26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Senate met at 2 p.m.
The Acting Clerk - I have to announce that because of absence overseas the President, Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin, is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate this day. In accordance with standing order 29 the Chairman of Committees, Senator Drake-Brockman, will take the Chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave < - agreed to:
That during the absence of the President, the Chairman of Committees shall on each sitting day take the Chair of the Senate as Deputy President and may during such absence perform the duties and exercise the authority of the President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate and to proceedings of standing and joint statutory committees to which the President is appointed.
– by leave - On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and for the convenience of honourable senators, I wish to make a statement in relation to ministerial arrangements. I desire to inform the Senate that the Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar, left for overseas on Saturday, 30th August, to lead the Australian delegation to the Fifteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago. Senator McKellar will be absent from Australia until 25th October. During this period the Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Swartz, will act as Minister for Repatriation. Senator McKellar’s absence will necessitate some changes in the ministerial representation in the Senate. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, the Minister for Housing, will represent the Acting Minister for Repatriation. Senator Scott, the Minister for Customs and Excise, will represent the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). Senator Wright, the Minister for Works, will represent the Minister for the
Navy (Mr Kelly), the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin).
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer to the announcement that the Department of Customs and Excise intends to use a dog trained to detect the presence of drugs. Will the dog be used on board overseas ships? If so, what precautions will be taken to ensure that it does not become a carrier of exotic diseases either through contact with ships’ garbage or with other animals carried on board ships?
– At present the dog is still being trained. It is not expected that the dog will commence operational duty until about the end of October or early November, and then only if it continues its present rate of progress during training. The use of dogs on board ships is a matter for the people concerned. I assure the honourable senator that precautions will be taken to ensure that the dogs are not exposed to exotic diseases that might affect people or stock in this country.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Can the Minister give the Senate any information concerning the Brown brothers, who sought to emigrate to Australia? Is it a fact that, because one of the brothers originated from Mauritius, Australia House officials denied him access to Australia?
– I have seen a reference to the matter which the honourable senator has raised. I know that the matter has been drawn to the attention of the Minister for Immigration, who is having inquiries made. I cannot give the honourable senator any further details at this point of time. When I have any information I will advise him accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the use of Canberra bombers has been restricted by the Department of Defence due to possible structural defects?
– It is true that some cracks were found in the tail plane of a Canberra bomber during a routine inspection. A modification programme is already in progress to replace the unserviceable parts. This programme will involve a reduction in the flying hours of the Canberra aircraft in Vietnam for a period of approximately 1 month and for about 2 months for the Canberra bombers at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. 1 refer to a question which I placed on notice on 19th August last concerning the Cressy-Longford irrigation scheme in Tasmania. Can the Minister indicate when legislation will be introduced to enable this scheme to proceed and the $750,000 of Commonwealth moneys to be made available to Tasmania?
– I advise the honourable senator that a Bill will be introduced into (he other place today authorising the expenditure by the Commonwealth of $750,000 on the Cressy-Longford irrigation scheme. A referendum was conducted amongst the farmers in the area and fiftytwo of the sixty-three farmers voted in favour of the scheme. It is interesting to note that of the eleven farmers who voted against the scheme at least three would not be served by the scheme. 1 would think that when the enabling legislation is passed by the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments construction will commence. I feel that the scheme will be a great boon to the irrigators in this part of Tasmania.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. As a result of the Government’s policies wheat growers will be forced to diversify their interests. As clover has been developed to grow throughout the wheat areas of Western Australia and as this will further spread the problem of clover disease, will the Minister advise the Senate of the steps contemplated to investigate this problem immediately and on a worth while scale? Why has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation not undertaken this research in Western Australia on a large front?
– I shall have to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister in order to obtain accurate information on that subject.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, lt relates to the number of holidays granted to Commonwealth public servants in South Australia. Proclamation Day is a special holiday in South Australia and normally falls on Monday, 29th December. South Australia also recognises Boxing Day on Monday, 29th December, and this is traditional. To avoid having 2 holidays on the one day, the State Government has decided to proclaim Friday, 26th December, as Proclamation Day which will be the same day as the Boxing Day holiday in other States. The Minister for Labour and Industry in South Australia has negotiated an additional holiday for employees working under Federal awards who would otherwise have been deprived of a holiday by this action. However, Commonwealth public servants have not received this benefit. In other States-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! I think the honourable senator should ask his question.
– Will the Government take action to grant a special holiday to Commonwealth public servants on 29th December 1969 so that they will not be deprived of this particular holiday and so that their position will not be downgraded compared with their counterparts in other States?
– As is known, matters relating to Commonwealth public servants first of all are dealt with by the Public Service Board which then makes recommendations to the Prime Minister. I shall certainly refer to the Prime Minister the points raised by the honourable senator in his question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister seen reports of the statement by the SecretaryGeneral of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, Lieutenant-General Vargas, in which he warned SEATO member countries of the dangers of the Soviet proposal for a regional security arrangement in the Asian area? Would not the Minister agree that the Secretary-General’s warnings contrast most vividly with the different attitude adopted by Australia’s Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth? Which department is responsible for the distribution of SEATO Press material in Australia? Is it the Department of Defence or the Department of External Affairs? Why were copies of this important speech not made available by the Australian Government to members of the Canberra Press Gallery? Did the Government want to play down this speech, knowing that it contradicted the Australian Government’s earlier foolish utterances on this subject?
– I am not aware of the procedure with relation to the distribution of SEATO Press reports or statements made by SEATO representatives. I shall find out and let the honourable senator know. As to the first part of his question in which he asks me, as Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, to comment on a statement that was made by Lieutenant-General Vargas, I think the honourable senator would be the first to recognise that it would not be appropriate for me to make any comment. In any event, at the second level, one would need to have the full text of what LieutenantGeneral Vargas said before presuming to make comment or pronounce judgment. I suggest therefore that the question should go on notice to the Minister for External Affairs, who no doubt will provide a reply for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works. It relates to construction work for jet aircraft at Tullamarine Airport. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the exact reason for any current delay in the works programme at the Tullamarine Airport? Is there any vestige of truth in the rumour that delays in the completion of the programme of work have in any way been directed from Canberra? Are contractors to the Government being given every assistance in the completion of their tasks, particularly in the field of payment for work completed? Will the Minister assure the Senate that he will direct his Department to see that works proceed at Tullamarine without undue delay?
– There is no need for me to give an assurance such as is asked for by my colleague, Senator Webster. I have assured the Senate at all times that the Department of Works gives the utmost energy and attention to the construction of the Tullamarine Airport. As to the criticism which has evoked that question, it arises out of an essential but comparatively minor item relating to the Customs House and the incinerator. It is to be recalled that the runways, the hard standing areas and the taxiways of this airport have been completed since December 1967. The planning of the terminal was delayed somewhat, but it will be remembered that the interval between the planning of the runways and the planning of the terminal coincided with the time when the bus jet was adumbrated. Work on the terminal began in November 1966; the international section of it will be ready for opening in May 1970 and the domestic terminal will be ready a year later.
With regard to the suggestion that there has been undue delay, there has been some delay due to the fact that a reframing of the specification in the original tender was required and a reinvitation to tender was necessary. Also there were industrial disputes which involved a 5 weeks total suspension of work on the whole programme and a considerable undermanning of the construction work for another period of upwards of a year. It would be satisfactory if I told the Senate that in both Sydney and Tullamarine the Department of Works has achieved an expenditure rate of $800,000 to Sim a month. I should like the Senate to know that those rates of construction are at least ten to twenty times faster than anything achieved on airports in Australia in the past and together are equivalent to completing a project of the size of the Melbourne airport terminal or the new terminal at Canberra once every week.
– I rise to order. I refer to standing order 363 and ask the Minister to table the document from which he has been quoting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - A request has been made to table the document.
– Speaking to the point of order,I understand that the standing order refers only to debates - not to question time.
– I am quite happy to table the document. However, I would ask the Senate to understand that the document that I have in my hand is the departmental minute from my Director-General. I should not think that it was in accordance with the practice of the Senate to require a document to which 1 make reference simply for the purpose of accuracy to be tabled in the Senate.
– Well, why tell the honourable senator to ask the question?
– I did not.
– Someone did.
