26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. I refer to a Department of Air instruction dealing with special rations for VIP passengers travelling on No. 34 Transport Squadron aircraft. May I have this document before the debate on the estimates for the Department of Air? If not, why not?
– Honourable senators will recall that yesterday 1 was accused of misleading the Senate in reply to a similar question asked by Senator Turnbull. Before answering the question that the honourable senator has just asked and which is tied up with the one asked yesterday, I would like to give the Senate some information in reply to the question asked yesterday. At the time I told the honourable senator that I would endeavour to obtain a little more information about a copy of Air Board Order E27/6.
– The answer being given by the Minister is not an answer to my question.
– The information is tied up with the answer to the question that was asked yesterday. I said then that the document was not available because it was a restricted document. Routine information relating .to the supply and procurement of military stores is properly accorded the security classification ‘restricted’. The page from Air Board Orders that was handed to me by Senator Turnbull is an extract from a book of orders in which it is normally secured. Existing Royal Australian Air Force instructions provide that certain classified documents consisting of several sheets need not carry the security marking on every sheet, provided that the title sheet and the first and last sheets carry the security marking. The particular order referred to by the honourable senator was issued for inclusion in a book, a copy of which I have before me.
– Is that book secret?
– The honourable senator will be told in a moment. This particular order was issued for inclusion in a book of Air Board Orders and was originally issued with a title page which carried the security marking ‘restricted’ at both the top and bottom of the page, clearly indicating to the recipient that the accompanying information was of a restricted nature. This information is in accordance with the reply that I gave to the honourable senator. In view of what I have just said I repeat that I am unable to make available the document referred to yesterday. This applies also to the document that the honourable senator is now asking to be made available. I know that security orders state that in the case of restricted documents normally the classification will be put at the top and the bottom of the page. Honourable senators know what happens to top secret documents; they do not come within the scope of the question. Other classified documents covering several sheets are to be similarly marked unless enclosed in a permanent or secure binding, in which case the marking need be only on the front cover, the title page, page 1 and any full page or inserted map or illustration, the last page and so on. J say again that the form produced yesterday by the honourable senator was one that should not have been in his possession. It comes out of this book of orders marked Restricted’. I would again be very interested to know from where the honourable senator got it.
– I ask for leave to make a statement in reply to the Minister’s answer.
– Leave is granted.
– What the Minister has said is probably correct. But it is not correct in accordance with the information given to me by our people, in which they set out the classifications of the security documents in regard to the procedures in the Armed Services. It is quite clear that the book which the Minister says contains the ABOE orders is not a bound book; it is a loose file book. Therefore, in the first instance I should say that the Department is wrong in not putting the word ‘Restricted’ on each page. Obviously with a loose page system such as that a person could pull out each page as he wished. To be properly classified it should have had the word ‘Restricted’ on each page.
The second thing is that although it had the word ‘Restricted’ on page 1, apparently it did not have it also on pages 2, 3 and 4 - only on the last page. A proper books means a printed and a bound book. That is my understanding. I would like to know how the rationing on VIP planes can be a security matter. This makes it all so ridiculous, lt makes the whole Parliament look silly.
– I take a point of order with some reluctance, Mr President, because we gave leave for a statement to be made. I merely take the point that this is question time, and if these matters are to be discussed at great length they could be discussed more appropriately at some other time. I shall not press the point of order if the honourable senator will finish pretty quickly.
– I have finished.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Are reports in today’s Press correct that it is the Prime Minister’s intention to use VIP planes extensively in the coming Senate election? If, as we have been repeatedly told, these planes are for use on the business of Government only, how can their use be justified for what is plainly a party political purpose? If it is a breach of the electoral law for a candidate to be employed by the Government, is it a breach of electoral law for Government facilities to be used to provide support for party candidates to the detriment of other candidates?
– I have not seen the report referred to, but I think all honourable senators will know that there is nothing in the least novel or unusual about a Prime Minister in an election campaign travelling round Australia in a special VIP aircraft.
– But he is not on Government business. He is working for a party as the party leader, not as Prime Minister.
– I am trying to answer the honourable senator’s question. We could argue about that later. The point
I must make is that if’ this report is true there is nothing novel or unusual about it, since it is the practice for these aircraft to be available for use during an election campaign both for the leader of the country - the Prime Minister - and for the Leader of the Opposition. I suppose it can be argued that this enables quicker transportation. It enables people to get from A to B in a way that they otherwise could not do and it does save some of the considerable strain, which must descend on a Prime Minister or a Leader of the Opposition during an election campaign. I believe that there is a case for these planes to be so used by these people. In any case, to stop it would be to stop something which has been going on for some considerable time.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Repatriation supplementary to that asked by Senator Turnbull in relation to restricted documents. Firstly, who has valid access to such documents and, secondly, in what way can a member of Parliament have access, and has he any right of access?
– I imagine that Air Board orders would be available to members of the Air Force who need to peruse them. As to the second part of the question, I should think that the best way for a member of Parliament to gain access to or obtain information from these documents would be to apply to the Minister concerned and see whether he gives approval or not.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister aware that this year ten agricultural pilots have lost their lives in air accidents that have occurred when crop dusting? Is the Minister aware, also, that these pilots do not work to an award and keep two log books, one for themselves and another to comply with air navigation” orders, a fact that I am reliably informed is known to the Department of Civil Aviation? I appeal to the Minister to have his officials meet representatives of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots on this matter, and thereby help to save further loss of life of experienced pilots engaged in aerial crop dusting.
– The honourable senator asks that the Department of Civil Aviation confer with the Australian Federation of Air Pilots regarding pilots who are crop dusting. Regrettably some of them have lost their lives.
– Ten this year.
– I see. I will raise this matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation. My own instincts suggest that, in the light of tragedies that have occurred in the past, this matter would have been taken up before now.
– The Minister has not met the Federation.
– The honourable senator might please ask all of his questions at the one time and give me a chance to reply to them. He should not continue to supplement them while 1 am answering them. I will definitely raise the point that has been mentioned by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. In view of the strong criticism voiced by a United States House of Representatives Investigation Committee that examined the performance of the M16 automatic rifle being used in Vietnam, 1 ask the Minister whether any Australian troops are using this rifle. What action does the Australian Government contemplate in view of the report of the United States Services sub-committee in relation to the performance of this rifle?
– I have no personal knowledge of any faults being- found in this rifle by Australians using it, but this does not necessarily mean that there have not been any complaints about it. I will convey the question to the Minister for the Army and obtain an answer from him for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether he will soon make a statement, if possible today or early next week, on the position as headlined in this morning’s Press about possible restrictions being placed on Australian trade with the United. States of America.
– I shall either take this matter up with the Prime Minister, whom I represent here, or perhaps get Senator Henty to take it up with the Minister for Trade and Industry, who is more directly concerned and whom Senator Henty represents in this chamber, to see whether the Minister is prepared to make such a statement.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether, in view of the serious drought position in Victoria, the Government is ready to. give a firm undertaking that the Commonwealth will make finance available so as to give worthwhile assistance to those who are suffering serious losses and hardship as a result of the drought.
– The Commonwealth has already done that.
– I am asking whether we are to have a firm undertaking that financial assistance will be given. Secondly, in view of the fact that H appears unlikely that the Senate will have an opportunity to deal with other than Government business in this sessional period, will the Government give urgent consideration to the suggestion contained in Notice of Motion No. 6, standing in my name, that a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters and, in particular, those arising from fire, flood and drought?
– I thought that the statement made in the Senate yesterday on this matter covered drought relief for Victoria fairly minutely and satisfactorily. As was pointed out then,, it is only 10 or 12 days since a specific approach was made by the Premier of Victoria. At once the Prime Minister suggested that Commonwealth Treasury officials and State Treasury officials should confer to discover precisely the financial implications and losses and to examine any specific requests that were put forward. He indicated, at the same time, that if the Premier of Victoria thought that the action taken in New South Wales and Queensland was appropriate he would consider taking the same action in Victoria.
– He has not yet said he would.
– That Ls why I said that 1 thought he would consider taking the same action. Although I thought that is what was said I was not positive. I said he would consider taking action on the same lines. That seems to me to be a very clear undertaking and a very clear understanding of the position. Whether or not the conferences between the Treasury officials are taking place 1 do not know, but if the honourable senator wishes me to do so I will find out. There is certainly nothing on the Commonwealth’s side that is preventing the conferences from taking place.
– What about my second question concerning a select committee?
– Perhaps the honourable senator could ask the question again.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has Baron Rothschild, who is presently visiting this country, submitted a plan for setting up a branch of his bank in Australia? Is it the intention of the Government to allow overseas banks to proliferate in the Australian banking field? Is the statement that Baron Rothschild looks on Australia as the last frontier an indication that his organisations, having skimmed the cream from the French and British economic systems, are now to process Australian grist in the international financial mill?
– It is quite impossible for me to answer questions about what Baron Rothschild thinks because I do not know what he thinks. The second part of the question seemed to be the only concrete part of the question. The honourable senator asked whether there had been an application for this gentleman to open a bank in Australia. The answer is that I do not know. However if the honourable senator puts the question on the notice paper I will seek to get information for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement reported in today’s Press and attributed to Mr Lee Kwan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, to the effect that Malaysia and Singapore will go through the Communist mincing machine in 2 or 3 years if the United States of America withdraws from Vietnam? Does the Minister think that the seriousness of this statement has dawned on all parties in the Senate or on all people in Australia? If not, does the Minister think that an invitation could very usefully be extended to Mr Lee Kwan Yew to visit Australia?
– I have not seen the particular report referred to by the honourable senator but 1 do know that not only Mr Lee Kwan Yew but a number of other Asian leaders believe that should Communist aggression be successful in Vietnam they would most likely be the next countries to bc infiltrated, subverted, terrorised and taken over. This belief is shared by the Australian Government but it tends to be dismissed by spokesmen of the Opposition as something that they call the domino theory and which they do not think would happen. I believe that those living in the area are correct in their belief concerning future events should Communism succeed in Vietnam. I would be delighted for an invitation to be issued to Lee Kwan Yew to come to Australia at any time. However, I have not a great amount of confidence that he would be able to induce into the minds of those opponents of ours any more common sense than is at present there.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware that the Sumitomo Bank of Japan, in a report issued last week, stated that if the Vietnam war should end suddenly the consequence to Japan would be a loss of $500m in annual income, and that continuation of the war means that Japan can expect $250m worth of business from the American military in the present financial year and about $750m worth of extra exports to other South East Asian countries that are enjoying a war boom and to the United States where so many industries are tied up in war production that the Americans have to look to Japanese manufacturers to take up the slack and fill some domestic demands? The Bank asked the question: ‘Can Japan, in these circumstances, afford peace?’ My question is: Are Japanese troops engaged in the Vietnam war? Are Australian manufacturers given any opportunity to tender for military and other supplies for use in Vietnam and for the supply of goods for civilian use in the other areas now supplied by Japan?
– I know of no Japanese troops engaged in Vietnam. 1 understand that the Minister for Supply is not here this morning. Perhaps he would be able to give a fuller answer than I can. I recollect that both he and the Minister for Defence have made statements about the desirability of Australian products being sold at any rate to the United States of America to pay for our purchases of material and equipment from that country.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. I remind him that in a recent debate in this chamber he advised mc that he would obtain information about the use of a VIP aircraft by the Prime Minister to fly to north Queensland on a weekend fishing trip. I now ask: Has he been able to obtain the information?
– I think that the information sought would be likely to be contained in the statement that will be made by the Prime Minister in another place and in the papers that will be placed on the table in this chamber in accordance with the undertaking given yesterday by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of. the continuing exposures of existing drug addiction among teenagers in major capital cities, does the Minister consider that his Department’s efforts to combat external drug offences are getting results and that tougher complementary action by the States will eradicate the existing drug cult?
– Honourable senators will recall that some months ago the Parliament passed a measure which very significantly increased the controls under our narcotics legislation by giving effect to the provisions of an international convention for the control of narcotics, or hard drugs. The Parliament also passed legislation to amend the Customs Act and to provide heavy penalties for offences in relation to trafficking in or peddling drugs. The States have their own legislation to deal with matters that come within their jurisdiction. It is significant that all of them are now looking to their own legislation and amending it to tighten controls. There is a high degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth Department of Health and Department of Customs and Excise and the States in dealing with this problem. Though I cannot make any further statement at the moment I expect to be able in the immediate future to give some supplementary information on the degree of cooperation. This is a critical matter and speaking for my own Department, I can say that we have all the stops out. We think we are making a significant dint in the quantity of drugs that come into this country from overseas. The problem of Australian produced soft drugs is one primarily for the States but we are giving our co-operation, and I know the Department of Health is adding its co-operation to assist the States.
– My question follows that asked by Senator Mulvihill and the reply given to him by the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has the attention .of the Minister been directed to a statement by the Victorian Assistant Police Commissioner that Victoria’s proposed new drug laws would enable police to combat the drug menace before it got out of control? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether comparable legislation and penalties are contemplated in the Australian Capital Territory?
– There is a new ordinance designed to bring Australian Capital Territory laws in this matter into line with customs law, but I cannot say precisely whether this ordinance has yet been introduced. Perhaps I shall have more information on the matter before the end of question time. I understand that not only are the States tightening their drug laws; the Australian Capital Territory ordinances are also being brought into line with the customs law.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. One of the allegations against the purity of the recent Vietnam elections was that government facilities were available to some candidates and not to others and that this was contrary to true democratic principles. Leaving aside the question of precedent, I ask: How does the Government justify the statement of the Leader of the Government that in the coming Senate elections VIP planes will be available to Messrs Holt and Whitlam not for government or parliamentary business but for party political purposes to aid their candidates to the detriment of other candidates? Is this Holt-Whitlam arrangement the reason why, in the House of Representatives, the Australian Labor Party did not debate the subject of VIP planes?
– I have been asked how the Government justifies the provision of special VIP transport to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition during a national election. I would justify it in this way, which will also apply to the occasions on which this form of transport has been used for a similar purpose in the past: When a national election is held in Australia the Leader of the Government seeks to put to as many Australian people as possible in as many parts of Australia as possible the case for the Government, and the Leader of the alternative government, or the party which would become the Australian Government should the election go against the Government, seeks at the same time to put to as many people as possible in as many places as possible the case, for the alternative government. Australia being the size it is and communications being what they are, it seems to me to be not unreasonable that facilities should be provided for the two main protagonists to travel around Australia to put their case at a national election.
– My question which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows upon a question asked by Senator McManus. Is it the intention of the Government to allow all Ministers use of VIP aircraft for electioneering activities in the forthcoming Senate election campaign or is it intended to restrict the use of such aircraft during the campaign to the Prime Minister?
– I am asked what is likely to happen in the future as a result of policy. I have not directed my attention to it, spoken to the Government about it or seen any statement from the Government about it. I can only say that I would imagine that, as in the past, for the most part VIP aircraft will be used by the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition but that there could be occasions when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or some’ other Minister would use one of these aircraft.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air to answer three specific questions. Firstly, how in the name of common sense can the Minister justify-
– Order! That is not the way in which to frame a question.
– I apologise, Mr President. Firstly, how can the Minister justify instructions concerning the rationing of VIP aircraft - with possible reference to pies and sausage rolls - being in any way related to the air defence of Australia and thus being classified? Secondly, does not the instruction of the Department of Air concerning the rationing, of VIP aircraftwhich is restricted - make it quite clear that there must be separate accounting for such rationing, and does not this belie the Prime Minister’s statement that costs cannot be obtained? Thirdly, is not the purpose of classifying these instructions solely to prevent the taxpayer from obtaining this information?
– I am indebted to the honourable senator for providing me with these questions in writing a few moments ago. It is not within my province to justify what the Minister for Air does. As I have already informed the Senate, these- matters are contained in the Air Board orders. I have already given the Senate information as to what happens in regard to this particular publication. He asked whether the instruction from the Department of Air conflicted with the statement made by the Prime Minister. I am quite sure that no statement made by the Prime Minister would mislead this House. As to the third part of the question in which the honourable senator asked whether the purpose of classifying this information was solely to prevent the taxpayer obtaining it, the answer is a definite no.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Is it not a fact that the time of the Senate has been wasted on a number of occasions this year by motions of a non-urgent nature being proposed by the Opposition? Because so much time has been wasted, could the Senate still be sitting on Saturday, 25th November? Is there any constitutional or electoral reason which would preclude the Senate sitting on polling day, 25th November? Has such a thing ever happened in the history of the Parliament?
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. I suggest that part, at any rate, of the honourable senator’s question is out of order. It queries the use by honourable senators of the forms of the Senate. It is perfectly within the rights of the Opposition, or of any senator who can obtain sufficient support, to propose a motion of urgency. What has been done by the Opposition in the cases referred to has been in accordance with the proper use of the forms of the Senate. As I have said, I suggest that that part of the question, at’ any rate, is not in order.
– Order! I disallow the first part of the question. I leave the second part of the question open for answer.
– As to the second part of the question, I believe that there is no legal restriction against the Senate sitting on a Saturday, and therefore I presume there is no restriction against it sitting on a particular Saturday, 25th November. I remember that the Senate did in fact sit on a Saturday on one occasion. Some honourable senators present today will remember it. I am bound to say that I remember it because it interfered very much with the Australian Broadcasting Commissions, broadcast of a. number of sporting activities on that day.
– Earlier today I asked the Leader of the Government two questions concerning the drought position in Victoria. He replied to the first half, which concerned the provision of financial assistance and the question whether the Commonwealth could say affirmatively that it would give financial assistance to those in need. He did not, probably by inadvertance, answer the second part, as to whether, in view of the fact that it was unlikely that our discussions would now reach beyond Government business, the Government would consider urgently the suggestion contained in my notice of motion for the establishment of a select committee of the Senate to inquire into the possibility, practicability and desirability of establishing a national disaster organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters such as flood, fire and drought. Can he now reply to that part?
– I am really being asked whether the Government will give an undertaking that it will set up this committee, or give urgent consideration to this request which must lead to the setting up of it. At any rate, the setting up of Senate select committees is, I think, a matter of policy, and I will give no answer as to that, but that is not to indicate that the answer is necessarily yes or no.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform the Senate whether Australian troops in Vietnam are under the control of Australian commanders at all times or come under the overall control of American commanders?
– As far as I am aware, there could be occasions on which small bodies of our troops could temporarily come under the command of American commanders. ^
– ls the Minister sure of that?
– I am not sure of it; I said this was to the best of my knowledge. However, if I find that the answer I have given is not correct, I will see that a correct answer is provided for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. By way of preface, I refer to Senator Laught’s question which was based on the Washington Press statement on the Vietnam situation by Prime Minister Lee of Singapore. Since Senator Laught omitted to complete the Lee statement, which called for the backing of progressive forces in South East Asia - I emphasise the word progressive’ - I now ask the Minister: Does he feel that the high sense of personal honesty that surrounds the Lee Cabinet, backed up by a high tempo of economic and social change, can be emulated by the South Vietnamese Government? Does that Government come within Prime Minister Lee’s definition of a progressive force?
– I would not know precisely, and 1 do not think anybody else would know precisely, what connotation Prime Minister Lee gives to the word ‘progressive’. However, I should think that one could well say that the Singapore Government is a progressive government and a good government, that other governments in the area, such as the Malaysian Government, have a high sense of purpose, a high sense of honesty and a high record of achievement, and that this is the sort of development that the Prime Minister seeks. I believe that the South Vietnam Government could and will achieve the same standards as the Singapore and Malaysian governments have, although at this time, when the South Vietnamese are engaged in a war in their own country with people who come in from outside, from North Vietnam, to fight then we cannot expect them to have the same kind of government as they would have in peace time. Indeed, during the 12 years when Communist guerillas were seeking to overthrow the Malayan Government, it was necessary to have a different kind of government from that which the country has been able to create since the guerillas were defeated.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Are the assurances that I have received from a number of Government members correct, that since the Senate carried its vote on VIP aircraft adversely to the Government the previous ruling of Cabinet that Ministers could not take senators in VIP aircraft has been or is to be rescinded?
– I have no knowledge of the matter raised in the honourable senator’s question, but I will make inquiries and let him know whether the ruling he mentioned has been altered.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Is the former Prime Minister of Australia. Sir Robert Menzies, entitled to the use of VIP aircraft and if so on how many occasions have they been used by him?
– I do not have this information and I do not know whether it has been kept, but-
– I am saying that I do not know whether a record of the information sought by the honourable senator has been kept. If honourable senators know more than I do, that is all right, but I do not know. I will make inquiries and ascertain whether a record has been kept.
– During question time I gave an answer to Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood in which I said I would get confirmation of the information I gave before question time concluded. I now confirm the statement I made to the honourable senator. It is the intention of the Minister for the Interior to bring down another ordinance in which the penalties for trafficking in drugs will be made identical with the penalties under customs law.
– I ask the Leader of the Government: Is the greatest danger to the establishment of a progressive government in South Vietnam the possibility of a Communist takeover if American and allied force* are withdrawn?
– I believe this is true. This does not apply only in South Vietnam. At the moment it is in that country that the Communist invaders are using forces in an endeavour to overthrow the elected government. This, of course, prevents the achievement of economic objectives and progressive government to which the honourable senator has referred because all energies must be devoted to repelling by force the attack on the country. This is the major danger to the achievement of economic progress by the elected government in South Vietnam. The United States and Australian troops are in South Vietnam to defeat that threat. Their purpose is not only to defeat it in South Vietnam but to prevent the aggression from being successful there and then being sought to be made successful in neighbouring states.
(Question No. 328)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 334)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice: 1.In view of assurances that have been given to the Parliament that the F111A aircraft on order for the Royal Australian Air Force has survived its tests with flying colours, why are we not yet able to have a figure provided in relation to its cost?
– The Minister for Air has provided the following answers:
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The object of this somewhat short and technical Bill is to cure a defect in jurisdiction which Mr Justice Blackburn purported to exercise in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in November 1966. The Bankruptcy Act 1924-1965 provides that the jurisdiction in bankruptcy of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is to be exercised by a Judge of the Court appointed for that purpose by- the Governor-General.
On 14th October 1966 Mr Justice Blackburn was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory He was, however, not then appointed to exercise the bankruptcy jurisdiction of the Court. The fact that he had not been so appointed did not come to his attention until some time later. That appointment was made on 23rd February 1967. In the meantime, in November 1966, Mr Justice Blackburn had made two sequestration orders in purported exercise of the bankruptcy jurisdiction of the Court. The two estates have been administered on the basis that the orders were properly made. In order to protect those who have dealt with the property of the bankrupts on the faith of the orders made by the Court, it is necessary to cure the defect in jurisdiction by legislation. No interests would be adversely affected by this action. The two bankrupts concerned had lodged debtors’ petitions. It was therefore clearly their wish and their intention that they should be made bankrupt and their property in bankruptcy administered for the benefit of their creditors.
The Bill is intended to give the sequestration orders in question and any ancillary orders and any dealings with the property of the bankrupts the same force and effect that they would have had if Mr Justice Blackburn had been validly appointed to exercise bankruptcy jurisdiction when he made the orders. The Bill will also ensure that the transitional provisions of the new Bankruptcy Act - that is, the Bankruptcy Act 1966 - apply to these orders when that Act comes into force. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Senator GORTON (Victoria- Minister for Education and Science [10.56] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions payable under the Superannuation Act, in accordance with the decision announced in the Budget. Honourable senators will be aware that the Superannuation Fund is a contributory pension scheme for the Commonwealth’s own employees. The Fund, which is built up from the contributions of the employees meets a part of each pension payment, and the Commonwealth as the employer provides the balance. In the case of Commonwealth authorities, each authority meets the employer’s share from its own resources.
The last adjustment of pensions payable to retired members of the Fund was made in 1963 when the proportion of pension payable from Consolidated Revenue was increased to the amount that would have been payable if the pensioners had retired at the end of 1959. Those pensioners, and others who have retired since 1959, have not received any increase in their pensions despite the increases which have occurred since then in salary levels.
The pension increases provided by the Bill follow the pattern adopted in 1963; that is to say the employer’s share of those pensions in existence at 30th June 1967 will be brought up to the amount that would have been payable if retirement had taken place on 30th June 1967. Those who did not avail themselves of all the units of pension to which their salaries entitled them will receive the appropriate proportion of this increase. As the Fund’s share of pension is not being increased the total pension after this adjustment will still be less than that of a comparable officer retiring now. Nevertheless the increases will be of considerable benefit to the former Commonwealth officers and widows and orphans concerned. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is a companion measure to the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill. Since its inception in 1948 the principles of the defence forces retirement benefits scheme have been in parallel with those of the Superannuation Fund but modified by the special needs of the services, in particular to provide for earlier retiring ages. In common with the Superannuation Fund, the last adjustment of pensions payable to retired members of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund was in 1963 when the Consolidated Revenue component of pensions existing in 1959 was increased by five/ sevenths of the difference between the actual pension and tbe pension that would have been received had the pensioner retired at the end of 1959. Proportionate increases in pension were paid to those who had contributed for less than their full entitlement or commuted part of their pension to a lump sum on retirement.
The same principles have been adopted in this Bill, the critical date for adjustment purposes being 30th June 1967. Existing pensions will bc increased by five/sevenths of the difference between the actual pension and the pension that would have been received had retirement occurred on 30th June 1967. Those whose pensions at retirement were less than their full entitlements will receive the appropriate proportion of this increase. As the Fund’s share of pension is not being increased the total pension after this adjustment will still be less than that of a comparable member retiring now.
Nevertheless the increases will be of considerable benefit to the pensioners concerned. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act adopting principles similar to those incorporated in the two Bills already introduced into the Senate providing for increases in existing superannuation and defence forces retirement benefits pensions. Honourable senators will be aware that, like the Superannuation and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Funds, the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund is a contributory pension scheme. In common with the pension increases proposed for existing pensioners of those other two Funds the Bill provides for the Consolidated Revenue component of existing pensions payable from the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund to be raised to the level that prevailed for members of the Fund retiring on 30th June 1967.
Because the rates of pension provided by the Fund have remained unchanged since 1st November 1964, the effect of the Bill is to increase only those existing pensions payable in respect of members of the Fund who retired prior to that date. However, as the share of pension paid for from members’ contributions is not being increased, the total pension payable after this adjustment will, as in the case of the other pension adjustments proposed, be less than that which would be received by a Fund member of comparable age retiring now. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame
Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[11.4] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
A Bill in the same form was considered by the Senate earlier this year and returned to the House of Representatives with an amendment. The House did not agree to the amendment and the Senate later insisted on it. For reasons I have previously given and which I shall later explain again the amendment is not acceptable to the Government, which has accordingly decided to introduce a new Bill in the original form.
It has long been recognised that adequate housing in pleasant surroundings is one of the greatest needs of old people. In order to make an effective contribution towards the alleviation of this problem some 12 years ago the Government introduced the Aged Persons Homes Act. This offered encouragement and assistance to churches and other voluntary organisations which, over the years, have maintained a close interest in the care of the elderly. Eligible nonprofit making organisations are specified in section 5 (1) (b) of the Act as (i) a religious organisation; (ii) an organisation the principal objects or purposes of which are charit able or benevolent; (iii) an organisation of former members of the defence force established in every State or a State branch of such an organisation; or (iv) an organisation approved by the Governor-General for the purposes of this Act.
This Bill is designed to include as a separate category of eligible organisations the local governing bodies to which the Prime Minister referred in his policy speech on 8th November, 1966. The Prime Minister then said:
We will widen the scope of assistance by including local governing bodies in the organisations eligible under the Act and accepting contributions by them towards aged persons homes as qualifying for Commonwealth matching subsidy.
In recent years a growing interest in homes for the aged has been shown by municipal and shire councils. A number of these have already assisted aged persons homes organisations by grants of land and in other ways. In the light of this development the Government has reached the conclusion that local governing bodies could be brought within the scope of the aged persons homes scheme without endangering the general character of the scheme as a partnership between the Commonwealth and community bodies. Municipal and shire councils are well situated to assist the needs of their particular regions and are often able to encourage the establishment of community bodies to take care of local problems. This Bill gives recognition to the interest of local authorities in housing elderly citizens and, by extending the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act, enables them to participate more directly in the subsidy scheme.
Trade unions, which some honourable senators have suggested by virtue of their amendment to the previous Bill should also be included, are in quite a different position. They may already be approved under section 5 (1) (b) (iv) in order to receive assistance provided by the Act.
The position as it presently exists is that any proposal submitted by a trade union would receive sympathetic consideration from the Department of Social Services in the same way as proposals from religious and charitable bodies and, provided the project met the other requirements of the Act, the organisation would be submitted to the Governor-General for approval. The same position exists with respect to many other groups in the community. Friendly societies, Country Women’s Associations, Rotary and other service clubs, to name just a few, are in an identical position. Approval has already been given and subsidy paid to a number of such organisations.
Section 5 (3), however, at present expressly excludes local governing bodies from assistance under the Act and an amendment to the principal Act in the way this Bill proposes is therefore necessary to put into effect the Prime Minister’s undertaking. Local governing bodies will be encouraged to participate in the scheme in two ways. Whereas the principal Act at present excludes local governing bodies from assistance, the Bill will provide for them to be eligible organisations in the same way as religious, charitable and the other organisations to which I have referred.
The second provision relates to the funds which can attract the Commonwealth subsidy of $2 for $1. At present any funds received by an eligible organisation from a local governing body are expressly excluded from attracting subsidy. This section of the Act will be amended to enable contributions of money or property by local governing bodies to other eligible organisations to attract subsidy in the same way as funds raised by a local governing body towards the establishment of a home of its own. One restriction will remain. Where moneys have been received by a local governing body from the Commonwealth or State governments they will continue to be ineligible. This is in keeping with the policy which already applies to other eligible organisations and will ensure that subsidies paid under the Act are attracted to moneys raised in the particular local government area. This, Mr Deputy President, is in keeping with the general concept of the Act. The proposed amendments will take effect from 28th November 1966, this being the first working day after the re-election of the Government.
One other provision is contained in the Bill. This is of a machinery nature and relates to the method of payment of instalments of an approved grant. Instalments of grants are made available progressively as work on an approved project proceeds. As the Act now stands each individual pay ment must be approved personally by the Director-General of Social Services. Because of the success of the Act this has led to a large volume of routine work having to be performed by the DirectorGeneral. The opportunity has been taken to reduce the time and work involved by providing for the Director-General to authorise appropriate officers to approve the payment of instalments. A general power of delegation is not being sought and there will be no change in the present requirement that all grants be approved in the first instance by the Director-General.
Mr Deputy President, this Bill will increase the effectiveness of the Aged Persons Homes Act by extending the field of eligibility for the assistance it provides. I would like to emphasise that this measure has already been endorsed by the Australian electorate. The success achieved by the Aged Persons Homes Act is amply demonstrated by the fact that since 1954 subsidies totalling more than $70m have been approved, enabling accommodation to be provided for over 26,600 aged persons. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 19 October (vide page 1485).
Proposed expenditure, $341,164,000.
Proposed provision, $240,000,000.
Proposed expenditure, $48,754,000.
Proposed provision, $8,583,000.
– I want to speak on the estimates for Broadcasting and Television Services. I relate my remarks to Division 835 - Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for which the proposed appropriation is $1,200,000. I have read the latest annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board closely and with much interest. I certainly do not agree with all it contains, but I believe it is the best report that the Board has ever submitted to this Parliament. At long last it can be seen that the attempts of some of us to get the Australian television industry floated are meeting with some success. Of course, the millenium has not yet arrived and there is still a long way to go; but, in contradistinction to previous reports where phrases such as ‘It is considered’, ‘It is felt’ and ‘It is thought’ were prominent the latest report contains material that a person can get his teeth into.
It is obvious that Mr Wright, the new Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board, is keen to see that something is done. His hands and those of the Board have been tied because of Government policy, but I suggest that if a more positive attempt is made to promote the Australian television industry we certainly will get a really effective industry. There can be no doubt that we have the talents and skills, not only in our writers and artists but, as a result of experience, in our directors and producers. All they want is a reasonable go to be able to exhibit their talents. As I said, we have a long way to go yet. The sad thing is that it has taken us so long to get under way. Progress is occurring despite rather than because of Government policy. lt is noteworthy that the average content of Australian programmes is improving; but perhaps this has been principally because overseas shows have not been available or because of the increased cost of overseas shows with the result that local shows have had to be produced and local artists used: The ratings of Australian shows undeniably have been as good as and, in many cases, better than any comparable imported material. In the Broadcasting Control Board’s report is a reference to a survey that was conducted by the Board in a section of the Australian community. One of the general criticisms expressed in that survey was that too many repeats of previous programmes and too many old cinema programmes were being used. Undoubtedly while these old repeats and old cinema films are being used ‘ valuable time is being occupied that could otherwise be used for exhibiting Australian productions. I strongly suggest to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that this aspect of the report should be examined and considered to see that much more is done to remove some of these old repeats and old films to bring Australian television more up to date.
It is gratifying to note that some of the commercial stations are now doing something positive to produce Australian television programmes. While in previous years I have been condemnatory of many of the commercial stations I think that Channel 7 in Sydney, in the Australian dramatic field, is really setting the pace. It is now televising a number of Australian productions. I understand from a recent news release that this commercial station, conjointly with an English company, intends to produce in Australia a number of episodes of a production which, I think, is to be named ‘Charter Boat’ and which will be filmed in colour.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, at page 101 of its report for 1966- 67, set down some comments about the televising of objectionable matter. It referred to a number of complaints that it had received about a programme broadcast by Channel Seven. This was the Australian production ‘You Can’t See Round Corners’, the story of which was written by the Australian author, Jon Cleary. The report, at the same page, mentioned also a programme based on an alleged sporting game, the name of the programme being The Roller Game*. I have no objection to the manner in which the Board dealt with that programme, because I do not think that it contributes anything to informing, educating or entertaining the Australian public.
– What is it?
– It depicts a so called sport which, apparently, is staged at the Sydney Stadium and in which the participants, on roller skates, hustle and bustle, push and shove one another in a manner that resembles an up to date wrestling match.
– Those who take part seem to be principally rude girls.
– That may well be the honourable senator’s opinion. But 1 am concerned with Australian dramatic poductions. I believe that the production of the programme ‘You Can’t See Round Corners’ was a genuine attempt by the station concerned to promote a high quality Australian production. I appreciate that the Broadcasting Control Board has to ensure that the standards it sets are complied with in as many respects as possible. However, at the same time, I believe that to encourage the development of an Australian film industry a certain amount of latitude must be allowed in the production of Australian films. I fully understand that the Board must keep its eye on these matters, but the fact remains that while a controversy existed between the Board and the commercial television station concerning the screening of one episode of ‘You Can’t See Round Corners’ the resulting publicity had an effect that was the very opposite of that which the Board intended. Everyone who read the publicity wanted to see the film.
I now want to congratulate those Australian artists who represented this nation at the Expo 67 exhibition in Montreal and who have developed their skills principally by their work on television in Australia. They include people like Bobby Limb and the now well known international artist Rolf Harris.
– The Seekers.
– The Seekers, and Kathy Lloyd. These artists were a great credit to this nation. The overwhelming popularity with which they were received at this international exposition in Canada indicates to me that they and people like them with comparable talents and skills ought to be given a much better go in the television industry in Australia than they have been given in the past. I am told that the Australian artists at Expo 67 played before capacity houses and that their programme was by far the most popular one there. The Australian company, NLT Productions and other organisations concerned with the promotion of that programme are to be congratulated. They did an enormous amount of work in the production and staging of this Australian programme and they achieved a great deal on behalf of the Australian community by promoting Australia in such an excellent manner. 1 hope that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will continue to keep a watchful eye on the latest edicts that it has given to the commercial television stations concerning the amount of Australian content in their programmes. The latest report of the Board, at page 89, indicates that twenty-six out of the twenty-nine stations to which the Australian content requirements apply have complied with the new requirements recently laid down by the Board, which are set out at pages 86 and 87 of the report. Those twenty-six stations are televising at least the required amount of Australian drama. First, I congratulate the twenty-six stations that have complied with the Board’s requirements. However, I suggest that in future the Board should give details of the stations that have not complied, so that the. Australian people, and this Parliament in particular, may be informed accordingly.
While discussing the estimates for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board I wish to mention the introduction of colour television in Australia. Almost three pages of the Board’s latest report are devoted to the situation in Australia with respect to colour television. The report refers to a statement made in the Parliament in March 1-967 by the Postmaster-General and to another statement made by him on 24th August 1967. In short, the Minister said that it is not intended at this stage to fix a date for the introduction of colour television in Australia, because he believes that the results shown in other countries have to be looked at in order to ensure that we get the greatest possible advantage from this, development. I agree that all facets have to be considered. Nonetheless, I urge the Board and the Minister to consider giving to the Australian public an indication of the time by which it is intended to have colour television. I have already mentioned thai one commercial station, in conjunction with a British company, intends to produce in Australia a programme filmed in colour. Sales of television sets in this country have practically reached saturation point. People wailing to purchase new sets do not know whether to buy now or to wait. Programmes, productions and many other requirements will have to be prepared and brought, up to date for the introduction of colour television. If the television industry in this country is lo keep up to date with world standards and findexport markets for Australian programmes that may be produced in the future, it must be given some reasonable estimate of time so that it can make appropriate plans. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he consider this matter carefully with a view to seeing that those involved in all facets of the industry are given adequate notice of the intended introduction of colour television so that they can plan accordingly.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I wish to direct attention to the estimates for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to discuss the activities of that body. First, I compliment it on its thirty-fifth annual report, especially on the standard of its production and the reading matter and the photographs contained in it. I believe that this really ranks as a first among the reports that we in the Senate are privileged to receive each year from the various Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities. Being a South Australian, I am most concerned about the inadequate facilities provided for the Commission in South Australia. Therefore, I was especially interested to read, at page 5 of its latest report, this comment:
However, In spite of some improvement, the ABC still operates in Sydney from seventeen separate and largely unsuitable buildings and in Melbourne from ten buildings. In other cities, the situation is similar. Effective supervision and control is not easy because of this division of personnel between widely separated locations - a situation which inhibits the necessary consultation between officers and the effective co-ordination of our varied activities. 1 emphasise this part:
The Commission has an urgent need for new buildings in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne and it is hoped that In spite of other claims, Parliament will find it possible to approve the capital costs involved.
