26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: In view of conflicting reports of turmoil, political unrest and perhaps revolution in China, would the Government prepare and submit to the Senate a full statement of what, to the best of its knowledge, is going on in China?
– I will most certainly suggest to the Minister for External Affairs that he, as far as he can, comply with the request. This matter is of immense importance to Australia and to all members of the Parliament. It is very doubtful whether a sufficiently accurate picture of events in China is available, but I will endeavour to obtain such information as is known. 1 will certainly bring the request to the notice of the Minister for External Affairs.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to an article in today’s issue of the Australian Financial Review’ referring to tha sale of wheat to China, and can the Minister inform the Senate of the facts of the case?
– My attention was drawn to this article, which is one of a series of articles appearing over a period in this journal. I welcome the opportunity to point out some of the inaccuracies made by the writer. One paragraph states:
The unfortunate Australian Wheat Board is in a weak position when meeting tough Chinese negotiators - due to our reckless ‘wheat production unlimited’ policy.
That statement is not in accordance with the facts. Australia should be grateful that last year we had a large acreage under wheat and that we obtained a magnificient crop, which has made a tremendous difference to everybody in Australia, particularly the wheat growers. The benefits percolate throughout the community, lt appears that this year New South Wales and Western Australia will again have a good wheat crop. I will not deal any further with the writer’s comments in that portion of the article. One of the other aspects mentioned by the writer is that the wheat explosion of recent years has forced the Wheat Board to sell wheat to China at very low prices. The writer then goes so far as to say that dumping is occurring. I give a strong denial to that statement. There is no question of dumping wheat on China. I will not deal any further with that portion of the article either. The writer continues
It is difficult to see why responsible leaders of our wheat growers’ organisations do not want to understand this simple economic fact.
He then goes on to refer to what he terms the subsidisation of the Australian wheat industry. I want again to take the opportunity to remind the Senate, -.is i have done so often in the past, and also to remind the Australian people, that for quite a number of years the Australian wheat growers subsidised the Australian consumers. They provided wheat to Australian consumers at a price below the cost of production. Over the years the cost of this has amounted to approximately $400m. It is true that over the last 6, 7 or 8 years possibly the payments by growers to the Wheat Stabilisation Fund have not been sufficient to provide a return equivalent to the export of 100 million bushels of wheat. As a result of this a subsidy has been granted to bring the estimated cost of production up to what would be realised by the sale of 100 million bushels.
The writer of the article has overlooked the position that has existed for years instead of being grateful for the amount of wheat that has been grown in Australia. Firstly, he is knocking the Government lor allowing this to be done, and secondly, he is knocking the wheat growers for doing it. Indeed, it would be the great salvation of many of our wool growers today if they could grow some wheat to help them over the present position which has been brought about, firstly, because of droughts in many areas; secondly, low prices for their product; and thirdly, rising costs.
- Mr President, subject to your guidance I will direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the impression held by some councils on the far north coast of New South Wales and the Queensland Gold Coast that the Commonwealth Treasurer should provide grants to enable them to combat beach erosion, will the Government, as a prelude to such action, immediately examine the rutile mining project commenced yesterday by Associated Minerals Consolidation Ltd on the beach front near Byron Bay which could easily compound existing beach erosion?
– I should think that this matter comes within the purview of the State Government which is responsible for granting licences to the mining companies.
– The councils want assistance from the Commonwealth.
– State and local government bodies always want to get. assistance from the Commonwealth Government irrespective of what they already have. This is not new. It is as old as the-, hills. This matter comes within the purview of the State Government which grants the licences. But’ as the honourable senator has raised the matter I will have a look at the position.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has his attention been drawn to an article in yesterday’s Sydney ‘Sun’ announcing the publication of a series of articles on Australia’s defence? Will the Minister comment on the claims that Australia’s whole defence structure is an unprecedented shambles; and that, the present defence structure is a legacy of the Menzies era, unplanned, haphazardly administered, and created under conditions far removed from those facing us today?
– The answer to the first part of the question is: No, I have not seen in the Sydney ‘Sun’ the article foreshadowing the publication of other articles. But if the articles to come are to include phrases such as Senator Cavanagh, I suppose quoted, that the defence structure is an unprecedented shambles, then I would be happy to comment and say that such a statement is unprecedented nonsense. As to the defence preparedness of Australia and the equipment of the Australian forces, one only has to read the newspapers to see what is happening. The Navy, far example, is being added to month by month with new guided missile destroyers and new submarines, and a great increase in the enlistment of sailors. The activities of the Army speak for themselves. The Royal Australian Air Force also is expanding and is also receiving new equipment. I think that anybody who would use ridiculous words such as unprecedented shambles and a legacy of the Menzies era is either completely incapable of understanding the facts or is deliberately endeavouring to cause trouble.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the serious crisis that exists in relations between China and other nations and which seems to be leading to events the outcome of which no-one can predict, will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to initiate a move for a special meeting of the United Nations to which a top representative of mainland China shall be invited to present the views and problems of that country? That is the only place where light and not heat can be shed on this situation, which is of such vital importance to the future of mankind.
– The matter raised by the honourable senator is one of policy and cannot be dealt with in an answer to a question without notice. If the honourable senator cares to put his question on the notice paper I shall see what information I can get from the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Science and Education whether he can explain the high rate of failures and drop-outs referred to in the latest report of the Australian National University, particularly in the School of General Studies where, for example, in relation to political science and economics very high failure and drop-out rates have occurred. If not, will the Minister seek an explanation from the authorities concerned?
– I believe I can offer an explanation of the statement in the report of the Australian National University relating to failure rates at the end of the first year and drop-outs during university courses. I would bring to the notice of the honourable senator the fact that the report indicates that this rate of failures is not very greatly different from the average rate of failures in the first year at universities generally throughout Australia, lt probably is slightly greater because no quotas are imposed by the Australian National University. I believe, and 1 think the figures indicate - certainly the remarks of the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education indicate it - that the present level of the matriculation examination is not sufficient, given a bare pass, to ensure success at a university. That examination, which seeks to indicate that secondary education has been successfully completed and that tertiary education at a university has a good chance of being successful, is not able to fulfil that dual role. The explanation is as simple as that.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Drake-Brockman. Can the Minister say what amounts of wheat, expressed in terms of Australian dollars, were sold last year and will be sold this year to Communist China, or mainland China as it is described by Government supporters when it is trading with this country?
– I do not have figures relating to sales to China. If it is of any help to the honourable senator 1 can tell him that in 1961-62 we exported 171 million bushels, in 1962-63 we exported 234 million bushels, in 1963-64 the figure was 2S0 million bushels, in 1964-65 it was 271 million bushels, and in 1965-66 it was 367 million bushels. If he would like me to get the information for which he asks, I will do so.
– Recently the Minister for Education and Science promoted a good deal of interest in the uniformity of school text books. Has he anything to report about the reaction of State education departments to this very valuable suggestion?
– I think I ought to make it clear that I have never advocated, and do not advocate, uniformity of school text books. In using that phrase one has a picture of school text books for any given subject being the same for all schools in Australia. What I have been advocating is that in particular fields such as biology chemistry, physics and mathematics, where the volume of knowledge is growing very rapidly and where the approach to teaching is being looked carefully into and is altering and where courses designed for more student participation arc being sought, the work of creating new courses and producing the text books, teachers manuals and students manuals that go with them i such that it would be better if the books were made uniform. However, that does not mean that they would be the only books which may be used for that subject nor does it mean that teachers would still not have freedom in the way in which the material was used, but it would provide for constant revision and better courses.
As to the rest of the honourable senator’s question, all I can say is that The Web of Life’, which is a book used in the biology course, is being adopted certainly by three and possibly by four States. There i> an awareness of an interest in that kind of approach amongst specialist science teachers associations and State education departments, although it is not 100% in every instance.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer recall that on 12th November 1964, when introducing some formal amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Aci. he indicated that the Treasurer was considering amendments to the legislation and said that although they could not be ready in time for that sessional period - the Budget period of 1964 - they would be the subject of review early in 1965? Is the Minister aware that for many years Commonwealth public servants have been waiting for important amendments to be made to this Act? ls the Government still considering the matter or is it now in one of the Government’s many pigeonholes? When will this lengthy process result in the introduction of the necessary amending legislation?
– 1 should like to obtain directly from the Treasurer himself the information sought on this very important question. I suggest the honourable senator place it on the notice paper and I will seek advice from the Treasurer.
– The Minister representing the Minister for National Development is aware of the great concern felt by irrigators in the Murray Valley at the increasing salinity of available River Murray water. Being aware that waters other than those under the control of the River Murray Commission are contributing to this problem, will the Minister accede to the request of the Australian Dried Fruits Association for the establishment of a committee of inquiry, consisting of engineers, plant growth specialists and practical irrigationists, to report on this matter and to suggest remedial action to overcome the problems created by salinity in the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries?
– I should have thought that the River Murray Commission had made it pretty clear that this was one of its functions and that it is conducting an inquiry at the present time. The Commission consists of representatives of those States which are responsible for the waters of the Murray, and 1 should think that the Commission would be the proper authority to handle this matter. That is my own opinion. However, if the honourable senator wishes to place his question on the notice paper 1 will ask the Minister for National Development to look at his proposition and see whether anything in addition to my opinion can be advanced.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. Is it a fact that some war widows over the age of sixty are eligible for social service payments of up to $6 a week? Is it also a fact that many war widows are unaware of this entitlement and so have not received it? Is the Minister aware that insufficient’ information on this point has been given to war widows? Would it be possible for payments to be made retrospective to the date of entitlement if applications for this benefit are made now? Will all war widows be advised of their entitlement to this benefit, as I know from recent conversations I have had wilh war widows in Hollywood Repatriation Hospital that they had no knowledge that they could obtain this extra payment?
– I imagine that all members of the War Widows Guild would have been made aware of their entitlements. However, 1 can readily understand that a large number of war widows may not be members of the Guild and that among those widows would be some who have not Ye been advised of their entitlements. I think that it would be difficult for us to try to contact all those people. However, it would be a simple matter to send out notices to those war widows who are receiving benefits and I will take this matter up with my Department to find out whether notification has been issued to war widows regarding their latest entitlement.
– My question follows along the lines of the question just asked by Senator Webster md refers to the subject of desalination, about which we have had considerable discussion this week. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether he has received details of reports which have appeared in several Australian newspapers in the last few days describing the manner in which the city of Key West in Florida, United States of America, has for the last three weeks received its water supply from the sea via a desalination process constructed by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Can the Minister say whether the Corporation has conducted any recent operations in Australia? Is research proceeding in Australia on a scale similar to that in the USA and are any plans in hand for experiments similar to those conducted at Key West?
– I have read the article to which the honourable senator refers. I found it interesting because of the discussions we have had in the Senate on the Chowilla Dam project. The subject of the article is applicable to that project. I sought the guidance of the Minister for National Development and his Department on this matter and I have been advised that no details have been received on the desalination plant operating at Key West. However, known publicity in the newspapers referred to by the honourable senator indicates that the process employed is known as flash distillation, which is at present the most extensively used process. Plants of this type have been manufactured by various British, American and Japanese firms. At Dampier in Western Australia the British firm of Weir Westgarth is at present installing a flash distillation plant of 200,000 gallons a day capacity. Westinghouse Electric Corporation is not known to have conducted any recent operations in Australia.
It has been reported that the scale of activities in desalination work in the United States has already cost $US125m, and it is obvious that Australia has not the resources, or for that matter the need to engage in activities on that scale. Nevertheless, Australia has undertaken research work appropriate to local conditions and it can be said, for example, that it is in the forefront in desalination by solar means. The Coober Pedy plant is the largest solar desalinator in the world.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service was good enough to supply me last week with an answer to a question on notice regarding reorganisation of the waterfront. I had asked whether the Government had made an assessment of the cost likely to be involved in adoption of waterfront stevedoring arrangements recommended by the Woodward report. At that time the Minister said that costs had not been assessed but were currently being considered. As the Government has announced adoption of the scheme in principle, will the Minister take action to advise the Senate at the earliest possible moment of the result of the cost assessment of the scheme?
– I will ask the Minister for Labour and National Service for what information he has available to give to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education and Science. Further to the question asked by Senator McManus, is it not a fact that the high failure rate among first year university students throughout Australia - and not only in the Australian National University - is due in part to the lack of teacher training for members of university teaching staffs who, while outstanding authorities intheir own fields, are not necessarily good teachers? Are there any facilities or are there likely to be any facilities established for the training of teachers for universities and other institutions of tertiary education?
– I have not heard any suggestion that university lecturers and professors should undergo a course of teacher training. I do not know whether that is what the honourable senator suggests, but I have not heard of it beingsuggested here or in any other country. This does not necessarily mean that it is something to be brushed off but it is a completely new idea for tertiary education in universities as far as I know.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it the policyof the Postmaster-General’s Department to construct bituminised access roads to national television mast sites? If so, is any advice or assistance sought in carrying out this work? In cases where roads are already in essence to the mast site, is any financial assistance offered to the local authority for either maintenance or upgrading of the road?
– I have been informed by the Postmaster-General that it is Commonwealth policy to use existing roads for access to TV mast sites as long as they are suitable and reasonably situated for approach purposes. In some areas a satisfactory public road might already be in existence whilst at other locations a new road has to be constructed. In the latter circumstances factors to be considered in determining the type of road required include the gradient, the local weather conditions, and the amount and type of traffic. A bitumen sealed road is provided only where conditions make this necessary. The Department of Works is the construction authority for the Commonwealth in such matters and seeks the assistance and advice of local authorities. In some instances, local councils have contracted for the road construction work.
Where access roads are already in existence the Commonwealth does not make contributions to local authorities for maintenance of public roads unless special circumstances warrant payments, such as where the Department requires specific standards or makes excessive use of roads. There is provision under the Access Roads Maintenance Vote administered by the Department of Shipping and Transport for the Commonwealth to contribute for road maintenance.
– I. redirect to the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General a question that I asked yesterday. The Minister has kindly offered to give me a reply this morning. I ask: Has the necessary machinery been installed in Adelaide for the implementation of the Postcode system? If not. when will it be installed? In which States has the machinery been installed? Have any persons in the mail section been displaced by the use of the Postcode machinery? If so, what is the number?
– The answer supplied to me is not complete in the sense that it does not give a specific reply in relation to Adelaide, but it does bear on the rest of the question. I am informed this of course is general knowledge that Postcode is a four digit national postal address code designed to assist sorting of mail by existing manual methods. It is also designed to obtain maximum performance from the electronic sorting equipment already installed in the Sydney Mail Exchange and to be installed progressively in other capital cities. Therefore, we can take it, it is not installed yet in Adelaide. I come now to the point about which, I think, the honourable senator was most concerned: No mail sorter has lost his job as a result of the introduction of electronic sorting equipment in Sydney.
– Yesterday I asked the
Minister for Supply a question about the faulty launching of a European Launcher Development Organisation rocket from Woomera. I asked whether wreckage had been found. I now ask the Minister whether he has a reply to my question.
– Yesterday I told the honourable senator that I would try to obtain an answer for him by today. I now have the report on the matter. It is as follows:
Planning for the firing from Woomera of long range rockets such as the Europa rocket includes the Australian safety requirements that flight must follow a defined flight zone which avoids centres of population. This flight zone is of such size that even if the rocket malfunctions it will not land near centres of population. This requirement is to ensure that if there is a loss of thrust by the rocket motors or if the rocket deviates from the prescribed direction of flight it will impact within the defined zone.
In the case of the Europa F.6/1 firing the first stage performed completely satisfactorily and landed within 10 miles of the predicted impact area. Its flight from Woomera was completely within the predetermined flight zone.
The second stage separated but failed to ignite and therefore impacted with the first stage.
The self-destruction system installed in the rocket to ensure that unused propellants are destroyed and that impact is therefore comprised of inert debris operated as planned.
The debris located on the Manners Creek station is part of the Europa rocket. It is possible that other pieces of debris will be found within the flight zone on other adjoining properties.
It is important to appreciate that the homesteads of these properties are outside the flight zone, that the safety arrangements were discussed with owners of properties within the flight zona before the zone was described, and that advance notice of the Firing was made to each property owner. Shelters are provided to homesteads in or neighbouring the flight zone. This is standard practice in all safety arrangements for the firing of long range rockets, and the co-operation of property owners is most appreciated.
Adequate safety precautions are observed and nothing in the Europa F.6/1 flight indicates that the safety procedures are unsatisfactory.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) had been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in the place of Mr Gray, deceased.
Clause I agreed to.
Proposed new clause1A.
Amendment (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill:
Ma. This Act shall come into operation on a dale to be fixed by Proclamation.’
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3. (4.) Notwithstanding section 19 of the Crimes Act 1914-1966. where-
Territory sentences a person to more than one term of imprisonment in respect of -
Amendment (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
Leave out sub-clause (4.), insert the following sub-clauses: (4.) For the purposes of the preceding provisions of this section, the law of a State or Territory with respect to the fixing of minimum terms of imprisonment shall be deemed to be the provisions of the law of that State or Territory with respect to the fixing of minimum terms of imprisonment that are applicable in respect of a State offender or a Territory offender who is before a court for sentence for only one offence and is not already serving a term of imprisonment for another offence, but this sub-section does not prevent a court, in fixing a minimum term of imprisonment under this section in respect of one offence, from talcing into account any matter that the court thinks relevant, including another offence or a sentence in respect of another offence. (5.) Notwithstanding sub-section (1.) of section 19 of the Crimes Act 1914-1966, where a court sentences a federal offender to a term of imprisonment and, at the time of the sentence, the offender is under sentence of imprisonment for an offence that is not an offence against a law of the Commonwealth but is an Offence in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment was fixed, the court may direct that the sentence imposed by it is to commence to be served at the expiration of service of that minimum term of imprisonment. (6.) Where an offender is sentenced to a term of imprisonment for an offence against a law of the Commonwealth in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment is fixed and, at the same time or a later time but before he has served that minimum term of imprisonment, the offender is sentenced to a further term of imprisonment for another offence against a law of the Commonwealth in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment is fixed, then the minimum term fixed in respect of that other offence is cumulative upon, or concurrent with, that fixed in respect at the firstmentioned offence according as the term of imprisonment imposed is cumulative upon, or concurrent with, the term imposed in respect of the firstmentioned offence. (7.) Where a person has been sentenced as a federal offender to several terms of imprisonment in respect of any of which a minimum termof imprisonment has been fixed, the sentencesof the following categories shall be served in the following order: -
first, any terms in respect of winch no minimum terms of imprisonment were fixed and so much of any minimum term of imprisonment as is to be served concurrently with any ofthose terms;
second, any minimum terms of imprisonment, other than any minimum term, or part of a minimum term, referredto in the last preceding paragraph; and
third, the unserved balances of any terms in respect of which minimum terms of imprisonment were fixed. (8.) Where, during the service ofa sentence referred to in the last preceding sub-section, a further sentence is imposed in respect of an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, service of the firstmentioned sentenceshall, if necessary, be suspended in order that the sentences may thereafter be served in accordancewith the order referred to in that sub-section.’.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Release of offenders on parole).
– I wish to draw the attention of the Commit- tee to the provisions of clause 4, sub-clause (5.) and the following sub-clauses. The Senate will note that sub-clause (4.) (b) provides that a parole order shall be subject to such other conditions its are specified in the order. Sub-clause (5.) provides:
The GovernorGeneral may, at any time before the expiration of the parole period, by order in writing -
amend a parole order by varying or revoking a condition of the order . . .or by imposing additional conditions.
T hen sub-clause (6.) provides:
An amendment of a parole order under last preceding sub-section does not have effect until notice of the amendment is given to the person to whom the parole order relates, being notice given before the expirationof the parole period.
At the second reading stage,I drew attention to the fact that the conditions of a parole order under the Probation Offenders Act and under section 20 of the Crimes Act were for the court to stipulate. In other words, the court which grants a remission or probation decides the conditions. If there is a breach of the conditions, the appropriate term of imprisonment for the offender becomes the subject of a court order. lt seems to me that under this legislation, for some principle which has not been explained or by reason of some circumstances which are not explained, the imposition of additional conditions is to come within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General. Clause 2 indicates that the Governor-General will be acting with the advice of the AttorneyGeneral. But it seems to me that we should consider whether it is appropriate for the Governor-General of the day, acting with the restraint that would be -forthcoming when he was advised by the principal law officer of the Crown, to exercise this authority. The matter will be outside the jurisdiction of the court, because it is the Governor-General who is to be given the power to impose additional conditions. I am a little concerned that this power should pass into the hands of the Executive and not be left in the judicial field where the punishment of offenders properly belongs.
It is all the more important because clause 4 (6.) provides, not that the person affected shall have the right to appear and to submit argument in a public court, but only that the amendment of the parole order shall not have effect until notice has been given to him. A valuable illustration is to be gained from what 1 quoted of the Isaacs case last night to show that even a court sometimes trespasses beyond permitted limits. In that case the court attempted to impose what was, in the view of Mr Justice Dixon, as he then was, a condition completely contrary to the principles of the Bankruptcy Act, under which the offence was created. The condition imposed in the bond given in that case amounted to a substitution of an obligation to pay instalments towards the bankrupt’s debts from which, on the very basis of bankruptcy, the bankrupt is to be absolved. He was to pay that money even though, after bankruptcy, he had been divested of all property and left in this world with only his capacity to earn. That example shows how the imposition of these conditions is an extension beyond the term of imprisonment and an authoritarian control over the prisoner. So long as the control is directed only to the encouragement of his rehabilitation the provision is good. 1 join with Senator Lacey in the tribute that he paid last night to the parole officers who work in this field. One does not anticipate any abuse in relation to this provision. For (hat reason I do not go to the extent of moving an amendment. I. rise only to express my concern about the matter in the hope that the Minister representing the Attorney-General will explain why in this Bill the administration of these conditions passes to the Governor-General, whereas under the State laws to which I have referred, so far as I understand the position, the administration remains with the court.
– I think I understand the point raised by Senator Wright. I would suggest this to him and to the Senate: The proposals here for granting parole give the Governor-General the authority to grant parole, and this is no different from what happens in two States - Tasmania and South Australia - where the Governor grants parole, and in substance is no different from what obtains n the other States, where the parole board grants parole.
Moving on to the question of revoking parole - not adding conditions or saying that conditions have been broken - as the position has been explained to me, in Tasmania and South Australia the Governor can revoke the parole. In all other States the parole board can revoke the parole and that is the finish of the matter. On the subject of adding or varying conditions of parole after it has been granted, again 1 am told that the situation is the same. The conditions of parole, in the States in which this law will be operating, can be varied in the same way, by the Governor or by the parole board. Coming to the question of parole being revoked because of the conditions not being complied with, certainly in this case - and I think in all cases - the matter is not decided by the Executive. The question of whether or not a condition has been complied with is one to be decided by the prescribed authority before whom the prisoner is taken - that is to say, the magistrates court. I repeat, the decision on whether or not conditions have been broken is not in the hands of the Executive.
– Has the Minister also a reference to the clause that mentions the adjudication of non-compliance with the condition?
– That is in clause 4 (9.) which states:
Where a constable arrests a person in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, the constable shall, as soon as practicable, take the person before a prescribed authority in the State or Territory in which the person Ls arrested.
The prescribed authority is the magistrates court. Then the prescribed authority:
I hat is the clause which gives that authority to the judicial arm rather than the other arm.
– Mr Chairman, an important matter has emerged here. 1 do not know that we can solve the problem today. After listening to what Senator Wright said, 1 think that we are in a difficulty at the moment because the law that we propose to make does not deal directly with the matters but is endeavouring to fit the provision for Commonwealth prisoners in the interstices of the various State laws. Endeavours to do this have brought us to the point where executive authority is used in relation to imposing conditions of parole because this was the convenient way to do so. What Senator Wright has put before us for consideration is something that seems to have been creeping into the law over a lengthy period. 1 refer to the encroachment upon the judicial sphere of the executive action in relation to the punishment of offenders. If a court imposes some punishment and then the Executive uses the pardoning or relieving power greatly to invade that sphere, it means that in substance the punishment of offenders moves out of the proper sphere of the judiciary into the hands of the Executive.
That is something which has been happening anyway under State law. It is something that ought not to happen. We can imagine that if, for instance, one were to fix terms of imprisonment which could not be varied by a court and hail the position where the Executive could vary those terms by various devices of parole, pardoning or mitigation of the punishment, then in substance the punishment would be in the hands of the Executive. That could lead to very serious consequences.
I think we may have reached the stage where there ought to be a direct dealing by the Commonwealth with its prisoners. We may very soon have to provide for Commonwealth prisons and have legislation dealing with them in such terms that persons proceeded against under Commonwealth law will be dealt with in the same way wherever the offence happens to be committed or wherever the person charged happens to be. In effect he would be dealt with similarly under Commonwealth law in exactly the same way whether he was in Tasmania or in Queensland. It does seem incongruous that persons who commit offences against Federal law are being dealt with differently according to the State court before which they happen to come or the State in which they happen to be resident at the time they were imprisoned. The legislation seems to be aimed at doing the best that can be done in a situation where we are avoiding dealing directly with the problem and where we are endeavouring to deal in a fair and reasonable manner with those prisoners who happen to be sentenced under Commonwealth law but by the judicial agencies of the States and whose imprisonment is then carried out by other agencies of the States.
– I do nol wish to prolong this discussion unnecessarily but I do think that the point raised is an interesting one and is one to which the Senate might well turn its attention. Earlier 1 gave the Senate some information which was not strictly accurate. 1 have discovered that only in Tasmania do people who are charged with having broken the conditions of their parole have the right lo go before a magistrate’s court. In all other States the matter is left in the hands of the parole board or the Government. In this legislation we arc giving to people who arc Commonwealth prisoners and who are out on parole a privilege or right which, were they Stale prisoners, they would not have unless they were prisoners of the Stale of Tasmania. That right will now be applied throughout the whole of Australia.
There is one other point I want to touch on. I do not want to discuss it fully but to indicate that if, at a later stage it should become the subject of discussion, various arguments can be advanced in connection with it. I shall not advance those arguments now; 1 merely say that they are available and would be interesting matters for discussion. We are not talking here about people who are released on probation. People who are released on probation are people who have been convicted by a court and then let out on probation by that court. The convicting court should decide whether they have complied with the terms of that probation. We are talking here about people who have been sentenced to be deprived of their liberty by a court for a period of time longer than the minimum period they will serve and who have had exercised for them the prerogative or mercy by parole being granted before the period of imprisonment to which they have been sentenced has elapsed. This is an exercise of judgment; it is a privilege and not a right. It is not unreasonable to suggest that, the privilege having been extended on certain conditions, the authority which extended it should be able to reduce it.
– lt would not be always in the reduction that, there would be additional conditions.
– No. Under the Bill, the authority could impose additional onerous conditions or could relieve the onerousness of the conditions.
