalties for many crimes. But I was disillusioned. I found that, in many cases in which there was a minimum penalty, if the magistrate felt that the crime did not merit the minimum penalty he discharged the prisoner or defendant, who got off scot free. With maximum penalties, as provided for in this Bill, a magistrate hearing a case in a court of summary jurisdiction could discharge a prisoner on payment of a small fine. He would be free to do that.
Whilst I agree, in the main, with what the Minister has said, there would be very few offences under this Bill that I would classify as minor offences. Unless a person inadvertently committed a crime, unknowingly was a party to the delivery of drugs or did something over which he had no control, 1 would classify any offence under this Bill as serious because it would have a very serious result, in the ultimate, on some poor, unfortunate person or persons. There is talk of minimum penalties and maximum penalties. It is clear that the penalties about which we are speaking, and which the Committee is considering today, arc maximum penalties. Members of the Opposition, through the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) have indicated that they do not favour or desire any interference with the penalties.
I come now to the crux of the Opposition’s amendment. Originally, in the course of the debate on this Bill, I felt that 1 would have to oppose the amendment if there were any attempt to include in it any reduction of penalty - from two years imprisonment to one year’s imprisonment or as the case may be - merely in order to conform with the Crimes Act. That Act is no more our book of guidance than the Customs Act is or should bc in this debate. Because something appears in the Crimes Act, that is no reason why we should put it in this Bill. I support the amendment because I believe that it is fundamental to our democratic rights and the spirit of British justice and law that if a person appears in a court of summary jurisdiction he must be given the choice of being tried by the magistrate there and then or going to a higher court and having his case presented before a judge and jury. That principle is sacrosanct in British justice. Our legislation must be in accord with it and we must support it. That is how I feel in conscience about this matter. So I support the submissions made by the Leader of the Opposition in this connection.
The Minister has informed mc that provisions similar to those in the Bill have been contained in the Customs Act since 1910. As 1 said briefly by way of interjection, it staggers me to know that such provisions in our Acts have been tolerated by illustrious legal luminaries who have been in this Parliament and been classified among the world’s best lawyers. These provisions have been allowed to remain. I suppose they were inserted in our Acts by men from whom we might have expected better. It does not necessarily follow that because something is in the Customs Act we have to slavishly follow it or any other legislative provision. That is why I say that we are not bound by the Crimes Act on the question of penalty - whether the penalty should be one year’s imprisonment or two years imprisonment. Let us deal with the Bill as we find it, and correct it if we feel it is necessary.
I stand four square on giving a prisoner or defendant his rights according to true British justice. If he elects to take the risk of getting a higher penalty, such as a longer term of imprisonment, in a higher court in which his case will be heard by a judge and jury, 1 believe that that is undeniably his right. Senator Branson asks: ‘In how many cases would it happen?’ A lot would depend on the circumstances of the case in the first place. Much would depend also on the attitude of mind of the defendant. He knows how guilty or how innocent he is. If he knows he is innocent and that he can confirm his innocence in a higher court, then that is his right because there is no authority in this land that should commit a man to prison or penalise him by fining under statutory jurisdiction without giving him every opportunity to prove his innocence.
I repeat that if he elects to exercise a choice, he should be given the opportunity of submitting himself to a judge and jury. But let us never impede the administration of a law such as this. Let us give those who are charged with the serious responsibility of administering and policing this legislation every co-operation that we can. Give them ever)’ support, both moral and physical, and full co-operation to enable them to police this law in the hope of saving some unfortunate from the evil effects of the drugs that are being peddled in our community at the present time. I commend the Minister and his officers for what they are doing and what they have already done. I urge them not to lessen their vigilance in this connection because the circumstances very definitely merit the best and fullest effort that we all can give in this matter.
– I do not propose to delay the Committee for very long. At my invitation, Senator Murphy has rearranged his amendment but the substance of what he said previously was understood at all times during the debate this morning. No new matter has been added to it. The Government cannot accept the amendment in its new form. During the argument I kept thinking that it would be a stout hearted legal adviser indeed who would advise his client to opt out of a penalty which can be anything from $1 to $1,000 and anything from one day to two years imprisonment and place himself in a position where he could run the risk of being put in gaol for ten years and fined $4,000. However, I suppose the truth is that the likelihood of this happening very often would not be very great. I come back to the argument 1 have adduced all the time - that this is something that has been in the customs law since 1910 and has worked very well over the years. I would suggest that there is no reason why we should weaken that situation. I think, therefore, that perhaps the logical thing to do is put the question to the vote.
– I wish to speak briefly on this matter. I do so first of all because I would like to commend the attitude which Senator Gair has adopted to this question. I think he has adopted a very logical and reasonable attitude to this whole case. I believe that when the matter was first raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) Senator Gair, who feels very strongly on this issue, was not at all happy with lessening any of the strictness of the provisions against these drug pedlars and other people. At that stage, I think he believed that no amendment should be made. But he has taken a reasonable part in the whole of the discussion. He has listened to what has taken place and I believe that the Senate has been seen to have been functioning at its best in the way that Senator Gair has conducted himself in that, having listened to the arguments, he has admitted that he has changed his mind with regard to certain aspects of the question.
Having heard what Senator Gair had to say, having seen that Senator Gair, after listening to the argument, has changed what appeared to be his original position on the case, 1 ask the Minister once again, before the question is put to the vote: Is there any argument that he can put forward for depriving people of the right of trial by jury other than merely to say that it has been done by the Customs Act since 1910? Is this the only argument that the Govern ment has for depriving people of a basic liberty? If this is the only argument it has, then obviously we might as well go on and take away the right of trial by jury for every criminal offence which is committed under the law of the Commonwealth and say: ‘Well, it was done in 1910 under the Customs Act’. This point has not been dealt with by the Minister. His only argument has been that it was done under the Customs Act. This is a most pitiful argument on such an important question.
– I regret that other duties have distracted the attention that I would otherwise have given to this debate. I have been very heavily pressed. During the intervals that I have been able to attend, I have heard some of the arguments, and I want to put my point of view. Last night, Senator Murphy referred to section 80 of the Constitution and, in my view, quite rightly. There is nobody more keen than I to uphold the authority of the High Court and to respect a decision of that court that has really weakened that section of the Constitution to the great disappointment, I would think, of a large section of the legal profession who concern themselves, not merely with making a livelihood by the law, but with maintaining the principles that form the fabric of our law.
During the Minister’s reply this morning, . 1 interjected to the effect that, notwithstanding a decision by the High Court on the texture phrasing of that section of the Constitution, a principle still survives, unquestioned by 80% of the people. That principle is that for serious crimes, an individual is entitled to trial by a jury of his peers. It should never have been made to depend, as a constitutionally written right under our Constitution, upon the procedural approach that may be adopted according to the decision of a prosecutor as to whether he will take out a complaint for summary process or an indictment for jury process. The criterion should be that since 1215, in cases of serious crimes involving a major term of imprisonment and putting a citizen’s liberty in jeopardy the citizen has been entitled and. I say, still is entitled to trial by jury. Having seen the web of officialdom in this place gradually growing in confusion and in weight in the years that I have been here, my respect increases for the progenitors of our laws who provided, as one of the fundamental safeguards of the freedom of the individual, trial by jury as distinct from trial by officials. When I say ‘officials’ I have no disrespect for the magistrates. I have an abiding respect for them, but the decision of a magistrate is the judgment of one man whereas a jury combines the experience, integrity and common sense of twelve men, I think, in every State. Most States, 1 hope, now accept, except in capital punishment cases, the verdict of a majority of ten. But, until twenty years ago, so sacrosanct was this principle that, before convicting one of our fellow free men and requiring the forfeiture of his liberty, on judicial trial, a unanimous verdict of twelve was required.
Having said that, I now want to say that the form of words chosen by the Minister to express section 20 (3.) has had a fairly long life in federal legislation, but the cardinal distinction between the Commonwealth approach and the State approach is that in the State field the option for trial by jury of a man who is charged summarily is almost universally given to the accused, whereas the pattern of the Commonwealth approach in this section, as in others, is to give the option to the prosecutor with a discretion to the magistrate. However, in the case of serious crime in the State field the general principle is that the accused has the option to say: ‘I object to trial by a magistrate and I put myself upon my country and will be tried by a jury.’ 1 understand that is the substance of the text Senator Murphy has moved since 2 o’clock this afternoon.
I want it to be clearly known that my strong conviction is that the option should rest with the defendant. There is, in regard to narcotics, a very elusive field of criminal law, a field in which it may be proper to consider variations of the ordinary approach. 1 have not been able to give this aspect sufficient thought, although I do not join with those who claim that this has been thrown at us suddenly because we have had it before us for seven or eight days. Many other matters have arisen which have engaged my mind intensively. However, 1 am inclined to think that the onus of proof may properly be varied in a case of prosecution for an offence in relation to narcotics.
I am not persuaded at the moment that this is the occasion to vary the almost uniform stream of Acts in the Commonwealth field which are couched in this form and which, as 1 have said, give the option to the prosecution with a discretion to the magistrate. If the magistrate thinks it is not proper for him to adjudicate upon a case of such significance he can, from his own instinct for fundamental justice, say: ‘It is not right that I as one man should make a judgment which may result in this man being imprisoned for two years. I order this case to be sent to a jury to try.’ There has been a fairly uniform approach. I have indicated quite strongly that my view is that that should be corrected but I suggest for consideration - I look for comment from those who promote this amendment - that it would be more appropiate to introduce that into the Crimes Act to make it applicable to all such offences as these. 1 did not have the opportunity to hear Senator Gairs contribution on the aspect of maximum penalty, but from what Senator Wheeldon has said I gather that the viewpoint has been taken that there is nothing in this amendment involving a reduction of the provision for imprisonment for tcn years.
– The only thing is that if one seeks one form of procedure the penalty shall not go beyond two years. For my part, I would have preferred a magistrate’s jurisdiction to be confined to a twelve months sentence. Having looked up the matter on the prompting of one of my colleagues this morning I find that in my own State, Tasmania, a magistrate’s general jurisdiction does not exceed imprisonment for six months. I do not want the Minister to misinterpret me. It may bc that in matters such as the illegal use of motor cars or matters in relation to narcotic drugs and so on, and perhaps in relation to offences under the income tax law, a magistrate has power to imprison for a period in excess of twelve months, but I feel that twelve months should be the limit for which a magistrate may imprison in this instance. However, I am not persuaded that this is the occasion to introduce an amendment to a principle which has such a stream of uniform legislation behind it. Rather than take tha occasion of a debate on the Narcotic Drugs Bill for proposing that most desirable amendment, we should take care to introduce it into the Crimes Act where it would have more general application to the Commonwealth administration of criminal law.
-I have been invited by Senator Wright to comment upon his remarks. I should indicate now that the proposed amendment does not touch the penalties in any way. It simply inverts the relevant phrasing and provides that the consent of the defendant is required before he can be subjected to summary trial instead of trial by jury. In other words, he can insist upon his right to a trial by jury thus exposing himself to the penalty of imprisonment for ten years. The prosecution may say to him: We do not want you to go to trial by jury. We want this to be dealt with summarily. In that case, if you are convicted, you will be liable only to imprisonment for two years or a fine of$1 000’. We want the defendant to be able to say: ‘No, I am innocent. I want to be tried by a judge and jury and I am prepared to expose myself to the possibility of being imprisoned for ten years or fined $4,000, or both’. That is the purpose of the proposed amendment.
Senator Wright referred to the stream of legislation. The researches which have been made and the assistance which has been forthcoming from legal officers have revealed to us that the Commonwealth Crimes Act contains a provision in relation to summary jurisdiction. Section 12a (1.) is in these terms:
Any proceeding in respect of an offence against this Act, although declared indictable, may, with the consent of the defendant, be heard and determined by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
That was supposed to be the general effect of Commonwealth law and we think that instead of pursuing the wrong stream that started with the Customs Act we should bring the matter back into the main stream of British and Australian legal traditions.
– I am grateful to Senator Murphy for reminding me of the provision in the Crimes Act. If that is the general provision in the Crimes Act at the present time, the proposed amendment is the appropriate means of making the clause of the Bill with which we arc now dealing conform to that general principle.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. DrakeBrockman)
Majority . . . . 6
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment’ agreed to.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to clause 4. It will be noted that: drug’ means any substance that is a drug for the purposes of the Convention, and includes any substance that regulations made in pursuance of section 8 of this Act provide is a drug for the purposes of this Act.
I have reason to note with appreciation that the legislation is so expressed that the inclusion of substances additional to those mentioned in the Convention as drugs for the purposes of this legislation will be made by regulation and not by instruments in writing, which teem through the Theraupeutic Substances Act. I direct attention to clause 7 simply as a matter of textual composition, lt reads:
Iti is Act, regulations under this Act and directions given under section 12 or 13 of this Act do not apply to the exclusion of any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth or any regulation in force under an Act-
That is not an Act of the Commonwealth. I take it - except in so far as that law or that regulation is inconsistent with an express provision of this Act, those regulations or those directions.
I was wrong in saying that ‘Act’ means a Commonwealth Act. It obviously means a Stale Act. I acknowledge the difficulty with which 1 am confronting the Minister.
– I am told that it means a Commonwealth Act.
– The clause reads:
– That is a Commonwealth Act.
– ls the Minister sure?
– 1 regret to say thai it just increases my perplexity. I do not wish to delay consideration of the Bill because it is not an important matter but the difficulty of interpretation has bedevilled me. I want the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Minister to see that this is expressed as clearly as it can be. Section 28 of the Therapeutic Goods Act that wc passed last year reads:
This Act is not intended to exclude or limit Iiic operation of any other law of the Commonwealth or any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth.
To have the same purposes expressed in different texts in this way is just the thing that multiplies litigation, unless the use of different language is intended to draw a distinction in a substantial way. 1 rise only to make a plea for clarity and as much uniformity in this sort of legislation as wc can have.
The other matter that I want to mention is the constitutional base of this legislation. I gather that the view is taken that we have the right to limit and license the manufacturers of drugs that are mentioned in this treaty by reason of our external affairs power to implement a treaty that has been made pursuant to our external affairs power. I may have expressed that thought a little awkwardly but people in the chamber who have studied the matter will know the line of cases. I have always found them to be a very debatable line but I think it is too late to raise any question of that sort and it is certainly inappropriate to raise it here.
As I consider the matter, the constitutional basis upon which Parliament in passing this enactment believes that it has power to do so derives from our external affairs power by reason of narcotics and drugs having been made the subject matter of an external treaty. I point out that when wc were dealing with the Therapeutic Goods Bill - an extension of the Therapeutic Substances Act, which we considered only last year - I thought it had something of the same purpose in relation to health as this Bill has in relation to the depravity of persons. Very great care was taken to invoke the interstate trade power, the external trade power and the power that we have under Commonwealth benefits legislation through the amendment of the Constitution of 1946. In addition, we even make express reference to our power to legislate within the Territories. Section 9 of the Therapeutic Goods Act sets out the subject matters for the application of our law in relation to therapeutic substances. I am a little interested to know why the pattern of the Therapeutic Goods Act was not appropriate for this legislation, if not, why cannot the two measures be dovetailed so as to make the law reasonably understandable?
– The short answer to the honourable senator is that he is quite right in relation to the external power. However, when he makes a comparison between this measure and the Therapeutic Goods Act it is necessary to remind him that there has been no international convention in relation to therapeutic goods, whereas there has been a Convention in relation to narcotic drugs, which has prompted this legislation. From that Convention has been drawn the framework of this measure. I think Hie honourable senator will readily see that the Therapeutic Goods Act has a different base altogether.
– All I want to say to the Minister is hat it is a matter of judgment. I do not for one moment put up my judgment against that of the Minister and his advisers. I have drawn attention to the position so that it may receive a few minutes consideration before we again deal with legislation of this type. I wish now to bring to the attention of the Committee Part II of the Bill, which contains the mechanism for licensing of manufacturers of drugs. Having regard to the purposes of this legislation and to what I have heard in the second reading debate about the pernicious effects of narcotic drugs, I am impressed with the need for a very strong legislative measure. I have been impressed by what I have heard from men who have earnestly considered this matter.
Power is taken for the Minister under clause 9, sub-clause (3.), to grant licences before any person specified can manufacture these drugs. I hope that somebody will tell me quite clearly, definitely and briefly whether the drugs which are enumerated in the First Schedule are commercially vendable. Are they not part of ordinary commerce for health purposes and other purposes which can be abused if misapplied? Or are they all essentially of such a nature that their very existence in the community or purchase by anybody is a threat and an evil? Are they per se pernicious? I digress to point out to Senator McClelland that it might take him a year to read the list of drugs because they are all expressed in scientific nomenclature that in most cases means nothing to me. I would have expected greater clarity in drafting. If the drugs listed have commercial properties which can properly be dealt with, I then ask the Committee to study the provision for the licensing system.
Sub-clause (1.) of clause 9 provides that a person who manufactures or proposes to manufacture a drug may apply to the Minister for a licence to manufacture that drug at those premises. It relates to persons and places. Sub-clause (2.) provides:
The Minister may require a person who applies for a licence under this section to furnish to the Minister, or to another person specified by (he Minister, such information as the Minister considers necessary.
Sub-clause (3.) states:
Where a person applies for a licence under this section, the Minister shall grant the licence to him unless -
I shall omit paragraph (a) because 1 feel a sense of urgency to get on with the Bill -
That is the width of the Ministers ambit of discretion. Sub-clause (4.) states:
The Minister may specify in the licence such conditions applicable to the licence as he determines.
That is provision for individual determination of conditions in relation to any person. Clause 10 gives the Minister a very wide power of revocation. There is no obligation for the Minister even to give notice to a licensee before he revokes a licence. The important point 1 wish to bring most forcibly to the attention of the Minister is that as I read the Bill there is no mechanism of appeal whatsoever. To me it is very important that there is administrative discretion of this kind, especially in a licensing system which may curtail a man’s livelihood. If it is justly curtailed because he is abusing narcotics, I do not stand here to defend him, but I stand here to say that there should be expressed in the legislation the right of appeal to another person for a man who claims that he is not acting wrongly.
We have two Houses of Parliament so that the Senate can review legislation passed by the other House. Rome had two consuls, so that one could check on the other. If there are two administrators and appeal lies merely from officer A to officer B, the fact that any joint action of a wrong nature involves a guilt consciousness as to wrongdoing needs the benefit of the fresh air of appeal. I do not proposed to move an amendment to the Bill but I hope that having said what I have said, unless I am incorrect in my reading of the Bill, the Minister will indicate that the matter will have consideration.
– Senator Wright has raised a number of points, the first of which related to the list of drugs in the First Schedule. That list is a reproduction of a list in the Convention document. The especially dangerous drugs which are listed in the First and Second Schedules are all used for bona fide medical purposes. In respect of several clauses the honourable senator raised questions of interpretation. Unlike most bills, this Bill was introduced in the Senate. If any questions of interpretation arise, very properly they will be looked at in the passage of the Bill from one House to the other.
The honourable senator’s other point related to the powers of the Minister and to licensing. In this connection I invite his attention to clause 6 which provides that the Minister or the Comptroller shall, in exercising any power or performing any function conferred on him by this Act, have regard to the obligations of the Commonwealth under the Convention and to no other matter. That is quite a limiting provision, and when this matter is being discussed regard should be had to it. lt is important, also, to realise that this Convention stemmed from an agency of the United Nations, from a study by a series of members of the Convention, to which ultimately about sixty-odd nations subscribed. Therefore, the provisions of this measure are designed not for an Act of Parliament peculiar to Australia; they are based on a world pattern and all aspects included have been considered by the members of the Convention. Further, in Australia we must consider the position of the States and the part they will play under the Convention and the responsibilities they will bear in connection with the control of narcotics; indeed, here their responsibilities are far greater that the responsibilities of the Commonwealth.
As Senator Wright stated, no provision is made in clause 10 for an appeal from the decision of the Minister, but there again the Minister cannot act capriciously; in any case the people who put this forward - responsible business people who want to engage in a legitimate trade in drugs and preparations containing drugs - have a responsibility and would be conscious of their obligations under this Convention and this legislation. I think there is no danger concerning the revocations that might be made by the Minister; in any case he could not live with the proposition if he cap riciously revoked a licence. He could do that only if there were a complete contravention of the Convention and the Act. and many processes, which are spelled out in the clause, must be gone through before he can give his ultimate decision. However, as Senator Wright said, there is no provision in this clause for an appeal from the decision of the Minister.
– I rise on a matter that has been exercising my mind, and I realise (hat there might be an easy explanation. My query concerns the penalty provisions in clause 24, but 1 refer first to the wording of clause 20 which says that the penalty shall be a fine not exceeding $4,000 or imprisonment not exceeding a period of ten years. I invite particular attention to the words ‘not exceeding’. However, in clause 24 the penalty is stated simply as ‘Penalty: One thousand dollars’. I ask why the words ‘not exceeding’ are used in one clause and in another clause there is a straight-out stipulation. I realise that the Acts Interpretation Act may have some application in this matter. 1 should like to refer also to a matter raised in a question yesterday by Senator Ormonde, who mentioned the effect of penalties on people who have not a great deal of money, or who are in tact broke. During the debate on this measure much has been said concerning the undesirable practice of dealing in drugs, and honourable senators seem to agree that no penalty is too great for such an offence. However, every offence under the Act need not be a serious offence. For instance, sub-clause (2.) of clause 24 provides:
A person shall not, without reasonable cause, obstruct or hinder an authorised inspector acting in pursuance of this section, and the occupier or person in charge of any premises which an authorised inspector enters in pursuance of this section shall provide the authorised inspector with all reasonable facilities and assistance for the effective exercise of his powers under this section.
One can imagine what would occur when a person failed to provide all reasonable facilities for an inspection, and one realises the natural reluctance of innocent people to make available these reasonable facilities for inspection. Therefore, one can imagine some offences under the Act which would not be regarded as so serious. If the Minister assures me that the $1,000 is the maximum penalty and that the magistrate has power to impose a lesser fine, I will bc satisfied.
– That is so. Senator Cavanagh was correct when he suggested that the Acts Interpretation Act has some bearing on the manner in which the penalties are set out. Further, the powers of inspection arc unlike the references in some other Bills, but there are clearly some clauses that have been written into this measure which have to he considered.
– I am very disappointed with the reply given by the Minister with regard to the right of appeal by people whose licences have been affected. I am speaking of people who are engaged in legitimate trade and whose licences arc affected by the decision of an executive officer, given finally and maybe arbitrarily. To prove the absence of capaciousness or the presence of an arbitrary element in an executive decision is often well nigh impossible, lt is well to recall that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this House years ago, when import licences were of great value, insisted that in that field there should bc the right of appeal from the decisions of people who controlled the administration of licences. I recall the sense of satisfaction 1 had when this right existed, because it gave the right of appeal to people who otherwise felt ‘hat they were operating under a licensing system and had no redress if their licence were revoked. 1 will be left with no satisfaction al all if there is a system of licensing and no provision is made for an appeal. For !he Minister’s special consideration, I add this: When the Leader of the Senate (Senator Henty) was Minister for Customs “.md Excise, one of the first Bills he introduced into this chamber was a measure to impose a licensing system upon customs agents. People who wish to find mischief of a personal nature in the manner in which this side of the Senate operates would do well to go back and read the encomiums that I paid to that legislation at the time it was being dealt with. It was a model piece of legislation which provided for an appeal by customs agents from the decision of a functionary of the Department of Customs and Excise. The Department is so much dependent upon the integrity and ability of its officers that it is reasonable, prima facie, that there should be a right of appeal for licensed agents. 1. am speaking of events that happened six or seven years ago and realise that my memory might not be so clear. I am open to contradiction and criticism in respect of what I say, but I recall that in that legislation a right of appeal was provided to a board composed of a chairman who was a member of the Department, a representative of the Customs Agents Association, and an independent person who was, I think, a legal officer, possibly a magistrate. If my memory is correct, provision was made also for his appeal to a judge on questions of law. That provision in my opinion is a model of an appellate system from an official system of licensing: that is to say, an appeal first to an administrative tribunal which has a membership of people with experience on both sides of the question and a person of the quality of a. magistrate to see that the principles of our law are conformed wilh.
– ls that not the legal position now?