Let me now report on the position in Adelaide as I see it. First, I shall discuss television and its comparatively recent introduction in the Collinswood area. As honourable senators will recall, a considerable sum has been allocated in the current Budget for the improvement of buildings and facilities at Collinswood, and I pay tribute to the Government for this. I hope that within the next 6 months production of television material at Collinswood will be carried on under the best possible conditions. The situation is entirely different on the broadcasting side in the city of Adelaide where the ABC has its headquarters in an antiquated church building that was erected possibly more than a hundred years ago in the Hindmarsh square area. This old building has been rather crudely renovated and altered in the attempt to make it suitable for broadcasting activities but it is entirely inadequate to meet current needs. So the ABC has also occupied a basement and other parts of a building on the other side of the Square known as Football House in which the staff work in damp and horrible conditions. When going from one building to the other in Hindmarsh Square employees have to cross a roadway carrying six lanes of dense traffic. I cannot imagine any worse or more dismal facilities for the ABC in Adelaide than those I have just portrayed. I urge the Government to give high priority to adequate buildngs in the city of Adelaide for the ABC.
While on the question of ABC facilities I shall draw attention to the situation in country districts of South Australia. Port Pirie, an important industrial city about 150 miles north of Adelaide, is the headquarters of ABC activities in the northern part of South Australia, including the area known as Eyre Peninsula. The ABC staff is housed in a little old building in one of the farther back streets of this industrial city. This is not adequate accommodation for the ABC manager and his journalists and other officers who do a magnificent job of communication for the whole of the north, north west and north east of South Australia. As a regular listener to this station’s news programme I have been impressed by the excellence of the journalism, which covers many fields. This station regularly broadcasts to people in all the small country towns in the north, north east, and north west of South Australia giving information on such matters as rural pursuits and sporting, religious, charitable and civic activities. The position is ever so much better in the south eastern part of South Australia where the ABC has a beautiful new building at Mount Gambier. The working conditions of employees are much superior there.
Let me now give some general comment on the activities of the ABC in South Australia. I think there has been a big improvement, especially in television, mainly because of increased local participation. There are fewer imported films and other
Imported shows, but there is more participation by country people and others interested in matters of importance to country viewers. I compliment the ABC on this trend to local productions. I invite the Minister’s attention to a matter of longstanding interest to members from South Australia on both sides of the chamber. There is no effective television penetration to the areas of Eyre Peninsula in the western part of South Australia or to the thickly populated River Murray area. We have received constant complaints which have been passed on to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), who, I believe, has sent experts and technicians to study the situation in the Eyre Peninsula.
– That is right.
– 1 should like the Minister in replying to let me know the latest position with regard to television penetration to Eyre Peninsula. The areas in which I am particularly interested are Kimba, Wudinna, Ceduna, Port Lincoln and Cummins, which are important areas in South Australia. This year about 50% of the grain produced in South Australia will come from these areas of Eyre Peninsula. Very few people there can get satisfactory television viewing. These people, who play an enormous part in contributing to South Australia’s export earnings, are entitled to know when they may expect a local television station. I know that development has been going on apace in Tasmania. Western Australia and Tasmania have small translator stations but nothing seems to have been done in this regard in South Australia. I emphasise the urgent need for television in an area such as Woomera where, in an isolated part of South Australia, 5,000 or 6,000 Australians do a job of world importance. The Government seems to be making no effort to extend television to those two or three square miles in South Australia which, though isolated, are of the utmost importance.
I conclude my remarks by reference to the work of Radio Australia, which, as honourable senators realise, is the overseas service of the ABC. One amazing fact which I gleaned from the thirty-fifth annual report of the ABC, at page 25, is as follows:
Radio Australia’s programme to teach English in Indonesia continues to be a major draw card.
Since this programme began in 1959, 2,660.000 of the accompanying booklets have been sent to students in Indonesia.
This is a fantastic number. One would expect that there were possibly 2 million requests from individuals in Indonesia for these booklets. I have been to the office of Radio Australia in Melbourne and have seen a pile of letters 1 foot high on a table. These letters, which bore air mail stamps, had just arrived from Indonesia. This shows the interest of individuals in Indonesia in the splendid work that is being done by Radio Australia. I would like to compliment the ABC on its work.
I invite the attention of the Minister and the Government to the necessity to provide better facilities for the ABC in Adelaide and better facilities for people in the Eyre Peninsula and Upper Murray areas so that they can receive the television programmes provided by the ABC.
Order! Before we proceed any further I draw the attention of the Committee to the length of time that is being spent on asking questions. In view of the number of estimates we still have to go through, I ask honourable senators to try to compress their requests into a shorter space of time; otherwise a number of honourable senators will not have the opportunity to ask questions.
– 1 shall endeavour to compress my remarks in deference to your suggestion, Mr Temporary Chairman. I desire to refer to what I regard as the wrongful use of Government money by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to give advantages to certain groups of election candidates to the detriment of certain other groups. It is generally accepted in the world that in a democratic country all candidates- should be equal before the electors. But in Australia for years all candidates have not been equal before the electors, because as a result of an undercover agreement between the Government parties and the Australian Labor Party large sums of Government money are made available to assist Liberal Party, Australian Country Party and Australian Labor Party candidates at the expense of other candidates. It is accepted in the world that that kind of thing is wrong.
One of the most canvassed allegations against the recent election in Vietnam was that candidates Thieu and Ky were able to advance their cause by using government facilities which were not available to other candidates. I have heard members of the Labor Party express resentment at this; but while they say it is wrong in Vietnam they say it is right when it is done to help them in Australia.
– Why does the honourable senator say it is right in Vietnam and not in Australia?
– I never said it was right. I do not intend to deal with the Vietnam election; 1 merely mention it because we are now discussing the ABC. 1 do not want to get on to the other question either. In the coming election the taxpayers’ money will be used to provide VIP aircraft to help certain groups of candidates and not others, and cars will be made available to help certain groups of candidates and not others. I believe we had a record some years ago when the then Leader of the Opposition had 17 cars out in one day. He was using one car himself and the ether 16 were being used by persons who allegedly represented him. Those facilities are available for some groups of candidates and not for others.
Now we have the position where the ABC will make considerable time available to the major parties, perhaps a paltry amount’ of time for the Party that I represent, and no time at all for other candidates. Why should the taxpayers’ money be used, for example, to assist the candidature of Senator Wright and not the candidature of Senator Turnbull? Is that justice? ls that democracy?
– If we all had cars there would be too many.
– Senator Ormonde is in the comfortable position of being one of the beneficiaries upon whom the taxpayers’ money is spent while other candidates have to find money to pay for time on commercial television stations. That is wrong. What is the basis upon which the ABC acts? It is a basis that was instituted some years ago when they were horrified because the Communist Party asked for time. Although I have heard Labor Party members say: ‘Well, they are a legal party’ and have defended them on that basis, they have never defended or suggested for one moment that the Communist Party ought to get time on the ABC. That would upset the present cosy little arrangement whereby they get all the time that is allocated to major parties. To get time one has to have some evidence that one has representation in the Parliament and some evidence that one has support on the hustings. This is interesting. The major parties do everything they can to ensure that the up and coming small party will not get anywhere and then they say: ‘We cannot help you because you are not doing well enough’.
– Who is up and coming?
– If the honourable senator studies the results of the elections for the last 12 years he will soon see what the up and coming small party is.
– The honourable senator is speaking of Capricornia?
– I am speaking of the decisive one. In Britain a committee consisting of representatives of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour Parties examines this question of television coverage and reaches an agreement. It does not put the responsibility on a commission like the ABC and say to that commission: ‘You fix it this way because this is the way we want it’. There is at least some basis of reasonableness in Britain. But what will happen in Australia during the forthcoming campaign? The Government and the ALP will split up large amounts of time and the Democratic Labor Party will get a paltry allowance of time. The DLP is in the situation that, while the major parties get all this time at no cost, it has to try and bolster its time by paying for time on commercial television stations. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission had the courage and the intestinal fortitude it would say: We will allow 1 hour to the Liberal Party, 1 hour to the Country Party, 1 hour to the ALP, 1 hour to the DLP and l .hour to other parties which are contesting a reasonable number of seats so that these Parties can put their policy’.
– That would exclude the independent senator.
– If he has representation he is entitled to time, too. I can appreciate that people will say: ‘This is wrong with it and that is wrong with it’, but the people who say that tilings are wrong with it are the people who are getting the soft cop today. They know they are all right. They know they will get their four hours on the air while another Party will get half an hour and other people will get nothing. They are able to use the taxpayers’ money to pay for their campaign while other people are not. Naturally they love that situation. There is no question of equality, no question of democracy; it is a cosy little undercover agreement between the Government and the Opposition by which they will fix things to their own advantage.
People are saying: ‘There is only one Independent and you must have some regard to the numbers in each Party in Parliament*. The Government had a majority of only one after the 1961 election, and in the 1963 election campaign both the Government and the Opposition were given exactly the same time on the air. Today the Government has 80 members in the House of Representatives and the Opposition has about 40 but they still will receive the same time on the air, so the suggestion that Parties are treated on the basis of numbers is entirely false. There is a cosy agreement between the Government Parties and the ALP to spend the taxpayers’ money to advance their own candidature. They do not want anyone else to be in it because, as I have said, it is such a soft cop. They receive that favoured treatment while we have to pay excessive sums of money to commercial stations to get our place in the sun.
I am told that the ABC has a new chairman and a new administration. I hope that the new administration will have a look at this matter and be fair minded and democratic enough to give up this Australian system which appears to be modelled on the Vietnam system and, instead, introduce a system by which each Party is given the same time to put its policy. Then if they want any more time, let them pay for it on commercial television. The bill should not be sent to the Australian taxpayer. That is what the Government Parties and the ALP do.
In the forthcoming election campaign we will have to- put up with the same thing again. The taxpayers’ money is being spent on VIP planes which are being used by members of the Government and the
Opposition. If the Opposition were a real Opposition it would stand up and fight on the VIP issue, but the Government has bought it off in the same way as it has bought it off in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The ALP has been bought off by being granted equal advantages. Senator Cavanagh admits that He says: ‘If I can get on a VIP plane I will be in it’. Why would he not? ALP members will take with both hands anything that the taxpayers will pay for, but members of a real Labor Party would be demanding that VIP planes be used only for the proper purposes.
– Would the honourable senator use them?
– Definitely not. Neither of us in the DLP will ever use a VIP plane.
– I think that is true.
– I say that definitely, but the honourable senator will use one if it is available.
– Of course 1 will.
– The Committee will notice that Senator Wheeldon is quite prepared to fly anywhere at the taxpayers’ expense if he can do so. If the present ALP were a decent Labor Party it would insist that VIP planes be used only for the proper purposes.
I return to the ABC. I hope that the Chairman will have the intestinal fortitude to say: ‘We will provide time for the policy speeches and then the Parties can buy any other time they want on commercial television’. We hear a lot of talk about there being no interference with the impartiality of the ABC. I hope that the Government and the ALP will not threaten the Commission, as they have done in the past, to ensure the maintenance of their own privileged positions.
I shall be brief on the next matter I want to raise. I hope that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be stronger in attacking undesirable types of presentation. In the old days before the Board was established I remember that the late Senator ‘Donald Cameron, who was then Postmaster-General, did not allow the talk of pseudo-intellectuals about censorship to stop him suspending people who indulged in filth over the air. He suspended them straight out. I should like to see a little more of that determined attitude when filth is presented, as it is at times, by people who do not have the wit or the intelligence to produce amusing programmes which are clean. Instead, they try to make up for their lack by seeking laughs in the other much more undesirable way.
I hope that our programmes will be improved. I do not think they have been good. We need a much greater Australian content in our programmes. Many of the films which have been shown over the past 18 months have been terrible. The excuse of the stations has been that they have been negotiating with American interests which are trying to hold them up for excessive charges for films.
– They are being held up.
– I hope they will stand out. I do not think we should be milked, but at the same time many of the programmes are so bad that if the American interests will not come to the party we have a much stronger argument for producing Australian features. Let us make use of the talent that we have in Australia and which, in too many cases, is forced to go to England or America to obtain recognition.
– And they make their names internationally.
– That is so. It is amazing to see a country like Italy so prominent in the sphere of film production while in Australia we seem to be incapable of doing what we were doing 20 years ago. If the American interests are holding us up 1 do not think we should give in to them. We should try to produce films for ourselves, because if we look at Australians who are making names for themselves abroad we must realise that we have the talent here. All we need do is make use of it.
– I shall deal with the comments made by Senator McManus first because I would not like them to remain unchallenged. Perhaps unchallenged’ is too harsh a word, but I would not like there to be any misunderstanding of the situation in relation to broadcasting times. It would be quite wrong tq imagine that the amount of political time made available by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is of the significance that one might gather from the comments made by Senator McManus. The allocation of time on radio and television for preelection talks is the responsibility of the ABC, not of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) or of the Parliament. The amount of time made available is in accordance with the political climate at the time, but time is not allocated by the ABC to the exclusion of other programmes and the enjoyment of listeners and viewers.
When I heard the proposition that each Party should have an hour here and an hour there I must confess that I thought: Heaven protect the suffering public if a disproportionate amount of broadcast and television time is made available on any given day for political broadcasts’. That is just not in the realm of practicability.
– Then why not cut them all out?
– The honourable senator has the deplorable habit of after having made a speech, making the speech in reply that he would like to hear. This is Friday and we have a long way to go. I ask the honourable senator to please forbear. As I have said, the responsibility lies with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and not with the Postmaster-General or the Parliament. Time is allocated on the basis of a formula which gives equal time to the Government and to the Opposition. Time is allocated to smaller parties represented in the Parliament proportionately on the basis of election results. Yesterday Senator Turnbull asked a question on this subject. It is on the notice paper and an answer will be supplied.
– Before the election?
– The honourable senator can judge me on my past record. It is my understanding that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is allocated approximately 40 minutes spread over the cycle of the election campaign. I want to nail the proposition that the Government and the official Opposition Parties receive a huge amount of time at the cost of the taxpayers for the broadcasting of political mutter. The facts of life are that, although these parties have an allocation of time on the ABC, most of the time they use is on the commercial stations and they pay for it.
– How much time does the Government have?
– How much time does the Government get? The Minister has said how much we get.
– Senator McManus is falling into error again. Madam Chair, 1 ask for your protection. ] suggest that, if Senator McManus wants to make another speech in Committee, you call him at an appropriate time in his turn.
– The Minister is hiding behind a woman’s skirt.
– Any man who can do that these days is a magician. Senator McManus referred to other matters. 1 find that some of his views on broadcasting and television programmes generally coincide with mine. I will refer to them when I have answered the comments made by Senator McClelland. I want to conclude my remarks on the allocation of time to political parties by making it perfectly clear that most of the time used by political parties is on commercial stations and they and their organisations pay for this time in the normal way. The allocation of time to political parties on the stations controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is limited and is calculated according to a formula, which provides for the Democratic Labor Party, as a Party, to have a share. The results at the previous election and the significance of the Party, looked at in a broad way, are taken into account.
Senator Laught referred to Radio Australia and commended it for the good work it is doing. It is well to recall that a booster station is being built in Darwin and will come on stream in 1968. 1 inspected the work on the station not very long ago. When it is operating, it will increase the power of Radio Australia and give it an additional ‘advantage. The volume of its broadcasts to the Far East will be increased and its broadcasts will then be more significant. This is important, because Radio Australia presents the Australian image to overseas countries. I well recall some years ago when I was in Papua and New Guinea hearing a complaint that, though the people in some areas preferred the programmes of Radio Australia, reception of its broadcasts was not nearly as clear as was reception of broadcasts by Radio Peking. Those of us who have had the advantage of visiting countries in the Far East know that Senator Laught’s comments are correct. The quality of the broadcasts of Radio Australia and its status and prestige in the Far East are very high.
The honourable senator referred to television services in the Eyre Peninsula. The note I have is that investigations are being made into the possibility of establishing translator stations to provide a service to Port Lincoln. However, there are real problems in the central and western areas. Difficulties are created by distance and the sparsity of population. We all realise that a television station provides a service to a limited area of only 60 miles or so. This creates economic as well as technical difficulties. Although the extension of television services presents considerable difficulty, it should be appreciated that a television service is provided to 95.6% of the population but covers only 15% of the area of Australia. This is an extraordinary situation. The remaining 4.4% of the population is spread over 85% of the nation.
– And a lot of that 4.4% is in South Australia.
– It is true that a significant part is in South Australia and in Western Australia. I think this shows the difficulties, not only in a technical sense but also in an economic sense, in extending television services into these vast areas. Such a service in these areas would reach only 4.4% of the population. I think sometimes we tend to overlook this factor.
Senator Laught referred to the need for suitable accommodation for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in South Australia. I think he also mentioned this need in Melbourne and Sydney, but his main concern was with Adelaide. I understand that the building plan is proceeding in Adelaide and will be pursued during this financial year. Provision will be made in the new building complex that is being planned for all radio activities that are at present located in Hindmarsh Square. I think that concludes my answers to the comments made by Senator Laught. If I have overlooked any point, I may pick it up later. I think I should refer now to Senator McClelland. He made some comments about the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I agree with him and with the complimentary remarks made by Senator Laught about the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Both reports are informative and very helpful to honourable senators when they are considering the activities of these bodies.
– The former Chairman of the Commission, Dr Darling, should be complimented.
– Yes; I do not think anybody should detract from his efforts. I would be the last to do so. The Chairman, the other members of the Board, the members of the executive and officers deserve recognition. Senator McClelland dealt with programme research and ratings. This is at page 102 of the Board’s report. One comment in the report is quite significant. It reads:
Investigation of programme preferences showed that high-rating programmes were not always those which people named as their favourites. Programmes with only moderate ratings were often nominated as favourites.
This matter of ratings is like that of gallup polls; a lot has to do with the people conducting the poll. This is not a precise science. It involves judgment. I think one must be careful in deciding how much weight to give to these ratings. This has always been my opinion, and my ego was bolstered by the comment in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– I was dealing with the matter of repeat programmes.
– I am told that some people are attracted by repeat programmes. Research shows that if a programme is transmitted on, say, a Sunday night, there is always a section of the community which is not able to see the programme but which wants to see it. In addition there is another section of the community which, having seen the programme, wants to see it again. As for the Australian content of programmes, this matter is to be reviewed by the Board in the next 12 months. The matter of Australian content is tied in some degree to availability of programmes from the Australian industry and the capacity of the Australian industry to produce programmes. Perhaps we are getting into an area of controversy here but I think it is elementary that it is not much good fixing a certain percentage for Australian programmes if from our Australian resources we cannot get reasonably close to that percentage. If we do not fix a sensible percentage the whole business falls into disrepute. These are factors which the Board has to look at.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I want to refer in document B under Division No. 983, Capital Works and Services, to item 01, under which $2,117,000 is to be appropriated for sound broadcasting transmission. Will all of this amount be absorbed in the booster station for Radio Australia in Darwin? I have an idea that this so. Under item 03 an amount of $230,000 is to be appropriated for television transmission. I understand that a substantial part of that amount will be spent on the television transmitter for Mackay. In the document ‘Civil Works Programme 1967-68’ we find details concerning the construction of the Mackay television station. An amount of $299,150 has been set aside for the construction of an access road. Almost all of that sum has been spent so I presume that the road is almost completed. An amount of $79,100 is authorised for the erection of a regional television transmitter building. Will the Minister say when the building will be available for transmitting purposes. The microwave relay now passes Mackay and the area is not getting good television reception. It has to depend at present on transmissions from Townsville and Rockhampton, which are too far away. Can the Minister also give some details relating to the proposed commercial television station in Mackay, which I understand is to use the national station’s transmitter? I think the company responsible for the commercial station has been slow in building its transmitter.
I now turn to television in the Cairns area. At present there is a temporary national station operating in the immediate vicinity of the city of Cairns. It is ABNQ9. On the same transmitter there is a temporary commercial station, FNQ10. These stations were designed to give programmes to the Cairns area. In fact the programmes reach only the city of Cairns and not much further. This is because of the difficulty experienced in building a road up Mt Bartle Frere. Investigations are proceeding to decide whether it is better to build the road or to put in translater stations in the Tableland area, which is not at present getting reception. Is there an amount provided in this Budget for a permanent national television station in the Cairns district?
Recently the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) announced that tenders would be called for a microwave transmission system from Townsville to Mount Isa. I presume that this will be extended ultimately to the Northern Territory, ls any provision made in the Budget for this work. Seeing that tenders are soon to be called I assume that the work will start before the end of the financial year.
In its report the Australian Broadcasting Control Board lists commercial broadcasting stations in Queensland. I refer particularly to station 4QL Charleville. What is unique about station 4QL Charleville is that apart from the fact that it serves a very remote area of Australia, although its day time power is 2,000 watts, at night time it is forced to reduce to 1,000 watts. Few other commercial stations in Australia are in this position. Most of those which are in this position are situated in more closely settled areas where their range of transmission is not as great as in the case of station 4QL. I have been told that the station has to reduce power at night time because it shares a wave length with a station on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, which causes some interference.
It is hardly fair to impose this restriction on station 4QL Charleville. I might mention that station 4ZR Roma, which is a little to the east, is in a similar plight. These stations serve an area up to the border of the Northern Territory and for a radius of several hundred miles around. The nearest other commercial stations are at Oakey in the east and Longreach in the north. In the case of Charleville and Cunnamulla there is no national station in the area. The nearest national station is at Longreach to the north or St George to the east. I would like to know if any action can be taken to permit the commercial broadcasting stations at Roma and Charleville - more particularly Charleville because the need there is urgent - to operate on an authorised 2,000 watts of power for 24 hours a day, thus giving the people of that large, sparsely settled area a service that they do not enjoy now.
Let me summarise my questions. The first concerns the likely starting date of the national television station at Mackay and the position of the commercial television station there. Secondly, is there any provision in the Estimates for a permanent national television transmitter in the Cairns area or for the microwave link that the Postmaster-General proposed from Townsville to Mount Isa? My final question deals with the night time power of the Charleville and Roma commercial radio stations.
– I have not replied to Senator McClelland, who referred to the introduction of colour television. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s annual report refers to a statement made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) in March of this year. The statement, which appears at page 77 of the report, reads:
The Government does not have any date in mind for the introduction of colour television. Technical standards are the first consideration and the determination of these is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
The Postmaster-General then went on to make certain other comments. The report states, at page 78:
The Postmaster-General added that, when the Government reached a firm decision about the introduction of colour television in Australia, it would give 18 months clear notice so that set manufactures and station operators would have time to prepare.
The whole approach of the Australian Government to colour television is to follow the pattern that was set for black and white television. In that case the Government was very cautious and did not enter the field too quickly so that when television was introduced it would be of first quality in comparison with world standards. There are many pitfalls to be avoided. Many points of view have been advanced in other parts of the world as to what form colour television should take. A degree of experimentation is going on. We in Australia cannot afford to do that. When we introduce colour television, as we undoubtedly will, it can be expected to be of a technical level unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. f want to deal with the comments of Senator Poyser and Senator Webster. Both honourable senators referred to rural automatic exchanges. This is a fairly vexing question. It has been referred to previously at question time. When plans are being developed to provide automatic exchanges in country areas careful consideration is given to the reticulation of the departmental line plant. Due regard is also had to the location of the premises of existing and new subscribers and every effort it made to ensure that the best interests of the residents are safeguarded in determining the site for the exchange. It is not economically practicable to establish new automatic exchanges in such numbers that all subscribers’ lines are limited in length. In some cases, because of the distance between the exchange and the resident’s premises, there is no alternative to requiring the resident to bear portion of the cost of providing or upgrading the private plant to the standard necessary for automatic work. The sharing of the cost of the work by all residents concerned is a matter for private arrangement as the Department has no power to assume authority to arbitrate between the parties nor does it have equity in any private plant.
In providing country subscribers’ services amounts of up to $1,056 are expended on departmental line and plant, for which an annual rental as low as $16 for an inclusive service can apply. Moreover, in determining the distances for which the departmental construction can be provided from the exchanges the practice is to allot the more distant residents, in addition to their own construction entitlements, an entitlement not used for services to residents who live closer to the exchange. In effect, therefore, costs are shared and plant is extended as equitably as possible within the limits of each subscriber’s plant allocation.
It is considered that the present system of providing services for rural areas is equitable and is the most satisfactory that can be evolved. The provision of lines by the Department beyond the present liberal basis would involve expenditure of the order of $2m annually. Such a course could not be taken without extending similar treatment to more than 32,000 existing country sub scribers who are leasing partly privately erected lines. The overall cost to the Department is estimated to be more than $90m. There would certainly be no justification for expending public funds to this extent. The need for extending telephone facilities to rural areas under the most favourable conditions possible is recognised, and in this regard an assurance is given that any improvements which are found to be practicable will be introduced in accordance with the Government’s policy of developing these areas. I realise, as we all do, that this is a difficult problem. That being so, I have sought from the Postmaster-General the information that I have just given to the Committee. That is as far as I can take the matter at the moment.
– Will the Minister answer my questions?
– Given time I will answer the honourable senator’s questions.
– I refer the Minister to Division 974, item 01, which relates to the proposed capital expenditure of $194,640,000 on telephone services. That is a very large part of the total allocation of $240m to the Postmaster-General’s Department for capital works and services. I have endeavoured to ascertain on what major projects this amount is to be spent but I have had considerable difficulty in doing so. I have not achieved my object, apart from learning that $21m is to be spent on buildings that leaves an amount of approximately $173m in relation to which I would like some information. The first official indication of what was spent last year appeared in the Auditor-General’s report at page 25, of which a list of the major projects is set out. The first item there refers to the provision of a 4-tube coaxial cable to Carnarvon at a cost of $6.5m. I appreciate that this is not an item in the estimates. The first indication of that expenditure in last years estimates was when the AuditorGeneral’s report was submitted this year. If we are to examine, in a constructive way, the amount of money to be spent under these estimates - it is a large amount - we should have some indication as to where the expenditure is to take place.
From my experience in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department produces these estimates at the end of May, and they are made available to the Treasurer so that he can draft the relevant part of the Budget. It seems to me that details of major projects could be made available to members of Parliament, particularly to members of the Senate, so that we could examine them in reasonable detail in order to assess the value of the projects. Had I been in the Senate last year and had I known of the proposal to provide a fourtube coaxial cable to Carnarvon I would have been extremely critical of that proposal, and for a very good reason. All these charges are being made against the PostmasterGeneral’s Department although I understand that quite a large amount of the expenditure is being incurred in connection with work being done for the Carnarvon tracking station and the North West Cape naval communication station. Of course, they pay quite liberally for the services provided. I do not object to the provision of this cable, but I do object to the fact that these charges are made against the allocation of funds of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and they are considered in the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I do not know how much more of the $173m comes within the same category. That is why I believe that details of major projects ought to be made available to members of Parliament so that we can have a look at them and give due regard to their value when we are dealing with the estimates of the Department.
Senator Poyser referred to the value of the subscriber trunk dialling services that are being introduced rapidly between the capital cities. I am also a little critical of this. Provision for this work has been made in these estimates. But 1 do not know how much money is to be spent on the provision of STD services this year. Although STD provides a good service and at the same time reduces costs by doing away with the old trunk exchanges, we find that the cost of providing STD services is one of the reasons given why postal charges are being increased. I do not think that we should introduce STD just for the sake of introducing it.
– Surely the honourable senator agrees that it gives a much better service.
– Only between Canberra and Sydney and Melbourne.
– That is, at present.
– Yes. The honourable senator will use this service because it is available to him, but the ordinary subscriber will get a service practically as quick by making a demand call. 1 do this quite often when I am not in Canberra. I make a call and book it to my Federal member’s room telephone number. I get a service just the same. We have the provision of STD services. The Post Office is introducing them because they reduce costs and result in less staff being required. This is one item the expenditure on which we ought to know.
I want to raise another point regarding capital expenditure which causes me a great deal of concern. This is a matter on which 1 have had considerable experience. In going from my home to my office in Perth I have passed the Postmaster-General’s Department’s yards and I have seen stored in those yards large drums of coaxial cable which is to be used on the Carnarvon project. I was interested to note that this cable was supplied well ahead of the work being carried out. I made some inquiries and found that there was plenty of other cable available in Western Australia for other projects under consideration. The interesting point is that although we have ali the cable for the Carnarvon project there is no jointing material with which to joint the cable together. This work is carried out by a different contractor. This will mean that if all the cable to be used is laid as normal - and it will run for up to 600 miles to Carnarvon - and the men are not able to finish the jo.b of jointing the cable as they go, costs will increase tremendously. Why have they not got the jointing materials? lt has not been supplied. Was this due to faulty planning? On making inquiries I found that contracts have been let for the supply of it but it has not come forward on due time. The reason why it has not come forward is that the contractor is doing something else and it does not concern him that he cannot supply this material, because he knows that the penalty clause in the contract will not be applied.
– How does he know that it will not be applied?
– When he signs the contract form he sees that it contains a penalty clause.
– But how does he know that it will not be applied?
– Because it has not been applied in the past. I shall take another instance. 1 made a number of inquiries, but I want to refer to only one. This point will interest Senator Ormonde. There are seventy channels of equipment installed in Sydney ready for trunk line operation but the operation of the equipment will be held up because one small unit has not been supplied by the contractor. Apparently it is all right when he has to make a number of units for one job, but it is a different matter when he has to change over and make one particular unit which is called a modem unit. This is short for modulator demodulator unit, which is a small unit necessary to make this trunk channel work. It has not been supplied. The contractor is not bothering to supply it on time because he knows that the penalty clause will not be invoked.
– The penalty clauses are in the contracts but they are never invoked?
– Yes. I know that on many occasions equipment has not been supplied and we have had to wait. Sometimes this is extremely awkward, because overseas companies are involved and they give all sorts of reasons why they cannot supply the equipment. So far as I know, the equipment in this instance is Australian made.
– The point I am interested in is that the honourable senator says that although there is a penalty clause in each contract it is never invoked.
– Yes. From my 9 years experience in the planning section of the Postmaster-General’s Department I do not know of any occasion when the penalty clause has been invoked. It is a policy matter. On many occasions if the Department, has to bring the men back again to complete the job it will cost more money and the Department’s costs rise.
Those are the particular questions in which I am interested. I should like the Minister to answer them, particularly the one regarding my suggestion about making details of major projects available to the Parliament before the estimates are considered. 1 do not mean that the details of all projects should be made available, because there are pages of them. But 1 should like the details of the major projects to be made available so that we can see what is planned for the coming 12 months.
– 1 want to direct the Minister’s attention to the question of the censorship of films for television. I do not know whether he noticed recently in the ‘Daily Mirror’-
– - Australian produced or overseas films?
– Overseas films.
– That matter has nothing to do with the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– If that is so, I shall leave it. Before I sit down I want to refer to another matter, namely, the industrial dispute in the Post Office. 1 take it that that has something to do with the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Obviously every senator believes that in 6 months time all post offices will be closed on Saturday. It goes without saying that if this Government and the Postal Department continue to delay a settlement, one of the largest groups of public servants will continue to work on Saturdays. Already the Government has suggested that it will close certain post offices. The people know this too. However, the Government, sticking to its conviction, cannot bring itself to give in to the postal workers. Why cannot the Government prepare a plan providing a timetable for the closing of all post offices on Saturdays? The banks - surely the most conservative people on earth - agreed to it after a most gentlemanly struggle with their staff, and nobody lost anything because of it. The banks are closed on Saturdays and so are most public service offices. Scarcely any part of the Public Service works on Saturday, certainly not those in the clerical group. Eventually the postal workers are to be given this concession but the Government intends to hold out as long as it can in spite of the fact that everybody knows that this will happen. You cannot reasonably have one section of the Public Service working on Saturday when everybody else is off. There is no essential reason for keeping the post office counter hands at work. There is no essential reason why a post office should be opened to sell stamps, which can be obtained from a machine. Even service stations sell petrol by machine.
– Does the honourable senator think the Commonwealth Railways should stop on Saturdays?
– I think they probably do, or let me say that threequarters of those railway workers do not work on Saturday. The railway services are working at only about a quarter pace on Saturday and three-quarters of industry closes on Saturday. Most people do not work either on Saturday or Sunday. People not engaged in essential postal services should not’ have to work on Saturdays.
– Such as bar attendants?
– Often that is the position. Not as many people work in bars on Saturdays as in the middle of the week, particularly between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
– What about bars at race courses?
– I have not finished yet. Has anybody ascertained what it costs the Post Office to keep the offices open on Saturday? The Government tries to be Liberal, and in this respect there is a vast difference between Government thinking of today and that of 18 years ago when it first came into office. It is now seeing the light. Why does it resist a change that must come about? For years it did so in respect of the banks, but the banks now close on Friday afternoon at the end of trading time. On Fridays, the people may bank until 5 p.m. and in addition the banks have deposit boxes to receive late deposits. They even make provision to receive the proceeds from poker machines on Saturday night so that large sums of money will not have to be kept on club premises.
If the Government set its mind to the problem, it could solve it quite easily. I appeal to the Government to do something about it. We know how it handled the struggle with the airline pilots. There need never have been a strike by the Qantas pilots had the parties got around the table, like commonsense people do, to work out a solution for the dispute. Eventually they came together. The Government is following much the same course in relation to postal officers. The Postmaster-General continually makes gestures and the union representatives are virtually living in this place, yet I am certain that all the Government need do is tell the union its real intentions. The unions do not want to engage in regulation strikes and so embarrass people, such as pensioners, by late payment of pensions.
Post office workers are only human and feel that they have to put up a show. The Government is forcing them to engage in regulation strikes; they have no other choice. They are after a 5-day week because they do not want to be the only group of public servants working on Saturdays when everybody else is off. They know that there is no need for them to be at work then. I think the Government could do a lot of good for itself if it produced a plan and said: ‘There it is; in 6 months time every post office .in Australia will close on Saturdays’.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- .Order! I suggest that honourable senators confine their remarks to the items of proposed expenditure. While I am in the Chair I shall see that they do so.
– I wish to refer to the matter of postal charges that was raised last night by Senator McManus. It relates to administration of the Post Office and comes under Division No. 820. I refer to the anomalous position, that was revealed to me only last week, concerning the rise in the discount given to big stores in respect of householder mail. It is proposed to increase this discount from 30% to 60%. 1 have gone to the trouble of making some inquiries in regard to this matter. They lead me to express dismay about the costing system of the Post Office. It is plain that the margin of profit on handling this mail enables the Post Office to afford an increase in the discount. 1 shall show now, from figures supplied to me, the degree of inaccuracy in Post Office accounting. The first of the figures were to the effect that income from handling householder mail at, say, Melbourne General Post Office, would be $20,000 plus additional costs of $1,900. My instinct caused me to challenge these figures, and I was then told that, taking into account overhead and other matters, the cost increase would be $11,000, leaving a balance of $9,000.
Senator McManus forewarned the Post Office, the Government and the country of a dangerous trend that might develop if an advantage is permitted in respect of this junk mail to the detriment of real mail deliveries by the Post Office. In the United States of America the delivery of this type of mail has become a real terror for the people, who often find their post boxes filled with all sorts of advertising junk. I am dismayed to think that the postal advantage to the big retail stores is to be increased at a time when the rate for the mail sent by the ordinary person has been raised.
– It is a scandal.
– Indeed it is. 1 am most disturbed about the situation, especially when the cost basis is changed from $1,900 to $11,000 in one move. 1 hope the Minister will explain this matter.
– I think that is in the Bill.
– I am referring to the anomalous and complex position which defeats the whole purpose of Parliament. In the Bill is a provision which relates to parcels of this junk mail of up to 1 lb, but the implementation of the increased discount with respect to parcels weighing over I lb is to be by regulation. All I am saying is that we in this chamber should not approve of estimates until we are satisfied. This disturbs me, particularly when the situation is contrasted with the matter raised by Senator Poyser and forcibly presented by Senator Webster - the system of introducing automatic telephone exchanges where long country connections are involved. 1 draw the Minister’s attention realistically to this. Where long distance lines are required we are now requiring users to bear an expenditure of up to $2,300 and $1,900, as quoted last night, whereas people living within a mile of a post office get the advantage of a telephone connection for no extra charge. 1 ask the Minister to indicate the thinking of the Post’ Office on this matter, lt does seem to me that a system of zoning in relation to each automatic telephone exchange should be considered whereby some portion of the charge should be borne by the more heavily populated areas immediately around the exchange and the cost to the long distance user alleviated. Not to temper the cost to the country dweller goes against the policy, which we should be careful to pursue, that these amenities should be available to the country dweller at no undue cost. I add my plea to that which has been voiced but not really replied to in detailed form. I want to know, particularly in relation to zoning, what the position is.