-] do not wish to prolong the discussion, but in view of what fell from Senator Murphy, which is directly contrary to the view I put last night, and as he is not now so preoccupied as he was then when he was on the eve of delivering his Budget speech I. wish to put the point of view that, rather than proliferate Federal courts and take from State courts the enforcement of the law, what we need is one system of courts and one system of law enforcement in Australia without any distinction between Federal and State spheres. I do not stay to argue that. I only mention it in view of what Senator Lacey said. If the Commonwealth is to enter upon the field advocated by Senator Murphy, then it will have a great responsibility. There are no votes in this field of social service legislation, in the main. The conditions of prisons and the method of punishment, I believe, require continuing attention.
With regard to the matter Senator Gorton has raised relating to judicial consideration on a breach of parole, I direct attention to clause 5 which provides:
If a constable arrests a person in the circumstances specified in paragraph (b) of sub-section (8.) of the last preceding section-
That relates to a person on parole failing to comply with a condition of the parole. the prescribed authority shall, if he is satisfied that the person has failed, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a condition of the parole order, by writing under his hand, cancel the order.
I emphasise the word ‘shall’. I should have thought it was sufficient to leave it to the prescribed authority to exercise his discretion. I realise the ‘shall’ applies only if he is satisfied that the non-compliance has been without reasonable excuse and I suppose that is sufficient protection. I make no other comment.
– I wish to move an amendment to sub-clause (7.) which reads: (7.) Where a person to whom a parole order relates is sentenced to a term of imprisonment in respect of an offence committed before or during the parole period, the parole order shall thereupon be deemed to have been revoked and, if the parole period has already expired, to have been revoked as from the time immediately before the expiration of the parole period.
The reason for that is obvious. The clause as at present printed provides that a prisoner on parole can be punished or have his parole revoked for an offence committed before or during the period that he is on parole. We ask that the words ‘before or’ be removed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 15 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Where a parole order is made in relation to a person -
– I move:
The purpose of this amendment is to make it clear that a person is to be regarded as still under sentence and as not having been discharged from imprisonment if he is sentenced, after the expiration of the parole period, to imprisonment for an offence committed during the parole period. Clause 4 (7.) provides that in such a case the parole order is to be deemed to have been revoked as from the time immediately before the expiration of the parole period. Proposed new sub-clause (2.) of clause 16 will make it clear that existing clause 16 is to be read as being subject to clause 4 (7.).
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
The provisions of a law of a Slate or Territory relating to the reduction or remission of sentences apply to a federal offender who is serving a sentence of imprisonment in a prison of that State or Territory in like manner as those provisions apply in relation to a State offender or a Territory offender serving a sentence of imprisonment in that prison.
– I move:
Clause 18 provides that State or Territory laws relating to the reduction or remission of terms of imprisonment apply to federal offenders. The purpose o. amendment is to ensure that the proviso .. of State or Territory laws relating to the reduction or remission of minimum terms of imprisonment also apply to federal offenders.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August (vide page 74), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is an attempt, which we hope will be successful, to stamp out what have come to be known as pirate broadcasters. The occasion for the Bill is the appearance off the Australian coast of at least one such broadcaster. One has appeared off the Gold Coast of Queensland and it is understood that attempts have been made by pirate broadcasters to establish themselves off Sydney.
This subject matter has received a lot of attention in parliaments of other countries. In Britain legislation was passed earlier this year and came into operation only last week. A number of European parliaments have dealt with the subject following upon their accession to the European Agreement for the Prevention of Broadcasts Transmitted from Stations Outside National Waters which was opened for signature on 20th January 1965. Britain was a signatory to that agreement and in consequence the British Government decided to enact relevant legislation.
The problem in Britain is somewhat different from that which faces the Australian Government. To begin with, there is in Britain no commercial radio of the type we have in Australia and involved in the British exercise was an attempt to challenge the Government by setting up what was in fact a commercial radio system just outside Britain. An enormous amount of money was spent on advertisements and great profits were made by the pirate stations. I think they began their activities off the coast of Holland and the Dutch Government gave consideration to dealing with them. It became a problem of great dimensions and the pirate radio stations have been in action until recent times. It will be interesting to see whether the penalties imposed by the British Act upon such activities prove to be effective.
The Australian Government has been confronted with a challenge by a pirate broadcaster off the coast of Queensland and has moved to deal with the problem by legislation which is in some respects similar to British legislation, but in some respects is different. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill but at the Committee stage of the debate will be moving certain amendments, one of which seeks to make contracts for advertising over pirate radio stations punishable under the Act.
In presenting this Bill the Government has left out altogether from the considering of the Parliament any reference to advertisements, lt has sought to prohibit the carrying on of pirate radio stations and the transmission of messages by them. It has sought to punish those people who aid or abet from within Australia the activities of pirate radio stations, including persons who may supply goods in connection with the work of such radio stations. However, no attempt is made to get at those persons who will be providing the finance to make such an enterprise profitable.
– Could not the provision in relation to aiding and abetting cover advertisements?
– I do nol think that it. is specifically framed to do so. I would not like lo say that it could nol do so in some circumstances, but I do not think that is the intention of the Bill. 1 think the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) in this chamber would agree. I will examine the clause at the first opportunity, but we have proceeded on the British view that it would need to be. spelt out separately as an offence.
The principal amending clause of the Bill is clause 4. which inserts a new section 6a. Section 6a (1.) provides:
Except as authorised by or under this Act, a person shall not, on a ship outside Australia but in waters adjacent to Australia -
establish, maintain or use any station or appliance for the purpose of transmitting broadcast programmes by means of wireless telegraphy: or
transmit a broadcast programme by means of wireless telegraphy.
That is the main offence. It is our view that a person guilty of such an offence should be regarded as a principal offender. The second class of conduct aimed at by the Bill is referred to in sub-sections (2.) and (3.) of proposed section 6a, which provides:
A person shall not in Australia or in waters adjacent to Australia -
sail or otherwise supply to another person any goods knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the goods arc for use -
in or in connexion with the making of unauthorised broadcasts’, or
in or in connexion with the navigation, working, operation or maintenance of a ship used, or to be used, in or in connexion wilh the making of unauthorised broadcasts;
maintain or install, or do any act or thing in or in connexion with the maintenance or installation, or any appliance or apparatus knowing, or having reasonable cause lo believe, that the appliance or apparatus is used, or is to be used, in or in connexion wilh the making of unauthorised broadcasts;
do any act or thing in or in connexion with the navigation, working, operation or maintenance of any ship which the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is used, or is to be used, in or in connexion with the making of unauthorised broadcasts; or
transport any goods to a ship which the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is used, or is to be used, in or in connexion with the making of unauthorised broadcasts. (.1.) In the last preceding sub-section “unauthorised broadcast’ means the transmission, except as authorised by or under this Act. of a broadcast programme by means of wireless telegraphy from a ship outside Australia but in waters adjacent to Australia.
– Where does the Opposition get its amendment as to advertising? Did the honourable senator say that it is lifted out of the British legislation?
– Not lifted in the same words, but taken from the British legislation.
– Could the honourable senator give the reference to the British legislation?
– I think it is clause 5 which refers to ‘advertising by means of broadcasts made as aforesaid or inviting another person to advertise by means of of broadcasts to be so made’.
– What is the Act?
– I have it in my hands in the form of a Bill, but 1 understand that is the form in which the Bill was carried. If Senator Wright is interested he may wish to follow this up. The debate began in the House of Commons on 5th April 1966 and was continued on other days. I think the honourable Senator would find the debate very interesting and not without relevance to the problems we are discussing in this Bill; but at the same time it deals with a problem that presented itself much more acutely in the British context. I found the debate very interesting and quite fascinating. What we will be suggesting is that there should be a new paragraph (e) at the end of sub-section (2.) of proposed section 6a.
The other things that we want to say are in relation lo penalties. The Bill itself does not discriminate, as to the maximum penalties which may be imposed, between any of the offences that are contained in the proposed new section 6a. We have approached this problem on the basis that the offence of what might be called the principal offender is much more serious than the offence of the person who might supply him with goods for the maintenance of the ship, for navigation purposes or even technically for transmission purpose:-. Such a person ought to be regarded as an accessory aiding and abetting but not punishable to the same extent as a principal offender. Into such a category, I think advertisers would fall if they came to be included in the Bill.
I have circulated particulars of the amendments that I propose to move. We have suggested that so far as sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 6a is concerned, for what we would regard as the principal offender the penalty at present prescribed by the Bill should remain. At least, we are not seeking to alter it. That penalty is $1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ive years. Accessories are no, so mentioned in the Bill, but when we come to deal with offences under sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 6a. wi suggest that th.’ penalty ought to be $500 or imprisonment for a term nol exceeding one year.
I shall come in duc course, in relation to these amendments, to consider the British provisions, but I direct the attention of the Senate now to the fact that under the British legislation provision is made for a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of two years imprisonment or a fine or both for any conduct which is an offence under the British legislation. In other words, our penalties here are tougher and, wilh great respect to the Government and the proper purpose of the Bill, I say that the problems here are not as tough and intractable as those which forced the British Government to act. There was a listening audience estimated at some 12 million for the’ latest of the pirate radios to be driven out of action in Britain. This was called Radio London, lt was estimated that overall there were about 25 million people listening to pirate radios, and that particular one had 12 million of them. So there was a problem of very substantial proportions and it was a direct challenge to the Government in relation to commercial broadcasting, there being no advertising, say, of cigarettes or tobacco on British radio, although there is on television. This, of course, was a great, opportunity for cigarette manufacturers and others to pour many hundreds of thousands of pounds into their advertising campaigns and to conduct these campaigns from pirate radio stations just outside British territorial waters. What I am suggesting is that the Government presents a Bill which, however proper its purpose may be. is really to deal with something that is at this stage only a potential threat, and then not in the same sense: it is a threat because of the use of radio frequencies by such stations.
– There has been a move made for one of these off the coast of Queensland.
– There is one off the Gold Coast. I do not know how it is getting on at the moment.
– Nol too well.
– I am informed that it is not doing too well. The point I make is that the penalty is a bit heavy handed. It is more severe than the British penalty and the context, I would have thought, did not call for penalties as severe as the British penalties. But we will argue that in Committee and 1 will want to press these amendments for that purpose. The only other question that arises in the amendments that we propose deals with the right to trial by jury. Section 9 of the Principal Act provides: (1.) Proceedings for any offence against this Aci may be instituted in any Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and any person proceeded agains under this section may be dealt with summarily or may be committed for trial.
The penalty on summary conviction is imprisonment with or without hard labour for any period not exceeding six months or a penalty not exceeding £50. We want to do with this section what we have done with other sections in other legislation recently under which a person is subjected to a heavy penalty. J would regard six months imprisonment as a heavy penalty. For an offence for which he may be prosecuted on indictment he should have the option of being tried by jury. He should not be forced to accept against his will summary jurisdiction for an offence upon which on conviction the penalty may be as heavy as six months imprisonment. I mention that merely because it is part of the pattern of thinking that we have been developing on this question which has gained the approval of the Senate on more than one occasion in recent times.
I only want to say that this problem is in law a very sophisticated one. Our legislation uses the expression ‘a ship outside Australia but in waters adjacent to Australia’. The British legislation uses the expression ‘external waters’ which is defined as meaning the whole of the sea adjacent to the United Kingdom which is within the seaward limits of the territorial waters adjacent thereto. There is no definition in the Australian legislation of ‘waters adjacent to Australia’. There has been much learned comment on the sophisticated and complicated legal problems that are raised by legislation of this type. Senator Wright in particular may perhaps be interested - but not in time if he has it in mind to make any contribution in this debate - in an article in Volume 60 of the ‘American Journal of International Law’ by two Dutch scholars at the University of Leyden on the legal aspects of pirate broadcasting. I have not the date of the publication but it does raise discussion on some very important and complex questions, lt is claimed that any government that has to wrestle with these problems has to search its own law and search for new concepts of international law. In dealing with these problems we are dealing with happenings that take place outside territorial waters. L do not know that a debate on legislation such as this is the occasion on which to embark on lengthy dissertation on this subject. I merely say that, in addressing oneself to a Bill such as this, one is conscious of the fact, that it has many complexities and one proceeds on the assumption that all of its provisions will find favour as good doctrine in international law. With those comments I indicate that the Opposition will support the Bill but will be moving amendments at the Committee stage.
– I am glad that Senator Cohen, with his great legal knowledge, has led for the Opposition in the debate on this Bill. As a layman I enter the debate with a little more enthusiasm, knowing that the legally trained senators have been alerted or have alerted themselves to the importance of this measure. Some of Senator Cohen’s remarks were very helpful to me. But, unfortunately, he expressed the opinion that the law of the sea was sophisticated. I wondered what sort of a law that was. I was able to borrow a dictionary and to ascertain that to sophisticate’ means to spoil the simplicity or naturalness of, or to corrupt. Perhaps at a later stage we will hear some explanation of how there can be a sophisticated law of the sea. I am always amazed by the use of the word ‘sophisticated’. I will deal a little later with the suggested or foreshadowed amendments to be moved by the Australian Labor Party.
I agree with the purpose of the Bill which is stated very briefly in the second reading speech. With great respect to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), I say that that speech gives as little information as possible about the Bill. However, it says that the purpose of the Bill is to inhibit - that means prohibit - the activities of so called pirate radio stations. It is essential that we have such legislation on our statute book. If the timing is a little late, it is not bad. Therefore, it must be said that the timing is good. We can learn from the experience of other countries. Senator Cohen has been able to inform the Senate because of his study of what has happened in Great Britain and what has been said in the British Parliament. We know that Great Britain has great problems in this regard. I think the Isle of Man is used by operators of such stations. I hope that no such attitude is adopted in Tasmania.
If the law that we pass were put into action and if a pirate radio station were to start to operate on a ship stationed in the waters adjacent to Australia - 1 will refer to those words later - there could be great risk to life and great cost to the nation in setting out in pursuit of the so called pirates. Therefore, I believe that the law should be watertight and that the punishment that would be given to anyone who contravened the law should be widely publicised and well fitting to the crime and the danger that the piracy might cause to people going out to enforce the law.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, told us that the radio spectrum is becoming crowded. That is one of the reasons why, with an international agreement, this Parliament is able to control the licensing of people who shall use the radio waves. No-one would argue against the necessity for a central government to have power to license all radio and television stations. In the second reading speech and in overseas reports on this subject these stations are referred to as pirate radio stations. The people who operate them publish or reproduce regardless of copyright. They are outside the regular combine. So I suppose they would be pirates in that they would be operating outside the lawful authority of a combine given to a government to issue licenses.
It is pointed out to us that if pirate radio stations were allowed to operate off the Australian coast there would be chaos in the Australian industry. We have a well ordered, well organised and highly popular system of national and commercial broadcasting and television networks. On my reading of the Bill, which is designed to amend the principal Act, its clauses appear to be designed purely to announce or to lay down the jurisdiction of the courts. I hope that in this debate very close consideration will be given to whether the Bill is watertight. I think that is an apt expression.
I raise a query that I have in my mind. The Bill is designed to prohibit the operation of radio or television stations on ships in waters adjacent to Australia. What waters are adjacent to Australia? How far across the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean or the Tasman Sea does a ship have to be before legally it is in waters that are not adjacent to Australia? As far as I can see, the word ‘adjacent’ in the term ‘adjacent waters’ is not defined. I wonder whether it is definable. I may be wrong, but I believe that this point needs some clarification. At what particular spot in an ocean of water that adjoins Australia is a ship not in waters adjacent to Australia? On the point of power in the broadcast band, I mention that I. have picked up national broadcasting stations in New Zealand on a small transister radio in my hotel room here in Canberra. Is the Government to say that waters adjacent to Australia are waters in which a ship can have a radio broadcasting station which can make itself heard in Australia? I hope that that matter will be cleared up.
If a country other than Australia - I will not mention any particular country - does not have and does not want legislation to prohibit the manning of broadcasting stations on ships at sea and those ships desire to beam their broadcast programmes onto the Australian coast, will this legislation give the Government any authority over those ships or broadcasting stations? Does the Australian Government require such authority or will it take the chance that all other countries will say that they also will legislate to prohibit radio stations being constructed, taken on to ships and put out to sea?
I raise these points as a layman. I believe that the legislation is important. But it is more important still that this legislation be legally binding and be understood when it is proclaimed so that it may be enforced, if necessary, without fear or favour. I am not too sure I will listen to argument on this but I believe that the Opposition through Senator Cohen may have raised a very good point in suggesting an amendment to the Bill to include penalties for those who pay for advertising time on these stations. To my mind they are as culpable as those who would broadcast the advertisements. 1 hope to see a sensible attitude adopted to such an amendment if it is proved that it is required to make the legislation effective.
Senator Cohen referred to the carrying of goods to these ships. Does the carrying of goods mean the taking of records, advertising material and copy to ships? Does it include the taking to these ships of musicians and other people who may be scheduled to appear on a radio programme? Does the legislation cover a ship when it is tied up in a port and before it puts out to sea? These are questions that I want to have answered. Great care should be taken to see that the legislation will be known to be effective before it is put into operation. Finally, I mention the matter of penalties. We must be careful in this regard. The penalties should be severe but they should be no more severe than those prescribed already for crimes or offences of a similar magnitude. I support the Bill.
– in reply - Mr Deputy President, the Opposition and Senator Marriott have indicated their willingness to accept the Bill and to give it a clear passage through the second reading stage. I make the observation that much of what Senator Cohen said concerns amendments that he proposes to move at the Committee stage. Rather than canvass those matters now generally,I think it would be better for me to reply to them after he has dealt with them during the Committee stages.
I am bound to point out that the amendments foreshadowed by Senator Cohen are the same as those proposed by the Opposition in another place. The Postmaster General (Mr Hulme) has had the advantage of being able to examine these amendments when the Bill was before the other place.’ It has to be appreciated that this Bill is designed to forestall pirate radio broadcasting in Australia. As I understand it, the term ‘adjacent to Australia’ means just that.
– Does the Minister mean territorial waters?
– No. I do not mean territorial waters at all. I mean waters adjacent to Australia. If we get into an area which is not adjacent to Australia, we gel into the field of international law and conventions relating to shipping and matters of that nature. This Bill does not touch upon the issue in that sense. It is calculated to forestall attempts not very powerful attempts but attempts made almost by inference by university students and others to broadcast to Australia from waters adjacent to Australia. None of these attempts has come to anything. As Senator Marriott says, we are putting these people on notice that they may not do this. We are drawing attention to the fact that the Wireless Telegraphy Act will empower the Government to deal with people who contemplate such action. As I said earlier, much of what has been said relates to proposed amendments. I think that it would make for a more interesting and more effective debate if I said no more at this stage but waited for some of the submissions that have been made to emerge at the Committee stage, as undoubtedly they will.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
After section 6 of the Principal Act the follow in section is inserted: - 6a. - (1.) Except as authorized by or under this Act, a person shall not, on a ship outside Australia but in waters adjacent to Australia -
in or in connexion with the making of unauthorized broadcasts; or
Penalty: One thousand dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding Five years.’.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, the first amendment that I wish to propose relates to subsection (1.) of proposed section 6a. lt seeks to add the following words:
Penalty: One thousand dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding live years.’
Perhaps it would be convenient if the Committee allowed me to move two amendments at this stage. I think I indicated at the second reading stage what the Opposition has in mind. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) would appreciate what I have in mind if I were to move together my amendments Nos. 1 and 3. What the Opposition seeks to achieve would then be clear. Wc seek to retain the present penalty for offences under subsection (1.) but to reduce the penalty for offences under proposed sub-section (2.) to $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year. 1 ask the Committee for leave to amalgamate the two amendments.
Hie TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Bull) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate, and I move:
Penalty: One thousand dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
Penalty: Five hundred dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.
The amendments stand or fall together. I have sufficiently indicated how the Opposition wants to amend this clause. The penalty proposed in the Bill is a tougher penalty than that in the corresponding British legislation. There is some historical basis for this. The Committee should appreciate the reason for the amendment. This Bill is not an original Bill. It is not a Bill dealing with a completely new subject matter forming a separate Act upon passage, as was the case with the British legislation. The present Bill amends the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1935-36. The penalty provided under that Act is the same as the penalty provided under the Bill. In each case the penalty is $1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. This proposed legislation continues the existing penalties provided for the unlawful transmission of messages by wireless telegraphy and so on, but adds provisions regarding pirate stations on ships in adjacent waters, which are not dealt with in the principal Act. The penally for offences under the existing Act is $1,000 or imprisonment for a term of five years. However proper it may be to apply that penalty to persons who are guilty of establishing, maintaining or using such a ship or of actually transmitting programmes from the ship, that penalty is too drastic a penalty in relation to persons who aid and abet the offence from onshore. Having said that, I have put the whole case.
The Opposition urges the Committee to accept this amendment. It is a reasonable amendment, and it does not attempt to interfere seriously with what the Government is doing under .the principal Act. This amendment adds some sense of perspective in relation to penalty. We do not want to use a sledgehammer to crush an ant.
– As I indicated earlier, this matter was raised in the other House by the Opposition, and the Postmaster-General dealt with it.
As Senator Cohen has very fairly pointed out, his amendment merely brings forward the penalties that apply in the principal Act. The two amendments seek to make a distinction between offences committed by one group of people and offences committed by another group. If the Committee were to agree to the amendments the situation could well be reached where certain persons could be dealt with under the provisions of the main Act and be subject to the penalty that is in the main Act, and those persons would be in a different situation from that of persons being dealt wilh under this Bill. That is the situation as I understand it. The position would be intolerable.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting 1 was replying to the submission made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He has moved two amendments to proposed section 6.. The amendments deal with the penalties imposed for certain offences. The proposition he puts is that there should be a distinction between proposed new section 6a (1.) and proposed section 6a (3.). The point of the two amendments, as I understand it, is that whereas there is a penalty provided of S 1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years in relation to subsection (1.) of proposed s;ci’o-i f>A there should be a lesser penalty for the other offences.
The Government is not prepared to accept the amendments. I point out to honourable senators that the offences as set out cover in the proposed section a wide field but that they are all related in a very special way. I do not think it is logical to sa that a distinction should bc made as proposed in the amendments. For example, in the case of a foreign ship operating a station outside territorial waters, it may not be possible to prosecute successfully under proposed new section 6a (1.). Equally, the attempt to broadcast would fail if the persons referred to in proposed new subsection (2.) were not part of the whole exercise. Indeed, the people or groups of people referred to in proposed section 6a (2.) are essential to the making of the attempt. They would be just as culpable because without them no attempt would be made to broadcast. Probably the illegal enterprise could not succeed without involvement of the people referred to. Therefore the Government does not recognise the distinction made in the amendments. We say that the penalty of $1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years should be just as effective against those who transport any goods to a ship for this illegal purpose as those who are actually using this ship for this purpose.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise for the purpose of allowing the Minister to continue his remarks.
Sena:or ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Customs and Excise) [2.20] - I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his courtesy. There is one other point that I should like to make. The Government considers that the persons referred to in proposed new section 6a (2.) are just as much a part of the enterprise as the person who would ‘establish, maintain or use any station or appliance for the purpose of transmitting broadcast programmes by means of wireless telegraphy’. Those persons are just as essential to the successful use of this technique as any of the other persons referred lo. Because we can not see any distinction between the operations of the several groups we do not think there is a lesser offence involved. All are equally responsible for the enterprise and therefore the same penalty should be invoked.
– All the offences prohibited by the ‘existing Act relate to the direct establishment or maintenance of stations or appliances for the transmission of messages. The Act prescribes penalties for such offences. The Bill provides penalties for ot her offences. If we leave aside the question of broadcasts from a ship outside Australia but in waters adjacent to Australia - the place to which the ship has gone in order to transmit - we cannot logically apply a different criterion of punishment to those people than one would in respect of the offences already established under the existing Act. When the Government moves to embrace a new class of people, who are really accessories because they are doing acts ancillary to the carrying on of the ship, it seems to the Opposition that we are in a different area of discourse and that it is time to stop and think about how severe these penalties are. In some respects they are savage penalties.
The penalty for the major offence is imprisonment for five years compared with the penalty of imprisonment of two years for the major offence in Britain. The broadcasts have presented a serious problem to the Government in Great Britain. The broadcasters have challenged that Government on matters of authority and policy.
It seems to the Opposition that it is reasonable to make this distinction between the penalties for the offences. There are differences between offences committed directly in relation to the pirate broadcasting ship and offences committed by people on the land. This is a simple question and it either appeals to the Government as being reasonable or it does not. I do not feel like hopping up and down on the one spot about it. I invite the Committee to vote on the amendment.
-I have one query to put to the Minister. Does the Government think it probable that some person might want to broadcast from an island in waters adjacent to the coast of Australia? What would this Bill provide in relation to somebody who wanted to set up a radio station on Lord Howe Island or Kangaroo Island for example?
– Such people would be subject to the same laws as apply to radio stations on the land.
– By way of interjection, I may be able to clear this matter up. Is the honourable senator referring to an Australian island or to an island owned by a foreign country?
– There may be an extra powerful station on Norfolk Island, for example. The distance from Australia is not involved so much as the power of the station. Some stations are able to broadcast over a distance of 600 miles but some have power to operate over only 60 miles. An island further out could be used by a radio station broadcasting to Australia. This is just a matter of interest to me.
– The explanation is simple. Under the wording of the Principal Act.Australia includes the Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth and the territorial waters of the Commonwealth and of any such territory. If the island is not an Australian territory, then it must be owned by another nation and in the case mentioned by Senator Ormonde the broadcast would be coming from a foreign country.
That the amendments (Senator Cohen’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
At the end of sub-section (2.) of proposed section 6a add the following paragraph:
enter into any contract agreement or arrangement for advertising, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such advertising is to be done in or in connection with an unauthorised broadcast.’.
The clause would then read:
A person shall not, in /-ustralia or in waters adjacent to Australia -
enter into any contract agreement or arrangement for advertising, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such advertising is to be done in or in connection with an unauthorised broadcast.
Now that the Committee has rejected the amendment which sought to provide a lesser penalty for offences under sub-section (2.) I ant emboldened to suggest that what is missing from this Bill is a proper penalty for those who represent the lifeblood of commercial television - the commercial advertisers. We have been speaking about pirate radio stations. I remind the Committee that the continued existence of commercial stations depends upon the willingness of the purveyors of consumer usable, such as cigarettes, tobacco, stockings, cosmetics, and effervescent aerated waters to continue with the advertising of these things. Such advertising would strengthen the ability of pirate radio stations to carry on. If the situation is real, then it needs to be dealt with in this kind of way.
I believe that advertising formed the whole substance of the difficulty which had to be met in Britain. It would appear to me that if we are to deal realistically with people within Australia, not those outside on the waters, then we must deal with those who will be financing the stations - the advertisers. Probably nobody would commit a more objectionable offence than those who supply the lifeblood or the finance to carry on this activity. If we are to hil at the people who transport goods out to a ship or who might perform some minor act 10 assist those who are actually using or maintaining stations or transmitting messages, then the exercise will be incomplete unless we hit at the people who provide the sinews of war. Ft is a simple proposition. We believe that the Government should not have departed from the British example but should have included commercial advertisers amongst those who are struck at in this new provision. 1 have given a good deal of consideration to the form of my amendment. I think it would meet the difficulty. If there is a real situation to be dealt, with, then the amendment would give teeth to the legislation.