– I did not tell the honourable senator to ask the question. Senator Hendrickson imputes to me a very low degree of intelligence if he suggests that after the newspaper controversy on this subject I would not immediately take steps to inform myself fully and adequately of the whole circumstances surrounding the Tullamarine situation.
– In addressing a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General I refer to a half hour television film on the subject of pre-natal training entitled ‘Don’t Cry Baby’ made by Sydney television Channel 10 in conjunction with the Childbirth Education Association of New South Wales and due to be shown on television Channel 10 in Sydney tonight at 10 p.m. as part of a programme known as ‘News Beat’.Is it correct that although this film was approved by responsible officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has refused permission for the film to be shown unless scenes depicting the birth of a child, integral to the purpose of the film, are deleted? If so, why did the Board censor this film which was made for a serious educational purpose and intended for showing outside those times when anyone’s small daughter is likely to be watching television?
– Firstly, I cannot tell the honourable senator whether this film was viewed by the Department of Health; butI take his word on that point. I believe that the film is to be cut or has been cut and that it was viewed by the full Broadcasting Control Board, which made this decision. I inform the Senate that the determination of programme standards is the Board’s responsibility and it has accepted that responsibility.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science seen a statement by Professor Badger, the V ice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, to the effect that he was concerned at some of the Australian Universities Commission’s recommendations? Does the Minister agree with the Vice-Chancellor’s statement that the quality and quantity of teaching would become worse as a result of these recommendations? Can the Minister say whether the grants recommended will be sufficient to improve the teaching facilities and whether adequate provision is being made to take care of increases in student numbers, costs and wages?
– I wish to inform the honourable senator that I have seen the article which has been referred to as a statement from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide. I wish to say that the Vice-Chancellor has been very selective in the figures he has chosen to use in the Australian’. How the university will distribute its own funds is a matter for the university; but it appears that by making some savings in 1969 and incorporating them with the figures that will be the subject of our grant in 1970 the Vice-Chancellor has shown an apparent paucity of money available for his teaching services. However, the
Senate and the public should know that from all sources the University of Adelaide has received $28,370,000 in the 1967-69 triennium and in the 1970-72 triennium the figure will be $33,270,000 - an increase of 17%. Let me add that the University of Adelaide will also receive in the 1970-72 triennium $6m in the form of capital grants, as against S3m in the previous triennium. If the university takes reasonable care with the funds that it has in hand and those that have been allotted to it, it is not reasonable to suggest that the teaching facilities will be impaired.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport indicate what stage has been reached in the discussions between the Australian National Line and the consortia operating the container service from the United Kingdom to Australia concerning the provision of a container service to Tasmania? Would it be correct to say that the responsibility for not including Tasmania in the service to date belongs to the Commonwealth Government itself? Is it not correct to say that the additional cost of freighting from Tasmania to the key port would be absorbed in the overall freights between Australia and the UK and would have little bearing on the economics of the overall position?
– I understand that the Australian National Line has quoted to the container consortia the charges it proposes to make for the provision of container and feeder services to and from Tasmania and that it is seeking from the consortia an updated projection of the cargo flow for this State. The statement made by the honourable senator in his question is not correct. From the inception of container operations the consortia has made it clear that it intends extending feeder services when it is economically feasible to do so. The Australia-Europe Conference and the Australia-Europe Shippers Association currently are discussing the subject of centralising cargoes from Tasmania. The Government has been advised that container feeder services from Tasmania will be provided during the first half of 1970. The methods and costs to be applied for the provisioning of feeder services or containerisation of cargo in Australia is only one element in the negotiations between the shippers and transport operators concerned. It has always been the custom to have uniform concession freight rates applied to conference shipments between Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom. The Government supports this practice and expects that it will continue to apply with shipments of containerised cargo.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the Australian quota for meat shipments to the United States of America is almost exhausted, thus prohibiting further shipments to that country until mid-November? In view of the very high prices of meat in the United States and the difficulties experienced by Australian exporters in finding alternative markets, will the Minister as a matter of urgency negotiate with the US Secretary of Agriculture to obtain figures for the 1969 shipments in conformity with the legislation so that Australia will retain its present percentage share of this market and thus increase Australia’s shipments by approximately 1 1 ,000 tons for this year?
– The Government is aware of the problems of the meat industry and in particular of related industries regarding the export of meat to the United States, which is an excellent market for beef. With this in mind the Government has sent to America two Meat Board members and they will be advising the Government as early as possible on the best steps to be taken to secure an expanded market for boneless beef in the United States in the near future. They will no doubt be discussing the problems of the meat industry with the responsible administration in the United States.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen reports of a statement made yesterday by the former Vice-president of the United States of America, Mr Hubert Humphrey, calling on the United States to withdraw its troops from Vietnam promptly and systematically. In view of such statements by eminent Americans such as Mr Humphrey and of the fact that President Nixon is apparently contemplating the withdrawal of more United States troops in the near future, is it not time for the Australian Government to start the same process with our own forces, or are we to be the last combatant country to face up to the facts?
– In the first place, I have not had the advantage of seeing the Press report of what former Vice-President Humphrey had to say. It certainly would not be a complete text of his statements. In the second place, the honourable senator has asked me to give at question time a statement on policy. Of course, question time does not lend itself to answering questions on policy and I do not propose to attempt to answer questions of that nature.
– My question is directed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. Is expenditure by overseas tourists in Australia equal to or more than that of Australian tourists travelling overseas? What is the difference? Is the Australian Government considering any measures to reverse the discrepancy so that the balance may be in Australia’s favour?
– The figures, according to my recollection, are that our income from international visitors was $101m for the calendar year 1968, and the outgoing reckoned to be expended by Australians overseas was of the order of $142m in that period. I cannot be completely definite about the last figure. The Government is taking very active steps, I can assure the honourable senator, in an endeavour to redress this imbalance. The matter is under active consideration at the present time.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Defence is probably aware that after many months of negotiations I have now been given permission to visit the Pine Gap facility. I ask the Minister whether this can be interpreted to mean that the facility will now be opened for inspection by all parliamentarians. If not, what procedures will be required before such permission is granted for those visits? Will permission also be extended to visits to all similar facilities in Australia?
– I am not aware of the conditions under which Senator Keeffe has been given permission to inspect the Pine Gap establishment. I suggest that he conduct his inspection and then come back here and ask his questions, if he still wants to ask them. I am quite certain that once he has made the inspection he will, as an Australian senator and no doubt as a good Australian, be satisfied thai what is done there is in the best interests of Australia.
– Can the Lender of the Government in the Senate give the Senate any further information on the recent arrest and detention of a foreign fishing vessel in northern Australian waters?
– No, but I will seek the information and make it available when I get it.
– I ask thu Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that John Lysaght (Australia) Ltd, a subsidiary of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, has increased the price of farm silos by 7 per cent as from Monday of this week? Is it also a fact that farmers are being urged to install silos on their properties to store over-quota wheat? Did Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and/or its subsidiary companies increase the price of steel posts immediately following the disastrous bush fires in Victoria last year so that farmers were compelled to pay increased prices to re-fence their properties? Does this mean that BHP is prepared to cash in on the adversities suffered by farmers to increase its already huge profits?
– 1 read in a report of the Chairman of Directors of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd that it recognised that owing to the increased wages payable in respect of its steel production it was not making the profits made by other companies in proportion to capital invested.
– What about a profit of something like $15m?
– But you must have regard to the investment of about SI. 500m. The company attributes the increased prices the honourable senator has mentioned to increased wages and costs. If, as the honourable senator has suggested, there is an increase in the cost of constructing silos I would say that one of the reasons for this would be the increased cost of the steel framework. It has been stated in many Press articles throughout Australia that because of the advent of drought there is a need for all farmers to endeavour to put themselves into a position where they can conserve more fodder. I think we all would go along with that. However, I do not go along with the proposition that in the face of increasing wages and costs manufacturers can keep down their prices.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen the report in the South Australian ‘Advertiser’ of 4th September to the effect that a meeting of irrigators from the three States of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales voted unanimously in favour of the building of the Dartmouth dam on the Mitta Mitta River? ls the Minister aware that this resolution was moved by Mr Rowlands, the South Australian delegate to the meeting, who represents the South Australian River Murray Irrigators Association?