The other matter I wish to refer to briefly is the question of rent. A rent appropriation of over $4m is being sought. Senator Laught gave an effective description of the dispersion of places where the Australian Broadcasting Commission operates in his city of Adelaide. I want to know what the Post Office is doing. I am informed that in recent years in my city of Hobart three or four floors of a new private establishment have been rented and at the same time the Department of the Interior has sold a large city area that was originally designed for public buildings. If the Department is dispersing its activity into various places and at the same time is to be associated with renting private property instead of establishing one buildding in which the whole adminstration can be conducted, that is a retrograde step. I would be obliged if the Minister would comment on the three matters I have raised.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) l 2. 55-l refer to Division No. 820, which relates to the payment of salaries and which, in some items, indicates a variation In manpower trends in different States. I am concerned primarily with two items. One relates to postmasters, postal clerks and postal assistants and the other relates to mail officers, postal officers, junior postal officers, postmen, storemen and motor drivers. In the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales there is to be an increase of 105 postmasters, postal clerks and postal assistants and almost 300 mail officers, postal officers, etc. In Victoria there will be an increase of twenty postmasters, etc. and about 200 mail officers and so- on: Queensland seems to be treated badly. But in South Australia whereas in 1966-67 there were 633 postmasters, postal clerks and postal assistants, this year the number is to be reduced to 618, and there is to be an increase of only seven in the number of mail officers, postal officers, junior postal officers, postmen, storemen and motor drivers. I refer to these two classifications specifically because these classifications would appear to indicate contraction of postal services to certain areas or residents. I find the situation rather alarming. It would seem that it is not intended to extend postal deliveries this year in the rapidly expanding State of South Australia, where postal services are more necessary than in those States where there is high density living.
I suggest that greater consideration should be given to this matter. Only the week before last I presented to Mr O’sullivan, the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia, a petition which was signed by ninety-four residents and householders of O’Sullivan’s Beach, which is 13 or 14 miles south of Adelaide.
– There has been an overall increase of 190 in all classifications in South Australia.
– Yes. The figures 1 have quoted would suggest that it is intended not. to increase, but rather to reduce, the number of postmasters, postal clerks and postal assistants even though the suburban expansion in Adelaide would justify increasing the postal facilities. While other classifications of employment are being increased there seems to be a complete disregard of the requirements of new areas. The residents of O’Sullivan’s Beach are concerned at the distance they have to travel to the nearest post office to get their mail. They have sufficient residential numbers, and the roads are sufficiently good, to permit a delivery service to be povided. These people are entitled to such a service, probably more so than persons who live near a post office. It would appear that no provision is being made in these estimates to extend postal services in South Australia. That State should be receiving sympathetic consideration.
Sitting suspended from 1. to 2 p.m.
- Mr Chairman, before the suspension of the sitting I had dealt with the need for the improvement of postal deliveries and postal services generally, particularly in South Australia. I think that I. have already said sufficient on that matter. I now want to turn to the need, at a time when it is found necessary to increase postal charges, to see whether the Postmaster-General’s Department is making any wasteful expenditure. I refer particularly to the question of manpower. On one occasion, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I raised the subject of the threatened dismissal of mail sorters at the Grenfell Street Mail Sorting Branch in Adelaide. The men who were threatened with dismissal were mostly migrants who had served the Department well for up to 7 years as mail sorters. 1 believe that’ the position is described in the Post Office as that of mail officer. The only occupation of these men in their homeland had been that of mail sorter. After up to 7 years in the service of the Department, they have been threatened with dismissal to make way for others who have passed a Public Service examination in arithmetic, English and spelling and who are therefore to be given priority in employment although they are completely untrained in the work of mail sorting. The trained men arc to be dismissed simply because they have not passed the requisite examination.
Whether as a result of my raising the matter I do not know, but the dismissals of these trained officers have now been deferred until 23rd December, which will mean that they shall continue in their jobs until after the Christmas rush period. 1 understand that the situation is to be reviewed on 23rd December and it is expected that these men will then be dismissed. Despite their years of faithful and loyal service to the Department, they are threatened with dismissal merely to make way for untrained men who passed an examination that does not in any way make them better qualified for the job, though it complies with the relevant Public Service regulation. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to consider seriously whether it is necessary to replace the trained officers who are threatened with dismissal.
One of these men passed the appropriate Public Service examination for mail sorters in Melbourne. But the Victorian examination is not recognised in South Australia. The best assurance that the industrial officer of the Postal Department in Adelaide can offer him is that his dismissal will be deferred for 12 months and that if he accepts transfer to Victoria he can retain his permanency. A transfer to Victoria would necessitate the sale of a new home that he is at present under contract to purchase and the withdrawal of two of his children from 5-year apprenticeships on which they have embarked. This man can be given permanent employment in Victoria but not in Adelaide. How ridiculous this situation is. The Department is prepared to permit him to sit for the requisite examination in Adelaide in May of next year. If he can pass the examination then, despite not having the opportunity to use his knowledge of spelling and arithmetic and maintain his standard in the meantime, he will qualify for permanent appointment in Adelaide. However, if he does not attain the required standard in that examination, though that fact would not affect his capabilities for the job of mail sorting, his only hope of retaining employment in the Department is to transfer to Melbourne. But his economic and domestic circumstances make this impossible. So he has to either look for another job in Adelaide - a job for which he is untrained - or leave his family there and accept transfer to Melbourne if he wishes to retain permanent employment in the Department.
This is the sort of treatment that is being given to men who stuck loyally to the Department during a period of manpower shortage. As new Australians, they probably cannot pass an English test. Therefore, they appear to have no hope of avoiding the threatened dismissal on 23rd December. The services of these trained men are to be dispensed with and they are to be replaced by men who have still to be trained. This is wasteful. It takes many weeks to train men and make them efficient mail sorters. Whatever may be the requirements of the regulations, this situation is ridiculous. It causes costly waste. At present there is some concern about the high costs of postal administration, and I ask the Postmaster-General to see what can be done to solve the problem and to retain these, men in the service of the Department, whether on a temporary or a permanent basis, subject to their giving satisfactory service.
– Mr Chairman, I recall that Senator Cavanagh raised the matter of the employment of the mail sorters in Adelaide on an earlier occasion. I then took the matter up with the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and obtained for the honourable senator a reply to his representations. I shall refer the matter to the Postmaster-General again in the honourable senator’s name, but I fear that that is as far as I can take it. Before the suspension of the sitting, the honourable senator discussed the postal services in a particular area and questioned the adequacy of the services being provided. Information on this matter was sought during the suspension of the sitting, but our inquiries were concerned with the wrong place, I regret to say. We have now straightened matters out and are seeking information. If it is not available by the time that the Committee proceeds to the estimates for other departments, the information will certainly be conveyed to Senator Cavanagh.
Senator Wilkinson raised several matters. I wish first to give him some information about the Perth-Carnarvon coaxial cable. The plan is to commence ploughing in mid-November when track preparation will be complete. It is not the Department’s practice to commence jointing until sufficient cable has been laid to ensure a continuous flow of jointing work. Jointing is planned to commence early next year, when adequate supplies of jointing material will be available under the contract. With major cable projects, it is necessary to stockpile cable, because when ploughing commences our cable laying rate exceeds the production capacity of the manufacturers. In summary, there are no difficulties associated with the project. The Department does invoke penalty clauses in contracts when warranted in its judgment. The honourable senator also referred to capital expenditure for telephone services, an item for which $194,640,000 is being provided under Division No. 974 in Document B. Conveniently, the estimates do not show details of individual telephone projects, since these in total number about 5,000. Special major projects are commenced, and announced by the Postmaster-General, however, when the necessary approvals have been given. If any -honourable senator wants some information about the work going on in any particular area or about a specific project, if I am informed of the information sought, I shall use my means of communication as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to get the information and convey it to that honourable senator.
asked a series of questions about a number of matters. I can answer a number of those questions now. On 17th October, the Postmaster-General issued a Press statement about commercial television services at Mackay. In part, it was in these terms:
The Postmaster-General, Mr Alan Hulme, announced today that, on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board he had approved the reconstitution of Mackay Television Ltd, the company to which it was proposed that a licence be granted for a commercial television station in the Mackay area. This follows on the spot inquiries made last night by the Board.
The Minister said that, in a statement released on September 7, he announced that he had asked the Board to make a further examination regarding the provision of a commercial service in the Mackay area. He had felt some concern that a reconstitution of the Company proposed at the time would have had the effect of the major shareholding being held elsewhere than at Mackay, owning to the withdrawal of two major local sponsors. He had felt, therefore, that the Board should determine whether this was in the best interests of the Mackay area.
Following the Board’s inquiries and developments resulting from them, the Company now was in the fortunate position of having as sponsor shareholders two substantial local business enterprises - Mackay Theatres and the ‘Daily Mercury’ - as well as the Company which operated TVQ at Townsville.
Mr Hulme said that a public issue of shares would be made early in the new year and preference would be given to applications from people in the area to be served by the station.
He added that there was now no reason why the company should not proceed to establish the station as quickly as possible.
We are going to have a national station at Mackay, to commence operations at the end of the year. Senator Lawrie asked about the provision of television at Cairns. Investigations of the practicability of establishing power stations at Bellenden Kerr Range have been completed. Because of the possible delays in establishing them and the necessarily high costs involved in additions made in the Cairns area, an alternative method of serving the area by a multiple station scheme should be used. Several such schemes have been examined and investigations are now concentrated on what appears to be the most promising of these schemes to assess its practicability and possible shortcomings.
These investigations are being undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and my Department, and should be completed within the next few months. Other sites proved to have difficulties associated with them in view of a number of factors, and T shall not discuss them. Senator Lawrie referred to the TownsvilleMount lsa microwave project. The only expenditure this year in the Budget i the cost of a microwave route survey. The equipment requires a supply period of about 18 months, so no expenditure can be budgeted for other than the survey work. The next matter ‘concerns the Mackay national television station. 1 am advised that this station is expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year. The next matter concerns commercial broadcasting station 4BL Charleville, a request for increased power.
– At night time.
– Yes. li is appreciated that 4BL provides a valuable broadcasting service to south western Queensland. However, its night power cannot be increased because of difficulties arising out of the shortage of operating frequencies for broadcasting stations. 4BL shares a frequency with a New Zealand station and with 2XL Cooma and 6NA Narrogin. Any increase in power of 4BL would adversely affect the services of 2XL and further, under Australia’s agreement with New Zealand on frequencies, the night time power of 4BL must be limited to 1,000 watts owing to the frequency position. This difficulty has not yet been resolved and I cannot add anything that would be of assistance except to say that the matter is under critical examination. For the Radio Australia station at Darwin, there was a vote of $2.883m, $2.313m of which is for equipment for Radio Australia at Darwin. I think that is the point the honourable senator was making. The balance of the $570,000 covers the provision of new broadcasting stations at Broome, Derby, Port Hedland, Busselton and Berry Springs, and a large number of improvements to existing stations in most States. Senator
Wright adverted to the question of the householder mail delivery service which was also raised on these estimates by Senator McManus, if my memory serves me correctly. I point out that we dealt with this matter when considering the postal charges legislation. We did that in a number of ways. Originally there was a Bill before this House and it was rejected. Then there was a special meeting of the Senate for disallowance of the charges. Then there came the passage of the legislation as late as September.
– Were these concessional charges the subject of the regulation that was disallowed?
– I shall check that in a moment. This matter is in two parts, as Senator Wright said earlier. Part is covered by legislation and the other part by regulation. I shall deal with the postal charges first. The point is that for parcels of over 1 lb the Act provides for a discount of 40% or 60% on householder services for letters and other articles. The previous tariff provided for 30% . This 40% discount applies on articles up to 2 oz only. That was in the Bill. Statutory Rule No. 131 provides for the same conditions under the householder service for articles exceeding 1 lb. This previously was 30% .
– The combined operation of the Act and the regulations is to give an increased discount.
– Yes. This was canvassed in the second reading speech by the Postmaster-General and in the one that I gave in this chamber on his behalf. There is nothing new in this that was not known when we discussed the matter before. The economic consideration of this matter by the Post Office included the condition that the customer provides correctly sized bundles for each delivery area. The Post Office avoids such mail handling costs since the following procedures are eliminated: Facing up, post marking, mail exchange sorting, the round sorting or setting up. The Post Office within broad limits sets its own time of delivery which is also a factor in this particular type of handling. Senator Wright dealt with the costs of the Post Office and the savings it could make. The document before me indicates that it costs the Post Office a deal less than the rates charged to perform this service. For example, a catalogue of 4 oz to householders in Melbourne adds $1,900 to costs compared with income of $20,000. Senator Wright questioned that $1,900, as he is entitled to do having regard to the concept of book-keeping that he adopts, but the facts of life are that we should accept the conditions and facilities that are already available to the Post Office. The additional cost of the service is $1,900 and there is an income from it of $20,000. I io not want to argue with the honourable senator whether one should amortise the cost of services. The honourable senator could argue that no doubt quite as strongly as I can argue the point that I am putting forward.
– On the estimates we have been able to form a conclusion that we think is right.
– The honourable senator is entitled to form a conclusion and to project it. I am equally entitled to project my point of view. 1 am more concerned with the argument that this will provide a service which, if we accept the argument used by Senator McManus, will lead to an undesirable flooding of certain mail matter, which, although it might be good business for the Post Office, might be bad for the community. I want to scotch that argument. ( have a list of the organisations that are using this particular service in Tasmania. They are all very distinguished, reputable and respectable. Some charitable organisations are using the service. The Department of Housing uses the service, as does the Hydro-Electric Commission and the Municipality of Kentish.
– Not to the same extent as Myers, David Jones and a few other firms.
– We have to be realists. 1 find it a very weak argument to say that the Post Office should not provide this service and the people should not use it.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch I received a reply from the Minister in relation to the matters that I raised last night. I do not believe that I received a complete answer. The answer consisted of extracts from a number of communications, which I already had in my possession, between the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and the people in the Cope Cope area. The arguments advanced by the Postmaster-General have been rejected out of hand by the people who are involved in this dispute. I agree with the decision that they made last Monday. One extract read by the Minister was from a letter dated 27th September to the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). It is as follows:
It is considered that the present system of providing services in rural areas is equitable and the most satisfactory which can be evolved … the provision of all lines by the Department beyond the present liberal basis would involve further expenditure of the order of $2m annually.
This was part of the Minister’s reply this morning.
I want to deal with the sum of $2m that it will cost annually to assist the 3% of subscribers who are now being forced to pay for services that they already have and who are being forced to accept an upgrading of this service purely on the basis that the Postmaster-General’s Department has decided that it will put in an RAX rather than have these people connected to Donald or the other exchanges in the area. Unfortunately, we do not have the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year 1966-67 but in the Auditor-General’s report we have a list of major projects on pages. 251 and 252. These major projects include the provision of a 4-tube coaxial cable for the broadband system between Perth and Carnarvon, Western Australia, which is estimated by the Department to cost $6,462,000; installation of cross bar exchange equipment at Geraldton, Western Australia, which is estimated to cost $274,800; and provision of a Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne microwave route, which is estimated to cost $1,365,040. Other major projects are listed in the Auditor-General’s Report. I ask the Minister whether any of these major projects will be charged to the subscribers, as is the position with RAX units that are being established throughout the country.
I will not accept the statement that the present method is the most satisfactory that can be evolved, because I believe that the service should be free to all or none. I cannot see that any discrimination against 3% of the subscribers can be justified by a policy decision of the Department. The Minister has indicated that an amount of $2m annually would solve the problem. Then we get the red herring across the trail to the effect that to extend the benefit to 32,000 existing subscribers would bring this amount up to $90m. As I said last night, officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department might go to a country town in Victoria or anywhere else in the Commonwealth where there is a manual exchange and change that exchange to an automatic exchange for the benefit of subscribers. But there is no question of those people being charged for the installation of that exchange or the cables that will be laid for additional services in that town. I suggest that in the cities cables would extend as far as, if not further in some cases, than the limitation that is imposed in country areas for free services. I am not prepared to accept the answers of the Minister on this point. They have already been submitted in piles of correspondence which I have in my possession and which were considered by sixteen subscribers in the Cope Cope area at a meeting held as recently as Monday last. They were rejected.
I propose to read from a photostat copy of the statement which resulted from that meeting and which is signed by the sixteen subscribers to make absolutely certain that, if there is an answer that the Minister can give to the seven points raised in this document, it will be provided before this debate is concluded. The statement reads:
As we have found that the answers to our reasonable approaches to the P.M.G. have been most disappointing and unconvincing; we the Undersigned, at present, have decided not to privately construct or pay for the construction of private lines to proposed R.A.X. at Cope Cope for the following reasons:
The present P.M.G. policy in this matter is so grossly unfair we are sure that public conscience and public opinion will soon force a change.
The price quoted for construction of lines by the P.M.G. in this area is so much higher than in other areas we feel that we are being exploited.
If possible, I would appreciate an explanation in relation to clause 2 before mis debate concludes. That statement continues:
This obviously refers to the nineteen on the same exchange who will be getting an identical service free of charge. The statement goes on:
In reply to Mr Turnbull, Mr Hulme has stated that he ‘does not desire one neighbour to subsidise another, and that the PMG is bound to negotiate with each applicant for service on an individual basis’.
In view of this statement by Mr Hulme, we do not consider that our more fortunate neighbours are further involved in this matter. By direct approach from the Department, they have been advised that they will obtain a conversion of telephone at no extra cost, and we can see no reason why their contract cannot be immediately fulfilled.
Therefore, we, the undersigned do not consider that at this stage we can agree to erect our own lines or pay the exorbitant figure which has been quoted by the Department, which on present policy takes the form of ‘an unconditional cash contribution’.
That statement is signed by the people who were present at the meeting. I ask, and even plead with, the Minister to have a look at the operation of this policy and then to remove it for all time because it is discriminatory in every way. There is not one aspect of it which convinces me or any honourable senator that the people are getting the equitable treatment that is suggested by the Minister in his correspondence. Cope Cope is a classic example of this discrimination, because approximately 50% of the people receive a free service and 50% have received quotes of up to $2,000 for an identical service, simply because they happen to live a little further away from the exchange than those who receive the free service.
– The big problem is that they already have a service.
– That is true. That is another aspect which makes me feel that this should be fully investigated, because the Government is in effect asking subscribers to pay $2,000 extra for a service that they already have and with which, by their own statement, they are perfectly satisfied to continue. The Postmaster-General’s decision says in effect to these people: ‘Take this new
RAX system or do without a telephone service.’ It should be pointed out, even though it has been pointed out on many occasions previously, that the people who live farthest away from services are the ones who need those services most. Emergencies could occur which necessitate quick and easy telephonic communication. I have in mind not only emergencies within the family group but also emergencies which arise in times of drought and fire.
Circumstances could arise in which quick communication is absolutely necessary to save life and limb and even property, yet the Government adopts a discriminatory policy against 3% of the subscribers of this country. At no stage in his reply to my earlier questions prior to the suspension of the sitting did the Minister even indicate that there was discrimination- in relation to that 3% or endeavour to explain it. All he did was read something which was merely a reply, not an explanation.
– I direct my remarks to Division No. 820, subdivision 5 item 01 which relates to telephone services. I make a plea on behalf of the many thousands of telephone subscribers who are connected to small manual exchanges throughout Australia which operate on restricted hours. The big manual exchanges provide a continuous service. In Queensland there are 800 telephone exchanges operating on restricted hours out of a total of 1,200. In other words, twothirds of the telephone exchanges in Queensland operate on restricted hours in this year 1967. When one tells people in those country areas that there are such things as subscriber trunk dialling they look at their mute telephones and take a pretty dim view of the whole thing. 1 believe the arrears in telephone installations in the big cities have been brought to manageable proportions and it is time that some provision was made for the people who do not have a continuous service. Such . a service can be provided, although I admit that the Post Office will have problems in doing so. The small continuous automatic exchanges are not the complete answer because subscribers’ lines are limited to 20 or 25 miles. Beyond that distance those exchanges are not a practical proposition. However, they would solve the problems of people on many of the 800 exchanges in Queensland. The only way in which to get the majority of the people concerned on a continuous service is for the Government to allocate a much larger sum for provision of the small automatic exchanges.
In Queensland many subscribers’ lines are over 100 miles long and if they had to be up-graded the estimated cost of $2,000 or $3,000 as mentioned in respect of other areas would not go very far. The Post Office now has the answer to this problem in what are called remote control exchanges. [ learned from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) that one such exchange was installed the other day. However, the difficulty is that they can never be automatic; they must always be manually operated. The remote control exchanges can be controlled from 40, or 50 miles away. Subscribers would have the opportunity to call one another and to make trunk line calls. That is a tremendous advance on no service or service for approximately one-third of the week, as is now the position.
I make a plea for a much bigger vote to set up small automatic exchanges where they are suitable, and more remote control exchanges in the other places so that people in the remote areas will have the same advantages as the people in the big centres of population enjoy. In the cities the people do not have to ask themselves; ‘Is the exchange open?’ before they make a telephone call. They can ring their friends at any time. I hope that the Post Office will be able to speed up its plans for conversion of all exchanges to continuous service.
– I refer to Division No. 820 - Administrative. I propose to use the time allotted to me to deal with what I call the inefficient method of industrial rehabilitation employed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. To illustrate my point I refer to the case of Mr D. F. Barney who, prior to having the misfortune to suffer a coronary, was a motor driver with the Department. The Minister is aware that. I raised this matter on one occasion on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, but subsequent happenings indicate that this case has not been brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
After he had been off work for some time Mr Barney returned and was employed on lower grade duties. Consequently he suffered a monetary loss. Strangely enough, if he had been employed by private enterprise and his doctor had regarded him as fit to return to duty, he would have been able to drive a truck or a car in the capital cities of Australia. This is not the case in the Post Office. Apparently the standards applied by the Commonwealth Department of Health do not parallel those applied in outside industry. On an earlier occasion I said that the old idea that a coronary was virtually a death sentence was not valid in this modern age. I even went so far as to point out that the present President of the United States had had a coronary 10 years ago but it certainly had not impaired his political activities, to say the least. I feel that the methods and attitudes adopted in other countries should be adopted here.
In the latter stage of my remarks I will refer to alternative forms of employment. Before doing so let me say that recently I made further inquiries into an article Treatment of Angina Pectoris with Exercise Stress’. It emanates from the Medical Department of United Air Lines of Chicago and was discussed at the annual meeting of the Airline Medical Directors Association in Washington in April of this year. I took, the opportunity of having my colleague, Senator Dittmer, who is a doctor, examine the article and he agreed that exercise stress should be used much more widely. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard the section headed ‘Material and Methods’.
Material and methods
Clinical Material - The clinical material used for this paper is composed of 21 cases of typical angina pectoris. This is a pre-selected group of pilots and corporate executives who w.ere referred for diagnosis and treatment. There were no cases in this group of clear-cut myocardial infarction with associated QRS changes and this would explain the large percentage of cases with normal resting electrocardiograms. Historically, all of these cases had moderate to severe substernal chest pain on exertion and most of these cases had been treated by other physicians with the usual vasodilator drugs before being seen at this facility. The age spread in this group was between 41 and 56 years, with a mean age of 47. It is easily seen that exercise stress could more readily be used in this group than in an older population as motivation plays a strong part in the ability to use exercise stress as a form of medical treatment.
Electrocardiograms - Normal Resting E.C.O. and Normal Exercise Test. - 1 case.
Normal Resting E.C.G. and Abnormal Exercise Test. - 14 cases.
Abnormal Resting E.C.G. (T waves deeply inverted) and Abnormal Exercise Test. - 2 cases.
Abnormal Resting E.C.G. (T waves flat or slightly inverted) with Abnormal Exercise Test. - 2 cases.
Abnormal Resting E.C.G. (T waves flat or slightly inverted) with Borderline Exercise Test. - 2 cases.
The R-ST segment depression exceeded 2 mm. in 7 of the above cases.
The criteria used for positive double Master Two-Steptests was that of Mattingly and Robb and Marks.
Technique for Exercise Stress- Exercise stress was performed by a gradual increase in walking pace up to and inducting slow running pace after a variable length of time. Each patient was instructed to give up his usual work for a month. During this time he was instructed to find a place convenient to his home and measure a mile on his automobile speedometer. He was told to walk this measured mile in 20 minutes four seconds daily. Initially, if chest pain developed, he was told to stop and then continue at a more leisurely pace. When each patient could complete a measured mile in 20 minutes without chest pain, he was instructed to increase this walking pace gradually up to about15 minutes. He was also told that the objective, eventually, was to be able to walk and run a mile in 9 minutes, using the boy scout pace of 100 paces walking and 100 paces jogging. Each patient was instructed not to take any drugs, but this created some problems and some patients were left on the usual drugs, some taking Peritrate and others Isordil. Eventually, in all of these patients drugs were found to be unnecessary as the symptoms of angina disappeared.
Many patients were instructed by good friends and some doctors to use bicycles and5-BX programs, but they were advised not to participate in these activities until after the first month of treatment. All patients were placed on lowcalorie diets and told to refrain from cigarettes and alcohol.
After the first month of exercise, each patient was re-evaluated and instructions were individualized to allow for differences in responses. Most patients were enthusiastic about the improvement but there were no essential changes in the exercise electrocardiogram at this time. The technique of ‘walk thru’ angina was explained and the exercise stress was increased at this time. Most patients found that leisurely walking would be free from angina after the first month, but increasing the pace was accompanied by substernal pressure or discomfort. They were now permitted to continue walking after the onset of chest symptoms but told to slow down, then to increase the walking pace, as the discomfort disappeared. The onset of angina in most cases then would occur in the morning, usually during the initial trial only. It was common that these patients would lose the chest pain after one to three mouths but would frequently complain that the heart would skip, or a fluttering sensation would be noticed. This type of obvious arrhythmia tended to replace the chest discomfort and then would gradually disappear. in summary the exercise works in this way: A person walks a measured mile initially in 20 minutes and 4 seconds. The ultimate objective is for him to cover the mile in 9 minutes. In the process, his heart will beat more rapidly and he will suffer a little bit of pain, but this would disappear as the exercise continued. The point I am. making is that the Commonwealth Medical Officer should examine this type of exercise. I could do no better than use a rather modern expression thathas been adopted in high Government circles and say that the Department should get with it. 1 am amazed that a Commonwealth Department should be so outmoded as to believe that somebody with a physical ailment must be put in cotton wool because his working life is finished. Doing that creates psychological difficulties. People who are told that they are second class physical specimens will never get well. My comments have the endorsement of the Sydney Branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, which seeks justice in the Barney case.
In the mass of correspondence that has flowed to and from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department has in effect said that it brought in an outside specialist to examine Mr Barney. In his letter, Mr Barney said:
He conveyed his fears of injustice to his doctor, Dr McDonald, who wrote to the Commonwealth Medical Officer. This letter is dated in early September, but still he has not received a reply. It seems to me that the Assistant Director-General of Health is virtually signing blank cheques. He has never seen the man but he says that he agrees with the specialists. However, on the question of the specialist’s view, the local doctor, Dr McDonald, considered that the specialist was of opinion that the man was fit and able to perform his duties.
Mr Barney suggested that he was able to perform other work. We find, for instance, that 99% of the people in the car pool at North Sydney are temporary employees. Mr Barney has served for 23 years as a permanent officer and it could be argued that he should be used in the car pool. I mention the car pool because one of the reasons for suggesting that Mr Barney should not continue with his ordinary work was that it was doubtful whether he would be able to handle a bag of mail weighing 60 lb. .Mr Barney has pointed out that as a car driver he would not be required to do this. I relate this to the thesis I have expounded here. It was advanced by the heart specialists of United Air Lines of Chicago. It would seem, in face of this, that some of the factors that cause the Department to have misgivings may be the factors that will bring Mr Barney back to full health. This would happen if he were a storeman and packer or a truck driver in private enterprise, where he would be back at his classified grade.
Let us look at this from the point of view of the safety of pedestrians and other motorists. I and other honourable senators who have not suffered from a heart condition may bc driving down Collins Street or George Street and suffer a coronary attack. This can happen to any person, ls it any more logical to say that, because a man has had one attack, he will have a second? This attitude creates a feeling of defeatism. I do not know why we cannot adopt the expert approach that has been developed in other countries. This Government, has sponsored a fitness campaign but seems to be strangely reluctant when it is suggested that it should undertake the rehabilitation of its own employees. ft may be argued that Mr Barney is still in employment. This is not good enough. Obviously, he previously had some marginal benefits that he does not have now. The Postmaster-General’s Department is a major employer and in a case such as that of Mr Barney there should be a confrontation of the various medical men in an effort to determine which opinion is correct. The Assistant Director-General of Health should not make any comment about u person he has not seen. I do not care how many liles of a technical nature are placed in front of him; he cannot make a decision until he sees the man. That is one of the basic criticisms I make in this case. However, in the final analysis, Mr Barney has suggested that he should be employed as a driver in the car pool at North Sydney. In the light of the submissions I have made, the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) should have a good hard look al this case and at least arrange for all the medical men to meet around a ta*ble and discuss it. Again I quote the phrase that is used in high places and say that the Department should get with it and adopt modern methods that will bring people back to full physical efficiency instead of telling them that they are permanently second class physical specimens.
– I want to raise two points. The first relates to Division No. 820 - Administrative. I refer to the discount given on certain postal items. The Government gives this liberal discount to some people and imposes very high charges on other people. J have referred previously to the cost of posting medical journals. The increased postal rates will raise the cost of postage on these journals to $12,000 or $13,000 a year. I have taken this matter up with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), hut there is obviously a great sense of humour in the Department, lt says these journals are not scientific or educational. I am not quite sure what they are. They may be salacious reading to some people, but to me they seem to be very scientific and very educational. However, the Postmaster-General’s Department, like the section under the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) which administers the censorship provisions, takes a peculiar attitude and says that these medical journals are not educational or scientific and therefore cannot be sent through the mails at a reduced rate. Will the Minister again ask the PostmasterGeneral to explain why they are not scientific and why they are not educational? I cannot imagine anyone in this House other than myself reading them.
– What about the ‘ABZ of Sex’? Is that in this category?
– No, unfortunately. Perhaps if descriptions of chromosomes and sexual disorders were included in the journals they would have a wider circulation and would pay for themselves. These journals are sent only to doctors. People other than doctors do not get them. They help doctors to advance their education and they contain certain scientific articles. I ask the Minister again to see whether the Department he represents will use some commonsense and realise that these are not humorous journals but are really educational and scientific journals.
The next matter I wish to mention relates to Division No. 838, Australian Broadcasting Commission. I ask the Minister to tell the Senate how many hours of free time on television and radio stations for the forthcoming Senate election have been allocated to the Liberal Party of Australia, to the Australian Country Party, to the Australian Labor Party and to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I am an independent and other honourable senators do not seem to realise how difficult it is for an independent to be elected to the Senate. They are allotted the first or second position for their Party and it does not matter what they do or how they do it, they cannot help but be elected. It is difficult enough for an independent to get into this chamber without being hindered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This is pure discrimination when a sitting member cannot be allotted time in proportion to the time allotted to the Parties.
– The honourable senator can always make time to broadcast when the Senate is on the air.
– That is true and I am doing my best, but these broadcasts do not reach a big enough audience. I am interested also in the television aspect. Television is an extremely expensive medium on which to advertise. The major parties can campaign on the commercial stations and charge the cost to the parties so that the expenditure is not attributable to the expense accounts of individual candidates. But the independent has no party to which he can charge this expenditure. Everything he spends comes out of his own pocket. We are entitled as independents to spend SI, 000 each, but the candidate belonging to a party can get away with spending $3,000 or $4,000, which he charges to his party. This is utter discrimination against independents.
The ABC should have no discrimination in its make-up. I know that the Minister has claimed that he cannot interfere with the ABC. To put it mildly, that is a wizard answer. When it suits the Government to do so, it does interfere. Do not tell me that the Government did not interfere with the programme on housing. Do not tell me that the Government has not interfered on occasions with the ‘Four Corners’ programme. When I ask the Government to interfere on behalf of independents I get no help at all. I know that the Government does not want independents in the Senate. Neither of the major parties want us. But the people of Australia are glad that there is an independent in Canberra. As Senator McManus said, the Minister should take this matter up with the ABC in order to ensure that we get a fair proportion of time. When I was a candidate seeking election to the Senate I applied for free time on the national network. I was told that I could not have it because ] was not a member of Parliament. Now that I am a member of Parliament I am told that free time is not available to me because I do not belong to a party. Of what concern is it to the ABC whether I belong to a political party? I am a member of Parliament and 1 have more right to time on the air than do people who belong to political parties but who are not members of Parliament. The Minister has noted my objections. If I continue to talk I might get cross with him.
– I refer to Division No. 820, sub-division 5, item 01, which deals with telephone services. This matter was raised last night and again this morning. I refer to the increased costs borne by people whose services have been upgraded by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Some of these people now have to pay greatly increased costs in order to maintain a service no different from that which they formerly enjoyed. Last night and this morning the situation in the Cope Cope area was mentioned. I have been referring to this matter for the last 9 or 12 months. I would hope that the Department and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents in this place the Postmaster-General, will take note of the concern that exists in country areas because of the Department’s policy. I have before me information regarding the increased costs te be borne by subscribers in the Rathscar, Fentons Creek and Darraweit Guim areas. Subscribers in some areas are being discriminated against by this policy. In one letter that has been sent to me it is pointed out that the Postmaster-General has suggested that the cost to certain individuals will be $4 per chain and to others $10 per chain. This is unacceptable. I have communications from private individuals, State parliamentarians and municipal council officers all of whom express abhorrence of the policy now being pursued by the Department. One letter from a subscriber in the Fentons Creek area points out that subscribers object to this increased financial burden being thrust on a few subscribers who, through no fault of their own, are outside certain limits and who already have a service. This financial burden should not rest on the shoulders of only a few subscribers. One letter points out that the connection to Shepparton via the underground cable now gives a very poor reception whereas good reception was obtained from overhead wires. I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether these persons who are forced to pay for the upgrading of the service are receiving now a better service than they received before. 1 wish to refer also to the supply of multi-coin telephone boxes. Where are these units manufactured? What is the difficulty about their supply? I have information - I think it came from the Minister - that there is a delay of up to 12 months in supplying multi-coin telephone boxes to various communities. For example, an application has been lodged for the installation of this facility at the Shepparton airport. Honourable senators will readily appreciate that this facility is sorely needed by people using the flying school and by visitors to the airport. Some of their . calls may be of an urgent nature. But a multi-coin telephone box cannot be provided at Shepparton airport. Why is it not possible for an efficient organisation such as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department purports to be to have this facility manufactured either privately or through government sources?
My final comment is in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is dealt with under Division No. 835. It is interesting to note that this body costs the Australian taxpayer more than $!.m a year to maintain. I believe that in Aus tralia we enjoy a reasonably high standard of television service. I think the Board is to blame for the inability of the Australian television industry to develop as it should. I think every honourable senator has claimed that the Australian content of television programmes is not as great as it should be. I congratulate the Government on some of the policies it has implemented to assist the Australian industry, particularly that designed to ensure that 50% of viewing time on television is to be devoted to Australian productions. But the Broadcasting Control Board is falling down on the job when it allows a television station, in order to meet its 50% commitment, to televise a mid-week race meeting in a country town This obviously does not encourage the production of Australian programmes for television. Similarly, some stations have televised an entire Association football match, which in Victoria would not be an important or attract as many followers as the other important area of football. This was never intended by the Board and I ask the Minister to look into this practice. Programmes such as those were never intended to be construed as Australian content. Perhaps we should not blame the stations for trying to get away with this practice.
The reason for the 50% provision was to encourage the growth of a television industry within Australia, but we are not doing this today. Perhaps drama is the most significant programme category in terms of impact on the public. Drama today accounts for about 50% of programme time generally on television and about 80% at peak viewing times. The overwhelming proportion of drama telecast on commercial stations is imported and the amount of time devoted to the Australian produced drama is almost negligible. That is the situation in which Australia has been led and which has been discussed here previously. It has been stated today that millions of dollars are paid for overseas programmes because Australia does not have the support of a strong local industry. Australia has some very prominent producers and has demonstrated that it can maintain a radio and television production industry if there is sufficient encouragement.
It is interesting to note that Australia, with a population of approximately 11.5 million pays a higher rate than Britain, with approximately 40 million people, for American television programmes. Why does Australia pay more? Australia is over a barrel because it does not have an industry of its own to compete with the American industry. The American industry is holding us to ransom on this. Australia is America’s second best customer and virtually is subsidising the American television film industry while it is neglecting its own. To produce an American I. hour show costs from $150,000 to $200,000. That show is sold in Australian capital cities for approximately $4,000 per hour. With the costs involved, how can one expect anybody to buy an Australian programme? What is the ABC doing about this? That is most important. No secondary industry in this country could survive if it were nol for tariff protection. Senator Poyser is anxious to see more Australians employed in the television industry. The efficiency of the Australian television industry is such that the cost of a 1-hour drama production is approximately $13,000. That demonstrates the efficiency of the industry; yet it receives no protection whatever. Will the Minister please see that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board adds weight to the suggestion that the industry needs adequate protection, and encourage a greater Australian content in our drama programmes?
– Since the suspension of the sitting both Senator Poyser and Senator Webster have returned to the point they were making about rural automatic exchanges. 1 do not know that I can add anything to what 1 have already said. It is true, as Senator Poyser points out, that what I did say is largely contained in correspondence that he and no doubt Senator Webster and other honourable senators have had with the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). I could not be expected to give any weight to a particular petition, for want of a better description, that Senator Poyser has from certain users in a certain area. Very properly this will be taken up by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in its study of this debate.
Senator Lawrie referred to restricted hours of broadcast in country areas. Here again T cannot make any additional contribution. Senator Mulvihill referred to a particular case of. rehabilitation. I well recall the case, because it was discussed in the Senate on an earlier occasion. It is not for me to make a comment on medical views, judgments and diagnoses. The matter is purely a medical one, and obviously I could not make a real contribution on the subject. Surely no comparison could be made between the effect of driving on an average driver and the effect on the driver of a commercial vehicle such as a PMG vehicle. The driver of a PMG vehicle would be driving to a very strict and tight schedule in the best tradition of the Post Office to get the mail through. Those of us who watch PMG drivers at work, particularly in the built up areas, have an intense admiration for them. In my humble opinion - I am not a medical person - there must be a clear distinction between the stress on a driver of a commercial vehicle and the stress on an average driver. Having said that. I make the point that the question of rehabilitation, administration and replacement in another area can be picked up by the Department and no doubt examined again.