– The Government had this proposal put to it earlier in another place. There the Government indicated that it was not prepared to accept it. This amending Bill has been introduced to deal with a particular situation that has arisen. Advertising is not inherent in the problem which the Government is seeking to solve. The Government, in fact, is dealing with the technical aspect of co-ordination of the use of radio frequencies.
The situation in the United Kingdom is not analogous. There they do not have the facilities for advertising that we have in Australia. In fact, at the broadcasting level there is no provision for advertising. For that reason I would readily concede that there is a very real inducement to set up a pirate radio station in the United Kingdom because there are no other facilities for advertising. But in Australia at both the television and broadcasting levels we have tremendous opportunities for advertising. In fact, we have regional broadcasting stations throughout Australia which provide bona fide facilities for advertising.
Sena or Gair - There is a case for the restriction of them, too.
– Yes. Indeed, highly competitive rates can be charged any organisation which wants to advertise on broadcasting bands. I do not think there is any real comparison between the situation in Australia and the situation in the United Kingdom. In any case, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) in another place gave an assurance that while we are attempting to keep the air free of possible pirate operators by introducing a Bill for that purpose, there is no justification for the amendment proposed by the Opposition. However, if circumstances change and it becomes necessary to amend the legislation in some way. the Postmaster-General quite properly would be required to bring the matter back to the Parliament. The Government does not accept the proposed amendment. The hypothetical problem raised by Senator Cohen does not come within the concept of the Bill. Although he indicated thai these thoughts have been taken from the British Act, we do not feel that we in Australia are confronted with a situation comparable to that which exists in the United Kingdom.
– I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation. lt is clear that the Bill in its present form does not cover advertising. Senator Morris raised this question while I was speaking in the second reading debate on the Bill. I have since looked at it and 1 do not think there is any way in which the provisions of the present Bill, if it became law, could be applied against advertisers. To my mind, either this is a real question or it is not. If the pirate radio broadcasting station off Surfer’s Paradise wants to carry on - unless it is a mere prank, in which case it would not seem to warrant a Bill of this kind - it will carry on because people will advertise on it and enable it to carry on. In fact, the advertisers will make it profitable for the station to carry on.
I cannot see for the life of me why the Government went to some pains to exclude advertisers from the impact of the Bill. I should have thought that this matter having been directed to the attention of the Postmaster-General in another place the Government would have recognised that what was being put was perfectly reasonable and, indeed, integral to the effective operation of the Bill. As the suggestion has been rejected, the only conclusion can be that the Government does not want advertisers to be dealt with. Of course, many of the big advertisers are people who no doubt are sympathetic to the Government.
– How can they advertise if we close down the pirate stations? Do not make nasty implications; deal with facts.
– All I am saying is that advertising is the lifeblood of broadcasting.
– But the station will not be broadcasting. This Bill will put it off the air.
– Does the honourable senator think it will?
– That is what the Bill is designed to do.
– Apparently the Government does not believe that this will happen with a wave of the wand. It wants to be equipped to deal with the people on land who would be in a position to aid and abel the pirate station. For some completely obscure reason the Government, apparently has said: ‘We will not attack the advertisers’. The Bill is like ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark.
– ls it not a simple proposition that if there is no advertising there will be no station? The Government is trying to deal with a situation which does not exist although it has a suspicion that it will exist. But that situation cannot exist unless there is advertising, because a radio station lives on advertising. I should like the Minister to explain why he is not prepared even to suggest to the Government that advertisers be dealt with. If you warn people who might establish a station in the ocean you also warn the advertisers not to be party to the establishment of such a station. The Government says that as they are not party to it there is no need to deal with them. Despite Senator Marriott’s statement that we should not make nasty implications I think that the Bill is trying to create the impression that the Government is not anti-advertising. The Government would not do anything to upset the Sydney emporiums, the big manufacturers or the oil companies. Unless such firms bought advertising the stations against which the Bill is aimed could not exist.
Of course there is the possibility that major manufacturing organisations Or big business will move surreptitiously to get cheap advertising over a pirate radio station off the coast. Money is needed to commence operating a radio station, ls it not usual for advertisers to own radio stations on land or to supply the funds needed to establish stations? 1 do not think the Government should be too thin-skinned about this, lt should accept the amendment and let the major advertisers know that it has a suspicion not only that a station may be established but also that certain major advertisers may be interested in the establishment of a station.
– I think some assumptions are being made which are inconsistent with the Bill. First, it is not necessarily true that a pirate station needs to have advertisers in order to continue operating. In fact, a pirate station could commence operating without the assistance of advertisers even if advertisements were offering. This Bill relates to the technical side of the matter, to people using the various frequencies in a way incompatible with the normal proper and legal use of the frequencies. We all know that that could well happen. For that reason I suggest that the amendment is not necessary.
In any case, it is inconceivable that a bona fide advertiser would want to advertise on a station which is committing an offence by even existing. Does any honourable senator imagine that any person in a bona fide, honourable business in Australia would be associated with something which, as a consequence of the passage of this Bill, would be known to be unlawful and an offence against the laws of Australia? How long would an advertiser continue in business on that basis? But that is not the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to clear the frequencies of any potential user who would prejudice the proper and efficient use of the frequencies for the normal conduct of broadcasting and television in Australia.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Cohen’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words ‘Court of Summary Jurisdiction’, the words ‘having jurisdiction with respect to the offence’.
– The amendment I propose to this clause has been circulated. I move:
Section 9 of the Principal Act, which we seek to amend, reads as follows, in part: (1.) Proceedings for any offence against this Act may be instituted in any Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and any person proceeded against under this section may be dealt with summarily or may be committed for trial. (2.) The Court in dealing summarily with any accused person under this section may, if he is found guilty of any offence against this Act, punish him by imprisonment with or without hard labour for any period not exceeding six months or by a penalty not exceeding Fifty pounds.
I do not think the other provisions of section 9 are relevant. The Bill seeks to amend sub-section (1.) of section 9 by adding the words ‘having jurisdiction with respect to the offence’ after the words ‘in any Court of Summary Jurisdiction’. That follows from clause 5 of the Bill, to which the Committee has just agreed. It refers to the investing of courts of the States with Federal jurisdiction, and so on.
– What is the meaning of the words ‘having jurisdiction with respect to the offence’?
– Clause 5 of the Bill invests several courts of the State and courts of the Territories with Federal jurisdiction. The proposed sub-section (3.) of the new section 8a provides:
The jurisdiction invested in a court of summary jurisdiction of a State by this section shall not be judicially exercised except by a Chief, Police, Stipendiary, Resident or Special Magistrate. 1 think the words ‘having jurisdiction with respect to the offence’ do not deal with all courts of summary jurisdiction, but only with a court of summary jurisdiction that bas been invested with Federal jurisdiction. We do not complain about that provision. We support it and indeed, for the sake of clarity, we seek to repeal the whole of clause 6 of the Bill and make it the new sub-section (a). However, we add a further change. We seek to omit from sub-section (1.) of section 9 the words ‘may be dealt wilh summarily or may be committed for trial’, and to substitute ‘may be committed for trial or, with his consent, dealt with summarily.’ A very important principle is involved. These are serious offences. They are difficult offences for any magistrate or any court.
As we were discussing before lunch, very complex questions are raised, jurisdictionally speaking, in relation to offences. There are nice questions as to what are waters adjacent to Australia. There are very severe penalties provided if a person is committed for trial. If he is convicted on indictment he may be sentenced to imprisonment for five years or he may have to pay a substantial fine. I am more concerned with the substantial period of imprisonment. The Government is content to allow existing section 9 to stand and to apply to the new offences created by this Bill. We are not. We believe that when a man is charged with a serious offence and it is looked at in a preliminary way in a court capable of exercising summary jurisdiction, if the magistrate decides that there is a prima facie case against him and if the penalty for that offence is up to six months imprisonment, he should be able to say to the magistrate: lt is not your prerogative to decide to deal with me here summarily against my will. I want a trial by jury’.
That seems to us to be an absolutely unassailable proposition and all that we seek to do here is to take away from the magistrate the right to say: ‘Very well. I have heard the evidence. I propose to deal with you summarily and the sentence is six months’. The man may prefer to say: ‘Your Worship, I will not take that. I am prepared to run the risk of getting five years gaol but I want my guilt or innocence to be established by a jury.’ The Senate in recent times in relation to the Narcotic Drugs Bill and other Bills, has said very firmly that the principle that 1 am now putting forward is a correct principle. Consistently with that belief we are moving on this occasion to make this part of the Bill. Why should a man not be in a position to say: T have a perfectly good defence to all this. I want my defence to be heard by a judge and jury and 1 am prepared to accept, if I am convicted, a penalty that may be ten times as heavy as that which Your Worship can impose upon me. I am not guilty. I want my guilt or innocence established before a jury. It is for the Crown to prove guilt and I seek to have my case tried before a jury’?
The present provision, unless it is amended as we seek, would deprive him of the right of trial by jury. He would be completely in the magistrate’s hands. The magistrate could say: ‘1 do not take a very serious view of this. It is only a sixmonthser. It is not a five-year offence, in my opinion. 1 propose to deal with you summarily and whether or not you want trial by jury 1 am telling you that you are not going to get it. I am telling you that I will deal with you summarily and you will have to take my sentence, which 1 fix at six months.’ That would be a travesty of justice and we will not have a bar of it. We propose a perfectly simple amendment, the principle of which commended itself to the Senate as recently as the autumn session of this Parliament. The Senate has on at least one occasion asserted that in relation to offences of a serious nature a man should, at his election, have a trial by jury.
– Was that not a case where the punishment possible was two years?
– I think it was twelve months. In relation to a term of imprisonment as long as six months, I do not think that there is any distinction in principle. The principle should not be any different when it is an offence that may be proceeded against on indictment and for which the penalty is five years. We may get to the position where a person who values his reputation does not want a magistrate to reach for a compromise decision and impose a lesser penalty. It is a very human thing to reach for a compromise solution and say: I am in some doubt about this question. I am worried about it but on the whole 1 think you are guilty and I come to that conclusion. I am satisfied to the degree required by law but I do not regard this as being at the more serious end of the scale. Therefore I will deal with you and 1 will give you six months. 1 am not interested in your plea that you want to be tried by jury. It is my responsibility and 1 will exercise it.’ That is the position that we want to avoid.
– That is not an ordinary judicial attitude of magistrates.
– I am not suggesting any want of honesty or integrity in such an attitude. Far be it from me to do that. The honourable senator is as aware as I am that the process of judging in difficult cases raises questions of nice judgment at times as to which side of the line one falls on. Given the responsible position of being a magistrate and having to deal with a difficult case, sometimes there is a tendency to seek what is -in essence a compromise position. I am not saying that with any desire to offend. It is part of every discussion about jurisprudence and the act of judging. You do not have to bs dishonest to want to reach a realistic solution in dealing with a complex problem. T am nol suggesting anything of that sort. We must assert, wherever we can, the importance of the principle that a man, if he wishes, should be tried by a jury of his peers. Where he can be sentenced to a substantia] period of imprisonment on summary conviction but where he faces a very much greater penalty if he chooses to go before a jury, that should be his choice. If he wants to take this risk he should not be shut out from it. It is as simple as that. I believe that this amendment should commend itself to the Senate because it seeks to enforce a principle that we have fought for on a number of occasions. I think on the last occasion it was carried by overwhelming numbers.
– The Government does not accept this amendment. There is a suggestion that there is an analogy with what happened here on a previous occasion, to which I might make some reference in a moment. It does seem to me that Senator Cohen is stating a philosophy in relation to the exercise of the penalties of the law. I do not quarrel with his putting this forward as a philosophy but I suggest that he has not picked the right vehicle te promote that feeling or belief. For instance, he would know better than I that the statute books of the States and the Commonwealth - particularly of the States - are studded with laws in which there is provision only for summary jurisdiction and no provision for proceeding on indictment.
– We are nol quarrelling wilh that.
– The Opposition is not quarrelling with that?
– These are indictable offences
– The honourable senator cannot have it both ways. In fact, as was pointed out before, a provision for a penalty of imprisonment of six mont fis on summary conviction is not inconsistent with the laws of the Commonwealth or the laws of the States. li: I recall correctly, certain examples were given on a previous occasion. In any case, it is significant: that the amendment, seeks to amend not only this Bill but also the main Act. Therefore, it would cut across the whole of the Wireless Telegraphy Act:, lt would cut across a series of principles which have been embodied in the Act since 1905. If the honourable senator has a philosophy in relation to the question of summary conviction and being taken to a higher court. I think he ought to use the forms of the Senate to deal with the matter in its broad aspects. This would stimulate a very exciting and interesting debate. To propose to treat the matter in isolation in a Bill of this nature seems to me to be out of all proportion to the situation. I commend to the honourable senator and to the Opposition generally my point of view in relation to the overall question of summary jurisdiction and conviction on indictment. This is not the occasion to argue a proposal for such a tremendous and dramatic change in the law of Australia, as it has existed in the law of the Commonwealth since Australia became a federation and in the law of the States before that. Bringing it into this climate is out of all proportion.
Reference was made to what happened in previous circumstances. When an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs Bill was pressed, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) took the benchmark of one year for the purposes of summary conviction. In the legislation now before us the maximum period of imprisonment in the case of summary conviction is six months, which is well below his benchmark. Be that as it may, that amendment, when it was passed, related only to narcotic drug offences. Later the same day. because the numbers count, as our friends opposite have often indicated to us, the Government did not oppose a similar amendment to the Customs Bill. The reason for that was that about half an hour earlier the Opposition had carried the day with a specific amendment in similar terms. It is significant to recall that that amendment to the Customs Bill related only to penalties for narcotic drug offences, lt did not relate to the general penalty provisions of (he Customs Bill.
What the Opposition is trying to do in this instance is to relate this principle to the whole of an Act. I suggest that that in itself is a secondary reason why this amendment should be rejected. But my main argument is that the Opposition is attempting to do something that is out of character with the Bill with which we are dealing. It seems to me that if members of the Opposition want to promote this principle as a philosophy they are entitled to do so by using the forms of the Senate in another way and on a broader scale. I do not think it is valid to try to include this principle in a very modest Bill such as this.
– The view of the Government is always that now is never the right time. Senator Anderson seems to suggest that this is only a modest injustice and that therefore we should not worry about it. He says: ‘Let us wait until wc see it in a major form and deal with it then’. We have adopted the approach, as we did in respect of the Narcotic Drugs Bill and the Customs Bill, that, when a matter of principle arises and there appears to be an injustice, we should deal with it then and there and not wait for the time that never seems to arrive.
The principle is quite clear. It was argued at considerable length in this chamber in the debate on the Narcotic Drugs Bill on 1.1th May this year. On that occasion this chamber, by an overwhelming majority, decided that the principle should be given effect to. lt was given effect to in that Bill. Subsequently the Bill was accepted without demur by the House of Representatives. I do not think there was any discussion on the point in that chamber. In the debate on the following Bill - the Customs Bill - Senator Mulvihill moved an amendment to the same effect. It similarly went through the House of Representatives without demur.
This is not a matter of six months or twelve months. That is another aspect altogether. Senator Anderson referred to a suggestion that I ‘made, namely, that :n dealing with summary offences a magistrate should never be given the power to sentence a man to more than twelve months imprisonment. That was the benchmark to which Senator Anderson referred. Whether that is too high is another question altogether. The principle wilh which we are dealing is quite a simple one. It is that, when provision is made for a man to be subjected to imprisonment for a lengthy term upon conviction for an indictable offence, we should not allow him to bc deprived of his right to trial by jury by saying to him, in effect: ‘Wc will lake away from you the right to trial by jury for this serious offence, but we will compensate you by saying that if you .’re convicted before a magistrate you can bo sent to prison for only a lesser term, sv.. h as six months, twelve months, or whatever it may bc’. In the Narcotic Drugs Bill the period of imprisonment happened to be two years.
We are objecting to the principle that in respect of an indictable offence - that is, an offence which is so serious that ii is triable by jury - we say to a defendant: We will deprive you, without your consent, of the right to trial by jury, but we will give you a bit of compensation by saying that if you are convicted before a magistrate you cannot be sentenced to the full term of imprisonment’. That is a bad principle. In fact, it is against the current that runs through Commonwealth law. Senator Wright may recall that in the debate on the Narcotic Drugs Bill the point that induced him ultimately to vote with those senators who supported the amendment was that he was reminded of section 12a. (1.) of the Crimes Act, which states:
Any proceeding in respect of an offence against this Act, although declared indictable, may, wilh the consent of the defendant, be heard and determined by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
– Did I refer to that?
– No. The honourable senator said that if the general provisions of the law contained some such principle he would vote for the amendment, but at that moment that was escaping him. When he was reminded that that principle was already in the Crimes Act, I think that made him decide to support the amendment. I have the Hansard report of the debate before me. The honourable senator may look at it if it will help to remind him.
There is the simple principle. Do not let us become confused about terms of six months or twelve months. The principle is this: Is a man to be deprived of his right to trial by jury without his consent, or are we to follow the general principle which is in the Crimes Act and which previously swayed this chamber, namely, that in respect of an indictable offence - that is, an offence which it is thought should be tried by jury and a serious offence for which lengthy terms of imprisonment are provided - only with his consent can a man be brought before a magistrate and, if he is convicted, be sentenced to a lesser term of imprisonment? As Senator Cohen said, if a man says: ‘I want my right of trial by jury. I am prepared to face up to the proposition that if I am convicted I may be sentenced to a longer term of imprisonment than that to which .1 could be sentenced by a magistrate. I am entitled to, and I ask for trial by jury’, he should be tried by a jury.
Senator Anderson referred to many instances in which matters can be dealt with summarily before magistrates. We are not questioning that. There are many trivial matters in respect of which it is said that there shall be only a summary trial before a magistrate. In all sorts of trifling matters a magistrate may impose a term of imprisonment of one month, three months or six months. But those are small or trivial matters. What we are dealing with here aTe not trivial matters. They are serious matters in respect of which a man, after trial by jury, can be imprisoned for up to five years.
– If he is dealt with summarily it is only a matter of six months imprisonment.
– The Minister does not understand that it is the offence that is important. This is a serious matter. It is a matter in respect of which the law says to people: ‘If you do this you are liable to be imprisoned for up to five years’. That makes it an extremely serious matter, lt is of no use saying, if one were to take it to some extreme, that if one commits manslaughter and is convicted on indictment one may serve imprisonment for up to twenty years but that, nevertheless, one can be dealt with summarily and suffer only up to twelve months imprisonment. A man who is charged with manslaughter is entitled to say: ‘The offence with which I am charged is serious. I. say that I am innocent. 1 want my trial by jury. I will face whatever sentence I have to face.’ He should not be deprived, without his consent, of trial by jury. The Opposition asks the Committee to adhere to the view that it has taken and to insist that where indictable matters are to be tried summarily this should be only with the consent of the accused as is provided in the Crimes Act, and in the Narcotic Drugs Bill and Customs Bill which were before us during the last sessional period.
– We are grateful to Senator Cohen and to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for bringing up for discussion this important principle which needs to be safeguarded in this area of jurisdiction more closely than in most other areas, because encroachment upon it in this sphere of government is intensifying. I have not reminded myself of what was said in May as recorded in Hansard, and I do not clearly recollect the stages by which the discussion proceeded on that occasion. At a later stage I may refresh my memory from Hansard because, quite frankly, I am perplexed that there should be contention about this matter.
I have equipped myself for this discussion with section 12a of the Crimes Act. This statute lays down generally the type of offences in the Federal field which should be subject to summary jurisdiction.
T will read this section because every word of it is important. It states: (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.
The next sub-section provides for an exception to a defendant’s right, which had been established for centuries. That is to say, for petty offences such as larceny, petty imposition and false pretences relating to property the defendant had no right to trial by jury. In my State of Tasmania the amount specified until ten years ago was £10; now it is $100. I believe that for any amount above $100 the dependant has the right to trial by jury.
Sub-section (2.) of section 12a states:
A Court of Summary Jurisdiction may, if it thinks fit, upon the request of the prosecutor, hear and determine any proceeding in respect of an offence against this Act, although declared to be indictable, if the offence relates to property the value of which does not exceed Fifty pounds.
Sub-section (3.) provides:
Where an offence is dealt with under this section the Court may impose a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding one year and, in its discretion, impose a pecuniary penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds in addition to or in lieu of a sentence of imprisonment.
So the Committee can see that the whole thing is safeguarded in a systematic form by the criminal law of the Commonwealth. Why we should have these individual variations, at the whim or discretion of whom I do not know, and why we do not provide for conformity with that provision in the Crimes Act. I do not know. The principle is there quite clearly. It says that for a serious offence a man may be tried by a tribunal other than a jury only with the consent of the defendant. If a tribunal of summary jurisdiction tries a man the penalty it may impose is limited to imprisonment for one year and a fine of £100. There is an exception in regard to petty charges concerning property where, at the election of the prosecutor, the matter may be dealt with summarily.
Discussion about the subject of penalty took place before the sitting was suspended for lunch. The Opposition endeavoured to scale down the severity of punishment, but we voted for the retention of a maximum fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. That is to say that we have stamped the offence as being one for which the appropriate penalty is imprisonment for up to five years. Although the original section of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-36 provided that offences against the Act might be instituted in a court of summary jurisdiction, it provided also that if the court found the defendant guilty it must limit imprisonment to six months and must not impose a fine exceeding S50. This is one half of the limit available to a court of summary jurisdiction under the Crimes Act. Nobody is asking for the penalty to be increased, although why it does not conform to the provisions of the Crimes Act I do not know. But the only point of contention now is whether the right to have an indictable offence dealt with by a court of summary jurisdiction is the right of the prosecution or of the defendant.
– Or the right of both, really. The consent of both is required.
– In my search for further analysis of the matter any clarification is welcome. I again point out to the Minister for Customs and Excise that section 12a of the Crimes Act provides: (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.
Where the crime against the Wireless Telegraphy Act has been stamped with a penalty as severe as five years imprisonment, I am yet to be persuaded that it is not appropriate that election to be tried summarily as against trial by a court of superior jurisdiction is not the right of the defendant. Section 12a of the Crimes Act makes this quite clear even though the Crimes Act includes the safeguard that once the matter is before the court of summary jurisdiction the powers of the court are limited, as they are in the Bill now before the Committee. I repeat that the Crimes Act makes it quite clear that the right to elect whether or not the trial shall be in a court of summary jurisdiction is the right of the defendant except in cases of petty offences involving property not exceeding $50 in value. I seek to know why, in substance, the advisers of the Crown, if they allowed that right to stand in section 12a of the Crimes Act, resist it in individual statutes in specific sections dealing with the same subject.
– I do not want to take up much more time on the proposal. This issue will be decided by the vote that is cast. Senator Murphy’s argument, and to a degree Senator Wright’s argument, taken to its logical conclusion is an argument on the question of a principle. The Senate is a political House. 1 hope that I will see these arguments pursued in an atmosphere other than the atmosphere here. Taking Senator Murphy’s argument to its logical conclusion, he is saying, in effect, that every person under every Act of Parliament- State or Federal - on a summary offence should have the right to have that offence converted to an indictable offence.
– I did not say that.
– Of course you did. Senator Murphy cannot stop half way through an argument when it suits him to stop. In essence, that is what the honourable senator is doing. He cannot escape it. The honourable senator says that as a matter of principle persons should have the right of a trial by jury and have the offence made an indictable offence, even though such persons are going to contract themselves out of facing a minor offence into facing a major offence. The honourable senator cannot stop there. Last time this subject was debated the bench mark was twelve months. In this debate the mark is shifted from twelve months because of the penalty of six months provided for in this Bill. Next time the subject is debated, if the penalty provided for is three months the mark will be shifted again during the debate. Whether or not Senator Murphy agrees, he is saying that, every person who is charged with a summary offence has the right to be committed to trial by jury.
– I am not saying that. The Minister seems not to understand.
– If the honourable senator is not saying that, his argument is invalid. I say that to the honourable senator with great respect. To Senator Turnbull, who is interjecting, I say that here he is in a different atmosphere from that of a court room.
– You would be sat down if you were in a court.
– We are not all lawyers here; thank heaven. I do not mean to be offensive. Senator Murphy’s argument on summary offences is almost identical with Senator Wright’s point in relation to the Crimes Act. All the arguments here seem to be based on the assumption that a summary offence automatically carries a penalty of six months imprisonment and a fine. But many of the offences concerned may be trivial and attract a penalty of only $1 with no imprisonment. Senator Murphy is basing his argument on the maximum penalty.
No analogy exists between this Bill and the Narcotic Drugs Bill. The Narcotic Drugs Bill dealt with a summary offence which carried a penalty of two years, as against ten years for an indictable offence. The situation here is that the penalty prescribed is a period of up to six months. Senator Murphy is arguing that, in what might be regarded as a fairly minor Bill, a new principle should be introduced into the law. That new principle would cut across the law of every State and the law of the Commonwealth. His argument, taken to its logical conclusion, is this: Wherever a summary offence is to be tried a person has the right to be taken to a higher court and has the right to trial by jury. The Government does not believe this is the time for that argument to be put forward. As I said to Senator Cohen, if this is a principle that needs to be enunciated the proper forms of the Senate could be used in some other way to do it.
– I agree with Senator Anderson that now is not the time for that argument to be put forward, and it has not been put forward. With all charity to the Minister I say that he has not understood what has been put. No suggestion has been put that every person charged with an offence must be tried by a jury. I thought that 1 put it clearly that many trivial offences are dealt with summarily and no doubt will continue to be dealt with summarily.
– There could be trivial offences here.
– Of course. The Minister made an error when he said that these offences are small. They are not small offences; they are indictable offences. A man may be sent to trial by jury for these offences. 1 repeat, they are indictable and serious offences. Depriving a man of the right to trial by jury is in question here. The principle here is that if a man is entitled to be brought before a jury for trial on a serious offence, he should not be deprived of that right without his consent. If the Government wants to bring under this Bill, and other Bills, trivial offences and provide for those offences to be tried summarily, the principle here will not be in any way affected.
– That is the position here.
– That is not the position here. Offences with a penalty of up to five years imprisonment are provided for here. These are not summary offences. If the Minister could understand that, he would be at the first step in the argument. An offence which carries a penalty of five years imprisonment is a serious offence; it is an indictable offence. We say that before a man is deprived of his right to trial by jury for such an offence his consent must be obtained. It is wrong in principle to say to a man ‘You will be denied your right of trial by jury. However much you want to defend yourself against this serious charge you are noi going to have a trial by jury. Instead, you will be brought before a magistrate for this serious offence, and your compensation will be that you will get a lesser penalty.” That is not good enough.
– That is the honourable senator’s interpretation. What is the interpretation of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is leading for the Opposition on this Bill?
– lt is the interpretation of the Senate. That principle was accepted here. Interestingly enough, no matter how much the Minister would like to keep fighting the principle contained in the Narcotic Drugs Bill, his colleagues in the other House accepted that principle without demur, despite the great battle that the Minister put up here in support of a wrong principle. When the principle was put right by the Senate it was accepted as having been right all along. Honourable gentlemen in the other place saw the wisdom of what the Senate did. I ask the Senate to support what Senator Cohen has put, and to support the amendment.