– I did not know that Senator Henty was in the chamber. I hope that f am not embarrassing him or myself, but I just want to say, as I said on a previous occasion - and I would have hoped that this provision would have been copied into all of the systems - that i-s the provision was introduced then and as it still exists, it indicates that it must have worked to great advantage. We must have the protection and the feeling of security and freedom that we gel. first, from an appeal to an administrative board, and then, if that goes wrong in law. an appeal lo a court. I have never asked for more than one appeal to a court. If it is a minor matter then it should be an appeal to a low court; if it is an important matter then it .should be an appeal to a higher court. f do not wish to say any more but I ask lbc Minister to mark this down as an occasion when, if the Minister feels that he should not introduce an amendment, 1 do not go to the stage of moving one. I have the mood, if it were my humour, to move an amendment to provide for an appeal because it would invoke exactly the same principle as was laid down previously. I only mention that because impartial and cold consideration of these matters can heal a lot of differences and dissipate a lot of resentment and heat that may come from some quarters which have a different viewpoint. I made my comments in good faith on the customs agents licencing provision which was introduced eight or ten years ago, asking that it should be made a model. I repeat that today. I hope that my remarks will not go unheeded.
– 1 would like to deal with this matter before the debate goes any further. 1 want to drawthe Committee’s attention to the fact that there is a difference between customs agents, on the one hand, and manufacturers on the other hand. In one instance we are dealing with soie agents or traders, as it were, but here we are dealing with manufacturers who are in business to manufacture specific commodities. I want to refer again to clause 10 which provides:
The Minister may revokea manufacturer’s licence if -
the holder of the licence docs not commence to manufacture, or ceases to manufacture, the drug specified in the licence at the premises so specified;
the holder of the licence has failed to comply with a condition specified in the licence;
the holder of the licence has been convicted of an offence against this Act;
the Minister is of the opinion that it would be inconsistent with the obligations of the Commonwealth under the Convention for the licence to continue in force; or– and this is the obvious one -
the holder of the licence requests the Minister to revoke the licence.
I suggest that there is a fairly circumscribed area in which the Minister can revoke the licence.
I point out to the Committee that even if the power is in the hands of the Minister he is answerable to the Parliament. Surely when we are dealing with a very complex area and with the administration of a convention which imposes many serious responsibilities upon the Minister or, by delegation from him, upon his Department, the Minister has to have certain powers. Whilst
I note the reference to the other customs law in which, as Senator Wright quite properly said, there is provision for an appeal, in this instance there is no provision for an appeal in a limited area in which manufacturers are dealing with a commodity which is under world control. This is the effect of narcotic control.I cannot add any more to that. I point out that anything that may be said during the course of debate regarding the technicalities of any clause would be examined during the passage of the Bill through both Houses of the Parliament.
– I would like to make a few remarks. At an earlier stage Senator Wright referred to clause 4 and to the fact that the meaning of ‘drug’ was extended to include any substance provided in regulations made in pursuance of the Act. The Opposition shares Senator Wright’s view, that it is good to see that those responsible for the Bill have taken into account the firm and consistent view which has been expressed on this matter by most members of the Senate. There has been a number of votes on mailers similar to this. I think that in recent years on most occasions amending motions have been successful. The Senate hits indicated that such matters ought to be dealt with by way of regulation and not by way of some instrument in writing or other device, however it might be described or worked into legislation under which matters as important as this question might be dealt with in a way which was not subject to the supervision by both Houses of Parliament.
There seems to me to be a lot of common sense in what Senator Wright has said about the appeal provisions. Some attention ought to be given to the establishment of administrative procedures for appeal. This situation will arise in many Acts. It is not good enough to say that this is a special Act. On every occasion it is said that there is some reason why an Act is special. Administrative procedures have been developed in other countries. The United Stales of America has a great code of appeal procedures and methods by which attempts may be made to correct decisions that grieve some citizen affected by them. I think it is time that we startedto look at these matters. I think that they arc above the urea of party politics. They ought to bc the subject of some proper investigation and they ought to be given proper consideration. Perhaps it may be that the Senate On some occasion should consider this whole question of the administrative procedures that ought to be developed. Perhaps the proper way might be to set up an administrative procedures Act to operate generally in respect of these matters. Instead of our concerning ourselves with this problem in every particular Bill, there should be a general Act dealing with appeals from aci m i n ist ra t i ve proceed iings .
– I intervene at this late stage of the Committee debate on this Bill only as a result of the advocacy of Senator Wright who has drawn attention to the fact that there is no provision for appeal in relation to Ministers’ decisions relating to carcotics or drugs of addiction or drugs of another nature. I am drawn into this debate at this late stage because part of my life has been involved in the closest association with people, and wilh one individual in particular, who were drug addicts. Probably from time to time other honourable senators have had some casual connection with these people. But I am speaking from long years of experience of the evil that drugs of addiction create among individual members of the community.
I point out to honourable senators that the Parliament has been invited by the Government to legislate to deal with a situation in which society is being laid under siege. All honourable senators would readily concede that in the event of war the Government, being responsible for the management of the affairs of our society, should be given express powers to deal with the war situation. In terms of something that I concede to be a kind of modern war. there is entering into our society a means by which it can be suborned. Therefore, I have no regret about acceding to the wishes of the Government to obtain plenary powers lo deal with the situation that exists. I am not impressed one iota by the nihilistic advocacy of Senator Wright in this matter. We are not here dealing merely with a civil situation that has arisen in the normal conduct of the community’s affairs. We arc confronted with a situation of grave danger thai threatens the whole community. I suggest that the nihilistic arguments that have been advanced by Senator Wright have no bearing on this situation. I beg the Minister and also the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to concede nothing and to ensure that the Government is armed with the full plenary powers that it needs to deal wilh the situation that confronts us.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I refer to clause 24, which will confer on an authorised inspector power at. any reasonable time on production of his authority to enter the premises of a person who has been required to keep records and furnish information in accordance with notice served under the terms of clause 23. That clause provides that, notice in writing may be served on a person who is a licensed manufacturer, a manufacturer of narcotic preparations or a wholesale dealer in drugs or narcotic preparations, requiring him to keep records and to furnish information. Premises specified in clause 24 must bc premises on which drugs are manufactured or the business of a wholesale dealer in drugs is carried on. An authorised person must have an authority but he does not need a special warrant lo enter such premises. At this stage, 1 am not concerned with that matter. I have no wish to debate it. I concede that to that extent the provision is in line with other provisions in customs legislation. But, as 1 read the clause in this measure, an authorised inspector will have power to enter premises only when he can lake responsibility for proving that they are in fact premises on which drugs are manufactured or the business of a wholesale dealer in drugs is carried on. The term ‘drugs’ used there does not mean drugs generally, I understand. It means ‘drugs’ as defined in the Bill.
My feathers would be much more unruffled by this clause if it were not for the fact that, as you, Sir, will remember, we were told that under the provisions of the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act 1966 an authorised person can, by night as well as by day, enter the home as well as the yard of a poultry farmer. In that instance, on production of his authority, an authorised person, at all reasonable times, may ‘enter any building or place’ in which he has reason to believe that there are any hens kept for commercial purposes or any books, documents or other papers relating to the keeping of hens for commercial purposes. I have used a somewhat shortened form of words to convey the subject matter to the minds of honourable senators. 1 do not want to dwell too much on what goes on in hen coops. I would have thought that the collection of a levy on poultry was a matter of less importance than the control of narcotic drugs. If I do not mistake the Bill now before us, an authorised inspector may enter premises only at the peril of accepting responsibility for proving that they are premises on which drugs are manufactured or the business of a wholesale dealer in drugs is carried on.
– He could always get a warrant.
– I am not prepared to accept or deny that suggestion. The situation seems to me to point to the need to set out in Commonwealth legislation some outline of the proper conditions conferring a right of entry, having regard, first, to common law principles and, secondly, to the subject with which we are dealing. It seems to me that the law should be far more stringent in respect of narcotic drugs than in respect of a levy on hens.
– I am not unaware of the battle of the hens. But here we are dealing with a specific provision relating to the premises of a manufacturer or a wholesale dealer. Clause 24 provides for the right of entry of an authorised inspector for the purposes of this Bill. Senator Wright has drawn a comparison between the power conferred here - which he argues has certain limitations - and the power conferred under the terms of another measure, that power not being so limited. It is not for me at the moment to reflect on the power conferred under any other measure. I understand that the honourable senator was trying to make the point that there should be some uniformity in the powers conferred on the various Commonwealth departments. However, I point out that powers must vary according to the situations in which they are to be used. The power with which we are dealing here relates to the inspection of the premises of a manufacturer or a wholesale dealer. I believe that it is adequate for the purpose for which it is required.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
– Mr Deputy President, I move:
This Bill asks the Parliament to agree to two proposals. The first proposal is that the Education Act 1945-1959 should be repealed and if this is done the Commonwealth Office of Education and the Commonwealth Scholarships Board will cease to exist. The second proposal is to agree to proposals in the Bill regarding the various types of Commonwealth scholarships.
The Commonwealth Office of Education has for a long time ceased to have an existence of its own other than in a formal sense. It has been primarily concerned with international relations in education, with the training of foreign sponsored foreign students in Australia, with advice to other Commonwealth authorities, and with liaison with State education departments in some matters. It operated, from 1949, as part of the Prime Minister’s Department. More recently, as the Commonwealth activities in education have expanded to include direct involvement with universities, colleges of advanced education, technical colleges, secondary schools in respect to science teaching laboratories, and other matters, an Education Division within the Prime Minister’s Department was established and the Office of Education has functioned as part of that Division with the Director of the Office of Education holding a senior ranking position. On the establishment of the Department of Education and Science the work previously carried out by the Education Division, including the work carried out by the Office of Education, was taken over by the new Department and there is no need or justification for the continuance of the Office of Education as a formal separate entity.
I turn now to the provisions relating to scholarships. Under the Education Act there was a Scholarships Board which, subject to any directions given to it by the Minister, had the formal responsibility for advice as to the administration of scholarships awarded for study in universities and colleges of advanced education. The Board was also bound by regulations made from time to time but these regulations referred only in detail to the benefits payable to scholarship holders, and the application of a means test to living allowances. The number of scholarships actually awarded, the conditions under which scholarships were held or forfeited, the arrangements for selecting scholarship holders and similar matters were left to the direction of the Minister. The Board did not have any formal responsibility for secondary or technical scholarships which have been administered since 1964 as the direct responsibility of the Minister.
The Bill now before us sets out the five types of Commonwealth scholarships which are awarded; leaves the administration of them with the Department of Education and Science; sets out the maximum benefits payable to holders of each type of scholarship; and provides that there will be a means test applied to the living allowances of university and advanced education scholarships. The method of applying the means test, and any variation in the maximum benefits payable is to be provided by means of regulations made under the Act. Where a university or college of advanced education increases fees, such increases may be paid on behalf of a scholarship holder by ministerial direction. Many other matters - for example, the number of scholarships to be awarded, the conditions under which scholarships continue to be held, the eligibility of persons to be awarded scholarships, the assessment of what is and what is not equipment for secondary scholarship holders, and similar matters - are leftto ministerial determination as they have been in the past. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that these ministerial powers have been quite extensive and that it is suggested they should be retained. They do give a wide area of discretion but in dealing with the particular circumstances and problems of tens of thousands of individual students - there are 52,000 students at present holding Commonwealth scholarships - it is quite impossible to frame regulations which cover all the cases that may and do arise. For example, in order to avoid awarding fewer scholarships than are available in any year it is necessary to make offers which may lead to the awarding of a few more scholarships than the total promised.
In order to ensure that rules as to passing of examinations are not applied with undue rigidity it is necessary to be abb to examine all the circumstances in a particular case and to be able to take into consideration such factors as. for example, illness. And the same applies in matters of eligibility, the sort of equipmentto be providedto secondary scholarship holders and so on. It would be impossible to codify in regulation rules which would cover all the cases that might arise and any attempt to do so would result in cases ofinjustice. In the conditions which have existed, and which the Bill proposes should continue to exist, decisions are taken by a Minister who is responsible for explaining and defending them in this Parliament if they are questioned. In short he is answerable.
The various scholarship schemes, variations in eligbility. variations in benefits, new courses approved as suitable for scholarship holders, and similar matters are of very great interest to many individuals and authorities and to the public in general. My Department has used, and will use. public media to make available information on these matters and will use other channels of information such as the State education departments and individual headmasters. In addition I propose to have prepared an annual statement, or report, indicating the numbers of scholarships awarded in the various categories, the general conditions of eligibility, the maximum benefits payable, the courses approved at. colleges of advanced education, and similar matters, which report I will present to Parliament once a year. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
Since the Scholarships Bill 1967 repeals the Education Act 1945-1959 under which the Commonwealth Office of Education was established, the purpose of this Bill is to repeal subsection 2 of section 13 of the Australian Universities Commission Act 1959-1965 which contains a reference to the Commonwealth Office of Education. The amendment is formal and does not affect the functions of the Australian Universities Commission. 1 commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 May (vide page 1149), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In general terms, the opposition takes the same attitude to this Bill as it did to the Narcotic Drugs Bill 1967 which has just been passed by the Senate. We realise that one Bill is complementary to the other. However, at the outset I should emphasise that, just as my Leader (Senator Murphy) last night, particularly in reply to an interjection from Senator Gair, indicated that we were equally as vigilant as the Government was in relation to combating the ramifications of increased drug traffic, we were equally concerned about the rule of law prevailing in this regard. That is the first point that I wish to make.
The second point that I wish to deal with is this: in the Customs Bill 1967 we are concerned with external efforts to by-pass our customs structure relating to drug smuggling. I wish to refer to one point about which I am a little perturbed. Last night, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) listed the nations that were signatories to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. 1 notice that there is a footnote to the Minister’s speech in which he says that thirty-three territories are not included in this Convention. I know full well the enthusiasm and energy of the Minister in this field. I know also the activities of his officers. But it is my hope that at the United Nations level also we will do all that we can to see that activity in this direction takes place in other countries, both signatories and non-signatories to the Convention. 1 make that qualification because I noticed in the ‘Canberra Times* this morning a reference to the prevalence of smuggling in Pakistan. Now, Pakistan is a signatory to this Convention. I trust that at the United Nations level we will endeavour to ensure that some of these Asian countries do not give mere lip service to the provisions and the objectives embraced in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.
I notice that the Minister in his second reading speech referred to section 234 of the Act which deals with evasion of duty, false declarations, untrue statements, etc. 1 imagine that it deals with matters other than the importation or smuggling of narcotics. 1 do not want to be petty in my criticism. We all are aware of the need for vigilance in the administration of the Department of Customs and Excise in relation to unscrupulous trafficking in drugs. But sometimes jarring incidents occur in respect of the normal bona fide traveller. In 1964 1 was involved in a very amusing incident. It is amusing now, anyway. 1 arrived at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Among my possessions I had a number of books. One was the report of the proceedings of the previous conference of the British Labor Party. Another was a book dealing with modern Socialism and written by Edvard Kardelj, the Yugoslav ViceChairman. A third dealt with the role of the Irish community in Great Britain. I do not think any of those books could be regarded as subversive.
– The Irish one could be.
– I disregard the interjection made by my colleague, lt was rather provocative. The point thai: 1 make is that I had to wait for a couple of hours while decisions were made on whether these books were subversive and what duty I would have to pay on them. There was a happy ending to the incident. I did not have to pay any duty at all on them. I attributed the delay to the fact that the customs officer concerned was probably in his first week on the job and was keen. But I formed the impression that had he been better briefed the incident would not have occurred.
There is another point on which I should like clarification. do not know whether there is any relativity between penalties in respect of imports and penalties in respect of exports. I know that the Minister has done his best in this matter, but there are people who want to export our bird life. Qantas Empire Airways Ltd and other airlines have had problems in connection with this. The problems do not arise only in Sydney and Melbourne. As a reader of the Indonesian newsletter, 1 know that Qantas was subject to some criticism because other airlines would not carry some Indonesian birds, but they were put on a Qantas aircraft and they died before, they reached Europe. The Indonesian newsletter implied that Qantas was heartless do not think for one moment that the officers concerned were heartless. So I seek information on whether there is any relationship between the penalties that apply in relation to a person who brings something into Australia and in so doing commits a breach of the law or circumvents the existing customs regulations and the penalties that apply in relation to a person who exports something that is on the prohibited exports list. I hope that the Minister will answer that point when he is replying.
I do not propose to indulge in endless repetition. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber appreciate the fact that we are grappling with a very serious situation. Obviously we have to rev up, as it were, our existing legislation to ensure that we curb much of the trouble with which we are confronted. We are probably learning from overseas countries. Our customs officers are dedicated men. I know the hours that they work. I know that the British Overseas Airways Corporation faces some very interesting situations, to say the least, in relation to some of the people whom it carries on its Indian routes. I do not think those situations occur to the same degree in Australia. Last night I interjected when Senator Toohey was speaking about the matter of profit. No matter what laws are passed by this Parliament or any other parliament, while a very high profit can be earned people will go to all sorts of lengths to do these illegal things.
I always have a certain sympathy for the Department of Customs and Excise because of Australia’s extensive coastline.
I refer to Senator Toohey’s submissions on this matter. I believe that at some time the Royal Australian Navy, with a greater number of patrol boats, could integrate its activities wilh those of this Department. The very presence of vessels of the United States coastguard service around the American coast must be a deterrent to the drug traffic with which that country is confronted. I know in broad terms the work force that the Department of Customs and Excise has in Australia. Its officers have a very arduous job. lt seems to mc that at times the Services, particularly the Navy, could be used as an indirect deterrent to the activities of some of the drug rings.
It is quite obvious that, in countries that are not signatories to the United Nations Convention, people are only too happy to try to circumvent the various regulations. In view of the electronic and other scientific devices that are used to obtain information to circumvent the regulations, it is quite obvious that it is not sufficient for customs officers to use stereotyped methods. They always have to be ahead of people who try to circumvent the regulations. I make the point that detection is one thing and the legal process is another. As I said earlier in my remarks, because of the timetable problem that besets this chamber, I do not believe that I should engage in endless repetition. T have pinpointed certain qualifications to our support of the Bill. 1 leave the matter at that.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the speedy passage it has given this Bill through the second reading stage. Senator Mulvihill referred to flora and fauna. We all appreciate his very lively interest in this matter. He is to be commended on it. As you know, Mr President, 1 am responsible for the protection of fauna in that I must agree to the export of it. I give my consent only under the most rigid conditions. Those conditions are that the animals, birds, or whatever they may be, must be exported for some zoological reason or on a zoo to zoo basis which must not be a commercial basis. In other words, I will not tolerate the export of fauna to a zoo that is set up in another part of the world for commercial purposes. Wc have customs officers in other parts of the world, including New York, London and Tokyo. We also have access to the facilities of other departments. A real study is made before my officers will even ask me to put my signature on a consent to an application for the export of fauna. I believe that this is a very good system. It is in accordance with the Government’s policy.
Section 233 of the Customs Act states that no person shall import any prohibited imports or export any prohibited exports. The penalty laid down is$1, 000. In this instance we have not changed the penalty. The reason is that it was changed in 1963. So the honourable senator would not find reference to that in this amending Bill. That penalty is considered adequate.
– Does the Minister believe that the attitude adopted in a recent case of the illegal export of bird life was sufficient to discourage such activity in the future?
– We have to view the matter in the broad. After all, to the people who engage in this sort of activity $1,000 is not an insignificant amount. In any case, the birds are lost to them and they probably had to pay some money to acquire them in the first place. We see to it that the birds are protected, and so on. We think that in the circumstances the penalty as provided at present is a reasonable one. We are being very vigilant in this matter because some extraordinary attempts have been made in more recent times as honourable senators know.
As to the remainder of the Bill, 1 have circulated a proposed amendment to the definition of ‘narcotic drug’. Quite obviously, if I might say so as the penal provisions of section 235 are in identical terms with the penal provisions of the previous Bill relating to narcotics, I see no reason why the Government should not accept the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that the definition here be in identical terms.
All in all, I feel a considerable amount of good can come out of the debate we have had here today and I am quite certain that the added penalties we are providing in the Customs Act will make it possible for my Department to be more active in connection with the responsibilities it holds.
Some of these penalties have not been changed since 1901. They are out of touch with reality. I shall not discuss them now but if any honourable senator wishes to have any information about any particular one of them, I shall be only too happy to supply what information is available to me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3, which reads:
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the definition of “Master”, the following definition: - “ ‘Narcotic drug’ means goods consisting of a substance that is a drug as defined by subsection (1.) of section four of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967.”.
Omit the definition of “Narcotic drug”, insert - “ ‘ “Narcotic drug” means goods cons isting of a substance or mixture that is a drug as defined by sub-section (1.) of section four of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 or a narcotic preparation as so defined, and includes goods consisting of, or of a mixture containing, bufotenine, dimethyltryptaminc, lysergide, mescaline, psilocybin or psilocin.’.”.
The amendment, in effect, broadens the definition to include particular hallucinogenic substances and preparations which were not included in the original Bill. Following advice from the Department of Health it has been decided to provide for offences involving these substances to be subject to the same higher penalties as apply to narcotic drugs offences. Furthermore the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, recognising the extreme danger of these substances, is considering ways and means of bringing such substances under international control. Pending the outcome of this examination, the Commission has communicated with governments urging them to take all steps to prevent the use of these substances for other than approved bona fide scientific research and medical, purposes.
Action has not been taken at this time to cover the manufacture of hallucinogenic substances under the Bill to control the’ manufacture of narcotic drugs. Appropriate steps will be taken to control the manufacture of hallucinogenic substances in Australia when such substances have been brought under international control by the Commission. I hope that is understood. This aspect has not been covered in the Bill with which we dealt previously. The moment the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs gives us the signal, 1 shall be bringing down another bill. In the meantime, the Commission has asked us to take all measures necessary. The only way in which we can do that is through the Customs Act.
The substances referred to in the amendment are, with two exceptions, already specifically mentioned in the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. Steps will be taken to include the remaining two substances in the Regulations concurrently with the passage of this Bill. Under these Regulations, imports for approved bona fide scientific or medical purposes will, of course, be permitted.
Hallucinogenic substances include preparations such as LSD - lysergide. Substances of this kind could have been prescribed by regulation. However, because of the high penalties involved, provision has been made for the substances to be specifically mentioned in the principal Act. I think that this proposal will be in accordance with the points that have been raised in the debate today concerning taking power by regulation and taking it under the Act.
– 1 should like to know from the Minister whether any recommendation has been made by the Drug Evaluation Sub-Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council in connection with this matter.
– Not as yet. I understand the matter has been under consideration, but no decision has been made as yet.
– Is the position then that, having considered it, no recommendation has been made?
– My understanding is that it has not been considered to the ultimate. It is one of the matters currently under consideration. I am open to correction on that, but I can check it.
– The finding of, perhaps, one of the world’s outstanding medical scientists is that lysergide, known as ‘LSD’, is not a narcotic drug.
– No. It is not a narcotic drug.
– The opinion I have received is that LSD is not a narcotic drug at all and it might be regarded as being distinctly different in many ways from the subject of the other Bill that we had before us and perhaps distinctly different from some of the other drugs which have been dealt with.
– What about the other drugs that are included in this expanded definition?
– I have not been able to get any assistance on all of those. Like Senator Wright, I have been subjected to considerable pressure of business connected with the legislature. Anyway, it appears to me that we do not have any information from our own authoritative source as to whether such a measure is required with respect to these particular drugs.
– I can only say what I said a few moments ago. These are all, to a certain extent, hallucinogenic drugs. In every case, the Department of Health says that they should be included in the Act with the requirement always that they can be exported or imported for medical and scientific purposes. This is just one more of the responsibilities and burdens that sit upon the Department of Customs and Excise and my delegates in these matters. We have to go to the Department of Health for advice in relation to these things. I remind honourable senators that we are now discussing a Customs Bill and the provisions relating to offences connected with the use of drugs for other than proper health and medical purposes.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [3.59J- I rely upon the Minister’s statement with regard to this matter but I should like to point out that for the purposes of the Customs Bill and the higher penalties that may be imposed we propose now to expand the definition of ‘narcotic drug’. We have already defined ‘narcotic drug’ in the
Narcotic Drugs Bill which we have just passed. That definition had relation to the way in which ‘narcotic drug’ was denned in the convention. We took power to extend the definition by regulation. I want to emphasise how carefully the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs considered any proposal to expand the definition of narcotics’. Under Article III, where an amendment to the Schedule is required, the Secretary-General has certain functions. Then the proposed amendment goes to the Commission and the World Health Organisation, which may review it. I do not follow their processes but they treat the matter as of such importance that they have a process of reviewing the specifications of drugs which are to be included in or excluded from the Convention. 1 point out that in the Narcotic Drugs Bill with which we have just dealt the proposal was that the original definition of ‘narcotic drugs’ apply in both the Customs Bill and the Narcotic Drugs Bill. Now we are extending the definition to include specific drugs.
I want to make quite clear the dependence that I place upon the Minister for justification for the inclusion of these drugs. I have risen only because I am a little disquieted to think that Senator Murphy should say that an exalted scientist has remarked that one of these drugs that I had never heard of until yesterday - LSD as it is known for short - is not of the nature of a narcotic. We can, by spreading our net too wide, do great damage to the cause of strengthening legislation to restrict pernicious drugs. I am not suggesting that the Senate is doing that, but I make that observation because under the Convention care was taken in relation to this process.