– I have seen the article referred to by the honourable senator and the statement made by the chairman of the meeting, Mr Bob Piesse, that the decision of the Interstate Murray Irrigators Association was a complete breakthrough as far as the irrigation of the area in the three States is concerned. It is a breakthrough because for many weeks past the Opposition, for political reasons, has stated repeatedly that the only dam which would be satisfactory to South Australia was the Chowilla dam. By their interjections now I gather that Opposition senators still hold that view. However, the irrigators, who represent about 70% of the farmers living on the irrigated areas in the three States, are all for the development of the Dartmouth scheme, knowing full well not only that the Dartmouth scheme will give them more and better water but also that an adequate supply of water will be made available to South Australia. They also know full well that the people living in the metropolitan area of South Australia, as well as the irrigators themselves will receive an additional 0.254 million acre feet of water a year. I think that the decision of the irrigators is a great credit to them because for months they have been fed on the propaganda that they must go for the Chowilla dam. The Opposition has used this propaganda solely for political purposes.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport been directed to the contents of the publication ‘Australian Driving Manual’ which has been produced by the Australian Automobile Association? As the publication could be of assistance to prospective automobile owners will the Minister consider supplying to secondary school pupils in Australia a copy of the publication in an endeavour to reduce the incidence of fatalities on Australian roads?
– I think everyone in the Senate, and certainly in the Government, is conscious of the fact that the number of fatal accidents associated with the use of motor vehicles in Australia is increasing every year and has now reached major proportions. I read a part of this article. I shall look at it again and if it is as described by the honourable senator, as I have no doubt it is, I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Shipping and Transport with a view to having the honourable senator’s request acceded to.
– Has the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities seen a statement that at the annual conference of the American Society of Travel Agents in Tokyo this year, which 3,500 of the top selling travel agents of the world will attend, the Australian Tourist Mission proposes to present as an impression of this country saveloys, meat pies, tomato sauce, didgeroos and a parody of Waltzing Matilda? Does the Minister consider this to be a proper presentation of the life of the people of this country? Does he not think that it is a very poor type of publicity for the very great features of international tourist appeal which this country possesses?
– The honourable senator refers to a very important conference of travel agents now taking place in Tokyo at which the General Manager of the Australian Tourist Commission is present. Merely by a coincidence I was advised that the Commission’s representatives were to offer some entertainment to that company, and merely by coincidence I read the report through and saw that it referred not merely to Australian meat pies but also to Sydney oysters. I forget the quantity but it quite attracted my attention. I leave entirely to the most diligent and experienced Mr Vesper, the Manager of the Tokyo office, and to Mr Atkinson, the General Manager of the Commission, the prescribing of the programme of appropriate entertainment and the menu, ft is not my ministerial function-.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Now that John Zarb has been released, will the Minister inform the Senate that there is still one young man imprisoned for similar reasons? I ask: What is his name? Where is he imprisoned? Will the Government extend to him the clemency that it belatedly extended to John Zarb?
– I am sure that everybody would recognise in the question the utmost confusion of thought. The Government has obligations under the legislation of the Parliament to enforce the National Service Act. John Zarb was undergoing imprisonment; his family became the victims of circumstances attracting the utmost compassion and on the recommendation of the Minister the Governor-General ordered his release. As to any other individual undergoing imprisonment for breach of the National Service Act, I shall ascertain his identity and inform the honourable senator, but until Senator Georges makes out a case for compassion there is no similarity whatsoever in my judgment between the case of any other individual and that of John Zarb.
– My question Ls directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and refers to his answer to Senator Young’s question about Chowilla and Dartmouth dams. At the same time as the Minister read the information that he gave about the acting delegate to the conference held by the Interstate Murray Irrigators Association, did he also read that that delegate was discredited by representatives of the Association, including Mr Barrett and Mr Stott, the Speaker of the South Australian Parliament, and that the delegate was instructed to vote for the Chowilla project?
– I did not read what the honourable senator has referred to but from the views expressed by a large number of people in the area involved it would seem that the propaganda used by the honourable senators and others has not borne the fruit that they expected it to bear.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware of the concern expressed by some residents of the Canberra suburb of Aranda that the extension of Caswell Drive through the Black Mountain reserve will be a factor in destroying a colony of kangaroos residing in this area and will create a traffic hazard? What is being done to save these kangaroos from being liquidated by vehicular traffic?
– I am aware that the extension of Caswell Drive poses a threat of danger to kangaroos in the area. I advise the honourable senator that a sign informing drivers of potential danger will be erected there. This sign will be somewhat similar to the one erected on Belconnen Way. No doubt the honourable senator knows that this sign depicts a kangaroo so that people driving along Belconnen Way will take care to avoid kangaroos.
– Has the
Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen a statement attributed to the former Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, Sir William Hudson, that the team to be retained by the proposed new Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation merely to provide engineering consulting services is by no means the hard core of the Snowy Mountains Authority? Is it proposed that now private consulting engineers will have a say in what projects the Corporation will be able to undertake? Will the Minister agree that the Snowy Mountains Authority is by far the most efficient construction authority existing in Australia today and that, if it were retained in its present framework, it could do much more than any other organisation to develop Australia’s water resources effectively and efficiently? Why is the Government determined to break up this great national authority?
– I agree with the honourable senator’s statement that the Snowy Mountains Authority was a great and efficient authority in the work that it did. But the honourable senator must be completely unaware of State rights in these matters. It has become abundantly clear to the Commonwealth that the States wish to do their own construction on their own waters within their own boundaries. Therefore we as a government have decided to keep the nucleus of this authority to advise people who wished to be advised on certain developments. I inform the honourable senator that the services of the Corporation will be available not only in Australia but also to countries in South East Asia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will the Minister ask his colleague to call for a feasibility survey by the Australian National Line with a view to enlarging its activities to provide an air cushion vessel to operate between Victoria and Tasmania via Flinders Island? Will he also urge upon the Minister for Shipping and Transport the desirability of having such a vessel built in Tasmania, so encouraging that State’s segment of the shipbuilding industry?
– The honourable senator knows full well that the Australian National Line is providing a wonderful service in the carriage of cargo and passengers between the ports of Australia and that it will be also entering into the overseas shipping business. The honourable senator wants the Minister to examine the possibility of constructing an air cushion vessel to operate between the mainland and Tasmania via Flinders Island. I ask him to place that part of his question on notice and 1 will obtain an answer for him from the Minister.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. 1 ask: Has the Minister received correspondence from the Commercial Apiarists Association of South Australia protesting about the operations of the Australian Honey Board and requesting a poll of beekeepers on whether the Australian Honey Board is desired by the honey producers? Will the Minister grant such a request?
– I have read about the matter that the honourable senator has raised. In order to obtain a proper answer for him, J ask him to place his question on notice and I will inquire of the Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Treasurer in this chamber. Is it a fact that Commonwealth public servants may have deducted from their fortnightly pay such things as medical and hospital benefit contributions and life assurance premiums but that at present payments to credit unions are not deductible? If so, will the Leader of the Government inquire from his colleague as to why this cannot be done?
– I know that certain authorised deductions may be made. I understand that medical and hospital benefit contributions and certain life assurance deductions can be made. I was under the impression that deductions could be made where the credit union is within the framework of a department. I may be misinformed on that aspect. I shall obtain the complete facts and provide the honourable senator with an answer tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. I refer to the exclusion of representatives of the Papua-New Guinea Post-Courier’ from the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea for the remainder of its present sittings. The newspaper is widely distributed throughout Australia. The ban on the ‘PostCourier’ is because of its publication of a critical statement made in Australia by Mr Albert Maori Kiki, although the newspaper defended the House of Assembly and described the statement as being extremist. Is it true that members appointed by the Administration voted for this ban? If so, will the Minister ascertain for the information of the Senate how the Government justifies its participation, through those members, in the banning of the Territory’s major newspaper, especially at a time of worsening relations between the Administration and the people when it is imperative that the traditional freedom of the Press be preserved?