– In view of some remarks made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) I should like to make some additional remarks. The Minister put it to the Committee that the proposal here involved the proposition that every offence, however trivial, should be, at the wish of the defendant, triable by jury. That statement misses the whole point of the emphatic reference I made to the effect that this Committee deliberately adopted the non exclusion from the penalty of up to five years of any of the offences created by this section. The Opposition moved to reduce that penalty in respect of some of the offences. I supported the Government in its view that all the offences should be limited to this degree of imprisonment. I was in two minds. I deferred to what the Minister said because no doubt he was speaking with the advice of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
It is impossible to foresee the variety of offences and sets of facts that will come up in this case. The Government said that it wanted a term of five years imprisonment and the majority of honourable senators voted for it. I was one of them. It is important to see that that puts the stamp on the category into which an offence falls in 0, der to be punishable by imprisonment for a term up to five years. If it is a question of somebody having a transistor on a regatta ground and imposing a side show on me being up for a fine of S20, or if it is a minor offence as mentioned in the Crimes Act where the offence is punishable - as indicated by the water mark as it has been called - by a fine not exceeding $200 or imprisonment not exceeding one year. I would be quite willing to take that as the indication of the division between serious and petty offences. But when there are crimes for which the statute contains penalties, as appropriate to the judgment of the court, carrying a term of imprisonment beyond one year, then it seems to me that we have no justification for creating an inroad into the right, the cherished right, of any individual at the present time to say: I wish to be tried by jury’.
This right may depend upon the nature of the evidence, lt may depend upon the set of circumstances. It may depend upon the character of the person concerned. Suppose a person in an important public position is charged with an offence of this sort. Essentially he has the right to be tried by jury. In relation to people holding public positions, individuals in authority are inclined to be influenced by other authorities. The jury has been the fundamental bulwark for both the Government and for the people.
The Minister must not interpret my viewpoint as being that everybody charged with a trivial or petty offence is entitled to trial by jury. I hasten to add that my view, too, would exclude revenue offences from this principle, because of the notorious disinclination of the people to support revenue offences. And there may be other offences of a special character. But in a case such as piracy by wireless telegraphy, I have not heard anything yet that supports a view that is inconsistent with the general principle prevailing in our legislation which, until it is amended, I take from section 12a of the Crimes Act. Unless there is better argument than that legislation imputes to me - the idea of trial by jury being available to a defendant for an offence of a lesser nature - then my watermark, as it has been appropriately called, is 12 months imprisonment or, perhaps, a fine of $1,000. I am not so concerned with the size of the pecuniary penalty; but 12 months imprisonment, according to my view, should be the greatest term that a magistrate can impose if the defendant wishes to elect to be tried by jury.
– T do not wish to speak at length on this subject. I think we have covered the area adequately. Senator Wright referred to the Crimes Act. I repeat that what is set out in the Bill is consistent with what has been inserted in Commonwealth statutes and this particular Act since 1905. No new principle is being enunciated in this Bill. Senator Wright referred to the Crimes Act but I think that the elements involved therein are different from those in this Bill.
This Bill, in amending the principal Act, follows precisely the principle adopted in the Act of 1905. With great respect to Senator Wright, I say to him that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I suppose the beauty of an argument is in the eye of the recipient also. What sort of legal argument could I offer to Senator Wright? It is a question of his own judgment as to how he accepts it. In all the circumstances, I think we should proceed to a vote on this amendment.
– If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then only the Minister could find section 9(1.) of the principal Act beautiful. I think that what the Minister has to appreciate is that there are people who are innocent of the crime with which they are charged. Indeed, our law proceeds upon the presumption of innocence. In order to test our argument let us consider the case of a man who is just plain innocent and needs all the protection that the law can give to him in order to assert his innocence. He is brought before a magistrate and says: ‘I plead not guilty’. When he is called upon to put his case, fundamentally it is to assert his innocence and to try to establish it so that the Crown is unable to prove a case against him. When the case is a serious one, and all the world knows that it carries a penalty of up to five years imprisonment, why is he put in the position of having to take it when the magistrate says: ‘As far as I am concerned you are not getting a trial by a jury; I am the one to make the finding’.
I think the Senate is indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and to Senator Wright for the way these principles have been expounded. I do not think that proposed section 9(1.) should be hallowed by antiquity. The fact that this provision has been in the legislation since 1905 has nothing to do with the point. The principle we have raised has not been raised in a vacuum. It has been raised in order to test what is to happen to people who are tried for this offence and the method by which they are to be tried. It is not to the point for the Minister to say: Try to pick on your principle and we will give you an opportunity on some other occasion - on the motion for the adjournment or by way of an urgency debate which will be talked out. With respect to the Minister, I say that it is ridiculous for him to take that attitude. This principle is with us. It is included in the Bill. If his attitude is any indication, I think that the quicker we amend this section of the original Act the better. I am happy to accept the Minister’s invitation to have this matter put to the vote.
– I cannot allow what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said to go unanswered. He referred to an innocent man appearing in a magistrate’s court.
– Perhaps the man is innocent.
– Surely if he is innocent he is just as safe in a magistrate’s court as he would be if he appeared before a jury. Quite frankly, I could not follow the honourable senator’s argument. It seems to me he was travelling over perilous ground. I know he did not mean what he said to be accepted in that sense. I did invite the Opposition to vote on this matter a moment ago, but I think he should make it clear that this was not what he meant. The way in which he expressed himself could lead to the inference that an innocent man was not safe in the magistrate’s court. I do not think the honourable senator meant this.
– I do not think it is necessary for me to speak again.
That the amendment (Senator Cohen’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 132), on motion by Senator Gorton:
That the Bill be now read a second time
– This Bill seeks to amend the Navigation Act. As the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) has stated, it results from an International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea which was convened by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in 1960. The Opposition takes the view that this Bill should receive as speedy a passage as possible because the amendments proposed relate to international standards.
I take this opportunity, however, to report upon a number of matters which have concerned the Opposition’s Transport Committee and the maritime unions which have had discussions with our Committee, through the Australian Council of Trade Unions. As a result of those discussions, we put before the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) a number of amendments which we suggest should be made to the Act. The reason for our being able to do this was that the Bill was introduced on 6th April last. The discussions to which I have referred were held after that. During this time we met the Minister and asked him lo consider certain amendments. Those proposals have since been considered by the Government. To put on record urgent matters which I think should be considered by the Government in future, I propose to read a letter which was received from the Minister. The Minister has said that they will be considered; six or seven will probably be agreed to.
As 1 have said, we should give this Bill a speedy passage because adoption of the recommendations of international conventions is urgent. We have criticised the Government on many occasions for its delay in adopting the recommendations of these international bodies and the Government’s argument in reply frequently has been that the delay was occasioned by the fact that some of the proposals had to be referred to the States. The letter to which I have referred, and which is dated 21st July 1967, reads:
The Committee’s proposals can be grouped broadly into two categories - firstly, those dealing with amendments of the Bill at present before the House and with other sections of the Navigation Act 1912-1966 and, secondly, those relating to the regulations adopted or in the process of being adopted by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation following the International Conference on the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960. The documents entitled Annex I, II, III and IV, forwarded with your letter, fall in the latter category, being proposed amendments to the regulations produced by the International Conference, which deal specifically with fire fighting arrangements on ships to which the Convention applies. It is expected these will be adopted by the Assembly of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in October this year and will then become part of the regulations under the Convention.
The attached schedule, which lists the amendments suggested by the Opposition Transport Committee, together with the views of my Department on them, is forwarded for your information. In connection with the suggestions that relate to provisions of the Bill or the Navigation Act, I would like to point out that the Bill at present before the House was intended to cover only amendments of the Act necessary to incorporate the provisions of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, with the addition of three or four other matters for which amendments were required as a matter of urgency. I am aware that a number of other amendments of the Navigation Act are desirable, and I hope that the amending legislation to give effect to them will be introduced during next year. Because of this approach I feel that virtually all of the amendments which the Opposition have suggested would be more appropriately considered for inclusion in a Bill dealing with general amendments rather than the present one which is designed principally to give effect to an international convention.
You will note from the attached schedule that my Department, whilst not being in complete agreement with the form of your proposals, recommends that I accept, at least in part, your suggestions in relation to some seven or eight items. Due to the desirability of retaining imperial validity of our certificates of competency, your suggestion regarding section 17 of the Act can be accepted only insofar as it relates to certificates of competency as second mate of a foreign-going ship second class engineer and lower grades, including all coastal certificates. I shall therefore arrange for this proposal to be given effect to in the regulations, as it does not require an amendment of the Bill as drafted at present. 1 agree that certain references to ‘ship’s carpenters’ could be omitted, in the interests of precision, from section 39 and also the Second Schedule of the Act, but as the present form does not impose any disadvantage on the people concerned T do not consider it sufficiently urgent to warrant inclusion in the existing Bill. A somewhat similar position exists in relation to your suggestions regarding reports of character and references to the Marine Council. Whilst I do not agree entirely with what you propose, I consider there is some merit in certain of the suggestions, and these will be examined in conjunction with the proposed general amendments of the Act.
Your proposal for the retention of the provisions of section 200 of the Act is already provided for by the extension of the provisions of section 190a (4.) to include under that section the type of certificate previously covered by section 200. For this reason section 200 becomes redundant and is being repealed.
I agree in part with your contentions in relation to section 219b and my officers are at present endeavouring to arrive at a more suitable formula for calculation of the maximum rate of the additional fine for overloading of ships. Provided a suitable formula can be arrived at, 1 shall consider the inclusion of altered provisions in respect of overloading in a subsequent amendment of the Act.
The amendments the Opposition Transport Committee has suggested in relation to the Regulations under the International Convention have also been considered in detail; however, an alteration to the text of these Regulations can be effected only in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article IX of the Convention, i.e.. by unanimous agreement between the signatory countries to (he Convention or by a two-thirds majority at meetings of both the Council and the Assembly of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation. It may be possible, however, to apply some of the points you have raised in relation to Convention requirements to Australian ships only, where such would not involve the adoption of lesser standards than are contained in the Convention. Of course you appreciate we cannot do this in respect of ships other than our own. Some of your other proposals which appear to warrant consideration at the international level will be brought to the attention of the InterGovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation at the appropriate time. 1 understand the Parliamentary Draftsman is preparing some amendments of the Navigation Bill 1967 for you and. should you decide to go ahead with any of them, 1 would bc happy to discuss your proposed amendments with you in due course.
Following receipt of the Minister’s letter we had meetings, as we should, with the maritime unions concerned. They agreed with the proposition we put forward, namely, that the urgent thing was to have this Convention adopted. Consequently, this procedure is being followed today.
I shall refer to one or two matters which the unions have raised and in relation to which notice was given to the Minister. Not all, but some, seem to require fairly simple action and should be agreed to. The unions suggested that the provisions of section 18b of the Act in relation to the classification of water service groups should be changed lo make sure that all Navy, Army and Air Force groups are identified. Thai seems to be simple. We suggested also that there should be some alteration in section 45a (9.) which relates to a seaman’s right of appeal to the Marine Council. A seaman can lose his right to work for reasons of character. The unions believe that he should lose his right to work only for reasons relating to his employment as a seaman; in other words, no matters outside those relating to his occupation should interfere with his right to work.
There is, too, the question of the definition of ‘wages’, which needs to be looked at. Possibly this is something with which the Minister would agree. A redundancy exists relating to ships carpenters, because the classification no longer exists.
The Opposition and the unions are concerned about the Sixth Schedule of the Navigation (Grain) Regulations. While it is true that this Convention does not go as far as the unions and certain other people would like it to go, and while we raise no obection to the adoption of the regulations, we would like to see in the future a reversion to the 1948 standards because, due to a number of incidents and accidents at sea and the experience of the United States Coast Guard, there is reason to believe that this should be done. The seafaring unions in concert put this matter to us and, because it is so important, we are asking that it be considered. I think our request should go on record. 1 intend to read a statement which indicates that America has now adopted, as a principle, the Navigation (Grain) Regulation of 1948. The statement appears in the May 1966 issue of the NMU Pilot’, the official organ of the National Maritime Union of America. It is in these terms:
Regulations restoring the use of centerline shifting boards in American flag grain carrying freighters have been put into effect by the US Coast Guard. Shifting boards, heavy wooden planks erected in a vessel’s center line to prevent the shifting of grain in heavy weather, were eliminated as a requirement by delegates to the Safe,y of Life at Sea Convention of 1960.
Shipowners claimed then that modern methods of blowing grain into the holds and trimming it left no room for grain cargo to shift. The center.line board, installed at a cost of about $1 per sq foot, was expensive and unnecessary, they said.
In the last 3 years, with the shifting board no longer a requirement, 4 grain carrying freighters sank with the loss of 73 lives. One of them was the NMU-crewed ‘Smith Voyager’ which heeled over and sank in a severe Atlantic storm in December 1964. Four crew members lost their lives during rescue efforts.
The similarity of circumstances surrounding the 4 ship sinkings plus 2 near-disasters aroused suspicions of Coast Guard safety officers. In cooperation with the National Cargo Bureau, a privately supported agency dedicated lo the sate stowage of merchant ships, the Coast Guard began a long and painstaking inquiry into the background of these tragedies.
The statement goes on to report how the regulation has been adopted. With the concurrence of honourable senators I shall incorporate in Hansard a document which refers to the change in the United States grain regulations.
To Steamship Owners, Operators or Agents of Vessels Loading Bulk Grain:
Re: CHANGE IN U.S. GRAIN REGULATIONS
The United States Coast Guard, by notice in the ‘Federal Register’, has amended the regulations for loading bulk grain on United Stales vessels and on foreign vessels loading in United States Ports tinder Coast Guard Regulations.
Briefly, the change requires the use of centerline shifting boards in and below feeders on vessels loading under the stability requirements. The detailed changes to be made in the Coast Guard regulations as printed in the ‘General Information for Grain Loading’ manual published by this Bureau are attached.
The Coast Guard has made this change after careful consideration of studies conducted by the Coast Guard with the cooperation of National Cargo Bureau and American Shipowners of the void spaces found in general cargo vessels loading bulk grain. These studies, in conjunction with the results of a study on the settlement of grain in feeders wherein the results of over 300 ships of all nationalities loading in ports throughout the world, were analyzed and indicated the existence of the aforementioned void spaces. A further analysis indicated that general cargo vessels loaded with grain could assume a list under certain conditions of heavy weather which would cause the grain in the void spaces to flow to one side only.
National Cargo Bureau has also carefully considered these matters and believes that there is a probability that the above mentioned conditions contributed to casualties of ships carrying bulk grain under Chapter VI of the 1960 SOLAS Convention. The Bureau’s Board of Directors, therefore, recommended that the Coast Guard
Under the provision of Regulation 4 (a) and (b) of Chapter VI of the 1960 SOLAS Convention vessels of foreign flag will be permitted to load grain without providing shifting boards or other suitable longitudinal divisions in and below the feeders when so allowed by the Administration of the vessel’s registry.
National Cargo Bureau hereby advises Owners, Operators and Agents of foreign flag vessels that the installation of shifting boards in and below feeders on their vessels loading bulk grain is a desirable feature and urges that careful consideration be given to installing shifting boards in and below feeders on their vessels. We believe the use of these shifting boards will contribute greatly to safety of life at sea and will minimize casualties on grain laden general cargo vessels.
Please feel free to call upon any National Cargo Bureau office or surveyor if you desire further information on this subject.
HEWLETT R. BISHOP
Executive Vice President
That is one important question. There are some other important questions, but the Opposition is satisfied that when the time is opportune we can take them up with the Minister on behalf of the unions concerned. I can assure the Minister that there will be proper consultation with the unions. 1 wish to refer to the attitude of the Seamen’s Union and the maritime unions to the need for certification of examinations. J think this is a commendable move by the unions. They have proposed since 1964 a training scheme for all officers and seamen. Many people have read headlines in the Press criticising the maritime unions and the Seamen’s Union for not having proper regard for industrial standards and the industry itself. The more that 1 consult with these people on industrial matters, the more I am convinced that in relation to the industry they are very competent to say what should obtain; they are also responsible. As a result of their representations a training school was started and there was included in the Seamen’s Award of 1964 clause 9 which sets out the provisions for a basic training scheme. Now the unions propose that the provisions should be extended to the other classifications of seamen and officers. The Newcastle Technical College at present is conducting the training courses in conjunction with the Seamen’s Union and other experts. I am advised that it is a very satisfactory way to induct young people into the maritime service.
Frequently the Opposition has raised the question of long delays in enacting international conventions such as International Labor Organisation conventions and maritime conventions. We have not been satisfied with the position. I do not intend to cover all the references which have been made in the Senate and in the other place about this matter because they are on the record. We think the process has to be speeded up, even in the present constitutional situation. The Opposition, the maritime unions and no doubt the Government are worried about the existing constitutional ability of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate upon matters of navigation and shipping.
I wish to refer briefly to some matters arising from the sinking of the dredge W. D. Atlas’ on 29th May 1966 when thirteen lives were lost. Hansard of 4th May 1966 at page 1497 sets out questions by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and the replies given by the Minister. As they illustrate the problems we are facing I shall quote them so that they may be included in the record. Mr Webb’s questions and the answers given by the Minister are as follows:
Mr Freeth The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The ill-fated dredge ‘W.D. Atlas’ was commissioned to travel from Whyalla in South Australia. Just before it was due to leave Whyalla some difficulties were brought to light by the Seamen’s Union because safety procedures were not being carried out. The Union has reported officially and in its journal that it was satisfied that the representatives of the Department of Shipping and Transport in January 1966 did all they could to have the safety standards observed. However, the vessel proceeded on its voyage and sank with the loss of thirteen lives. Another incident concerning a dredge belonging to the same organisation occurred on 3rd August 1967. A report in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of that date stated that men were taken off the Australian dredge ‘W.D. 53’ by a tug shortly after it had sent out a Mayday call early on 2nd August. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ reported that on 3rd August the dredge, about 100 miles west of the top of New Zealand’s North Island, still had eleven men aboard.
The Opposition and the maritime unions have raised this question before because we are very concerned about the situation. We suggest that an opportunity should be taken again to consider the recommendations and viewpoint of Mr Justice Spicer in the Court of Marine Inquiry into the sinking of the W.D. Atlas’. So that the overall question may be examined by the Government and the great complexity and conflict of legislation studied, I intend to quote some of the comments made by Mr Justice Spicer at page 4587 of his report, where he set out his comments and recommendations.
A perusal of this document serves to emphasise the complexities of these provisions, particularly in relation to a vessel whose owners may have to pay regard not only to the Navigation Act and Australian State Acts but also to the Merchant Shipping Act. In Australia the position is com plicated by the limited nature of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to shipping and navigation. When doubts arise as to the applicability of the Navigation Act regard must be paid to State Acts themselves not uniform in character. Navigation and shipping does seem to be a field in which uniform legislation, if not a common code, applicable to all aspects of navigation and shipping in Australian waters is desirable. Whether this be achieved by methods such as have been employed in relation to the Companies Acts, by reference under Section 5 1 (xxxvii) of the Constitution or otherwise is for others to determine. I merely indicate the need for some action in the direction I have indicated.
I do not intend to read all the comments made about this unfortunate incident. They are readily available to honourable senators. Reference is made to the incorrect application of certain regulations. I will quote Mr Justice Spicer’s comments on the same page of his report in relation to the Navigation (Musters and Drills) Regulations. He said:
The Navigation (Musters and Drills) Regulations provide and in a proposed amended form will continue to provide that a practice muster of the crew for boat drill and tire drill shall be held before the ship first leaves port after the making of an agreement in respect of the ship. This regulation did not apply to ‘W.D. Atlas’ because it was declared in an order made by the GovernorGeneral on 12th January 1962 appearing in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 4 dated 18th January 1962 that the regulations to which 1 have referred and other regulations shall not apply to Dredges and Pilot Steamers. The order in this respect was in similar form to a previous order it superseded which had been in operation for some years. It may be that deep sca voyages by dredges were not in contemplation when tha order was first promulgated.
At page 4588 he states:
There can be no sound reason why the regulations should not apply at least to dredges undertaking deep sea voyages and the same is also true of sections of the Act from which they are exempted, including Division 8 relating to ‘The Agreement’. The form of the order should, in my opinion, be amended accordingly.
At page 4620 he refers to Australian legislation, including Navigation (Life-saving Appliances) Regulations 1959 and 1964, and Navigation (Fire Appliances) Regulations 1959 and 1963. His Honour states that these regulations applied to ‘W. D. Atlas’ at Whyalla and at Portland and Would have applied at Sydney, but it is doubtful whether they applied en route. He refers in particular to Regulation 7 (a) of the Navigation (Life-saving Appliances) Regulations and to Regulation 5 (a) of the Navigation (Fire Appliances) Regulations.
I have put on record some of the opinions. There is no doubt that the whole of the recommendations and comments of Mr Justice Spicer form a substantial basis for consideration of the concern of the industry and of the unions about the constitutional position and the need to have uniform laws. I do not intend to canvass this position fully here. There are other references to the survey for load line and such matters. I put it to the Government and to the Minister that between now and the time new amendments are prepared the Minister might give consideration to these matters. We undertake to submit on behalf of the maritime unions considerations and recommendations, some of which we have already put, so that they may be examined and so that the Parliament may test and check them. The Opposition supports the proposals because they embody international standards. They ought to be adopted quickly. We take the view that there should not be a delay such as has occurred in the past over some of these matters.
– 1 was most interested to hear the comments of Senator Bishop. First, I am glad to know that this Bill, which provides largely for further safety measures, is assured of a quick passage. It is necessary that this be the case. 1 have had, quite fortuitously, a good many problems in relation to the Navigation Act. In the north of Australia, and particularly in the north of Queensland, a number of small ships are used for short voyages. Obviously, because the population in the area is small, the tonnage of the ships is frequently below the limit set quite generally in the Navigation Act. Because I was trying to assist in the establishment of a shipping service to New Guinea, originating at Cairns, so that a lot of the local production of the north could find a greater consumer market, I worked closely with a shipping company in the north in relation to this matter. After a lot of work spread over a considerable time this shipping service has been established. I hope that it will grow and prove of value to the north. I say that in passing but it is a matter of considerable importance.
When we were investigating the problems and looking at the need to abide by the Navigation Act in every regard, we spent many hours in examining the Act. Several of the matters mentioned by Senator Bishop came up for consideration. I do not intend to traverse them again, lt is perfectly obvious from what he said that he and his organisation have been in close touch wilh the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth), and the letter that he read indicates that the Minister and his Department will examine every one of the proposals with a keen interest. This is good. This is more desirable when there is presented to the Senate legislation which one is required to examine closely. Sometimes one sees or hears an amendment read and it. commends itself to him but he is unable to support it because of the impossibility of making background research before the passage of the Bill.
Senator Bishop referred to the great complexity of the Navigation Act. Anyone who has had anything to do with it realises just how complex it is. I defy anybody to take the present Act and find with alacrity the answers to the questions with which he is concerned. That remark leads me to say that one overwhelmingly important requirement is the consolidation of the Act. It has been amended so many times that unless those who are dealing with it are careful to ensure that amendments are inserted in their correct places it is easy to go astray. Indeed, I know of no Act that so urgently requires consolidation and bringing up to date. I have not the slightest doubt that now that these other proposals are being examined the Minister will give serious consideration - he has already told us that he will seek amendment of the Act next year - to the question of consolidating it so that those who have cause to refer to it, and especially people who are not associated with it in a full time professional way, will be able to read it confident in the knowledge that they are following the Act with all the amendments that have been made thereto.
There is one point that I think should be made, lt is quite elementary. From my own point of view as a layman there seem to be insufficient classifications for the various vessels that are in use. As I see it, there are classifications covering Class 1, passenger steamship other than a Class 4 ship; Class 2 ship, cargo steamship other than Class 4 or Class 5 ship; Class 3 ship, a sailing ship other than a Class 5 ship; Class 4 ship, which is, in effect Murray River steamship, but I do not think that phraseology is used; Class 5 ship, which is a vessel of less than 50 tons gross registered tonnage. While there is a general ease of reference to larger vessels, there seems to be a considerable paucity in respect of smaller vessels to which I referred earlier and which are in use in northern Australian waters and particularly in north Queensland waters. I have spoken to shipping men in the area and they believe that further or special classes should be created, particularly in relation to vessels in the smaller range.
Whilst the specifications required by the Department in respect of larger vessels are set out very clearly, frequently the phrase used in respect of smaller vessels - that is, vessels of less than 500 tons - is that certain things shall be done in accordance with the opinion of the marine surveyor. 1 believe that it would be very much easier for a shipping company or anybody else if the things that are required in respect of the smaller types of vessels were specified in the same way as they are specified for larger vessels. I say that, not as my own opinion or from my own experience, but from the experience of people who are operating smaller vessels. They wish to abide by the law, but their problem is that they just cannot find in the Act what the law in respect of smaller vessels is.
Let me give one instance. A shipping company in Cairns wants to find out the wishes of the Department, the law and the marine surveyors. But every time it wants to have an inspection made by a marine surveyor it has to pay a considerable amount of money for fares and time because frequently the marine surveyor has to come from Brisbane. This position exists because the Act does not contain a clear enough definition. If this deficiency was attended to, the smaller people who are operating these services would be able to comply with the Act without a great deal of inconvenience, financial and otherwise.
At times there is quite a conflict between the Acts of the various States. Senator Bishop referred to this matter. Obviously it will be investigated still further by the committee of which he is a member and by the Minister in conjunction with that com mittee. I refer to it because I want to make a point but not to labour it. Senator Bishop asked whether it would be possible to have the Act applied uniformly in all States. This is a very material point. The Act is applied in the instances that I have mentioned. Having made those remarks, I reiterate that I am very glad that the Bill is having a quick passage through the Senate. I repeat that, although this has been described as a very simple and very small Bill, the amendment that I am holding in my hand is only one of quite a number. Even without the present amendments to the Act one needs to be more than a bush lawyer - in fact, a very competent lawyer - to find his way through the principal Act and the amendments that have been made to it since it was last consolidated. I hope that it will be consolidated and brought up to date when it is amended again next year.
– in reply - I thank Senator Bishop, who led for the Opposition in this debate, for the indication that it will give this Bill a quick passage. I acknowledge the points that he made. He spelt out that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) had said that many weighty and important considerations would be dealt with and that a high degree of co-operation would be displayed in considering the problems to which the honourable senator alluded. 1 am sure that we all are delighted with that approach to this piece of legislation.
Senator Morris referred to the many problems associated with ploughing through the Act because of the various amendments that have been made to it. With great respect, I remind him that this is the first amending Bill introduced since the Act was consolidated in 1965. I mention that merely to put the facts on the record. What is to come in the future may bring a little difficulty in interpretation. But at the moment the Act is in a consolidated form.