We have already defined ‘narcotic drugs’ for the purpose of the specific legislation. Now we are extending the ambit of the definition. I, for my part, rely upon the Minister.
– I enter this debate with reluctance in order to express the concern I felt when I read the list of LSD drugs that was to be included in the legislation classified generally, or for the time being at any rate, as narcotics. I thought immediately that this proposed extension should be watched very closely because, due to pressures on the Government, the Minister and the Department as to the effects of this hallucinatory drug, we could be thrown into a panic and legislate hurriedly on something which could perhaps open up a much wider field than we can see now. I understand that truck drivers are using pep pills to keep them awake, while other people take pills to help them sleep.
– They are not using LSD.
– I know that. I think of the smoker who in the final analysis could be classified as a nicotine addict. I understand that the United Stales is legislating, or has already legislated, to have the words ‘This is a poison’ placed on cigarette packets.
– What about alcoholism?
– Alcohol is the same, and my friend Senator Mulvihill agrees that nicotine is a poison.
– Fluoride is a poison.
– I know that.
– Then do nol: mention specific things like tobacco.
– I am merely indicating that legislation is being introduced to incorporate LSD, which according to the International Convention has not yet been finally described as a narcotic, into the list of narcotic drugs. We are virtually bringing LSD into the field of narcotics with all its penalties and grievous implications. Although I do not feel equipped to enter this debate - Senator Wright has confirmed my fears - I want to put on record that when I read that LSD was being included in this legislation I had the immediate reaction that we need to tread very carefully and be sure that we do not go too far because of various pressures, and thus intrude into the diminishing field of freedom of the human being. There must always be a line of demarcation. A person should have a free choice as to whether he takes Aspro, Aspirin, Disprin or something else for a headache; a cup of coffee or the more concentrated form of caffeine if he wants to stay awake, or lobeline if he wants to stop smoking.
– It is not effective. It is hopeless.
– Twelve tablets of lobeline cost $2 whereas, according to certain newspapers, one can obtain junk cheaper than that. That is the point I am making. I hope that Senator Wright and Senator Murphy will protect the layman who does not understand the implications of this type of legislation which could lead to a further intrusion into the right of the individual to take tablets that he fancies without running the risk of being tried in a summary court of jurisdiction and sentenced to prison for tcn years.
– I want to make it perfectly clear that all but two of these drugs are already prohibited imports.
– Is LSD included?
– It is included. Convention on narcotics provides that certain drugs can be covered by regulation, thus placing on us the obligation to pick them up, but because I and my Department are conscious of the importance of this we have decided to take the action we are now taking instead of nominating certain drugs by regulation. My Department is alive to the implications. I was told as late as yesterday that the United Nations Economic and Social Council is now sitting to consider the supplementary items which will be dealt with by the Convention. Meanwhile we have a resolution on LSD which is in these terms:
The Committee on substances not under international control,
Noting with deep concern the increasing abuse of LSD (LSD-25, lysergic acid diethylamide, lysergide),
Recognizing the grave danger of this abuse to health and safety in respect to both the individual and to society,
Requests governments to take immediate action to control strictly the production of LSD and substances producing similar ill-effects either immediately or readily by conversion, and to place the distribution of these substances under the supervision of competent health authorities,
Recommends that the use of these substances be restricted to scientific research and medical purposes and that their administration be only under very close and continuous medical supervision.
Condemns all other usage of such substances and urges governments to take all steps to prevent it. 1 think I have said enough to make it clear to the Committee that the action we are taking accords with what might reasonably be expected.
Amendment agreed to.
– I refer to clause 9 which reads in part:
After section 234a of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: 235.- (1.) . . . (3.) Where proceedings for an offence referred to in sub-section (1.) of this section are brought in a court of summary jurisdiction, the court may either determine the proceedings or commit the defendant for trial, but, where the court of summary jurisdiction determines the proceedings, the court shall not impose a fine exceeding One thousand dollars or sentence the defendant to imprisonment for a period exceeding two years, but may impose both a fine and a period of imprisonment in respect of the offence.’.
My Leader has outlined the purpose of this amendment in earlier discussion.
– In view of the vote on the Narcotic Drugs Bill in relation to this matter the Government accepts the proposed amendment.
– Order! The question is: That the words proposed to be left out be left out’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order! The question now is: ‘That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I thank the Senate and the Government for accepting the principle inherent in the amendment. I refer back to the Narcotic Drugs Bill, because the argument occurred during the debate on that Bill. The Committee may recall that, apart from the principle of the defendant in a serious matter not being deprived of his right to a trial by jury, the Opposition considers that the general principle that should run through our federal legislation is that where there is a summary proceeding - that is, where there is no complication with indictable matters - no man should be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for more than one year. The general principle is that there ought to be provision for trial by jury except in cases where the penalty is less than imprisonment for one year. That ought to be the high water mark. Sometimes there may be a case for a special departure, but we do not think that is so. That is a fair enough point for a maximum.
We are aware that the main Act contains provisions which offend againstthis principle but we do not propose amendments to this Bill to deal with them. I was pleased to hear Senator Wright say, as I understood him, that he concurred in the view that the Opposition was putting in this matter, which was that this was a general rule that ought to be applicable to summary matters. It is a great principle and I hope that those who are concerned with the compilation of legislation in future will bear that in mind so that the Customs Bills and others might be corrected along those lines. Where the matters are very serious the defendant ought to have the right to trial by jury and, above all. he should not be subjected to summary proceedings and deprived of his right to trial by jury where the punishment on conviction is imprisonment for more than one year.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 May (vide page 1235), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a Bill to amend the Homes Savings Grant Act which was passed early in 1964 and assented to in May of the same year. The legislation has now been in operation for three years. It was amended last year and is to be amended this year. The Opposition does not oppose the motion for the second reading of the Bill, but we have some questions to raise and will move an amendment in Committee. I think that after three years operation it is time to review the effectiveness of the legislation and consider whether it has achieved its purpose.
On its introduction, we gathered that it had two main purposes. One was to direct savings into particular accounts which would be used for home finance. Money had to be put in particular accounts with institutions that were lending money for home building. By this means the money available for home building was to he increased and thereby the number of homes built was to be increased. The other purpose was to assist young married couples to purchase homes. On the figures supplied this morning. ( query whether the legislation has achieved this purpose. The Act provides grants in respect of savings both for the construction of homes and for the purchase of existing homes.
It may well be that, because of restrictions, persons requiring homes do not qualify for grants. This Bill seeks to make some amendments which will make the position easier in certain directions. It proposes to extend the scope of the Act to widows with children; to extend to twelve months the time limit for the lodgment of applications; and to remove certain restriction which previously barred people from obtaining grants. There has always been in my mind a doubt as to whether the legislation provided any benefit for those who needed assistance in acquiring a home. With only another month to go to the end of the year the average rate of grants over the three years period has been more than 25,000 a year, so we can see that there is a reduction in the number of successful applicants at a time when the building rate is declining.
– What is the average?
– There have been 77,000 grants over the three years period. If we divide that number by three we get an average of 25,666 a year. From 1st July last until 5th May of this year there were 23,116 applications for homes savings grants. A month remains in this financial year but it seems clear that the number of applications in this financial year will not reach the average of other years. Therefore it seems that rather than the grants stimulating home building, the number of applications for grants fluctuates in accordance with the state of the building industry throughout Australia. The grant is not contributing to a greater construction of new homes. Quite possibly a great number of the people who are receiving the full grant would have built homes without the grant. It is not possible to say that people are building homes today because of the payment by the Government of homes savings grants.
In the Minister’s second reading speech she quite proudly said that we have a higher percentage of home ownership than any other country in the world. We may be fooling ourselves. It is necessary for people to commit themselves to home ownership today in order to get a place to live. Rental homes are simply not available. Homes may be bought in Western Australia by payment of a deposit of $200. In South Australia, and I believe in other States, homes can be purchased by payment of a deposit of $100. An owner gets the key to a house and from then on he makes payments on a mortgage, for rates, taxes, maintenance and so on. People who are not in a financial position to purchase homes are forced to raise the deposit to buy a home because no houses are available for rental. A deposit of $100 can be raised by people who estimate that their income is sufficient to meet the weekly repayments on the mortgage. But rates and taxes have to be paid and no money is left for maintenance of houses built to last no longer than one generation. Years ago homes were built to last much longer. Home maintenance has become costly. In the States many home owners are simply walking off their properties because they cannot keep up the payments. Other people who stay in houses they are buying are finding that as the houses are getting older they are falling into disrepair.
The Government has said that the homes savings grant would increase building activities. We must recognise that it has not succeeded. Figures released by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics show that the number of houses and flats completed in the year ending December last totalled 111,962. In 1964, the year the Homes Savings Grant Act came into operation, 105,220 houses and flats were completed. There seems to be some basis in those figures for a claim that the building rate has increased. However, the number of commencements of houses and flats in this year shows the future building trend. This year the number of commencements totalled 110,713, whereas in the year that the Act was introduced 114,903 houses and flats were commenced. Last year the number of approvals was 116,326, whereas in the year that the Act came into operation there were 124,569 approvals. The figures show that approvals and commencements have declined since the Act came into operation. So if the purpose of the Act was to increase home building, it has not succeeded.
Other factors influence the home construction rate than payment of the homes savings grant. When Parliament is dealing with public money and making gifts of $500 for no other reason than because a person is of a certain age - under thirtysix years of age and is building or buying the first matrimonial home - it has a great responsibility. I do not know that the Government should be simply handing out taxpayers’ money for this reason. If grants were made to assist people who were otherwise unable to purchase homes, there may be some justification for them. If grants were made on a basis of needs, they might also have some justification, but this legislation has no reference to needs.
The only restriction is that the value of a home should not exceed $15,000, an increase of $1,000 from the previous level of $14,000. That increase is a reflection of the increased cost of home construction between 1964 and 1966. A type of home that would have cost $14,000 to build in 1964 would now cost more to build than is permitted under this legislation to qualify for a grant. The maximum value has been increased by $1,000 for the purpose of making eligible today the types of homes which qualified for a grant in 1964.
Rather than help the purchase of a home by making a grant of S500, we are making a grant of $500 to a small proportion of home buyers and have encouraged an increase of $1,000 in the cost of land and a home. So obviously a home purchaser has become S500 worse off as a result of the legislation. Of all occupations the building trade contains the greatest number of bankrupt persons. The building industry has passed on to home buyers the increased cost of building construction. The Act may have fallen down because land agents in anticipation of the homes savings grants increased the selling price of land. The first problem to be overcome is the shortage of homes. The Minister acknowledged in her second reading speech some responsibility for home construction. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the Commonwealth Government builds approximately 15% of houses constructed in Australia. The figure seems to rise and fall with the general rise and fall of housing construction.
We can justifiably query whether the Government is doing all it could. The Government has influence on other home construction outside the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement grants; indeed, the availability of money for the purchase of homes generally is greatly influenced by the Government. The 1966 annual report of the Reserve Bank of Australia shows that the decline in dwelling commencements in the first half of 1965-66 was due to the reduction in advances from savings banks, which had been requested by the Reserve Bank to lend money for drought purposes outside the general policy of restraint; to favour lending for purposes which would aid production rather than add to consumption; to avoid lending for speculative purposes, and to refrain from adding pressure on the construction industry. With the decline in the industry in about September of that year the savings banks were specially asked to maintain their lending for housing and were discouraged from dealing with applications for finance which were likely to be associated with speculative stock building, particularly of imported goods. The Reserve Bank report discloses that as the year progressed and the dwelling commencements continued to follow a declining trend, it asked all savings banks to explore the possibility of some further housing finance being made available over the remainder of the financial year, with an emphasis on new rather than existing housing. When the savings banks then made an extra $24m available for new dwellings the housing commencements increased.
One can see how the decline was created in the building industry by the Reserve Bank which, in the first place, requested savings banks to refrain from, placing pressure on the construction industry - to such an extent that there was an alarming effect. Then the Reserve Bank asked the savings banks to make money available for new dwellings and housing construction. As a result, $24m was made available and assisted greatly. In this instance a quasigovernment instrumentality, the Reserve Bank, was deciding what money was to be made available and in this way influenced private homebuilding from time to time.
This is important, because in the major capital cities today new homes are available and are deteriorating for the want of occupancy; they could be purchased overnight by the people who have the money to purchase them. On the other hand, there is a waiting period for the people who seek to borrow money. The Commonwealth Bank will lend money only to established customers; this is its method of regulating the limited resources it has available for housing. There is a waiting list at some banks, to such an extent that applicants to the South Australian Savings Bank will have to wait some years for a loan. Although houses are available, the people who want new houses are living in many instances in sub-standard accommodation, in apartment houses, or in single rooms for which they are paying exorbitant rents because they cannot obtain the finance to purchase the new homes. We have succeeded in solving the housing problem for people who have money, but we have done nothing or very little for people without the ready finance for the purchase of homes. The need is still there. 1 place particular emphasis on the position in South Australia where the building industry is experiencing a serious recession. Not only is housing construction decreasing, but most construction in South Australia has declined, as has the Commonwealth’s spending on public works. As a result, the building work force that we have built up in post-war years is being affected. Although the Reserve Bank at one period asked that restraint should be placed upon money made available for housing and that no pressure be put on the construction industry, and while the Executive said, ‘We cannot move fast in building operations because of the call it would make on building operatives’, we now have building workers in most States either idle or experiencing some idleness between jobs. Further, there is no major construction to be undertaken in the foreseeable future; this means that we have reached capacity in the provision of office accommodation, industrial expansion and possibly shops for distribution. Therefore, this is the proper time for some injection of finance into the building industry so that the labour force that has been built up can be used instead of wasted.
An increase in population justifies an increase in home construction. The census figures published in the quarterly report of the Bureau of Census and Statistics shows a steady increase in the number of homes over the years up to 1964. However, compared with 1964 the number of houses built in Australia last year declined. This happened more particularly in South Australia where 12,213 houses were approved in 1964 compared with only 8,130 approved this year. A total of 91.117 houses were completed in the Commonwealth in 1964, but last year only 82,748 were completed, In South Australia last year 10,095 homes were completed compared with 10,869 in 1964. The alarming point is that the tendency up to the March quarter of this year is that in South Australia there were 1,276 approvals compared with 1,565 in the March quarter of the previous year.
These figures disclose a decline in the housing industry, and the future in South Australia looks possibly more bleak than ever before. Approvals, which are a guide to future building construction, are fewer this year. The question is: How great is the need, and should we put additional money into home construction? Is the need great? Is it even sufficiently great to divert money from other avenues? It raises the question whether the $24m which the South Australian Savings Bank was able to lend for the purpose of home construction in December of 1965-66 in order to rectify a decline in home construction in that State and the $34m which has been made available by way of gifts to those purchasing or building a home could have been better invested in the construction of homes as a housing project. Until we reach the stage when there is a surplus of homes, the question arises as to whether or not we should be spending money in other directions.
The birth rate, the marriage rate and migration have a direct influence on housing needs. We are informed that the Commonwealth Government intends to continue migration at an even How, as it has done in past years. Therefore the rate of construction of houses for migrants will have to be continued as in past years in order to meet the inflow of migrants. The increased marriage rate which is apparent today naturally results in an increased birth rate. At the present time we are in the process of housing those people who were born in the years from 1940 onwards. The annual average increased birth rate for the census years 1946 to 1950, as taken from the Commonwealth ‘Year Book’, was 34,832. We can see the rapid increase in the birth rate over those particular years. As 1 said, we are reaching the stage where in the immediate future we will have to find homes for those people who were born in those years.
Another aspect is disclosed in the last annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust. It drew attention to the increased tendency towards early marriages. The largest marriage age group today is between eighteen and twenty-four years. The report points out that this is generally the age when couples have not the savings which people who marry at an older age have and which permits a greater proportion of them to purchase homes. In order to house the new generation, cheaper or rental accommodation must be supplied to a greater degree. Yet we find, particularly in South Australia, that very few rental homes are being constructed. The Premier of South Australia told a deputation that this was a problem. The South Australian Housing Trust could not build rental homes in the foreseeable future because, except for land too far out to be acceptable, there was no cheap land available which would reduce the construction costs so that an economic rent could be collected. The Chifley Government introduced a plan whereby a subsidy was paid to meet the difference between the economic rent and the ability of the tenant to pay.
Housing conditions in Australia leave much to be desired. While many new and good houses are available in all capital cities for those who have the money, there are many people living in what the statistician describes as ‘sheds, huts, etc’. The figures in the ‘Year Book’ show that in the census year 1954 there were 49,148 such buildings being occupied. This number was reduced to 41,997 by the time the census was taken in 1961. At this rate of reduction, it. would take forty-one years before the sheds, huts, etc.. ceased to be a form of accommodation. The 41,997 sheds, huts, etc.. in 1961 accommodated 116,458 people. Obviously this leaves some room for improvement.
The 1961 census showed that there were 39,832 private dwellings which contained one room. There were 281,866 private dwellings which contained three rooms or less. The average number of inmates per private dwelling was 3.55, according to the 1961 census, which is a figure similar to that in the previous census. It shows no improvement in accommodation standards. Despite the number of homes that have been built, we still have not reduced the number of inmates per dwelling, as shown in the previous census. The statistics show that in 1966 there were 15,607 private dwellings with ten or more inmates. There were 78,928 private dwellings with eight or more inmates. There were 5,435 shared accommodation units with six or more inmates. Whilst this relates mainly to the capital cities, it shows that there is room for improvement.
Another aspect of housing in which some improvement is required is slum clearance. This is a big problem which faces all State governments in their capital cities. The Victorian Housing Commission, in its 1966 annual report, stated:
A new Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement comes into operation in July 1966. It was expected the Commonwealth would have given consideration to provisions of additional finance for the specific need of housing for elderly persons and the acquisition of clearance for slum areas. This did nol happen but the Commonwealth has indicated that it is still prepared to consider these matters possibly as an amendment to the agreement al some later date. 52,600,000 per annum is allocated to acquisition and clearance in the slum recreation programme.
Victoria, to June 1966, has spent $54,279,208 on acquisition and development of slum areas. This permitted 200 acres to be acquired and 130 acres to be re-developed fully. This rate is far from satisfactory. Annual expenditure permits a clearance of 20 acres per annum against the known requirements that al least SOO a. res should be cleared without delay. No realistic progress will be made until funds arc provided by the Commonwealth Government following a pattern so clearly established in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom.
At the rate of redevelopment of slum areas of 20 acres per annum, in Victoria it will take forty years to clear and recreate the 800 acres which are now occupied by slums and which the Victorian Housing Commission says should be cleared without delay. Obviously there is an urgent need for something to be done in this direction.
If we look at the figures given in the latest annual reports of other State housing authorities, we find that the housing problem is not being solved. The annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust for the year 1965-66 discloses that in 1964-65 it completed 3,317 dwellings. The number of completions was down lo 3,250 for the year ended 30th June 1966. In Tasmania the total value of dwellings completed fell by $1,954,000 in 1965-66? Approvals were given for dwellings to a total value of $21,622,000 in 1964-65 and the total value was down to $19,668,000 in 1965-66. The total value of dwellings commenced in Tasmania in the year ended 30th June 1966 was 13.5% less than the total in the previous year. The number of dwellings, including flats, completed in 1965-66 was 2,494 - the lowest for ten years and 8.72% below the number in the previous year. The number of dwellings under construction iti Tasmania at 30th June 1966 totalled 1,713, or 4.2% below the figure for a year before. There were 304 fewer dwelling units, other than government constructed ones, completed in 1965-66 than in the previous year -a decline of 1 1.8%.
The latest annual report of the Housing Commission of Victoria shows that in 1964- 65 it completed 31,495 units. The number completed in 1965-66 was 30,435. The report states that the 1965-66 figure is considered to be some 4,000 units below the level required to meet the housing needs of the State. In 1964-65 9,582 applications for accommodation were before the Commission. In 1965-66 the number was 9,664. The most recent annual report of the Western Australian State Housing Commission states:
In the latter part of the financial year the difficulty in obtaining finance from other sources was another factor leading to increased numbers of applications. Parallel with the intensified interest in purchase homes there was a marked increase in applications for rental homes. This is primarily attributed to increases in migration, increased numbers of marriages, the influence of industrial expansion, difficulty in obtaining accommodation through other channels and the decline in numbers of homes built privately during the year.
In regard to the latter, there was evident a general slackening in home building throughout Australia and although Western Australia was affected to a much lesser degree the total number of home units completed declined to 8,889 compared with 9,286 in 1964-65. This decline would have been worse if not offset by increased Commission activity partly due to extra funds made available by the Commonwealth in March 1966–
Concerning applications the report states:
Under the State Housing Act and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Acts the Commission received 10,258 applications in 1965- 66 for rental and purchase homes. This was an increase of 2,299 on (he total for the previous year.
So we can see that instead of the housing problem being solved there was an increase in applications for dwellings, despite the activities of the Federal Government under the homes savings grant scheme, the housing loans insurance scheme and the other Commonwealth measures that were supposed to help in the field of housing. All these Commonwealth activities have resulted in no increase in housing construction throughout Australia. Indeed, the rate of construction is declining and housing needs are becoming greater, as is shown by the reports of all the State housing authorities.
As I have pointed out, in Western Australia the number of applications received by the Housing Commission for rental and purchase homes increased by 2,299 in 1965-66 compared with 1964-65. The report continues:
A summary of the applications position including those for war service homes and McNess Housing Trust is shown hereunder:
The figures are then set out -
During the year the substantial increase in applications and lower turnover of rental homes in some areas has tended to lengthen the waiting periods. Accommodation is offered to both purchase and rental applicants in order of priority of date of application. During the year there was a wastage of applications amounting to 4,094.
The report of the Housing Commission of New South Wales for the year ended 30lh June 1966 shows similar effects, though there was a better availability of finance. As we have seen, this originated partly in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The report states:
Activity did not flow at a steady level being regulated by the availability of housing finance which influenced the rate and volume of commencements and the disposal of much of what was built in the private sector of dwelling construction. At one period of the year the downturn was such that it gave rise to general concern and eventually brought about some action at the Federal level in the form of a $24m injection of additional bank finance as from December 1965 which had begun to evidence itself by the close of the year
The Commission’s operations again conformed to a familiar pattern of a high level of activity in the first months of the year while work was. proceeding expeditiously on the large number of contracts in hand at 1st July 1965, and it was possible to add to it at n reasonable rate. However, such was the continued rate of progress, with again, very little interruption because of adverse weather, that available funds, some part of which was required for adjustment of the previous year’s over-expenditure, became depleted in the second half of the year.
The activities of the Housing Commission in New South Wales had to be halted because the Commission had depleted its funds, though at that time there was a waiting list of applicants for accommodation. The report added:
Works in hand at the end of the year were, however, al a comparatively low level comprising only 3,800 dwellings or 30% less than at 30th June 1965, and there is little doubt that as this situation influences the Commission’s completions in the ensuing year the number of dwellings the Commission will be able to complete in 1966-67 will bc below the level of this year and last. This anticipated temporary drop in completions is contributed to by the rate of construction progress, nml consequently expenditure, in the past two years, which severely limited the amount of new work- 1 emphasise that the report discloses that the capacity of the Commission to provide accommodation has declined. The report sets out figures showing the number of new dwellings completed for the years from 1958-59 to 1965-66. lt then continues:
The year’s result confirms beyond doubt the capacity of the State’s building industry to produce not less than 40,000 new dwellings annually while other types of building activity continue at a high level. m the clear demonstration of this productive capacity it is important that conditions are created under which not a lesser number than the maximum will be provided annually against a stable background of continuous ability of the home needy in the community to readily avail themselves of all that can be provided and so that the uncertainties and fluctuations to which the domestic construction sector of the building industry has been periodically subjected in the postwar period will be eliminated.
While this may be the pattern to which we have become accustomed it does little to engender confidence or promote efficiency in an industry which is of such vital importance under circumstances where housing demand must continue at a high level and there is a backlog of need to be met.
Particularly does this need continue to clearly exist for many in the low and moderate income groups unable to avail themselves of private rental housing, in good supply in Sydney, at the rentals involved, even at the most favourable level available, or who, being deemed unable to service a loan from a traditional source of housing finance, cannot build or purchase a dwelling through one of many avenues available.
I have discussed the pertinent points of the reports of the various State housing commissions in Australia. Despite the continuation of the provisions of this Act, building operations and activities have declined. There is a greater need for home construction now, particularly for rental homes and low price homes. The Government is continuing in operation an Act that has done nothing to arrest increases in the cost of many homes which have taken the purchase of these homes beyond the ability of the average working family.