– The Leader of the Opposition should recognise that he is referring to a decision of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea. I am sure that the Assembly is jealous of its right to control its own affairs, as is every other House of Parliament. I shall ascertain for him how the members appointed by the Administration voted, but I abstain from any reference to his subsequent remarks.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Is it not true that under Federal law a young man was sentenced to imprisonment for a non-parole period of 3 years for strangling and mutilating a girl? Is it not true also that another young man was sentenced to a non-parole period of 2 years for refusing to kill? I ask the Minister: Is there not ground for compassion here?
– There is obviously some strain of unreason here.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science: How many senior high schools in Western Australia other than Bunbury will not have a Commonwealth subsidised science block by 1970-71? Why is the Bunbury senior high school not eligible for Commonwealth subsidy for a science block? How many non-government high schools in Western Australia have two science blocks?
– The question is obviously one of statistical reference. I shall take the earliest opportunity of providing an answer to the honourable senator.
– I inform the Minister for Customs and Excise that recently I attended the Wayside Chapel at Kings Cross where I was made aware of the fact that 65 per cent of drug addiction in Australia can be traced to drugs or drug derivatives manufactured in Australia by Australian chemists. If the Minister agrees that this is so, what is the Government doing about it?
– I am sorry I have not read the statement from which the honourable senator gets his question. There is no doubt that a certain number of drugs are manufactured in Australia. The manufacture of drugs by chemists, of course, is completely under the control and jurisdiction of the State governments and police forces. I am not casting any reflection on what the State governments are doing. The Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, has set up an organisation under the chairmanship of the Comptroller-General of Customs and including authorities from the Commonwealth and each of the States to study the best methods of handling the whole problem of drugs in Australia, both imported and Australian made drugs. That study is going on now.
– I refer to the previous statement of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence that, with a view to offsetting redundancy in the Australian aircraft industry, an examination was being made of a possible new trainer aircraft. I also refer to the current statement by the Minister for Defence about this aircraft and also about a possible share in the production of a French aircraft. What, if any, positive steps are being taken in relation to these two possible projects?
– In his speech on the Budget, the Minister for Defence did indicate that a study was currently taking place both of the possible manufacture of an advanced trainer and of another aircraft. That study is proceeding in collaboration with certain overseas interests. I very much regret that at this point of time I cannot add much to what has been said beyond giving the honourable senator an assurance that these matters are currently under very active consideration and I hope, as I know the Minister for Defence hopes, to be able to make a statement in relation to them very soon. I am sure that the Senate and Senator Bishop in particular appreciate that when dealing with a situation in which possibly other countries are interested in building under licence, one cannot make statements outside the climate of negotiations which may be taking place. I assure the Senate, and particularly Senator Bishop who has always displayed a very real interest in this matter, as some other honourable senators have done, that as soon as I am able to make a comprehensive statement on the matter I shall do so.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In view of the fact that question No. 1448 was placed on the notice paper on 21st August; that it is a question which could be answered without notice by reference to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and that it implies serious allegations against the Attorney-General’s Department, will the Minister endeavour to clear this matter up by giving me an answer to the question?
– in order to remove the sinister implications in the honourable senator’s question I give the following reply. The Senate will be reminded that the original question was in these terms:
Was there any evidence in the possession of the Attorney-General which would indicate that Mr G. Pratt had conveyed unauthorised information to the Newton Press and which was not presented to the committal magistrate; if so, why was such evidence not submitted.
I wish to inform the honourable senator that I transmitted the question to the Attorney-General and, as late as yesterday, sent a reminder. I repeat my promise tha) at the earliest opportunity an answer will be provided by the Attorney-General.
– Mr Deputy President, I suggest that as the proceedings of the Senate are not being broadcast further questions might be kept until tomorrow or put on notice. This would help to facilitate the business of the Senate.
(Question No. 1128)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There ls no known contractor with the name Philadelphia Specialist Oil Explorations’ carrying out surveys in the Barrier Reef area.
Fill AIRCRAFT (Question No. 1297)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– -The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1320)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
When a European migrant applicant is rejected for health reasons is he told the nature of the illness which is the cause of his rejection.
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Not necessarily, though this will depend upon the circumstances of the individual case. Some rejections on medical grounds, for example, provide for review at a subsequent date subject to certain treatment being undertaken in the meantime. In such cases, the medical condition needs to be identified.
Furthermore if an applicant’s own doctor requests information this would be given to the doctor. As a general rule, however, the nature of the particular illness would not be identified when a migrant is informed by letter of his rejection.
(Question No. 1348)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Are separate television receiver licences required where an individual owns more than one television set, and the sets are loc’ated at different addresses.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. A separate television viewer’s licence is required in respect of each television receiver owned by one person if the receivers are ordinarily kept at separate addresses.
(Question No. 1354)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
Have two VIP Viscount 800’s been declared surplus and offered for sale; if so, have the aircraft been disposed of and what was the price obtained for each.
– The Minister for Air has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The two aircraft have been declared surplus and Department of Supply has issued tender schedules closing 11th September 1969 covering sale of the aircraft.
(Question No. 1358)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Will former age and invalid pensioners, who have forfeited their pensions because of a change in family financial circumstances, have their medical entitlement cards restored under the adjusted provisions for payment of social services, as set out in the 1969-70 Budget.
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
When the proposed increases in social services benefits become law the pensioner medical service will be available to a single pensioner with means as assessed up to $1,300 and to a married pensioner couple with combined means as assessed up to $2,262. These limits will apply equally to former pensioners and persons granted pensions for the firsttime.
(Question No. 1383)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1387)
asked the Minister for
Customs and Excise, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1393)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1397)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the total amount of interest collected on advances from the Rural Credit Section during the financial year ended 30th June 1969.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has advised that the total amount of interest collected on advances from the Rural Credits Department of the Bank during the financial year ended 30th June 1969 was approximately $15m.
(Question No. 1401)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not possible to say just how Australia’s contributions to the various multilateral aid programmes over this period were distributed because they have been pooled with contributions from numerous other countries. Details of the amounts of aid provided to individual developing countries (apart from Papua and New Guinea) under Australia’s bilateral aid programmes, which, with the exception of the Commonwealth Co-operation in Education Scheme, are all administered by the Department of External Affairs, are set out in the Annual Reports to Parliament by that Department.
(Question No. 1439)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many port incinerators have been constructed in Queensland, and what proportion of the cost of the incinerators has been paid by the Commonwealth Government.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Contracts have been let by the Queensland authorities, and construction has commenced, in respect of Incinerators at the ports of Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Gladstone and Thursday Island.
The Commonwealth has agreed to reimburse all of the costs which will be incurred in construction of these incinerators.
Additionally, the Queensland Government is currently preparing, for Commonwealth consideration, revised proposals in respect of construction of incinerators at the ports ofBowen, Mourilyan, Bundaberg, Port Alma, Weipa, Lucinda Point, Urangan and Mackay.
(Question No. 1447)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
Was an order for missiles, plus spares, for use by the Australian Navy, placed with American manufacturers and subsequently cancelled; if so, on what date was the order cancelled and what was the total loss to the Australian Government.
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There has been no instance of an order having been placed on American manufacturers for missiles and spares for use by the Royal Australian Navy being subsequently cancelled.
(Question No. 1457)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
In regard to discussions taking place between Australia and the Soviet Union, who are the persons conducting the discussions, on each side, and what are the subjects under discussion.
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As I said in my statement on international affairs in the House of Representatives on 14th August, the Australian and USSR Governments have been in contact both in Canberra and Moscow on matters of bilateral interest and also in discussing wider issues. This has been done in the normal way for countries that have exchanged diplomatic representatives. For example, in Canberra the Ambassador of the USSR has talked to me from time to time, and also with officers of the Department of External Affairs. The Australian Ambassador in Moscow and members of his staff have talked as appropriate in the course of normal diplomatic contact with persons in the Government and administration of the Soviet Union. I have nothing further to add to what I said in my statement in the House.
(Question No. 1462)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Fill AIRCRAFT (Question No. 1298)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Fill AIRCRAFT (Question No. 1306)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1319)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1330)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Fair in 1969 was held from 14th June to 23rd August and was associated with the commemoration of the 442nd anniversary of Djakarta City.
(Question No. 1337)
Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Since the Government first decided to purchase the F111 aircraft, how many press statements have been issued by Ministers for Defence in defence of the decision to acquire the aircraft.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Putting aside the various interpretations to which the honourable senator’s question lends itself, it would seem that the effort that would be involved in providing the information sought would be disproportionate to its value.