During the suspension it was put to me that I. might have been a little unfair when f dealt with the use of broadcasting and television time by political parties because I mentioned the time allotted to one party but did not mention the relative time allotted to the major parties. Senator Turnbull referred to the matter again in some detail particularly after the suspension. I repeat that there is a question on notice relating to this matter, to which a very comprehensive answer will be given in the normal course of events. 1 expect if would be before the Senate rises in a couple of weeks. To fill in some details in brief, I point out that the Government parties are allotted 4 hours broadcasting time in each State, the Australian Labor Party is allotted 4 hours in each State and the Australian Democratic Labor Party is allotted 45 minutes in each State. The Government and Opposition parties are allotted 2 hours each on each television station. The Government parties have their own arrangement as to how they farm out that time amongst themselves. The DLP has half an hour in each State, as compared with the 2 hours allotted to each of the other parties. I repeat that a more comprehensive answer will be given to the question on notice.
Senator Turnbull also referred to bulk handling and special delivery and adverted to what he choses to call a medical publication that is circulated. 1 gave a reply when the honourable senator raised the matter in the debate on the Postal and Telegraph Rates Bill 1967. The reply that I made then is still valid. Senator Webster spoke about multicoin boxes, lt is true that these were originally obtained from the United Kingdom. Regretfully, vandalism has become a very serious problem in relation to these boxes, which are installed in very convenient areas for the convenience of the public. I am informed that an examination is currently being made of the design of these multi-coin boxes to see whether this problem of vandalism can be overcome. No doubt multi-coin boxes have been a great innovation. They have been good business for the Post Office and for the subscribers who have had occasion to use them.
– Could the Minister give me any further information on their installation?
– 1 am not in a position now to give the honourable senator any further information than I have already given. Senator Webster then went on te deal with Australian content in broadcasting programmes. 1 thought, that he was on very delicate ground when he indicated the time occupied by broadcasting stations in covering sport in Australia. The honourable senator said that these programmes should not be considered as being programmes of Australian content for the purposes of. the Act. He referred particularly to racing and football.
– The Minister missed the point.
– J did not miss the point. I took the point that I wanted to take, lt so happens that on Saturday afternoons when you twiddle the dial of the radio - 1 am speaking in terms of commercial radio stations - you find that an overwhelming proportion of the broadcasting stations are covering racing simultaneously. This is where there is an advantage in having alternate national stations. You can at least- choose a station which is not covering racing and football. Then Senator Webster raised the question of drama.
– There are hardly any drama programmes on the radio stations.
– I think that the honourable senator was making a point in relation to Australian content in drama programmes on television. I have heard some magnificent drama programmes on the national broadcasting stations. But one of the facts of life is that television entertainment attracts the interest of the vast percentage of the community, particularly when it is available to 94% of the population. The nineteenth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board states that Australian drama receives credit for one and a half times its actual duration as an incentive to stations to use Australian drama. I have some reservations about the advisability of using the tariff as an implement with which to encourage Australian production. Earlier in the day I raised the point that Australian content in programmes is limited by the capacity to provide Australian content. It is not much use having a regulation providing that there shall be a certain percentage of Australian content in programmes if at this point of time we do not have the capacity to provide that type of entertainment to the percentage required or to the standard acceptable to the community. We have to do everything to encourage Australian content in programmes. I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, by its charter, is required to do this. But it is not a matter on which one can argue with precision, lt is a long hard road.
– Other countries do it. Britain docs it in 85% of its programmes.
– That may be true, because Britain has a large population in a compact area. Australia’s population of 12,000,000 people is widely scattered. Per head of population, our capacity for entertainment is probably equal to that anywhere in the world. But we are still a very small country in terms of the section of the community which would be interested in this type of entertainment. ( do not want to suggest that what the honourable senator is saying has not force, but what is suggested is not as easy to achieve as a lot of people seem to believe.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) 13.15]- I want to refer to several matters in these estimates. Firstly, J refer to Division No. 835 - Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I raise a question as to the interpretation of section 116 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. That section deals with political broadcasting, and sub-section (4) provides that the Commission or a licensee shall not at any time between the end of an election period and the close of the poll on the day on which the election is held broadcast or televise election matter. ‘Election matter’ is very broadly defined, and includes all manner of comment and discussion of political issues. ‘Election period’ means the period commencing on the day of the issue of the writ for an election and ending at midnight on the last Wednesday preceding the day of the poll. In short, what that means is that you cannot have election matter on radio or television after the Wednesday night preceding an election which, in the normal course of events in this country, takes place on a Saturday.
The problem to which I want to draw attention is one that 1 think has been raised on a number of occasions with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The view that the Board takes is, I suggest, open to question. At any rate, it may call for some amendment to the Act. The point of my comment is that ‘an election’ means an election of a member or members of either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State. The problem arises in connection with elections in a State, particularly by-elections. I have had drawn to my notice within the last year two separate occasions on which there have been byelections, in one case in 1966 for a seat in the Legislative Council in the State of South Australia and in 1967 two by-elections in the State electorates of Roe and Mount Marshall in Western Australia. They are obviously State elections. The view that the Broadcasting Control Board takes is that a station in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania or New South Wales is bound by the section to make no comment on these elections. I am wondering whether it is necessary to interfere as much as that with broadcasts which, as I say, can have only the most remote connection with influencing people in relation to a by-election in another State. It is a blanket ban.
– I can pick up New Zealand on my little wireless.
– The Minister may be able to do that. He may have a good explanation of the position. It has been suggested to me that this is much too arbitrary a blanket ban on broadcasting stations which are a long way away and whose broadcasts cannot affect the election result. I believe that the Broadcasting Control Board interprets the Act in the way in which 1 have suggested. I would like the Minister to tell me that he will have this problem examined, and in due course I would like to hear all the arguments for interpreting this ban in this blanket way. I think that whilst it is a very proper measure for general elections, it probably should have no application all over the Commonwealth at times, of elections in particular States. It seems to me to be at least open to question whether it ought to be binding on broadcasting and television stations in other States.
Another matter to which I wish to refer relates to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. During this debate some important questions have been raised about the Australian content in television and in radio programmes. I believe that the Government was negligent, indeed delinquent, in not acting rapidly in 1963 on the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, commonly known as the Vincent Committee. In 1962, only 6 years after television was introduced in Australia, this Committee was appointed, and presented its report within a year. The Committee reached unanimity on all but a few recommendations. Broadly, it was strongly of the view that an active government policy was necessary to encourage Australian content in television. If the Government had acted on the report in 1963 and not left it in the largest pigeonhole in Canberra - there are quite a few of them here, but it was certainly one of the largest - many Australian writers, artists, producers and performers would by now have established themselves in television, and many fewer complaints would be made about the quality of programmes. We missed a great opportunity when the Government failed to give effect to the broad principles of the Committee’s report.
It is all very well to talk about giving encouragement, but the important thing is: What active steps should be taken by the
Governement? It is not much good just leaving the whole matter to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and expecting it to exercise a more stringent degree of supervision over this problem than with the commercial licensees. There were positive aspects to the Vincent report. Although it made some positive suggestions, as far as 1 know none of them has yet been the subject of Government action. They included a recommendation that loans and subsidies be made to encourage the production of films by talented young Australians, the establishment of a television council to advise the Minister on programmes, assistance to theatre groups, and planned improvement in programmes for children. These are all things that I believe the Government should by now have initiated. If they had been, they would have resulted in important improvements. It is good that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has shown a gradual, and indeed increased, interest in this problem. The latest report of the Board indicates some progress and a renewed measure of activity in this very important area. lt is interesting to note that some important action is being taken in other countries. I refer particularly to developments in the United States, where public opinion and the Government are doing their best to free themselves from slavery to commercial television. President Johnson has thrown his weight behind a move that was initiated by the Carnegie Corporation, by a special committee under Dr Killian, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create a corporation for public television. The Americans have found that their own Federal Communications Commission, which is broadly the equivalent of our Australian Broadcasting Control Board, has been ineffective in dealing with many of the problems that were raised before the Vincent Committee, many of which remain still unanswered.
I could not help being struck by a somewhat facetious phrase used by one critic to describe the Federal Communications Commission, lt reminded me of something that occurred at a sitting of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. The then Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board referred to the Board’s attitude towards licensees who were delin quent in facing up to their responsibilities as one of sweet reasonableness*. An American critic has said almost exactly the same about the United States Federal Communications Commission, which is the centre of an important public debate about the role of the Government in this field, on whether there ought to be a public television corporation as well as the three giant commercial networks there. This is what this critic has said, concerning the regulation of the American broadcasting and television industry by the FCC, that regulation of the American broadcasting and television industry resembles a professional wrestling match. Grunts and groans sound throughout the land, but no permanent injury seems to result. This was the sort of criticism that was offered about the failure of some of our commercial licensees to live up to their responsibilities. I hope that the trend which is evident in the latest report from the Broadcasting Control Board will be accentuated.
I suggest that it is not too late foi the Government to act on the recommendations of the Vincent Committee in a broad way and, in particular, the recommendation that a standing committee on television of this Senate be set up. The proposal is on the notice paper. The Government ought to be willing to say that it will agree with the Opposition here, and I hope that with other senators, particularly those who were associated with the recommendations of the Vincent Committee, it will be possible to set up a standing committee of the Senate so that all these matters can be kept under some kind of study and report, not in the sense of direct action but so that these things can be kept under our notice. Television is a fantastic weapon for good or evil. The Senate showed some interest in the matter by appointing this all party committee, and T believe that the Government, after all these years, should be willing to accept this recommendation, which would involve the setting up of a standing committee of the Senate to keep this matter generally under advisement.
The final matter to which I want to refer is the Australian Broadcasting Commission. All too often there is sniping at this body. Its latest report deals with some extremely important matters. The Commission says in the report that it is facing up to some of the big issues relating to its function in the community. Remember, it manages on $37m, allocated under these estimates, compared with total revenue of the commercial broadcasting and television stations, which according to the latest report of the Broadcasting Control Board, amounts to about $86m. The ABC has weathered many storms, and it measures up pretty well in responsible public opinion. In many respects, in relation to broadcasting and television services, it is the hope of the side. In its report the Commission draws attention to the many difficulties under which it labours. It points to the pressure on it to economise in various ways as well as to the inadequate and scattered buildings in which it operates. I note from the report that in Sydney it operates from seventeen separate and largely unsuitable buildings, in Melbourne from ten, and that in other cities the situation is similar. I wonder whether it is not time for the Government to include the Commission in any new building programme.
– Come to the west and sec a good show.
– It may be good in the west, but I am referring to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It seems to me that we should be most sympathetic about the problems that are raised in this report. For example, the Board refers to its obligation to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes for the whole community. It rejects the argument that its only function is to minister to the needs of what are called a cultured minority, leaving entertainment of the majority of the population to the commercial broadcasters. To do so, according to the Commission, would be to deny its role as the national broadcasting service. The Commission adds that it must concern itself with the needs of all sections of the community. Although one appreciates that the Commission must be prepared to cater for tastes which can have no possible interest to commercial licensees, nevertheless it must attempt to meet the broad needs of the general population. Some important public questions are raised: What is to be the role of the Commission in the future? Will it cater for the cultured minority and minority groups? It must do so if those needs are to be catered for. Is it going to go further and spread its programmes in a broad way so that it will really be in competition with the commercial interests? Personally I would like to see it in competition with the commercial interests, because I believe that is the way in which we will ultimately develop an indigenous Australian radio and television industry.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It would be a stout-hearted senator or Minister who would attempt to respond to the invitation extended by Senator Cohen, an eminent lawyer, to give an interpretation of section 1 16 of the Act.
– I do not expect that.
-1 am sure of that. I think it is fair to say that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) has indicated that this section will be examined. Senator Cohen raised the question of political broadcasting and television cutting out on the Wednesday night prior to an election. He mentioned its prohibition until after the election. He suggested that one interpretation of the section was that this would prohibit political broadcasts in States where an election was not being held. He said that if a by-election were being held in Western Australia, political broadcasts could be prohibited in the five other States. This seems to me to be a rather rigid interpretion of the section.
– I did not say this was the correct interpretation. All I said was that that could be its effect.
– Yes. By way of interjection I said that I had a small wireless in Sydney which could pick up broadcasts from New Zealand. If what was suggested were not the application of that section, it is quite obvious that a broadcaster outside a State could broadcast to electors within that State after midnight on the Wednesday before the election. A simple illustration would be that if a by-election were being held in northern New South Wales several broadcasters in Brisbane could transmit programmes to the listening towns and to electors in the by-election area right up to and including the election day. Possibly this is one of the reasons for that interpretation of the section. However I will raise with the Postmaster-General the point presented by Senator Cohen.
The honourable senator referred also to Australian drama and to the Australian content of television programmes. Most of us would agree with much of what he said. Broadly, his remarks were pertinent and would express the views of most Australians, particularly in relation to the role of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the difficulty of providing services to meet the needs and tastes of the community. Senator Cohen referred to drama. I invite him to read the latest report of the Commission, particularly its comments on drama and features. In dealing with television drama, the report contains the following comments:
Of the forty-one plays produced during the year thirty-six were written by Australian authors. While Sydney and Melbourne studios have produced the bulk, of our drama output a number of plays produced in other capital cities have been televised locally.
The report lists the plays, the authors and some of the actors, lt makes impressive reading. In relation to radio drama the report states:
A total of 240 plays of an hour or more in length performed by Australian artists were presented during the year, including thirty plays and adaptations by Australian authors and dramatisations Of four Australian novels.
A definite effort is being made to build up the Australian content of drama on radio and television.
– These plays are not well advertised.
– 1 do not know about that, but the report contains an impressive account of the Commission’s activities. I do not want to add to what Senator Cohen said except to agree with his praise of the Commission for the types of programmes that are being produced in spite of the difficulties of catering for the public. What some people like others criticise in the Press. A wonderful service is being provided to the people of Australia.
– When the Minister replied to my questions he omitted to refer to one point which 1. regarded as being quite important. I referred to the proposed expenditure of a sum of $l94m. The Minister said that this was for material that would be available throughout the year as various projects were put into operation or were proposed within the next few weeks. My question was this: As these projects were already in existence before the Budget was produced, would it be possible to arrange for information on them to be available before our consideration of the Estimates?
– I refer to Divisions Nos 835, 838 and 842, which relate to Broadcasting and Television Services. Queensland probably labours under more disabilities in relation to radio and television services than do most other States. Yesterday I asked the Minister a series of questions. I. remind him that he answered only two of eight. 1 propose to elaborate on those questions in the hope that he can tell me something about the mailers they involve. I am concerned about the establishment of a television station at Mount Isa, which has a population of 17,000 people. I have talked a fair bit about this project. Secondly, I refer to the extension of the television service at Cairns in north Queensland. Thirdly, there is the question of the quality of television programmes in country areas. Fourthly, there is the establishment of additional regional radio stations and, fifthly, there is the matter of establishing educational television in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. F will deal with these matters in order.
Firstly, in relation to the Cairns television station, there was much disputation initially as to where the station would be constructed. Cairns now has television, but it has a limited range. In fact, in many instances people living closer than 20 miles from the station cannot receive television programmes. I have asked questions in this chamber about the possibility of some alleviation of licence fees in areas where a proper television service is not being obtained. Apparently this cannot be done. A lot of people are disgruntled over the service currently provided in that area. ( know that there is a long term programme to do something about the problem, but a lot of people in the north would be much happier if they could be told when the improved service is likely to be provided. Mount Isa, in the far north west, with its population of some 17,000 people, badly needs a television service of some sort. The gentleman who is now member for Kennedy in another place - and a Government supporter, incidentally - told the people there in November last year that he would arrange for a television station to be built in the Mount Isa area. When I was there recently, I found that the local people were most upset because this promise had not been kept. A station in the vicinity of Mount lsa would also serve places like Mary Kathleen, which will reopen again in the not too far distant future, Cloncurry, probably centres further east, and perhaps even Camooweal, which is west of Mount Isa.
– Is the honourable senator basing his comments on a report that he received, or was the promise about the television station a written one?
– I base my comments on a printed statement that was used in an election campaign.
– Has the honourable senator that printed statement with him?
– This promise has also been made orally in a number of places.
– The honourable senator told the people of Corio in the by-election campaign that he supported the Australian Democratic Labor Party in its opposition to the proposed increases in Post Office charges.
– Senator Gair can wait. He was asleep when I last looked at htm.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANOrder! J ask the honourable senator to address the Chair.
– This promise has been repeated in many centres throughout the Kennedy Division, and it has been published in newspaper advertisements. 1 want some sort of answer to the question: When is this promised television station to be constructed?
The quality of television programmes in country areas has to bc seen to be believed. I have a very great respect for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is true, as the Minister said a little while ago, that the quality of its programmes is very good. Unfortunately, we are not getting its good programmes in country areas, at any rate in Queensland. The great national pro grammes like This Day Tonight’ are not seen in places such as Townsville, though it is true that we have some national ABC programmes. The local commercial station at Townsville broadcasts al] the junk in the world. Senator Webster, a while ago, attacked the Government for not enforcing its stated requirement that specified proportions of locally produced material must be televised. I agree with him.
– The Government does state that specified proportions of Australian content must be broadcast.
– lt states the requirements, but it does not see that they are observed. When the honourable senator made his comments, .1 was not sure whether it was a case of a member of the Australian Country Party biting Liberal flesh. I support his remarks.
– It is done. They have all achieved the 50% .
– J shall ask the Minister to give me the answer. I believe that the Postmaster-General’s Department should exercise greater supervision over the quality of the programmes on country stations. There is room for very great improvement. Recently, a member of an Australian Labor Party branch in Townsville wrote to me complaining about the programmes on the local commercial channel and, to a lesser degree, about those on the national station.
Radio services in the remote parts of Queensland are of very low standard also. At many periods of the day, particularly with low power sets, no programmes can be obtained. Surprisingly enough, people complain because they cannot listen to the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. We, of course, know that others complain that they have to listen to them. This is one of the services that many people like to receive, but they cannot get it. At other times, there is considerable distortion in reception, particularly on the Cape York Peninsula. The service at Cooktown and Thursday Island is very bad indeed, and people at Weipa tell me that they have considerable difficulty in getting proper radio reception.
Those are the major matters that I want lo mention. They are all very -important. I shall list again for the Ministers benefit the questions that I want answered. 1 hope that, he will be able to give me the answers. When will a television station be established in the Mount lsa area? A Government supporter has promised that one will be constructed there, and I would like that promise to be honoured. When will the range of the television station at Cairns be extended? What will be done to improve the quality of television programmes in country areas? What will be done to improve radio broadcast facilities in country areas? What is being done about the provision of educational television programmes in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? I do not propose to discuss that matter again now. I have dealt with it at length in this chamber previously.
– Madam Temporary Chairman, I do not propose to harass the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson). It is not my habit to harass Ministers. I do not intend to discuss the lack of Australian content in television programmes. I do not intend to enlarge on the comparatively poor standard of commercial television stations, notwithstanding the good dividends that they are paying. I do not intend to discuss the Government’s alleged interference in the control of the Australian Boradcasting Commission. I do not want to worry the Minister. After all, he is not the Postmaster-General. I believe that the simplest way for him to deal with the matters raised here is to say: T shall make inquiries.’ That is the sort of answer that I have received before. Having made his inquiries, he can convey the information to the honourable senator concerned. Usually, we are told that it will be given to us in the course of time. I take it that at present that means after the Senate election.
I want to discuss one matter, which was mentioned by Senator Keeffe. It is a real denial of the rights of these people. The State Governments, regardless of party politics or political colour, claim they are wedded to decentralisation. You cannot keep people in the country unless they have facilities and amenities. Apparently this Government is not interested in decentralisation. In a question which I asked in the Senate yesterday I said that Mount Isa Mines Ltd was attempting to hold its employees by providing an economy air fare from Mount Isa to Brisbane and return, for an employee and his wife and children up to the age of 15 years, after 2 years’ service. But the amount of the fares is not only taxed but taxed as if it had been earned in the 1 year. It ought to be regarded as a tax free allowance if the Government wants people to stay in outlying areas. If the Government will not do that, at the very least for taxation purposes it should regard the amount as income earned over 2 years and not taxed in the year in which it is earned. After all, it is an allowance to the employee. Primary producers are given many taxation concessions. All the equipment they provide, including housing for employees, can bc written off at a depreciation rate of 20% per annum. Common fairness dictates that employees at Mount Isa, living under harsh conditions, are entitled to basic economic justice. This Government has adopted a callous attitude. It is indifferent to the rights of these employees and has shelved its responsibilities regarding decentralisation.
As to television in the Mount Isa district, Senator Keeffe said that a promise had been made to establish a station. A commercial station has taken up land there and is represented by Mr Joel, the public relations officer for Mount Isa Mines, who is also interested in the ‘North-West Star*. Will a commercial station be established before a national station? Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General know there are translators in Australia? Has sufficient attention been given to their use? Has money been allocated to provide television programmes for people in the outback? Television is one way of keeping people in outlying centres. It is a modem form of entertainment. But I shall not harass the Minister; it is not in my nature to do so.
Let me now deal with the PostmasterGeneral’s control over advertising. Almost $300,000 a year is spent on major advertising in Australia, not including minor advertising in small country newspapers and pamphlets. I know the Postmaster-General cannot control all of it. Does the Government consider that this advertising leads to cheaper products and a lower cost of living, or is it conducive to false selling? A lot of people believe that it leads to false selling and is inimical to a reduction in the cost of living. The Postmaster-General cannot deny this. I realise that the PostmasterGeneral has no control over newspaper advertising; the State governments control that. But he has definite control over television and radio advertising. He has not discharged his responsibility to the people in the field of medicine and in the field of false advertising.
I will deal now particularly with the menace of tobacco. For years it has been recognised that cigarette smoking is a real and definite menace to the health of people. Let us forget the older people. There is a responsibility to the younger people - those who have not started or who have just started smoking. I have made representations in this particular regard to the PostmasterGeneral. Universities, medical authorities and cancer research councils have also made representations to him, but he has done absolutely nothing. Even the National Health and Medical Research Council says it will deal with him in the future. It has asked that the manufacturers be required to state the contents in the cigarette that are likely to be injurious. When will there be a curtailment of this advertising? Why cannot the manufacturers do what is done in America? They state on cigarette packets that the cigarettes may represent a hazard to health. But that is not the case here. Everyone knows that the incidence of lung cancer is increasing. Perhaps it is increasing because the methods of diagnosis have improved. But the Government has done nothing, even though repeated representations have been made.
– What steps were taken in England recently?
– In .England the advertising of cigarettes is banned altogether. What do we find in this country in regard to advertising? We find the most attractive type of advertising depicting young, attractive girls and athletic young men who, when they have finished their exercise, whether it is skiing, a game of golf, cricket, horse riding or anything else, are asked: ‘Will you have a cigarette?’
– Senator Wright is thinking of taking up smoking on the strength of it.
– I do not think Senator Wright has any weaknesses, and smoking is a definite weakness. But I make a plea to the Minister for a sensible, sane approach to this advertising on television and radio. 1 know that the Government cannot control newspaper advertising but it could, if it was interested, call the State Ministers of Health together, as the State governments control the advertising media. There should be almost a complete ban. 1 know that there is a responsibility to provide for the continued production of primary products, and that for tobacco growers this is their livelihood. But how much is spent by the industry and by manufacturers on research into the incidence of lung cancer associated with cigarette smoking? We find that practically nothing is spent. An examination of the report of the National Health and Medical Research Council will show that this Government has contributed nothing. As far as I can gather, not one penny has been devoted to research on the relationship of cigarette smoking to lung cancer and whether the incidence is associated with the cigarette paper, the particular grades of tobacco, the area where the tobacco is grown, or how it is blended. The Government is taking no real activity at all. Is it completely selfish? Does it value the revenue that it receives through taxation on cigarettes and tobacco so much that it will not instruct the Postmaster-General to curtail this advertising? Surely it is not so soulless or disinterested in the welfare of the people. Surley it wants these people to survive as long as it is intended that they should survive. It does not wish the people to die of lung cancer. The Government has known for years the statistical relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. I am not saying that it has been definitely proved that lung cancer is a direct result of cigarette smoking, but it is quite evident from the statistics that this relationship exists and I think it is only a matter of time before the causal connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is proved.
The Australian Government is doing nothing. The United States Government has at least allocated funds to research into the cause of lung cancer. It has also banned the type of advertising that appears constantly in Australia. If cigarette advertising were banned from television the stations would lose at least one-third of their revenue. I do not know the position with radio, but I am sure that although radio stations would also suffer a loss it would not be so great because cigarette companies do not advertise as extensively or as appealingly on radio as they do on television. On television we see young, attractive girls and healthy athletic men advertising cigarettes. lt is apparent that the appeal is not to the older people; it is to the young people, whom the tobacco companies seek to recruit as customers. They want the young people to become addicts to this particularly pernicious habit. Everyone realises the effects of continuous smoking and everyone, young and old, should be encouraged to give the habit away. The Government has a responsibility in this matter, but it has done nothing.
– Would it help if the nicotine and tar content were reduced?
– It has been suggested that the nicotine and tar content should be stated on the packet, but that is not the answer to the question whether the companies should be permitted to advertise their cigarettes. I think that their advertising should be banned. On the one hand we have this pernicious habit of continuous smoking and the extraordinarily attractive appeal in advertising which is used by the people who are wedded to selling their product at a profit, and on the other hand we have a government wedded to collecting taxes from the sale of cigarettes.
Another matter over which the Postmaster-General has control is the advertising of medical products on television and radio. However, he has no control over the newspapers. The Postmaster-General has a responsibility to call together the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health to discuss this matter. I am certain that they would co-operate and would suggest the banning of such advertising in the Press and on television and radio. We see advertisements for medical products claiming almost universal cures. Surely not only the Minister for Health but also the Postmaster-General has a measure of responsibility. They have capable men in their organisations who read the newspapers - I suppose many of them read the medical journals too - and they know what is happening. We see advertisements for a certain pill to make us slim.
Those pills do not slim you. We also see advertisements for cures for smoking and even for blood pressure. If the cures for those complaints were as easy as that there would be no doctors.
– That will be the day.
– It will be the day when the doctors go to their eternal reward for the services that they have given to the people. I know that doctors are needed. If we must have advertising, why does not the Postmaster-General provide facilities for advertising on the national stations? He could suggest this to the Minister for Health, who could obtain the necessary information from the National Health and Medical Research Council to embark on a public health campaign.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I shall deal quickly with the points that have been raised. 1 am rather hoping that after 4 hours we might move on to the next group of estimates. Senator Keeffe raised a question about Mount Isa and Cairns. Just after lunch, when he may not have been here, I gave an answer on this matter. I do not want to have to repeat it now.
– In relation to what?
– In relation to Mount lsa and Cairns and the possibility of micro-wave establishments. In relation to regional stations and the problems generally there are difficulties, as the honourable senator pointed out, in broadcasting services in Queensland in regard to improving medium frequency broadcasting services in outback areas because of the limited range of such stations in relation to the vast areas involved. There is also a shortage of frequencies, to which I adverted earlier this afternoon. The high frequency stations in Brisbane, VLM and ULK, are intended to provide a service to distant areas. The effectiveness of these services is at present being examined. Tn recent years three new medium frequency stations have, however, been established in Queensland.
The honourable senator also asked about educational television in Papua and New
Guinea. It is my understanding that a special committee of the Legislative Council of the Territory has examined this matter.
– It has already recommended that the service be established.
– That was not my understanding of the recommendations. I understood that it reported that it foresaw many difficulties in establishing the service. However, we shall have to follow that through and I will make some inquiries.
– Make inquiries and let us know before the election.
– I shall make inquiries also on the matters about which Senator Dittmer asked. I feel bound to remind him that before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board allows advertisements on medical matters it has to have approval from the medical authority.
– The Minister of Health has to approve.
– The PostmasterGeneral has the ultimate authority.
– On the other matters that he raised I shall do as he suggests and get the answers at the appropriate time.
Proposed expenditures and proposed provisions noted.
Department of Works
Proposed expenditure, $48,991,000.
Proposed provision, $64,215,000.
Civil Defence - Repairs and Maintenance
Proposed expenditure, $22,000.
Civil Defence - Buildings, Works,
Fittings and Furniture
Proposed expenditure, $30,000.
– I refer to Division No. 600. I should like particulars in regard to the entry reading Less amounts to be received from various Trust Accounts, $2,005,000’. Last year the appropriation was$1. 8m and the expenditure $1.8m. At page 203 of the AuditorGeneral’s report, under the heading ‘Works Suspense Trust Account’, the following comment appears:
In addition to works which are performed by contracts, the Department carries out works using its own day-labour force, equipment, stores and other facilities. Such operations are financed! through the Works Suspense Trust Account. Expenditure on labour, materials and other items is initially charged to that account; after dissection and costing, expenditure is cleared from the trust account by charging Annual Appropriations.
For the purpose of comparison I would like to refer to another item on page 203 of the same report in which the AuditorGeneral gave the estimated cost and final cost of work performed in the development of the Launceston Airport. I must say that a warm tribute should be paid to the Department of Works for this project. The job has now been completed and is standing up well to wear and tear. It attracts the admiration of all visitors who come to Tasmania. It is one of our tourist showpieces at the moment because it is such a splendid example of thorough workmanship. The final cost was $1.7m against an estimated cost of $2.05m. A considerable saving was achieved and a splendid job resulted.
By comparison 1 would like to direct attention to the position with regard to the Customs House, Melbourne. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) will remember, I think, that when he was a member of the Public Works Committee we went through the gyrations associated with making a decision on the site of a new Customs House in Melbourne, and he will remember the views put forward by various interests regarding the disposal of the old Customs House. Many aspects of that investigation were most interesting. But I am glad to say that the new Customs House has been completed. The Auditor-General said in his report, as appears at page 203:
The amount originally authorised, in May 1963, for expenditure on the project was $3,867,104. The major contract for the project was let in that month for an amount of $3,857,871 and was to be completed by June 1965. However, when this Report was prepared, the main contract had not been completed and the premises, which have been progressively occupied from May 1967, were not available for full occupation.
At 30th June 1967, the amount authorised by competent authority in respect of the project was $4,790,646 and expenditure to that date totalled $4,470,930.
In response to inquiries by my Office, the Department advised that the delay and the expenditure in excess of the original authorisation were due to a variety of factors, including design amendments, foundation difficulties, shortages of certain materials, unusual wet weather, industrial disputes and other difficulties encountered during construction and the operation of the contract provisions for ‘rise and fall’ in wages and cost of materials.
I have read that part of the AuditorGeneral’s report to point up the comparison between the job that was done in Tasmania during the same period and in which a considerable saving was effected, to the extent of about a quarter of a million dollars, and the job in Melbourne which was done under a contract which evidently has not been fulfilled, and which is costing nearly $lm more than it was expected to cost. There is a whole list of difficulties that were supposed to have been encountered by the contractors. I would like to ask the Minister how arrangements are made for the letting of a big contract like this. If there is a profit in it for the contractor he certainly claims that profit. How is it that a contract can be let for a building such as this and that the final cost can exceed the estimate or the tender price by nearly $lm?
The Auditor-General quite rightly has drawn attention to the bare facts of this case. But it appears that somewhere along the line something occurred to cause the new Customs House in Melbourne not to be completed when it was expected to be completed, namely, in 1965. Other items in the estimates for this Department show that enormous and increasing amounts are being paid in rental. In this case at least 2 years rental could have been saved if the contract had been completed in the proper period. I ask the Minister to explain as far as possible what happened in relation to the contract for the Customs House in Melbourne in view of the fact that the contract for the Launceston Airport was carried out so efficiently, with such credit to the Department and at a saving of more than $250,000.
– Senator O’Byrne referred to the amounts to be received from trust accounts under Division No. 600. The figure for 1967-68 is $2,005,000, which represents an increase of $147,042 over receipts in 1966-67. It is the practice to recover under this item the salaries of officers directly associated with works trust account activities, including stores, workshops, plant, hostels and works undertakings. The estimate for 1967-68 of $2,005,000 is based on actual salaries of officers engaged on trust account activities plus provision for some recruitment to trust positions in 1967-68. The increase of $147,042 reflects provision for recruitment; the cost for a full year of increments of salaries paid for only part of 1966-67; a Public Service Board determination issued during 1966-67 but effective for the full year in 1967-68; Public Service Board determinations already issued and effective in 1967-68 in relation to the national wage case, storemen and packers, junior rates and clerical assistants; and increments due for payment in 1967-68.
Senator O’Byrne referred more particularly to the Auditor-General’s report and drew a comparison between two projects. One of those projects was the Customs House in Melbourne which has now been opened. The Department of Customs and Excise is in possession Of it. The cost of that project was quite significantly in excess of the estimate. In respect of the other project, the Department of Works estimate was reasonably close to the actual cost. There is not much that I can say at this time, apart from what the Auditor-General has said. He has referred to the contract provisions for rise and fall in wages and cost of materials. I think a breakup of the increase in that regard could be given. He has also referred to other factors including design amendments, foundation difficulties - we all know how expensive foundations can be - shortages of certain material, unusual wet weather, industrial disputes and other difficulties encountered during construction. Those factors are difficult to control. I am sure that there is no suggestion that there was inadequate control. But the fact is that these things did occur. At this time I cannot add a great deal to what the Auditor-General has said.
I know that air conditioning was added subsequent to the letting of the original contract. I also recall that when Senator O’Byrne and I were members on the Public Works Committee we had to make a recommendation to the Government on where the new Customs House in Melbourne should be built. The original proposal was to build it at the back of the old Customs House. But the Public Works Committee recommended to the Government that the Commonwealth should acquire a new site for the Customs House.
That is what has been done. The old Customs House is now to be converted into Commonwealth Parliament Offices.
– I make my comments in relation to Division No. 600, subdivision 1, which concerns the administrative side of the Department of Works. The Department has an enormous job to do but one gets the idea that despite the enormity of the work there are facets of administration which should receive greater attention than they have in the past. The matter brought up by Senator O’Byrne about the Customs House pinpoints this very accurately. The comments about this matter by the Minister were not quite to the point. A large authority such as the Department of Works should not be involved in such mistakes as occurred during the construction of the Customs House. If the Minister has information about the extra costs which had to be met on that job as a result of a mistake made by the administration of the Department, he should be a little clearer in his explanation.
– Which building construction is the honourable senator referring to?
– I am referring to the Melbourne Customs House. I do not think the Minister gave an adequate explanation. I also want to refer to the growth of this Department. If we look at the schedule showing the salaries and allowances for this Department we find that the staff is to be increased fairly substantially during this financial year. In 1966-67 the Department had 4,307 employees. This year it is expected that the staff will increase to 4.895. When a department gets to this size a big percentage of the staff is- occupied in looking after other members of the staff, lt is the same in all large organisations, as I see it, whether they are private enterprise organisations or government departments. I suggest it is encumbent upon the people administering this Department to sec that In future it is a more efficient organisation than it has been in the past.
I had some knowledge of the building of the Melbourne Customs House. The Minister, mentioned the air conditioning which was provided for that building. Air conditioning was not originally planned. I do not know of any private organisation which would commence a building of that size and decide later to provide air conditioning throughout it. The fact that it was decided to install air conditioning at a later date suggests (hat the original planning was not fully considered. There were other difficulties associated with this building. An additional £25,000 to £30,000 had to be paid to the contractor because the design of the outside sheathing or cladding of the building was incorrect. This had been designed by one of the Department’s architects. This Department will undoubtedly grow in size because the importance of its work calls for this growth. The enormous wage bill that has to be provided and the fact that it has to work in the various States suggest that consideration should be given to gaining greater efficiency.
There is one other matter on which I would like the Minister to comment and it is related to the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Australian Road Research Board mentioned in Division No. 600, subdivision 2, item 16. Expenditure under this heading last year was $83,400 and this year the appropriation is $95,000. We dealt yesterday with this and we did mention that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads was attracting a very large contribution. We have here the Department of Works paying money to the Australian Road Research Board. Could the Minister indicate to the Senate the different work that is done by this Board compared with that carried out by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads? Would it be possible for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to conduct the work as, perhaps the name of the organisation suggests that it could?
The sum of $2.9m is provided for ‘Fees of private -architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and other consultants’. It has been put to me - and reasonably well denied by the Department, I believe, in correspondence - that the Department engages consultant engineers who, in fact, are not Australian firms. It appears to me to be most important that in our young country we should use Australian based firms rather than use consultants from abroad. Australian societies have put to me that the Department has had a tendency, without necessarily surveying the picture very clearly, to call overseas tenderers in to give advice. Some of the matters concerned are harbour developments and various water storage facilities. Of course, the general proposition is that the overseas firm that has got the job comes in and establishes an office in this country and proceeds to take the Australian consultants away from the Australian firms. There is no consulting firm of standing, whether it be in architecture or in the engineering field, which does not have at its fingertips a complete knowledge of what is available in the world today. Nearly every Australian consulting firm has its liaison with an office of repute in another country.
The Minister for Works has conveyed to me that the Department has looked at this closely and has, in fact taken this view of the matter. I believe that the Department was able to say that all of its work had been given to Australian consultants. However, I find it hard to believe that overseas firms do not set up offices in Australia, call themselves Australian based, and then return overseas when the deal is finished. This is difficult for the Department to do anything about but I suggest that the position needs close scrutiny. Could the Minister tell us what amount was paid to actual Australian based partnerships or companies in 1966-67 from the money allocated under Division No. 600, subdivision 2, item 15?