Whilst some assistance is provided by the Bill, assistance is not given to all groups. One of the amendments included in the Bill will permit widowed persons aged less than 36 years with one or more dependent children to come within the ambit of the scheme provided they have been saving in the required fashion for a period of three years. From the memorandum to which 1 will refer in Committee, it appears to me that the period of seven years qualification has been eliminated and now it is essential for $1,500 to be saved over a period of three years. Where is the widow in Australia who has one or more dependent children who, when her husband was alive, could not afford to purchase a matrimonial home, and who can save $1,500 out of her widow’s pension for the purpose of participating in the benefits of this scheme? Some widows may be able to do it. Some widows may be living in flats and have investments in homes. But the widow who needs help is not assisted by this legislation. The widow who will be able to benefit fully under this scheme is the widow who would have purchased or built a home whether or not this scheme was in operation. This widow even can obtain a home better than her previous accommodation under the terms of this Bill.
Public money is being given away by the Government to certain people. But it goes rather to the greedy than to the needy. A number of those who qualify for the grant would not rightly expect to receive it. Only one in four persons purchasing homes avails himself of the right to receive the grant. This rate is declining. There is a suspicion in the minds of some honourable senators on this side of the Senate that this Bill was introduced originally as a political gimmick. It has been used ever since for the purpose of a political gimmick to illustrate how many thousands of persons have qualified for and benefited from the provisions of the Act. But concern is being felt at the present time because applications for this gift are not forthcoming. Possibly the number of applications for grants was higher in the early years of the operation of this scheme when whole savings, wherever they might be saved, could be used for for the purpose of acceptable savings as defined under the Act. Now these acceptable savings have to be concentrated in certain avenues. A number of present day home purchasers are not prepared to accept the necessity to concentrate their savings in those specific avenues.
This Bill seeks to widen the field in respect of persons who can receive grants under the Act. The changes in the legislation are not for the purpose of assisting those in need. Rather it would appear that the changes are for the purpose of increasing the numbers receiving this gift. Possibly these people would have built homes whether the grant was available or not. This action is intended to increase the number of grants and thereby build up the prestige of the Government for political advantage.
When we look at this legislation at this time we see so many anomalies in it. lt appears that young couples who failed to lodge an application for the grant within the statutory period permitted under the existing legislation will benefit by the extension of the time limit for the lodgment of applications from three months to twelve months. This will be retrospective. But the legislation still excludes people who have sought advice concerning the grant and who have been told: ‘You have been wasting your time in making an application’. People who were struggling to accumulate sufficient money sought advice and. on the advice that they received, thought that they were acting in accordance with the Act and did not submit their applications in the required period. If the Government desires to have uniform benefits extended equally to all people, the matters that I have raised are worth looking into. The grant is provided to help young couples to acquire or build a home. When the Act is amended it should include a provision for review in relation to young people who have made application.
A limit has been placed on the value of a home that will attract the grant. This is SI 5,000. For $15,000 a person in certain areas can build a big house and, in fact, a much more luxurious house than could be built in another area. The type of house that could be built in South Australia for S 14,000 and which would qualify for the grant could not be built in Canberra for the same price. Therefore, the house in Canberra, although it was the same as the house in Adelaide, would not qualify for the grant. There is a differentiation between the values of houses built in different areas, not taking into consideration the cost price or the value of land in a certain area. We have heard today that only 1,000 grants have been made to applicants for the homes savings grant in country areas. Senator
Prowse has still not obtained information as to how many grants went towards the erection of homes on agricultural land.
This legislation is not a readily acceptable measure. More anomalies are to be found in it than in any other Act in the statute book. The legislation seeks to give a gift to people. But this gift does not apply to all. lt depends on circumstances, age and the value of the home being purchased or built. The legislation has achieved nothing in the way of making a contribution towards home building. Home building is influenced on all occasions by the availability of land. When land is available, home building activities increase. When land is not available, a decline takes place in the industry. Does the Commonwealth desire to do something regarding the need to stimulate housing activities, slum clearance and long term housing? The Minister said in her speech that she is aware of the need for long term housing. The reports of the various State housing commissions emphasise the programme that is needed regarding the three areas I have mentioned. If the Government desires to do something in this regard, it must hold a thorough inquiry into the best methods to be adopted not only to make gifts to people to assist them to build or buy houses but also to increase the rate of home construction by making money available to provide accommodation for people in our society who cannot and who never will be in a position to commit themselves to the purchase of a home.
– At once I congratulate the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) on producing this amending Bill. I contend very strongly that the original Bill, which became the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964, was by no means a political gimmick, as stated by Senator Cavanagh. Rather was it a reflection of the Government’s keen interest in providing for the people of Australia the means by which the finance that they had available for the purchase of their homes could be increased. That real interest was reflected in the policy speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in the recent election campaign, when he pointed out that various amendments would be brought forward in future legislation. That legislation is now before us.
Senator Cavanagh certainly gave a very interesting account of the activities of the State housing authorities in the various States. In fact, he gave us a general review of the building industry and the home construction industry throughout Australia. But this Bill does not deal with the building industry, with the question whether a sufficient number of houses is available for rental or with some slum clearance. I suggest that the availability of low rental housing and slum clearance come within the province of the various State housing authorities. They arrange the means of carrying out much of that work under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Senator Cavanagh quoted from the report of the Housing Commission of Victoria. I congratulate the former Minister of Housing in Victoria, the Honourable Lindsay Thompson, on the excellent work that the Commission carried out under his administration. Apparently the report stated, as I can imagine it would, that he was not satisfied with the progress that had been made. One would not expect him to be. One can not expect the Minister of Housing in Victoria or in any State to be satisfied while any sub-standard housing at all remains. The Commonwealth Minister for Housing has indicated from time to time her awareness of these problems. Knowing her enthusiasm for the work of her Department, I am quite sure that she has these matters constantly in mind and will deal with them at the appropriate time.
This Bill makes more money available to a greater number of people. When the original Bill was introduced we understood that it was a new measure and that necessarily there would be a period, while it was being put into operation, of discovering how it would apply and how it would meet the needs of the people applying for grants. As one would expect, various anomalies have become apparent. This Bill rectifies a great number of them. Senator Cavanagh mentioned the increased cost of home construction and the increase in land values. These points have been recognised. I suggest that they were the reasons why the Prime Minister indicated in his policy speech that the limit on the value of a home that would attract a grant under this scheme would be increased from $14,000 to $15,000. The Minister has included that in the Bill. That is a practical recognition of those two points.
The purpose of this legislation is really to help our young people who are potential home owners - not those who want to rent a home, but those who want to acquire one. The fact that our percentage of home ownership is recognised as being high by world standards - and rightly so - proves that a great number of people in Australia desire to own their own homes. This Bill will help many more young people to do so. It is recognised that many young people are now earning quite substantial salaries at an early age. The whole idea behind these homes savings grants was to encourage young people to save in order to purchase their own homes. Many of them have the opportunity to save before marriage. Whether we like it or not, many women continue in employment after marriage and, during their period of employment, save towards the purchase of their own homes. This is not the time or the place to go into the question whether they should remain in employment. The fact is that they certainly do and thereby add very considerably to the work force of the nation. During the period before the advent of a family, which is sometimes two years, young couples are enabled to save the amount that will attract the maximum grant under the Act.
We are told that 150,000 young people have received grants. That ind.cates that more than 75,000 young couples have received grants. The amount that has been given by means of these grants is the very considerable sum of $33m. I understand that the figures are now greater than those 1 have given, but they were the ones that were available to me. We consider houses purchased with the aid of these grants not only as houses purchased but also as homes in which young people establish themselves, in which they hope to bring up their families and in which they become stable units within our community, building up the life of our nation. I am sure that that is aver the underlying influence in the mind of the Minister who, so often and so meaningfully, has referred to the value of homes to the nation.
Let me turn to a point that was made by Senator Cavanagh when he quoted statistics on births and marriages. The fact that the birth rate is falling is a matter of very grave concern to us all. I suggest that the more we can do to help young people to acquire their own homes and to lead settled lives in the areas that they choose, the better will be the possibility of increasing the size of the families living in those homes. The reason for the falling birth rate is very complicated. One could quote many factors in our complicated modern life which contribute to this situation. Nevertheless it is a fact that must be recognised. The number of births per thousand of mean population in 1962 was 22.16. In 1966, by the end of the second quarter, it had dropped considerably to 19.11. I also read with very great interest that the dwindling natural increase that is computed from the excess of births over deaths is due, as I said, to the declining birth rate which has dropped very considerably, as I have indicated, but, largely because of the increase in migration, the growth rate remained relatively stable during the period which I have mentioned. The birth of more children, however, would be welcomed by Australians generally. Perhaps, as some authorities have suggested, this will come about by reason of the greatly increased number of marriages that are taking place. In 1962 the number of registered marriages per thousand of mean population was 7.39. At the end of the second quarter of 1966, it was 8.68. So that one would hope that as a result of the increased marriages the birth rate will rise correspondingly.
It is good to know, as I have said, that so many young people have already been accepted for either full or part grant. Naturally some applications have had to be refused. As a result of the amendments which are now proposed because of difficulties which have become apparent to the Minister and the Department perhaps some of those who have been refused in the past will receive grants, and others will become eligible.
I have no intention of dealing exhaustively with the Bill but I do wish to refer to one or two of its provisions. One for which I think the Government must receive the commendation of all senators is that contained in clause 3 which amends the title of the principal Act to read:
An Act to assist young married persons and young widowed persons with dependent children to purchase or build their own homes.
This means that in addition to young married persons, young widowed persons with dependent children may be assisted to purchase or build their own homes. For the purposes of the Act, widowed persons must be under thirty-six years of age and have one or more dependent children. They will become eligible for a grant if, on or after 28th November 1966 they had entered into a contract to buy or build a home or had arranged, as owners, to build their home and had in fact commenced the construction of their home. The definition of ‘dependent child’, as contained in clause 4 follows that included in the Social Services Act with relation to widow’s pensions. A widow or widower will have to prove that he or she saved for three years immediately prior to the date on which he or she was eligible to make a claim. The Bill further states that savings in acceptable form by a deceased husband or wife up to the date of death, and bequeathed to the surviving husband or wife will be regarded as acceptable savings as will savings held in the estate of a deceased spouse which would be for the eventual benefit of the widow or widower.
Even more help is given to the widowed person by this Bill in that it gives authority to the Department to pay a grant to the widow or widower where the husband or wife has died after the prescribed date for the lodging of an application for a grant but before the application has been determined. I submit that this Bill will give to the husband or wife the means with which to continue with the acquisition of a home, and I congratulate the Minister upon the inclusion of those two clauses to which I have referred, and which will confer benefits, I hope, on many sorrowing people.
Some confusion has existed during the period for which the Act has been in operation as to the prescribed date from which the time of lodgment of the application should be counted. For this reason some applications were received after the expiration of the three months period provided under the original Act. The three months has now been extended to twelve months with discretion to grant a further period under exceptional circumstances. This will enable more people to obtain grants, because, when this Bill becomes law, applications that were lodged after the expiration of the three months will be acceptable. As the Minister has said that applicants who have been refused on this ground need not lodge further applications, I conclude that the Department will have a list of these cases in its files and will notify the applicants concerned. Again, a young couple may have been under the impression that an application would be received too late and so they may have decided not to apply. When this Bill becomes law, it will reopen for them and for those who were told that their applications would be received too late for acceptance the possibility of their receiving assistance. There will thus be the possibility that those who have been disappointed in the past will receive the assistance of a grant for they will be eligible to make application immediately upon the passage of this measure.
I turn now to another category of people whom I consider will be greatly helped by this measure. One hears so very often that young people will not undertake the responsibility of caring for aged parents. We find that provision is being made in this measure that if a couple had purchased in their own names a home for aged parents but had not themselves lived in the house that they so purchased that home would not be classified as their matrimonial home. This Bill makes provision for the Department to determine whether it was ‘unreasonable’ to classify such a dwelling as one coming under the provisions of the original Act which stated that a couple could not be given a grant if either had owned another dwelling during the marriage although they may not have lived in it or regarded it as their matrimonial home. Therefore, where young people have endeavoured to look after elderly parents, there is, at the discretion of the Minister and the Department, the possibility of their receiving a grant.
The Bill goes on to say that owners of sub-standard homes unsuitable for a couple to live in, but which have perhaps been bequeathed to them under a will and persons who are temporary owners of a dwelling in the course of conducting their business will all come under this discretionary power of the Department. Consideration will now be given to their applications for grants.
Still another section of the community will be helped by reason of the Bill. 1 refer to those who are living in rural areas, lt is acknowledged by the Minister, and indeed by all honourable senators, that housing in provincial cities and rural areas is just as important as it is in the metropolitan centres. Whether people live in the cities, or in the country, their need for a home is equally great. Under the present Homes Savings Grant Act land on which a young couple wish to build must be held in one of the approved forms exclusively by one or both of the couple concerned. There are occasions when land is owned by a young couple in conjunction with a parent or other close relative. To date the fact that they are tenants in common or in joint tenancy has debarred the young couple from applying for the grant. This Bill provides for the removal of that prohibition. The young couple now will be able to apply for a grant provided they state definitely that the house to be erected or to be purchased is for their sole occupancy.
The Bill contains another provision which will assist young people in rural areas. Section 20 (2.) (e) of the principal Act is to be amended to enable persons who have received a loan from Home Builders Account funds from a State bank or a State housing authority to apply for the grant. There has been for some time in Victoria a recognition of the needs of people living in rural areas to receive special assistance. The scheme adopted by the State Government has been most successful because the Government has been aware of the necessity to help young people seeking to own homes in rural areas where no building society has been established. The Victorian Government has enabled such people to obtain a loan. When this Bill is passed, the granting of a State authority loan will not debar an eligible person from obtaining the homes savings grant. 1 have spoken of the various categories of people who, I hope, will be helped when this Bill is passed. 1 again congratulate the Minister upon the excellent work that is being done by her Department under her enthusiastic and untiring leadership. This Bill deserves the support of honourable senators on both sides of the Senate, and I commend it to them.
– As was mentioned by Senator Cavanagh, who is leading the debate for the Opposition, the Labor Party does not oppose this Bill. Like other honourable senators, we want every effort to be made to help young people in the community to own a home. We know that in these days of high prices it is difficult for a young couple to secure a home, particularly if it is their first home in their married life.
The homes savings grant scheme was mentioned first during the 1963 election campaign. It was thrown in at the very last moment and it has been described by a number of people associated with the Labor Party as a bribe. But it has at least achieved some purpose. In its original form the legislation was in a mess and this is the second occasion on which amendments to it have been proposed. We appreciate the amendments the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has proposed, but in the Committee stage we will try to do something better and amend the Act even further so that it will be more beneficial to the people concerned. At present it contains many anomalies.
This Bill is designed to bring within the ambit of the scheme widows under 36 years of age with at least one dependent child. When this was mentioned during previous debates on the legislation the Government suggested that widows were a bad financial risk. Senator Cavanagh has pointed to the grave difficulty experienced by widows in raising $1,500, but they will have to meet that problem. We were hoping that more assistance would be given to them, and in fact our proposed amendment is designed for that purpose.
The Bill will increase from $14,000 to $15,000 the limit on the value of a home which can attract a grant. This has been necessary because of inflation in building and land costs since the scheme commenced. The Minister for Housing will also be given new discretionary power to enable the Government to overcome many of the anomalies which have arisen. This discretionary power will operate from the date of the commencement of the scheme. I am sure all honourable senators will agree that the greatest sympathy and understanding must be exercised. I pay tribute to the officers of the Department in New South Wales who are demonstrating this sympathy and understanding, and I hope that the Minister and her officers who will be concerned with the implementation of this legislation will continue to exhibit the qualities I have mentioned.
It is no easy matter to obtain the grant. Young people have some difficulty in proving that they have been saving for a certain period and that they have saved a certain amount of money to enable them to qualify for the $500 grant. Sympathy and understanding on the part of the Department will overcome many of these difficulties. The Department’s report for the year 1965-66 reveals that to June 1966 only 88% of applications for the grant had been approved. I believe that if the sympathy and understanding to which 1 have made repeated reference had been forthcoming the percentage would have been much higher.
A married couple, or a husband or wife, if only one is eligible, may receive the maximum grant of $500 if they have saved $1,500 or more within the specified period. Inflation in building and land costs has reduced considerably the value of the grant. The value has dwindled since the scheme commenced and these days the grant does not help as much as was intended in 1963. The Minister has supplied figures which show that to May 1967 some 70,000 young couples have received grants totalling $34. 5m to assist them to establish a home. Every member of the Opposition who has participated in the debate has commended the Government for what it has done, but anyone who listened with care and attention to Senator Cavanagh will have learned what the Labor Party intends to do in this direction.
If we were in office we would go a great deal further than the Government has gone, and I am positive that we would make more money available to young people to enable them to overcome their problems. After all. $500 does not go very far when one bears in mind increased costs and the high interest rates that must be paid on borrowed money. In our policy speeches we stated that we would make money available at the lowest possible interest rate, using loans on war service homes as the basis. By this means more young people, and others, would be able to obtain a home. We have mentioned on other occasions the effect on building costs of inflation, the lower number of housing authority homes being built in the States and the high rents which tenants are compelled to pay in the capital cities. Every assistance should be given to people to own homes. Home building should not be curtailed. When we move our amendments to the Bill in Committee we shall give details of organisations which have been affected very adversely. I speak now of credit unions. There are now some 500 of these organisations, with a membership of 200,000 persons, operating throughout the Commonwealth. They have made a magnificent contribution. So strong and active and so well regarded are they that they have been assisted by various State governments. The New South Wales Government gives every assistance by enabling members to have deductions made from their salaries and paid to the credit unions to which they belong. This legislation refuses to accept credit unions. I hope that when we move our amendments in Committee this position may be rectified.
Without foreshadowing what will be said in Committee, let me say that credit unions are making a national contribution towards savings for homes and are doing a marvellous job on behalf of their members. They should be assisted by this Government. They are providing young couples with means of owning homes. This is something which by all standards ought to be commended by the Government. Credit unions are of such great assistance in this direction that their exclusion from the benefits of this legislation ought to cease. The recognition of credit unions as eligible organistions for the purposes of this legislation would allow members who are already saving for a house to gain the benefits of the Act and it would induce more members to save for homes, thus increasing the proportion of our national resources that is available for housing.
– What is the amount that credit unions will lend for housing purposes at the moment?
– We shall deal in detail with these matters when we move our amendments in Committee. Credit unions should be admitted to allow their members to gain the benefits of this legislation particularly if the Government is eager to assist people to obtain homes. That is the case which we are eager to press. I hope that when we make our submissions in Committee the Government will not be aided by Senator Webster. He has shown himself to be capable of voting correctly for he has done this on previous occasions.
The Party which I represent will support the Bill but we are eager to see some of the anomalies rectified. We hope that all of the anomalies will be overcome in the very near future. If they are not overcome by this Government they will certainly be overcome by a Labor government when we take office.
– lt is rather dangerous to use statistics in the way in which Senator Cavanagh used them in his very lengthy examination of the Homes Savings Grant Bill, during which it was noted that the Australian. Press lost interest in the subject that is now before the Senate. I do not wonder because for a man who said he was not opposing the Bill he did deal rather drastically with it. The fact that statistics show that there has been no uplift in home building figures has little relevance to a study of the impact of this legislation. Many, many factors could be involved in this. We have no way of determining from a mere enumeration of the number of houses built whether the Homes Savings Grant Act did in fact stimulate housing, so his criticism was quite invalid. The Fact is that, as near as I can calculate, a grant has been paid in respect of approximately one-fifth of all new homes. Senator Cavanagh’s criticism that the Bill has achieved nothing was rather too drastic. In fact, his colleague did not agree with him.
It is very interesting for me to have the privilege of speaking on this Bill because 1 did have quite a bit to say when the legislation was first introduced. I thought I would be a bit careful and have a look at the report of what I said. I find that I would not alter anything that I said then, except that I did use the analogy of a piece of machinery. 1 compared this new legislation with a piece of new machinery. 1 said that we would never know how it would function till we put it out in the field and gained experience. That was a valid enough thing to say, but today I should like to change that analogy and say that perhaps the legislation would be more aptly described as a new baby that was dropped rather unwillingly into the lap of a new Minister for Housing, who perhaps was not the appropriate person to handle the rather ugly infant. The Government, in its wisdom and to the great delight of the Senate, chose an appropriate foster mother for the infant. In her hands and care it shows signs of growing up into quite a respectable child.
– She cannot get a grant under the Act unless it is her own child.
– I do not want to participate in the levity that is apparently engendered, I am very serious in paying a tribute to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame. Annabelle Rankin). We have seldom had so many amendments to legislation introduced with so much clarity or heard from a Minister a second reading speech that excelled the one to which we have listened in respect of this Bill. The Minister has set an example that could well be followed in the presentation of bills. Because she has done this a great deal of unnecessary discussion in the Senate has been obviated. The clarity with which the various amendments have been described has greatly assisted us senators, who have difficulty in comprehending the intention of the Draftsman in formulating legislation, in understanding just what was intended. Therefore 1 pay a high tribute to the Minister for the way in which she has assisted the Senate this evening. I have said that I spoke on this legislation when it was introduced. I have criticisms of the Bill, even now. I believe that it fails in a measure today to encourage saving. I think this was one of the most desirable features of the original legislation and to a degree 1 would go along with some of the things Senator Cavanagh said.
In speaking on the original legislation I regretted the fact that participation in State housing schemes was excluded and I am still of the opinion that that provision has the effect of deterring a number of young people from saving for a home. Because they cannot participate in CommonwealthState housing they have to enter into a more expensive field. If they could save the deposit on a State Housing Commission home they would acquire a home very much more within their means.
If they have to go outside that field into a more expensive field, 1 fear that the difference between the costs of the homes will induce a lot of young people to say: This is not worthwhile. 1 may as well spend the money in other ways and I can still get a Housing Commission home for a minimal deposit.’ Probably the Government will give now the answer that it gave when the legislation was introduced, but 1 do not think it is a valid answer to the general objections I have raised. It does seriously defeat the purpose of inducing young people to save. If they do so, they are tempted to enter into housing which is beyond their means wilh consequential very undesirable effects upon their home life and financial position. I hope that this is one of the ugly features that time will improve under the care of the foster mother and that the Bill will become slightly more beautiful in that respect.
I wish to refer to only one of the amendments specifically because 1 believe that we do not need to cover the ground which has been so admirably traversed in the Minister’s notes and second reading speech. Provision has been included in the Bill in relation to joint tenancies, particularly on agricultural land. This has removed one of the bars that have prevented virtually any participation by young people who are engaged in agriculture in any of the benefits of the Bill. The amendment allows us to build a bridge halfway across the river. Half a bridge does not help anybody to get across, but it was necessary to build that section at least before the legislation could have been of any use to people engaged in agriculture.
I do not propose to make use of the Bill at present to discuss all the problems involved in building the other half of the bridge. I have discussed with the Minister in the Senate the shortcomings of our housing legislation in respect of people engaged in agriculture. I intend to take advantage of some other occasion to develop a case that needs the very urgent attention of the Government. The Minister understands the position and I know that I have her sympathy in this matter. I am sure that she will act to improve the whole structure of Commonwealth legislation so that all sections of the community gain a fair and equitable share of the many benefits to be derived from Commonwealth housing legislation. The Minister said in her second reading speech:
We are not content to rest on our past achievements. There are still people seeking homes in Australia who are in need of assistance and others who are living under conditions that are not generally acceptable. 1 am glad the Minister said that, lt simply underlines her awareness of the whole problem of housing and gives me confidence that in her hands the Government will examine the problems in the field of housing. I believe we will continue to improve our legislation to meet the needs of the people. I think in this respect the Government is doing a good job and will continue to do so. I support the Bill.
– The Bill contains a number of improvements, lt sets out to correct some anomalies and what I would regard as inconsistencies. I think it is proper for me to say at this stage that I appreciate the courtesy, consideration and interest which the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has always shown in any problem I have had occasion to discuss with her. I would like to express my thanks to her for that co-operation.