(Question No. 1361)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1366)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide information to the Senate as to:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1409)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The principal reasons for this decision were:
the whole question of assistance to the Shipbuilding Industry was to be reviewed by the Tariff Board in 1969.
Apart from this ship,the Australian National Line has taken no steps to place shipbuilding orders in Japan.
The negotiations to establish a shipbuilding industry in Tasmania were conducted between the Government of Tasmania and the Verolme United Shipyards. I am not aware that the Government of Tasmania is to re-open negotiations but, as well as the Verolme Company and any other interested person, it will have the opportunity of tendering evidence before the Tariff Board should it desire during the enquiry on shipbuilding which is expected to commence on 15th September 1969.
(Question No. 1422)
SenatorMILVIHILL asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1425)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1443)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1449)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1450)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– I present the text of an international treaty, namely, Convention No. 122 concerning employment policy, adopted by the International Labour Conference at its forty-eighth session on 17th June 1964. For the information of honourable senators I indicate that the law and practice in both Commonwealth and State jurisdictions in Australia are in accord with the provisions of this Convention. The Government intends to lodge the instrument of ratification of this Convention with the Director-General of the International Labor Office as soon as practicable.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Meat Industry Bill 1969
Coral Sea Islands Bill 1969
Loan (Housing) Bill 1969
Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Bill1969
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1969.
– by leave - On 20th August I informed the Senate of the intention to hold the general election on
Saturday, 25th October 1969. His Excellency the Governor-General has now indicated that pursuant to section 15 of the Constitution and in accordance with the law of the State concerned the Governor of Victoria and the Governor of South Australia have agreed that elections to fili casual vacancies in the Senate in those States will also be held on 25th October. The date recommended to his Excellency the Governor-General for the return of writs for the general election for the House of Representatives is 24th November 1969. Advice has been received from his Excellency that this date has also been adopted by the Governors as the date for the return of writs following the elections tofill the two casual vacancies in the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill, the Pyrites Bounty Bill, the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill, the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Bill, the Urea Bounty Bill and the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill be put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of the said Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Debate resumed from 28 th August (vide pages 453, 454, 455 and 456) on motions by Senator Scott:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– These six Bills are to be dealt with together at the second reading stage. It is noted that in five instances the operation of the relevant legislation is being extended because the Tariff Board is now inquiring into the chemical industries. Provision is made in the Bills for the period of operation of the bounty to be less than the extended period of 6 months if the Tariff Board’s report comes down at an earlier time. It is proposed to extend the operation of the phosphate fertilisers bounty to 1971. I want to direct some attention to the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Bill. I note from a Press statement made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) on 14th August 1969 that the procedure with respect to the payment of bounties has now been changed. In that statement the Minister said:
The subsidy will be paid on all nitrogenous fertiliser produced locally. The Government has also decided that imported fertiliser is to be eligible for subsidy only if the price of the locally manufactured fertiliser is higher than the price of non-dumped imports.
This means that we will pay a bounty on fertiliser imported into Australia under the condition laid down by the Minister - that the non-dumped price is lower than the price of locally manufactured fertiliser. This is a change in the principle governing the payment of subsidies. It is true to say that nitrogenous fertilisers have been a very great help to the agricultural industries throughout Australia and that their use of them has resulted in greatly increased production in practically all the rural industries. There are added side effects of the use of nitrogenous fertilisers, because in the main they are used for the production of clover. I do not think that this country could continue to exist without the amount of clover that is grown today. Clover certainly has increased the production of meat in Australia, and meat seems to be the only commodity for which we have a market, even though we are up against strong lobbying in the United States of America in our efforts to sell on that market. However, the meat industry is still very profitable. In fact, it is one of the few profitable industries in the rural sector today. Clover produces its own nitrogen. Although we continue to subsidise manufactured nitrogen for the purpose of improving pastures nothing is done about the production of natural nitrogen from clover seed or legume seed.
I now want to put a case for a bounty to be paid on legume seeds. When I refer to legume seeds I mean the clovers and medics - the small seeds. The payment of a subsidy on legume seeds could have many advantages. By lowering the cost, it could encourage higher seeding rates and earlier establishment of pastures, thus producing greater returns per acre of meat, wool and grain for less cost. It would give equality to the user of legumes, who by this means produces natural nitrogen for crop or pasture, with those who use artificial nitrogen, which is subsidised. A subsidy would encourage re-establishment of existing pastures with introduction of new improved varieties developed by the plant breeder and researcher. It would assist new land developers and extend pasture development in temperate and tropical areas by reducing costs and creating quickly a more stable agriculture.
A farmer using credit for development has incentive to cash crop, not because it is necessarily better to do so, but because it means faster income. For example, the use of pasture legumes in areas like Esperance and the Ninety Mile Desert has converted waste lands into highly productive farming areas. Despite these achievements there is still enormous scope for more and better pasture improvement in Australia. Such a subsidy might overcome the tendency caused in recent seasons by the availability of cheap subsidised nitrogen fertiliser. Over-emphasis on cash cropping could cause a dangerous dependence on a single product such as wheat. The payment of the subsidy could lead to less soil erosion and soil fertility depletion. The main advantages of pasture improvement as a basis for rotation systems are: Improved soil structure and fertility; the prevention or reduction of weed invasion such as skeleton weed and double gee: the reduction of erosion by water and wind; improved soil hygiene by the suppression or control of soil borne plant diseases, such as take-all. During the cropping phase of the rotation, the soil nitrogen supply from pasture legumes is released more slowly than artificial nitrogen fertiliser, so minimising the risk of ‘haying off’ in a dry spring. A good improved pasture eliminates the need for artificial nitrogen fertiliser in the first year of cropping after the ley period. Soil nitrogen built up in organic form has residual effects, whereas artificial fertiliser has virtually no effect on crop growth in the year following application. There is improved protein quality of wheat when it is grown on legume ley land.
A subsidy applied to legume pasture seeds would lower the cost of production of various cash crops. It would encourage the use of more adequate rates of seeding for pasture improvement, and so bring quicker returns. It would increase livestock production, without the added costs of increased acreage. Such a subsidy would stimulate and expand the seed producing industry by increasing sales, thus creating a much more reliable cash crop proposition for those in the industry and others who would be looking for an alternative to over-produced products. At present production levels of pasture legume seeds the proposed subsidy of 5c per lb of seed would cost about $1.3m per annum. Many results show clovers and similar plants add to the soil from 40 lb to 120 lb of elemental nitrogen per acre. Conservatively this is equivalent to I cwt per acre of urea. The present nitrogen fertiliser subsidy is about $1.50 per cwt of urea, which is equivalent to 10c per lb on a seeding rate of 15 lb of seed per acre. A subsidy of 5c per lb on pasture legume seed would mean a saving of 50% on the soil nitrogen gained. The subsidy should be paid direct to the purchaser of seed. To prevent abuses and to ensure that the subsidy is utilised for pasture improvement, a buyer should be required to sign a statutory declaration to qualify for the subsidy. Alternatively, a subsidy based on the 1966- 67 use at one-third of retail cost less 13% would require a total of approximately $1,393,000. The suggested arrangements would provide maximum incentive for pasture improvement while not detracting from healthy competition within the seed industry.
Pasture improvement, of course, will lead us into the field of diversity. The farm industries will have to make this move very shortly. Over-production of wheat means that many wheat farmers will have to find another way to earn a living, or abandon their land, which would be a tragedy for Australia. In looking at ways and means of assisting this industry we should explore all forms of aid. I put this forward as a scheme for consideration by the Government as a means of improving pastures and at the same time being able to obtain food from the land. It may be said that this scheme has been discussed on various occasions and not approved. I am aware that at Surfer’s Paradise earlier this year there was some discussion on a bounty on legume seeds. That discussion was carried on by the Seed Industry Association which met at Surfer’s Paradise to consider the case for such a bounty. But it is noticeable that the Seed Industry Association is not representative at all of the growers or producers. It represents brokers, processors and merchants. If we want to do something to help the farmers I say simply that you have to consult the people who will use the fertilisers to produce goods, and not consult only those people such as brokers and others who sell the goods in order to make a profit. I leave the suggestion with the Government to consider in respect of nitrogenous fertilisers.