He referred to the difficulty of knowing what should and should not be done in relation to craft of less than 500 tons. Between 20 and 30 regulations apply to all ships and so have some application to small ships. The short answer to the person who finds difficulty in the interpretation of regulations is that he should go to the Department of Shipping and Transport where, as in any other department, he will find a willingness, an anxiousness and a desire to assist any genuine inquirer in relation to regulations and any exemptions that may apply. That is not to say that I do not acknowledge, as all of us do perhaps a Minister acknowledges this more than most other people do the difficulty that we have when we pick up an Act cold and try to give quick interpretations of it or to advise people on what the true position is according to the law. I conclude by saying that I am very grateful to the Senate for the indication that it will give this legislation a quick passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 191), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68;
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, for year ending 30 June 1968;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1968;
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1968;
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1967;
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics, for income year 1964-65;
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add the following words: but condemns the Budget because -
it places defence costs on those least able to pay them;
it fails to curb administrative waste and extravagance;
it defers and retrenches development projects; and
it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their fellow citizens’.
– Last evening the Leader of the Australian Labor
Party in the Senate (Senator Murphy) referred broadly to the volume of foreign investment in Australia. Some months ago the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred to it in a similar way. In a statement that he made on 27th March this year he referred to the high rate of overseas investment in the development of Australia’s iron ore, bauxite and oil resources in recent years. He said that almost daily novel and breathtaking discoveries were being made and new opportunities for national development were being opened up. All of that is true. One stands bewildered when one makes a minute examination of the projects that have been commenced throughout Australia in the development of Australia’s iron ore, bauxite, oil and other mineral resources. AfterI read the statement by the Treasurer some months ago, I thought that I would test it and see how far I could go in getting reliable information about the volume of investment in Australian iron ore deposits, bauxite, rutile and other minerals. I will inform the Senate of what I found.
I will not condemn foreign investment in Australia entirely. I say that we can afford to have some foreign investment in Australia and to have it used safely. But when it comes to foreign companies owning Australia’s essential resources it is a different matter. It is a different matter when we find them owning, as it were, our deposits of ore and every essential mineral and having the right to sell those minerals on the world market. They would have rights also if Australia’s security were ever imperilled again.
Let me address myself to the three questions associated with foreign investment. The first question is this: Is a high rate of overseas capital being used in the development of Australian iron ore, bauxite and oil resources? The answer to that question is Yes. The second question is this: Are the overseas investments profitable? I would say from the examination I made that they all are very profitable. The third question is: Are the overseas investments in Australia confined to our iron ore, bauxite and oil resources? I will submit evidence in a minute or two to convince the Senate that these overseas investments are not confined to iron ore, bauxite and oil deposits.
I mentioned that I made an inquiry into this matter because I thought that It was sufficiently serious to warrant an investigation. The evidence placed before the public in recent years in various ways in respect of the rich mineral resources of Australia is bewildering. Companies whose finance was provided substantially by residents of other countries have invested in mining activities. Their operations extend lo the mining of bauxite, iron ore, nickel, zircon, rutile, coal and other minerals. Some foreign companies, well provided with capital, are endeavouring to discover oil and natural gas in economic quantities in Australia.
A company named Comalco Industries Pty Ltd, 50% of which is owned by Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd and 50% by Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corporation, was formed in 1956 to develop the vast deposits of bauxite which were known to be at Weipa in Queensland. Present indications are that the reserves of bauxite total 2,000 million tons. But there have been some expert assesment* to the effect that there are 200,000 million tons of bauxite in reserve. Comalco Industries Pty Ltd operates an alumina plant at Gladstone. This plant is now producing 600,000 tons of alumina a year. Work is in hand to enlarge and improve the plant so that the annual production will reach 900,000 tons a year. It is anticipated that the work of improving the plant will cost $4. 8m. Also, 80% of present production is exported overseas, yielding a sum in excess of $28m a year.
Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, through ils interest in Comalco Industries Pty Ltd, operates an aluminium smelter at Bell Bay, Tasmania, which has an output of 54,500 tons per annum. It has been announced that it is intended to increase the capacity of that smelter to 72,000 tons per year. This company also has an 8% interest in the Gladstone refinery project which in time will be one of the largest single stream units in the world. Partners in the project are Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, Kaiser Aluminium Ltd of Canada and Pechiney of France. Production of aluminium fabrication is carried out at a plant in Yennora, New South Wales, and a 20% interest is held in the G. E. Cane group, a large fabricator and merchant of aluminium and other non-ferrous metals.
Should honourable senators visit Weipa they will see the machines which have been designed to collect large tonnages of bauxite from its natural position and transport it to a base from which it will be loaded on to ships for transportation to Gladstone. At Gladstone, honourable senators will be able to observe how the bauxite ore is transported by an endless chain moving from the ship to the alumina plant. The plant and buildings cost the company $115m. I have been assured that because of the strong demand for alumina in the majority of developing and industrialised countries substantial dividends will soon become payable. There is an alumina works at Kwinana in Western Australia. It is proposed to increase its capacity to 830,000 metric tons a year.
– Yes, so far as the honourable senator is concerned. The works are owned and controlled by Alcoa of Australia Pty Ltd. The plant commenced production in 1963 when it had a capacity of 210,000 metric tons per annum. Later, its capacity was increased to 410,000 metric tons per annum. In 1966, when further alterations were made, the capacity was raised to 620,000 metric tons per annum. It is anticipated that the plant will be producing at the rate of 830,000 metric tons in the second half of 1969. Alcoa of Australia Pty Ltd is 51% owned by the Aluminium Company of America with Australian partners being the Western Mining Corporation, Broken Hill South Ltd and North Broken Hill Ltd.
Conzinc Riotino of Australia Ltd believes in dispersing its interests in the mining industry and owns 60% of Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd in Western Australia, lt has a very experienced partner in the project, Kaiser Steel Corporation of California, which has a 40% interest. The two companies hold two large temporary reserves in the Hamersley Ranges in Western Australia. It has been reported that the ore reserves total 4,500 million tons, and contracts have been obtained with Japanese steel mills for the supply of 65.5 million tons of haematite ore, 10 million tons of low grade ore and 16 million tons of pelletised ore. Small contracts have been signed with the Steel Company of Wales and other European mills, and there is a strong possibility that further contracts will be negotiated in the near future. The development of the deposit will have to be carried out by Hamersley, and it is estimated that $10Sm will be expended on providing a deep-water port, laying 179 miles of railway and building workmen’s quarters at the port and at the site of the ore deposit. Hamersley’s arrangements in the north west of Western Australia were made with the approval of the Western Australian Government. I believe that Hamersley will be expected to establish an integrated iron and steel industry at a cost of S80m. Iron ore has been shipped by Hamersley to its overseas customers since some time in 1966. It is anticipated that the contracts entered into will, during a period of 16 years, return the company S700m.
A subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, registered as Titanium and Zirconium Industries Pty Ltd, treats the sands on the beaches of north Stradbroke Island, near Brisbane, for futile and zircon, with fair success, lt was well known that Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd owned 51% of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd and that, when its contract with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority ended in November 1963 the mine was placed on a care and maintenance basis until the Australian Government authorised the company to search for uranium ore once more.
Two substantial Australian companies arc linked with an American company calling itself American Metal Climax Incorporated Ltd for the purpose of developing the iron ore deposits at Mount Newman, Western Australia. Great progress has been made with the project. A well known Australian company, through Dampier Mining Co. Ltd, will have a 30% interest in the venture and will participate in export sales as well as take ore for use in its own furnaces. Contracts have been negotiated for the sale of 100 million tons of ore to Japan, with shipments commencing in 1969. The Western Australian Government was required to approve of the detailed proposals for the development of the Mount Newman deposits and of the harbour facilities at Port Hedland. Those are some comments on ore production in Australia which, I wish to point out, is in the hands of foreign owned companies or companies in which foreign investors have a dominating interest.
Brisbane probably will be the first city in Australia to have natural gas supplied for domestic and general purposes. Very recently the South Brisbane Gas and Light Co. Ltd entered into a contract with Associated Pipelines Ltd, owned jointly by the Associated Group and the Southern Union Gas Co. of Dallas, Texas, to construct a pipeline 280 miles long between Roma and Brisbane, at a cost of Slim. It is believed that the areas which will provide the natural gas have ample supplies available to meet all demands made on thom now and in the future. Should additional supplies be required, however, these known supplies could be easily tapped. A company trading as Austral Pacific Fertilisers Ltd has also contracted to accept supplies of gas. This company’s intention is to construct a fertiliser works on Gibson Island in the Brisbane River, at a cost of $70m. Associated with Austral Pacific Fertilisers Ltd in the Gibson Island project will be the Dow Chemical Co., Skelly Oil of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Swift and Co. Ltd, an American company which has operated meat works in Queensland for many years. Another fertiliser manufacturer in Queensland, ACF and Shirley’s Fertilisers Ltd, recently announced the establishment of new fertiliser works in the Queensland coastal centres of Townsville and Gladstone. ACF and Shirley’s is slightly more than 50% owned by Australian Fertilisers Ltd of New South Wales, which is in turn a 53.3%-owned subsidiary of ICIANZ Ltd. ICIANZ, on its own account, is directing a massive investment, programme in fertilisers on the New South Wales market. The company has a majority interest in the $35m Eastern Nitrogen Ltd venture which will manufacture nitrogenous fertilisers at Walsh Bay, New South Wales. Other shareholders in Eastern Nitrogen Ltd are CRA, Mitsui and Co., and the United Statescontrolled King Ranch Australia Pty Ltd. which is forcing through a big pastoral development programme in northern Queensland.
Now I come to coal. Coal is a very Important mineral. Australia has perhaps unlimited resources of iron ore and very little use is made of those resources. Any country purchasing iron ore should have suitable deposits of coal to deal properly with the iron ore. Evidently Japan lacks such deposits and has become a ready market for Queensland’s coal. Quite recently a new coal contract was made by Utah Construction and Mining Co., a giant American developer, with Japan for the supply of an additional 7,900,000 tons of coal. The agreement was made with Mitsubishi Shoji Kaishi Ltd, one of the big Japanese trading companies. The particulars of the contract were contained in a cable from San Francisco. It is understood that major Japanese steel and chemical firms will use the coal. The contract is an extension of Utah’s previously confirmed orders of 13,500,000 tons to be supplied to Japan. The total quantity of coal, therefore, to be supplied by Utah Construction and Mining Co., the giant American developer, from the Blackwater coal deposits, to Japan will be 21,400,000 tons. The coal will be supplied over a certain period.
The Queensland Government, because of this huge coal order, has undertaken to strengthen the 260 miles of railway between Blackwater, where the coal deposits are, and Gladstone, the shipping port. The order will send the value of exports to more than $180m. The Queensland Government has agreed to spend $10m on the strengthening of the railway. Utah expects to employ 200 men in the coalfield at Blackwater. I was informed that a representative of Utah stated that coal production would begin next year with 700,000 tons, increasing to 1,500,000 tons in 1969, and levelling off at 2,400,000 tons in 1 970. Moura is another coal producing area. Hard coking coal is mined at Moura and it is demanded wherever the steel industry flourishes. Production at Moura will reach 500 million tons a year in 1970. The haulage of coal on the new 112-miles long Moura to Gladstone railway line is to begin next April. The regrading work on the railway between Blackwater and Gladstone will take approximately three years. These are things that have to be done by the Queensland Government for the benefit of the companies which are operating on Australia’s coal resources.
The companies have not confined their activities to minerals and ore deposits. Not at all. Quite recently, a land development scheme was inaugurated in the Northern Territory with the object of putting 200,000 acres of land on Tipperary station under cultivation over a period of five years. The
whole of Tipperary station will be cleared and cultivated in about five years and sorghum will be grown on 2,500,000 acres. lt is believed that the backers of the Tipperary project include Sir William Gunn, a Mr Dean Mathey, a former President of the Bank of New York, and other American investors. The Tipperary Land Corporation expects to spend $20m during the next five years to achieve a successful harvest of sorghum. It is believed that all the sorghum produced on Tipperary land will find a market waiting in Japan.
Sir William Gunn, who is, I understand, the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, has interests in five Northern Territory cattle stations with a total area of 8,943 square miles, or more than 5.5 million acres. I will list his interests in those stations. In Tipperary, which has an area of 3,560 square miles, he has a 5% interest; in Douglas Station, covering 768 square miles, he has a 25% interest; in Cimbat Station, covering 1,282 square miles, he has a 25% interest; in Elsey Station, covering 2,085 square miles, he has a 9.9% interest, and in Hodgson Downs, covering 1,248 square miles, he has a 9.9% interest. There are 73,000 head of cattle on those five stations. I want to emphasise that Tipperary station is owned principally by American interests and they intend to improve their holdings by spending a sum approximating $20m.
The mining operations about which I spoke will not employ much labour. The plant has been designed in such a way that the companies will not have to employ much labour. They have adopted a scheme of mechanisation in mining that was completely unknown in Australia. According to the information supplied to me, the plant operates very successfully, especially from the viewpoint of the investors.
I am coming to a subject in which I have always been very interested and I will tell you, Mr President, in a moment what it is. Every State in the Commonwealth has many students leaving school at the end of the year. In Queensland this year about 30.000 school leavers will be looking for jobs. That situation will arise in November or December. It is then that the test of this Budget will be made- the real test. If the economy of Queensland absorbs those 30,000 school leavers without long delays and long periods of employment having to be endured, then the Budget can be classed as a success. The same will apply in other States.
– What is the honourable senator’s tip?
– I am hopeful. I have seen these situations over the years. Before I entered the Parliament I interested myself in them in the same way as officers of the Department of Labour and National Service are interested. I am hopeful. I watched the situation last year and to my great pleasure nearly all school leavers were absorbed as early as March. But I want to point out that the industries which are being established in Australia as a result of foreign investment do not offer employment to children, nor to many men. Not at all.
The absorption of 30,000 school leavers into industry over a period of two or three months will present a problem to the parents of those children and to the authorities established for the purpose of assisting unemployed persons to gain agreeable employment. I know that Queensland’s industries have not increased to any great extent over the past year; certainly not to the extent that they can readily absorb 30,000 students within a few months. There are no new industries of any magnitude in that State. No large industries were established during the year. As I indicated a while ago, I do not want the ambitions of these students to be dimmed. I do not want them to be discouraged for life by having to wait unnecessarily - for six months or twelve months - before getting a job. If the economy of Australia is such that these 30,000 school leavers in Queensland can be absorbed then I will be happy indeed, and so will the parents of those children.
There is another problem confronting Queensland. I told the Senate about the glorious bonanza that Queensland and Western Australia have been for foreign investors. Investors have experienced an Eldorado ever since they commenced mining operations and ever since their companies entered the grazing fields. I am coming to another problem - a serious one. For some years, the Queensland Government has observed the policy of replacing steam locomotives with diesel engines. That policy is now causing serious problems to arise with respect to the staff of the Railways Department. Many classified members of that staff, after many years of loyal and efficient service, are now considered to be at the level of redundancy. This word redundancy is a new one in Australia’s industrial dictionary. There appears to be no acceptable answer to this serious problem. On several occasions I thought of suggesting to the Department of Labour and National Service that it take an active part in trying to find suitable employment for those unfortunate employees who are confronted with hardship after completing years of loyal service. Recently the Australian Labor Party held a conference and I think it covered the subject of redundancy. I think also that the Labor Party has a policy in relation to this subject. Something should be done expeditiously for those railway employees in Queensland who have such a dim future. To appreciate their lot, it has to be remembered that they live in towns such as Rockhampton, that they are still sending their children to school in those towns, that perhaps the children are in the higher grades at school, and that suddenly the breadwinner of the family becomes redundant to the industry in which he has been working and in effect is requested to leave home, to go to some other State or some other part of his State and start life again.
At the present time, a Senate select committee is conducting an inquiry into the introduction of containerisation for the general transportation of goods. It may be accepted that at an early date containerisation will be in operation at certain ports in Australia. I am unable to predict by how much the labour force on the wharves will be reduced when that happens. I saw the bulk handling of sugar introduced in Queensland and I know how seriously that movement affected employment on the wharves. I know of a particular town in north Queensland called Lucinda Point where approximately 200 wharf hands had been employed throughout the year handling the sugar products of the district. When the bulk handling of sugar was introduced, the services of those men were no longer required and the bright township jus: diminished and faded away.
I do not know that much can be dons, about these things. The trend not only in
Australia but throughout the world is to devise a form of manufacture or a manner of doing certain work which will result in manual labour being entirely extirpated. I am afraid that is what will happen with the introduction of containerisation. Recently a ship loaded with sulphur and some other fertiliser came to Australia. The following article about it appeared in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ of 15th August 1967:
A bulk carrier of a type never seen in Queensland before began unloading 13,000 tons of sulphur at the ACF and Shirley’s wharf at the week-end.
I read this article because it makes an interesting story about a new development of which 1 think the Senate should be informed. It continues:
She is the 21,800 ton ‘Star Billabong’, owned by the Norwegian company, Star Bulk Shipping Line.
The ship is different in that she carries (instead of the normal cranes or derricks) a ?.0-ton travelling gantry.
The gantry’s grab can pick up 7-8 tons at a bite and has a maximum discharge rate of 300 tons an hour.
The gantry is the invention of a Norwegian and is called a munkloader
In the case of the ‘Star Billabong’, the gantry straddles the ship’s entire open deck and can travel almost 380 ft on its own rails lo discharge from any of the vessel’s six holds.
A ship’s officer said yesterday that discharging which had begun late on Saturday should bo finished by Friday.
The vessel would then go to north Queensland to unload another 2,000 tons of sulphur and 3,800 tons of superphosphate.
He said the ‘Star Billabong’ was one of four bulk carriers which the line had modified in the last two years for the Australian trade at a total cost of about $1,200,000.
The gantries were ideal for use in ports where the proper shore facilities were lacking, he said.
The method of operation is for the grab to be lowered into a hold.
It is hoisted above deck level and moves out along the arm of the gantry which extends 40 ft over the wharf.
From this position, material is deposited into the waiting trucks on the wharf.
I read that article because that type of ship has its own unloading device which can lift seven tons at a bite.
Mechanisation has even spread to our meatworks. One meatworks at Rockhampton - Lakes Creek - has operated for longer than I can remember. Recently more than $2m was spent on mechanising the class of work performed there. The Lakes Creek meatworks was recognised as an important place for employment because the killing season extended over many months each year and provided remunerative work for the operatives. Under the mechanisation scheme, seasonal work has been almost eliminated with the result that about only one-half the number of workers previously engaged is now required. That is another picture of what is happening in industry.
I set out to paint a picture of what is happening not only in Queensland but in some of the other States as a result of foreign investment. I have mentioned the very important resources that foreign investors are harvesting, treating to some extent and then exporting to other countries. Just how long this arrangement can continue will have to be given serious consideration. Sooner or later we shall have to give thought to the conservation of sufficient iron ore reserves for Australia’s future requirements. Perhaps we will have to make provision for her requirements over the next 50 or 100 years. But it is something that has to be worked out. We cannot allow foreign controlled companies to take out the whole of Australia’s iron ore and export it overseas.
I come now to a very important Queensland industry about which I must say something before I resume my seat. The world price for sugar has been fluctuating almost from day to day. For example, about two months ago it was £Stg23 a ton. Within a week or so it increased to £Stg26 a ton. Then it went to £Stg28 a ton. When the Middle East crisis commenced, it rose to £Stg32 a ton, only to fall again to £Stg20 15s a ton. Today it is about £Stg19 5s a ton. The future does not look bright for the Queensland sugar growers. They are accustomed to experiencing fluctuations in the price of sugar, but things have been gradually getting worse. I mention this matter because the sugar industry is one of the big employing industries of Queensland. If we do not have a profitable sugar industry the outlook for many Queenslanders from the employment point of view will be very gloomy indeed.
– What proportion of the crop is exported at these low prices?
– Let me explain the position. There are two pools and two prices for sugar. There is the local sugar pool into which sugar for horns consumption is placed. The price for that sugar is more or less fixed by the Commonwealth Government and is satisfactory. But the sugar that goes into No. 2 pool has to be sold on the world’s market and the export prices fluctuate considerably. I shall be happy to give the honourable senator the figures privately, lt will be remembered that only two years ago the area under sugar production was increased. It was increased deliberately because it was believed that prospects for selling om the world market existed. At that time the big sugar crop in Europe had failed and the price for sugar on the world market went up to over £Stg100 a ton. That, provided an El Dorado for the sugar growers of Queensland. But since then the industry has been more or less in the doldrums. I do hope for a brighter period ahead for the industry because so many workers are employed in it.
– I rise to support the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget Papers. I think that those honourable senators who heard Senator Benn’s speech will agree that in many respects he supports the Budget which has been brought down by the Government. He pointed out how much we have achieved as a result of this new investment in important Australian industries. I am pleased to support the Budget because although provision has been made for a continuation of the expansion of industry which we have seen over the past twelve months, the Budget is not over-expansionary and wo play its part in keeping in check any inflationary tendencies.
Not only the Government but also Australians generally must be pleased at the results achieved during the past twelve months. There has been a considerable improvement in the gross national product, and the high rate of employment which has been almost continuous since the coalition Government came into office in 1949 has been maintained. Furthermore, our- overseas funds, which are of special importance these days, have been maintained at a satisfactory level. These factors reflect creditably on the policies which the Government has pursued.
Last year the Government thought it necessary lo stimulate the economy to create an increased demand for consumer goods and to maintain the high rate of employment which, as I have already said, we have been privileged to enjoy for a number of years. Those objectives having been achieved, the action taken iti this Budget to slow down slightly the expansion of industry during the ensuing twelve months will have the effect of slowing down a rise in costs, of which we have been a little afraid in the past year. The consumer price index has moved up somewhat and the cost of production has increased somewhat. In my opinion the Government has wisely acknowledged that a continuation of the stimulus it gave the economy last year, particularly in the public sector, could have somewhat serious consequences in the next twelve months.
Since I have been in this Senate I have referred repeatedly to the difficulties being experienced by primary industries, particularly the unprotected industries like wool and meat. The level of our exports generally during the last twelve months has been good, having been bolstered to a degree by an increase in our mineral output. The level of our rural exports also has been good. This has resulted particularly from an increase in the production of wheat and many other commodities. Unfortunately, world prices which we have had to accept for many of our commodities have been down an average of about 4%.
I feel it is my duty today to refer particularly to the plight - I use that word advisedly - of the wool industry. There has been an increase in production over the past 12 months and according to the estimates which have been issued recently by graziers organisations, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and wool brokers, we can expect a further increase in production during the forthcoming year. Unfortunately, however, there has been a pretty serious fall in prices. Comparing opening prices on 1st July 1967 with opening prices on 1st July 1966, we find that prices for average 64s quality were down by 9% plus a- further drop of 8% since 1st July, so in twelve months there has been a fall of 17%. The fall in prices for the coarser wools has been even more pronounced. Prices for 56s quality wool were down bv as much as 17% in the twelve months ended 30th June 1967, to which must be added an additional 10% since then, making a total fall of 27%. These factors are of particular significance to the wool industry and to the economy of Australia.
Some few months ago I referred in the Senate to the increase in the cost of production. I shall refer to it again. In 1964-65 and 1965-66 there was an increase of 5% in the cost of production. Fortunately, in 1966-67 there was a fall to approximately 3%. I think honourable senators, particularly those engaged in the wool industry, will agree that an increase in the cost of production coupled with a fall in prices is of great significance to the industry, and I am sure we will be faced with a crisis in the next twelve months. Fortunately, in many instances those engaged in this industry have been able to diversify their activities by increasing their production of cattle and wheat. However in the purely sheep areas where an increase in production is practically impossible and where they cannot grow wheat or carry cattle, graziers will be facing a particularly difficult time this year, having regard to falling prices and increasing costs of production.
I mention briefly that many areas, particularly in South Australia, Victoria, southern New South Wales and Tasmania, are still experiencing a drought. This has contributed to the closing of the gap which previously existed between the prices we received for our wool and the cost of production. Wool growers face a pretty difficult time. However, I am confident that this Budget set out deliberately to stabilise costs and that it will be of assistance to the industry. We must all acknowledge that an annual increase in production of something like 11% to 2% in all industries is historical and inevitable. The only hope any industry has of coping with an increased cost of production is to increase production.
The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has shown that he wishes to promote confidence in the private sector. I strongly support the section of the Budget which has that objective. I was very pleased to hear Senator Scott and Senator Webster refer last night in very definite terms to the importance of the private sector to the Australian economy. We must, never forget that the stability of our economy and the growth we have experienced over the years have been due largely to the free enterprise policy of this Government. The Labor Party has always been critical of this aspect. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Leader Of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) are critical of assisting the private sector. 1 remind them that every man’s job, whatever this vocation, is dependent on a strong economy supported by private or free enterprise. If private enterprise is given sufficient incentives and an assurance that costs will be contained at a reasonable level, it will bring about continued growth and increased productivity.
I trust that the Government, as the Treasurer seems to indicate, will place a brake on public expenditure. I fear that some departmental heads adopt the attitude that public spending is always justified. Perhaps this is indicated to some degree in the growth of the Commonwealth and State Public Services. To my mind it is alarming. The numbers employed by the Commonwealth, State and local government bodies have increased from 824,000 in 1961 to about 940,000 in 1966, an increase of 13%. The numbers of Commonwealth public servants have grown from 231,000 in 1961 to about 272,000 in 1966. I am sure that the economy is getting bogged down in a welter of administrative work at Commonwealth, State and local government levels. We are unquestionably overgoverned in view of the size of our economy. We have limited resources in finance and manpower and we must use them to the best advantage if our growth is to be maintained and improved. Growth will come if free enterprise is allowed lo expand, as I believe it should be allowed, and public expenditure is directed to those enterprises which show the most promise to lift our production. These moves must be co-ordinated if we are to get the best results. 1 have no doubt that some primary producers will be very disappointed with the Budget because it does, not contain for them any direct benefits. They have received, of course, some taxation concessions which will be helpful but they have not received any direct benefits such as subsidies. Industry generally would welcome a lowering of costs, which could be of much more benefit than subsidies and similar relief. I remind the Senate of the figures I quoted during the last sessional period. For example a 1% decrease in costs in the wool industry represents more than $30m annually. If the Budget helps to reduce costs a little or to keep them at the level 1 have mentioned, I think we can expect good results from it.
I come now to the question of decentralisation. I think anybody who has given the latest census figures proper consideration will be alarmed at the situation. I am fully aware that decentralisation is the reponsibility of the States, but the situation is getting so bad that it will not be long before the Commonwealth Government must take a greater interest. If the State governments feel that the rate at which centralisation is proceeding is beyond them, they should approach the Commonwealth. 1 believe that before long the Commonwealth Government will be forced, for economic reasons, to come to the assistance of the State governments and local government bodies lo a much greater extent. 1 have some figures provided by the statistical service of the Parliamentary Library relating to the population of the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney. With the concurrence of honourable senators 1 shall incorporate them in Hansard. They are as follows:
I also have some figures to illustrate the drift from the rural areas of New South Wales to the cities. According to the census, there has been an increase in the city areas of New South Wales of about 250,000 people, or 10.4%. The population of Newcastle has increased by about 18,000 people, or 6.1% and that of the Illawarra district by about 30,000 people, or 18.1%. Very few rural regions have increased their population. I shall cite figures for the four biggest areas: The Namoi area has shown an increase of about 5,000 people, or 5.2%; Monaro-South Coast area, about 1.800 or 4.7%; Murrumbidgee about 7,800, or 6.6%; and the central Murray - the area around Deniliquin and Tocumwal - about 1,600, or 5.5%. Many decreases have occurred in rural areas. In the Macquarie region, which includes such important towns as Dubbo, Narromine, Coonabarabran and Coonamble, there has been a decrease of about 1,500, or 2.3%. In the Mitchell region there has been a decrease of about 2,000, or 1.9%. It is significant that the greatest increases in population have occurred in irrigated areas such as those along the Murrumbidgee, the Murray and the Namoi. The area of the southern tablelands is in a different category. The figures speak for themselves. On a State basis, at present 75% of the population live in the Sydney, Newcastle and Illawarra areas.