One of the early inconsistencies of the legislation was the provision which restricted the Minister to a strict interpretation of the provisions of the Act to the extent that there did not exist for her the degree ot ministerial discretion which one would hope to see in a Bill of this kind, dealing so much with the intimate problems of people in the field of housing. 1 am glad to see that the Bill has at last given to the Minister, as it properly should give, a discretion in cases which may be regarded as borderline. Many of these housing cases are of course borderline cases. The passage of this Bill will enable us to take some borderline problems before the Minister and endeavour to interpret the spirit of the Act rather than the strict letter of the law. This measure is designed to serve the interests of the ordinary people, rather than masses and groups of people. We come down to individual cases. We can take problems to the Minister and I believe that we will get a more liberal interpretation than has been possible in the past because of the strict limitations imposed by the legal aspects of the measure.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I move:
This proposal to set up a select committee of the Senate is in line with the approach of the Opposition over many years - that a matter such as repatriation should be the subject of consideration by a select committee of both sides of the Senate. As I understand it, in the event of the motion’s being agreed to there will be no problems emerging in respect of representation. Unless we hear to the contrary during the course of this debate, the proposal is that the select committee shall have a majority of Government members, and there is no suggestion that the Opposition is endeavouring, as sometimes is thought or feared in matters of this kind, to take the business out of the hands of the Government. The proposal here is that the Senate act in its proper capacity, to examine the legislation concerned with repatriation, with Government senators in the majority. The experience with committees of this kind is that the tendency is to forget about party differences, with the committee acting as one, dealing with the particular subject matter in the interests of the Senate, repatriation beneficiaries and the nation. We therefore commend this motion to the Senate and trust that it will see fit to set up this committee.
The reason for the committee is obvious. Over the years we have had proposals from time to time for amendments to be made to the various repatriation Acts - that is, the Acts concerned in some way or other with repatriation. Also, complaints have been aired in the Senate and elsewhere - and in public - concerning anomalies in the repatriation Acts. Suggestions have been made in respect of what should be done to clear up the legislation. All of this is dealt with either piecemeal or not at all. It has been a long time since World War II, and even longer since World War I; yet we still hear questions raised concerning what should be the appropriate treatment of persons who have suffered war injuries as a result of those two wars. That applies also to the benefits that should accrue to the dependants of injured servicemen.
Each of these matters is dealt wilh on an annual basis. For instance, attempts are made to solve the problem of adjusting rates in accordance with the cost of living. We have not solved that problem or the problem of repatriation scales; anomalies and grave differences exist between the provision made for people injured in war and the treatment accorded to people injured in industry. We do not have the kind of lump sum benefit that in the compensation field has become general throughout industry. Of course there are other problems, including the onus of proof, which has to be only mentioned to raise debates that rage for hours in this Senate. Then there is the question of whether cancer should be treated as war caused or, alternatively, whether it should be dealt with on the basis that those who served in a theatre of war and are afflicted with cancer should receive certain benefits irrespective of whether the cancer was caused, induced or aggravated by war. That also is a vexed question which would be a proper one for consideration by a committee. The whole question of appeals has troubled not only this chamber but also the other chamber and all those concerned with repatriation. Questions arise, such as whether appeal provisions are adequate and whether there should be a provision for some simple recourse to the courts of law in order to set out clearly the standards of proof which should apply. When I refer to ‘what’ standards of proof should apply I mean “how’ they should be applied. Also, what is the proper application of the onus of proof provision? The matter of whether questions of law which arise in the hearings before the administrative tribunals determining these matters should be dealt with by a court of law is another important question.
Another extremely important question was suggested by Senator Wright when dealing with a national insurance fund in respect of war casualties. What are we to do? Is the matter to be left where it is now, with those concerned with repatriation having to go along every year to the Government and say ‘Look, let us have another little nibble here. Let. us have a little advance to catch up with the inflationary changes’? As a result, we virtually get to where we were several years ago and perhaps make some other tiny little advance. On the other hand, is the mailer to be looked at properly and appropriate provision made. Surely, after so long a period from the termination of World War 11 and when we ate engaged in an undeclared war in Vietnam we should have reached equilibrium. We should have set up a proper system of repatriation. Why should repatriation be treated as something in the nature of a bait that is held out annually, wilh so much given this year so that, so much can be given the next year, and so on? This is no proper way to approach the problem, and apparently this is the view of a great number of senators, who were not satisfied with this approach on a previous famous occasion; it is also the opinion of a great number of persons outside the Parliament. We have taken the view that it is time that the Senate exercised its functions properly; that it examined Acts concerned with repatriation: that it recommended amendments which ought, to be made; and that it be given the powers to enable it to investigate properly and to make recommendations.
This is a proper subject matter for such a committee. Legislation such as this should have been brought up to date long ago. Why of all legislation should this be dealt with on the basis that whatever is right is not to be given this year, but in some way it must be postponed for a number of years so that some little fraction is given each year as if it were a Christmas present? This is not the approach which should be adopted towards repatriation legislation. Surely one ought to be able to examine with some definiteness what is the optimum that the country should give. This means that if a certain scale should apply, then perhaps automatic adjustments should be made in order to keep up with inflation. If one cannot determine the question for all time, certain guide lines could be set down by the committee as to what ought to be done.
A great deal could be achieved usefully by this committee examining in great detail matters which cannot be examined properly in the Senate. All honourable senators must be aware that the debates on the Repatriation Act which take place each year are not good enough. An examination of the matters is made by honourable senators in this chamber. But expert witnesses are not brought before the Senate to give answers to questions such as whether cancer should be accepted as a war caused disability, lt is not satisfactory that lay persons in this chamber should give their opinions on such questions as that, when perhaps the matter could be cleared up quite simply by calling a few witnesses before the Committee. A great deal of expert evidence could be brought before the committee which would enable many vexed questions to he disposed of to the satisfaction nol only of the Senate but of the community
Surely repatriation is a subject muller which ought to be dealt with in this way. Many anomalies exist in the repatriation legislation, but I do noi propose to take the Senate through them because from lime to time we have heard most of them referred to in the Senate. The question is whether we ought to use the method of a committee in order to investigate these matters. From time to time the Senate considers the question of its procedures. It decides that it ought to be operating as a committee. This is the efficient way of doing things. Instead of having speeches in the Senate on matters in general, the Senate’s determination on matters such as repatriation ought to be made on the bes! possible basis. In other words, it ought to be made on the best expert evidence that can be brought before it and on the submissions that can be put before it by interested parties. This is the way in which determinations of the Senate ought to be made. This is how we ought to operate.
We just cannot do this when the chamber operates as a Committee of the whole or with a full sitting of the Senate. The efficient way in which to deal with specialised legislation is by committee. I would suggest that that is unanswerable.
To deal with a myriad of technical questions, wilh comparative legislation between civil legislation and the Repatriation Act. or to compare the provisions of the Repatriation Act with those of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, requires specialised consideration that can be given only by a committee which has the power to call witnesses and, not only to listen to them, but to examine them. This would enable the committee to consider at great length and from time to time any matters with which it was concerned.
We have suggested that this committee should bc sci up. The Relumed Services League has been approached. My information is that the RSL favours the setting up of this committee, lt made its attitude clear in a Press statement which was issued on 9th May 1967 by the National President of the RSL, Sir Arthur Lee. In that statement, under the heading ‘RSL Urges Review of Repatriation Act’, he said:
At ils meeting this afternoon the National Executive also resolved to press for alt Party review of (he Repatriation Act to eliminate a number oi anomalies that had become apparent in recent years. Il was fell that only by an investigation of all aspects of the Act could weakness bc eliminated and the provisions of the Act brought up to dale in the light of present day requirements.
Today through my staff I have had communication with Mr Keys, who unfortunately is having a severe personal difficulty in his family. However, the RSL has made it clear in this statement that it ;s in favour of the proposal which is before the Senate.
– Every member of the RSL has indicated his support.
– Telegrams supporting the proposal have been forwarded to Opposition senators and I have no doubt to honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber. It is clear that those who are concerned in an official way with repatriation are in favour of this proposal. It is clear that the Senate can exercise its functions regarding repatriation measures properly only through the setting up and the operation of such a committee. I would ask the Senate to support the motion for the appointment of this committee.
– First of all I think 1 should make it clear that the Government opposes the motion which has been moved by the Opposition for the setting up of a select committee to inquire into all aspects of repatriation. In doing so I would also like to make it clear that 1 am one of those who favours the setting up of Senate select committees. I think that they have done quite an amount of good in the past. But I think that the request for setting them up should be a genuine one, and I say quite frankly that 1 do not think this is a genuine request. Quite a number of Senate select committees have been set up in the past. A list of them is given in the book that I have before me entitled ‘The Australian Senate Practice’, with which I think every honourable senator is conversant.
These committees have been concerned with matters ranging from general matters to matters of substantial public importance with policy content, such as pensions, national service and road safety. There have been committees on specific issues. To mention a few, there were committees which inquired into a tobacco monopoly, the development of Canberra, payments to maritime unions, and even matters affecting individual citizens, including the repatriation case, of Lieutenant W. W. Paine. It might therefore be urged that there is a precedent for the view that nothing is too big or too small to be the subject of select committee investigation. However, even if this is conceded it still begs the question as to whether in all the circumstances the proposed inquiry into repatriation matters is a proper one for a select committee.
The breadth of the area of inquiry covering all previous committees does not absolve those who advocate the setting up of select committees from establishing a prima facie case for doing so on the merits of the particular issue. This, I contend, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has failed to do. For the last seventeen years, I think, we have received proposals that a committee of this nature be established. 1 am sure that 1 am on firm ground when I say that the motion that we are now discussing has been proposed on party grounds. Since I became Minister for Repatriation we have seen proof time and time again that the Repatriation Act is one of the most humane pieces of legislation that we have on the Commonwealth statute book. Those who are concerned wilh repatriation matters believe it to be outstanding. Honourable senators may remember that recently veterans from South East Asian and South West Pacific countries visited Canberra.
– The people of the countries to which they belong do not know what repatriation means.
– That is the point. And they came here to learn. Indeed, I suggest that if the honourable senator were to listen carefully tonight he would learn some things of which he apparently is ignorant. Those veterans came here to find out how our repatriation system works and what it is like. Talking to me after the conference that they had attended, one of them expressed his wonder that a country so young as Australia could be doing so much in this field. The Chairman of the Repatriation Commission recently went to London to attend a meeting of war veterans. In his interim report submitted to me after the conclusion of the conference he told me that there were very few gaps in the Australian repatriation system. The present Chairman of the Commission has held office for a number of years. He is universally respected and I regard him as probably the top public servant in Australia. He is conscientious and his ability is unquestioned. He is a most humane man and we are very lucky indeed to have him working in the repatriation field. His view that there are very few gaps in our system was expressed in the light of a full knowledge of repatriation matters that is not equalled by anyone in this Senate.
– To whom is the Minister referring?
– To Brigadier Chilton the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission. In the debate on this motion both the repatriation legislation and its administration are under consideration. I said when this proposal was first mooted that it was futile and, I thought, ridiculous to suggest that a committee of the kind oroposed should bc appointed to examine the Repatriation Act and all its ramifications. To expect a select committee of the Senate to make a proper investigation and to report within the limited time proposed is merely to beg the question. Had the request for the appointment of the proposed committee been really genuine, the terms of the motion would have been so framed as to allow sufficient time for a thorough inquiry.
I want to outline to honourable senators the provision that is made for a continuing review of the repatriation system. The Returned Services League has already been mentioned. This continuing review starts with that body and the other exservicemen’s organisations. Those bodies from time to time suggest that anomalies exist or perhaps that certain facets of the Act do not meet the requirements of exservicemen. Representations on these matters are made either to me or to the Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation in each State. This is one avenue of review. In addition, we have a Repatriation Board in each Stale. The Deputy Commissioner and the Board in every State continually keep an eye on the Act and its administration. So much for that. Then we have the Repatriation Commission itself, lt receives appeals from the Repatriation Board in each State, as honourable senators know. If any anomalies are brought to light or it is considered that the terms of the Act are not sufficiently wide, the Repatriation Commission looks into the matter.
In addition we have War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, of which there are now four. For twelve months, as honourable senators know, there were five. Each of these Tribunals has three members. I remind honourable senators that the members of both these Tribunals and of the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals, with which I shall deal in a moment, are carefully chosen. The Chairman of each Tribunal is selected from a panel of names recommended to the Governor-General by ex-servicemen’s organisations. Sufficient proof of the fact that the RSL and the other exservicemen’s organisations are satisfied with the nominees chosen is to be found in the fact that invariably they are renominated. If the ex-servicemen’s organisations were dissatisfied with a nominee they would no longer propose his name but would nominate somebody else. There are seven Assessment Appeal Tribunals. The Chairman of each is an ex-serviceman chosen from a panel of names nominated by exservicemen’s organisations. In arriving at decisions, the Chairman is assisted by doctors who have a knowledge of the cases considered. Any anomalies that come to light are noted.
In addition to all these avenues of review, if I believe that a decision is not in accordance with the facts as I know them, I ask for a further explanation, and it is given. Furthermore, the Chairmen of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals have an annual conference at which they discuss any particular points that they have noted. The same sort of thing is done by the Chairmen of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals. In addition, the Stale Deputy Commissioners have an annual conference which their medical directors attend. This provides yet another avenue of review. So I say, I believe truthfully, that we conduct a continuing review of the functioning of the repatriation system in Australia. I believe that this review is very valuable indeed.
A Press statement issued by the Returned Services League was mentioned earlier. I have now seen a copy of it. I was told originally that it had been distributed to certain senators, but it was not until I rang the League’s office that I received a copy.
– The League has given the Minister away.
– Perhaps it has, though I am the person whom it expects to put its case to the Cabinet. I thought that the least the League could have done was to have extended to me the courtesy of sending me a copy of the Press statement. But it did not do that. Its action is its own business. 1 know that individual senators have received telegrams from representatives of the League, which admits that it is a pressure group.
– Those telegrams sought the appointment of an all-party committee as proposed in this motion.
– That may be, but when the League placed its submissions before the Cabinet on Tuesday it did not ask for the appointment of an all-party Senate select committee. It made no such request. I have here a copy of the Press statement issued by the League. It asked for the same thing as it asked for last year. Number one priority was given to a request for a general review of pension rates. The second request related to hospital benefits and the third dealt with an increase in funeral benefits. That was the order of priorities submitted by the Returned Services League. But when the RSL met the Cabinet ex-servicemen’s committee, no suggestion was made that a general review should be carried out along the lines of the terms of the resolution about which 1 am speaking at the present time.
– - The RSL let the side down.
– That is the honourable senator’s opinion. It is not often that he and I agree, and this is another such occasion. The Repatriation Act provides that the Repatriation Commission shall, subject to the control of the Minister for Repatriation, be charged with the general administration of the Act. The ambit of the Act is wide covering, for example, certain aspects of administration, eligibilities and rates of pensions and other benefit payments and determination of claims and appeals. The legislation has been kept under review and amended from time to time to meet changing circumstances. As well, the Repatriation Department has been set up as a Department of State for the general administration of repatriation benefits.
Honourable senators will probably find that in the course of this debate I will be repeating some statements. But I think they are worth repeating. I hope that it will not be tedious repetition. In the ordinary course, therefore, it might be expected that those with any specific problem relating to repatriation matters or who believe they have a case for a wide ranging view would present their case fully documented for ministerial consideration. The RSL has not done this. The Opposition has not done it. The Opposition says it wants a general review of the Repatriation Act. I will mention a few points as I go along and 1 will pose the question to the Opposition: ‘Do you want these things in the Act to be altered?’.
– Senator Wright raised a few matters in his Address-in-Reply speech.
– I do not know what the honourable senator interjected concerning Senator Wright but from what I know of the honourable senator, he is quite capable of expressing his own views and I am sure that he will do so later in the evening. Free access to the Minister always has been available and still is available to the Commission or the Department as appropriate.
Coming on to the motion under discussion, I am sure that we all agree that it is couched in the widest terms, and wide enough to cover all aspects including as well as pensions and other benefit matters all aspects of departmental administration. Honourable senators little know what they arc taking on if this Committee is appointed.
It might be expected that those who seek a parliamentary inquiry into the content of any legislation or its administration need to make a reasonable case that the ordinary arrangements for administration and review by approach to the Minister or the Department as appropriate are unsuitable or that they have been tried and have failed. It is not sufficient, in my opinion, to point out differences of view between the person making the representations and the Government. There is nothing, I suggest, in the arrangement that Parliament has made under the Repatriation Act for control by the Minister, who is himself a member of the Parliament, that needs to be changed regarding repatriation matters. In short, the Government accepts the responsibility of maintaining and developing the repatriation system and unless a clear need could be demonstrated for such action it would not ordinarily be necessary to invoke the services of a parliamentary committee.
Opportunities for review of repatriation matters by this Parliament have been presented for the last seventeen years. Some of my colleagues who will speak tonight will give the Senate some instances of what has happened on those occasions. The fact is that Parliament itself has extensive opportunities for the review of repatriation legislation and administration.
Each year for seventeen years an amending Repatriation Bill has been introduced. On the occasion of the debate on those Bills there have been the normal opportunities for wide ranging discussion. I feel that in most instances these opportunities have been availed of. In addition, the debate on the estimates of the Repatriation Department provides further opportunity for discussion. In short, in every year Parliament has had the chance to consider repatriation principles, legislation and administration. As well, the ordinary course of parliamentary business gives other opportunities to raise repatriation matters.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that, complaints were received regarding repatriation. My goodness, each year the Repatriation Department has something like 10,000 appeals that are heard. Surely we must expect complaints.
– How many of those appeals are successful?
– 1 have the figures here. They are in the annual report of the Repatriation Department. 1 do not have them in my mind at the moment. The honourable senator will find them in that report. If he has not a copy of the report 1 will be happy to provide him wilh a copy of it. The report will give him the number of appeals that have been heard and the number accepted in the twelve months ended 30th June last. Regarding the number of appeals that are heard, 1 point out that at the present moment we are running about on a line ball. We are able to prevent any backlog of appeals accumulating and not being heard. This was not so, as honourable senators will recall, when I spoke on the occasion when we dispensed with the No. 5 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. That Tribunal was set up to overcome the backlog in appeals that had built up over the years. Now the situation is running about even Stevens. The backlog has been reduced and the number of appeals outstanding now is equal to what the other four tribunals can handle during the course of the year. lt is inevitable, of course, that some delays will occur after the receipt of an application for a pension by a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, a Repatriation Board or the Repatriation
Commission. One reason is that the relevant files have to be obtained. The file of a particular individual should be in the State in which that individual is residing. Sometimes men and women leave one State, go to another State, and forget to advise the Repatriation Department of their move. Consequently their files might be in the States from which they have just departed. So, it does take some time to get these files ready for the body that is to hear the appeal. It is inevitable that there will be some delays. Fortunately the delays have not been very considerable. I am hopeful now that the delays that are occasioned at the present time will remain fairly static. It is inevitable also that because of the number of cases that come before the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the Appeal Tribunals there will be some dissatisfied applicants. Not a week goes by that I do not receive letters from people in various States. These letters thank the Deputy Commissioner and the staff in the State concerned for the treatment and consideration that have been given to individual cases by the Repatriation Department. These people are not obliged to write these letters. The letters written in this vein are sent by people to express their appreciation of what the Repatriation Department has been able to do for them.
– Does the Minister receive letters from the people whose applications have been rejected?
– Yes, we get letters from disappointed applicants. That is inevitable. I think the honourable senator will agree with me on that point. Some people apply for a pension with the feeling that they may not be successful but that they should give it a go. They say: ‘Billy Smith has a pension or an entitlement. My case is as good as his case.’ Sometimes I hear people say: ‘It is pretty raw that the application by so-and-so was rejected when another fellow’s application was accepted’. I think that such statements are very loose indeed. Surely the Opposition’s own argument confirms this. If a man is receiving an entitlement or a pension from the Repatriation Department, he has been able to convince the determining authority that he is entitled to receive that pension or entitlement. Therefore, it is very loose talk indeed to say that some of the people who are receiving pensions are not entitled to them. I freely acknowledge that there are some disappointed applicants. That is only to be expected.
Senator Murphy also mentioned that the repatriation system contains no provision for a lump sum payment. Some years ago, in certain cases people had the option of taking a lump sum payment. That does not apply today. Recently we have heard of some very large lump sums being granted to people who have been injured in the service of this country. Those sums might seem large. One that comes to mind was $80,000. However, I remind the Senate that if a single ex-serviceman became a total and permanent incapacity pensioner at the age of twenty years and lived for another forty years he would receive about $60,000 in repatriation pension, as well as medical attention and certain other benefits. If he had a wife and chiidren, of course, the amount involved would be greater.
– He could have earned, say. $120,000.
– lt is all right for the honourable senator to say that. We seem to think that $80,000 is quite a large sum. So it is. But the ex-serviceman having received that sum, that is the end of the matter. He does not have an entitlement to medical attention. That could run into thousands of dollars over a period of twenty or forty years. Even Senator O’Byrne would admit that. Those are facts that might well be taken into consideration.
Let me get back to the review. Within the administration itself changes are considered on an almost continuing basis. Thus there is an annual review of pension rates and rates of related allowances, as well as of possible changes in eligibility. I remind honourable senators, as 1 have before, that only two years ago we were able to introduce the intermediate rate pension which has filled a long felt want. This involved cutting in half the difference between the 100% rate pension, which at the time was £6 a week, and the total and permanent incapacity rate pension, which at the time was £14 a week. The intermediate rate pension gave people who were not precluded from working, on account of their injuries or disabilities, £10 a week and the opportunity to earn £10 or £15 a week, if they were in a position to do so, without that having any effect on their pension. At the present lime we have about 600 people in this category. lt is well to remind honourable senators that in some cases it is not advisable in the man’s own interests to make him a TPI pensioner if he is able to work at all. In many cases making a man a TPI pensioner has a definite psychological effect on him. He says: ‘I am a TPI pensioner. I am settled. 1 am of no further use.’ That factor needs to be taken into consideration. If a man is able to work at all, the fact that he can and does work has a very decided influence on his health and wellbeing. This is not a question of pounds, shillings and pence; it is a question of doing what is best for the individual. That is what the Repatriation Department sets out to do, as far as it can under the Act that governs it.
Leading up to the reviews that I have just mentioned, we also have representations made at the government, ministerial or departmental level, as appropriate. 1 have mentioned the other avenues. On matters affecting them, the determining authorities have access to the Minister. The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals report to the Parliament. That gives honourable senators concrete evidence of the truth of the statement that I made that there was a continuing review.
The legislation relating to eligibility has been changed on no fewer than three occasions since the end of the 1939-45 War to take account of changing conditions in which Australian troops have been involved. Specifically, the Repatriation Act itself was extended to cover the Korean and Malayan conflicts. The Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act was introduced to take account of like service by Australian forces attached to the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve. More recently the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act came into being to cover service in warlike operations or otherwise involving additional risks in the course of peacetime service. All of these developments have occurred at the initiative of the Government. They illustrate the flexibility of its repatriation thinking in the light of changing defence patterns and external relations. 1 reiterate that I do not know of any more humane
Act in the statutes of the Australian Parliament than the Repatriation Act. I go further and say that 1 do not know of any Act that is administered with more sympathy than is the Repatriation Act. J will deal with that a little more in a few moments.
One of the characteristics of the present Government is that it has encouraged consultation between the responsible Ministers, government departments and interested parties over an extensive field of Commonwealth activity, including trade, industrial relations, national development and economic affairs. In the repatriation area there is this sort of consultation on a continuing basis. Organisations that represent ex-servicemen at the national and State levels have direct access to the Minister on matters of direct interest to them. Only today two representatives of one of these organisations came to see me. They are an example of the representatives of quite a number of organisations who see me from time to time and make representations to me for submission to the Government.
There is also a constant exchange of views and information between the Government, which provides repatriation services on behalf of the community - that is an important point - and the section of the community that represents those who have repatriation entitlements. Members of the Parliament play an important part in that exchange in their general contact with ex-servicemen, which we know is very widespread, and their representations to the Minister or the administration, as appropriate.
In the recent past the Parliament itself has not favoured the idea of a parliamentary inquiry into repatriation matters. Admittedly, that idea was for a general parliamentary inquiry as distinct from the Senate committee that is now proposed. However, the general principle of justifying the eec for parliamentary investigation remains. In order to keep the Senate committee in perspective, it is worth adverting in passing to the sorts of repatriation issues that have been raised in the Parliament in recent times and to the attitudes of the Parliament to them.
For example, suggestions have been made concerning the automatic acceptance of par ticular disabilities, notably cancer, as war caused. This was one of the matters on which Senator Murphy commented, lt is one of the requests that we receive from time to time. Up to this point of time, at any rate, the majority of medical opinion is that it is very difficult indeed to decide whether a cancer has been war caused. Here again each case is treated on its merits. If there is any possibility of a doubt whether a cancer has been war caused, the applicant receives the benefit of that doubt.
– Surely there is a doubt in each such case.
– I did not hear what the honourable senator said. He will probably have a chance to speak later. Suggestions have been made for changes in the benefit of the doubt or onus of proof provision. Suggestions have also been made in respect of the provision of medical treatment for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 War and the Boer War and for the wives of TPI pensioners.