The most important of the six Bills before the Senate at present is the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill. The Minister for Customs and Excise said in his second reading speech:
The bounty was designed to serve a two-fold purpose, namely, to reduce the level of farm costs and to encourage greater use of superphosphate as a means of promoting more economic production.
Today there is a crisis in the wheat growing section of the rural industries. It is rather a big section and earns considerable overseas income for Australia, allowing us to purchase many goods overseas that otherwise we would not be able to purchase. Therefore to the extent that we have overproduced in the wheat industry we are in a crisis condition. This is certainly true in Western Australia. The crisis arises not only from over-production of wheat but also from a drought in wheat areas at the same time. One of the most distressing occurrences in Western Australia is that for the past 10 years close to 1 million acres of land has been brought into production each year in order to assist Australia. About 8.5 million acres have been brought into production in the last 10 years. Many of these farms have been started in the last 3 or 4 years and many of them have not yet produced a crop.
Last week, in the short parliamentary recess, I visited a group of conditional purchase farmers who, for the two preceding years, had not been able to produce a crop. They had had too much rain and were unable to get onto their land to work it. This year they cannot work their land because they have not had sufficient rain to sow a crop. These people will be caught in the fixing of wheat quotas. During the 5-year period set down in respect of quotas they will have produced wheat for only about two seasons. They will be caught with a very low quota and very high costs in the development of their properties. Perhaps many of them will be walking off the land. Australia cannot afford that. Today’s edition of the ‘West Australian’ reports that there are about 2,000 farms for sale in Western Australia. There is no-one to buy them, because crisis conditions are operating not only in the wheat industry but also in practically every sector of the rural industries.
It is true that there are high land values, which are revealed at a time of assessment of the value of the land for probate purposes. However, people who try to obtain the value assessed for probate purposes find when they put their properties on the market that because of crisis conditions no-one wants to enter the industry. These people will be caught in the position of not being able to work their farms and, at the same time, not being able to sell them. They are subject to fairly high capital costs. If they were able to turn their farms at fairly cheap rates into pasture farms rather than cereal farms they might be able to produce a commodity we would best be able to sell at this time.
The Minister has said that the superphosphate quota was introduced to reduce the level of farm costs. I would think that indirectly it has not reduced farm costs, but to be fair to those people who saw fit to re-introduce the superphosphate bounty in 1963 I should say that it has stabilised costs. With the subsidy, the cost of superphosphate remains today about the same as it was in 1963 when the bounty was introduced. The best that can be said for the subsidy is that it has stabilised the cost of superphosphate. The bounty was also introduced to encourage the greater use of superphosphate as a means of promoting more economic production. Subject to what I have said about the stabilisation of costs, it seems that rather than the superphosphate bounty promoting economic production it has stimulated greater production. This is part of the medicine we have to swallow now in our crisis condition. Figures for the production of wheat during the 1960s show that there was a fairly large impetus to production following 1963 when the bounty was introduced, and again after the drought in southern Queensland and parts of New South Wales when pastoralists turned to the cash crop of wheat after disastrously losing their stock. Those were the two periods when there was a very great increase in production, so to that extent the superphosphate bounty has encouraged the production of wheat.
Despite the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that only 22% of the superphosphate is used by wheat farmers. I believe that, irrespective of the percentage, if you continue to increase the bounty you will continue to encourage production. To me it does not seem to be very satisfactory to encourage farmers to increase production by giving them a bounty on the superphosphate that they use if we are unable to sell the wheat which is produced. That is the kind of haywire thing that the Government is allowing to go on without endeavouring to find a solution other than to restrict production.
– You would advocate then that the Government not give the bounty?
– I have not advocated anything.
– That is what you have just said.
– You think you know all about these things simply because you are a member of the Country Party. You are a fair weather friend of the rural industries. It would be better for you if you stuck to your timber mill and your dairy farm. In the final sentence of his second reading speech on the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill Senator Scott said: lt is difficult to conceive of any form of assistance to agriculture which could be as effective in ils stimulus to productivity and farm income.
That is the kind of thing that we have done over the years. We have encouraged our rural producers, particularly our wheat farmers, to produce more without following up with the necessary sales incentive overseas. We have not searched for markets for the products we have encouraged our land owners to produce. We should be setting up more trade posts overseas, particularly in South America and Asia, to promote the sale of the goods that we produce.
I do not agree with Mr McEwen that we will have to reduce our selling campaign so that other countries may retain their traditional markets. The Government claims to be a free enterprise government and the Americans and the Canadians also claim to have free enterprise governments but there is no free competition on the world grain market. If the Government wants to increase the production of wheat it must look for markets. We must produce wheat because it is an earner of export income. We cannot afford to reduce our overseas earnings because we are so dependent on overseas investment now that it is a disgrace. But that is outside the ambit of this Bill. If we reduce our earnings from the rural sector we will have to find ways of increasing our earnings from secondary industries. That will be a much slower process and we will, have to sell a little more of the farm to keep ourselves afloat. The Government should initiate an intensive sales programme overseas to sell the commodities produced on our land. The Opposition does not oppose any of the Bills.
– We have been given a group of Bills to consider and I am taking the opportunity to make only a brief reference to one of them. I intend to direct most of my attention to the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill. It is interesting to note, however, that there has been no payment of bounty under the Pyrites Bounty Act since 1966. That Act contains a sliding scale of bounty payments but because of the prevailing high price of imported sulphur it has not been necessary recently to pay a bounty. The situation has changed. We are pleased to note that sulphur prices have been falling recently and it is possible that this Act will be of benefit again to the producers of Australian pyrites. The Tariff Board currently has the situation under review and no doubt we will hear more about it later.
When the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill is passed it will provide the Australian farmer with the cheapest phosphate available to farmers anywhere in the world. I emphasise that because considerable attempts have been made to belittle the Government’s endeavours to keep down costs to Australian producers. The current manufacturers price ex works - it varies slightly throughout Australia - is about $26 a ton. When we deduct the proposed bounty, of §12 a ton the Australian farmer will be paying, with some variation according to locality, about $14 a ton for his superphosphate.
– Plus freight.
– Yes, plus freight. The average United States price is about $44 a ton and the average United Kingdom price is about $37 a ton. I doubt whether sufficient publicity has been given to what is being done in this field. When we evaluate superphosphate as a fertiliser we should not forget that it contains another very valuable ingredient. I refer to its sulphur content. On the basis of recent sulphur prices, the sulphur content of superphosphate is valued at between $5 and $6 a ton. That fact should not be disregarded by farmers when evaluating ordinary superphosphate and making a comparison with the high analysis phosphates now being popularised. This means that the actual cost to the farmer of the phosphate content of a ton of superphosphate is in the vicinity of $9 a ton. That brings into proper perspective what is being done to reduce costs.
When discussing the price of superphosphate with farmers I find that the price rises which followed the introduction of the subsidy of $6 a ton in 1963 are uppermost in their minds. An article in a recent issue of the ‘Farmers Weekly’, a Western Australian publication for farmers, carried the heading in bold type: ‘Zone Foresees Danger of Super Price Rises’. Surely this is a strange heading with which to greet a drop of $4 in the price of superphosphate. The report goes on to state that the following motion of the Karridale-Kudardup branch was carried:
That this Zone Council urge the General Executive to take steps to guard against the raising of the price of super following the federal grant of a subsidy as has been experienced after the previous subsidy grant.
The discussion on superphosphate went on to another aspect of the fertiliser position. The condition of some samples of superphosphate was also criticised. The meeting was told that in some cases the dusty nature of the superphosphate interfered with distribution. I should like to discuss these two aspects of the manner in which the recent superphosphate bounty has been received by farmers. It is very important to remember that when the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act was drafted and subsequently passed it included the following provision in section 7:
Where the Minister is not satisfied that the prices being charged by a producer to purchasers in respect of the sale of bountiable products, or fertilizer mixtures, produced by him at registered premises are such as to pass on to the purchasers the full benefit of the bounty in respect of the bountiable products, or the bountiable products used in the fertilizer mixtures, as the case may be, the Minister may direct that bounty shall not be paid to the producer.