As honourable senators can see, the situation in New South Wales is reaching an alarming slate. The Askin-Cutler Government has appointed a Minister for Decentralisation. It has looked into this problem and is doing a very good job in attempting to. correct the position. After twenty years of Labor Party control, when little interest was taken in the matter of decentralisation, it is fair to say that the State was getting into a serious position. Therefore, the appointment of a special Minister and the establishment of a special department to promote decentralisation are of particular importance.
The main object of the New South Wales legislation is to encourage and assist the establishment and expansion of country manufacturing, processing and wholesale distributing industry. Country industry is defined as that which is operating wholly outside the County of Cumberland, the City of Newcastle and the City of Greater Wollongong. I should like to make one brief reference to the powers and functions of the Development Corporation established to assist in decentralisation. These powers and functions extend, with the Minister’s approval or at his request, to the preparation and submission of plans or schemes for the industrial and economic development of the State, including the expansion or development of particular industries. The Corporation has power to conduct inquiries into all aspects of economic and industrial development, including the attraction of overseas industry and investment to New South Wales and the decentralisation of industry.
The establishment of this Ministry, which I hope will be followed by similar moves in other States, is of. some importance, as I think honourable senators will agree. Its main purpose, of course, is to attempt to minimise the problems of Sydney and its environs and to increase population and industry in rural areas. The latest figures confirm the continued growth of secondary industries in the Sydney area but there are pleasing aspects in relation to some country regions. There is an increase of 7% in secondary industry in the Namoi region, 6.2% in the Richmond region, 6% on the Southern Tablelands, and 14% in the Murray-Darling area, which is in the vicinity of Mildura in Victoria. Unless a concerted effort is made to attract industry to country areas and to achieve the maximum development of rural areas adjacent to inland cities and towns we will have a costly problem in increasing production and national growth. Unless this is done we will have more chaos in capital cities, lt is well to remember that for every basic worker who is employed, whether in the city or in the country, two extra people are required to provide the necessary services.
When the Department of Decentralisation and Development was first established, the New South Wales Government Commissioned Dr Max Neutze of the Australian National University to undertake a study of the patterns associated with the concentration of population in the Sydney area and its environs. I should like to read a few extracts from a speech delivered some time ago by the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation, Mr Fuller, to a meeting in Sydney. In relation to Dr Nuetze, Mr Fuller stated.
His work was supported financially by the State Government, the Social Science Research Council and the Reserve Bank of Australia. The purpose of this study was to assess the economic returns that can bc expected from the outlay of public funds to encourage decentralisation and the decree of success likely to accrue from alternative decentralisation programmes.
His report was duly issued and attracted wide publicity, principally in the cost of parking in big cities, which overshadowed other important aspects in the Press. Or Neutze did point out, however, that the cost of traffic congestion, involving resumptions, new road and bridge constructions, traffic delays, restricted and costly movement of goods and people, were major factors in increasing city service costs.
We had been thinking in terms of increasing costs of extending water and sewerage facilities as likely to become astronomical to cope with city growth. Dr Neutze highlighted an aspect to which we had given less attention than it deserved because of the prior absence of research to point the way. With so few inland towns of sufficient size on which to base his studies - except Canberra, which is unique - Dr Neutze nevertheless concluded that basic service costs run on a U-shaped curve. They start very high for a very small community, they reach an economic minimum in medium sized centres and they increase again when a city grows beyond optimum size.
American thinking confirms this conclusion that there is an optimum size for economic service costs in a city of from 150,000 to 200,000 people. Another estimate indicates that a city of 4 million people could have a budget ten times that of a city of 2 million.
Although Neutze claims only a limited predictive value for Sydney in his report, some of his firm conclusions concerning the cost of traffic congestion are important. The effect of a 10% increase of traffic growth on present road users’ costs amounts, according to his calculations, to S 17.8m per year. Each new resident of Sydney generates a need for 940 vehicle miles per year run in the city, and the external effect of this one person, through traffic congestion, costs $65 a year. By comparison the cost in terms of traffic congestion of one extra person in Wagga would be 20c.
Wagga is a city of 25,000 people. Mr Fuller continued:
There is confirmation of this theory in the fact that merely to keep metropolitan traffic moving, taking into account the increase in motor vehicles at the present rate, the Government must spend SI 40m in the next six or seven years to increase the capacity of the metropolitan road system.
All this information bears out the enormous cost that is involved in increasing the services necessary for larger cities. I will not read any more of Mr Fuller’s speech. The Government should be concentrating on giving more of the finances available at present - meagre as they are - towards helping decentralisation. Surely there is a lesson in this report which has been made to the New South Wales Government. ‘We must slow down the rate of growth in Sydney and divert more of our energies and finance to rural areas. Being from New South Wales, 1 realise that the Government of that State has assisted very definitely in this way by financing new industries in various towns - I know of several instances of this - and by providing freight concessions. But 1 feel that this is not nearly enough. We must go much further and give some assistance of a major nature. I would like to look at one further aspect of this question.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I move: (0 Thai a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into medical and hospital costs in Australia and, in particular, to examine the operation and administration of the medical and hospital benefit schemes and to recommend such legislative and administrative measures by 1 lie Commonwealth as will, having regard to the constitutional division of legislative power in Australia, enable the provision of the optimum standards of medical and hospital care for all.
Because of those circumstances and the concern felt by members of my Party, I gave notice of this motion for the appointment of a Senate select committee.
Since that time there have been new developments. The highlight of them has been the announced intention of the medical profession to have a general increase in medical fees, which would be reflected throughout Australia. The Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association indicated that there would be a general rise in fees, but that the fixation of the amount of the rise would be left for the various branches of the Association to determine. In asking the Senate to set up this select committee, my aim is not to attack the medical profession. This motion is in no way an attack on that profession.
The problem that the community is facing is that the health scheme has broken down. Its objectives are nol being met. The situation is desperate and calls for an inquiry by this legislature. There has been a breakdown in the Government in dealing with the health of the community.
– Was there not a breakdown prior to 1949?
– Last night the honourable senator who just interrupted me was amused because the pensioners were complaining that they had been left without any redress in the Budget. He is exhibiting a similar attitude tonight. There is no doubt that a very serious situation exists in Australia. We have a proliferation of medical and hospital benefit funds. They are unable or unwilling to meet the increasing costs which will be imposed on the patients because of the increases in medical fees. They have announced quite clearly that they do not intend to increase their benefits. The Government has brought in a Budget in which there is no provision for increased payments by it. So it appears that again the burden will fall on the ordinary citizen in a way which is quite contrary to what was envisaged when the scheme was set up by the National Health Act of 1953.
I shall remind honourable senators of what Sir Earle Page said when he brought in the Bill that consolidated the various enactments that had been covering the introduction of the scheme and the various administrative arrangements made in the early stages of the scheme. Sir Earle Page said that the Bill: . . would consolidate within the framework of one statute the health services which would lay the foundation for a national health scheme for the Commonwealth . . . this Government . . . has endeavoured to bring into being a national health scheme that will remove from the people worry and anxiety caused by the costs of sickness, and give confidence in the permanence and solvency of the scheme. The costs of medical and surgical treatment and hospital care have grown enormously through advances in medical science. Immediate action must be taken to combat them before the community is overwhelmed.
We have now reached the situation where, despite the operation of this scheme, the community is being overwhelmed by the increasing costs, as I will soon demonstrate. Sir Earle Page went on to say:
The concept and design of the scheme have been worked out carefully to secure the following results:
The statutory enactment of this measure will provide the final and complete answer against the socialisation of medicine.
The establishment of a partnership with
State governments, the professions and insurance organisations on a longterm basis gives to all parties that sense of security needed to develop and provide a satisfactory and comprehensive cover against sickness for the whole of the community.
. . . The universal system of insurance has brought so many contacts that all anomalies arc being removed gradually, such as waiting periods and disbarment of age, chronic disease, etc. . . .
. . . Pensioners are provided with free doc tors and medicine . . .
I am not reading the whole of the remarks of Sir Earle Page. I am picking out some matters which are pertinent to the present circumstances. In his fifth point, Sir Earle Page said:
The professions have been brought into an active and voluntary partnership which enables the whole scheme to work smoothly, economically and efficiently, and prevents abuse of the scheme.
He said further:
The medical benefits scheme will provide that the total value of the insurance benefit plus the Government’s contribution is always slightly less than the actual fee.
He said again:
Thus, for a very modest contribution a contributor and his dependants will receive very substantial benefits which will cover the major portion of his medical expenses in the event of sickness leaving him with only a nominal sum to pay.
Sir Earle Page said also:
We desire to increase hospital revenues not only by direct assistance to the States but by the scheme of hospital insurance which we are convinced can extricate hospitals from their financial difficulties in the long term.
That was the situation as Sir Earle Page envisaged it. He said that the Act was the final solution to all the problems and that it represented the complete answer.
We find that on 8th July of this year the executive of the Hospitals Association of New South Wales decided unanimously to call for the introduction of a Government approved national health scheme to give the community adequate protection against the cost of hospital and medical services. Executive members, representing administrators of 174 New South Wales hospitals, said that the scheme was necessary because of rising doctors’ fees and other medical charges and that it should be based on the schemes now operating in other countries. The executive said that present health benefit schemes did not give the public adequate protection. The stage had been reached where people could not afford medical attention. The executive decided to press for the national scheme after several hours of discussion in Sydney on 7th June of this year. They asked that all political parties support their proposal. I have paraphrased the remarks of that body.
– What was that body?
– That was the executive of the Hospitals Association of New South Wales, representing the administrators of 174 New South Wales hospitals.
Today’s ‘Australian’ contains an article which deals with the remarks of Professor Griffith who, I understand, is the only professor of hospital administration in Australia. The article reads:
To rebuild Australia’s sub-standard hospitals could cost the community more than $1,000 million . . .
Professor Griffith said that while other activities were being undertaken many of the buildings in which doctors were trying to practise modern medicine were built more than 70 years ago. The article continues:
But. he warned that just to build new hospitals or to rebuild existing ones could lead to an enormous waste of money. Population growth and movement had to bc taken into account. Some of the half-empty hospitals of today were busy in the gold-rush days.
Professor Griffith said that there ought to be a rearrangement of the hospital system in the country. He said that there ought to be regionalisation. The report continues:
Major hospitals in the metropolis would be integrated with base hospitals in the country.
He said that while some metropolitan hospitals now were overcrowded there were many outside the metropolitan area that were substantially empty for much of the year.
Hospitals ran economically only if they were at or near capacity.
In other words, Professor Griffith was saying that a lot could be done by reorganisation of the hospital scheme to cut down the cost of hospital care.
Professor Griffith has spoken on an earlier occasion about medical services. His words are worth recalling. On 1st April of this year he said that about $28m was wasted annually in Australia because of hotch potch financing of medical services. He made these remarks at a discussion panel at the 13th Post-Graduate School of the Australian Institute of Hospital Administration. The Professor said that about $12m a year was lost because of the way that hospital benefits were organised and that at least another $10m a year was lost because of bad debts. He estimated that collecting fees would take up another $6m and that this too was an underestimate. In his view - it seems to be borne out by the figures that are available - the cost of medical and hospital care in Australia amounts to approximately $ 1, 000m a year. He went on to say that proper organisation of hospital care should involve the rearrangement of organisations. He said that all States should have a hospitals and hospital services commission which would incorporate all hospital associations, the hospital and charities commissions, the hospital benefits associations and the Repatriation Commission. He continued:
This way we would have a complete integration of mental and general hospitals and of the respective hospital service organisations. 1 don’t think thai doing this would require one huge Government body. lt could start at a national level, then go down to a Stale commission, a regional commission and finally a district commission.
One of the problems that concerns us is the proliferation of medical and hospital benefit funds. The number of hospital benefit funds as at June 1966 was 1 11. They covered about 78% of the population. The number of medical benefit funds was 80, covering about 76% of the population. The reserves of these funds as at 30th June 1965, being the latest figures that are available to me, stood at $24,110,576. The reserves in the hospital benefit funds totalled $52,969,450. The percentages of contributions represented by management expenses for the year ending 30th June 1965 were, in the case of medical benefit funds, 15.6%, and in the case . of hospital benefit funds 12.4%.
Honourable senators will recall that criticism was expressed by Professor Griffith of inefficiency in the operation of such funds. Without having to depend on the figures which Professor Griffith mentioned, it is obvious to anyone that all the large capital cities have fund schemes. These organisations have great buildings. They have staffs and the bigger ones have computer systems. They have all the attendant facilities necessary to operate these funds in competition with one another. It is obvious that there is a great deal of duplication and, from a national point of view, there must be a great deal of waste. The question which has to be considered is whether the proper way to organise a national health scheme is through such a large number of organisations.
– Does the honourable senator have the yearly income and yearly expenditure figures?
– Yes, I have those figures and can give them to Senator Wright. The figures I have are those available as at the end of 1965 and would show the position. In regard to income, payments made to the registered medical benefits organisations by members during that year, in round figures, amounted to S46m. Payments made to those organisations by the Commonwealth amounted to S41m. Payments by way of fund benefits amounted to $44m, and by way of Commonwealth benefits to S40m. I could elucidate the position by indicating that during the year ended 30th June 1966 the percentage of the cost of services paid by each party - that is, the funds, the Commonwealth and the members - in regard to medical fees was: funds, 35.7%; the Commonwealth, 33.9%; and the members, 30.4.% Obviously, even at 30th June 1966 the concept of the medical benefits scheme had broken down. The concept envisaged by Sir Earle Page was that persons who joined one of these funds and paid the required contribution would be able to have all their medical fees paid, except for a nominal sum. A small sum was to be the only payment made by the contributor.
– Sir Earle Page mentioned a proportion of at least 90% to be met by the funds.
– That figure has been quoted often and accepted by the Government; at least 90%. Some honourable senators may have been absent when I read from Sir Earle Page’s speech when he introduced the original Bill in 1953. He said that the funds would’ pay all but a nominal sum; that the funds and the Commonwealth benefit would pay an amount which would be only slightly less than the total fee.
– Was Sir Earle Page referring to the medical benefit funds, the hospital benefit funds or the whole health scheme?
– He was referring to the whole health scheme. I read from his speech. He said that this scheme would extricate the hospitals from their difficulties and would be the solution to the whole problem of the socialisation of medicine. He said that the answer was to set up a scheme under which, if the people joined a fund organisation and paid their contribution, the funds, together with the Commonwealth contribution, would pay all but a nominal sum to be met by the contributor.
– The figures to which you referred were in relation to the medical benefits scheme?
– Yes, they were.
– When you quoted 32%, you were not referring to the whole scheme?
– No. Those figures did not relate to the whole scheme. Perhaps I should indicate the reserves.
– The reserves that the honourable senator quoted covered both hospital and medical benefit funds?
– Yes, I gave the reserves. I will now give some other figures to illustrate the magnitude of the operation. The number of contributors as at 30th June 1966 was: in medical benefits funds, 3,312,735; in hospital benefits funds, 3,488,850. The difference between the contributions and the benefits during the financial year 1964-65 were: for medical benefits funds, $6,362,146; for hospital benefits funds, $7,530,154. For that financial year the contributions exceeded the payments by $13,892,294.
– The contributions exceeded what payments?
– The contributions exceeded payments of benefits by the funds by over $13m.
– Where did those figures come from?
– The figures come largely from answers given in the House of Representatives. Certain answers were given in the House of Representatives on 13 th September 1966 to the Leader of the Opposition. Those figures bear out the ones I have just mentioned. Without wearying the Senate with figures, even as at last year the original concept had broken down. The scheme was not operating in the way it was intended to operate and was not doing what Sir Earle Page said it would do. The contributor was required then to pay some 30% towards medical benefits.
Obviously, with the increase in medical fees the contributor will be required to pay more than 30%. The funds have indicated that they are not prepared to utilise their reserves to increase the benefits. The Government has indicated that “it is not prepared to increase its contribution. Inevitably the patient must pay even more than the 30%. I understand that already the figure has risen to somewhere near 40%, which is close to half the amount of the fees. There are anomalies in the field of hospital benefits because there are limits to what a patient can receive by way of combined Commonwealth and fund benefit. Much the same problem arises where the public is unable to meet the cost of hospital fees. The hospitals are unable to cope. The hospital administrators have said that the scheme has broken down. They say a new scheme is necessary, that this one will not work. The funds are either unable or unwilling to meet the situation with which we are faced. The time has arrived for someone in the legislative branch to look at these questions.
– What were the circumstances in which that conference of hospital administrators was convened? Was it politically inspired?
– I can safely say this: The Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party did not inspire this conference. I doubt whether the Australian Democratic Labor Party would be able to inspire it. The Australian Labor Party did not inspire it. This was a meeting of hospital administrators; an ordinary meeting of the executive of the Hospitals Association to deal with the problems that the hospitals were facing. It is notorious - I do not need to quote figures to show this - that hospitals all over Australia are in difficulties. This scheme has not met the problems of the hospitals. What Sir Earle Page, in all his honesty and sincerity, intended to do was to extricate the hospitals from their financial difficulties. I will repeat what Sir Earle Page said:
We desire to increase hospital revenues, not only by direct assistance to the State, but by the scheme of hospital insurance which we are convinced can extricate hospitals from their financial difficulties in the long term.
The scheme simply has not done this and the hopitals are meeting more and more difficulties. Public disquiet can only be relieved only if a committee of this Parliament is set up to investigate the operation of the scheme, to ascertain why costs of medical and hospital care cannot be met under this scheme, and to suggest a way in which the increasing costs of this care can be met.
There is provision under the constitution for the Commonwealth to exercise legislative power in respect of medical and hospital services, pharmaceutical services, sickness and hospital benefits, and medical and dental services, with the proviso that such laws are not to be such as to authorise any form of civil conscription - a provision with which this Party agrees. We agree that there ought not be any form of civil conscription so far as medical and dental services are concerned. We would also hope that that principle would be extended generally throughout the community and that the system of civil conscription which now applies to so many of our citizens would be done away with.
But there it is; the Commonwealth is the fountain of finance. It is the only party which can really take action to relieve this situation from which the community at large is suffering, and from which our citizens are suffering. Whereas the hospital administrators said that they wanted action, the hospital position is steadily deteriorating. More and more people are unable to pay for hospital treatment. This is one of the greatest social and political issues of our time. There is a necessity for an inquiry into these matters. They should not be dealt with on any narrow basis at all, or in the form ot an attack upon the medical profession. That is not the way to see the matter in its proper perspective. There ought to be a proper inquiry by the legislative branch and such measures should be recommended as - in the wording of this motion - ‘will, having regard to the constitutional division of legislative power in Australia, enable the provision of the optimum standards of medical and hospital care for all.’
If we are going to provide this, surely there must be an inquiry. The present scheme is simply not operating properly. It has broken down. The executive branch has failed to take the steps necessary to resuscitate it - if it is capable of resuscitation. It is for the legislative branch to inquire into this acute problem. I ask honourable senators to support this motion. On a previous occasion a suggestion was made by the representatives of the Democratic Labor Party that the Senate already had some committees and therefore there was no necessity to set up further committees. I hope that such a suggestion will not be made in relation to this matter. Apart from the domestic committees dealing with Standing Orders and so forth, which relate to the domestic affairs of the Parliament, there are at present only two select committees of this Senate. One of them is investigating the container method of handling cargoes and the other is investigating the metric system of weights and measures. Important though those committees are, and even though the DLP has a member on each of them, I suggest that the matter we are discussing now is of major importance, not only to the legislature itself but also to the people of Australia. I do not think that in the internal affairs of Australia there is any other question which so concerns the people of Australia as does this matter of medical and hospital care.
The breakdown of the system affects every home in Australia, lt is encumbent on the Senate, when faced with an opportunity to set up a committee to inquire into this matter, to seize the opportunity to do so. I ask the Senate to support this proposition. I do noi want to suggest the answers to the various questions which will arise. Those questions have been canvassed in the newspapers over the last six months. Answers have been put forward. The various political parties have some general answers to the questions. Whatever may be the outcome of the suggestions that have been put forward, there is an urgent and a critical problem facing us. The medical profession has its problems. The funds have their problems. The hospitals have their problems. The Commonwealth has its problems. There ought to be an inquiry by a dispassionate body such as a select committee of this Senate.
I have no doubt that honourable senators sitting on such a body would approach the matter, as they always approach these questions, without any desire other than to serve the welfare of this nation. For these reasons 1 ask the Senate to support this motion as a means of throwing some light on the appalling dilemma which is facing this nation, and every family in the nation, in relation to hospital and medical care.
[8.37] - Mr Deputy President, 1 rise to speak on the motion which is before the Senate at the moment - a motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). As I rise I am mindful, as Senator Murphy reminded us, of the great work that was done by a Government Minister, Sir Earle Page, in setting up the health scheme which now operates in Australia. I think there is one thing above all else that every senator in this chamber is very aware of and that is that we are very conscious of the importance of the health services, and of the care offered in this particular field. The call by the Opposition for a committee to inquire into health costs and services is at least an indication that honourable senators opposite are desirous of informing themselves more of matters in this field. But I do not feel that it is the business of the Parliament to provide an education for them in this particular field.
The Opposition has now decided to put forward its ideas about health services, lt if- »elcome to co so. But I do n.,t fee! that the setting up of a committee, as the Opposition wishes, and all that this would involve, is what the Opposition is entitled to have, because the Opposition has neglected to keep itself thoroughly informed on matters concerning health The Opposition could have kept itself informed by the normal processes of research and inquiry. This call for a committee of inquiry into this matter demonstrates, I believe, that the Opposition has greatly lost touch with (he reality of health affairs. If there were any real value to be had for this Parliament from such an inquiry, indeed the Government would be most happy to have such a committee established. But we do not feel that this is so. lt is good to remind ourselves that the facts relating to the Government’s performance in health affairs are readily available to anybody who cares to read them. Each year a veritable mine of facts and figures relating to Commonwealth health services in the form of the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health is presented to the Parliament. I wonder how many honourable senators opposite have studied that report and assimilated the information contained in it. They should study it thoroughly because it contains a great deal of valuable information for those who are interested in our health services.
Behind all these comments by the Leader of the Opposition there is a belittling of the health services of Australia, a belittling which is most unjustified. I remind honourable senators opposite that when they were in government they endeavoured to introduce a national health scheme but were unable lo do so. It is good to remind the Opposition, too, that it was this Government, when the late Sir Earle Page was Minister for Health, which introduced a workable health scheme which is recognised as being a very fine scheme indeed.
The suggestion put forward by the Leader of the Opposition presupposes that the special inquiry would be able to get a comprehensive picture of the costs and performances of Australia’s health services. Let us examine that point. I believe that such an inquiry could do nothing of the kind because many of the health services of the country are provided by State governments and local authorities. Senator Murphy spoke of hospital costs. Here again I remind him that the hospitals are conducted by the State governments. Would this Parliament really achieve anything by setting up all the apparatus of a committee to investigate matters which are largely outside its control? That in fact is what it would be doing if it accepted the Opposition’s suggestion.
Another thing which the Opposition’s move for a select committee presupposes is that there is something wrong with Australia’s health services. I say emphatically that that is a fallacy. Australia’s health services are earning more and more international recognition as a model of what can bc achieved by individual responsibility balanced with government protection. We should be proud of this achievement instead of trying to belittle it. In the early part of this year - only a few months ago - a special report on Australia’s health services in a responsible London newspaper, the Daily Telegraph’, stated that Australia’s national health scheme worked without engendering the more or less chronic state of crisis which appeared to be characteristic of medicine in both Britain and the United States of America. This too is a recognition of the work done by the health services of Australia.
Admittedly medical and hospital costs are rising in Australia as indeed they are in other countries of the world. The tremendous advance in medical and hospital techniques, the development of specialised and costly equipment such as the heart-lung machine and the artificial kidney machine have made health care more costly, but the costs of treatment in Australia are not out of step with general economic development. These advances have made a wider range of specialised facilities and a higher standard of treatment available to those who need them. I believe I speak for every person in this chamber when I say that we want the people to have the advantages of these higher standards of treatment and specialised facilities.
Let us look at a few other facts. There are pressures on the cost of health services in this country. These are caused by the continually rising tide of expectation of health services. The people of this country are getting good service from their national health scheme and they are using it more and more. That is a very important point. Nowadays people are able to go to their doctors as often as they need to without being inhibited by the costs of this service. In 1954, when the national health service was begun, the average number of medical benefit services per person covered was 1.34. This figure has risen steadily over the years; each person now receives an average of 3.3 services a year. The number of pharmaceutical benefits dispensed per head of population in Australia in 1961 was 3. This figure has also shown a steady rise; in 1967 it was 4.6.1. There has also been a steady rise in the rate of hospital benefit payments by the Commonwealth Government. I emphasise these figures because they are important and should give to Senator Murphy and other interested people some very valuable information. In 1954 the number of claims per 100 members of hospital benefit organisations was 19.9. in 1967 the comparable figure was 33.4.
Reference has been made to the amount of money paid to medical benefit funds. Let me emphasise that the Government share paid to medical benefit organisations is very close to that paid to the patient by the medical benefit organisations themselves. The amount of Commonwealth benefit paid by the funds - that is, the medical benefit funds - was $42.9m in 1966-67 while the amount paid, by medical benefit funds from their own revenue in the same year was $48. 9m. This amount included $2m paid by medical “benefit funds for ancillary benefits. Those are important figures and percentages. They are important as demonstrating the success of the health services of Australia.
The rising tide of expectation of health benefits could spell danger to any national health scheme which does not have built into it a firm cornerstone of individual responsibility. Here in Australia our hospital and medical benefit schemes are designed to encourage people to insure themselves against hospital and medical costs, and the public of Australia have demonstrated their opinion of the schemes by voluntarily joining the benefit organisations lo what is virtually saturation point for our population. The Opposition should note that we have clearly demonstrated what might be called consumer satisfaction. In a sophisticated national health service such as ours, which is based on voluntary participation by the people who are receiving health benefits and those who are providing them, it is surely noteworthy that all the parties are basically satisfied. These are important aspects.
The costs to the Commonwealth Government of its contributions to the national health scheme are, of course, considerable; but they are not begrudged, and they have never been begrudged. The Government has always shown itself willing to increase its commitment to health services wherever this can be done within the principles of the scheme and while it is also committed to a wide ranging programme of national development and an expanding role in international affairs. This Government has always looked at these situations with its eye on the future welfare of the people of Australia.