– The information that is required by the honourable senator is not readily available to me but I will certainly see that an effort is made to get it for him. It is a reasonable thing to ask for such information. However, I believe that one should be very careful in drawing any conclusions from such figures. Honourable senators should bear in mind that it is a common practice from time to time, not only at government level but at private enterprise levels, to use the services of overseas advisers, engineers, architects and technicians.
– We will never grow in knowledge ourselves if we do.
-But we must not be too insular. We have to get the advantages of knowledge the world over. I do not believe that there is any suggestion that this would be done to the disadvantage of Australian professional people. It would be done because there would be some advan tage to the project in the broad by engaging people from overseas.
However, the information will be made available. The honourable senator inquired about the appropriation for the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Australian Road Research Board. Broadly the objects of the Board are to provide a national centre for road research information, correlation and co-ordination of road research activities and to make available to appropriate bodies information relating to such matters. The Commonwealth has undertaken to make a contribution of 10% of the Board’s annual budget. I refer now to a document titled Australian Roads’ which is produced by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. I commend it to the honourable senator. It is quite informative. It carries a reference to the Australian Road Research Board, which states:
The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities in establishing the Australian Road Research Board in March 1960 took a major step forward into the advancement of scientific research into problems associated with roads and traffic in Australia.
– Can the Minister point out the major difference between this Board and the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads?
– I am dealing with the estimates for the Department of Works and I do not want to stretch beyond that. This query arose earlier when we were dealing with the estimates of the Department of Shipping and Transport. There is a clear line of distinction between the two bodies. I think we should invite the attention of the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) to these bodies and ask for an outline of their functions. When we were dealing with the estimates of the Department of Shipping and Transport I said that the Bureau was primarily concerned with the Commonwealth roads grants legislation and the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States in that respect. I may be able to gain some further information in relation to the administration of this area by the Department of Works. I think it would be of advantage to get considered definitions of the functions of the two bodies. I will set about that at the appropriate time. The objects of’ the Board are to co-ordinate, encourage and arrange further research into such problems as road safety, cheaper and better road surfaces, traffic flows, and planning to meet future needs in the economics of road transport. The Board holds biennial conferences for the presentation and discussion of papers on road reasearch, publishes the results of road research and makes grants for carrying out road research to road authorities, universities, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and similar bodies. The first biennial conference of the Australian Road Research Board was held in Canberra in 1962. The second biennial conference of the Board was held in Melbourne in 1964 and the third was held in Sydney from 4th to 9th September 1966.
– The bodies seem to have very similar functions.
– -Yes. 1 think the information I have just given relates to methods of research as such. The pattern is illustrated. The Department of Works contributes 10% of the Board’s annual budget. I return now to the question raised about contracts. The original contract for the Melbourne Customs House was of the order of $3. 856m. The pluses to the total present authorisation involve: Partitioning of floors 8 to 13 and alteration of upper floors, $314,122; extra cost of full air conditioning, to which I referred before, $209,810; contract variations approved to date $362,000; and rise and fall variations approved to date, $73,954. Rise and fall provisions are written into the contract in respect of variations in costs of materials and wages. Those figures bring the total to $4,816,629.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I am interested in the last figure that the Minister gave. As I recollect, it was $4,816,629.
– That is so.
– That corresponds with what Senator O’Byrne said concerning an increase in cost of approximately $lm to date. I wish to ask the Minister whether he will correlate the matters to which Senator Webster has drawn attention, not necessarily in this debate because, of course, that would be quite unfair and the exercise would not be useful if it was not complete. My recollection is that last night we approved of a vote of $650,000 for the
Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Further, my recollection is that the combined vote for road safety - not merely our own expenditure on road safety practices but the assistance we give the States - is approximately $216,000 in addition to an amount of approximately $115,000. The total expenditure is about $350,000. Then we have the item relating to the Commonwealth contribution to the Australian Road Research Trust. I mention the three items together because I invite the Minister to see that the Department of Works furnishes us with a memorandum correlating the activities for which the three votes are provided because the situation may be that they are growing a little like the cauliflower and are just as separate and unknown to each other as each departmental activity seems to be.
Regarding the other matter that I wish to mention, I ask the Minister to turn to the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1967-68 and notice under Division No. 615 - Repairs and Maintenance, subdivision 2 relating to Australian Capital Territory Services. The Department of Works has appropriated $3,542,000. I turn now to the other appropriation required for the Australian Capital Territory. I think that I am correct in saying that the vote for capital works for the National Capital Development Commission this year is $3 8m. Again, I ask the Minister whether he will prepare for us a statement of the total appropriation for the benefit of the A.C.T.
I wish it to be clearly understood that great pride is to be taken in the development of Canberra as our national capital not only in the approach to the development of it but also in the concept of it. I acknowledge the work that is being done, under the skilful guidance of the Commissioner, Mr Overall, and his Associate Commissioners. But I think that we are inclined to create an imbalance in this place of insulation between expenditures in the Australian Capital Territory and expenditures that take place in the outback parts of Australia. I think that we need to look to this matter in the same way as Senator Webster did when calling attention to items in the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department, showing that country people seem to be subjected to a financial imposition for long distance connection to automatic telephone exchanges while people in highly populated areas seem to be going scot free. It is a great mistake to allow too much emphasis to be placed upon the over development of the city centres. So, I should like in due course a statement of the total appropriation this year for the Australian Capital Territory.
– I have particulars of the individual items referred to by Senator Wright but I understand that that is not what he wants. I believe that he wants a consolidation of those items.
– That is so,
– I shall arrange for that to be supplied.
– At the Commonwealth Bank building in Sydney our offices are being renovated. This work which is being- carried out by the Department of the Interior will benefit Ministers, members and senators who. have office accommodation in that building. I do not refer to this in any spirit of heavy criticism. I realise that Ministers are possibly entitled to some advantages not available to others. But I point out that they are being provided with bathrooms, showers, and toilets.
– Where is this?
– In Sydney at the Commonwealth Bank building. The provision of these facilities is in line with theacquisition of VIP aircraft. I know that certain important people must have VIP treatment and I daresay that there would be occasions when Ministers needed private baths and showers and toilet facilities of their own.
– Not all Ministers have office accommodation at the Commonwealth Bank building.
– I realise that, but quite a few have offices there. I am not opposed to Ministers having good conditions. I am always in favour of good conditions being available for the workers, but the typists and stenographers employed in those offices have not even a change room. I understand that the plans for the renovations that are now being made contain no provision for a change room for the girls or a room where they can sit down and rest. It is not intended that their situation will be improved’. I should think that the Commonwealth Government would demand that any private employer provide such facilities for female employees, but the Commonwealth does not do so. I wonder whether I am not in time to appeal to the Minister to have something done about this situation because these are facilities which girls in this modern world should have.
Proposed expenditures and proposed provision noted.
Deparment of Labour and National Service
Proposed expenditure, $9,584,000.
Proposed provision, $21,000.
Administration of the National Service Act
Proposed expenditure, $1,006,000.
Post Discharge Resettlement Training
Proposed expenditure, $2,000.
National Service - Vocational Training Scheme - Technical Training.
Proposed expenditure, $30,000.
– I notice that on page 246 of Document A the staff of Public Service Arbitrator’s Office are listed. The only increase in staff provided for is in the number of typists.. There are still to be only five clerksbut the clerical assistants and typists are to be increased from three to five. The point I wish to emphasise is that serious delays are now occurring in the hearing of arbitration matters and I am wondering whether more assistants should be given to the Public Service Arbitrator. I understand that that he now has two assistants. In Adelaide, one of these: assistants is Mr Wilson and the other is Mr Burkett. Mr Burkett is absent from work on account of illness at the moment and the general opinion is that it is doubtful whether he will be returning. In the meantime he cannot be replaced until he resigns and this will not be until he has exhausted his accumulated sick leave which I believe amounts to 34 weeks. Until he is replaced, the Arbitrator will be short of assistants with the result that long delays are occurring in hearings and these delays are causing serious concern and industrial unrest. 1 am informed that Commissioner Chambers has still before him an application, the hearing of which commenced in 1963 and that one hearing which commenced before Mr Wilson in 1965 has not yet been finalised.
I come now to the question of national service, which is administered by the Department of Labour and National Service. Some time ago I raised with the Minister the question of superannuation contributions by public servants who have been called up for national service. I suggested that the Commonwealth meet these contributions for the employees. The Minister replied that the position today is different from that which obtained during World War II in that many national service trainees are now receiving more than they would be receiving in their normal occupations had they not been called up. I point out, however, that the Governments of South Australia and Tasmania do meet superannuation contributions for those of their employees who are called up for national service training. Commonwealth public servants, on the other hand, are required to meet this cost themselves. This may be justifiable if they are receiving more as national service trainees than they would in their normal occupation, but there are many who are not in this happy position. I therefore ask that the Minister give consideration to meeting the superannuation payments of those national service trainees who are disadvantaged through being called up. I shall be very interested to know what the position will be when defence forces retirement benefits legislation is applied to national service trainees. Will these trainees be required to contribute to both schemes?
I come now to those who apply for deferment of national service training. The Act now provides that an applicant for deferment may be represented before the court which hears his application, but it does not specify whether the representative must be a legal man or whether he may be any person selected by the applicant. One applicant for deferment in Adelaide was advised by the court that he could be represented by either a legal man or anyone else whom he desired to nominate. On another occasion, when the applicant was represented by a layman the court expressed doubt as to whether a layman could act for him. The layman was permitted to represent the applicant upon the Crown Law Office solicitor not raising any objection to the representation. Whilst I know that there is a need for legal representation when a question of law is involved, on most occasions the question is one of circumstances and facts in relation to the difficulty of an applicant’s undergoing service immediately. Many applicants find that they can be as well represented for this purpose by a layman as by a solicitor.
In the instance to which I have referred the court would have exercised its right of refusal had there been an objection by counsel representing the Crown Law Office and the applicant would then not have been represented by the person of his choice. In proceedings before such tribunals, in which the question is one not so much of law as of fact, it is not unusual for an applicant to select a layman to present his case, and in view of the fact that this is not prohibited by the Act and that there is some doubt about it I ask that the Department notify those persons controlling this activity that it is quite happy that applicants have the representation of their choice without there being any insistance of legal qualifications.
-I direct a question to the provision for the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry in item 04 of subdivision 3 of Division No. 330. I take it that this refers to the Woodward inquiry. Bearing in mind that we have had the report of this inquiry for some months, I should like to know why the proposed appropriation is about $4,000 in excess of the expenditure last year.
– I refer the Minister to subdivision 3 of Division No. 330. I note that the final entry relates to a grant to the National Safety Council for which no provision is proposed this year. Has the grant been withdrawn or does provision for it appear in another section? I refer the Minister also to Division No. 335 which provides for special maintenance of hostel buildings of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd in the Australian Capital Territory. I realise that expenditure on Commonwealth hostels generally does not come under the vote of the Department of Labour and National Service. Why has it been traditional for this money to be paid to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, which has a number of hostels in the Australian Capital Territory, and why is the provision proposed to be increased this year to $67,000?
– Senator Bull asked about the provision for the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry in Division No. 330. The item is to provide funds for the inquiry into certain conditions on the Australian waterfront constituted by the Minister in June. It also covers expenditure on the National Conference of which Mr Woodward was Chairman. As the honourable senator said, we have the report. It was supposed to be completed in the first half of this year. The fees for Mr Woodward and the travelling costs for 1967-68 are expected to be approximately the same as the expenditure last year. I think the honourable senator asked why there was some small increase. The increase of $3,229 is occasioned principally by providing an amount of $3,000 for the printing of the report.
– I am wondering why the total provision is so great this year, bearing in mind that the inquiry was completed some time ago.
– I shall deal with that later. Senator Webster referred to the National Safety Council, which is mentioned under Division No. 330. In the 1965-66 Estimates provision was made to enable a further grant of $10,000 to be paid to the National Safety Council, being the final payment of the grant of $30,000 approved by the Treasurer to be paid over the years 1963-64, 1964-65 and 1965-66. A further grant sought by the Council for 1967-68 has not been approved pending further investigation. Therefore, there is no provision before us for such expenditure.
Senator Cavanagh raised a number of questions not specifically related to proposed expenditure before us. He asked whether the Public Service Arbitrator’s office was sufficiently staffed to enable it to deal with any problems that Public Service unions had and which needed to be dealt with expeditiously. That must be a matter of opinion and of policy to which only the responsible Minister can reply. I shall see that in respect of this and the other matters he raised his views will be put before the responsible Minister who will, I have no doubt, supply me with a letter to send to Senator Cavanagh or write to him direct. The matter of superannuation payments by national servicemen is a policy matter. The views having been expressed, the Minister will provide an answer. I shall ascertain whether national servicemen have to pay into both the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and the superannuation scheme.
– I direct my remarks to Division No. 330, subdivision 3, item 03, which provides for a contribution to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Third Study Conference. These gatherings originated in the mid-1950’s. I am wondering whether it is possible to get information about what happens to people after they have passed through these gatherings. I know such people who represent employer and employee organisations. Does the Minister know whether there is much wastage of the experience gained and what percentage of these people maintain their public activities? I remember that in the early 1950’s both my South Australian colleague Senator Bishop and I were contenders and he was successful on that occasion. I am curious, and I know he is too, about this aspect. The Minister may be able to ascertain how many of these people maintain their activities after attending conferences and how many disappear into the limbo of forgotten things.
Senator GORTON (Victoria - Minister for Education and Science) (4.54] - The provision for special maintenance of hostel buildings of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd in the Australian Capital Territory, to which Senator Webster referred, covers the cost of raising the standard of the Hotel Kurrajong. Provision is being made for a total expenditure of $108,000 over the 2 years 1966-67 and 1967-68. Senator Mulvihill has asked whether we can discover what has happened to people who have passed through the study conference. I suppose we probably could find out. I do not know whether we keep track of them, but we can certainly discover what has happened in the case of anybody who may be prominent. I will let the honourable senator have the information when I have obtained it.
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) 14.56] - Division 335, Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, covers .special maintenance of hostel buildings in .the Australian Capital Territory. Is a general discussion on Commonwealth Hostels Ltd outside the ambit of this debate, Mr Chairman?
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- No.
– Six months ago a matter that received great attention by the Senate was the poor living conditions in Commonwealth hostels. I know that for quite a while Senator Poyser, Senator Mulvihill and I, and, I think, others from the other side of the chamber, took a very keen interest in what was going on in the hostels. There was bad weather at the time, and so we took, the opportunity to discover the conditions under which hostel residents had to live. I was particularly horrified when I inspected the hostels on a Saturday afternoon and on a Sunday afternoon and had a good close-up view of how the people there were living. These people were not migrants from downtrodden countries. They were not escapees from Communism. They were normal British citizens who had come here to set themselves up as citizens of Australia.
– <I do not wish in any way to curtail this discussion, particularly in view of the Chairman’s ruling, but there is provision for Commonwealth Hostels Ltd in respect of services for migrants in the estimates for the Department of Immigration. Perhaps it would be better to discuss ‘this matter when the estimates for that Department come before us.
– Very well, Mr Chairman, I will wait until those estimates are being discussed.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (4.57] - I wish to refer to .the national service scheme which is administered by the Department of Labour and National Service. I am particularly impelled to raise this matter because of the announcement within the last week or so of the increase of 1,700 in -our commitment o’f troops in Vietnam. I expect that the major proportion of those extra .troops will .be national ‘Servicemen. We were obliged to the Minister for Labour and ‘National Service (Mr Bury) for an analysis, in a news release of 10th August, of the operation of the national service scheme up to .date. There are two points I wish to put forward for the urgent consideration of the Minister. These are not the only matters that give me concern, but the others I think more appropriate for a general policy discussion. These two matters, however, seem to me to be wholly anomalous and I think they .should be considered as matters of immediate importance.
Firstly, I am completely perplexed as to how it comes about that a man who is ballotted in for national service because his birthday falls on a certain date can, by being married before the actual receipt of his notice of call-up, obtain deferment - and indefinite deferment - of service. I can not understand how it is that simply by taking a woman unto oneself in wedlock between the time of being ballotted in and the receipt of the notice of call-up one may obtain deferment. It seems that a person who is ballotted in and who anticipates a notice of call-up may, by indulging in happy nuptials, escape national service. This is such a mystery - a mystere, Mr Chairman, if I were speaking in French - that I suggest it merits our consideration.
My second point concerns twins or triplets who are called up together. I suggest that we are bringing odium on the scheme by insisting that both twins or all three triplets be called up. Everybody revolts against the idea that one family should be compelled to make a multiple sacrifice. I remind the Minister that from the time of inauguration of the scheme until the present the total number of men registered has been 229,207, and those balloted out and granted indefinite deferment have totalled 150;860, leaving a residue of those balloted in and volunteers of 78,347. In other words, we finally ballot in only about one-quarter of those who have to register because of the dates on which their birthdays fall. It would not affect in any way, therefore, the efficacy of the scheme to allow the few pairs of twins or sets of triplets who register to draw lots to see which of the twins, or which one or two of the triplets, as the case may be, become eligible for exemption.
Without referring to :any particular case !that has been publicised recently, I have personal knowledge of cases in which the requirement of service by twin brothers is completely inequitable, particularly when one considers how so many others in the 20-year age group may escape service by pure luck. These two aspects of the national service scheme have caused me extreme disquiet and I ask the Minister to give them consideration. I believe that we have not given thorough consideration to the implementation of this scheme generally. I for one, although a strong advocate of compulsory military service at home or abroad in national crises, feel grave disquiet about the exercise of compulsory authority by the State over a particular group for external service in a commitment like that in Vietnam. But that is a matter for discussion at another time and in relation to the particular circumstances in Vietnam at that time. In that context I might refer to the actual methods being employed by the commanders on our side for the purpose of the defence effort to which we are committed - a defence effort against infiltration of the South. I mention these things only to indicate that there are general matters in this field that I abstain from discussing. I do ask, however, for consideration of the particular points I have mentioned: Immunity from service by reason of marriage between registration and call-up; and the requirement of compulsory military service by both twins of all three triplets.
– I will undertake to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to consider the points raised by the honourable senator. I cannot, of course, give any indication of what the decision will be, or any undertaking about that decision, but I will see that these matters are brought to the Minister’s attention and I will ask him to consider them.
– I wish to ask a question about national service and about the deferment of service of certain persons who have been balloted in. Can the Senate be assured that in all cases in which call-up is deferred for a fixed term because of occupational reasons, such as the managing of a farm, the persons involved are, at the expiration of the fixed time, required to do their national service training? I mention a case that has been referred to me. It concerns the son of a prominent individual in Western
Australia. I do not want to refer to him by name because I do not know all the facts of the matter. It has been alleged that this young man was balloted in; that his call-up was deferred for a certain period because he was engaged in the farming industry; that the period for which he was granted deferment has now expired; and that he is still not engaged in national serivce training. I do not know the facts of the matter other than those I have stated. I merely ask the Minister whether an assurance can be given that when deferments are granted for a fixed term the requirements of the legislation are adhered to so that no person can take advantage of a fixed term deferment in order to obtain an indefinite deferment.
– As I understand the operation of the scheme, when a person obtains deferment, for example, on the ground that he is undertaking a course at a university - that is one of the grounds for deferment - or because he is looking after a farm - that is another ground - the deferment is reviewable every 12 months by the Registrar of National Service in the State concerned. I would be extremely surprised if any Registrar of National Service carried out his duties in anything other than a completely impartial way. I believe that they all act impartially. I understand that that is the situation.
– I was not wishing to cast any aspersion on the Registrar. I merely said that this matter had been referred to me. I thought it was proper to raise it. I am not making any allegation.
– I understand that. I did not suggest that the honourable senator was casting aspersions on anybody. He asked me whether I Could assure honourable senators that a certain thing had never happened. I do not think I can do that because human beings are involved in this matter. But I believe that the people appointed to review deferments behave completely impartially.
– I refer to the appropriation of $24,000 for the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry under Division No. 330. I thought that the Inquiry had come to a conclusion and had finalised its work when it made recommendations on permanent employment and other aspects of industrial activity on the waterfront. Is the Inquiry to continue? If it is, what are the reasons for its continuance?
– The appropriation for the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry is in respect of the period since the beginning of this financial year. I was asked a question on this matter previously. The Inquiry continued after 1st July and part of this appropriation is required for the printing of the report.
– I also refer to the appropriation for the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry under Division No. 330. This year the appropriation is $24,000. The expenditure last year was $20,771. Will the Minister ask his officers to collate for me details of last year’s expenditure? Did it cover not only the cost of the Stevedoring Industry Inquiry but also the cost of what has been called the Stevedoring Industry Conference, which I am inclined to think is a different item of expenditure.
– I understand that what the honourable senator is seeking is a breakup of last year’s expenditure as between the two matters that he mentioned. Is that so?
– No, the total cost of the two matters up to date.
– The figure of $20,771 represents the total cost of those two matters. So I think that the honourable senator would want a breakup of that figure as between those two matters. I will endeavour to get that for him.
Proposed expenditures and proposed provision noted.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, consideration of intervening divisions be postponed until after consideration of the estimates for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and the Departments of Health, Immigration and Social Services.
Proposed expenditure, $12,913,000.
– I wish to refer to several matters in relation to the operations of this
Department. The first of them is the very important matter of legal aid. It is now some time since the Attorney-General of the day undertook that the Commonwealth would introduce a very attractive scheme of legal aid-
– Order! To which item is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to the estimates in general. I do not think they contain a specific reference to legal aid. Perhaps my remarks would relate to the appropriation for legal service bureau. Some time ago a statement was made that a scheme of legal aid would be introduced in the near future. I think most honourable senators are aware of the inadequacies of the legal aid that is available in the various States. Largely it is available through the law societies. In many instances it is available from practising lawyers who act in a voluntary capacity.
It seems to me that a Commonwealth scheme of legal aid would be of the utmost desirability. I wish to refer to other matters, but at this stage I merely ask the Minister whether he can advise the Committee when we can expect an announcement to be made concerning the introduction of a more adequate scheme of legal aid.
– I refer to the appropriation of $213,400 for grants to approved marriage guidance organisations under the Matrimonial Causes Act under Division No. 115. I ask the Minister whether he believes that the Government is receiving value for its money in this regard. In particular I ask where this money is expended; where the marriage guidance courses are held; what is the character of them; and whether they have produced any results in the few years since the Matrimonial Causes Act came into operation and marriage guidance councils were set up and given grants under that Act. The Minister can answer that question only generally. Does he think these councils have been a success? I want to know whether they operate in only the main cities or are spread throughout the country. Are people who live in country areas and who want marriage guidance paid the cost of their fares if they go to the city to attend these courses?
– I am prepared to accept almost any responsibility that one can think of, apart from the responsibility of expressing an opinion on whether marriage guidance councils have been completely successful. I have no doubt that in many cases they have been successful, but I do not know what would have happened if .they had not been in existence. I believe that it is a matter of each honourable senator making up his own mind on that question. However, I think all of us would agree that the provision of these councils is sensible. They are situated in every capital city of Australia and also in a number of other centres. If the honourable senator desires, I will obtain from the Department a list of the other centres at which there are representatives.
Senator Wheeldon inquired about a legal aid system to be introduced by the Commonwealth for its Territories. A great deal of work has been done to formulate a scheme which could be introduced. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) has reached a stage at which he is satisfied that he could introduce such a scheme for consideration by the Parliament except for one outstanding matter. Negotiations are proceeding on the difficulties of this one matter, which relates to the provision of legal aid in matrimonial causes. Other than on this matter, progress has been made to the stage at which the scheme is ready for presentation to the Parliament.
– The matter I now wish to refer to would be covered by Division No. 120 - High Court, and Division No. 124 - Conciliation and Arbitration. Proposals have been made in the past to shift the High Court of Australia to Canberra. Is the Minister in a position at the moment to tell us what stage this proposal has reached and whether an announcement can be expected in the near future as to when the move will take place?
I understand it has been suggested that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should also be transferred to Canberra. Is the Minister in a position to give the Committee any advice as to when this move may be anticipated? Also, does the Government intend at the same time to shift the industrial tribunals and commissions to Canberra or only the courts? It seems to me that to site the commissions in Canberra could cause quite a lot of inconvenience as, indeed, there may be in any case in having the Court in Canberra. I do not think this matter has ever been made completely clear. I think the Committee would appreciate an answer from the Minister.
– I have a question about the Australian Police College which is dealt with in Division No. 129. It appears that in 1966-67 there was a principal and a chief instructor at the College. Apparently, those two positions have been abolished. Is the establishment being changed? Could the Minister explain this matter?
– My remarks relate to Division No. 120 - High Court of Australia. Recently the Government announced that it was stepping outside the influence of, or was severing contact with, the Privy Council. Does this mean that no more Privy Councillors will be appointed from Australia? Does this also mean that there will be no further use for Queen’s Counsel? Will trained Queen’s Counsel continue to hold office or will there be a general tapering off of such people in the legal profession? Will it mean that no further Queen’s Counsel will be appointed?
– Senator Wheeldon asked whether I could give any firm information as to when the High Court of Australia would be moved to the national capital. I cannot do so. The matter has not been decided finally although the National Capital Development Commission has planned a site for the building when the Court is moved to Canberra. The date of the move has not been decided. I do not think it would be the intention of the Government, or any subsequent Governments, to move the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to Canberra. As yet, the NCDC has not made allowance in its plans for the accommodation of this body. The reasonable assumption is that this is likely to happen at some time. I cannot go further than that. I cannot make assumptions as to what would happen in the future if this action was taken.
The Attorney-General’s Department is concerned with the future of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but not with the other bodies mentioned by the honourable senator which come under the control of the Department of Labour and National Service. I think it highly unlikely that the industrial tribunals and commissions would be moved to Canberra. I think the transfer would be restricted to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but I do not know when this move is to be made.
asked about the Australian Police College. I think his question was based on the fact that no provision is made in these estimates for the salaries of a principal and a chief instructor. I expect to have shortly an explanation why the salaries and positions have been set out in this way in the document. The positions of the principal and the chief instructor are still occupied and obviously these people have to be paid under some other vote. The increased provision for Division No. 129 is due to salary rises together with higher amounts to be paid for penalty rates because of increased activity at the College. More courses are to be held and greater numbers will be attending each course. The increased provision is in anticipation of greater activity at the College. I have been told that the chief instructor is to be provided by the New South Wales Police Commissioner and the principal is now included in the salary arranged for one of the inspectors. This is where the salary payments are provided and no doubt there will be some reimbursement to New South Wales for the salary of the chief instructor.
– I wish to raise, not for the first time when we have considered the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department, my complete objection to the continuance of the vote under Division No. 126 - Legal Service Bureaux. These Bureaux were established for the special benefit of men returning from the armed forces of World War II. The Bureaux have been continued simply, I feel, because of inattention to the subject and because nowhere in the Commonwealth administration is there the slightest idea of economy. My view is that returned servicemen were entitled, in the stringent and con fused post-war years, with all the tenancy difficulties, land settlement difficulties, and other difficulties that crowded in upon them, to a special service for legal advice. Today, there has been such an increase in the community that, so far from giving efficient service, these bureaux merely provide means for preliminary consultation and give very little advice, and, whenever any matter of importance comes up, they relinquish any responsibility and turn the unhappy exserviceman out to get private advice from the ordinary professional channels. 1 do not in the slightest degree wish to curtail the availability of legal services to deserving sections of the community. I have put forward many times the viewpoint that the returned serviceman would be much better served if a system of legal aid were established so that, if he were in need of legal aid, he could then have access through the ordinary channels of legal aid to the best people - specialists, leaders and the most prominent people in the legal profession. All of these people would make themselves available under any properly constructed system of legal aid to plead cases and give advice of a responsible nature. Therefore my advocacy for the curtailment of this expenditure is not with a view to deprive these people of free legal aid if their circumstances require it. lt is simply to say that the need has ceased to exist and the Bureau does not provide anything like a sufficient or efficient service. Therefore, we could well do with the saving of the $159,000 which is being voted for the purposes and we could divert this amount to other more deserving cases.
– I want to refer briefly to Division No. 124. - Conciliation and Arbitration. I ask the Minister whether anything has yet been done to appoint the further conciliation commissioners that were recommended in the annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which was before the Parliament some six months ago. These recommendations were made on the basis that the back-log of work that was occurring was delaying the hearing and final isa tion of wages cases. The report itself made this strong recommendation. I wonder whether, in fact, there are any moves for the additional appointments to be made.
– With regard to Division No. 115. - Administrative, I wish to alert the attention of the Government to the urgency of providing Commonwealth Court accommodation in Adelaide. Since Federation there has not been any building in South Australia for the purpose of Commonwealth courts. When the High Court comes to South Australia, their honours, the judges of the Supreme Court, are forced to vacate their chambers and the High Court proceedings are carried on in the Supreme Court building for the fortnight or three weeks that is required. This general disorganisation has been going on now for 66 years. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) has indicated that a new system of Commonwealth courts will be instituted in the foreseeable future. I would strongly urge upon the Government the necessity for immediate action in the provision of a Commonwealth court site, so that an adequate building can be constructed m the city of Adelaide. I would like to see the site near the existing magistrates court and near the existing Supreme Court building.
There is also a necessity for the Bankruptcy Court to be brought into the court area. At the present time it is situated on the top floor of an insurance office which is half a mile from the court area of Adelaide. Also, the Industrial Court is in another area. I therefore urge upon the Government the necessity for acquiring land in the Victoria Square area of Adelaide and the need to plan for an adequate court building for the High Court, the new Commonwealth court which is yet to be created, the Bankruptcy Court and the Industrial Court. I would also like the Attorney-General’s Department in South Australia to be given accommodation of an office nature in that vicinity. I understand that the Government has been making inquiries and that there have even been discussions with the South Australian Government. This is all very well. However, knowing how long it takes for an adequate building to be constructed I would like an assurance from the Minister that this matter is under active consideration, and that something will be created in Adelaide of which the Commonwealth will be proud.
From time to time, I have said in the Senate that the city of Adelaide is notorious for the fact that it has practically no Commonwealth Government buildings. I believe that the last Commonwealth Government building constructed in Adelaide was the Repatriation Department building which was erected immediately after World War I. I say, therefore, that I believe there is a strong case for the Attorney-General to take the initiative and see that in the Victoria Square area of Adelaide there is an adequate Commonwealth group of buildings to accommodate the courts and also the Attorney-General’s Department in close proximity.
– Firstly, I shall deal with the matter just raised by Senator Laught. A site has been selected with State co-operation which is near the present court buildings. The Department of Works is now working on plans for the project. So, I can assure the honourable senator that the point he raised is under active consideration. Senator Ormonde asked previously whether it is likely that the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council for certain cases would have the effect of fewer Queen’s Counsels being created. The answer to this is: No. The creation of Queen’s Counsel varies a little from State to State, but is a matter of judgment by the legal profession or the Attorney-General, whoever the authorities may be, as to the status of a particular practitioner of law. Whether there were or were not appeals to the Privy Council in certain instances would have no effect at all on decisions as to the status reached and whether a person would be a Queen’s Counsel or not.
Senator Wright raised a question concerning the Legal Service Bureau. All I can say on that matter is that the staff of the Legal Service Bureau have been very considerably reduced since World War II. However, they are now giving assistance and since World War II have been giving assistance to returned Korean and Malayan ex-servicemen. It is also now giving assistance to regular servicemen warned for service in Vietnam who may have some legal problems. It is giving assistance to national servicemen in relation to problems arising out of their call-up. I do not know whether the degree of assistance they receive is worth getting. I would not know whether it might be better done some other way.
This would be a matter for judgment in relation to policy. However, the Bureau is giving assistance to these classes of people and this, no doubt, is the reason why they are in continued existence.
– I wish to direct my remarks to Division No. 126 - Legal Service Bureaux. I disagree considerably with the remarks made by Senator Wright about the Bureaux. I find the Legal Service Bureau in my State to be of very great assistance to many ex-servicemen who come to me when they have legal problems. I am able to ring up the Bureau and get their assistance. They have been very good in cases of hardship arising in connection with war widows and war orphans. It has done a great deal in this respect. I think it is one section of the Commonwealth Public Service on which money is very well spent. I am amazed that such a good service costs us so little. I would like to place on record my personal appreciation of the work done by officers of the Legal Service Bureau in Western Australia.
Can the Minister tell me whether any consideration has been given to providing through the Legal Service Bureaux assistance to young men who are called up for national service training and who, for compassionate reasons or some other reason, wish to have their service deferred? They may not be able to afford legal aid when they appear before a magistrate. I think it is a weakness in the national service training legislation that there is no provision for discretion to be exercised by the powers that be to grant deferment on compassionate or similar grounds. Quite often such problems could be ironed out without recourse to a magistrate. Young fellows may be diffident about seeking legal aid or may be unable to afford it. The Legal Service Bureaux might be able to give them assistance in those circumstances.
I rose primarily to defend the Legal Service Bureaux. The branch in Western Australia is doing a very fine job in its limited field. I would hate to see it abolished. In fact, I would like to see its activities extended.
– The Legal Service Bureaux were set up to provide advice to servicemen or ex-servicemen.
They do not engage in providing advice to young men on how to avoid becoming servicemen through deferment of service or by some other method. As I have indicated, the Legal Service Bureaux provide legal advice on any problems which arise for servicemen after enlistment or discharge.
asked a question to which I omitted to reply. He asked whether any more conciliation commissioners have been appointed in accordance with the report previously before the .Senate. I will have to get that information for him outside the chamber. It is a matter which comes within the responsibility of the Department of Labour and National Service and not the Attorney-General’s Department. We are not at present dealing with the estimates for that Department but I will obtain the information for the honourable senator.
– I wish to refer to two matters, the first of which probably relates to Division No. 120 - High Court. I refer to the proposed establishment of a new federal court or courts, a matter which has been referred to in the past by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen). It seems that it is necessary to establish these courts. In the United States of America a number of States have smaller populations than some Australian States, yet it is there found to be of the greatest usefulness to have the United States district courts functioning in addition to the State courts. Certainly it seems that some matters now coming before the High Court of Australia would seldom come before the United States Supreme Court. I think the opinion of most lawyers would be that the time of a lot of judges is being wasted. Their attention is being directed to matters with which they would not be concerning themselves if the special federal courts were established. I appreciate that it is the Government’s policy to establish new federal courts. Is the Minister in a position to indicate when they will be established?
The other matter to which I wish to refer I think would be covered by Division No. 115 - Administrative. I refer to the appointment of parliamentary draftsmen. I think it is generally conceded that there is a shortage of Commonwealth parliamentary draftsmen at present and that that shortage has existed for quite a long time; at least that is my understanding of the matter. Can the Minister inform us what steps are being taken to increase the number of parliamentary draftsmen to what is considered to be the necessary number so that the present shortage may be eliminated?
- Senator Wheeldon has asked about the establishment of an intermediate court to hear cases which at present are heard in the High Court but which perhaps are not of sufficient importance to engage the attention of that Court. As the honourable senator indicated, the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) has announced a decision to set up these courts. Instructions are now being prepared for the legislation to be introduced for their establishment. I cannot say definitely when that legislation will be introduced. If it were possible to do so, the Attorney-General would like to introduce the legislation in the autumn sessional period, but that may not be possible. I cannot guarantee that it will then be introduced. Instructions are toeing prepared for the legislation and the matter is not simply being allowed to rest.
asked what steps are being taken to engage parliamentary draftsmen, of whom there is a shortage. The only answer I can give the honourable senator is that the Government and the Attorney-General’s Department are doing the best they can to engage parliamentary draftsmen. The Department must be guided by the Public Service Board and other instrumentalities. It is doing the best it can. That is all I can say on that matter.
– On the question of recruitment of parliamentary draftsmen I ask whether consideration has been given toy the Government to the remuneration paid to them. Is there a problem in that the remuneration of a parliamentary draftsman does not compare favourably with the remuneration that a lawyer capable of becoming a parliamentary draftsman can reasonably expect to gain in private practice? What is the particular problem involved in the recruitment of parliamentary draftsmen?
– I am not quite sure how to answer the honourable senator’s question. Before a lawyer decides he would like to engage in a career as a parliamentary draftsman he might consider the remuneration and career activity open to him in private practice. He might believe that in another avenue of the practice of law he would have a better opportunity of advancement. It is a matter of personal judgment.
– I wish to mention two matters, one of which may appear to be of rather small importance. I refer first to the appropriation of $60,000 for the publication of Commonwealth statutes and statutory rules in sub-division 2 of Division No. 115 - Administrative. There is too much delay by far in the printing and circulation to the public of Commonwealth statutes. My second point is that I would like consideration to be given to the elimination of the very bulky index that is now included with every annual edition of the statutes. In 1901 the vary useful procedure was established of printing in each volume a running alphabetical and chronological index to all the statutes since Federation. But this is now making the annual volume altogether too bulky. I earnestly suggest in the interests of convenience and economy that a full index be published only once every 5 or 10 years.
– There may be other viewpoints. I wish now to refer to subdivision 3 of Division No. 115. This year there is no appropriation for the Regional Law Association for Asia and the Far East. I would like explained the absence of that appropriation this year. Last year we appropriated for this item $4,500. I would like to know to whom it was paid and also, if the information is available, the nature of the expenditure.