In other words, written into the Act was a provision that in effect gave a price fixing or price regulating power to our worthy Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) and his Department, and he has not failed to exercise this right.
I refer to action that has been taken. In July 1964, when the New South Wales manufacturers announced a price increase of 17s a ton effective from 1st July 1964 action was taken under section 7 and after investigation of costs manufacturers agreed to cut the proposed rise from 17s to 13s 6d, a cut back of 3s 6d. Again this year, on 1st February, action was taken by the Department of Customs and Excise which reduced urea prices by $10 a ton and other nitrogenous fertilisers by corresponding amounts. The Commonwealth Government has gained by section 7 a considerable power to see that the advantages of the bounty are passed on to the farmers. It is apparently forgotten by farmers that following the $2 increase in subsidy last year prices did not rise but in fact, in Western Australia, fell by 20c a ton. I think we should have a look at the fears that have been expressed by farmers because they have been confronted by continually rising costs in relation to the superphosphate industry and the prices being charged.
In the first place, I repeat, the Australian farmer is the most favourably situated in the world with regard to superphosphate, but the Government is concerned that he should retain this advantage in view of the increasingly competitive position with regard to agricultural prices. With regard to the fears expressed as to the possible effect of offsetting costs causing a rise in superphosphate prices to erode the bounty, it is interesting to note that I asked a question of the Minister only a week ago in relation to the situation regarding sulphur prices and their effect on the price of superphosphate. The reply recorded in Hansard of 28th August indicates that the fall in the price of sulphur was of the nature of $4 a ton and this would effectively offset rising costs associated with increases in award wages or other factors. I think that this needs to be noted in relation to the fears that are being expressed. However, this fall in sulphur prices has occurred since March and is possibly, I believe, considerably greater than the $4 mentioned. It would be of the order of $8 or $10, so when the current stocks are being used there is hope that there should be a fall in the price of superphosphate in addition to the bounty that has been given. I have no doubt that the Minister for Customs and Excise and his Department will be carefully watching this situation.
I should like to turn to the other matter raised at that meeting of farmers in Western Australia. I want to make some mention of the physical condition of superphosphate being provided to Australian farmers. 1 think in this regard farmers are not as fortunate as their fellow farmers in other parts of the world, particularly in the matter of particle size or - as was reported - the dusty nature of much of our superphosphate. This is a very important matter with regard to this particular fertiliser. A considerable percentage of dust in a sample means that a great deal of compaction occurs in transport and storage and this is of considerable practical importance where farmers are required to take superphosphate in advance of their using it, which is common in most of Australia. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to secure an even distribution of a fertiliser mixture containing too high a percentage of fine particles. This is complicated by the fact that no two samples are the same. One gets a great variation in the proportion of fine to coarse particles in different samples, so one cannot set machinery to cope with a varying situation. This reflects in the evenness of distribution and it has a marked effect on the resultant product. The inefficiency of distribution can make a very marked reduction in the overall productivity of a given quantity of superphosphate.
– Is it not water soluble? Does it not dissolve when it is wet?
– Yes, but it is a matter of evenness of distribution. If one puts too much in one place and too little in another one will not get the optimum return from the total application. Different soils react differently. With some soils, particularly the acid soils in Western Australia, a fine dusty type of fertiliser is definitely inferior in that it reverts very rapidly to an unavailable form and, to a great extent, the fertiliser’s usefulness is lost. Too big a particle leads to an uneven distribution, which is not advantageous. I draw strongly to the attention of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the various State Departments of Agriculture the great economic saving in usage of fertiliser that could be obtained by a more detailed study of the effect of particle size on the economics of fertiliser distribution. Here is a ready means by which we can increase returns from a given amount of fertiliser. 1 now mention another aspect that more recently has attracted the attention of conservationists and the like. I am sorry that Senator Mulvihill is not here. His interest in the conservation of rivers and streams is well known. Recently great concern has been expressed about the increasing eutrification of our lakes and streams caused by the leaching and draining of the more soluble fertilisers into rivers and lakes, lt is not the farmer’s wish that his fertiliser should finish up in a river or lake. He requires it on the land, where it can be used. His interest is in the developing of fertilisers of somewhat less solubility, the slower acting fertilisers, that currently are in use throughout the world. In Australia, if we are to minimise the harm that is definitely being done to lakes and rivers by this leaching of fertiliser substances into them, we need to direct a lot more attention to the slower acting fertilisers. I refer to fertilisers such as ureaform, CDU and the IBDU range of products as well as the nitrophosphates which are at present freely available throughout Europe and the United States of America. I think we can mitigate a loss to the farmer and a damage to the environment by a study and an increased use of these somewhat less soluble fertilisers. I realise that I am going beyond the scope of the present Bills, but they give me an opportunity to raise the matter.
I think Senator Cant tried to distort somewhat what the Minister said in his second reading speech on the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill as to the purpose of the bounty. The Minister said:
The bounty is a form of incentive which promotes good farming, fertility maintenance and productivity increase.
In an election year I suppose it is permissible for Senator Cant to dredge up every grain of political advantage that he can find, but I think he was straining somewhat to obtain a result when he imputed to the Minister a desire to increase wheat production by means of these bounties. These Bills will reduce costs of farmers who, perforce, have to continue to produce wheat. They cannot turn suddenly and completely to cattle or sheep production or to wool growing. Such a suggestion is completely ridiculous. We must enable farmers to produce what they are producing at a lower cost. That is what the present Bills propose.
– What about providing a market for these grains in the cattle industry?
– I think that is a sound proposition, but it is all related to costs. As the honourable senator suggested, we can use wheat as a feed grain, but what happens to the coarse grain producers, the oat growers and the barley growers, who will find their market gone completely if we reduce the price of wheat to such a level that it becomes a feed grain instead of a grain for human consumption? It is not simply a matter of saying: ‘All right, we will make wheat a stock food’. This can be done, but not without cost to other farmers who cannot grow wheat and who are dependent on barley and oats. Currently oats are selling at 60c a bushel. I doubt whether we can produce oats at 60c a bushel and make a profit.
– Who eats oats, other than racehorses?
– They say that in England oats are fed to horses and there are no better horses anywhere in the world, and that in Scotland oats are fed to men and there are no better men anywhere in the world. I do not know what the honourable senator was fed on, but oats definitely are a fine food. Oats, at a price, have their uses. I congratulate the Government for continuing the various Acts that are aimed at reducing the costs of production. The Government is doing this very effectively. Ii is assisting the farmers to offset their rising costs and it is making available fertilisers at lower prices than they are made available anywhere else in the world.
– in reply - 1 thank Senator Cant, who spoke for the Opposition, for saying that the Opposition will support the six Bills.
– I did not say that. 1 said that the Opposition will not oppose the Bills.
– The honourable senator said that the Opposition will not oppose the six Bills. From that I inferred that the Opposition will not vote against them. Therefore 1 believed that it would be supporting them. The honourable senator said that during one of my second reading speeches on the Bills I said that the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will continue to be paid at the present rate. These Bills do not deal with a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers; they deal with a bounty - but no doubt that matter will be discussed at some time in the future. Senator Cant also said that we, as a Government, were encouraging the use of superphosphate in the wheat growing areas. I agree that we are doing this. But people in the wheat growing areas use only about 22% of the superphosphate that is purchased. We, as a Government, realising that the costs of farming are rising year by year, have decided to grant this superphosphate bounty of $4 a ton this year on top of the increase of $2 a ton that was granted in 1968 to offset some of the costs of farming. No doubt farmers will be able to take advantage of these bounties. The main concern of the Government is in relation to other sections of primary industry, including wool growing and sheep and lamb production. They will get the greatest benefit from the superphosphate bounty.
Senator Cant went on to say that the Government is not doing enough to encourage the sale of our products overseas.
I point out that over a number of years the Government has increased Australia’s trade posts throughout the world from nil to forty-five. Between 23rd September 1969 and June 1970 the Department of Trade and Industry will undertake twenty promotional exercises, such as displays, throughout the world. In addition to the trade promotions we have the normal work that is performed by the Australian Trade Commissioner Service. So I do not think that the Government can be accused of not endeavouring to increase our trade with the outside world. The Government is encouraging not only the primary industries to trade with overseas countries but also the manufacturing industries. This is one of the reasons why we have been able to accomplish the export of such a large quantity of goods and to earn export income for Australia from them.