Another of the issues that have been raised from time to time is the inclusion of members of certain philanthropic organisations, such as the Salvation Army, within the repatriation legislative structure. Yet another is rights of appeal beyond the existing appeals provisions of the Act ‘o a court. This has been a hardy annual. We are often asked why the applicant is not given a right of appeal to a court of ‘aw. 1 defy any member of this Senate to say that this is asked for by any ex-servicemen’s organisation, lt is not asked for by them, and for good reason. They know if this right were given it would react very substantially against them. I propose to read sections 47 and 48 of the Act which cover the ‘benefit of the doubt’ as we have come to know it. I think there is a good deal of misunderstanding about these sections. They are rather long and perhaps I should read only the relevant parts, but if honourable senators want the whole of them read, I shall do that. Section 47 reads: (1.) The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice-
I ask honourable senators to note those words. I have emphasised them before - substantial justice’. There is a difference between just ordinary justice and mercy. We like to think - I think we have had proof of this over the years - that ‘substantial justice’ here means that we ?an temper justice with mercy, and in my view that is what we do. The section continues: and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt -
– How is it applied?
– In ninety-nine cases out of 100 I would say it is applied to the benefit of the applicant.
– Then I have struck the odd case.
– The honourable senator has been unlucky. 1 am unlucky very often. Let me deal now with section 48 which is complementary to section 47. lt reads: (1.) A medical practitioner shall, in reporting on any claim in relation to a member of the Forces, set out in his report his opinion -
in the case of a claim in respect of the incapacity of the member - as to the nature, cause and extent of the incapacity, and shall also set out whether, in his opinion, the incapacity from which the member is suffering or from which he has died -
The last sub-section of clause 48 reads: (3.) The provisions of this section shall extend to every medical practitioner, whether a:i officer of the Department of Repatriation or not, who is required by the Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal or an Assessment Appeal Tribunal to report on a claim, and to the members of any medical board who examine a person on war service immediately prior to his discharge from the Forces.
Is this something the Opposition wants lo alter? is this somet’hing the Opposition wants to amend? ls this something the Returned Services League wants to alter?
– Like fun it does. lt knows when it is well off. The honourable senator can talk till he is black in the face. I suppose I have talked to far more organisations about these matters than he has and I. have not found one organisation that admits that it wants any alteration.
– Why do they send telegrams?
– They send telegrams because a disappointed applicant is biased, to begin with. Telegrams are sent because an applicant who felt he had a case has had his application rejected. This is only natural.
– The Victorian branch of the Returned Services League sent telegrams today.
– How many telegrams has the honourable senator received? How many have I received? We get only a handful. Let me get back to my argument. I have dealt with the automatic acceptance of particular disabilities, notably cancer, as war caused, and 1 have dealt with changes in the benefit of doubt and onus of proof provisions.
Two points about these suggestions are noteworthy. First, they have been fully debated on their merits but they have not been generally acceptable to the Parliament. Secondly, the proposals represent individual or collective views of what, in the main, might be done by way of change within a system which characteristically is designed to compensate those suffering from warcaused disabilities and other handicaps arising from war service. None of these proposals in itself, however, has suggested the need for any substantial specific inquiry into the nature of the whole current system.
It is, of course, true that some people who are interested applicants for benefits under the system do find themselves in disagreement with decisions affecting them. This is the point I have been making. Having regard to the nature of medical opinion and the number of medical men who are associated with different personal repatriation cases, it is inevitable that there will be differences. Honourable senators will recall that I have said several times that we have over 5,000 local medical officers who are called upon to examine applicants in some of these cases. Then, of course, we have specialists engaged by the Department in addition to the Department’s own medical officers. Medical officers are like lawyers and economists - they differ in their views just as we in this Senate have different views. This is to be expected. One doctor might think an illness was aggravated by war service or was war caused, and another doctor might think differently. In these cases, if there is any doubt at all, the benefit of that doubt must be given to the applicant. 1 have carried this subject further because, on the last occasion when 1 addressed our medical directors, I told them I wanted the benefit of the doubt given to those people who were seeking admission to our repatriation hospitals. If there was any doubt about whether a man should be admitted, 1 wanted him to be admitted. They could fight it out afterwards. The Act takes care of this in a way which entirely favours the claimant. Surely I have given proof of this. A doctor reporting on a case is required to express any doubts in the manner that I have just read out.
Here again I emphasise, because I think it is worth emphasising, that a member of any determining authority must be selected from lists of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organisations throughout the Commonwealth. The organisations continue to submit nominations from time to time, and have been doing so for some considerable time. Is it desired to alter this system? Do honourable senators think that the ex-servicemen’s organisations should not have this representation? Do they want somebody else on these authorities? Does the Opposition propose to ask for a panel of lawyers, a panel of doctors or a panel of economists? Or do honourable senators opposite want the authorities to remain as they are at present constituted? I think T know what their answer would be.
The case for a Senate or parliamentary inquiry into repatriation matters is sometimes supported by analogy with the 1943 Committee, the membership of which was drawn from Government and Opposition senators and members. I do not think this is a valid comparison, for two reasons. First, the 1943 inquiry, was appointed to consider whether a system which had not been under regular view could be adapted to the circumstances of another world war. Secondly, that review having been carried out and appropriate adjustments made, the legislation in recent years - I emphasise this also - has been kept under constant review. Having now been faced, through twenty years of peace, with intermittent involvement of our forces in worldwide operations, the Government has taken the initiative. To meet each new circumstance it has initiated changes which Parliament has approved and thus has guided development of a system over the years. These changes have been related not only to eligibility. In addition, new benefits have been provided and procedures have been improved. Indeed, I have been working for some twelve months on something that I hope we can introduce into the Parliament in the not too distant future.
A fair test of the acceptability of a system is the attitude towards it of the community by which it is provided and the attitude of that part of the community which it is intended to assist. No initiative for a parliamentary inquiry has come from the community. I challenge any honourable senator to refute that statement.
It is of interest to point out that in a signed article in issue No. 13 of 1966 of the World Veterans Federation publication known as ‘The Annals of Comparative Legislation’ one Australian member of the Federation, Mr L. Johnson, makes certain observations which I propose to read to the Senate. They are only brief but I think they are so interesting that honourable senators should listen to them. He said:
A war pension scheme had been evolved in 1914, which provided compensation by way of pensions for ex-servicemen and their dependants in respect of incapacity and death directly due to war service.
Later in the article when referring to the amount of money being spent by Australia on pensions he had this to say:
It is fair to say at this stage that wc who are war veterans in Australia are justifiably proud of our war pension entitlements, particularly when compared with other countries and there would be very few deserving cases with war-caused disabilities that do not receive compensation from the Commonwealth Government in the form of a pension or benefit under the Repatriation Act. Naturally it would be impossible to satisfy everyone-
Here is where certain members of the Opposition could well take note - and it is also reasonable to say that there is always room for improvement-
That is something I have acknowledged and emphasised from time to time - and it is to thi credit of the many veterans associations in our country that they are continually pressing the Government to increase the monetary value of the pensions to a comparative level with the current standard of living.
So much for that. I have read the extract from that article and I have cited the journal from which it has come.
– We are satisfied.
– 1 think everyone should be. After all, the average Australian knows when he is getting a fair deal; so does the RSL and so do the other ex-service organisations in Australia. They ask for improvements in certain pensions, and 1 hope that we can make those improvements for them. In my view some of these pensions - 1 make no secret of it - are too low.
– Hear, hear.
– 1 am glad to see that we have at last found some common ground of agreement. I hope that when the next Budget is introduced we will have even wider grounds of agreement. It is my desire that we pay the pensions to which these people are entitled. We know that the value of the pensions has been eroded by the high cost of living. As to Senator Murphy’s suggestion, as I understood him, that we should fix these things once and for all and then we would have no further cause for worry, I do not think he really took into consideration the full effect of what he was saying. Let us remember that the heads of the ex-service organisations try to get the best possible deal for their members. They would not hold their positions if they did not. I accept that. I have no doubt that if we were able to meet all the claims that are contained in their submissions they would be looking for something additional within a few weeks. That is human nature. They would be failing in their duty to the members of their organisations if they did not make such claims.
I think I have said enough to convince most people who at least are prepared to listen to both sides of the case that there is simply no need for the resolution moved by the Opposition.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in opening his reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) said that there were three main reasons why my leader’s submission should not be considered. Firstly, he said that it was not a genuine move for the appointment of a committee. Then he said that we should be able to prove a prima facie cass, and thirdly, he mentioned the continuing review of repatriation benefits about which we all have knowledge. After he said that this was not a genuine move for the appointment of a committee he went on to acknowledge that the Returned Services League had in fact advised him that it supported the idea of an all-party committee.
– Pardon me. I did not say that.
– As I understood the Minister, he said that he had telephoned the RSL and had been told that it supported the proposal for a committee. Is that correct?
– No. Let me correct the honourable senator. 1 said I did not receive a copy of the League’s Press statement until I had telephoned the League.
– That is the same thing.
– No, it is not.
– It means that the Minister knows that the RSL is supporting the proposal the Opposition has put forward tonight - a proposal that we have put forward previously, a proposal which has been supported by some members on the Government side, by the Australian Democratic Labor Party and by certain other senators in this chamber. If the Minister does not know that, I shall read a telegram which was addressed to Senator Poyser, a Victorian senator, by Mr Hall, State President of the RSL in Victoria. It is in these terms:
Repatriation Act (stop) Hope all-party select committee appointed.
The Minister knows full well that we have no need to prove a prima facie case because he went on to mention all the things about which we had argued in the past and which the RSL had put before the Senate and the Government and which had been refused. There was, for example, the suggested alteration of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. The League clearly mentioned that in its reports and has said that the Government should change it. The RSL has said that pension rates should be tied to the basic wage and that there should be free hospital and medical treatment for all veterans of the First World War and the Boer War. The Minister knows that this is so. He knows that the Opposition has produced arguments, which have been supported in the past by certain Government members, by members of the DLP and by certain Independent senators. He knows that the RSL has supported a proposed amendment that members of the Salvation Army who served in a theatre of war be granted the same rights as are granted to ordinary exservicemen under the Repatriation Act. The Government has refused that request. He knows all these things and yet, in reply to Senator Murphy, he tells the Senate that this is not a genuine move and that the Opposition has not established a prima facie case.
Lei me remind the Minister that back in 1963 we reported to the Senate what the RSL branches in the States had said about the propositions which had been put before the Government. Last year Mr Eastick, President of the South Australian branch of the RSL, sent the following message to Senator Toohey:
Whilst appreciating your collective support for hospitalisation for World War One men we in South Australia are solidly behind our national body in its submissions and appeal to all members of the Senate for some positive action to see justice done.
The Minister knows too that the Federal President of the RSL strongly criticised the Government last year after an RSL committee had met the Government’s committee and the League’s claims had been refused by the Government. We know that this kind of thing has been going on, so there is a prima facie case. The Minister recognised this when he replied to Senator Murphy. Obviously this is a genuine proposition. Not only has the Opposition supported this but also it has had some support from Government supporters and other senators. There is the basis for our move.
– What support has the Opposition had from the Government?
– I shall develop this directly as quickly as I can, because the Minister has taken a long time to reply to Senator Murphy; I hope that the matter can be properly canvassed and that it will not be talked out. The Minister and Government supporters know that applications by the RSL and other ex-service organisations have been refused. The basic issues are these: the question of altering section 47, the question of tying pension rales to the basic wage to give some equality, and free hospitalisation, which has been approved by this chamber. The Opposition, by properly ventilating the matter and by trying not to make political capital out of it, has introduced-
– Ha ha!
– That is a fact. The Government can test this if it wants to do so. In the past we have moved for a joint committee like the committee of 1942-43. Government supporters in this place and in another place have said they would not support the appointment of a standing committee but they would support the appointment of a select committee. On this occasion the Opposition has decided to allow the Senate to decide whether there should be a select committee, which would give an opportunity to the RSL and to other expert people in the field to put before the committee the sort of things that exservicemen want and which have been refused by the Government. It is twenty-five years since this Parliament had such a committee. That committee made two reports. The first was in 1942, when it dealt with certain improvements in the Act. In 1943 it brought down a second report which dealt with improvements in conditions of exservicemen which could be dealt with by regulation. I suggest that this was done hurriedly. It was done during a war. But it was important to do the important things at the time.
We have not since had a review. This Parliament has not reviewed the Repatriation Act in a comprehensive way since then. All that we have had are reports from the Minister to the effect that there is a continuing review by the Government, which makes up its mind. Ex-servicemen’s organisations are in a worse position than a trade union, because a trade union can go before an arbitration tribunal and ask it to apply a number of tests as to wage justice. Exservicemen cannot do this. They go to the Government and ask that pension rates be tied to the basic wage but the Government says: ‘No, we will review pension rates.’ So returned soldiers and their dependants are subject to the whims of the Government. This should not be so. If a select committee were appointed, ex-servicemen and other people would have the opportunity to come along to it and prove their case. 1 remind the Senate that this matter, as the Minister fairly hastily mentioned, has been canvassed in this chamber. We can say, with some pride I think, that in 1965 and 1966 we amended Repatriation Bills. We had carried an amendment that the Repatriation Act be altered to provide free hospitalisation to veterans of the First World War and the Boer War. We did this in 1965 and we did it in 1966. What happened? In 1965, when the Bill came back to the Senate, there was a change in alignments and the amendment was defeated. In 1966 a new device was used. The Bill that went from the Senate to the House of Representatives lapsed for some reason - a new technique in the Parliament - and the Government introduced a new Bill. In 1965 Sir Robert Menzies, who entered the debate, argued that on constitutional grounds the Senate should not amend a Repatriation Bill because it was a money Bill, and influenced the opinions of Government supporters who had supported the measure. Last year matters of this sort were not canvassed. A new Bill was introduced. So the Minister is as much aware as we are of what is taking place.
There is a prima facie ground for what we propose. In these matters we have been supported by the RSL. There is no doubt about this. Let us have a look at what other senators have said. I must cite the remarks of Senator Wright because he was one of the persons who influenced the Senate by the exercise of his legal talents. On 23 rd September 1965 he said in a debate in this chamber:
Those arc the reasons that I urge against the appointment of a standing committee as proposed in the amendment proposed by Senator Sanford. I wish to make my position plain in the hope that we will act as a real committee on this matter. I hope a select committee will be appointed.
In another place Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes said much the same thing. On 29th September 1 965 he said:
This is why in all earnestness and sincerity t ask the Government to consider the appointment of a select committee or some other body to inquire into the effect on ex-servicemen of the incompleteness or absence of their medical records.
So, Mr Deputy President, we have this clear position. We have an important organisation that represents all ex-servicemen, or, in any event, the people who are on pensions, which pleads with the Government for an alteration of pensions on no basis other than what appears to be an arbitrary basis. It has not the facilities of the arbitration court or of a test that should be applied. If the Government decides that for budgetary reasons it cannot give the exserviceman justice, the application is refused. I mentioned earlier what the RSL has said. The National President of the League said in August 1966 that the League’s patience with the Government was strained. He also said: 1 have no doubt that repatriation pensions will be used as a political football in the next election.
This is a deplorable state of affairs. The livelihood of ex-servicemen and women should not be used as a political football.
But from 1950 the value of pensions has slipped gradually back.
– From whose remarks is the honourable senator quoting?
-Sir Arthur Lee’s remarks. If the Government wants to get away fromthis charge, which it uses against us - sometimes.I admit, officers of the RSL have used it - that the matter has become a political football, it should act to remove matters in the repatriation field from the political arena. A select committee will provide for people who are expert in the field and people who have a grievance an opportunity to come along to it and prove their case.I should also like to mention quickly some other matters. Mr Eastick in a teller to me in August 1966 wrote:
It is incredibleto believe that the Government would allow such depreciation in pension values without making some genuine moveto arrest the situation.
In the second last paragraph of the letter he stated:
It is surely no incentive to the youth of the nation to serve when it appears obvious that the veterans of the wars rale but half-hearted consideration for the service given to their country.
Is there any doubt that there is a genuine case? Let me refer quickly to the pension rales which are one of the matters which the Minister said are continually reviewed but on which, on the other hand, there are continuing complaints from cx-servicemcn.
I shall show the movement in two pension rates, the special TPI rate and the general rate, compared with the basic wage. In 1920 the basic wage was £3 18s, the TPI rate was £4 or 103% of the basic wage, and the general rate was £2 2s or 54% of the basic wage. In 1943 the basic wage was £4 16s, the TPI rate was £416s or 100% of the basic wage, and the general rate was £2 10s or 52% of the basic wage. In 1950 the basic wage was £618s, the TPI rate was £7 or 101% of the basic wage, and the general rate was £3 10s or 51% of the basic wage. In 1966 the basic wage was £15 8s, the TPI rate was £14 5s or 92% of the basic wage - honourable senators will notice the drop from 103% - and the general rate was £6 or 39% of the basic wage - a drop from 54%. Since November last year when the basic wage was increased to $32.80, the TPI rate has been 93% of the basic wage and the general rate has been 37% of the basic wage. What is the good of the Government saying that it is considerate to ex-servicemen? We can see a special reason why an appropriate committee ought to be set up to examine this matter. 1 turn now to the position of war widows. Some public attention was drawn to the unfortunate position of Mrs Max Hartley, a war widow in South Australia. Her husband was killed in Vietnam and she was forced to live on $32. 15 a week - less than the compensation rates paid under the appropriate Acts to people injured in industrial accidents. It is of no use talking about a period of peace, as the Minister has done. The last review of the Repatriation Act was undertaken in war time. Since then we have had two important military engagements - in Korea and Vietnam. Many thousands of Australians look to the Government to take action, but the Government does. not. A special committee ought to look at these matters. On many occasions in this chamber Senator Wright has raised the question of whether compensation should be paid as a result of people being killed or injured in the Vietnam War. The RSL wants a national form of insurance. On 4th March 1967 the National Secretary of the RSL said when discussing the question of compensation:
Wc feel that the answer to the compensation problem would be a life insurance cover for each soldier. This answer lies in a review of the present repatriation structure rather than in a now system.
That in itself is support for my proposal. I had intended to read the levels of compensation in all States in order to illustrate how badly treated are our soldiers and war widows but my time is limited. The industrial compensation rates have been increased in all States very recently. The Minister referred to the onus of proof and asked the Opposition to tell him when the Returned Services League had advocated a change in section 47 of the Act. I shall read now from the forty-eighth, annual report in 1963 of the National Executive of the League. The report states at page 10:
Additional Repatriation Requests - Section 47
The forty-eighth National Congress reaffirmed that a request should be made for an amendment of section 47. The amendment to read - by insertion of the following paragraph immediately after clause B sub-section (1): “In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability” ‘.
This matter was ventilated in the Senate. One of the important legal minds in the Senate claimed that the definition we sought to have inserted in the Act was not proper and ought lo be reviewed. As 1 understand it, for that reason Senator Wright voted against the move by the Opposition to have section 47 altered. But that was the aim of the RSL in its national approach. In 1963 letters were sent by the RSL to each member of Parliament, including myself. I received a letter dated 15th August 1963 in which Mr Eastick again urged me to vote for an alteration to section 47. So it is clear to me and to all Opposition senators that the operation of section 47 is very much in doubt. There have been at least three very important interpretations of section 47. I do not wish to develop that argument now. 1 am able to say confidently that many ex-servicemen are aggrieved because they do not get the benefit of the doubt. I shall read now from an August 1964 edition of the New South Wales journal of the RSL - ‘Reveille’. It states:
Let it be made clear that the overriding consideration in a democratic country is the intention of the Parliament which brought down the legislation to set up the entire repatriation system. A study of Federal parliamentary Hansard over the period of thirty-five years since the appeals system was set up shows beyond any doubt that members of Parliament of all shades of political belief, were as one in their determination to ensure that the onus of proof that a disability claimed was not due to war service, was to rest on the Repatriation Commission.
In other words, when a claim for Repatriation benefits was lodged, that claim must be accepted unless the Repatriation Commission can prove (prove mark you) that the disability claimed was not due to war service.
This is very generous legislation, and Parliament intended that it should be generous. Not merely just, but truly generous. Are the diggers and the widows reaping the benefit of this generosity? The answer is ‘No’. In fact, some arc not even getting justice. . . .
The Minister has said that the tribunals are able to solve these questions, but he knows full well that in many cases no records are available to support the claims of ex-servicemen. In such circumstances 1 suggest that the real intention of section 47 is to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicants.
– Sometimes the records have been lost.
– That is right. Most honourable senators have examined repatriation records at some time. On many occasions we have found that no records have been kept or that records are missing. The Minister accepts the position because he has said so in this Parliament. To assist an ex-servicemen one has to depend on something in his record. If his application fails before an Assessment Tribunal or an Entitlement Tribunal he may be told, irrespective of section 47: Go back again and find some fresh evidence. See if you can find an old comrade.’ People of the First World War are asked to find an old comrade, or the commanding officer or doctor of their unit. They might be told: ‘Find an old comrade from whom you can get a statement, or somebody who knew when you had this condition.’ The real intention of the legislation is being subverted.
The Minister has said that he is able to review cases which have been rejected. I know of no case put to the Minister where an application has failed before an Assessment Tribunal or an Entitlement Tribunal and he has done something about it. 1 know of cases where he has extended sympathetic treatment to ex-servicemen in other fields. When we have approached him on matters we have found him to be quite sympathetic, but I do not know of any tribunal determination where he has said: ‘I will look into this matter and see what I can do.’ It is well known that he has said that this is the function of the tribunals. He will not go outside that position. He says that we can talk as much as we like about this matter but he will not go outside the tribunals. I have found the Minister to be sympathetic about some matters I have placed before him; for example, air-conditioning units for ex-servicemen, and such things. He is very sympathetic, but he sticks to the letter of the law as far as the Government is concerned.
He is aware that in fact section 47 does not give the benefit of the doubt to applicants. In the Senate in answer to Questions he has admitted that records might be missing. In 1966 1 asked the Minister this question:
I address my question to the Minister for Repatriation. Has the Minister had occasion to discuss with the Repatriation Department cases concerning applicants for disability pensions whose medical records do not record all illnesses, accidents or injuries suffered during the applicant’s service? In the absence of such details on a medical record and in the absence of supporting witnesses, a situation common to many First World War applicants, what weight is given to the applicant’s testimony? Would the Minister examine this matter with a view to avoiding injustice to an applicant?
On that occasion the Minister replied:
Some cases do come before the determining authorities from time to time in which evidence is lacking, as mentioned by the honourable senator. I would like to inform him that in very many of these cases diaries kept by the applicants have been taken as having some bearing on the case. I can assure him that in these instances, as in every other instance, in appeals or in applications to the Repatriation Department, these applicants are given the benefit of the doubt. I think that, broadly speaking, that answers his question. The honourable senator asked in addition, 1 think, whether I would have a look at this matter. I think it is adequately covered by the procedures that have been adopted over the years and are still in use. In every case where the benefit of the doubt can be given to the applicant, it is given.
The Minister recognises that sometimes, if a man has a diary, it will help him. He quite blandly says, ‘You will get the benefit of the doubt.’ But the Minister knows as well as I do that if a bloke does not have evidence he is told to go away and get it. If his service record does not show that he had a cold during the years he was in New Guinea, that he met with an accident or was shot in the tail, he has no chance of getting repatriation benefits unless he got a comrade to write it down. Of course, his comrades these days are very far away.
During the repatriation debate in this chamber on the 21st September 1966, the Minister said at page 602:
White 1 think of it, I should like to emphasise - I hope honourable senators will emphasise this to the young chaps who are going away today, because they could not bc given better advice on repatriation - that servicemen before they are discharged from the service in which they are serving, should make sure that they have a really good medical check up. One of the troubles over the years has been that too many men have been anxious to get out of the service - this is only natural - and have said: ‘There is nothing wrong willi me; I am all right’. They omitted to mention things which at that stage were perhaps only minor complaints but which later came against them. Had they mentioned their complaints before they were discharged, they would have been examined and probably would have saved themselves a lot of trouble and been given an entitlement that they may not have been able to obtain later. I emphasise that that is good advice for any of us to give.
In that debate I followed by saying that I was pleased the Minister had made this comment. I have described a situation in which I suggested there is clear evidence that the Minister recognises the difficulties ex-servicemen are in. If a man seeks to prove before an entitlement tribunal or an assessment tribunal that his condition is war caused, he is in difficulty because, as the Minister says, the doctors have different opinions. If anyone thinks he can rest upon the advice of the doctors, many of whom have had no war experience to get supporting evidence to put to the tribunals, he will get a shock.
– What does the honourable senator mean when he says that many of them have not had war experience?