I remind the Committee that Australia had the honour of holding in Canberra, if my recollection is correct, last year the initial conference for the establishment of this Association. I imagine that it was to assist in meeting the expenses of that conference that the appropriation was made. When, with great hesitation, the delegates agreed on the establishment of the Association, I rather believed that the Japanese were providing the leadership. Of course, there is no need to remind you, Mr Temporary Chairman, of the very great significance that any conference of lawyers recruited from the various countries of the Pacific will have upon the future development of the Pacific. After all, it is on the fabric of the law that one judges the nature of the government that is set up. If we turn for a moment to consider the society in the structure of government in South Vietnam, we have immediately an instance of a poignant character that increases the significance of the legal and constitutional structure of countries in the Pacific area. It is the great legacy which the British have left in Singapore, Malaysia, India and Pakistan from the now-deposed colonial era. This legacy is the system of British courts and from that legacy stem the principles that guarantee or help to guarantee integrity and efficiency in civil service administration.
I mention, while this vote is before us, for the earnest consideration of the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) the question whether we should actually foster the growth of this Regional Law Association for Asia and the Far East. I think that I will be permitted by my friendship with Mr J. P. Piggott of Tasmania to mention that he was one of the delegates to the conference that took place in South East Asia - I think in Japan - this year. He has emphasised to me the appreciation of Australia’s interest which was expressed in real terms in legal circles in those countries. I mention the very great benefit that would accrue to this country if Australian lawyers were brought in constant contact with lawyers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, and with our American friends. I think that we would get tremendous value out of such contact. This contact is essential if we are to understand how Asian lawyers foresee the development of their parliaments and constitutions.
Only one thing further will I add. When two members of the Vietnamese legal profession visited the conference of the International Courts of Justice in Sydney in July 1966, I had the honour of conversing with them in a social fashion, with the aid of an interpreter in French drawn from our own profession in Geelong. It was stimulating indeed to find that those representatives of the legal profession of South Vietnam had in mind the purpose of establishing a community based upon the rule of law.
I hope that I have not spoken too long on this subject. I thought that it was one of real importance, and I should like to have on record, for the consideration of the Attorney-General, the view that we should stimulate our association with those’ countries in the realm of law because, to me, it is of tremendous significance. It is the legal system that England transplanted in the various countries of the world that will give her the greatest claim of credit in centuries to come. Although Australia has not that mission, it has the great privilege of sharing the legal system and integrating it. Absorbing the ideas of our Pacific neighbours would be of tremendous value, to us and to other Pacific countries.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I will reply to the two matters raised by Senator Wright. One concerned the printing of the statutes. I speak not to the points of policy that the honourable senator raised but just to thesubject. Discussions are in progress between the Department and law book publishing firms concerning the format of the volumes including reprints of the statutes and consolidation of them. I know that answer does not deal with the question of whether they should be published every 5 years, or the other policy matters raised. The discussions are going on concerning the matter.
I believe that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and the Government could find nothing but agreement with the principles expounded by the honourable senator on the matter of the rule of law in all countries. The reason why $4,500 was voted last year to this Regional Law Association for Asia and the Far East and nothing is voted this year is that last year Australia did take the initiative to which the honourable senator refers and used this amount to bring together in Canberra representatives of the legal profession in an endeavour to have a conference to set up a regional law association. That was the purpose of the expenditure of $4,500 last year. As a result of that vote and of that Australian initiative, such a regional law association was set up. It is not a government or governmental organisation. It is a selfsustaining organisation to which each of the members of each of the legal professions of each of the countries concerned pays dues. Each pays individual dues for the regional organisation to run and hold its conferences. At present Mr Justice Kerr is the President of the Association and Mr Justice Toose is its General Secretary. It may be said that Australia is providing leadership and not leaving leadership to be provided by Japan or any other country.
– There is one small matter about which I wish to inquire.I refer to Division No. 115 - Administrative, subdivision 2 - Administrative Expenses, item 03 relating to postage, telegrams and telephone services. The appropriation has increased from an expenditure last financial year of $69,233 to $127,200 this financial year. It has almost doubled. It may be said that this is due to the increase in postal charges. But if one studies this item in the other Divisions of the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department one finds that it has remained fairly static. Yet one finds this very big increase under Division No. 115. I am wondering why this is. I am also rather intrigued by item 06 in the same Division which relates to legal expenses. To whom does the Attorney-General’s Department pay legal expenses? I thought that they might all be in the pot together.
– On the question of administrative expenses relating to postage, telegrams and telephone services, the explanation that I have been given as to the reason for the variation is the provision of $5,500 for a de-branch centralisation of accounts in Sydney and Melbourne. I am unable to find an explanation for the increased expenditure for postage and telegrams. The only other information I have is that increased costs resulting from postage and telephone increases are estimated at about $11,000. Teleprinter services also will cost more. The major part of the advance is in respect of telephones which in 1966-67 were estimated to require $65,292 and this year are estimated at $113,335. I shall endeavour to find out for the honour able senator why the increase in telephone costs is expected.
– It seems extraordinary.
– Yes, it does. I shall provide the honourable senator with an explanation of that.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure $22,112,000.
Proposed provision $3,424,000.
– I propose to direct the first of my remarks to cancer research which is administered by the Commonwealth Department of Health. As Australia is affiliated with the World Health Organisation, cancer looms very large in our consideration. I remind honourable senators of remarks that I made on this subject earlier this year and remind them also of the situation in the early postwar years when there was a campaign directed at tuberculosis detection. For this purpose teams were sent into large establishments to try to remove the complacency that people had with regard to this complaint and to popularise the idea of using means of detection. It is history now that as people became accustomed to having frequent medical checks tuberculosis detection became the responsibility of municipal and shire councils.
I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should give leadership in providing the special means available to detect cancer in women of child bearing age. I can see no reason why the Commonwealth cannot give a lead in this field by arranging in conjunction with the States some form of cancer detection service. Perhaps a start could be made at big business organisations which employ a large number of women. Often surgery can be avoided if the cancer is in an early stage. In this age of the sputnik I fail to see why the Government cannot increase its expenditure for this purpose and maike grants to the States for a cancer detection service.
– The amount proposed under this vote is a little less than the estimate for the Legal Service Bureau which is a most useless service.
– I adopt the honourable senator’s remarks as justification of my submission. The point that I want to make is that if a lead were given by the Commonwealth it would not be long before activities in this field could be delegated to the States. However, the Commonwealth has to launch the project. We know what a killer cancer can be. I believe that in this modern age we should be making a more positive contribution in this field.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was making a plea for the Commonwealth to spearhead a cancer detection campaign especially for women of childbearing age. I was emphasising that an excellent pilot scheme would be a campaign aimed at those industrial establishments which employ a high percentage of women. There is considerable agitation from the women in the country areas for some form of cancer detection scheme. They claim that facilities in the country are not as good as those available in the metropolitan areas. There is no need to labour the point because there can be no doubt in anybody’s mind that early detection and minor surgery, where necessary, do pay dividends in the long run. The Minister may argue that those things require the co-operation of the States but I suggest that if the Commonwealth put before them a cut and dried proposal of what it was prepared to do the States would be in a very invidious position indeed if they were not prepared to play ball on the project.
The next matter with which I wish to deal relates to hospital and medical benefits funds. Generally speaking, it can be said that the Commonwealth finds one-third of the cost of our health and medical services, that the funds contribute one-third and that the members of the funds pay the remaining third. But the important point to keep in mind is that the Commonwealth’s contribution is contingent upon membership of a fund. In a sense, this represents a form of indirect compulsion. If the person is not a member of a fund he receives no assistance from the Commonwealth.
Last year the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia paid out a total of £57m in benefits and received £69m by way of contributions from members. Mr Harrop of the Hospitals Contribution Fund has stated that his organisation has applied to the Commonwealth for permission to increase benefits without requiring an increase in contributions. That is the policy which the Labor Party has been advocating over the years. We have also argued that this is purely an administrative matter; that it would be a simple matter for the Commonwealth Minister for Health to call a summit conference of the various funds and to impress upon those of the funds which he considers are not pulling their weight that they will have to amalgamate unless they can reduce premiums and increase benefits.
It is all very well to talk about private enterprise and the freedom of individuals, but it is just not good enough if these funds are permitted to amass tremendous reserves. The recent statement by Mr Harrop that his Fund wishes to increase benefits without increasing premiums is a clear admission that huge reserves are being amassed. It is also a clear indication of laxity on the part of the Commonwealth Minister for Health in not compelling the less efficient organisations to move up to the standard of the others. I do not suggest the introduction of legislation; I merely say that early action should be taken administratively by the Minister. Those organisations which are amassing reserves argue that they must be prepared to cope with a national disaster should one occur. I do not know what type of national disaster they have in mind. I suppose an atomic explosion in industry is not impossible, but in that event I am afraid that most of the potential recipients of benefits would be dead. This idea of a national disaster has become a phobia with the funds. In my view, these various funds may be likened to a convoy of ships; the trouble is that the speed is dictated by the slower ships instead of the faster ones.
I should like from the Minister some assurance in connection with the national fitness booklet which has been so widely circulated. Many honourable senators including myself have distributed large numbers of copies but the last time I spoke with the officials of the Department of Health I was informed that there was a lag of from 6 to 8 weeks in meeting orders for the booklet. I should like to know from the Minister whether any progress has been made in overtaking this backlog.
There is another point which could be a State responsibility, but I refer to it here in the hope that the Commonwealth will take some interest in it. It is the publication of information concerning the mouthtomouth method of rescusitation. Has the Department considered publishing a booklet on this important subject? I know that information on it does appear in the Press from time to time, but, with summer coming on, adequate briefing of the people by means of a booklet by the Department would pay dividends.
– I refer to Division No. 250 - Administrative. Let me assure the Minister representing the Minister for Health (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) at the outset that I do not claim that the health services of Australia are the worst in the world. Nor do I admit that they are the best in the world. But certainly they are not the least expensive in the world. This has been admitted. Last year I attempted to take out for the then Leader of the Opposition the cost of hospital and ancillary services in Australia. It is really hard, because of neglect not only by the Commonwealth but also the State governments, to arrive at an accurate figure for the overall cost of general health services to the people of Australia. It is certainly impossible to arrive at an exact figure. However, by various and devious means, I was able to arrive at the conclusion that the cost was something over $900m at that time. It would probably be something over $ 1,000m today. This, for a population of just over eleven million people, is not cheap.
The Government takes pride in its hospital and medical benefits scheme. Admittedly, no scheme anywhere throughout the world is perfect, but ours certainly could be improved. It was inaugurated by this Government some 13 years ago and it is far from perfect yet. It is expensive; it by no means provides an overall service, and the Government has made no attempt whatever to have an inquiry into it. Surely when people pay tremendous sums into health and medical benefits funds the Government has some responsibility to endeavour to ensure that the service given is efficient and returns a benefit commensurate with the money that is paid for it. We frequently hear references to amounts that are paid out by the various funds by way of benefits to contributors and to the amounts paid out by the Government, but we must not lose sight of the fact that in the final analysis all this money comes from the people either in taxation or in contributions to the various hospital and medical benefit funds.
It is claimed that 80% of the people of Australia are covered by hospital benefit funds and 76% by medical benefits funds. The Government argues that this is a clear indication of the popularity of the schemes and how accessible they are to the people. Does it ever occur to those who argue in this way that this does not betoken popularity or accessibility but rather economic necessity; that people just cannot afford not to be in the schemes; that they cannot afford to pay the enormous hospital and medical expenses which may be incurred, especially by a family depending on one breadwinner? This is why a large mass of people are covered by these schemes. I know that during the years some have dropped out. They were not forced out except in the early stages, when it was suggested that there be no profit under the scheme. The go-getters came in early and attempted to capitalise on this type of health insurance which Sir Earle Page had in his wisdom suggested and which the Government had accepted. Now we have 109 hospital benefit schemes and 78 medical benefit schemes. Does this suggest that this arrangement is economic? The administrative charges - admitted by the Government, incidentally - are extraordinarily high in comparison with world standards. They are as much as 15% in medical benefit funds, and by and large they are over 14% . The administrative expenses of hospital benefit funds are somewhat lower. They range from 10% to 12% or just above that. The administrative charges of some of the schemes overseas are as low as even 3% or 5% .
Surely when the Government, in its wisdom or lack of it, inaugurated the scheme and accepted the so-called voluntary insurance it should have realised that there was a responsibility upon the Government itself at Canberra to encourage the scheme. It was not prepared to embark, as I think it should have done, on a national benefit fund of its own - I will not say national insurance, although I have preached for years that there should be a national insurance scheme. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, saw fit in 1938 to resign from the then Lyons Government because it did not accept the scheme which he espoused and then believed in. But over the years when he was Prime Minister subsequent to 1949 he never again sought to introduce national insurance. If the central government was not prepared to embark on a form of national medical and hospital benefits, why did it not encourage the States to do this? Surely they had the assets to back such schemes.
It is all very well to talk of these hospital and medical benefit schemes having tremendous reserves because of the likelihood of epidemics. One of the major schemes of today started with a capital of $60,000. How would it have been able to provide, within the first few years, for epidemics? It could not possibly have met claims resulting from epidemics. But the States could have met claims arising from epidemics quite easily out of their capital assets. Because of the fortunate absence of epidemics these funds have been able to build up. They were lucky in that there were no epidemics. In other words, they collected premiums that were more than were necessary for the protection of the participants in those years. Out of those surpluses they were able to build up reserves amounting to tens of millions of dollars.
What will happen - this has perturbed me for many years - if any of these funds, folds up? Where will the assets go? Has the Government authority to assume control of the assets? Can it take over the buildings that are owned by hospital contribution funds, medical benefit funds or coalminers organisation funds? Or does it just assume willy nilly that these things will go on in perpetuity? It certainly cannot justify allowing 15% administration charges when overseas such charges are as low as 3% or 5%. Health is a national responsibility. Education is another national responsibility. The Federal Government sees fit willy nilly to pay out so much for science laboratories, special hospitals, medical benefits and hospital requirements, but it has no right to say one word as to these assets.
This Government and its predecessors have never determined what will be the standard of hospitalisation. This Government claims that it insists upon a certain minimum standard in relation to nursing homes. If the opportunity is presented later, I shall deal with the standards of some of these nursing homes. They do not meet the requirements of the people who use them. They do not have sufficient qualified staff. They do not have the facilities available if required for the demands of the older people who by and large frequent such nursing homes. Many of the homes have a private hospital’ sign outside but they are not recognised for hospital benefits by various benefit funds. People are inmates of them only because they cannot derive benefits from the funds to which they have contributed for years. The Government does nothing at all about this. Is it any wonder that members of the Opposition and the people sometimes get cranky and annoyed when they hear reference to how popular these funds are because of the percentage of the people enrolled in them?
Surely the Government has a responsibility. I have asked often enough for an inquiry in relation to the health needs of Australia and the best and the most economic way in which those needs can be met, even if we insist upon the people ^paying, not on an income basis but on a utilitarian or use basis. If there is insistence that the poor pay as much as the rich, this is a sign’ of the type of Government that the people have had since 10th December 1949. Surely the Minister for Health has a responsibility to see that there is an inquiry by experts, whether they be in the field of hospital administration, whether they be distinguished medical practitioners or outstandingly qualified nurses or others, into the most economic form of health service that can be given to the people.
Ours is not a complete service. Yet the people of Australia pay over $ 1,000m per year to meet medical, hospital and other so-called ancillary requirements. The Government does nothing about this. When it comes to economic investigations, I think there are six in the Commonwealth to investigate the economic side of these services to the people. Canada, with a population of a little more than 50% or 60% of ours, has eighty. Surely there is no comparison. Surely we have a responsibility but this Government seems for no reason at all to neglect completely to plan, lt says that it is in favour of free enterprise. 1 believe that it is free for all. The Government has the laissez-faire attitude going back to the beginning of the century of letting things look after themselves - the devil will take the hindmost and the wealthy will get wealthier.
That is the position that applies in regard to medical and hospital services just as in any other type of enterprise in this country. The Government must accept responsibility. Last year it paid out in relation to hospital benefits $67m, and the funds paid out $69m. In relation to medical benefits the Government paid out $43m and the funds paid out $48m. In relation to the requirements of pensioners and their dependants the Government, paid out $.14m. In relation to pharmaceutical benefits it paid out $101m. Proportionately in relation to cost per prescription, this means that the people paid over $20m for prescriptions covered by pharmaceutical benefits. This docs not cover all of the costs associated with treatment, as anyone knows. The Government completely neglects its responsibilities in relation to ambulance services. Many patent medicines are sold. Not all prescriptions written by doctors and dispensed by chemists are paid for by the Government. Yet it will do nothing in relation to an inquiry.
I say that little less than a Royal Commission is required to justify the tremendous costs incurred in providing medical, hospital and ancillary services for the people of Australia. Why does the Government neglect this? Does it hope just to carry on because 76% or 80% of the people are covered by these schemes, because over one million pensioners are covered, and because others are covered by repatriation provisions? Do not think that all the costs are covered under the Department of Health estimates. There are also certain provisions under the Department of Social Services. In the estimates for the Repatriation Department millions of dollars are provided. There are repatriation hospitals and rehabilitation centres. There are physiotherapists, psychiatric services and various other services. But the Government seems to lock them up in separate compartments. It is not concerned with an overall approach.
I know it is going to be difficult for the Minister representing the Minister for Health to supply all the answers, and I am prepared to be of assistance to her. As 1 pose questions she can refer those questions to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and I will be grateful for answers. The people are waiting for answers. They do not believe the Government is genuinely interested in providing an efficient overall health service for them. They do not believe the Government is prepared to let them have a service at the most economical rate. They do not believe the Government is prepared to confront and if necessary to deal with the doctors and the hospitals. They know that they can go into some hospitals and find them most efficient. They know that the environment will be most attractive, the nursing care adequate and the doctors efficient and thorough. They also know that they can go into other hospitals or nursing homes and find them not so efficient. They can go into certain nursing homes of a standard that would be abhorrent to the average Australian and that any responsible Government should be ashamed of.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
[8.22] - I would like to reply to a few of the comments made by honourable senators. Senator Mulvihill referred to the contributtion to the International Cancer Research Agency in subdivision 3 of Division No. 250 - Administrative. Our contribution is fixed at $US 1 50,000 per annum, which is equivalent to approximately $A 135,000. This amount is payable annually to the banking account of the World Health Organisation in New York. But Senator Mulvihill, who has a very real concern.. 1 believe, to ensure that everything is done to fight this dread disease throughout Australia, also spoke about what is being done in Australia. 1 think he would be interested to know that the largest amount recommended by the National Health and Medical
Research Council for 1968 was $253,000 to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne for cancer research. The Government had accepted the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council that support for the Walter and Eliza Hall Research Institute, hitherto granted annually, should in future be provided on a triennial basis beginning in 1968, to facilitate long-range planning in the Institute’s research work. For many years the National Health and Medical Research Council had allocated some 20% of its funds to the Institute. I think this announcement of a contribution of $253,000 is of great importance, and I believe that this financial assistance will be of tremendous value.
Senator Mulvihill also asked about the national fitness booklet. He asked me about this some time ago and I think I said I would arrange for supplies of the booklet to be made available. I am now informed that, adequate supplies are available and arrangements will be made to supply the honourable senator with copies of the booklet as soon as possible.
Various speakers have discussed the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, hospital schemes and a variety of health schemes in Australia. I disagree with Senator Dittmer who charges this Government with a lack of interest in or concern for the health of the people of Australia.
– I said it was not a responsible Government.
– I say this Government is a very responsible government indeed. It has shown throughout its years of office a very real concern for the health and welfare of the people of Australia. Senator Mulvihill also spoke about hospital and medical benefits schemes. These schemes operate on the principle of Commonwealth support for voluntary health insurance. The levels of benefits and contributions are reviewed by the organisations periodically to ensure that while adequate reserves are maintained the best possible benefits are provided for reasonable contributions. I remind the honourable senator that, as an example, increased hospital benefits for hospitalisation after the first 84 days in any one year have recently been announced by one organisation.
Various speakers referred to the general operation of the hospital and medical benefits schemes. The Government believes in the principle of voluntary health insurance and it is satisfied that the level of membership of the organisations is indicative of their general acceptance bv the Australian community. There is a wide range of organisations such as Blue Cross, friendly societies, employer and employee organisations. These have been registered so that they may participate in the schemes. Their management expenses are considered reasonable. They are required to lodge financial returns with the Commonwealth, and Commonwealth approval is required of rule amendments affecting contributions and benefits. So I think I can say that the Commonwealth has its part to play in this field and that it has played it most adequately.
– I refer to the appropriation for nursing and convalescent homes in subdivision 3 of Division No. 251 - Australian Capital Territory Health Services. What ever one may hear, good or bad, about our hospitals, one very seldom hears anything good about convalescent homes. One has only to speak to people who are patients in these homes to find that they are very loosely run. I know that time is limited in this estimates debate and that one cannot deliver anything like a second reading speech, but I must tell the Committee that I have knowledge of one convalescent home, which shall remain unnamed, in which the patients get medicines, generally heart pills and various kinds of such medicaments, which pile up in the medicine chest, and when the patients transfer to some other place they leave the medicines behind. The institution then becomes almost a chemist shop. A patient might have paid heavily for, say, 100 pills and might have been in the home for only 6 or 7 days, but when he leaves the medicines naturally are left behind, and I am informed that these medicines are used again. To my mind this at least shows loose organisation.
– Cannot the patients demand the return of the medicines when they leave?
– They just do not, and I daresay they have to get other prescriptions. There is also a question whether trained staff is present all the time. At some of these homes, from my own knowledge, trained staff is not always present. I also know that these ‘homes tend to appoint retired matrons as the persons in charge. The patients pay high fees. Some of them pay nearly $30 a week. The Government subsidy is about $15 a week. They certainly do not receive scientific or high class service. They receive only second class service. The Government does not take enough interest in this matter. The patients are usually aged people, people with incurable diseases or people who are in these institutions just for a rest. Consequently they do not need top grade hospital treatment. If the Government is helping to finance this system, as it is, then it should have a closer look at the control over what is happening in these institutions.
In my electoral work I have come across private hospitals that were almost bankrupt. I remember a constituent telling me that a hospital had no food. 1 have had talks with departmental officials and made my complaints, as 1 dare say have other politicians. But the Government does not seem to do much about the matter. I believe that it should. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me a little information on those matters. What is the written or established basis upon which these grants, which are based on the number of patients, become available to convalescent homes? What standards does the Government demand before these grants are made?
I refer now to the high price of drugs. When the late Senator Harrie Wade was Minister for Health he had a long and difficult fight with the drug companies in this country. He took over the portfolio at a time when they had almost been taken over by foreign capital; the Australian conlent in the drug industry had almost disappeared. During the years when the prices of drugs were skyrocketing and pharmaceutical costs were rising, the Government was very concerned. It set about a programme of consultation with the drug companies because allegedly it had no power to control the prices of drugs. The consultations were held pretty frequently. Quite often Senator Wade stood up and said: ‘Wc have been able to effect a decrease in the cost of this, that or the other drug manufactured by this, that or the other company’. But the programme was terribly unspecific. It was just a co-operative effort between the Government and the drug companies. Then the Government had to deal with the proliferation of drugs. Members of the medical profession were protesting at what everybody could see was happening. They knew that it was wrong and they were trying to do something about it. The British Medical Association was protesting that a dozen drugs were available for the same purpose when there should have been only one. The word used at the time to describe what was happening was proliferation’.
I should like to know whether the Government has continued to keep an eye on this section of the health programme, particularly in relation to hospital treatment. Does it receive continuous reports from the drug companies on their rate of profit? Has it any power to investigate the profit and loss accounts of these companies or te consult with them on those accounts? That was what Senator Wade set out to do. I do not know how successful he was. All 1 know is that the cost of drugs in Australia is about the highest in the world. Being ill today is a very expensive business, despite the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the medical and hospital benefits funds. The position is still very unsatisfactory.
Only a few minutes ago 1 read in :t newspaper - newspapers are not always wrong; they can be very close to the mark - that all that the medical benefits scheme has done has been to make certain that doctors have their bills paid. The scheme has been the saviour of the medical profession.
– Not entirely, because the patient still has to meet about one-third of the bill under this Government’s scheme. So it does not mean that doctors will have their bills paid in full.
– No, not in full. But, generally speaking, doctors are more secure today than they used to be. I am not against that at all.
– They are not as secure as the chemists.
– Maybe that is right. But this scheme has been good for the doctors, despite the book work or office work that they have to do and the office assistance that they have to have. The industry has really been planned. It is more planned today than it was when the average medical practitioner worked for himself. 1 want to know whether the Government has a set of records on drug costs in the community. Can I have some information on drug costs and particularly on the proliferation of drugs? I have been informed that that is the primary factor in the high cost of drugs in Australia. I understand that the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme today is about $140m a year. That represents a tremendous increase in the last 12 months. I should like the Minister to give me some information on those matters.
Senator HEATLEY (Queensland) (8.37] - I am not quite sure whether the matter to which I wish to refer would come under item 05 - Hire of, and repairs to, vehicles, launches and aircraft - or item 09 - Payments to the States and medical practitioners for quarantine services rendered - in subdivision 2 of Division No. 250. The matter is health conditions on the Torres Strait islands. Senator Keeffe and I happened to be there at the same time recently. We both investigated the same complaint. It is not very often that he and I get together, but on this matter we agree.
We are both extremely concerned about, firstly, the compulsory checks on tuberculosis which are being handled very well by the State and Federal Governments and, secondly, the incidence of venereal disease - a disease that has been discussed freely in this chamber in recent weeks. We were told the percentage of the population of a certain island that has venereal disease. I will not state the percentage because it is rather staggering and something of which we cannot be proud. We discussed the matter with various officials on the Torres Strait islands. It is claimed that venereal disease is extremely difficult to control on this island, which is more or less at the crossroads of international waterways. The officials believe that it would be almost impossible for the State Government to supply medical officers and launches in order to control people travelling between the various islands and to investigate whether they had this disease.
I draw the attention of the Minister to the critical situation that exists on the Torres Strait islands. I recommend that the Federal Government spend far more money than is appropriated under either of the two items I have mentioned, so that a concerted drive can be made now that the position of the Aboriginals has been changed as a result of the referendum. I believe that these people could be registered and checked. We could have a systematic check both for tuberculosis and venereal disease. I suggest to the Minister that the Government consider appropriating far more money than it has in this Budget so that there can be wide investigation and research into these diseases; and so that there can be more launches, practitioners and specialists provided to control them, if not eradicate them. There has been talk of a new strain of venereal disease spreading from the Far East. It has been said that this disease would be almost impossible to eradicate if it got into this area.
I now want to refer to payments for crippled children. I will not mention any by name. I am not referring to sub-normal children. I ask that the Department lay down more specific regulations as to the number of nurses and beds required in the various homes in order to qualify for grants. I found in my investigations of this subject that the requirements varied considerably. When an organisation applies for Commonwealth assistance it is told that it must comply with certain regulations and schedules as to the number of nursing sisters and beds. I ask that a more specific schedule be drawn up as to what is required for these homes to attract assistance.
I now turn to the Royal Flying Doctor Service for which an amount of $330,000 is provided this financial year. Could I have a breakdown of this figure in order to see what is applicable to aircraft, to maintenance, to nursing services and for payments to doctors and staff.
– That can be done quite easily because this is not under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Service is not like the VIP flight.
– The Royal Flying Doctor Service is a very well organised body, like the Royal Australian Air Force. I ask that the Committee be given a breakdown of this figure of $330,000.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.43] - Firstly, I will deal with the comments made by Senator Ormonde. He inquired about the grants to nursing and convalescent homes. The allocation set out in the estimates is for the construction of a Baptist nursing home in Canberra which was commenced during 1966-67. The Commonwealth contributed $25,251 to the work completed during the last financial year. Provision has been made in the estimates for this year for payment of $94,749, the balance of the Commonwealth grant, for this project. The honourable senator also commented about the standard of nursing and convalescent homes. I remind him that essentially the standard of these homes is a matter for the State governments.
Senator Ormonde also commented on the price of drugs. He referred to negotiations which had taken place during the term of office of the late Senator Wade as Minister for Health. Price reductions obtained as a result of negotiations during 1966-67 alone will save the Commonwealth an estimated $3.7m a year. Particular attention is given to widely prescribed drugs as price variations for these have the greatest effect on the cost of the medical health scheme. This great saving to the Commonwealth resulted from price reductions in respect of broad spectrum antibiotics and penicillin, all of which are widely prescribed. I think that information might be of interest to the honourable senator.
I will refer now to comments made by Senator Heatley. He inquired about the allocation for the ‘hire of, and repairs to, vehicles, launches and aircraft’. The amount is provided for costs associated with the hire of and repairs to vehicles, launches and aircraft used in carrying out departmental functions. The honourable senator was concerned about the increase in the allocation compared with the amount provided last year and asked for a split up of the allocation. As to the hire of vehicles, provision has been made this year for increased inspections by officers of the medical and pharmaceutical sections; increased quarantine activity, including the hire of two additional vehicles for two newly appointed quarantine inspectors at Rockhampton and Townsville; and for general expansion of departmental activity. There is also money for the repair of and hiring of additional launches. Provision has been made for the hiring of a launch at Port Hedland for quarantine inspections and for the repair of launches and hiring of aircraft. Provision is made for the charter of aircraft to enable senior officers to inspect the north west portion of Western Australia and for quarantine inspections at ports in those areas.
Senator Heatley also asked about payments to the States and to medical practitioners for quarantine services rendered. This item represents mainly payments to the States for the administration of plant and animal quarantine services performed on behalf of the Commonwealth. It also includes payments for services rendered by medical practitioners at remote quarantine centres. Individual costs for these services for the 1967-68 financial year are as follows: Animal quarantine services, $259,603: plant quarantine services, $503,597; payments to medical practitioners, $18,800. The total provided this year is $782,000. Senator Heatley expressed concern about infectious diseases which had been contracted, and which he thought were spreading, amongst people in certain areas to the north of Australia which were under Queensland and Australian legislation. 1 have noted the concern expressed by the honourable senator and will bring his remarks to the notice of the Minister - for Health (Dr Forbes), whom I represent. 1 will also inform the Minister of his suggestions about this problem. I think the Minister should have the comments made by the honourable senator brought to his notice.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service was referred to and a break-up of the allocation of $330,000 is as follows: Operational costs, $150,000; capital expenditure, $130,000 - this is on a $1 for $1 basis; and there is a sum of $50,000, also on a $1 for $1 basis, carried forward from last financial year. The grant to this valuable service is to be reviewed this financial year. I think every honourable senator, as indeed every Australian, would express appreciation of the great work done by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 250, subdivision 3 - Other Services, and particularly to items 01, 04 and 05. I also wish to refer to Division No. 252 - Northern Territory Health Services. I agree with the matters raised by Senator Heatley and I think, with all due respect, that the Minister for Housing, who represents the Minister for Health, missed the point of what the honourable senator said. I will elaborate on these matters, lt is true, as Senator Heatley said, that we seldom agree on a subject - unless, perhaps, it is the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. One matter raised by Senator Heatley is of great social importance and I will refer to it in a moment. Firstly, 1 feel that we could increase our contribution to the World Health Organisation because one of the great problems today, particularly in the Asian or underdeveloped areas, is the incidence of tropical diseases. Insufficient research has been.carried out into these diseases because there is insufficient money. As a result of this, of course, there are insufficient numbers of qualified people to carry out research. One has only to go into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to find second class doctors and nurses who attend to the health needs of the people. This situation exists because not enough fully qualified people are available. I would hope that when a medical faculty is established there it will turn out first class doctors and other people trained to look after the health of the community. When this happens we will be able to get away from the second class type of degree courses that have been available in places such as Fiji in the past. We can do this only if we can make sufficient finance available. As a fairly prosperous country the onus is on us and the Government to see that this is done.
Despite the provision made for the Lady Gowrie child centres. I feel that insufficient money is made available for child welfare. The Commonwealth Government and the State governments have failed to face up to their responsibility in regard to preschool care of children. This is a very important facet of civilised life today. Consequently, greater facilities ought to be available. To do this, of course, we have to find greater sums of money.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia does a tremendous job in the isolated areas of this vast continent. However, most of the time it has to work on a cheese paring budget. This organisation has to find money by way of appeals for public funds to supplement Government assistance in order to operate its flying doctor and ambulance service. Even then it is not able to make ends meet. It needs greater help and this has to come from Government sources. If one goes through Division No. 252 in detail one finds that some of the allocations are fairly substantial. However, in the main, they are much too small for the job that has to be done. Over a long period of years the northern areas of Australia and adjacent territories have suffered from such tropical diseases as malaria, leprosy to some degree yaws and various other diseases of varying degrees of seriousness. Hookworm is another disease that is found in these areas. Whilst this might not be a killer disease - in fact in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea treatment for hookworm has not been bothered about while the authorities chase down diseases with a greater killing potential - it is a very serious one. If we go to Cape York and see places around the Bloomfield River we will find areas badly infested with hookworm. This is a particularly serious disease as far as young children are concerned because the greater the infestation the greater the problem of eliminating it and the greater the problem of enabling a child to grow to healthy adulthood. We have a greater responsibility under the constitutional power recently granted by the people of Australia to the Government to look after the Aboriginals. So, all of our consciences should be directed towards seeing that something is done to alleviate the many problems that confront us.
I realise that the Minister cannot be responsible for the whole of the problem. But I do believe that the Minister might use pressure on her Government to see that malnutrition is eliminated and to see that a decent wage rate is paid. This is the basic problem of many diseases today, particularly diseases such as tuberculosis. Because of poor wages being received by a great majority of these people - they are not covered by the basic wage - they are subject to malnutrition and therefore susceptible to these diseases.
– Order! I think the honourable senator is getting a bit far away from the estimates before the Committee when he talks about the basic wage. He should direct his remarks to the estimate before us.
– Very well, Mr Temporary Chairman. I will endeavour to keep to the subject. However, I want to highlight these points because I do not believe that a person should merely sit down and say it is a jolly bad show that these people are ill. There are basic causes why they are suffering from these diseases. I shall refrain from referring to wage rates. However, may I go on to point out to the Minister that poor housing is another problem. In fact, I believe that tuberculosis and poor housing conditions are the greatest scourges of society. I am sure that Senator Dittmer will agree with me that malnutrition and poor housing bring on this problem. In addition people in certain areas suffer from inadequate water supplies. Senator Heatley who has just spoken would know about this. In fact, during the period in which we both were in the area to which he referred we could not get a bath. There is insufficient, water for ordinary household purposes.
– What is your practice?
– The practice normally, I understand, is to bathe at least once a week in Australia. In this particular case these unfortunate people would be lucky to bathe once a month. These people have insufficient storage for water. With due respect to you, Mr Temporary Chairman, 1 believe that under Division No. 252 I must canvass these matters because they are extremely important. The social diseases that were referred to by Senator Heatley from the Government side are extremely important. The disease has spread in the area to which he referred to such an extent that the incidence is as high as 40%.
– This is syphilis that you are talking about?
– I am not. I point out to the honourable senator that there are children in the gallery. This is nothing to joke about. It is quite normal for Senator Cormack to try to find dirt where he can. If this is the way in which he wants to lead his Senate team in Victoria then I think he ought to keep his head above the ground. 1 deliberately chose my words having in mind the people who may be listening in. I believe that this scourge at the moment is of a particularly mild nature which can be cleared up by antibiotics. If the type of disease which is rampant in some sections of the east at the moment is brought into this area as it could be quite simply, there is no telling what it may do to the health, not only of people in island areas and the Northern Territory but of people in other parts of Australia. I agree and concur with Senator Heatley on this. The onus is on the Government because this is a Commonwealth responsibility in each of these areas. Medical practitioners and other people who are able to treat this problem ought to be found in greater numbers. Again, this takes cash. If we spend $100,000 now maybe it will eliminate the need for spending $100m at some future date. Therefore, I lend support to the argument that we should carry out a proper survey to locate every case not only of this disease but of diseases such as tuberculosis. As a result of the recent amendment to the Constitution, we all have a responsibility to the Aboriginals. We have a responsibility to see that their health standards are as good as other Australians whose skin is white. The one way we can do this is to have a proper inquiry, carry out the necessary research, and provide the necessary drugs and hospital facilities that will ensure that these people are not neglected.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.0] - I do not think that Senator Keeffe could have heard very clearly my reply to Senator Heatley. I said that I thought the matter he had raised was indeed very serious and that I would place it before the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) for his attention. 1 apologise to Senator Heatley because I omitted to reply to one of his questions. He expressed his concern for crippled children who are in the care of a home for crippled children. I will also bring his comments on that matter to the attention of the Minister for Health, together with his other remarks and those of Senator Keeffe. Senator Keeffe also referred to the great importance of the World Health Organisation. We agree with his remarks. Australia’s contribution to the World Health Organisation is in accordance with the formula and budget determined by the Organisation. In addition to the sum of $720,000 for 1967-68, $135,000 is being provided for the International Cancer Research Agency.
Senator Keeffe referred to the excellent work done by the Lady Gowrie child centres since their inception in 1940. The annual approved grant assists in financing the costs of maintenance, including salaries of the staff of the centres. The grant currently approved is $120,000, allocated equally between the six State centres. All honourable senators will be aware that the Lady Gowrie pre-school child centres were established for the testing and demonstration of methods for the care and instruction of young children and to study problems of physical growth, nutrition and development. That work has been carried on since the establishment of the centres and the benefits obtained can be seen at the six centres. Senator Keeffe also referred to the Flying Doctor Service. I remind the Senate that the present level of the subsidy was fixed in July 1965. It operates for a period of 3 years from that date. The current financial year is therefore the final year of the triennium. The grant of $330,000 included in the estimates for 1967-68 is comprised of those elements which I previously detailed. This matter will again be considered in the current financial year.