It seems that, on the one hand, the Opposition would have us believe that there is a critical shortage of health particularly hospital services - this was made rather clear by the Leader of the Opposition - and on the other hand that Government money is being squandered on health services. I remind the Senate that this is a matter for Commonwealth and State Governments. The State governments are responsible for providing hospital services and the Commonwealth Government by virtue of the hospital benefits scheme, contributes extensively to meeting hospital costs. In 1963-64 hospital benefits paid by the Commonwealth amounted to $56.2m. This sum increased to $63.6m in 1966-67. In addition, under the hospital benefits insurance scheme sponsored by this Government the fund benefit paid by hospital benefit organisations to insured patients rose from $21. 6m in 1963-64 to $69m in 1966-67.
I want to refer now to the Opposition’s assertion that Australia is not getting value for the considerable amounts spent on health services. Any realistic appreciation of health services in this country will show that we are getting very good value indeed. I referred previously to the fact that Australians generally are using the national health service more and more. In the quantitative sense, that is an indication that they are getting good service. Even more importantly, however, they are receiving health services of a kind which recognise - this is a tremendously important point - that human dignity is just as important to the sick as it is to the well. I believe that this is a concept which can be all too easily lost sight of when we talk about the strict management of health services.
We have built into our national health scheme a system of checks and balances which ensures that, the people receive good service and are not financially embarrassed in paying for that service. We have seen to it that the people who provide the services are adequately rewarded, both in terms of pay and of job satisfaction.
I want to refer now to the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the cost of the medical and hospital benefits schemes. In the administration of the medical and hospital benefits schemes one of the primary objectives is to return to the contributor in the form of benefits as high a proportion of the amount he pays in contributions as possible. For this reason organisations are required to ensure that their management expenses do not exceed ceilings fixed by the Commonwealth. In 1965-66 registered medical and hospital benefits organisations had overall management, expense rates of 14.6% and 12% respectively of contribution income. These percentages art considered to be satisfactory. They compare favourably with the overall rates of insurance companies in Australia which in 1965 amounted to 22.1% for ordinary business and 32.5% for industrial business.
The Commonwealth has followed a policy of non-interference in the internal administration of these organisations. However, in the interests of Contibutors and the schemes generally the Commonwealth has laid down these management expense ceilings within which organisations are expected to operate. These are matters which whould be brought forward, because I believe they are of importance to the Senate. Depending on the particular tables that an organisation might bc operating, the ceilings fixed for management expenses currently range from 6% to 20% of contribution income. The average combined rate of management expenses for medical and hospital benefits funds for the Commonwealth as a whole in 1965-66 was 13.2% of contribution income.
In speaking to the motion before the Chair let me emphasise that we believe in the importance of providing for the people of Australia the best possible health service. While the right of a free choice of services remains, we have an efficient diagnostic device with which to judge the health of our national health scheme. The scheme would seem to be healthy enought in view of the fact that very nearly the whole of the eligible population of Australia has chosen to join it. Of course, the Government is not complacent about the health services it provides. It has always shown that it wants to do more and the best it possibly can for those who need assistance. lt is not complacent cither about the costs it incurs in doing so.
I repeat that we believe there is no need to set up the suggested committee of inquiry simply because the Opposition wishes to take part in the exercise to inform itself better. Nor do we believe there is any need to set up the suggested committee of inquiry when we remember that the Opposition, when in office, wanted to establish a national health scheme but was not able to do so because the scheme was not acceptable. This Commonwealth Government, with the aid of various Ministers for Health and of dedicated officers in the Department of Health, has brought into operation a health scheme which is performing a great service for Australians and is recognised in other nations of the world as a particularly successful scheme.
– I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Murphy. I am sorry that this debate is developing along party lines and is being used for political purposes, because I believe that the health and welfare of the Australian community should be above party politics. It is stupid for one political party to claim that it has a sole interest in this very important aspect of our national life. I regret that the opposition to Senator Murphy’s motion is following party lines.
The main point of the motion is that a committee of inquiry should be set up so that the optimum standard of medical and hospital care can be provided for all. Surely that should be the aim of all members of this chamber. That the Opposition has reason to be disturbed by the present difficult position of our hospitals is borne out in Western Australia by the great concern recently expressed by Dr Hislop, a Liberal member of the Upper House. He is an expert specialist in his field and I have no doubt that he is an adviser to the State Government on health matters. He has recently expressed the greatest concern because of hospital conditions and health conditions generally in Western Australia. He has said that very few hospital beds have been added to the total available in the public sector In Western Australia. He suggests that none have been added in the public wards in the private hospitals for some years.
The hospital position is deteriorating rapidly because of the great number of hospital beds that are occupied for very long periods by victims of the ever rising toll of the road. Secondly, many hospital beds arc being used for long periods by elderly members of the community for whom sufficient facilities are not provided in homes for the aged and such institutions. If honourable senators at present elected had had any experience of what a committee can do with regard to the health of the community they would- not deal with this matter on party lines. I was a member of the Senate in 1943 when the Social Security Committee worked within this Parliament. The three political parties of that time and members of both Houses were represented on that Committee. We went very deeply into questions of health and produced unanimous reports. I regret that Senator Sir Walter Cooper is not in the chamber at present because he is the only other member of that Committee who is still serving in this Parliament and he could back up what I am saying. As the outcome of the inquiries of the Committee the first national health scheme was introduced to Australia. We visited hospitals and took evidence in every State. We realised that some form of national health service was long overdue. The Curtin Government, which was the Government of the day decided to bring in the first national health scheme despite the fact that we were fighting an all-out war.
I have said again and again that I was present at a conference held in this House in December 1944 when members of the British Medical Association attended. They were all very sympathetic. We ironed out our differences. We modified some of our claims and they made suggestions to us. We thought we had produced a very worthwhile and workable scheme. The spokesmen for the BMA returned to their office in Sydney to consult with their executive and to give the final imprimatur to iiic health scheme. The Committee was reconvened for the following Monday to receive the report from the BMA spokesmen. We arrived at Parliament House and sat here for hours but the representatives of the BMA did not turn up. After repeated telephone calls to Sydney, the chairman of the Committee - the late Mr Barnard - was told that the BMA was no longer interested. 1 am very surprised and disappointed that I find it necessary tonight to criticise Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin’s contribution to this debate because she and I usually see eye to eye on the social problems of the community. She said that we have lost touch with community thought about a national health scheme and that there is no need for an inquiry. An inquiry has never hurt anyone. If the scheme is working well, the inquiry will prove that that is so. If there are any defects in it, the inquiry will show how those defects can be remedied. That is our aim. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin said that that is not the business of this Parliament. Of course it is. Since politics are being brought into the debate I will say that there would not be a hospital benefits scheme in Australia today had it not been introduced by the Chifley Government. That Government made an initial contribution of 6s a day for every hospital bed that was used. That was not an arbitrary figure plucked out of the air. It was the result of the recommendations of the Committee which inquired into these matters. It found at that time that the full amount received by the States from people who were ill in the public wards of public hospitals was slightly more than 5s 9d a day. So the sum of 6s a day was decided upon as the payment to be made to the States, provided that no further cost accrued to the patients in the public wards of public hospitals. People wishing to enter intermediate wards or private hospitals received 6s a day from the Commonwealth and paid the balance themselves.
I was very pleased when that legislation was enacted. For years I had walked along
Murray Street in Perth and had seen a big notice board outside the Perth Hospital, on which was printed:
Perth Public Hospital
For the treatment of the indigent sick.
In case people did not know what that meant, printed underneath was:
Treatment of the sick poor.
Patients had the badge of pauperism on them before they entered the hospital. They had to fill in all kinds of forms before they could obtain out-patient treatment at the hospital. Many dedicated doctors gave their services free in those hospitals to help the sick poor - or the indigent sick, as they were so gracelessly described on the notice board. They gave the patients the benefit of their skills, not as a right but as a privilege gracefully given. The notice board came down and Perth citizens got the Royal Penh Hospital for the treatment of the sick. That system of free treatment in public hospital wards was the order of the day until the Western Australian Labor Government was defeated. Today Queensland is the only State in which free treatment is given in public hospitals. That is a monument to the Labor Government which instituted it. No non-Labor Queensland Government has been game to introduce the payment of fees in Queensland’s public hospitals. As a matter of fact, an attempt was made not to pay Commonwealth hospital benefits to Queensland, if I remember rightly, unless Queensland fell into line. However, I am not certain on that point and I will leave it to people who know more about it than I do.
Since the Chifley Government introduced the hospital benefit of 6s a day, the amount paid by the Commonwealth Government has not increased very much. It is almost compulsory for people to belong to a hospital benefits scheme. I am now talking from personal experience. I know what it has cost me over the last few years. I am very grateful indeed to the doctors in hospitals with whom I have come in contact. I thank God that I have been able to pay for the services I have received from them, but it has been a very expensive business, particularly when specialist treatment has been involved. In the field of specialist treatment lies the greatest disparity between the fees charged and the benefits paid by the funds. The amount paid by the funds is a little higher for the first visit to a specialist, but the proportion decreases as the treatment continues. The people who need the benefits most are the people who do not receive the full benefit. If a person happens to be sick longer than the funds think he should be sick, the funds cut out the benefit. The funds decide on the number of days that a contributor can be sick. lt is not the doctor who decides how long his patient should be sick; it is the benefits funds. They fix that. In any twelve-month period a person can be sick for so long and that is all. The funds will pay the full benefit for a certain period. If the patient does not get well overnight that is just too bad, because hospitalisation then becomes his own responsibility.
– ls that rule general to every organisation?
– It is with the hospital benefits fund in my own State. If even a few weeks before the expiration of twelve months from the time when the patient became ill previously he has a relapse, or something ill befalls him and he has to go back into hospital, the benefit does nol start until the twelve months have expired. These are matters that need to be investigated.
Sir Earle Page said that the object of the scheme was to remove from people the worry of being ill. Nobody goes to hospital because he wants to and nobody becomes ill because he wants to, unless in the case of attempted suicide. Even then the person does not want to go to hospital; he wants to go to the cemetery. In any case, that is an indication of some other form of illness - a mental disturbance.
I will give honourable senators a personal example of the cost of hospitalisation. Over the past twelve months my own medical and hospital bills were in the vicinity of $1,500. Although I am paying to the fund at the top contribution rate for both medical and hospital benefits, I received only a little over 50% of that amount - I think $868 was the actual amount - because I had been ill a little while before.
– It is a long way from the 90% .
– Yes, it is a long way from the 90%. If I had not been able to afford to pay, I do not know what would have happened. It is all right to talk about the funds being used by so many people. It is said that so many people in Australia are contributors to the funds. They have to be contributors. This is a form of taxation, particularly of the family man. He has to take out this insurance on the health of his family because as sure as heaven if he allows his contributions to lapse that will be the very time when some member of the family will get sick and he will be faced with big hospital and medical bills.
As 1 said earlier, it is in the realm of specialists that the greatest disparity occurs, and this is the age of the specialist. Once upon a time a patient could go to the family doctor for everything from childbirth to a boil but medicine is now very highly specialised, and once a patient gets out of the realm of the general practitioner he finds himself in the hands of half a dozen specialists, and in my experience no two specialists have even the same scale of fees. I am not dealing now with operation costs or theatre costs in various hospitals, but there again there is a disparity, and quite a big one, between the amount that a patient gets from the government and the funds and what he pays to the medical profession. 1 am speaking from experience. I would not like it to be thought that I was not grateful to my medical advisers and hospital authorities. I am just stating the plain facts of the case.
I cannot see why a committee could not be set up in the same way as our Social Security Committee, which came into being as a result of the activities of all members of both Houses. Much was made of the fact that a Labor government could not bring down a national health scheme. That was not our fault. As far as the pharmaceutical benefits scheme was concerned, the doctors objected. They said that they wanted to use 100% of the formulary of the British Pharmacopeia. Because many of the drugs in the British Pharmacopeia had not been tested about 90% of the drugs were to be made available through the scheme that we were to introduce and that allowed for the other 10% to be tested in the medical world before they were added to the free list. The doctors said that this was limiting them, but as soon as the Liberal Government came into office the doctors accepted a formulary which provided for a percentage of drugs much lower than 90% and which gave to them much less freedom than did the Labor Party’s formulary. The doctors also told the Labor Government that having to write prescriptions in duplicate would take up a great deal of their time, but they did not mind doing them in triplicate at the beginning of the national health scheme of the present Government. I mention these thing lo show that the opposition to the Labor Government’s scheme was really political. One of the greatest political forces in this country has been the British Medical Association. We all know that that is so. ft has a greater hold on its members than has any trade union.
– It is the Australian Medical Association now.
– It is the Australian Medical Association. I beg the honourable senator’s pardon. That is the only organisation that can raise the fees of its members just as it pleases.
– The honourable senator is saying that it is the strongest union?
– I say that it is the strongest union. I know that doctors in Western Australia who agreed to participate in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme were practically blacklisted by the BMA of that time.
– It would nol do that.
– It happened. I know personally doctors who were so affected. It ill behoves anyone to point the finger at the Labor Government. It did its utmost to bring in a hospital benefit scheme and a national health scheme. The result was that when this Government came to office it found that the groundwork had been already laid. It found people willing and waiting to accept a national health scheme. I for one was pleased when it came into being, even with its limitations. I hope that the Government will not just treat this proposal as being a party political matter because all people in the chamber and all members of the Senate since I have been here have really felt a deep personal interest in the health of our community. If by setting up this committee of inquiry we will assist the States with their problems, which are real, we shall be doing something worthwhile. In my own State Dr Hislop has been urging the very thing that this motion envisages, that is, the setting up of a com mittee to inquire into the State hospitals in Western Australia. If we can help the people in the various States to solve the health problems of this nation we as a National Parliament are bound to do it, because to ensure the welfare of the people of this country should be the very first duty of all members of the Senate.
– It is always a pleasure to follow Senator Tangney in debate. I am conscious of her plea that this matter should not be debated on a basis of endeavouring to gain some political advantage. I am sure that her speech was based on a genuine concern for the Australian people and particularly for sick people. I would like to believe that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) was equally as free from a desire to gain some political advantage by bringing forward this particular subject when he did so. I am inclined to believe that that was his desire because I cannot feel that some of Senator Murphy’s remarks were not rather exaggerated. I believe that when he said that the Australian national health scheme had broken down he was exaggerating his case. The health scheme has not broken down. It is functioning and it is functioning well. I will not be guilty of exaggeration by claiming that it is perfect or that there are matters connected with it that cannot be improved.
The evolution of medical practice and hospitalisation generally means that we have an ever recurring problem to deal with. Hospitalisation and medical care are not static things. They are ever changing, ever developing and, we hope, ever improving.
The original concept was one of insurance. In all insurance schemes the person insured bears part of the cost. Senator Murphy presented the ideal of a former Leader of the Australian Country Party, Sir Earle Page, who was mainly responsible for the implementation of the health scheme as we know it; namely, that the patient should pay only 10% of the cost. But, in doing so, Senator Murphy distorted the figures somewhat. I admit that in respect of the part of the scheme to which he referred the figure is 32%. But over the whole scheme of hospital benefits as well as medical benefits the percentage of the cost that is borne by the patient is not of that order.
The health scheme problem is not confined to Australia. To a great extent it is one of cost. I have before me an article that appeared in the 28th July issue of Time’ magazine. It has the heading Medicine’ and the sub-heading ‘Costs’, lt reads:
Up, Up, Up - At Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the daily rate for semi-private rooms is now $50 - almost twice the rate ten years ago. At Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital, it costs $« 10 to have a baby, compared with $250 in 1957. At Houston’s Methodist Hospital, patients are billed 25% more for anaesthesia than in 1962.
A graph of daily hospital charges demonstrates a rise of about 85% in the ten-year period between 1957 and 1967.
Increasing cost is a universal feature of modern medicine and medical care. The fact that the Australian health scheme is subject to rising costs is no condemnation of it. I do not know whether the Opposition has some idea that we could improve our present scheme by approaching either the New Zealand scheme or the United Kingdom scheme. From what I hear of those schemes, the problems are many and real. In a city newspaper the other day there was an article in which it was claimed that, under the British health scheme, if a person was near death he could get. immediate attention; if he was half dead he had to wait half a lifetime for attention; and for certain operations - notably hernia operations - a person had to wait about eight years to gain admission to a hospital. So it is apparent that other health schemes have very great problems.
– Would not an inquiry reveal that?
– An inquiry would delineate the problems. I have no doubt of that. But in this motion we are being asked to set up a Senate select committee to deal with a problem that has very great ramifications. I am looking at this matter in a practical way. I am just as concerned as members of the Opposition are that these problems be solved. But I have very grave doubts that the inquiry that would bc put in train by the appointment of a Senate select committee in the present circumstances of the Senate would be the appropriate or best way of dealing with the problem.
– What circumstances does the honourable senator have in mind when he says ‘in the present circumstances of the Senate’?
– The circumstances are that this session of the Parliament will end within a relatively few weeks and the Senate has before it a considerable programme of legislation as well as the consideration of the Budget. In addition, most senators are engaged on parliamentary committees of various sorts. The select and standing committees occupy a good deal of the time of many senators. I know that members of the Opposition are not concerned about the result of the forthcoming election; but I must admit that some Government senators will have to go to the electorate.’ The matters that I have put before the Senate are practical ones that we have to consider when we are deciding whether a Senate select committee would deal with this problem in the way in which it should be dealt with.
I have before me a cutting from a Perth newspaper headed ‘A Doctor Calls For an Inquiry on Hospitals’. This is a problem at the State level. As the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) quite rightly pointed out, the States have the primary role in the administration of hospitals. This could quite rightly be the basis of an independent investigation by the State administrations. They could come to the Commonwealth with their ^submissions as a result of a State investigation of the problem.
– Who will make the judgment in the Commonwealth sphere - the Parliament, the Department of Health or the Cabinet?
– In this case the initial responsibility is clearly on the Government. It has been charged with the responsibility of administering the health scheme. I was about to say that at the State level there is a demand by certain medical men for an inquiry into the problems of hospitals. 1 believe that there would be a very wide demand for such an inquiry. The problems facing the hospitals in Perth include a shortage of beds which is occasioned firstly by the terrific number of motor accidents and secondly by the great number of geriatric patients. This is a problem initially for some inquiry at the State level. But 1 still question whether the best form of inquiry would be one by a select committee.
There has been much criticism of the Australian health scheme. We have to judge it by results. I do not know how valid the judgment is when we compare the death rate in Australia with that in other countries. Surely it is some measure of the efficiency of a health scheme that Australia’s death rate should be 8.5 per thousand compared with 9.3 per thousand in the United States of America and 12 per thousand in the United Kingdom. This is an indication that Senator Murphy’s statement; that our health scheme has broken down is not true.
– Has the honourable senator figures showing the position before wc had a health scheme?
– No, I have not. I am speaking on the present figures. The Australian health scheme has had a currency somewhat similar to that of Great Britain. Infant mortality rates in Australia compare very well with those of other countries. The infant mortality figure for Australia is 19.5 per thousand as against 25.3 and 22.2 per thousand respectively in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Surely this is a tribute not only to our health scheme but to the medical fraternity, the hospital authorities, the nurses and those who care for the sick in Australia. Our whole set up for the medical care and hospitalisation of ill people surely ranks amongst the best in the world. To say that our health scheme has broken down is just nonsense.
Senator Murphy made the claim in his speech on the Budget last night that Australia’s medical costs were the highest in the world. He quoted a figure which indicates that he must have been reading his proof wrongly or that he has been misinformed. He said that the latest available Government figures revealed that the cost of health services in Australia was $72 per head compared with $48 per head in the United Kingdom. Expenditure on health this year will be about $ 1,000m which, Senator Murphy said, was almost the same as our expenditure on defence. Senator Murphy must have read the Budget Speech a little bit hurriedly. I fear that he has taken as the basis for his figure the payment to the National Welfare Fund, which amounted to $l,071m. If he had read the Speech a little more carefully, he would have seen that the total cost of the national health services was $271,790,000. For the benefit of the honourable senator, I point out that this amount is divided into the following categories: Medical benefits, $45,850,000; medical benefits for pensioners, $16,530,000; hospital benefits, $27,980,000; payments to public hospitals for pensioners, $24,470,000; nursing home benefits, $23,700,000; pharmaceutical benefits, $75,260,000; pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, $31,830,000; milk for school children, $9,650,000; tuberculosis medical services and allowances, $12,240,000; and miscellaneous health services, $4,280,000.
– Are they not all health costs?
– Yes, these are all health costs. This illustrates the great diversity of the whole field of national health services. What we have heard from the Opposition has been concentrated more or less on hospitalisation and medical benefits. There is a great deal more to a health scheme for the nation than the two sectors that have been referred to by the Opposition.
To illustrate further that this problem of health services is not peculiar to Australia, I wish to read from ‘A Review of the Medical Services in Great Britain’, which is a study of the British medical health service under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Porritt. He said something which, if we genuinely want to look at this problem in a disinterested way, we should consider. He said that the care of the patient was the real concern. He continued:
Secondly, some means must be found of bringing home to the public that there is no such thing as a free health service. Medical treatment is extremely costly and indeed in many other countries is as expensive as in Great Britain - if not more so. Only if the services are used in a responsible manner will it be possible’ to run such an enormous undertaking efficiently and economically.
Under the heading ‘Above AH’, which appears in capitals and heavy type, paragraph 40 reads:
The Stale once it has made its plans, based on the best possible advice available to it, must leave the individual doctor free to ensure that the service is conducted on a personal basis. Overall planning and administration there must be, but in the end the success of the service will and must always bc judged by the personal attention given by the doctor to his patients. 1 think that wc all need to heed that finding when we suggest alterations to the present scheme.
In confirmation of what was said in the report by the body headed by Sir Arthur Porritt, I refer to a book entitled ‘The Creation of the British National Health Service’ by Dr A. J. Willcocks who is the lecturer in social science at the Nottingham University. He discussed again the relationship of. the professional man to a health scheme. 1 am sure that our two senators who are professional medicos will have some interest in this statement. Dr Willcocks said:
To be a professional man implies being able inter alia to decide the treatment best suited to the patient. To do this, in the National Health Service, involves the spending of public moneys and as the cost of the service rises, the question of controlling the activities of these people becomes more and more acme. One clash of interests involves the cost of prescribing and the general practitioners’ right to prescribe as he thinks fit. It is at this point that increasing concern over the cost comes most painfully on a sensitive nerve of the professional groups. There is potential here for many more professional group conflicts with the Government.
The experience of all health schemes has been that we have to deal with these conflicts that do and must arise between the Government and the professional man to whom the carrying out of any medical health scheme must be entrusted. The administration is in the hands of the Government. Rising costs must be met partly, as in any insurance scheme, from contributions from the patients and partly from the public purse. But it is extremely important that we look carefully at the ways in which we use public moneys and at the efficiency of any health service. I believe that our present health service administration is looking at these things. The members of this Government and members of the Government Members Health Committee have a great concern to see that Australian’s national health scheme functions well. To say that the scheme is without fault and without room for improvement would be foolish. But the point we are discussing is whether or not the right way to deal with any problems that arise is by setting up a select committee of the Senate. I do not believe that, in the present circumstances, the setting up of such a committee is the best way to deal with the problem, and I must oppose the motion for a select committee.
– The Senate seems to have digressed from the subject of the motion before it, which concerns the setting up of a select committee. When the Government wishes to appoint a select committee the Senate is told that the Senate is the very place in which to form a select committee. When the Opposition seeks the appointment of a select committee the proposal is condemned immediately by the Government. I have had a good look at this proposal by the Opposition that there should be a select committee. I have come to the conclusion that it is indeed time for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into hospital and medical benefits and hospital and medical costs. I do not subscribe to the Opposition’s viewpoint that the present scheme has broken down. It has not. The present scheme may have a certain amount of circulatory failure and may need some revival, but to say that it has broken down is not correct. The scheme is working exceedingly well, but the discrepancy between refunds to the patient from the benefit schemes and the actual fees paid by the patient is growing. A statement was made that people now are unable to afford treatment and that this is increasing morbidity throughout the country. Again, that statement is not true. The pensioner receives his treatment free. The person who is not insured and cannot afford the medical fees has the right to go to a hospital for treatment. It is no use saying that the hospitals do not provide adequate services. If that is so the fault lies with the Slate Governments concerned. Any person who wishes to go to a public hospital to have treatment may do so, I wanted to clear up those two points because I did not agree with either of them.
The Minister representing the Minister for Health (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) repeatedly said that the Commonwealth does not interfere with the Commonwealth medical and hospital benefits funds. That statement is a mistaken representation on the part of the honourable senator. She is not the Minister for Health; she is only acting for the Minister, who sits in another place. Everyone knows that the thumb of the Commonwealth Government is pressed right down on the health and medical benefits organisations. Those organisations cannot make one alteration to their conditions without the approval of the Commonwealth Department of Health. So let there be no more talk about the Commonwealth not interfering. I will show honourable senators an example of interference later on.
The present scheme is a good scheme. It differs from the terrible scheme that was started in the United Kingdom, and which has failed. Undoubtedly medical men arc not attracted to the British scheme. A scheme is no good if the medical men needed to operate it cannot be obtained. It is no good saying that a country has a good scheme and then finding out that it cannot attract doctors to operate the scheme. The attempt made by Sir Earle Page was an attempt to fill the bill in a way that the American and the British schemes have failed to do.
As I have said in this chamber on many occasions, when the Government initiates a scheme it is very happy to say how wonderful it is to initiate the scheme and that credit should be given to it. This scheme was implemented in 1954. The assessment then was that under general item 1 - which is the item relating to general practitioners, and the item most commonly used - the Government’s contribution should be 60c a consultation. Today it is 80c. The salary of a politician has risen nearly 100% since that time. The average weekly earnings of an Australian today have risen by something between 60% and 80% since 1954. If when the Government introduced this scheme in 1954 it was a good scheme, and the Government believed in it and believed that the base rate should be 60c, today the rate should be between $1 and SI. 20. That is the basic fault of the scheme, whichever way honourable senators look at if. If the Government believed in the scheme in 1954 and believed that the base rate should be 60c then, it should now be $1 at least. Why did not the Government keep up its rate of contribution? I repeat, its failure to do so is the basic fault in this scheme. This is typical. The Government starts a scheme and for gets all about it. The Government started a scheme covering child endowment, pensions and other benefits, lt takes the credit for doing something, then leaves it. The present base rate for item 1 should be at least $1. If the Government’s contribution were Si the return to the patient would be somewhere in the vicinity of $2.50. A doctor’s consultation costs S3, and $2.50 out of $3 is much better than the $1.80 refund out of S3 for an ordinary consultation now.
The Minister says that the Government does not interfere with the funds. The fact is that the Department of Health refuses to allow some of these medical benefits societies to refund a higher proportion of payments. Some societies want to refund a higher proportion, others do not, and still others would go bankrupt if they did. The reason given by the Department of Health for not allowing health and medical benefits societies to increase their returns to members is that some societies would go bankrupt. Let them go bankrupt. If they are inefficient, throw them out. There are enough other organisations to carry this scheme through, and the refusal by the Department of Health is a fault fairly and squarely lying on it. The societies could easily double their proportion and still operate. They could even pay treble and still get away wilh it - but that would encourage doctors to increase their fees.