– I said many of them, and I am not referring to the honourable senator or to Senator Turnbull, for I know that both of them were in the Services. I am not saying that if I had something wrong with me and went to Senator Dittmer as a doctor he would not give me a verifying certificate. I say that, because I know him. But it is a fact that many ex-servicemen have to depend on the support of a doctor who does not appreciate the conditions under which ex-servicemen fought and lived. lt has been said before - and it is sound common sense - that no ex-serviceman, no matter where he served, comes out of the Services as well as, or in the same condition as, he entered the Services. He is much worse because of his service. Many of the front line troops are even worse. These people have no chance at all, and 1 challenge the Minister to prove that is not so. Unless an ex-serviceman made an application shortly after -his war experience and has evidence on his record he has the world of a job to get an entitlement. The Minister knows that that is so.
– that does no always preclude his getting one. The honourable senator knows that.
– There are many instances of ex-servicemen being refused because there is nothing on their records. The Minister knows this. So far as the onus of proof is concerned, he knows that in reality the Department docs not give application to what I believe the Senate decided upon this matter.
– I cannot agree with that.
– The Returned Ser vices League supports what I am submitting. They say it should be changed. I am not arguing - and we do not intent to argue - why it should be changed. We suggest that the appointment of this select committee will enable the matter to be examined and will allow the experts in the field to come to the committee and supply information and reasons in connection with all sections of repatriation. A great number of applications have been made and granted, but a great number have failed. My colleague Senator Devitt has just mentioned to me that many applications that are made later on are refused, but even applications on the ground of cancer have been granted for some reasons. 1 put it to the Senate that there is every good reason why it should do what it has done before. Repatriation debates in this chamber have been the most vigorous and interesting of all debates, and I have been pleased to take a minor part in discussing this subject. Other honourable senators with much more ability in the legal sense have done the same thing. Indeed, we have been able to change the policy of a government which I suggest has not properly looked at the request of the Returned Services League. Even having regard to what has happened in the past - and perhaps later on in the year we shall have some controversy over a suggestion by someone that the Opposition is again playing politics - I suppose the way out of this situation is to allow the select committee to proceed. Let us get the advice of all the people who can add something to a consideration of the great issues that exist.
Many ex-servicemen are satisfied, but thousands are dissatisfied. I include, of course, the officers of the organisation I have mentioned. There are some minor matters, but I believe that broadly speaking I have put the case for the Opposition. I hope that before the debate ends we shall be able to attract to our side the people who have put up vigorous support for the Returned Services League’s claims in other areas. They should do it on this occasion because I am informed - and I have no personal letter from the League but I believe, from the information I have - that they are in favour of this select committee.
– I have listened to this debate on a subject which 1 think is of great national importance. lt is of more than usual interest because the notice for this motion was given on the morning after I made my last speech in this chamber on repatriation, when fortunately through the medium of one daily newspaper my speech was given such prominence that it attracted the idea that it had political importance. Before I finish with this campaign, whatever note the newspapers take of it, it will be shown to the country that this matter has transcending political and national importance. However, I am bound to say that when Senator Murphy, as one newspaper this week said, presented me with the opportunity of making a decision on the matter, he immediately next morning put on the notice paper a motion for this select committee. If there was any political bird lime in it, I ignore it. But I do say that even in politics personal courtesies sometimes accord to particular personalities a recognition of the fact that they have a special interest in a cause. For my part, 1 thought that that was lower than the level of understanding that should exist between members of this chamber. Of course, Senator Murphy is entitled to put on a notice of motion the same as any other member, even myself. The second thing that I want to say is this: There have been all sorts of references, and I do not know by what they were inspired or whether they were inspired at all. Firstly, they appeared through the columns of the ‘Bulletin’. I noticed that the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ referred to rumblings of my expulsion if 1 took a certain attitude on. this debate. Mr President, you may not have seen very much of me in recent months, but you are completely unacquainted with me if you do not know that I live by the spirit. I remind myself that I am one of the two members of the Liberal Party present in the Parliament who was in attendance at the original Canberra conference of the Party. I do not say this in a political sense because I will show that party politics are divorced from this debate. I spoke at that conference only to move for the deletion from the Liberal Party platform of a provision for security and compensation for returned men which seemed to be reminiscent of Craggy Ridge on which a Victoria Cross was won and the substitution of a provision for generous repatriation benefits. My proposal was warmly accepted and I believe it has been proudly retained by the Liberal Party since.
If 1 were to mould my views tonight upon the subject of this debate, 1 would not depend very greatly upon the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I want to say quite candidly that it seemed to me to be an enumeration of contentious matters without giving focus to the real significance of them as 1 would have expected him to do. Notwithstanding that, for myself, I believe that some of them are long continuing matters of concern, i believe that they would well warrant consideration by a body of members of this chamber. By the same token, 1 listened to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in the presentation of his case, I hope he will permit me to say, with appreciation and high regard for his purpose and endeavour. But I find in his enumeration of old matters no perception whatever of the crying defects in the present rales of compensation which are the particular subject upon which he acknowledged that the Returned Services League had a complaint. Other people have spoken as though the RSL should govern us in this matter.
Ever since 1 espoused the cause of repatriation my interest has been growing, particularly in the last five or six years. Previously, I had left this matter to those who had better war records and who 1 thought could maintain the cause. But year by year as I have studied the matter I have become dismayed that nobody could bc found who was moderately satisfied with the justice that is being provided in our repatriation system. Nobody deserves defence in this Parliament or in this country unless the defence effort is accompanied by a just system of compensation for the defence casualties. At the moment I am addressing myself particularly to the Australian Democratic Labor Party which 1 took occasion this morning to acknowledge had played a significant part in the moulding of the defence and external affairs policy of this country in the last critical fifteen years. We do great damage to the cause of Australia’s security if we dissociate from that cause proper compensation for war casualties, lt little matters to me what the result of this debate is because until my cause is understood and accepted, while I am in this Parliament 1 will advocate it.
Let us consider the industrial compensation that a private employer has to pay under the law that this Government imposes him. Let us consider, also, the compensation of 582,000 which the Army paid to Soutar pursuant to common law. This amount is far removed from the total and permanent incapacitate pension. The Minister said that a TPI pensioner aged twenty years would get the equivalent of $60,000. I am dismayed that there should be such a want of knowledge on the part of those who advise the Minister, even actuarily. Actuarily, the present lump sum equivalent of the TPI pension of §1,586 per annum taken over forty years is about $26,000. Soutar got three times that amount. What did he get it for? He got it for home service - for clambering on the cliffs of St George’s Heights. Under the law of the country the verdict was registered in court with the Commonwealth as the defendant, because the law give to home service casualties the right to compensation for full handicap and damage if there is any negligence. But because nets were not placed underneath Soutar by those who the court thought had a duty to take that precaution, he recovered $82,000, not under any law that was evolved by this Government, but under the common law that is in force in this country which this Government accepts as being applicable to its liability for home service casualties. I am quoting Soutar’s case. I know nothing of the poor man. He is now a paraplegic. 1 hope that he will not mind my using his case in the cause for which I am using it, that is, for the provision of proper repatriation lo his fellow comrades. I am sure that he will not mind my doing this.
Mr President, 1 remind honourable senators that as a result of the ‘Voyager disaster six officers’ widows made claims. The Commonwealth accepted liability and has paid the claims of those widows ranging from S33,000 to $48,000. In addition they receive a pension under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. What are those pensions? The widow of a Navy captain receives $2,844 per year. The widow of a lieutenant-commander receives $2,274 a year. The widow of an able seaman receives $853 a year. Pursuant to common law, the Commonwealth, acknowledging negligence on the part of the navigators involved in the ‘Voyager” disaster, has paid twenty claims by the widows of sailors engaged in home service in the Navy. Three recovered between $25,000 and $30,000 each; fourteen recovered between $20,000 and $25,000 each; three recovered between $15,000 and $20,000 each. Two wounded survivors recovered compensation for personal injury. One received $1,700 and the other $3,100. In addition, the claimants receive the benefit of pensions of the dimensions that 1 have mentioned which are payable out of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
Suppose that a civilian employer takes employees on to a bridge building or scaffolding job or any job that involves their being driven on a road. Some may be killed and some may be rendered permanently and totally incapacitated. According to the scale laid down by Mr Justice Taylor - not by a jury - in Soutar’s case for a man the expectancy of whose earnings was worth something like $44,000, a person with a claim against a private employer based on an expectancy of forty years dependency would be awarded $80,000 or thereabouts. Let us take the situation of a civilian employer - a company, however small or large, or a person, however impecunious or otherwise. Suppose that one of his servants, through what may be considered an act of negligence, causes an industrial injury to either himself or a fellow employee. Anybody who knows what negligence is knows how insignificant and small may be the act that results in a plaintiff winning a verdict. The laudable attitude of our courts and juries is that money was made to pay proper compensation for damage to life and limb. In the light of this attitude the measure of liability may be of the order of $82,000 in u case of total and permanent incapacitation.
For home service in the defence Services, the Commonwealth’s liability is measured by the same yardstick. In Soutar’s case and in respect of the claims resulting from the Voyager’ disaster the Commonwealth’s liability has been acknowledged on the scale of the figures that I have mentioned. Personnel of the Army, the Navy or the Air Force who are members of the permanent Service and who volunteer to make it their career become entitled to benefits paid out of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. If they serve in a war zone they receive not merely the repatriation benefits about which we have been talking tonight but also defence forces retirement benefits. T have outlined the pensions that are payable to the widows of naval personnel of certain ranks. The widow of an Army colonel receives $3,241 a year; the widow of a lieutenant, $1,763 a year; the widow of a sergeant, $1,365 a year; and the widow of a private, $1,137 a year. In addition, repatriation benefits are payable.
– The entitlement depends on the length of time served as a member of the Service concerned.
– I am speaking of the full scale of defence forces retirement benefits. I assume that the Minister has sufficient knowledge of those benefits to know that there are all sorts of qualifications in particular cases. Length of service is only one of them. I do not want to complicate the matter. I have dealt with the liability of an individual employer and with the liability of the Commonwealth in respect of home service in the forces. I have also mentioned the entitlement in respect of a member of the Australian Regular Army who is killed or wounded in Vietnam. Repatriation benefits and defence forces retirement benefits both apply. But in respect of a national serviceman, a member of the Citizen Military Forces or any volunteer other than a member of the Australian Regular Army who is killed or wounded in Vietnam, there is no entitlement to defence forces retirement benefits. Only repatriation benefits are payable. For total and permanent incapacity a pension of $1,586 a year is paid to the serviceman and a pension of $210 a year to his wife. wilh an additional $7 1 .6 a year for a child, together with an education allowance of $320 a year.
– Hospital and medical treatment is free in such cases.
– 1 thank Senator Marriott for reminding me of this. But surely the country docs not want from its wounded servicemen, or from the widows and dependants of those who are killed, gratitude for free hospital and medical treatment. The person who receives it may have lo endure being forced to lie on his back the whole time and to submit to interminable operations with all that these entail. I acknowledge that hospital and medical treatment is free, but I take no pride in it. Of course a wounded serviceman or the dependants of one who is killed are entitled to free medical and hospital treatment. I am concerned about the pensions on which the ex-serviceman and his dependants have to live. I have already given the figures. Varying rates of education allowance are payable. The children of professional men receive a certain scale of allowance and others receive a different rate. So I have taken the average at $320 a year. The actuarial assessment of pensions and benefits at the scale I have mentioned is not half the sum that Soutar recovered when the ‘aw compelled the Minister to pay compensation for the disability sustained while on home service.
– The law does not compel me to pay anything.
– The law compels the Government to pay.
– The Repatriation Commission cannot be compelled to pay.
– The common law compels the Government to pay. This is the law that was devised from our inheritance, the fabric that has been woven by the courts printing a pattern of justice unimpeded by Parliament. I am asking Parliament to recognise what has been done by those who have measured the obligation and prescribed the compensation commensurate with this service, lt is a matter of shame that this Parliament is content to leave some men on miserable pensions. I refer to men who are not entitled to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund payments. These are the men who have been ordered to Vietnam as national servicemen, and also those who volunteered to serve. They and their dependants live on pensions that are miserable when compared with the common law compensation or repatriation benefits plus DFRB benefits which members of the Regular Army are entitled to.
For my own satisfaction I have prepared a paper in order to present the history and the law of these matters over the last 100 years to show the development that has taken place. I speak in this way because I wish to put the proposition that the community that we represent has not risen up as an army to come here and demand improvements in our repatriation benefits. But the community whom we represent sustains the law that gives the measure of compensation that I have described. Do not leave the war zone casualty at a disadvantage, firstly as against the industrial casualty; secondly, as against home service defence casualty; and thirdly, as against the Regular Army casualty who is entitled to both repatriation and DFRB benefits. I put it to the Parliament as a challenge: if that deficiency is not repaired I will repeat what I said when compulsory service was instituted. 1 was jeered at the time. I said then - 1 repeat it now because I mean it - that I subscribed with a very sad heart to the measure because I thought the defence of the country required it. But I also said that I would not support the measure unless it was supported by proper repatriation benefits, and, as I have said at other times, with it proper pursuit of peace. So far as I am concerned, a country that has compelled men to serve in a battle zone and fails by miles to give them compensation when they are wounded or their wives compensation when they are killed, comparable with industrial casualty compensation, forced by law, and home service casualty compensation rates which the Government acknowledges and accepts, or something comparable with the Australian Regular Army personnel who receive DFRB and repatriation benefits together, does not deserve the defence that it receives. National servicemen ought to march on this Parliament and beseech their rights before marching away.
Mr Acting Deputy President. I am entitled to speak with some emphasis because of the challenges that have been put around me. I will speak as I feel. Today I listened to a question asked in another place. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who replied, said that he had been authorised by Cabinet to negotiate with the life insurance companies of this country as to the basis upon which insurance could be procured for servicemen in battle zones. This proposal has been before the Government for eighteen months now. Men have been dying. Spirits have been wounded by the presence of men in the horrible war that is going on in this day and age of civilisation. Last week, the ‘Age’ well illustrated the uncivilised attitude that we have come to adopt when it published the headline: ‘The week’s casualties for the Vietcong.’ What was it- 1,000 or 10,000? Reading down we found the American casualties. I think (hey were 197 killed and 957 wounded for the week. God! How grateful we should be for the sacrifice that we are being spared.
But that does not excuse us for recognising our proper obligation to the few - the very few - in Vietnam, but infinitely more than the few who flew in the Battle of Britain. Each one of them represents a person whose life has been given in the defence of this country. I heard not a word of this from the Minister tonight, not a recognition of it. I have not made my point understood even by those who lead for the Opposition. So far as I am concerned, while 1 have a place here, even if this motion is defeated tonight, there will be other forms and other occasions when other defeats will occur. They will be pretty important. The country’s shame is inexpressible if it allows civil employers to pay a measure of compensation that it denies to its war casualties; if it. accepts a measure of compensation for its home service casualties that it denies to those on the battlefields; and if it creates a special pension fund for regular career army personnel plus repatriation benefits. I admire them because they are volunteers. Their calling is a grand one. Do not let it be said that 1 depreciate them. But if a country creates a pension system for them and in the battlefield they receive the benefit of that pension system plus repatriation benefits, what are we who vote to compel 20 year olds to go into battle and leave their widows or themselves at a disadvantage from the point of view of compensation?
What does the widow receive? She receives a pension of $676 a year. She also receives a domestic allowance of $364 a year on certain conditions; namely, if she has a child or children under 16 years of age, if she is over 50 years of age or if she is permanently unemployable. For a first child she receives $202.80. For a second child she receives $143. If she feels that her children’s earning capacity can be spared and lets them continue their education, during the few years that they are being educated she receives an education allowance that averages about $320 a year. One can imagine how much education that would pay for if, say, the national serviceman were a medical student and his child wanted to take a medical course. His widow would have forgone the earnings of his profession and his child would have to be educated to a higher standard.
It is shame on parliamentary democracy and an indictment of parliament government if we do not resolve here and now to set up immediately a committee to examine the validity of my submissions and to present a report by the end of June. We could do that if we were purposeful. We need not take the time that Cabinet has taken to consider all these matters. We could sit purposefully. We could bring before us, first, the experienced personnel of the Repatriation Department and then other people who could vouch for or refute what 1 have said. Then we could form a judgment on whether there was a duty to fill in or to make adequate, insofar as money can do so - in fact, money can never compensate adequately - the compensation scales to which total and permanent incapacity pensioners and widows of personnel who are fighting now are entitled.
I have not one qualm or regret for having advanced this cause. I appeal to every honourable senator who has an individual responsibility to set up this committee in the faith - this is the only faith in which I would wish to see it set up - that it will get lo work immediately. Under the terms of its charter it could make interim recommendations. At first I was quite dismayed because I thought this was an inappropriate expression. But I am not prepared to let personal discourtesy, political expediency, the ill phrasing of the motion, anything that T can do, or anything notwithstanding which 1 can do something, stand in my way in getting an understanding of this shameful position so that the Parliament can indicate the appropriate legislation to give the proper measure of justice before many months have passed.
I have not stated the position with regard to American benefits. I will state them as (hey were at 1st January 1967. President Johnson’s visit to Australia was an ennobling experience for me, particularly as I walked to the welcoming stage in company with an ex-member of the War Cabinet who told me that that night he was forcibly reminded of the night on which the War Cabinet turned to America when it was advised that the Japanese were within a month of Australia and that if they landed with one division there was not the arms or the strength within Australia to stop them before Melbourne.
– I hear one contribution from my friend Senator Cormack. 1 think he said ‘Rubbish’. I heard another jaundiced interjection. I well appreciate his squeamishness. If what 1 have recounted is rubbish, let us have the facts stated responsibly in the Parliament. I am merely recounting the experience 1 had of speaking to a member of the Labor Party, many clements of which were critical of President Johnson. I have never denied my wholehearted support of the alliance with America and 1 do not do so now. But do not let anybody make any mistake about this: As far as I am concerned, the Government will not get the youth of this country on the cheap in order to support the American alliance.
I was saying that as at 1st January of this year the Americans, mercenary as they are, made provision for any totally and permanently incapacitated personnel to receive 75% of the Army pay at discharge, plus $47 a month for loss of certain parts of the body. 1 would assume that they would be viral parts, such as an arm or a leg. Widows receive a lump sum payment of not less than $8 or more than $3,000. They receive a pension of $1,440 a year plus 13% of the deceased husband’s pay. That has the effect, of giving some little recognition of the deceased husband’s experience and service. As at 1st January they also received the proceeds of a life assurance policy of $10,000. That amount has been increased vastly since then, or it is proposed to increase it vastly.
– These figures are in American dollars, are they?
– Yes. Of course, the cost of living in America is different from here and honourable senators will know the rate of exchange.
– Are these benefits provided in respect of conscripted men, too?
– They are provided for all mcn in the American Army. Ever since Lincoln there has been no distinction. Some people will say that it is all very well to speak in this responsible way in relation to a guerilla war involving between 4.000 and 7,000 men. I realise that it is no use defending a country if doing so sends it bankrupt. I have seen the results of Australia’s participation in two world wars. I am bound to say that people who had property or the chance continuously to follow their occupations, professions or employment profited very much compared with men who dislocated their lives by service.
I have made inquiries about this matter. 1 recall that during the Second World War, when property was being assailed in England, where every stick of property might have been bashed to the ground, a war damage commission was established and put into action within a very few months. We established something similar here in 1942, or 1943, when the agony of war was at its height. We had cooperation from all the estate agents and accountants in setting up the scheme. By a system of war damage insurance. £14m was collected of which £8m was required to compensate for property damage. The other £6m was devoted to the payment of gratuities to returned servicemen. In England, they had a similar war damage scheme. There they collected £2 15m. It. was a tremendous success. I submit that if it is appropriate to provide, by way of war damage insurance, compensation for property, then property today would rejoice at the opportunity of creating a fund in the knowledge that it is specifically compensating our servicemen for their personal injury, or their dependants where a serviceman is killed. I have spoken to many people in responsible positions in commerce about this proposition and the invariable answer I received was: ‘We would have great satisfaction at having the opportunity to do something for these few men who are fighting for us’.
Whatever objections there may be to the terms of the motion, however little may be the courtesy extended in the matter, whatever may be the political oportunism of the matter partywise, or personally, I appeal to the whole of the Senate to constitute a committee on this matter and give the benefit of our consideration and our endeavours to the Government. I appeal for this obvious defect, this shortcoming in the justice available to servicemen, to be repealed. I shall vote for the motion.
– The Senate is debating a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) that a select committee of the Senate bc appointed to inquire into and report upon all aspects of repatriation and in particular to examine all Acts and regulations concerning repatriation and recommend amendments thereto which in the opinion of the committee ought to be made. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition presented a strong, indeed an unanswerable case for the appointment of a select committee on which the Government would have a majority of senators and the Opposition a minority. I also believe that the response of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) to this motion moved on behalf of the Opposition should have been in the affirmative. 1 believe he should have welcomed the opportunity, on behalf of the Government, to have some kind of independent review by members of this Senate who were divorced from the administration of the Repatriation Act itself and who would have an opportunity to exercise some independent judgment as to what needed to be done to remedy the present system. But if anything were lacking at the end of the case put by Senator Murphy and supported by Senator Bishop, 1 think the moving and eloquent plea made by Senator Wright should have persuaded the Minister and those who follow him and anybody else who was in doubt how this motion ought to bc approached. Senator Wright put his finger on the pulse of the problem by saying in very definite words that the present system failed, by miles, as he put it, to give justice to the repatriated ex-servicemen. That is a reality from which no member of this Senate can escape and from which the Government cannot escape.
After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have heard from the Minister tonight a sincere and conscientious defence of a system which badly needed defending. I believe that the present system for which the Minister made such an apologia has such glaring weaknesses and inadequacies that it is in need of a thorough overhaul. The only way to get a thorough overhaul of the system is by some tribunal - by some body of men who would approach it with a conscientious, patriotic approach, but who would desire to see whether the present system measured up to the challenge. I believe that, whatever the Minister had to say, he could not get over the fact that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the scale of repatriation benefits and with the general way in which the Repatriation Act is administered.
I took a note of the exact words used by Senator Wright. I know that he uttered them in a literary sort of way and probably did not mean to use these exact words, but he said: ‘lt little matters to me what the result of this debate is’. In one sense, of course, that is true, lt does not matter in the personal, close material sense to the individual senator who takes part in this debate, whether on one side or the other. But to the men whom the Repatriation Act ought to bc helping the result of this deb:#c does matter, lt matters to those have long been subject to the benefits of the Repatriation Act and who have long been subject to all the difficulties of getting what they are entitled to under that Act. It matters to those young men who arc coming home from Vietnam today, those whom Senator Wright described as a newgeneration of men who have served their country irrespective of whether they had gone there as volunteers or national servicemen. lt matters to them what their country, through its Parliament, thinks they ought to be entitled to.
We say that, without making politics of this matter, that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of the Government’s inadequate approach to this problem was seen only last year. I remind honourable senators of what happened when this Senate voted to support a motion which had the support of the Returned Services League that free medical and hospital benefits should be granted to the veterans of the Boer War and the First World War. On that, occasion, after this Senate had expressed its view, on what seemed lo be a matter of simple justice to old men - some of them very old men - who had come from wars which were now old wars, the Senate was frustrated by the Government in a shabby constitutional manoeuvre. The Government took steps lo see that the will of the Senate as expressed on that occasion was not carried out. lt did that by bringing in another Bill and tacking another clause on to it to make it a money bill so that it became a hill which this Senate could not amend. That shows that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. That, is the attitude of a government which invites the Senate to reject this motion because it believes that such a committee is not necessary.
Who masterminded that decision to say lo the Senate: ‘We will not accept your amendment. What is more, we will make it impossible for you to make any amendment. You can reject our financial measure but you cannot amend it’? Will the Minister admit that he and the Repatriation Commission were opposed to granting free medical and hospital treatment to veterans of the Boer War and the First World War? Or will he admit that he and those who were assisting in administering the Repatriation Act were helpless in the face of the Treasury decision to steamroller the Bill through the Senate in spite of the Senate’s amendment and strong expression of opinion? Whoever it was, the combination of a somewhat negative and conservative attitude in relation to repatriation on the part of the Minister and his Department, and the Treasury mind, is paramount and triumphant.
The Opposition’s motion which is now before the Senate was supported, I am pleased to say, by Senator Wright. I hope it will be supported by other honourable senators who are not on the Opposition side.
– There are not many on the Opposition side at the moment either.