Senator Keeffe referred to various illnesses in certain parts of Australia. As he referred to the control of leprosy I think he would be interested in some information 1 have for him. The world trend in leprosy control has become increasingly one in which only disabled and infectious patients are treated in hospital, while those who are not disabled are treated as out-patients. Treatment in the Northern Territory has followed this trend and, as a result, East Arm Leprosy Hospital has become less of a settlement and more of a hospital, with a decrease in the number of patients, but an increase in their individual medical needs. One new ward of eight beds for female inpatients was opened during the year and this has made a great difference in treating patients who have orthopaedic complications or require reconstructive surgery.
At a meeting of the Tropical Medicine and Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council in Sydney in May 1967, which was attended by the Medical Superintendent of the East Arm Leprosy Hospital and representatives from other States, the desirability of a general liberalisation of out-patient treatment was stressed. It is felt that such a policy will be of considerable benefit in attracting the more timid people of Arnhem Land to come forward for treatment.
– I relate my remarks to the appropriation of $2,990,000. for the Canberra Community Hospital Board in subdivision 3 of Division No. 251 - Australian Capital Territory Health Services. This amount represents an increase of $350,000 over last year’s expenditure. I ask the Minister to tell me whether this appropriation represents a subsidy to make up the difference between fees received and the cost of running the hospital. If so, I would like to know how many patients are treated each year at the hospital.
I now refer to the appropriation of $5,000, also in subdivision 3 of Division No. 251, for the Australian Red Cross Society’s Blood Transfusion Service. Last year the appropriation was $11,000 and the expenditure was $10,566. The appropriation is included in the sub-division which provides for Grants-in-Aid. Can the Minister tell me whether the Society asks for the amount to be paid to meet its costs of running the Service. How the figure is calculated? I turn now to the appropriation for the Blood Transfusion Service in subdivision 3 of Division No. 252 - Northern Territory Health Services. Last year the expenditure on this item was $3,321. This year the appropriation is for $4,000. Again I ask whether this appropriation is to provide for the running costs of the Service. Does the Society submit an account for the sum that it requires, or does the Department of Health determine how much is to be granted.
– I am also interested in the appropriation for the Blood Transfusion Service of the Red Cross Society - the matter referred to by Senator Branson. This year the Service in Canberra is to receive about $5,000 less than last year’s allocation. I await the Minister’s reply with interest. I refer now to the appropriation of $88,000 in respect of the purchase of radio-isotopes for sale, in subdivision 3 of Division No. 250 - Administrative. I would like the
Minister to tell me the purpose of selling the isotopes. I have read in the AuditorGeneral’s Report that they are provided free to doctors for treatment and research. I would like to know to whom they are sold. If they are sold to cancer victims who need them for the treatment of their disease, surely something more might be done to help these people. Surely already they are heavily enough burdened with the weight of their tragic illness. 1 also ask the Minister by what means 1 can raise for discussion the rest of the expenditure on the activities of the Department of Health. Quite a number of our health services do not appear in the two or three pages of estimates for the Department of Health that we have before us. I refer, for instance, to the problems involved in respect of mental health. What is being done in the field of mental health? How far is the Commonwealth Government committed to assist the States in the treatment of mental ill health? 1 am also interested in the subsidies paid to C class hospitals. The running and supervision of these hospitals is the responsibility of the States but I maintain in this matter, as I have maintained in many other matters in the Senate, that where the Commonwealth Government makes heavy payments for services it should have some say in ensuring that (hose services are kept up to the mark. I have visited quite a number of C class hospitals to which I would not like any of my aged relatives admitted to spend their last days. These hospitals are being heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. 1 turn now to research expenditure. 1 agree that we can never spend enough on research. I would like to see more money spent on cancer research. I feel deeply on this subject because a member of my family was a victim of cancer. I would hate to see any other person go through the suffering caused by cancer. 1 think we should take the same great interest in planning for the eradication of this dread disease, to the best of our ability, as we did for the eradication of tuberculosis in the programme that has been so successful over the years. While I realise that the cure of this disease is still far from being determined throughout the world, I think the Department could provide some help to the sufferers of this disease in relation to the economic results and difficulties with which their families are faced when the sufferers of the disease undergo treatment.
I know that in my own State of Western Australia the people contributed to a cancer foundation. My own brother went along to this cancer foundation for treatment. He was asked first of all how much he could pay. I would say that is a terrible thing. The doctor said to him: ‘We want you to know how much you are up for before you start this treatment’. I would like to see more money spent not only on research into the causes and cure of cancer but also into the amelioration of the economic circumstances of those who suffer therefrom. I ask the Minister also under what headings these matters can be i rightly discussed. 1 cannot find any subdivisions in the Appropriation Bill (No. I) 1967-68 under which I can discuss these matters without being out of order. I have been out of order quite often enough today.
– I desire to raise two matters. The first one probably comes under Division No. 250, subdivision 2 - Administrative Expenses. I refer to item 05 relating to hire of, and repairs to, vehicles, launches and aircraft. 1 choose that item because if appears to me that it would be in connection with quarantine. Going on to a wider sphere, I. refer to item 03 - Extra duty pay, under subdivision 1 of the same division. This could relate to charges for the services of officers for the purposes of quarantine as could item 01 under the same heading relating to salaries and allowances, which could deal also with the administration of the Quarantine Act. No indication is given in this division, or in the breakdown of salaries or in the number of officers employed, which permits us to consider what quarantine services are costing Australia today and to allow us to examine whether the protection that we are receiving from our quarantine services is too costly.
No-one wants Australia to discontinue its quarantine operations to such an extent that this action would endanger the health of Australians or Australian plant and animal life. But it has recently been reported in the newspapers that the operations of the
Department of Health in granting pratique to ships is the laughing stock of the whole world. This report in the newspapers was not of the remarks of some irresponsible individual. It represented the remarks of the head of another Government department who was concerned that what the Department of Health is doing regarding quarantine operations was the laughing stock of the whole world. Tonight, we are to vote the appropriation of a sum of money to keep up an institution which is the laughing stock of the world. I think that we should find out what is causing the actions of this Department to be regarded as the laughing stock of the world. This evidence was given to a select committee of this Senate and that evidence subsequently became public information through the newspapers. Certain claims were made as to the practice followed by the Department. That Committee, of which I am a member, also heard evidence-
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I take the point of order - I hope that Senator Cavanagh will allow me to take - that the matter that he is discussing is in fact a matter for consideration of the select committee which has not arrived at any conclusion in relation to the evidence given. I suggest that a matter of privilege is involved in mis matter and that the honourable senator should not discuss this subject at this stage and not until such time as that Select Committee has reported to the Parliament.
– The point of order is upheld.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman: I am referring to a newspaper report which has been published. I am seeking clarity of that newspaper report. I am aware that a report was given to the select committee of which I am a member. I am not trying in any way to advocate what the select committee might decide. 1 am asking for additional information from the Minister regarding what has been published in newspapers throughout Australia. We cannot protect the Department, by virtue of the fact that a select committee is operating in this field, from something that has been published throughout Australia which says that this
Department is the laughing stock of the whole world.
– The honourable senator will be in order as long as he is not using the evidence from the select committee.
– No, I am not. When I say no to your ruling, Sir, I point out that I know what evidence was given to the select committee, but all that I am referring to is what has been published in the newspapers.
– Was the newspaper report from the evidence given to the select committee?
– The newspaper report set out evidence given in open session to the Select Committee. It becomes a public document. 1 think that we have a right to comment on it. As the report is of such far-reaching importance - it holds this Department up to ridicule - we have the right to correct it and there is no better time to do that than during the discussion of these estimates.
– -As long as the honourable senator refers to what has been published in the Press and not particularly to what was said from the point of view of the Committee, that will be all right.
– I will refer to what was published in the Press. But the situation is difficult because it was a correct report. It was a report of the evidence given to the Committee. In no way am I trying to say what the Committee should find. What I am saying is that there is evidence - and the evidence was published - that this Department is the laughing stock of the world because of its method of operating pratique. This is the practice that an inspection cannot be made between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
– Might I make a suggestion to the honourable senator to overcome the problem?
– Is the honourable senator raising a point of order?
– Yes, I take a point of order. There has been a report published,
I understand, in the newspapers by the Australian shipping commerce or something of that order in which attention is drawn to the fact that pratique in Australia relates to the question of pratique between sunset and sunrise. If your attention is drawn to that, Mr Temporary Chairman, then I have no objection as chairman of the select committee concerned.
– I do not care whether Sentor Cormack has an objection or not. The whole question was on higher ground than that. It was reported in the public Press. Evidence was given by a leading official from another Government department. Anyone can bring the question up because it is now public property. The value of the evidence is not reduced because some commercial interest has criticised it. There is concern in Government departments on this question. It is about that concern that I am seeking some information from the Minister to clarify the matter. In view of the point of order that Senator Cormack has taken on the question, there is further information that has been given to me. While I say that it was given to me, I point out that it was given b an open session of the select committee. At this stage I refuse to refer to it because to do so may be unethical. I do not think that I am breaching any question of ethics at this stage. I therefore ask the Minister, possibly as some lead to any future discussion on this, to find out from the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), for further consideration of this question, the reason why we cannot have inspections for health purposes on board ships between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
– Does the honourable senator believe that doctors should work during those hours?
– My friend, because of the resolution that was carried here you have got me working between those hours at the present time.
– I would like to know whether the honourable senator says that doctors should work during those hours.
– It is a matter of public concern if it is cheaper to do it that way, in keeping with public requirements, and in view of the high cost of shipping and the costs that might be added to the export of potatoes and other items and generally to exporters and importers in Australia because of the present practice. I am trying to find out the cost of that operation. I would like to know whether, ir the long run, it is cheaper for Australia to have doctors working at those hours. Even if it is necessary to pay them penalty rates, I am in favour of them working at those times.
I should like to refer next to the Medical Research Endowment Fund which I presume is a fund to provide for medical research. I am in favour of medical research and believe that it is a subject that should be given more consideration in Australia. Senator Drury and I have conducted a great compaign in Australia for consideration to be given to extending an invitation to Dr Moller to come here from Germany. By use of a method of oxygen injection which is given by a special machine Dr Moller has been able to save the limbs of it least half a dozen patients who were suffering from circulatory diseases and who had been doomed to amputation if they were to rely on medical facilities in Australia. Senator Drury and I could get no support from the medical profession or from the Federal Government for our suggestion that Dr Moller should be invited to Australia. We are now in a position to be able to report that many Australians whose clinical records suggested that amputation was essential have received treatment in Germany and are now fit and well, although it is understood that the cure is not permanent.
The benefits to be derived from this treatment cannot be denied by the medical profession in Australia. Despite the conservatism of a section of the profession which simply would not accept that this method could be used, Dr Johnson at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Mr Nash at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney each now have in their possession a machine similar to that used by Dr Moller with, which they are able to provide the oxygen therapy treatment used by Dr Moller in Germany. Patients are travelling from all over Australia to attend these hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne for this treatment which they cannot receive in the other States. Preparations are being made in South Australia for the purchase of such a machine. The only weakness in this procedure is that because they lack knowledge of the treatment of this disease by this method. Mr Nash, who has had wonderful success, and Dr Johnson are starting from scratch whereas with some assistance from the Federal Government they could have had the benefit of Dr Moller’s 15 years’ experience in this treatment. In view of the overwhelming proof of the success of this method I still ask the Department of Health to reconsider its attitude on this question and enable us to advance this method of treatment by extending an invitation to Dr Moller to come to Australia to demonstrate his techniques in respect of this disease. Although his methods have been winning favour and have been curing patients all over the world they are still not generally accepted.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.27] - First I should like to provide some information for Senator Branson concerning grants in aid for the Canberra Community Hospital. The 1967-68 estimate has been prepared on the basis of a daily bed occupancy of 470 compared with 409 during 1966-67. Goods and services include fuel, lighting, power, provisions, special departments, administration, domestic items, repairs and maintenance, and expenses of the ambulance service. The estimate of $1,361,200 for these items provides for increases in bed occupancy, areas to be served and services to be provided. In the case of the ambulance service, provision has been made for the opening of a new station on the south side of Canberra during 1967-68. The amount of $235,800 included for capital equipment is to provide for the purchase of ward and departmental equipment for expanding services, replacement of equipment and substitution of some appliances with more modern equipment. The estimate of $2.935m for salaries and wages provides for the employment of additional staff to cope with increased activity associated with the growth of the hospital and a recent increase in salary rates. The increased operating costs in 1967-68 will be partly offset by additional revenue from patients’ fees following an increase in fees at the Canberra Community Hospital from 1st August 1967.
The Australian Red Cross Society Blood Transfusion Service was referred to by Senator Branson and Senator Tangney. For this service in the Australian Capital Territory the Commonwealth meets 90% of operational costs and the Red Cross Society meets 1 0% . The grant is based on estimates by the Society. In the States the Commonwealth meets 30%, the State 60% and the Society 10% . The reduced provision for the Australian Capital Territory blood transfusion service is due to the adjustment of subsidies of previous years. Senator Tangney asked also about radioactive isotopes. Radioactive isotopes are sold for use by medical institutions and universities for research. Expenditure for this purpose is provided under Division 250, subdivision 3, item 06. The cost of free issues of radioactive isotopes to medical practitioners and hospitals for use in medical treatment is met from the National Welfare Fund.
Senator Tangney spoke also of medical research, a subject which was also drawn to my attention by Senator Cavanagh. This matter is dealt with in Division No. 250, subdivision 3, item 02. This amount is for transfer to the Medical Research Endowment Fund established by the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937 to provide assistance to the departments of the Commonwealth. State universities or institutions, or persons engaged in medical research and to assist in training persons in medical research, subject to such conditions as the Minister, acting on the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council, determines. The increase of $272,000 is to meet increasing applications for grants for medical research and increasing costs associated with salaries of research personnel and materials and equipment used for research purposes.
Senator Cavanagh spoke also about inquiries concerning quarantine. I have received information which I believe could be of great importance and of interest to the honourable senator. The Department of Health, as is well recognised, is charged with the responsibility of doing its utmost, in all circumstances, to protect the population against the importation of all forms of quarantinable disease. The major objective of human quarantine is to guard against the introduction of smallpox. This, as we know, is a terrifying disease with a very high mortality rate. In Australia, which has been free of the disease for many years and is therefore largely unprotected by vaccination, the introduction of even one case, if it could be avoided, is unthinkable. Epidemics of this disease are constant in parts of Asia and Africa and intermittent outbreaks occur in other countries. Between 50,000 and 100,000 cases of smallpox occur throughout the world annually with a mortality rate of some 20%. Consequently we can appreciate the tremendous importance of quarantine in connection with this disease. The departmental officer goes on to say that smallpox, with a rash that sometimes closely resembles the relatively harmless disease chickenpox, is extremely difficult to diagnose. The essential factor in quarantine is prompt recognition in good light. It is for this reason that the Department of Health is reluctant that its quarantine officers should attempt examinations of ships’ passengers and crews in other than good light.
This requirement can be waived safely in the case of passenger ships whose ship’s surgeon can certify that all passengers and crew have current vaccination certificates and that all passengers and crew are healthy. Such ships are given extended hours of clearance and berthing concessions. Concessions in hours of clearance have been extended also to tankers, bulk loaders and ore carriers, provided there can be certification that their crews have been properly vaccinated and there is no illness abroad.
The Department is aware that its quarantine requirements sometimes involve shipping companies in inconvenience and in additional costs. With such considerations in mind its quarantine procedures are being reviewed continuously in the light of modern shipping developments, and relaxed conditions are permitted where thorough investigation shows that no increased risk to the health of the Australian population is likely to result. No such relaxation is, however, permitted without the most careful study, the principle being that the protection of the community is paramount. I think that answers the question asked by Senator Tangney.
– I was wondering whether we could get some general information about the Department of Health.
– I shall see what I can get for the honourable senator.
– I regret that it was possible for Senator Branson to make only an impulsive and rather brief reference to the item ‘Canberra Community Hospital Board’. No doubt he was under an urgent requirement to leave, and I regret that he is not here at the moment.
I wish to make reference to Division No. 251, subdivision 3, item 01, which relates to the Canberra Community Hospital Board. I want to say quite quietly but nevertheless sturdily that I am going to propose that consideration of this item be postponed. It will be sufficiently alarming, I think, if I tell the Senate that in 1963-64 the appropriation for this Hospital Board was $l.lm; that in 1964-65 it was $1.5m; that in 1965- 66 it was $1.9m; that in 1966-67 it was $2.6m and that, without any explanation, we are now asked to approve an appropriation of $2.99m. That is to say, the hospital for which the grant in aid in 1963-64-4 years ago - was Sl.Im is now asking us for a grant in aid of $2.99m.
The circumstances in which this request comes are these: The Public Accounts Committee produced its 81st report to the Parliament in 1966. Amongst other criticisms of the hospital concerning accounting, stores, etc. the Committee pointed out that the subsidy paid to the Canberra Community Hospital in 1963-64, that is to say, when the appropriation was Sl.lm, represented 60.4% of the hospital’s revenue. In comparison with that, the report stated that the ratio in New South Wales was 49% and in Victoria 49.7%. So when the grant in aid to this hospital was Sl.lm it already exceeded by 10% or 11% the percentage of revenue on which the Victorian and New South Wales hospitals were required to hobble along. But now the grant in aid sought is almost three times what it was then.
I know there have been increases in costs and an increase in population. There may also be other justifying circumstances but from my point of view the appropriation that is being asked for is so much in excess of the amount voted 4 years ago that I feel that the Minister should be in a position to assure us that there has been an adequate investigation of the finances of the hospital in the intervening period and that this appropriation is not sought just to pursue an ever-increasing stream of wasteful expenditure but is justified by economic expenditure and sound administration.
I have looked at the Auditor-General’s report for assistance on this matter. I would have thought that the elementary duty of the Auditor-General in reporting to Parliament when he finds increases such as this was to give at least one word of explanation to the Parliament. But, as usual, I find a bland statement of figures that does not carry the slightest criticism and does not indicate any concern about the economics of this institution. The report simply states that the increases have occurred and says: 1 may add that the financial statements for 1966-67 arc expected to be available for inclusion in the supplementary report.
I have not had the advantage of seeing the supplementary report, if it has been issued, but I do feel great disappointment in not having before me some comment by the Auditor-General upon the increase, particularly in view of the fact that the Public Accounts Committee said in the course of its report that it would await with interest the Auditor-General’s viewpoint when he reviewed the figures in the following year. I refer to these facts because I am here tonight imposing a responsibility on the Minister to justify this item. I claim that the Auditor-General has failed to explain it to us. It seems to me that the administration of the hosopital is failing badly in its management when it has to ask us for a vote of $2.99m today when $l.lm sufficed 4 years ago.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.37] - J hope Senator Wright will not move to delay this item for we would certainly feel it necessary to oppose the motion. He drew the attention of the Senate to the increase in Canberra Community Hospital costs from the year 1963-64 to 1967-68. I remind him that Canberra is a very fast growing and developing city. Its population has been growing at the rate of 10,000 a year and all these people must have adequate hospital care provided for them. I shall endeavour to get the information that the honourable senator requires as speedily as possible. 1 understand that what he requests is not’ available at the moment but I can assure him that it will be provided without delay. Again I emphasise that when we look at this item we must remember that we are providing for a rapidly growing population. Two new hospitals are proposed for this city. One is a 200-bed hospital which will be administered by the Little Company of Mary and the other is a public hospital at Woden which will have 600 beds. This, of course, is part of the plan or picture of hospitalisation, which is required to be at the highest possible level of care and adequate for the fast growing population in this national capital. The extra expenditure upon which Senator Wright has rightly commented is brought about by the growth of population, by the improvement in hospital care, and the need to provide more capital and to equip the hospital with the best modern equipment that is available. 1 have noted the points that Senator Wright has made and I assure him that I shall get for him the information for which he has asked.
– May I add only one comment to keep the matter in sequence. I am obliged to the Minister but it would be helpful if we were supplied with particulars of the bed days occupied in the hospital in 1963-64 and 1966-67. In those matters are ingredients of cost. I spoke with the knowledge that the Woden hospital was to be provided, but I ask the Minister to read the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which shows a maladministration as between the various agencies in this Territory. One responsible person did not know for 4 months that plans were being prepared or had been made at the time when he was being examined by the Public Accounts Committee. This is simply a case of dislocation of administration to which I wish to make some emphatic reference.
– I refer to the provision for the Canberra Community Hospital in Division No. 251. I agree with Senator Wright. I think the position is haphazard. It is somewhat reassuring that the Minister representing the Minister for Health gives an assurance that an investigation will be made but that is not the answer. The answers given tonight are comparatively superficial. We talk of the increase in population. We know the tremendous increase in expenditure. What has been the percentage increase in population? What has been the utilisation of beds? What has been the increase in the number of beds? What has been the daily cost of beds? What has been the capital expenditure on this hospital? There has really been no answer given to Senator Wright. The best thing he can do is to take comfort in the fact that answers will be supplied, but no real assurance has been given that the answers supplied will be satisfactory.
I turn now to Division No. 250. The Minister said that I had said that the Government was not interested in or concerned about the health services of Australia and the various schemes adopted or promulgated by the Government. 1 did not say that at all. What I did say was that the Government did not show a sense of responsibility. I admit that the Government through the years has always been interested, particularly when it can portray a picture, however distorted, which is sufficient to win votes in order to ensure continuity of its control of the treasury bench. I have never said that the Government was not interested or concerned. It has always been concerned to portray such a picture as to convince or delude the people to the extent necessary for the Government’s continuity of tenure of the treasury bench.
The Minister said that the Government investigated accounts. I did not infer that there was any dishonesty or that there was not investigation of accounts. There may be rare cases of dishonesty which government representatives pick up. What I said was that the GoVernment has not shown sufficient interest in ensuring economic and efficient health services, and that the people are overpaying for that which they receive. The individual accounts of a hospital or a doctor do not really matter. It is a question of whether individual patients are receiving an efficient service at economic cost. I believe that I established conclusively that the Government is not interested in trying to devise the best scheme for the Australian people at minimum cost.
The Minister referred to the nursing homes which I have challenged, which Senator Ormonde has challenged, and which the State Secretary of the Hospital Employees Union in Victoria not so long ago said were death houses, in which patients were strapped in bed at night because of insufficient staff, in which the staff was not qualified, and in which the food was not of satisfactory standard. These are things that we allege. The Minister says that the standards of these homes are the responsibility of the State. It is not sufficient for the Government to be interested. It pays out millions of dollars a year, lt pays $2 a day for each case in each nursing home. Surely it is the responsibility of the Government to see that the standard is such as to ensure efficient care of the elderly people or others whose retention in nursing bornes is justified.
There are thousands of people in these homes and the Government pays $2 a day for each of them. It is not good enough for the Government just to say that responsibility for the standards rests with the States. I say quite justifiably that the Government has a responsibility if it is paying the money. The State governments do not pay it. In addition to $2 a day for each patient the Government pays the pension allowances that are taken by the proprietors of the homes. Yet the Government says that it has no responsibility, that the responsibility is on the States. The States by and large pay nothing at all. The responsibility is farmed out. In the end result the responsibility is on the Commonwealth Government. It is of no use for the Minister to say that the States have the responsibility.
I do not want to detain the Committee for very long. It is unfortunate that the Government has seen fit to bring these estimates on so late in the session when they cannot be properly, efficiently, or completely dealt with. This is a problem that we face every time. The Government wastes time in the early part of the session when members of the Opposition - whether they be Australian Labor Party, Democratic Labor Party, or Independent - are prepared to work reasonably long hours. On many days the Government then has not the business to occupy the time of honourable senators. Towards the end of the session we have this unholy and unseemly rush when we have to deal with expenditures of billions of dollars. Literally, we have to skim over these items in minutes. That is the position tonight in relation 10 the estimates for the Department of Health.
Everyone is impatient for the end of the session because an election is coming on. We are given just a couple of hours to deal with matters that involve the Australian people by and large in an expenditure of just over $ 1,000m. The Government is not involved in the direct disbursement of that amount. It is involved in an expenditure of only $400m a year. But in terms of the health services of Australia an amount of $1 ,000m will be involved in the coming year. We are asked to deal with this completely in a few minutes. Sixty people assembled here are expected to deal with these matters in 2 hours.
I want to direct the Minister’s attention to a few matters. I will be as brief as 1 possibly can. Why is it that in Canberra the Commonwealth can provide dental attention for children when the Government which represents, through their parents, all of the children of this country, takes no interest at all, comparatively speaking, in the dental care of children in the States? It takes a complete interest in the dental care of the children of Canberra but not one iota of interest in the dental care of children in the rest of the country. lt is of no use to say that the Dental Standards Association makes a contribution. 1 know it does, but this is a comparatively paltry contribution. What it deals with by and large does not affect the standards of dental health of children. In some small measure it does, in relation to the materials utilised in orthodontia and so on. By and large it has no real say in and no influence on general dental care. The Government is intensely concerned with the dental condition of the children of Canberra but it is not one bit concerned about the dental health of children outside Canberra.
I see that on 4th November there will be a federal council meeting of the Australian Medical Association to decide whether 41,000 pensioners and their dependants will be entitled to a free general practitioner service. For some months these people have been allowed pharmaceutical benefits, and the amount of $5 a day is paid to the various State hospitals if one of these pensioners or one of his or her dependants is admitted to a hospital. But they have not been enjoying a general practitioner service. They have had to pay for treatment by general practitioners. The Government has not seen fit during these months to accept the responsibility of paying for this general practitioner service. It has allowed a discrimination again to develop which commenced as long ago as November 1955 and which persisted until the beginning of this year. During those 11 years or so pensioners with an income of more than $4 a week above their pension were not permitted free general peactitioner treatment. At the beginning of this year the Government saw fit to increase the remuneration afforded practitioners not only for services rendered at their surgeries but also for domiciliary services. Then all the pensioners and part pensioners who had been denied this service again became eligible for it. A couple of months later the Government liberalised the means test. This meant that a single pensioner - and also, unfairly, a married couple - could receive extra income to the extent of $156 a year, or could have extra property to the extent of $1,560. However, persons who became eligible for the pension as a result of this liberalisation of the means test were not given the advantage of the free general practitioner service.
What is going to happen at this meeting on 4th November? Is it being held by arrangement with the Government? ls it incidental, accidental or intentional that the meeting is to be held just prior to an election? Can the Minister tell us what advice will be given by the officers of the Department of Health to the federal council of the Australian Medical Association at this meeting? Is the decision going to be that these pensioners who have been discriminated against will be accepted for free general practitioner services?
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health tell us how far the Government has progressed towards providing specialist services for pensioners? It is all very well to say that in capital cities and other large cities pensioners can go to the. general hospitals for this kind of treatment. In many cases they cannot do so. In many cases they are bedridden. Surely it would be eminently fair to provide specialist services for these unfortunate people. I would not mind if the Government or the Department prescribed that such treatment be provided only after a certificate is given by a general practitioner. After all, a person cannot just walk into a specialist’s rooms in Collins Street in Melbourne, Macquarie Street in Sydney or Wickham Terrace in Brisbane and consult a specialist. I think it would not be unreasonable for the Government to require that the specialist service be given only after a general practitioner had certified that it was necessary. 1 would not mind if, for a start, the Government said the specialist should be permitted to visit a home only when the pensioner required a domiciliary consultation, when it was impossible for the pensioner to visit the specialist in his rooms. But f do think the Government has a responsibility to see that specialist services are available to pensioners in reasonable circumstances.
There is another matter I want to mention briefly. I will give the Minister every chance. She can answer all my questions at the one time or she can refer them to the Department or the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). I want to make a plea for an investigation of the salaries of officers in the Department of Health. 1 think the Government is parsimonious in its attitude towards the payment of many of these officers. The Government may claim that the Director-General on S> 15,000 a year is adequately remunerated. I am nol saying he is and I am not saying he is not. I do not think it is an extraordinarily high salary. The Government may say that Directors on $11,000 a year are adequately remunerated. Again I do not say they are or are not. f do not think this salary is particularly liberal. But when we get down to the lower grades, including even comparatively senior officers, who receive between, say, $6,000 and $8,000 a year, I think they are being poorly paid having in mind the responsibilities they must assume.
Senator Cavanagh said something to the effect that in the eyes of commercial people our quarantine service is a laughing stock, lt is very easy for commercial interests to make this kind of comment when they are interested only in making money. But having regard to the welfare of the people of Australia over a long period of years the quarantine service has certainly not been a laughing stock. Our quarantine officers have been either extraordinarily fortunate or, as I believe, extra ordinarily efficient in having protected the people of this country to a very high degree as compared with the protection afforded in many other countries. I say that the quarantine service is not a laughing stock except from the point of view of commercial undertakings which are intereested only in making money. I plead with the Minister to have a look at the salaries paid to the so-called juniors and so-called seniors in the Department. I am not talking of those in the higher echelon but of those immediately below. 1 believe they are receiving nothing like adequate salaries.
As to public health advertising ! think the Government completely falls down on the job. As we travel around Australia we see more advertisements about plant quarantine than about diseases that can be contracted by human beings. This is completely ridiculous, lt is a travesty that the Government of this country should accept no real responsibility for public health advertising. One sees a few pamphlets that are distributed from time to time. One may see a poster depicting a person offering a cigarette to another person who says simply: ‘1 don’t smoke’. The poster says nothing about the dangers of smoking. This is the kind of advertising one sees - and it is not seen very often.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.56] - Senator Wright asked for information about the number of bed-days in the Canberra Community Hospital for the years from 1963-64 to 1967-68. J have not this information at the moment’ but I have asked my advisers to get it, and it will be made available. In connection with the honourable senator’s comments I would like to repeat something that I said earlier on the subject of increasing operating costs. I said that in 1967-68 these will be partly offset by additional revenue from patient’s fees following an increase in the fees in the Canberra Community Hospital from 1st August 1967. The fees in general wards will increase from $6.80 to $8.20, and in private wards from $11.60 to $14.90. I understand these new rates are the same as those operating in New South Wales. But we will get full information for tha honourable senator.
Senator Dittmer said that the Commonwealth carried out operations in Canberra in connection with the dental health of children but that it did so nowhere else in Australia.
– Not in the States.
-My reply is that in this field the Commonwealth is carrying out in the Australian Capital Territory a State responsibility. Whereas the States do this within their own boundaries-
– But the States do not provide dental treatment for children.
-There is dental care provided in the States.
– What is the proportion Of children provided for? About 5%.
– 1 would not know the percentage, but I am explaining that this is a particular function carried out by the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory.
– And available to all children.
– I am somewhat concerned about the way in which this debate is proceeding and our inability to obtain necessary information to enable us to decide whether we should agree to these estimates. Last night the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton), when speaking in the first reading debate on the Customs Tariff Bill, said that we must be very careful about how we spend public money. Tonight we are being asked to agree to the appropriation of $22m. We want to probe whether we are obtaining the best possible return on that money.
When Senator Wright raised some doubt about the administration of the Canberra Community Hospital, the Minister replied in generalities. She said that there has been an increase in the population of Canberra.
If the Department desires to use that as justification for the increase in the appropriation, it should be supported by details of the proportionate increase in population in order to show that the increase in expenditure is justified. I was pleased to see that Senator Wright based his remarks realistically on the rate of bed occupancy over the relevant period. I trust that he will be given information that will enable us to assess whether this increase is justified. No suggestion has been made that the information will be made available. As it would justify or condemn the increase in expenditure, I hope that it will be made available before we are asked to vote on these estimates.
In the points that I raised before, I was concerned mainly to know what the quarantine service is costing Australia. The Minister replied without giving me one figure but informing me of the need to be careful about the health of the community. We agree with that. We agree that protection against smallpox is vital and that we should not permit it to enter Australia if we can avoid that. We should spend an untold amount of money in order to prevent even one smallpox case entering Australia. What has been said- in the Press is that the method of inspection used today is unnecessary. I agree with Senator Dittmer that we should not sacrifice the health of the community for commercial reasons. But the Press articles have stated that the present method is costing the trading interests of Australia and our importers and exporters thousands of dollars. We do not really know what the protection of Australia against smallpox is costing. If we knew what it was costing, we could decide whether we should adopt a method which would not cost Australian importers and exporters so much but which would be just as effective.
I refuse to accept the proposition that satisfactory artificial lighting cannot be provided to enable a doctor to detect the difference between smallpox and chickenpox. I completely refuse to accept that, in view of the modern trends in artificial lighting. If satisfactory artificial lighting could not be provided, a doctor treating a patient in a surgery at night would not be able to give that patient the attention that he would be entitled to expect. I realise that good lighting would be needed to enable a doctor to detect the difference between smallpox and chickenpox. So we should consider the cost of providing such lighting.
AH that I have heard from the Minister tonight is that the reason why inspections cannot be made between sunset and sunrise is the need for good light by which to determine whether marks on a person’s body are smallpox or chickenpox. I have enough confidence in the members of the electrical engineering section of our community to believe that they could produce lighting that would enable a doctor with reasonable eyesight or good glasses to detect the difference between smallpox and chickenpox. I also have enough confidence in the members of the medical profession in Australia to believe that they could distinguish between the two diseases under reasonable lighting.
The position is that one department is being held up to ridicule by the statement of an officer of another department which has been made and published throughout Australia. If there is justification for the method adopted by the Department of Health, let us hear that justification. The only justification that we have heard from the Minister is that these inspections cannot be made between sunset and sunrise because of the lack of light. I now ask the Minister: What are quarantine operations costing us in Australia? Has the Department examined the possibility of using artificial lighting that is sufficiently bright to enable doctors to distinguish the difference between smallpox and chickenpox?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.6] - Senator Cavanagh’s first comment was in connection with Senator Wright’s remarks about the Canberra Community Hospital, was it not?
– I think Senator Wright can look after that matter. I mentioned it only as a means of leading up to another matter.
– 1 am asking the honourable senator whether that was his comment. It is a little difficult for us to hear honourable senators opposite sometimes. I am endeavouring to give the best answer that 1 can to Senator Cavanagh’s query. As I informed Senator Wright, I cannot give tonight the detailed information that he requires, but the officers of the Department tell me that it is available and that I will be able to provide it next week. I would not want to see this section of the estimates deferred. Surely this is not a matter that should cause the estimates to be deferred. The Canberra Community Hospital has a board containing representatives from the community which administers it. I believe that the figures that have been requested - - they can be made available and will be made available to the honourable senators concerned next week - are a matter of interest. But surely we should not defer this section of the estimates because we do not have those figures tonight.
Senator Cavanagh then discussed quarantine. He referred particularly to the matters of the timing of inspections and lighting, of which we had spoken before. He asked whether I could give him the costs of quarantine operations. At the moment I cannot do that. They are not available from the officers of the Department. 1 will see that he is given that information as soon as possible.
– Before we vote on these estimates?
– No; because we want to pass these estimates tonight. I repeat something that I told Senator Cavanagh earlier this evening: The one concern of the people whose job is to keep Australia free from the disturbing diseases that we have mentioned by means of quarantine methods is the protection of the community. I assure the honourable senator that these matters have already been considered and discussed ‘by the Department of Health and quarantine officers. The procedures are constantly being reviewed in the light of modern shipping developments. Relaxed conditions are permitted when thorough investigation shows that no increased risk to the health of the people of Australia is liable to result from such action. 1 will take very careful notes of the comments that the honourable senator has made tonight and will see that they are placed before the Minister for Health. I can assure the honourable senator now that this matter is constantly before those concerned with quarantine. All matters associated with quarantine are being reviewed continuously along with all other matters which could protect the health of the Australian people.
– In speaking to the estimates for medical research and for payments to the Medical Research Endowment Fund, I want to follow the line of argument developed by Senator Cavanagh about Dr Moller’s oxygen therapy treatment. It is now 5 or 6 years since we started to take an interest in this treatment. The interest arose from a report in the Adelaide ‘News’ some years ago regarding a Mrs Maria Lang of 27 Woolnough Road, Semaphore, South Australia, who had just returned from Germany after receiving oxygen therapy treatment from Dr Moller at his clinic at Kassel, Germany. Mrs Lang had had operations in Adelaide for arteriosclerosis and had been told that there was very little more that doctors in Australia could do for her. She decided to spend what savings she had. She and her husband had a small woollen garment manufacturing business and they mortgaged it so that Mrs Lang could to to Germany for this treatment. On her return she was 100% better than when she went away. She was so happy with the treatment that she decided to do something about having the treatment brought to Australia.
It was at that stage that I saw the article in the Press and asked my first question about it of the then Minister for Health, the late Senator Harrie Wade. I asked him whether he would have investigations made to find out whether this treatment was successful. Since that time about 20 or 25 people have journeyed from South Australia to Germany to obtain this treatment. These people had been told by the medical profession in Australia that there was nothing more that could be done for them. Yet when they returned after receiving treatment in Germany they were able to follow their normal occupations and had lost all the pain caused by this dread disease.
It is true, as Senator Cavanagh said, that we have never claimed that this treatment cures this disease. When Mrs Lang returned from Germany I spoke to her. She told me that Dr Moller had said to her that it would be at least 3 years before she would require booster treatment. Honourable senators might remember that Senator
Cavanagh spoke at length on this subject one evening during an adjournment debate. He mentioned a Mrs Staniek who had had this treatment for the first time some 10 or 12 years ago and had to return to Germany for booster tretment. She did so and is now working in the library at the Monash University in Melbourne. When Mrs Lang returned to Australia she gave a news item to the Adelaide ‘News’ and the treatment was given some publicity for about two days. Suddenly the publicity ceased and not another word was mentioned about it.
Senator Cavanagh and I took up this matter. Since then we have been told, in no uncertain terms, that we do not know what we are talking about; that we are not medical men; that we are laymen; and that we should keep our noses out of this sort of business. We admit that we are laymen but we have the evidence of these people who have spent their life savings to go to Germany for treatment and have returned Australia fit to follow their normal occupations again.