While I am talking on medical costs I might say that the Australian Medical Association knew that this motion was to be moved, but has not worried about it. Most doctors would be happy to have medical costs investigated. Several doctors have telephoned me to say: ‘Please support the motion’. Those doctors feel that they have justice on their side, even though members of the Opposition may not agree. An accountant worked out that the doctors would bc justified in increasing their costs, and told them so. The people who investigated the costs and fees placed this recommendation before the AMA. Unfortunately the AMA has no political sense whatever, especially in the handling of its public relations in regard to fees, because it suppressed this evidence at its assembly. Many doctors think, as I do, that that action was completely wrong, that the AMA had no right to suppress that evidence. A select committee such as is proposed would have presented to it the evidence collected by these investigators. If it can be proved that the doctors are right, then no more need be said about it. The doctors themselves, so far as I could gather from those who rang me, are in favour of this investigation because they say they have nothing to fear. They say that they are quite happy about an Investigation being held into costs and would like to present the evidence to any committee to show that they were right in increasing their fees.
There is no reason for the Government to oppose the setting up of a select committee because when all is said and done, all it will do is to collect evidence. There will be a majority of Government senators on a committee; and we all know that if the Government does not like the report it will not do anything to implement the recommendations. So a select committee would not hurt the Government. I cannot understand this two faced attitude of the . Government regarding select committees. If such a committee is proposed by the Government then it is in order; if it is proposed by the Opposition, its appointment is opposed immediately.
– This is a political house.
– I know it is a political house. I am glad the honourable senator has reminded me. When I keep on suggesting that it is a party house I am told how wrong 1 am. I now have a supporter who believes with me that this is a party house.
– Of course it is a political house.
– Very well. There are one or two other points that I want to raise. One is the reserves held by the societies. Now, $28m sounds an awful lot of money, but of course the societies promptly divide that sum by the number of contributors that they have and say that it is equivalent to only about 24c per head. I do not know what the figure is but it is something like that. To me it does not matter what the amount is because a reserve of $28m is far too excessive and the money should be returned to the contributors. The answer to this opinion, of course, is that we may have an epidemic. This health scheme has been in operation for 17 years and there has been no epi demic yet. If an epidemic of such national disaster proportions did occur, the Commonwealth would step in anyway, so it is completely ridiculous for the Department of Health to back up these benefits societies and say that the reserves are insufficient. Every- society is constructing buildings in order to increase its capital assets. They are all spending almost :ip to the 15% that they are allowed to spend on managerial expenses. I believe there are far too many of these medical and hospital benefits societies. I believe there should bc only one - that is, the tax collector. 1 consider that every person should bc made to contribute to medical and hospital benefits.
– Would the honourable senator socialise health?
– No, I would not socialise it. I would socialise the collection of contributions, that is all.
– National insurance as against health benefits?
– Exactly. We had a national insurance plan and we should have one again that does not alter the scheme of Sir Earle Page. All I am. proposing is that we have one collector of the money.
– Would that be done by the Government or by private enterprise?
– lt would bc done by the Government.
– That is nationalisation.
– All right, I do not mind whether the honourable senator calls it nationalisation. But I am not advocating nationalisation of the scheme; I am advocating the nationalisation of collections. That is all. I think the scheme should stay as it is. As I said before, the scheme has not broken down - it only needs a little help.
Some of the hospital costs could easily be reduced if the domiciliary treatment of patients was carried out more extensively. There are a lot of private people and pensioners who are insured and remain insured and those two groups could well be treated at home with domiciliary treatment if this was provided for on the list of benefits.
The other thing that I should like to place before the Minister for Housing, who represents the Minister for Health, is that it is time pensioners were given specialist treatment in their own homes. Again, this would result in a tremendous saving in costs. Although the Commonwealth pays only a very small amount to the States for the hospital treatment of pensioners, nevertheless the cost of that pensioner to the State is exceedingly high. If we can keep the pensioner out of hospital the State must save money. There is no reason why this could not be done if the Commonwealth would only realise that these people should be allowed to have specialist treatment at home, on the advice of the general practitioner, in the same way that they are allowed to have general practitioner treatment at home. This would be another method of reducing costs facing hospitals.
The final thing I want to say in regard to costs in hospitals - and it is a thing we will never stop - is that today a whole battery of tests - pathological tests - is carried out on every patient whether he wants them or not. I know that I am getting old-fashioned but in my day we had to diagnose.
– People are living longer today.
– My patients have always lived for a long while. It is only a question of patience. If we could stop these pathological tests being done with great exuberance by every resident and honorary specialist in the hospitals, we would save on hospital costs. I must admit that, under the battery scheme of pathological tests, in the time that we could do one test five are done now.
– Could a Senate select committee alter this in any way?
– It could investigate the position. The trouble with the honourable senator from Tasmania is that he has only just come into the chamber and has not heard the earlier part of my speech.
– I heard practically all the honourable senator’s speech.
– The honourable senator has not.
– I have.
– Then the honourable senator has been asleep. He did not hear my speech. His interjection is relative to only one small facet of what I have been talking about.
– I asked whether the honourable senator thought that a Senate committee could inquire into the number of pathological tests that doctors have to do or do do.
– Such a committee could. It could inquire into anything it wanted to investigate. Does that help the honourable senator?
– As laymen, could members of the committee do it?
– Good heavens. As laymen? Both Houses of the Parliament have committees investigating everything. They discuss every possible subject under the sun and none of the members are expert on any of the subjects. They set out to be. Why the members could not be doctors I do not know. Still, this is only a small facet that the honourable senator has raised.
I believe there is a need for this investigation. One of the points on which I seem to get into trouble in regard to medical benefits societies is that I object to the term of waiting in maternity cases. Every time I raise this matter the Tasmania branch of the medical benefits society rushes into print and says that I am wrong. Perhaps I am wrong in regard to that society but other societies do not allow it. Again we have differentiation in methods of payment by these societies. I think it is a great shame in this country, where we seek migrants every day of the week, that when a woman or a girl gets pregnant she has to wait nine months.
– It used to be ten months.
– Now the honourable senator wants an inquiry into the laws of nature.
– I seem to be misunderstood. What I mean, Mr President, is that the women have to wait nine months in order to become eligible for payment. The period used to be ten months. The societies have now kindly reduced it to nine months. To me this does not matter at all. But I think that one of the greatest assets of this nation is our children and we should reduce this waiting time. I believe it should be abolished. As my words are still being misunderstood I think I will get off the subject. Now that I have decided that I cannot defeat the forces of nature perhaps we shall have to wait the entire nine months before we have the baby. Let us hope that the medical and hospital benefit funds will realise that this does take nine months; nevertheless they should be prepared to make payment straight away, I believe, in such cases. If they must have a waiting period it should be no longer than two months, as it is with respect to other diseases or before a person becomes eligible for payment after joining a fund.
This scheme that the Government started is a good one. It is just that the Government has not kept up with the times. The costs have gone up for everyone. We have to face up to this fact. It does not matter what the field is that we look at - costs have gone up. I believe a committee of inquiry such as is proposed would help us to provide a better scheme and that, I think, is what we are after. If we can get a better scheme, let us try to do so by all means. That is why I support this motion.
– I am rather confused by some of the reasons that seem to be behind this motion to set up a select committee. I point out that it was the second item on the business paper but that, without any reason or substantiation whatsoever, the first item, which relates to the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, has been withdrawn or deferred.
– They have been belted on education before.
– I have been wondering about that. I have been seeking a reason as o why we have not discussed the scholarship scheme, which the Government was ready to bring on for debate. Senator Marriott has put forward a possible reason as to why it has been deferred, withdrawn, abandoned or yielded.
The motion currently before us seeks a committee to inquire into medical and hospital costs in Australia and, in particular, to examine the operation and administration of the medical and hospital benefits schemes and to recommend such legislative and administrative measures by the Commonwealth as will, having regard to the constitutional division of legislative power in Australia, enable the provision of the optimum standards of medical and hospital care for all. This motion consisting of six parts which make quite elaborate provision for the setting up of a select committee having been brought forward after notice given some time ago, arrangements having been made for it to take precedence over Government business after 8 o’clock, and the motion having been initiated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), I have every right to believe that it enjoyed the enthusiastic and complete support of the Opposition. I would have thought that if honourable senators opposite wanted to persuade the Senate - because of its composition at this point of time it can be persuaded on certain matters - they would have come armed with detailed figures and facts all along the line and would have presented an argument to occupy the full length of time that is available to them.
Having taken the trouble to find out, I am advised, that the Opposition has completely fallen away. It has withdrawn its speakers. It has yielded the case and has admitted defeat. Its members are not even sufficiently persuaded about it themselves to want to prosecute the proposal to its end, as could well have been done. They have yielded the whole thing and have forgotten about it. This L a measure of the sincerity that lies behind their proposal.
This is not the first time, Sir, as you will recall, that this kind of thing has happened. Indeed, this is not the first time I have found myself in the position of having to move in when there has n’ot been an Opposition speaker to carry on with the case. What is more extraordinary, this matter is on the notice paper in the name of the Opposition and the Opposition has brought it forward as if to indicate that it was something that the Opposition wanted to light through to the bitter e:;d. How sincerely are honourable senators opposite concerned about the pensioners and the poor people whom they have been parading with so many adjectives over the last two hours? This is the measure of their concern for the poor people of the country. This is the measure of their concern for the pensioners of Australia. They cannot follow the debate through or at least invest it with some element of persuasion or conviction.
Let me turn now to the Leader of the Opposition, who is not unskilled in presenting cases. His very vocation must surely have given him years of experience in the presentation of cases. The best he can say about our national health scheme is that it has broken down. I ask him to note, as I ask the Senate to note, that it was a medical man who, in the last quarter of an hour, said that it has not broken down, although he did say that it needed a prop or some assistance. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankini has pointed out that the Government has given the scheme the kind of help that it has needed from time to time over the years. I am advised that in 1964 the Government increased its contribution by some 331%. I am not at all persuaded by the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in support of his motion. But I am very much persuaded that he and his followers are not at all concerned about the health of certain sections of our community. 1 am also persuaded that they wanted this matter brought forward for purely political reasons, because we have been harking back only to the days of Sir Earle Page. It will be noted that the Opposition has not taken the matter back any further than the days of Sir Earle Page.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted from the Constitution. I refer the Senate to the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Act which was passed in 1946. It provided that the Parliament, subject to the Constitution, be empowered to make laws covering a whole range of matters including the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances’.
Let me refer at this point to an extract from a journal published by the Voluntary Health Insurance Council, which is very actively involved in health matters and which is greatly concerned with the whole range of medical benefits and schemes relating to them. It refers to events prior to the das of Sir Earle Page. The article is headed:
Civil Conscription or Civil Liberty?
It points out that health insurance is a national issue dating from 1946. when the Chifley Government won approval by referendum to amend the Constitution. The provision that 1 read earlier indicates that the Chifley Government intended to introduce a socialised form of hospital and medical benefits. The first concrete move relating to it was when the Government of the day passed an act which gave every person the right to receive, free of cost, from a chemist all prescriptions prescribed by a registered doctor. It was proposed that those prescriptions would come from a formulary compiled by a committee the majority of whom were not medical men. This was the outcome of the Labour Party’s edict for a national health scheme. What was that but civil conscription?
The Act further provided that such prescriptions had to be written upon special forms prescribed by the Government. Where is the absence of conscription here? The British Medical Association objected to the scheme and said that doctors were the only people qualified to say what medicine patients needed. It also said that if there was to be a formulary it should be compiled by a committee comprised mainly of doctors. The Association declared that under no circumstances would its members write prescriptions on government forms for then they would be subject to government control. Honourable senators know, of course, that the Association appealed to the High Court of Australia and that the High Court upheld its appeal. The Chief Justice held that, in law, the relevant section of the Act was civil conscription. Three other judges of the full bench of six agreed with him. The Chief Justice held, may I repeat, that the relevant section of the Act was, in law, civil conscription. The Leader of the Opposition tonight said something to the effect that Labor would keep away from civil conscription. I am not persuaded that the Labor Party is sincere in this motion, lt has been moved in order to put forward a point of view, because in due course the Opposition hopes that we will adopt the principle of a fully socialised health scheme. by the Voluntary Health Insurance Council, the results of which were published and presented to the distinguished Minister for Health in another place, Dr Forbes, the honourable member for Barker in South Australia. The Minister said he believed the survey reflected an accurate appraisal of the current position. It showed how fully the Australian population was protected by government arrangements of various kinds, particularly in the field of health. The wide acceptance of the insurance scheme surely represents a remarkable achievement in view of the fact that membership is voluntary. These medical and hospital insurance schemes, I think it is fair to emphasise, appeal to the people of Australia not only because they provide substantial protection against medical and hospital expenses but also because they allow insured persons complete freedom of choice of doctor or hospital.
This leads me to make the observation that Australia’s health insurance organisations are unsurpassed. The Minister for Health was abroad recently attending meetings of the World Health Organisation. He received from people in the United Kingdom and elsewhere many favorable comments about the Australian scheme because it allowed for personal involvement as a result of the relationship between the people and the Government, because it called for a sense of responsibility on both sides and because it did not get out of hand so that it became a completely government dominated scheme. Surely the many remarks made about it indicate that it is the best scheme in the world. I notice that there have not been from the Opposition any outright references to the British scheme. We know what has happened to the British health scheme, but has the Opposition mentioned that, although as people with an interest in a socialised scheme they know something of how the British scheme operates and what it means.
Let me return to the Australian health scheme which is the subject of the resolution seeking the setting up of a Senate select committee. In the ten years to June 1966 membership of Australia’s hospital benefits funds rose from just over 2 million to 3.5 million or by about 55%, while in the same period membership of medical to 3.3 million, or by about 74%. I assert that this shows a rate of popularity and acceptability this is the important thing which far outdistances increases in population in that period. Although the Opposition raises this matter in the form of a request for a select committee surely it is plain for all to see that the Government’s health scheme, which has been devised to consist of a Government contribution as well as a contribution by the organisations, is one that appeals to the great majority of Australian people and one that brings them continual benefit.
The Department is surely open at various times in the year for examination. We reiterate that the. scheme is working well. It provides good benefits and gives everyone a sense of responsibility. As I have said, it provides a freedom of choice, and let me add that it certainly provides a better relationship between patient and doctor. One has only to go to the United Kingdom or speak to people from there to get the full story. Senator Turnbull has said that he knows something of the difficulty of getting doctors to co-operate in the United Kingdom scheme. Look how many doctors from the United Kingdom are in Australia simply because of their dissatisfaction with the British scheme. I know some of them, I have met some of them and I have been associated with some of them.
It is only natural that in a scheme of this kind costs will rise. There has been a general escalation in all facets of our economic structure. Our population has grown, but the Department continues to be active in its vigilance over the cost of the scheme. It has conducted negotiations with drug companies and is making savings of a considerable amount each year.
I want to direct attention again to the widespread nature of the national health scheme. It is sometimes claimed that the Government is neglecting its responsibilities under the scheme. An increase of over 50% in contributions in five years surely does not suggest neglect. I referred a few moments ago to an increase in Government expenditure on the scheme. This is listed specifically in the motion before the Senate. May I cite some figures. Looking at the figures relating to the number of people who are covered by the national Health scheme this gives some indication of the 266 Medical and [SENATE.] Hospital Costs degree of success it has achieved - one sees that in 1961-62 some 7.7 million people or 73% of the population were members of hospital benefits funds. In 1 966-67 the number of members had risen to 9.3 million representing 80% of the population. An article published early this month in the Sydney Morning Herald’ indicated that, according to a survey made by the Voluntary Health Insurance Council, about 90% of Australians are beneficiaries of the national health scheme.
Let me turn to the section devoted to medical benefits. In 1961-62 some 7.3 million or 68% of the population were members of medical benefit funds whereas in 1966-67 the number had increased to 8-8 million or 76% of the population. In other words, more than three-quarters of the population are protected by these schemes. I refer now to the pensioner medical service which provides free general practitioner treatment, free hospitalisation and free medicine. In 1961-62 some 810,000 people came within the ambit of the scheme whereas in 1966-67 the number was well over one million. Figures speak for themselves. They indicate that those responsible for the operation and administration of the national health scheme - I think that is the phrase in the motion relating to the setting up of the select committee - are capable of meeting the demand. The general acceptance of the national health scheme is illustrated by the utilisation of the services that are available. Further figures indicate that the number of pensioners and their dependants receiving treatment between 1962 and 1967 rose from 7.4 million to 8.2 million. Days in hospital rose from 16.3 million in 1963 to 17.4 million in 1966, an increase of 6.7%. A large increase occurred in. the use of facilities in nursing homes. The number of days in nursing homes spent by pensioners and their dependants rose from 8.9 million in 1963-64 to 11.4 million in 1966-67, an increase of 28.1%.
– The honourable senator is not even impressing himself.
– Oh yes, I am. An improvement of 28.1 % is quite considerable in the number of days spent in nursing homes. It indicates that the service has been taken advantage of by the population. As Senator Cavanagh has just hinted, it is not sufficient simply to quote figures proclaim ing the present record. I have already indicated that the Department is watching the cost of providing what the motion terms the optimum standards of medical and hospital care for all. The Department is not unmindful of a number of things. It does not expect optimum standards just to happen. I refer honourable senators, to the last report of the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health.
– ls the honourable senator going to read that through?
– If I had time, I might even do that. I return to the matter on which I am persuading the Senate - the fact that health treatment is certainly not static. There has been renewal and research. Attached to the Department of Health is the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Chairman of which is Sir William Refshauge. He is, of course, a very competent man in the total scheme at’ Australian health. The Council is made up of a number of eminent people. It advises the Commonwealth and State governments on all matters of public health and legislation. 1 hesitate to disappoint Senator Turnbull, but 1 will not read all the report or even all the contents of the section dealing with the National Health and Medical Research Council. I merely show it to the Senate lo indicate that the Department of Health is constantly reviewing and turning over the wide range of matters covered by the national health service to ensure that Australians receive the most up to date and the best possible attention. The Department is a credit lo this country and is recognised throughout the world as being a creditable body.
I turn now to the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ to quote an article which will interest all honourable senators who are concerned about national health and place a value on medical opinion. I refer to (he issue of 19th November 1966 in which is an article headed ‘The National Health Service in Australia*. It sets out an address given by Sir Angus Murray, President of the Australian Medical Association. He makes no secret of how he feels about the earlier days of the scheme and of how it has improved under the present Government. He wrote:
– Surely the honourable senator has more reports to read?
– Yes, I have. I have a document prepared by the Department of Health headed ‘A Remarkable Record of Achievement’. I underline the fact that it is a remarkable record of achievement. The document indicates, amongst other things, some of the progress that has been made and the value that the health scheme has been to us. Australia has one of the world’s best national health schemes. I have said it before but it is worth repeating. Honourable senators opposite are interjecting. At least I have an enthusiasm for my cause which is far more than honourable senators opposite have shown for their cause tonight. The document to which I have referred states:
Australians are among the healthiest people in the world
We have one of the best health schemes in the world. I say that with conviction because it is the truth, but that does not mean it cannot be improved. I have referred several times tonight to the fact that the Minister and the Department have made it perfectly clear over and over again that they take all possible steps to ease out the anomalies in the scheme as they arise. No scheme of national health or pensions, or of any social services whatever is all things to’ all men. As fast as anomalies are ironed out, in a short space of time circumstances produce another set of anomalies. It is only natural that such anomalies come in for a certain amount of public criticism. Honourable senators can rest assured that the Department is constantly working out ways to eliminate anomalies in the national health scheme. When Australia’s health scheme is regarded as a whole in comparison with other schemes it is shown to be unrivalled in its range. It enables every member of the community to receive medical and hospital services of the highest standard.
My friend Senator Prowse referred to Australia’s death rate compared with those of the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I wish to make comparisons between the national health schemes of Australia, Britain and New Zealand. The British and New Zealand Governments provide on a socialised basis certain health services which in Australia are provided by individual professional people. A recent comparison made in Australia showed that the Commonwealth and State governments spend annually $450m on health services, or $40 per head of population. Britain spends $52 a head of population annually on health services and New Zealand spends $58.
Australians get the kind of health services they want for the least possible expense per head of population. They are glad to pay for them because they are able to retain the priceless value of having their own doctor, their own choice, their own hospital and their own way of things. As I draw to a close, I repeat that the Opposition tonight was so completely devoid of enthusiasm for its cause that it could not mount the debate. Let that be repeated again, because it is so true and honourable senators opposite know that it is true. The Oppoisition gave way on the first item on the notice paper. When the second matter came up for discussion, many Government speakers were ready to proceed, as can’ be seen from the list of speakers held by the President. The list of Opposition speakers shows that several names have been crossed out with a pencil, indicating that those honourable senators have yielded or given way. I urge the Senate not to support the motion.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to raise a point in regard to action by the Commonwealth Department of
Health which would appear ludicrous and indeed, would be farcical except for the fact that it is quite a serious matter. Some time ago the Department decided that it should delete from the pharmaceutical benefits list of drugs a drug called phenacetin and substitute for it a drug called paracetamol. I have raised in this chamber the matter of the removal of the drug phenacetin from the list, pointing out that this was a big brother action by the Department of Health. It was done on the basis that a committee had said that phenacetin causes st disease called haemaglobin uria, a kidney disease, and therefore should be removed from the list. But it forgot to mention that the only time a person got this disease was when he was stupid enough to take ninety or so tablets a day for several months at a time. As no sane person does so, the number of people suffering from this disease as a result of taking phenacetin is infinitely small.
Phenacetin has been a drug in our armoury of drugs for many, many years. The Department, of course, is advised by the best brains in the country. It has the National Health and Medical Research Council behind it. It has also the .Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. But let me say that these people live in their ivory towers and do not come down to earth. I said this previously when I condemned the Department for its removal of this drug from the pharmaceutical benefits list.
Now we come to the ludicrous, farcical part. Do not tell me that this is not a big brother action and that there is no interference by the Department of Health in prescribing. 1 remember that in a previous debate the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who represents the Minister for Health in this place, stated that the aim of the Government was not to interfere with the treatment of patients. They were her own words, I think, so I can use them in relation to this matter. The Department told us: ‘You cannot use phenacetin but you can use paracetamol! The reason why we cannot use phenacetin is that it causes a certain kidney disease due to the fact that it breaks down and forms a compound called para-aminophenol
We have the choice of using paracetamol, a drug which breaks down into exactly the same degradation product as phenacetin does, namely para-aminophenol a;id. So what the Department has done is to substitute a drug which produces the same effect on the human body as the drug which it removed from the list. Can there be anything more stupid than this action of the Department? Here we have big brother telling us what to do, but telling us the wrong thing. The Department complained bitterly about the drug companies putting on drugs without testing them, yet the Department did not even bother to test this drug itself before putting it on the market. If the Department believes that phenacetin causes kidney disease, or certain diseases, why does it allow another drug that causes exactly the same thing?
If honourable senators think I do not know what I am talking about, let me tell them that I rang up one of the leading pharmacological departments in Australia and had this confirmed, that is, that the break down product of paracetamol is exactly the same as that of phenacetin, that is, that it becomes para-aminophenol. This is the thing that causes haemaglobin uria, which I mentioned previously. Here is the Department telling us what to do and telling us wrongly. What safeguards have we against a department that will do this to us? This is why I raise the matter. It does not even tell the medical profession.
In Tasmania we had the same sort of thing. Iodine was introduced secretly into the flour for making bread. 1 do not object to this as a public health measure but I do object to the attitude of big brother in taking action secretly and not telling the medical profession or the public that it is being done. Here again in the Commonwealth field we find a department so stupid - that is the only word that I can think of to describe it - as to substitute one drug for another that causes the same disease.
– It makes us very confident.
– It makes us all very confident in big brother, who does not interfere with us, according to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I am not sure, but I am almost certain that the Department of Health has had to ask the drug companies, which it has belittled so often, to assay the drugs. I am quite sure that this does occur. In recent times a dispute has been reported in the Sydney newspapers. The .State Minister for Health was trying to decry the use of trade names for drugs, saying that we should use the generic names, which would mean that we would get the cheapest drugs. Let me remind honourable senators that the use of a trade name signifies that the company concerned has a drug that is up to standard. The Department of Health is, I think, four or five years behind in its testing of drugs and has now asked the drug companies to find out whether what it believes has happened, with paracetamol has actually happened. The companies which do drug standardisation tests are the ones that the Department belittles. They carry out their own tests to make sure that their product is good because it carries a brand name. This is an indication that we should have trade names. Never should we go back to the system of using generic names. lt is fantastic that intelligent people, leaders of the profession who form this committee, can do things like this. It does cause a lack of confidence and one wonders where the sanity is in the whole position. One of the reasons why they threw out a drug called Amesec for the treatment of asthma was that it was a triple compound. Yet the things that are used for A PC powders are triple compounds. They contain aspirin, they used to contain phenacetin but now they contain paracetamol, and they contain codeine. That is a triple compound whether it is in a capsule or in a bottle. In one breath the committee says that we can use triple compounds and in the next breath it says that we cannot.
– Is this the Drug Evaluation Committee?
– No, it is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. I believe that the time has come for the Minister to make certain that the Committee is answerable to the Minister. At the present moment this is not so. The Committee can put drugs on and it can take drugs off - I am not too certain about putting drugs on but it can take drugs off - without giving any reason whatever to the Minister or the Department. That is completely wrong, when fallacies such as I have pointed out occur and when an error is now found in its thinking. The Minister should really get onto this question. I do not care how prominent the members of the Committee are. I have told the Senate the facts. The. Minister can dispute them if she wishes. But I do not think that the Minister or the Department will be able to dispute them. When a committee acts in such a way that it should be either abolished or made answerable to someone, it should not have the right to tell us doctors what to do, especially when it gives us wrong information.
[10.40] - The main theme of Senator Turnbull’s comments concerned the drugs paracetamol and phenacetin, although he brought in other drugs as well. I wish to inform him that the Department of Health did not substitute paracetamol for phenacetin, because the former drug has been on the list of pharmaceutical benefits since 1962.
– So has phenacetin.
– But paracetamol was not substituted for phenacetin. lt is quite true, as the honourable senator said, that phenacetin has been removed from the list. I also inform him that, on the authority of Sir Derrick Dunlop, this drug is widely used as a useful * alternative analgesic to phenacetin because it does not produce abnormal blood pigments.
– Why has not the Department of Health queried phenacetin before now?
– I am merely informing the honourable senator of this authority for the use of the drug paracetamol. He referred quite correctly to the removal of phenacetin from the list. I understood from what he said that this other drug had been put on the list as a substitute for phenacetin and that that was what he was concerned about. Therefore, I am informing him of the authority for the use of the drug paracetamol and also that that drug has been on the list of pharmaceutical benefits since 1962.
I rather deplored the comments that Senator Turnbull made about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. It is a body of people who study these matters and are experts in their field. It is unfortunate when their work, service and record of achievement are belittled in the way in which we have heard them belittled tonight. I inform the honourable senator that the Committee keeps a continuing watch on the list of drugs. I will ensure that the comments that he has made tonight are put before the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). I can assure the honourable senator that this drug, like every other drug, has been kept continually under review by this expert Committee. I will have the greatest pleasure in making quite certain that the Minister for Health is informed of the honourable senator’s opinions.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 August 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670824_senate_26_s35/>.