– They arc entitled to have their little break just as many honourable senators on the Government side are entitled to have their little break. They know that we speak with one voice, which is a great deal more than can be said for the Government on occasions. Now that the Leader of the Government has seen fit to interject I remind him that when the Government overrode the will of the Senate in 1966 there was a revolt of senators and members of both Government parties. All Australia knew about it because it was headline news in every newspaper that at a party meeting - one of those secret meetings that are held every Wednesday– a substantial number of senators and a substantial number of members of the Government parties in the House of Representatives did not agree with the Government’s attitude. They thought that what the Senate had proposed was reasonable and that the Government should accept it. The Minister knows that, perfectly well.
What has happened to the revolt in the Government ranks? Will we hear from other Government senators who want to take up the position Senator Wright took up on this matter, or are they all cowed into submission by the combination of a negative repatriation approach and a powerful Treasury mind? Whatever it is, we do not have to be parties to it. I invite the Senate to take a good look at this problem because 1 think we all agree that it needs a good critical look. Even though the Minister for Repatriation made a sincere defence of the administration of his Department and of the Government’s approach to the problem I do not think that he or others on the Government side would stand and say that they regard the present scale of benefits paid to repatriated men, and the present conditions of eligibility for benefits, as adequate and satisfactory. I invite the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) who, 1 assume, will be taking part in this debate, to say that the Government is satisfied with the present system. I do not have his ear at the moment, but I hope someone on the Government side will tell him what £ am saying.
– I will tell him if no one else does.
– I hope the honourable senator will do that in the spirit in which we should be approaching this problem. This problem is bigger than parties and the whims of senators on either side of the Parliament, whether they sit as individuals or as members of parties. This is a big problem and our approach must be such as to measure up to our responsibilities.
In his speech the Minister for Repatriation was rather inclined to accuse the Returned Services League of discourtesy. Apparently he had not been informed of the League’s decision to support the motion to appoint a select committee. I have been left in no doubt of the League’s attitude. 1 and other Victorian senators have received telegrams from the President of the Victorian Branch of the RSL expressing the hope that an all party select committee will be appointed.
What is the real answer to this question? What is the answer to a perfectly reasonable, responsible, sensible request out of which I suggest nothing but good can come? We are asking the Senate to look into the whole repatriation system knowing that, in accordance with practice, there will be a majority of Government senators on the committee if it is appointed. We hope that it will be appointed, because anomalies, injustices and inadequacies are rampant, lt is obvious that the whole repatriation system needs a shakeup.
I have had occasion only in the last day or two to complain about answers - one in particular - that I have received to inquiries directed to the Repatriation Department. The Department never seems to think that it needs to give a reason for knocking back an application. I had occasion 10 refer to a particular case - 1 will nol mention the circumstances, the name of the applicant or the nature of the application - in which there was a clear statement in a letter from the Department that the applicant was entitled to certain back payments for travelling allowance. In fact, forms for the purpose were enclosed with the letter. After the back payments amounted to some hundreds of dollars the application was refused. When I sought from the Department the reason why the application had been refused I was treated to an exercise in mumbo jumbo. 1 was given a recitation of the history of the matter; I was told the application had been considered and rejected, and 1 was told that there was no appeal and that the applicant had known that. But I was not told what I had asked to be told. I asked: ‘Will you please tell me why this application was rejected?’ Let me tell the Senate that I do not appreciate that kind of attitude. I think it is negative and unhelpful. No doubt there are many other people who feel in some way that they are getting less than justice.
Senator Wright went into great particularity with certain comparisons. He compared the payments made to widows and dependants of American servicemen killed in action wilh those made to widows and dependants of Australian servicemen. He also compared what is made available to the wounded American serviceman who is repatriated with what is made available lo wounded Australian servicemen. These figures speak eloquently of a disparity between what our men get and what the men of other countries get, and the comparison is most unfavourable to Australia, fs it unreasonable to ask that a committee of the Senate - a Senate which has expressed sympathetic views towards exservicemen - be appointed? Only last year a majority of senators of all parties joined in a resolution which expressed the proper view of this Senate that a measure of justice should be given to those men who had served in the Boer War or the First World War, and that free medical and hospital benefits should be given to them.
That is what the Senate thought was the right approach to repatriation. Anything less than that betrays something less than a chance of responsibility towards those men who have served this country. I do nol think that anything could be more important from the point of view of national dignity and integrity. This is quite independent of the question of one’s views about a particular war and a particular time. Nothing could be more indicative of a country’s integrity and proper approach to these problems than the way in which it treats the boys who have in fact served it in the forces and especially in war areas. Are we measuring up to this responsibility? That is a fair question to ask the Minister. This is really all that is involved in this debate. It is not really a question of discourtesy to him on the part of the Returned Services League or discourtesy to Senator
Wright because he did not know that our motion was to be placed on the notice paper. It is not a question of politics in the direct sense. It is a question of justice. It is a question of what is fair and proper to these men.
What is involved in the Opposition’s motion is that the Senate should face up to its responsibilities. We are all to appear at the bar of history at some time in the future and we would want to be judged by the kind of attitude that we took to this kind of question. The proposal is reasonable. It is that there should be an investigation and that it should be made expeditiously, not with any sense of frantic urgency but with a sense of the importance of the subject matter, and. Mr Deputy President, 1 believe that it should commend itself to all honourable senators.
– If there could have been any doubt about the political content of this motion for the appointment of a select committee it was certainly dispelled by the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen), who loaded his speech with politics, and by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I am not in any doubt about the fact that this is purely a political move, as mentioned by Senator Wright when he said that he noted the political bird lime when this motion was placed on the business paper the day after he had made a speech on repatriation in this Senate. He was not the only one that noted the political bird lime. As the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has said, the Government is not prepared to support the appointment of such a committee. The Opposition is seeking to use its numbers to appoint a select committee on repatriation, and repatriation is a highly emotional field, in which great damage can be done to the benefits which are thoroughly earned by those who obtain them.
I want to refer to matters that were raised by Senator Murphy. He said that there would be interim reports. This is where the political field becomes so obvious. The Opposition has said: ‘The Government will have a majority of four senators and we shall have only three on the committee’, but provision would be made for minority reports and minority interim reports. The only subjects mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition were the highly contentious matters of whether cancer could be regarded as a war caused disability, and the onus of proof. He traversed matters which would have a highly political content if they could be dealt with in interim reports during the sittings of a select committee over a number of months, particularly with a Senate election to be held within the next few months. As the Leader and the Deputy Leader spoke, the political content was completely obvious, as it was at the time when notice of the motion was given.
Repatriation benefits in this country have the reputation of being amongst the best in the world. They may fall far short of what many people would desire but the Government has a responsibility, over a broad field of social services, repatriation and similar legislation, to study these matters at Budget time and allocate a proportion of the national revenues to each requirement. Senator Wright has made a powerful case not once but a number of times on the matters on which he feels so deeply. I was interested because I had obtained some facts as to lump sum payments.
A single TPI pension payable for forty years capitalises at $64,000, and there is no chance of the lump sum being lost by bad investment. This is one of the dangers regarding lump sum payments such as arc awarded in civil courts. If they are not wisely invested they may be lost, they nay depreciate, or they may be invested in areas which do not return nearly the amount that is returned by a single TPI pension. Such a pension payable for twenty years capitalises at $32,000. These are large sums. One must take into account also the other benefits that go with them. I am not saying that they are not deserved or that they are not appropriate, but one has every right to capitalise these payments and take into account the benefits that accrue in addition to pensions when one is considering the argument that Senator Wright used in relation to capital amounts that are awarded in civil courts. I suggest that the amount of $64,000 is accrued at a lot less expense than a sum of $80,000 would be accrued in a civil action for compensation through the courts. It would be interesting to find out the net amount.
– The income would be taxable.
– That is so. This is a matter of some importance. 1 have heard it said tonight that the National Executive of the Returned Services League supports the setting up of a committee to investigate repatriation matters. This week a deputation comprising the national president of the RSL, the presidents of the New South Wales and Victorian branches, the president of the Australian Capital Territory branch and the national secretary visited Canberra and presented a case to the Exservicemen’s Committee of Federal Cabinet. The RSL has always enjoyed that privilege, which is not open to any other body, so far as I know. I do not wish to deny the RSL that privilege, but it is a privilege. The case that the RSL sent to me was not marked confidential and I believe that it has been made available to the Press. It contains no mention of the setting up of a committee. The RSL has had a year to prepare its case and present it to the Exservicemen’s Committee of Cabinet, as it did the other day. lt. does not contain one. word about a committee, nor was one word said at the meeting about the setting up of a committee. But when it was learned that this motion was on the notice paper - no doubt it was drawn to the attention of the RSL Executive by members of the Opposition - a meeting was held in Canberra. A Press statement was issued dated 9lh May. On that day the deputation had finished its meeting with Cabinet. It had presented its case. But in the Press statement it was said that the National Executive resolved to press for an all-party review of the Repatriation Act to eliminate a number of anomalies that have become apparent in recent years. Telegrams have been sent to individual members of Parliament. I believe that as the National Executive of the RSL has the privilege of access to Cabinet, it should not endeavour to pressurise by telegram individual senators. That is a privilege it should not assume as a national body.
– The honourable senator is entitled to think it is rot, but I do not think so. The matters raised tonight have been matters of disputation for some time. It has been asked: How can senatorslaymen - decide whether a cancer is a warcaused injury? We do not and should not make that decision. The legislation provides that experts decide on the medical history of each individual case. I think the Government has demonstrated its bona fides in respect of select committees. We have set up select committees of the Senate on matters of great national importance; matters on which the Senate can render great service to the country by presenting the relevant facts in a report to the Senate.
The motion to set up a select committee on repatriation is a political move, lt is motivated by politics as the Opposition hopes to use the numbers it has gained by the death of two good, sound and loyal Liberal senators. The Opposition has secured a temporary advantage and seeks to detract from the great repatriation record that this Government has built up during the years it has been in office. Senator Wright referred to an answer by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to a question on insurance for servicemen. The Treasurer said that it is under examination at the moment. It is one of many matters which come before the Government each year for examination and decision in the overall set-up of the Budget.
It is easy for a Party in Opposition without the responsibility of finding the money necessary for these matters to endeavour to gain popularity by saying: ‘We support, this. We support that’, lt is very easy in politics to support ail the spending and none of the tax-raising when you have no responsibility for the finances. I have listened to Senator Wright on other occasions on the question of insurance cover for servicemen. At times he has skidded over the question of how the scheme should be financed. The first and second times that I heard him on this matter he suggested that there should be a capital levy on property.
– War risk insurance.
– ‘A capital levy on property’ was the term used by the honourable senator the first time he raised the matter. He may have moved a little from that position, but that was his first suggestion. He even mentioned the names of certain big businesses in Australia which he said should be levied upon to meet the bills. I think that the financing of such a scheme by that method is a matter of grave importance and the effects of such methods of finance have to be looked at very closely. We have been advised over the years by the RSL, and again this year a deputation has visited us. As 1 have said, no mention was made to the Ex-servicemen’s Committee of a proposal to set up a committee. That suggestion first appeared in a Press statement after the deputation had met the Ex-servicemen’s Committee.
The Government also meets the Federal Executive of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association. The Government has a very strong Ex-servicemen’s Committee on which sit members of both Houses, lt makes a report to the Government at Budget time which is always in the hands of the Government for study when we are arriving at the amount which can be divided into the various social service and repatriation categories for the coming year. These bodies represent all ex-servicemen.
I repeat that repatriation is a highly emotional subject, and I believe it is not one for a select committee. A select committee was held on this subject in 1942-43, but it was held for the particular purpose of seeing if at that stage the existing legislation fitted into the new situation that was arising with the approach of the end of the war. That select committee found that, with some amendments, the existing legislation fitted into that position. When Senator Cohen refered to party meetings he mentioned what he read in the Press reports concerning party meetings held by this side of the House. There is no secret that we have party meetings, but we do not have to do as we are told. I can make decisions because I can get the benefit of advice from all my party colleagues. 1 realise that honourable senators on the Opposition benches have party meetings only because they can then do what they are told. They feel that is all right. But we have the opportunity of getting advice from all of our party colleagues on any problem. That is right and proper. I do not have to go running to another place to obtain decisions on minor matters that take place in this chamber.
This is the great difference between this side of the Parliament and the Opposition. 1 believe that when 1 mentioned capitalisation earlier in my speech Senator Wright did not hear my remark. As he has now returned 1 shall again mention the capitalisation of the single TPI pension, which over 40 years approximates $64,000 and over 20 years approximates $32,000. As I said, this is not all that goes with it. There is security of tenure, whereas lump sum payments, such as those granted in the civil courts, can be lost when they are badly invested and often do not return the amounts expended. Indeed, the dissipation of lump sum compensation payments can create hardship for someone who has lost a husband or income earner..
The real purpose of the Opposition in this case is to use its numbers merely in an attempt to discredit the Government and to undermine the Government’s fine record in repatriation; it seeks to belittle the political standing of the Government with a view to bringing about its defeat. That is the purpose of this motion - of course it is. It must be borne in mind that the Opposition gained these numbers by the unfortunate loss by our side of two very loyal Western Australian senators and one Queensland senator. Therefore, I strongly support the Government in its refusal to agree to the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition for a select committee to inquire into repatriation benefits. Upon the advice we have been given, and upon the matters that have been raised with us by members of our own party, we are undertaking an examination and these matters are now being fully considered as we approach the Budget session; in the next Budget the result will be seen. However, no-one in this world gets everything he wants. When one is charged with the responsibility of answering to the people of Australia as to the amount of the gross national product that is to be made available in these fields, the decision can remain only with the Government.
– Mr President, my colleague, Senator McManus, and I have no desire to cast a silent vote tonight on this very important question. Before I discuss the motion I should like to acknowledge the tribute that Senator Wright paid to the Democratic Labor Party for its farsighted policy on defence and the attitude of Australia towards neighbours to the north of us. I take this opportunity of assuring Senator Wright that whilst we, since our inception as a party, have been conscious of the necessity for defence and have persistently advocated a policy of the restoration of compulsory training and other means of defence for this country, we have also been equally conscious of the necessity of being generous to those whose responsibility it is - and will be - to defend the shores of Australia and protect the people of this great country.
I have listened to the debate tonight with great interest and I commend Senator Wright for many of the sentiments he uttered, and with which I am in accord. 1 believe that every senator in this Chamber tonight is anxious to assist our returned servicemen with their repatriation problems; I believe everybody has a conscious desire to do that. However, I wonder whether in our enthusiasm to carry this motion we will achieve what we desire. Although the motion provides for the appointment of a select committee representing the Opposition and the Government, the request of the Returned Services League was for an allparty committee. The exclusion of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is not my reason or our reason for voting against this motion - as we intend to do. Our reason is that we cannot believe that the committee can achieve what we want to achieve, and what we desire lo achieve, as outlined particularly by Senator Wright.
If 1 for a moment could believe that a select committee of this Senate could elicit the information and get all the facts regarding the deficiences and anomalies in the existing Repatriation Act and could succeed in influencing the Government to remedy those deficiencies and anomalies within a reasonable time, for the benefit of returned servicemen I would wholeheartedly support the proposal. But for the life of me I cannot see that such a committee could achieve anything. It would take a long time to do all that it would be required to do, and by the time it submitted its final report for consideration by the Government, it would be so much time lost.
According to our way of thinking, we do not want a review of the Repatriation
Act. We want a review of the Government’s policy and attitude towards our returned servicemen and widows and children of those who are unfortunately killed in theatres of war. A review of the existing Act would not achieve very much, if anything at all. Perhaps it would highlight the deficiencies, but again it is a question that must go back to the Government. So it would appear to me that our responsibility is to try to cause the Government to recognise the demands of the Returned Services League, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and other organisations of ex-servicemen which at different periods submit their desires or wants in the interests of those whom they represent. We had a Select Committee on the encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. What has become of its report?
– Anc1 also a Joint Committee Constitutional Review.
– We have had a Joint Commission on Constitutional Review, as my colleague, Senator McManus, reminds me.
– Whose fault is it that nothing has been done as a result of the report?
– lt is the Government’s fault, and we have no guarantee that the result will not be the same in this case. There has also been the suggestion of the appointment of a select committee to inquire into medical and hospital costs in Australia, or another standing committee on television, or a standing committee on science and recently a select committee to inquire into the ‘Voyager’ disaster. Recently we appointed a Select Committee on the Container Method of Cargo Handling and a Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. This is apart from the established standing committees on such matters as privileges, the Parliamentary Library and all the other committees which occupy a good deal of the time of honourable senators. When we go into these matters I wonder whether we are realistic enough in our approach to such subjects as the one with which we are dealing tonight.
I do not propose to take up a lot of the Senate’s time on this matter. I want it to be known - and I say this very definitely - that if my coleague. Senator McManus, and I believed that anything was to be achieved through the appointment of this select comittee, we would be wholeheartedly behind it because we appreciate that there are certain deficiencies in the Repatriation Act. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is prepared to concede that, to a degree. We know that pension rates need to be increased considerably in many cases in order to bring them up to the percentage of the basic wage that they represented some years ago.
– Why the basic wage?
– They are related to the basic wage. It is only a measuring stick.
– That is because the honourable senator thinks of all soldiers as drudges - as basic wage earners.
– I do not heed what Senator Wright is saying in that connection, but I say in reply that he has no monopoly of solicitude and sympathy for our ex-servicemen and for those who defend this country.
– Put him on a pedestal. Do not knock him off it.
-I would put him on a pedestal as I would anyone else.I speak from my heart and I express my mind. I am not influenced by pressure groups from one side or another. We will follow that course so long as we are in this chamber representing the people in our respective States. The Returned Services League, in its own document, relates pension rates to the basic wage. I related them to the basic wage also, and because of that I am charged with not being able to see further than the basic wage. We relate other social service benefits to the basic wage. We do it with child endowment.
– Repatriation benefits are not social service benefits.
– I am not saying that they are. They are pensions. But I say that we relate social service benefits to the basic wage. I was saying that I cannot visualise any benefit accruing to the members of the Returned Services League by the appointment of a select committee of the Senate to deal with this matter. I would have thought that no one would have been more competent to submit a case to the Government, on behalf of returned servicemen and the recipients of war pensions, than the officers of the various State branches of the RSL, because of their period of service and their experience. I understand that for many years they have done this at regular intervals with some measures of success. After all, when one peruses the document that is presented by the RSL, one sees that there is not a great number of things to be corrected.
– What does the honourable senator think of the League’s achievements for widows of$676 per annum?
– I am not countenancing that. I have already said thatI am in accord with those who advocate improvements in repatriation benefits, but I do not think that we will get them by the appointment of a select committee.
– How docs the honourable senator think we are going to gel. them?
– We could get these improvements by convincing the Government of the necessity to review its policy on this matter.
– That is impossible.
– That interjection merely substantiates and emphasises what I have been endeavouring to say. The select committee could submit its submissionsto the Government, but if the Government did not heed them, what would be gained for the returned servicemen.
– The Government would take a risk if it did not heed the recommendations of a select committee.
– That is so. It wouldtake a risk if it was so unmindful of the needs of those who are defending this country and so ungenerous as to treat them in this manner. It ought to be very muchconcerned about the risk that it takes. I understand that representatives of the Returned Services League met the Minister and members of the Ex-servicemen’s Sub-committee of Cabinet on Tuesday. All the members of that Sub-committee are ex-servicemen who served for varying periods in the forces. They all have endeavoured to serve their country to the best of their capacity and ability. Surely no-one would suggest for a moment that those members of Cabinet are unmindful of the Commonwealth’s obligations to ex-servicemen and ungenerous in their attitude towards those who have served their country.
– They have made mistakes before.
– Of course they have made mistakes. Has not the honourable senator made any?
– Yes. But why should tie Government rely on a mistake this time?
– I at least try to be reasonable. I believe that when the deputation from the League met members of the Ex-servicemen’s Sub-committee of Cabinet on Tuesday it was afforded a reasonable opportunity to present the League’s case, and no doubt the members of the Subcommittee had a reasonable opportunity to examine that case. They must have a fair opportunity to consider this contentious matter. If a favourable decision is not given between now and the Budget sessional period we shall have further opportunities to debate the matter.
– Indeed we shall.
– I shall give the honourable senator as much support as I can. I repeat that I cannot see that anything is to be gained by pursuing this proposal for the appointment of a select committee to investigate repatriation. It is patent to me that such a committee would be bogged down and that it would take so long to make recommendations to the Government that by the time they were made an entirely new set of circumstances would have arisen.
In conclusion, Mr Acting Deputy President, let me say that those honourable senators who urge the Government to act quickly to remedy the defects in the Repatriation Act have the support of senators who represent the Australian Democratic Labor Party. However, we do not support the methods that have been chosen on this occasion, for we believe that they will not achieve the goal at which the sponsors of the motion are aiming.
– in reply - Mr Acting Deputy President, I shall not take long, because we all want to proceed to a vote on the motion this evening. The Senate is asked to approve a very simple motion which proposes that it exercise some of its legislative functions through an appropriate body - a select committee. There is no doubt that the Senate can inquire into repatriation matters such as those outlined in the motion, and it does so from time to time. We all recall occasions every year when the Senate as well as the House of Representatives spends days considering various aspects of repatriation. But those processes have been extremely inefficient because it has not been possible to call witnesses to hear the submissions of experts and to give due consideration to the various matters raised. In respect of matters such as these the Senate ought to exercise its legislative functions efficiently.
What has been said in this debate on behalf of the Government and also by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) is completely negative. How could it do any harm if the Senate, instead of attempting to inquire into these matters all at once in an inefficient manner, appointed a select committee to inquire into specified aspects of repatriation, to hear submissions and to make recommendations? The recommendations would be put to the Government. If it refused to accept them, what would it matter? What would ex-servicemen lose? What would anyone lose? It would mean only that some honourable senators would have spent their time on the task of conducting the investigation and preparing a report. Why are the Government and the Democratic Labor Party so negative? In any event, whether or not the Government accepted any recommendations put to it, they would at least provide a means of influencing it. Yet the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party says that the proposal is useless and can achieve nothing. The atttitude that an investigation by a select committee of a House of the Parliament is useless is indicative of an extremely hopeless approach to the functions of a legislative chamber. All over the world people are realising that legislative bodies properly should work through select committees. Yet the Democratic Labor Party will not even bother to support a proposal for an inquiry by a select committee in a field in which anomalies exist. The reason for this attitude apparently is that that
Party can see nothing to be gained for it. Senator Gair says that what we should do is make the Government recognise the demands of the Returned Services League. He says that we should listen to the representatives of the League and not bother about appointing a select committee. Yet the League itself is asking for the appointment of a select committee.
– It did not put that request to the sub-committee of Cabinet.
– What does it matter whether or not the request was put to the Cabinet sub-committee? The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has conceded that the League supports our proposal and wants a select committee appointed. Senator Gair, however, says that we ought to support the demands of the League. Here is a demand that we on this side of the chamber do support - a demand for the appointment of a select committee so that this legislative chamber may properly consider repatriation matters. The only answer given by the Leader of the Government. Senator Henty, is that the proposed select committee is not necessary because the Liberal Party of Australia has an exservicemen’s committee that could inquire into these matters and present a report to the Government. No one denies that such a procedure would be useful, but why should honourable senators opposite say that a Senate select committee would not be able to make useful recommendations to the legislative chamber of which it is a part? What does the Government fear? Is it afraid that a select committee would present a report that would embarrass it? What would it matter if that were to happen? We on this side of the Senate, in the discharge of our legislative functions, will raise many matters that will embarrass the Government. They will be political issues. This is a political chamber, and a select committee would be only, as it were, a delegate of the Senate. In framing the terms of the motion, we have been quite fair. We have provided for a majority of Government senators on the proposed select committee. It is almost time for you. Mr Deputy President, to put the question, ‘That the Senate do now adjourn’. However, the Government has kindly arranged to let me have a little more time if necessary.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
- Mr Deputy President, it is said that not enough time is provided to enable the committee to carry out this work. The motion provides that the committee may report to the Senate on or before 31st December 1967. The committee is entitled to make interim reports. If the period to 3 1 st December next does not allow enough time for the committee to consider the matter, there is no reason why the time should not be extended. The time element is a pretty paltry excuse for opposing the appointment of the committee. If it is thought that the time is not sufficient to enable the committee to do its work, there is nothing to stop the Australian Democratic Labor Party proposing an amendment to the motion with a view to making the date for the submission of the report in the middle of next year.
No satisfactory reason has been advanced on any side of this chamber for opposing such a proposal which is in essence that the legislative functions of this chamber - its duty to investigate matters of repatriation and take up an attitude on this legislation that comes up year after year - should be performed in the most efficient matter possible. The proposal does not force the Government to do anything. It does not impinge on any financial matters. The committee would report what, as a result of its deliberations, it thought ought to be done about these matters. This is the appropriate way to get the necessary information. I ask honourable senators to support the motion.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senate adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670511_senate_26_s34/>.