All we ask is that the Minister suggest to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) that he send a member of the Department of Health to speak with Mr Nash, a well known vascular surgeon in Sydney. As Senator Cavanagh pointed out, one of Dr Moller’s machines is at the St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. It was presented to the hospital by a woman living in Sydney who went to Germany for this treatment. She could hardly walk 100 yards but is now much better than she was before she went to Germany. She was so happy with the treatment that she decided to purchase one of the machines and donate it to St Vincents Hospital. In the meantime, a Mr Johnson, a specialist in Melbourne, has also obtained a machine. Mr Nash did go to Germany. He spent at least one week at Dr Moller’s clinic and actually administered the treatment himself, using Dr Moller’s machine. On Mr Nash’s return to Australia, Senator Cavanagh and I spoke with him. He said he was quite happy with the treatment and that it definitely had a place in Australia, together with other methods of treatment for this disease. Mr Nash did not say that it was the answer to all the problems of vascular diseases but he said it definitely had a place.
I ask the Minister whether the Department would send a person to talk with Mr
Nash so that the information could come first hand from a medical man. The Minister does not have to take any notice of what is said by Senator Cavanagh and me. If my suggestion were adopted, the officer would be talking to a man with experience, a specialist in this field. I am sure that if this were done and the treatment found to be not as successful as we think, we would be quite happy to drop this subject. But we cannot drop it on the evidence that we have obtained from the people to whom we have spoken and who have received this treatment in Germany.
It is true that the same treatment has been given in Australia but it has been administered by hand syringe and this method is not as successful as the machine used by Dr Moller. This is because the machine controls the flow of oxygen into the artery and prevents a sudden rush of blood out of the artery and back into the machine. This was happening with the application by hand syringe. The hand syringe could not control the pressure of the blood. On more occasions than one the blood rushed back into the syringe. The machines arc not costly. They can be purchased for less than $400 and are easily procurable. If there were more of these machines in Australia and if Dr Moller were invited here to demonstrate them, I feel there would be many people who would benefit from this treatment. Last month a group of people suffering from this disease banded together in Adelaide to form an association. Senator Cavanagh and I attended the meeting. Those people have decided to do all they can to have this treatment made available throughout Australia.
As 1 pointed out earlier, Mrs Lang was told that within 3 or 4 years she would need to have booster treatment. She has received this treatment as the complaint recurred. She said that she would have to raise the money to go back to Germany. I persuaded her to write to Mr Nash, give him her case history and let him advise her what to do. Mr Nash was kind enough to invite Mrs Lang to Sydney. She underwent treatment there and returned to Adelaide last week. 1 had the opportunity of seeing Mrs Lang while she was in St Vincent’s Hospital. She told me she was feeling 100% better than she had when she arrived in Sydney. This was a wonderful thing. If this treatment can be obtained in Australia these people will not have to spend their life savings to travel to Germany. But it is still bad enough for people to have to travel interstate to obtain this treatment because, as everyone knows, hospitalisation and medical treatment are expensive these days. So, 1 would again ask the Minister to arrange for someone in the Department to contact Mr Nash, discuss the whole treatment with him and see whether it would be advisable - I think it would, speaking from a layman’s point of view - for Dr Moller to come to Australia and demonstrate his methods in every capital city.
– I seek information on three small matters. Would the Minister explain to me why the proposed expenditure for the Australian Pre-School Association grant-in-aid has remained at $14,800? Is this an amount which is made available to the States? If so, can the Minister tell me which States it is made available to and the manner in which it is divided. Also, can the Minister tell me the benefit which flows through to the public in general; or does the benefit flow to any particular section of the public?
My next query relates to Division 25.1, sub-division 3, item 03. In relation to the Australian Capital Territory health services, the expenditure last year on the Australian Red Cross Society, Blood Transfusion Service, approximated $11,000. This year the proposed expenditure is $5,000. I would appreciate an explanation of that. However, I am more interested in comparing that proposed expenditure with that which appears in the following Division No. 252, subdivision 3, item 01, which shows a proposed expenditure for the Australian Red Cross Society Blood Tranfusion Service of $4,000. I imagine that this is an amount to be paid as a contribution towards the Northern Territory health service. However, I just query the reason for proposing for the Northern Territory an amount similar to the amount for the Australian Capital Territory which has a vastly greater population.
I should like to ask the Minister another question on the Canberra Community Hospital Board grant. I appreciate the
Minister’s comments in relation to the questions which were raised regarding bed costs. She said that this information may be very difficult to provide. I believe it is difficult for members of the Senate to accept the comment that because a Board has been running this hospital we can accept the figures. I say this because the Auditor-General’s report, for the year, I think, 1960, contained quite severe criticisms relating to the affairs, particularly the financial affairs, of the hospital. Again, I think it was the 1965 report of the Auditor-General which raised the query of the Public Accounts Committee which, of course, is the servant of this House as well as the other. One would think, following the report of that Committee and the comments that it made, that when an amount of this nature- it amounts to $2,990,000- has been requested the fullest information would be available to this House. Perhaps the figures that were asked for relating to bed and day costs may not be available. However, I would feel particularly disappointed if the Minister were not able to supply us with the figures which resulted in the request by the Hospital Board, whether the relevant calculation was made by the Board or the Department of Health. An amount of approximately $3m is no small amount. I ask the Minister to give us details of the amounts that make up the figure of $3m.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.26] -Firstly, I would like to reply to Senator Webster in connection with the Red Cross. I have already given this information. However, I shall repeat it, as I believe it will cover the inquiry that he made. The Commonwealth meets 90% of the operational costs of the Blood Transfusion Service and the Red Cross Society meets 10%. The grant is based on the Society’s estimates. In the States the Commonwealth meets 30%, the States 60% and the Society 10%. The reduced provision for the Australian Capital Territory Blood Transfusion Service is due to the adjustment of subsidies of previous years. The honourable senator also asked me a question about the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service in the Northern Territory. There is an increase of $1,679 this year. This provides for reimbursement to the Northern Territory
Branch of the Australian Red Cross Society Blood Transfusion Service of 90% of its annual operating costs. The provision is similar to the arrangements which exist in the Australian Capital Territory and is designed to place the financial assistance granted to Commonwealth territory blood transfusion services on an equal footing with their State counterparts.
The honourable senator has also asked for some more information regarding the Canberra Community Hospital. I have already informed the Senate on the requests of Senator Wright and Senator Cavanagh that 1 would get for them information concerning hospital beds over a period. However, I have some extensive information which may be of interest. The Commonwealth contribution to the Canberra Community Hospital relates to the expected cash deficiency in the operational and capital equipment costs of the Hospital after allowing for a working cash balance of $40,000. The composition of the estimated Commonwealth grant of $2,990,000 has been set out in a table which reads as follows:
I will also repeat for Senator Webster some other information which I gave earlier to the Senate concerning the Canberra Community Hospital. The 1967-68 estimate has been prepared on the basis of a daily bed occupancy of 470 compared with 409 during 1966-67. Goods and services include fuel, light and power, provisions, special departments, administration, domestic items, repairs and maintenance and expenses of the Ambulance Service. The estimate of $1,361,200 for these items provides for increases in bed occupancy, areas to be served and services to be provided. In the case of the ambulance service, provision has been made for the opening of a new station on the south side of Canberra during 1 967-68. The amount of $235,800 included for capital equipment is to provide for the purchase of ward and departmental equipment for expanding services, replacement of equipment and substitution of some appliances with more modern equipment.
The estimate of $2. 935m for salaries and wages provides for the employment of additional staff to cope with increased activity associated with the growth of the hospital and a recent increase in salary rates. The increased operating costs in 1967-68 will be partly offset by additional revenue from patients’ fees following an increase in the Canberra Community Hospital fees from 1st August 1967.
– I relate my remarks to Division No. 250 - Administrative, and to the appropriation for the salaries and allowances of the staff of the Department of Health. I sympathise with the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in this chamber, because I realise how difficult it is for her to answer questions relating to the estimates of the Department of Health. She has her own responsibilities and her own portfolio to administer. It is almost impossible for her to anticipate the questions that are likely to be asked about the estimates of the Department of Health for the coming year and to know the answers. I suggest that it is the responsibility of the Government lo provide the Minister with sufficient staff to help her when questions on the estimates are being asked. She is placed in an invidious position when she cannot supply answers to questions. It is the responsibility of the Government to provide the Minister with advisers who are able to answer queries addressed by honourable senators.
I wish now to refer to drug taking in Australia. I will not delay the Committee for too long because I have referred to this subject often before. It is the responsibility of the Government to take action in respect of drug taking in Australia today. I am not referring particularly to drug addiction, as we term it. I am speaking of the common problem of people taking pills and tablets in large measure. The average total of pills and tablets taken daily in Australia is about one and a half million. This is a ridiculous state of affairs in a country with the climate and environment that we enjoy. We have become pill takers and medicine swallowers. It is the responsibility of the Department of Health to conduct an investigation to determine whether anything can be done to lessen what might be termed an evil. If it is not an evil, it is certainly an economic disability. To curb this pernicious habit of pill taking and medicine swallowing is surely somebody’s responsibility. It can be the responsibility of no other authority than the Commonwealth Department of Health in co-operation with the States.
I estimate that over $160m is spent annually on drugs, tablets and patent medicines in Australia. The total could bo as high as $180m. Last year about $101m was spent on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for hospitals, private individuals and pensioners. In turn that meant that the people of Australia, paying 50c a prescription, paid from $15m to $20m. Probably from $20m to $30m was spent on prescriptions which did not come within the ambit of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Probably another $20m was spent on patent medicines, pills, potions, liniments and so on. A campaign should be undertaken to lessen this particularly pernicious practice. The subject has been dealt with so often before that I will say no more about it here tonight.
I would like to deal with many other matters relating to the estimates of the Department of Health but I will not persist because of the lateness of the hour. The Estimates should not be brought into the Senate for discussion so late in the session when all honourable senators are getting ready to take part in an election campaign. It is almost impossible to deal with the Estimates thoroughly or efficiently under such conditions. I ask the Minister to carry to the Minister for Health a message that greater responsibility should be accepted for the provision of facilities for research into the health needs of this country. The Government has failed completely in this respect.
Practically no research is undertaken. Figures are cited in different fields - daily admissions of patients, daily discharges of patients, and so on - but it is almost impossible to obtain detailed figures of the amounts made available for research into the health needs of Australia.
Certain figures are available. The Director-General of Health in his annual report publishes certain figures relating to the number of pensioners treated, the number of visits paid by general practitioners, the amounts of money paid for hospital and medical benefits by the various funds and by the Government, but it is impossible to get figures to show that there has been a detailed investigation into the facilities required to meet the health needs of the people. I plead with - the Minister to approach the Minister for Health so that in the next year or two a research unit can be set up to work efficiently, staffed with competent officers provided with all the necessary facilities.
[10.36] - I will bring the comments of the honourable senator to the attention of the Minister for Health.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Department of Immigration
Proposed expenditure, $44,638,000.
Proposed provision, $4,643,000.
– I relate my remarks to Division No. 270 - Administrative. All honourable senators on this side of the chamber have made constructive suggestions over the years on various facets of migration. In the Good Neighbour Council’s journal of September 1967 the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) indicated that his target for the coming year would be 148,000 migrants, of whom 92,000 would be assisted. I now refer to Division No. 302 - Migration Office - Yugoslavia. While the Government has been successful in finalising a migration agreement with Italy, that does not necessarily mean that the target will be met. I know that other speakers in this debate will be referring to British migration. I wish to relate my remarks to Yugoslavia. When the Minister returned from Europe and made a broad statement I sent him a telegram asking him about his attitude to migrants from certain eastern European countries. I specified Yugoslavia because I had visited there at about the middle of the year and was familiar with the potential of that country. I will not read the full text of the Minister’s telegram in reply on 19th July but it concluded with these words:
Later this month two senior officers of Immigration Department will be visiting the migration office already established in Belgrade and will report to me in due course on future prospects.
An article in the issue of 14th October of the London ‘Economist’ referred to the labour market position in Yugoslavia. About 240,000 people of Slav extraction left the country after World War II. In addition a further 300,000 Yugoslav migrants are employed as what may be termed ‘guest workers’ in western Europe. I relate that information to our migration offices in Belgrade and Vienna, as distinct from other European areas in respect of which we could probably make a case to show that the expenditure on them is justified. I know the people in the offices in Belgrade and Vienna and I think that they are extremely efficient. What I am concerned about is the apparent inability or inactivity of the Minister to get a decision on one facet of immigration. I know that we were awaiting the arrival of the Yugoslav Ambassador to Australia. He has now been here for some time. I cannot fathom the reason for the delay in reaching a decision because I know that the Yugoslav community in our major cities has been extremely interested in this matter. I do wonder what the explanation is. I know that, more than 12 months ago, when a Mr Vilfram, a Yugoslav parliamentarian, attended a function here, he made overtures to the then Minister for Immigration Mr Opperman. In view of the facts, I am rather curious to know the reason for the delay and when we can expect a decision.
I know that the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) has been talking about bringing migrants from Turkey and other countries in order to achieve the target of 148,000 new settlers. The point I am emphasising is this: The Government wants industrial workers for heavy industry. Countries in eastern Europe can provide these workers. The only criticism I have is that I feel, from my own experience, that while the Government has officers in Belgrade and Vienna, until there is an on the spot field survey in Slovenia in Croatia the Government will not get the complete emphasis on immigration that is needed.
A further matter with which 1 wish to deal relates to assimilation, for want of a better word. I refer also to certain groups of migrants who find themselves faced with educational difficulties. I am fortified in my view by a book called ‘Arrivals and Departures’ by James Jupp. He in turn emphasises a need for which 1 have been working for quite a while. He states:
To teach Europeans in their own tongue might require special institutes in the capital cities to train bi-lingual teachers. 1 know that this is one of those overlapping subjects regarding which work is done by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science and State education authorities at certain levels. 1 have a high respect for the members of the various State teachers federations. But 1 do know that people are able to pick up our language much more quickly if they are taught by bi-lingual teachers. The leader of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria, Mr Clive Holding, has made some very effective contributions at the State level in relation to some groups of migrant children. I am dealing with migrants in their 20s. Again 1 refer to the book by James Jupp. These people return to their boarding houses from their workships and live in. They may go occasionally to a football match. No effort is made really to bring the teaching of English to them and to bring them up to such a standard that they can participate more in our activities. 1 know from consultations with some members of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, that some of the women have started classes and the children come along with some of the menfolk. Their attendance alternates with shift work. 1 feel sure that if a solid corps of bi-lingual teachers can be created this teaching work can be carried out. The institutes of interpreters in some of our States are seeking recognition. I suggest to the Minister that these institutes represent a corps of people whom the Government could get for this work. I think that their work would be extremely valuable. 1 wish to deal with two other matters. My first question is: Just what role does the Commonwealth Government fill in order to keep the States up to scratch with their laws in relation to the professional status of migrants? In New South Wales, in the 1950s, the then State Labor Government introduced legislation which made it reasonably easy for a person with a degree from a European university to practice as a veterinary surgeon in Australia. Last year the legislation ceased to have effect. It was for a 15-year term or thereabouts. I. do not know whether the present New South Wales Government has introduced legislation to revive the arrangement. So I am somewhat curious about this matter. Can we invite veterinary surgeons to Australia to become a section of our professional groups if we are not in a position to recognise their professional status? 1 wish to conclude by raising the question of the Government’s intention in relation to the Australian Citizenship Conventions. Together with Senator Cavanagh, 1 represented the Opposition on the last occasion the Australian Citizenship Convention met. [ made the plea then, and I do so now, that any such gatherings in future should be on a broader basis in order to get the benefit of the experience of people in their early years. 1 did make the appeal that attendance at the conventions should not be confined to the top echelon of our trade union movement. I made an appeal for invitations to be sent to large unions which have migrants on the workshop floor level. Provision could be made for a number of those people to attend. I refer for instance to the Building Workers Industrial Union, the Federated Ironworkers of Australia Union, the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, the Australian Railway Union and the Builders Labourers Union. I select those unions at random. I believe that people who come here straight off the job could put a point of view similar to that of recently arrived migrants. I conclude on that point.
– My initial remarks are directed to a table of appropriations and expenditure :n relation to this year and last year concerning our overseas offices. I would like an explanation relative to the rationalisation of the cost in relation to each country. 1 seek some explanation relative to the vast difference in costs of migrants per head. By using the statistics provided by the Department of Immigration for 1966- and I refer particularly to page 41 of the publication - 1 have worked out some figures from the table concerning the nationality of settlers. Those figures, to say the least, are very illuminating.
The figures show, for instance, that for every migrant whom we have attracted from Austria our overseas office has spent $220. Each migrant whom we have attracted from Denmark - we have received eight - has cost us $82 per head. Each migrant from the Republic of France has cost us $163. The cost of each German migrant has been $173. Each migrant from Greece has cost $21. Each migrant from Italy has cost $64. The cost of each migrant from Lebanon is $88 while the cost of each migrant from the Netherlands stands at $145. Each migrant from Spain has cost $43. Then 1 find the fantastic sum of $898 for each migrant that we have been able to attract from Sweden. Those figures are worked out in relation to the cost of the operation of our overseas officers in each of the countries I have mentioned.
Because of this very high figure in Sweden, I had a look at the figures and again related them to the table that appears in the document provided by the Department of Immigration. Australia has spent $750,000 in Sweden from 1962 to the present time and has attracted 2,818 migrants to this country. I hope there is an explanation for this state of affairs if my figures represent a true assessment of the costing. It may well be that there are other explanations. It would appear to me that we are spending far too much money in some countries and perhaps too little money in others and that we are not getting a return for the amount of money that we are spending in some countries.
– Has the honourable senator had a look at the figures for the United Kingdom?
– I will come to those. I certainly have looked at them. It has cost Australia $90 for each migrant who has come here from the United Arab Republic. The cost of each Yugoslavian migrant is $11. Each migrant from Switzerland has cost $90. To get the British figure it has been necessary to include migrants who have come from Hong Kong, Malta and the United Kingdom as the figures are not separated in the statistics supplied by the Department concerning those three countries. Each migrant who comes from Great Britain costs $9, if my assessment is true. So, Australia is getting a good return per dollar for every British migrant that it attracts here. As I was saying earlier, it does appear to me that the amount of money that is spent in regard to Sweden - and possibly this applies also to other areas - is far greater than it should be in relation to the return we receive. I compare such a heavy commitment in that country with what we spend in other countries in which migrants are more readily available.
On this occasion $218,300 is appropriated for Sweden and this is approximately $31,000 more than the appropriation for the previous financial year. The figures consistently show from 1961-62 to the present time that Australia has not made any real headway in attracting people from Sweden. In 1961-62 there were 275 migrants from Sweden. In 1962-63 there were 206, in 1963-64 there were 315; in 1964-65 there were 330; and in 1965-66 there were 489. From a quick examination of those figures there does not appear to be any reason why the cost of our operations in that country should be so high and it is difficult to see how this expenditure is warranted. It could well be that we could obtain many more migrants from other countries by spending the money in other areas.
I should like to refer now to the migration office in Yugoslavia, a matter which was also mentioned by Senator Mulvihill. In the last year of operation the appropriation was $188,100 of which only $87,225 was spent. Less than half the amount appropriated was spent last year. I have examined the details of expenditure which appear near the rear of document A in the hope of being able to ascertain why the estimate for this year is $191,900. I have been unable to ascertain why our expenditure for this office should be higher this year. If we spent less than half the amount appropriated last year, why should we require an additional $3,800 this year? lt appears to me that the Yugoslavian office has a surplus of about $100,000 from last year, so with an appropriation of $191,900 this year, together with the credit from last year, that office will cost about $290,000 this year compared with $87,000 last year. I propose to leave my questions at this point because I shall have other matters to raise later in the debate. However, 1 should like to have clear and concise answers to the questions I have asked in relation to these figures.
– I should like to know what has happened to the citizenship conventions. I recall that Senator Mulvihill and I attended a convention some time ago, but I believe that no convention was held last year. It will be seen that we spent only $2,028 last year out of an appropriation of $30,800. I think we should be given some explanation why the estimate for this year has been increased to $33,000 when we could not spend the amount appropriated last year. I presume that it is planned to hold a citizenship convention this year. I should be interested to know when it is to dj held and how much such conventions cost the Commonwealth Government.
The refusal by the Department to grant naturalisation in some cases seems to be a hardy annual. On the one hand we have refusals by the Department to grant naturalisation and on the other we find that the Department, especially through the citizenship convention, makes appeals for migrants to become naturalised and to adopt Australian citizenship. Naturalisation is a subject of great concern at the conventions. Yet we find that a number of migrants who apply for naturalisation have their applications refused. These refusals may or may not be justified, but at present the decision is solely in the hands of the Minister who will not tell us his reasons for refusal to grant naturalisation or supply any details. In recent debates on immigration measures we have complained of this discretion being vested in one individual who may or may not be able to justify his decisions on particular applications. On the information which is available to us it seems very doubtful that the Minister could justify his refusal to grant naturalisation, unless he has available to him additional information which he will not disclose to us. 1 wrote to the Minister to find o:.it why a Mr Tunis, a Greek who has resided in Australia since 1938, should have been refused naturalisation, but I was given no reason. Mr Tunis knows of no reason why he was not acceptable. He is employed by the Municipal Tramways Trust in South Australia. He can speak good English and has no court convictions. He considers himself to be a respectable citizen and so do his neighbours and workmates. Yet despite repeated applications, naturalisation has not been granted. Even at this late stage I ask the Minister to advise us of the reason for refusal. I refer next to a Mrs Sallis, a Czechoslovakian who speaks reasonably good English. She is married to the headmaster of the public school at Keith. He was born in Australia of Italian parents and, as his parents were naturalised, is an Australian citizen. Mrs Saltis has no political association. In 1961 she applied for naturalisation and was advised that her application had been deferred for 12 months. She re-applied in 1964 and was advised that her application was not one which could be approved. As she has. no political affiliations and no other reason has been stated, perhaps some sin w is committed by her parents or grandparents. We have not been told.
In both cases to which I have referred the Minister has replied, in effect, that it is the practice to inform applicants for citizenship the reason for the refusal or deferment of the application only when the decision has been based on the applicant’s inability to comply with the language or residential requirements of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. The Minister informed me that Mr Tunis did not come within this category and that, consequently, he was unable to disclose the grounds for his decision. I received a similar letter in the case of Mrs Saltes. All I can gather is that they have been refused naturalisation on grounds other than inability to comply with the language or residential requirements. 1 believe that the only other consideration should be health, character and security. I do not consider that the health of these people would have been a bar to naturalisation. We are left to guess at the reason and neighbours and workmates are left to guess what is wrong with these people who have come to Australia and who can comply with the language and residential qualifications. Are they bad characters? Are they a security risk? Is there a danger to health from their continued residence here?
Perhaps a person who wishes to become an Australian citizen could do something to remedy the defect which prohibits naturalisation if the reason for refusal were disclosed, but we get this blank refusal to disclose a reason. They do not know whether they will ever comply with our requirements. They are left to wonder whether it would not be better for them to return home or move to some country which will accept them. When no reasons are given as to why these people are not acceptable, the Department becomes the subject of ridicule and severe criticism from the general public. I ask that in future the Department justify its refusal of naturalisation. If I have the opportunity to attend the next Citizenship Convention I shall see to it that this is one of the matters set down for consideration.
[11.1] - Senator Mulvihill asked about Yugoslav migrants. In 1964-65, 1,272 assisted migrants and 3,573 unassisted migrants entered Australia from Yugoslavia. In 1965-66, the numbers admitted were 2,039 assisted and 5,509 unassisted. In 1966-67, we admitted 2,240 assisted migrants and 5,306 unassisted migrants from Yugoslavia. Those Yugoslavs who have entered Australia as assisted migrants have come from countries outside Yugoslavia. There is no assisted migration direct from Yugoslavia to Australia. The migration officers in Belgrade deal with applications from persons in Yugoslavia who have been sponsored as unassisted migrants by Australian residents. Any extension of the present activities of the Australian migration office in Belgrade would be a matter of policy for consideration by the Government.
asked about the education of migrants. This is a matter of constant consultation between the Commonwealth and State education authorities and the methods of teaching English are constantly under review by both authorities. The honourable senator also suggested that there should be wider representation of rank and file unionists at. the citizenship conventions. I shall refer his suggestion to the Minister for Immigration for his consideration.
asked about the cost of bringing migrants from various countries. Comparisons cannot properly be made on the basis he has adopted because in some instances certain expenditures are borne by the Department of External Affairs. In the United Kingdom, some of the costs are included in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. In other instances, the Immigration vote bears the whole cost. The honourable senator also sought some information about the Yugoslav migrants. Due to inability to obtain office accommodation it was not possible to staff the office fully last year. It had to operate for part of the year at a reduced level. The provision for 1967-68 is to cover the cost of full staff for a full year.
asked for some figures relating to the Citizenship Convention. The $2,000-odd which was spent in 1966-67 was carried over from the Convention held in the previous year. No convention was held in the financial year 1966-67 and the next convention is planned for January 1968. The honourable senator also mentioned persons who have either been refused or had experienced difficulty in obtaining naturalisation. I suggest that he bring those cases before the Minister and I think they will be reviewed.
– I have done so.
– I suggest that the honourable senator do it again for I feel that they will be reviewed. I cannot give any details about Individual cases now.
– Could I ask that you present them to the Minister?
– I shall put before him the comments which the honourable senator made tonight.
– Am I to understand from the Minister’s explanation that the points I have raised in connection with Yugoslav migrants are still being considered by the Government? Or am I to take it that the Government has gone cold on - a nationtonation agreement? I noticed in the ‘Canberra Times’ of Thursday 28th September reference to the recently concluded agreement with Italy. The article reads:
Two matters not settled on Tuesday’s signing . . .
– I rise to order. Is the honourable senator in order in quoting from a newspaper report?
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable senator.
– I should like some information relating to the agreement between Australia and Italy. Is the Government now considering the payment of Australian pensions to migrants who return to Italy, and is there any specific provision for the recognition of Italian trade skills?
The other matter about which I would like some information relates to the United Kingdom’s Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962. I understand that Australians going to England do not need visas. Their passports are simply stamped ‘Certificate of entry’. Are Australians in their twenties subjected to any interrogation about seeking work in England, or is their entry just a matter of routine?
– Will the Minister obtain for me a much more detailed reply to the questions I raised earlier? On the surface of it, the explanation she has given tonight does not appear to me to tell the full story. I emphasise that the difference between $9 a head for migrants obtained from Britain and $898 a head for migrants attracted here from Sweden is fantastic and I would like a far more detailed explanation from the Minister for Immigration himself. The fact that some of the cost is shared by other Departments does not seem to me to explain this great difference. I feel that there should be some rationalisation of the activities of our overseas offices if in fact there is any evidence that we are spending such vast sums for so little return as would appear to be the case in connection with Swedish migrants. If we take the Swedish figure of $800-odd a head as the average cost of bringing migrants here from Britain, Italy and those other countries where the cost is shared by other departments, an inflow of approximately 100,000 British migrants a year would cost us a colossal amount. I am absolutely certain that the administration of our office in Britain, Sweden or wherever it may be should not be the basis. This relates only to the administration of the offices in those countries. It has no relation to the assistance that we give, for instance, to British migrants by way of assisted passage, that is, by payment of fares in excess of $20. It relates purely to the administrative costs of the offices. I should like some explanation as to whether costs associated with the administration of these offices are charged to the Department of External Affairs or other departments.
I turn now to the provision for hostel accommodation in item 01, subdivision 3, Division No. 270. I think most people appreciate that in the last 6 or 8 months some attempt has been made by the Government to improve the position. Plans have been announced for better accommodation for migrants but we are still moving far too slowly to make people want to stay here and become permanent residents. We have not any appropriation for better type hostel accommodation. It may be that this grant is to come from the Treasury This may well be the answer. I should like a statement from the Minister on the progress of construction of the hostels at Randwick and Springvale and on the purchase and construction of self-contained unit flats in the metropolitan areas.
I also make a plea for the Department to recommend that major provincial cities be given consideration in regard to the purchase of existing flat units or the construction of flat units. This is with a view to eliminating the hostel accommodation that exists, for instance, in my home town of Geelong. I am certain that the position would be the same at Wollongong, Newcastle and other places. One of the major reasons why migrants become dissatisfied and return to their former homes is the type of accommodation in which they may be for 2 years or even more. 1 have spoken to many hundreds of these people over the past 6 or 8 months. The first shock they get when they come to Australia is being put in Nissen huts with their families and finding that this will be their place of residence for 2 years. Many young mothers have said that upon seeing the accommodation they are expected to live in they have burst into tears, realising that this will be their first home in this country.
I ask that the Government expand its planning on the better type of accommodation that it has now agreed to provide. An extension of this accommodation will expand our migration programme. I am completely satisfied that the type of accommodation is one of the major reasons why so many return home. It is also a major reason why we are not attracting migrants. Prospective migrants receive first hand knowledge from people who are in this country of the type of accommodation they will have when they first arrive. I firmly believe that another of the major reasons why we are not attracting many migrant families with young sons is our policy in relation to Vietnam. I believe that many families would be willing to come to Australia and make their lives here if we were not involved in the conscription of young lads of 20 to fight in the Vietnam war. This is one of the major reasons why the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) was forced to go overseas so quickly after the former Minister had been on a world tour in order to seek additional migrants. I am sure that our policy on the Vietnam war is one of the major features associated with our lack of attraction for families with young sons. I hope that this policy will alter very shortly and that these people will come to this country with the knowledge that young sons will not be sent to the war in Vietnam.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [11.16] - Senator Mulvihill referred to the particulars required of Australians who go to the United Kingdom. As the honourable senator will realise, different conditions apply according to whether a person is going to work in the United Kingdom or going as a visitor. 1 have not all the particulars but 1 shall get them and see that the honourable senator has them as soon as possible.
Senator Poyser referred to different expenditures in the United Kingdom and Sweden. The costs for local staff in the United Kingdom are borne by the Prime Minister’s Department vote. The large number of migrants from Britain reduces the per capita cost. The office in Sweden deals also with migrants from Norway, Finland and Iceland. He inquired also about improvements in migrant hostels. I have quite a lot of detailed information which I think will answer the points he has raised.
Since 1952 approximately $9m has been spent on improvements to dining room, kitchen, toilet and ablution buildings, laundries, residents’ “accommodation, recreation halls, child minding centres and hostel surrounds. Present and future plans provide, first, for new hostels. The one at Randwick is to cost $4,100,000 and tenders are to be called in January 1968. The other at Springvale is to cost $4,250,000 and tenders are to be called in March 1968. Each will provide accommodation for 1,000 people and will replace some of the existing hostel accommodation. These hostels will be of brick construction and of modern design. They will provide toilets and wash basins for individual families. Provision is being made also for extensions. Within the past 12 months modern accommodation blocks with beds for over 700 persons have been provided at hostels: at Wacol, Queensland, 200 beds; at Nunawading, Victoria, 200 beds; at Altona, Victoria, 35 beds; at Graylands, Western Australia, 265 beds. The total cost is approximately $841,000. New accommodation for 100 persons and a dining room annexe are to be provided at Graylands this financial year. A major programme to replace existing hostel accommodation on sites of secure tenure with modern brick structures incorporating private facilities has been commenced. Hostels to benefit first from this programme are at Villawood, New South Wales, 500 beds; East Hills, New South Wales, 150 beds; Maribyrnong, Victoria, 500 beds; Altona, Victoria, 50 beds; Wacol, Queensland, 150 beds. These works are estimated to cost $2,710,000, of which $1,670,000 will be spent in 1967-68. A programme of improvements was commenced this financial year in hostels located on sites not owned by the Commonwealth but which will continue in use for some considerable time. This programme provides for (a) improvements to toilet, ablution and laundry facilities, (b) the installation of new wash basins, (c) the construction of covered ways between living quarters and communal facilities, (d) the enlargement of main bedrooms. This programme of progressive and continued improvement in migrant accommodation will be supplemented by an experiment with self-contained migrant flats. I think the honourable senator asked about self-contained migrant flats, which are of an experimental nature, and to begin with will be available in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. It is planned that there will be 100 in Victoria, 100 in New South Wales, 50 in Western Australia and 50 in Tasmania. The negotiations for available land and the building of these flats are in progress at the moment.
Although I do not remember his actual words I think the honourable senator also asked whether rural areas would be considered in the future. 1 can say that later on, if there are requests of this kind they will be considered. The original plans are for an experimental stage and further consideration will be given as the need arises.
– The first matter I wish to raise concerns the provision for repatriation and deportation of migrants, the appropriation for which appears in sub-division 2 of Division 270 - Administrative. I notice that last year $159,898 was spent on repatriating and deporting migrants to their homelands. I would like to know whether a break-up of this figure is available so that we can see how much is attributable to the deportation of those who may have broken the law in some way, and how much to the repatriation of those who have been sent back for some other reason. In raising this matter I would like to thank the previous Minister for Immigration, Mr Opperman, for the consideration he showed on several occasions when I brought cases to him on compassionate grounds. On one occasion he allowed the repatriation of a family after the death of the breadwinner and on another occasion after the death of the mother. The health examination of migrants before they leave their homeland is another matter that must be considered in this connection. In one of the cases that I submitted to the Minister the woman who died had undergone a tumour operation a few months before leaving England. When she arrived here she was ill, and after a couple of months she died, leaving a family of three or four children under the age of 6 years. It was a very sad case. The Minister gave me the utmost co-operation in allowing the father to take the children back to his relatives in England. But my point is that this case would not have arisen if there had been a proper health check before the family left England.
I also have something to say concerning Division 286, which has to do with the migration office in Greece. There is a problem here similar to that which arose in connection with the arrival of young Italian women in 1955 when they came here to marry Italian migrants who had been here for some time previously. We all remember the bride ships arriving. For a time all went well, but then there were a number of disillusioned young women. Some were jilted by the men with whom they had been corresponding. They were more or less mail order brides, and in many cases either the bride or the groom just did not measure up. A similar situation could arise again under the recently concluded agreement under which Greek girls are being brought out. The scheme for assisted passages means that a girl can be brought out for only $84. Previously a young man who wanted to bring out his fiancee had to pay $400. With that amount of money at stake he might be a bit more concerned than if he were paying only $84. I remember one man who came to me and was quite disillusioned with his bride. He said: ‘She is quite a nice person but she is so tiny. I could have got a great big one for the same money.’ But that is by the way. The point I make is that these young girls who come out under this scheme in many cases have not met their fiances. A lot of doubt has been expressed about this scheme by the secretary of the Hellenic Migrant Welfare Centre, Mr Peter Ignalis, who said: 1 welcome the move in itself, but 1 feel there should be some safeguards to protect lnc girls if their fiances turn them down when they arrive in Australia. The girls cannot speak much English, they have no skills. If their husbands-to-be turn them down when they get here they will have no recourse but to go on the streets.
No member of this Senate would like to see such a thing happen, and I ask the Minister whether there is any safeguard available for these girls if they arrive here and for some reason the projected marriage does not take place. Is there any way in which they can be repatriated to Greece if they want to return? None of us would like to be held responsible for what might befall one of these girls if her marriage did not take place. I would like to see some provision to safeguard the welfare of these young women.
– 1 refer to Division 270, subdivision 2, item 11, Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration - Contribution to administrative budget. I notice there hasbeen a reduction from $195,865 to $166,000. From my discussions with the people in Austria I gathered that this activity reached a peak at the time of the Hungarian uprising and from there it started to subside. 1 know that this organisation was providing a few border hoppers from Czechoslovakia to Austria, and others were coming from other eastern European countries. I presume that the reduction in the numbers of these is the reason for the reduction in this contribution. But I cannot resist saying to the Minister that if we save $30,000 in this way we could save even more if we had a regular agreement with Yugoslavia and with other countries.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [11.28] - Senator Tangney expressed concern for girls who come here as potential brides and whose projected marriage falls through for some reason or other. There are in Sydney and Melbourne Greek-speaking welfare officers employed by the Department. One of their specific tasks is to ensure the continuing welfare of single female migrants. 1 presume that these officers would be the ones having special concern for girls who might find themselves in the plight envisaged by the honourable senator. I am very conscious of the honourable senator’s worry about these young women and I will be pleased to bring her comments to the notice of the Minister.
Senator Mulvihill commented on the reduction in the contribution to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. I am informed that the reduction is due to a sum in credit with ICEM which was carried forward from 1966-67.
-I refer to Division No. 270, subdivision 3, item 01, Hostel accommodation and associated services for migrants - Contribution to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. I have had a number of cases brought to my notice of migrants who have been accommodated in Commonwealth hostels in Adelaide and have been unable to obtain work in that State. In many cases families accommodated in hostels in Adelaide have had to be separated because the husband has had to leave Adelaide and go to Melbourne in search of employment.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
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 do not intend to detain the Senate for long. Tonight’s Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ carries the story of the crash of an F111 jet fighterbomber following a failure over Texas. Fortunately the crash did not involve any loss of life. In view of the huge Australian commitment involved in the purchase of this aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force - our order is for twenty-four of them at a cost which is not yet known - I believe that it is proper to ask the appropriate Minister, either Senator Gorton who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate or Senator McKellar who is the Minister representing the Minister for Air, whether he can give the Senate any information on the circumstances of the crash, such as whether it was caused by a structural or other defect in the aircraft itself. If he has not any such information, can we expect that the Government will urgently obtain a report from the General Dynamics Corporation and make a statement to the Senate next week?
– I have no information on this matter other than what was contained in the newspaper report this afternoon. I understand that the aircraft was on a test flight. I assure Senator Cohen that if it is possible for us to obtain some information by early next week we will do so and pass it on to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19671020_senate_26_s36/>.