Senator Cant referred to the need for a legume seed bounty. This is a very interesting subject. There is no doubt that the use of clover has resulted in great quantities of nitrogen being put into the soil. It enriches the soil to such an extent that better crops can be grown. Such a proposal has been actively discussed by various farming organisations, but so far no unanimous support has been forthcoming. The Government is prepared to consider any properly reasoned case which has the backing of the relevant primary producer organisation, but so far, as I have just mentioned, such a case has not been forthcoming.
I was very interested in the comments of my colleague from Western Australia, Senator Prowse, on the fact that many people and newspapers have said over the years that any increase in the superphosphate bounty is quickly swallowed up by the manufacturers and so is of no benefit to the end user, the farmer. As Senator Prowse said, the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act specifically lays down that the Minister for Customs and Excise shall look into the cost of manufacturing nitrogenous fertiliser to ensure that any bounty the Government pays is passed on to the end user. The honourable senator pointed out that the price of superphosphate to the end user was reduced from 18s to about 13s 6d per ton following an inquiry by the Minister for Customs and Excise in 1964 or 1965. Since I have been Minister for Customs and
Excise I have had occasion to look into the subsidy. The propaganda mentioned by Senator Prowse has given farmers the impression that the moment the subsidy is increased by, say, $4 a ton - as it has been this year - the margin will be taken up by the manufacturer and the farmers will not receive any benefit. Farmers in Western Australia have mentioned this to me. The price of superphosphate in bulk throughout Australia today is about $18.50 or $19 a ton. The manufacturers will get the bounty of $4 a ton and will sell the superphosphate to the primary producers at $4 a ton less. In other words, the companies selling superphosphate for $18.50 on rail will be selling it for $14.50 on rail. It is also interesting to note, as Senator Prowse mentioned, that the price of sulphur has dropped. It is believed that this will offset any of the increased costs of the manufacturers. It is confidently expected that, particularly in the initial stages, practically the whole of the bounty will be paid to the farmers this year.
I thank honourable senators for the contributions they have made to the debate and look forward to the speedy passage of the Bills through the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28 August (vide page 512), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1969-70.
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1969-70.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of EstimatedExpenditure for the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1970.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1970. Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1969.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income Year 1966-67.
National Income and Expenditure 1968-69. upon which Senator Murphy hail moved by way of amendment:
Al end of motion add: and that the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that -
it increases taxation and health and housing costs for families;
it makes no considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all schools;
il ignores the problems of capital cities and regional centres;
it defers further development projects and urgent rural measures: and
it neglects industries based on Australian natural resources and defence requirements’.
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) 14.19] - I do not intend to take up much of the time of the Senate this afternoon, unless somebody provokes me. However, there are a few things- that I want to say. First I want to say thai Budgets do nol over-enthuse me. They seldom mean very much lo most people. They usually result in a small amount for the pensioners and widows, a small increase in the repatriation benefits and so on down the line. Bui they never contain anything that changes the people’s Ives very much. Of course, thai is the story of the inflation under which this Government administers the affairs of the country. In fact, the Goverment provides these small amounts out of income that it hardly sees, income that is generated by inflation. Each year we see another $100,000 incorporated in the Budget papers, and nobody knows where it comes from. We also see an increase in !he gross national product and nobody knows where it comes from. We just continue to grow and grow, and we have been growing in that fashion ever since the days when the Chifley Government handed over to Sir Robert Menzies and his Government, the time when Sir Robert made the first advance in child endowment about which nothing more has been done since.
We of the Labor Government of that time believed in being honest. We are like the ordinary people. We believe that if we cannot pay we should not incur debts. We have the same philosophy as our grandfathers. The old Labor attitude was: ‘Thank God 1 owe nothing to any man’. That was the attitude of the Chifley Government, too. lt adopted that attitude because il did not want to run Australia into debt. Since those days, some people have found out how to run the money machine. Sir Robert Menzies started it, and it has been going ever since. Sometimes I think it is a very good thing for the community, indeed for the world that we are living in a period of inflation; but at other times I think otherwise. However, I am just as inconclusive as anybody else in the Senate on this Budget.
I am glad Senator Webster is here because 1 want to tell the story of the dairy farmer. I have given a lot of thought to the position of the dairy farmer and I have come to the conclusion that if ever anybody needed a public relations officer the dairy farmer needs one today.
– 1 would not mind the job. The only one who seems to be capable of doing anything for the dairy farmer is the dairy farmer himself. He is continually engaged in the slow process of eating himself out of business. Anybody who competes wilh the dairy farmer finds in the dairy farmer a regular customer. This is because, in the circumstances to which I am about to refer, the dairy farmer cannot afford to eat other than synthetic products. Dairy farmers do not even eat what has come lo be regarded as the food of the nation - real ice cream. They say they cannot afford to eat it.
One honourable senator referred to margarine and other competitors of dairy products. But who are the biggest purchasers of margarine? I would say they arc the dairy farmers because they are about the only people left on earth who cook. The people a ound where 1 live do nol cook. They g;l everything in tins, as do the other city dwellers. The dairy farmers do cook and they buy margarine - Meadowlea. I was addressing a meeting at Mullumbimby on the north coast one night and set about, as 1 thought, defending the dairy farmer. A shopkeeper called me over. He said: Senator, you are not doing any good for your party here by attacking margarine. Come in and have a look at this’. I went into his shop and he showed me his orders for the next clay. There was not one grocery order from a farmer which did not have on it a minimum of 12 lb of margarine.
– What were they using it for? Perhaps they were using it for axle grease.
– This is not funny. I think it is very serious. They were buying it because they could not afford to buy butter. What sort of an industry is it that produces a product which the people who produce it cannot afford to buy?
– That does not happen in Victoria.
– It happens in lots of places. It happens all over the north coast. Only this morning I read that there were, I think, 2,000 less farmers in New South Wales this year than there were last year. Wherever one goes in New South Wales one sees chimneys standing up with no houses round them. These are places where at one time there were dairy farms. It is like that all over Australia. It certainly has been my experience of the north coast of New South Wales.
Again, no school on the north coast other than the central schools has more than twenty children, and these schools have only one teacher. Why is this? It is because there are no more children these days. There are now no more families. That has been going on for as long as I have been in the Senate, and nobody does anything about it.
At the present time in Sydney there are operating I do not know how many - probably 20 - establishments which are making available to the corner shops 31 different types of coloured ice cream made from pure water. When the cockys come down to Kings Cross they pay for pure water in the form of ice cream. They cannot afford to drink milk. Milk makes far better ice cream, but water is used instead and I have not heard the farmers saying anything about this practice. We have all seen Mr Whippys vans. At one time they sold products made from milk. Today the ice cream they sell is made up of half water and half milk. Ice cream is no longer the food of the nation. I think this is the farmers’ fault. And this Government has been in office all the time.
– That happens with poultry, but it is not necessarily the fanners’ fault.
– That is the story as I see it around the city. I do not think
I would be fighting margarine so much if I were you. I would be fighting the manufacturers who are moving in on your trade, and they are moving in everywhere because they are satisfying the people. The manufacturing industries owned by the farmers themselves on the north coast which should be making butter and other dairy products are selling synthetic products. Is not the Norco Co-op Ltd selling synthetic ice cream? In fact, it manufactures it.
It is not my job to find out the cure for that. But the Labor Party does have something to be proud of in this regard. Fif teen years ago Premier Cahill said that butter rationing and milk rationing had to stop in New South Wales. His Labor Government set up a milk board. I am not saying that this milk board was established to cure all the ills of the milk industry, but it did good work. It had as chairman one, Mr J. A. Ferguson, a great friend of mine. He was a member of the Australian Railways Union. He made a great success of his job as Chairman of the Milk Board. At the time of his appointment he knew nothing about milk, but he was a good organiser. He cut himself adrift from Labor Party activities. He did not exercise his active membership.
– That showed his great wisdom.
– He became the friend of the farmers and his Milk Board brought succour to the industry.
– How do you spell that?
– That is not bad. There is still some humour in the Democratic Labor Party. Under the Milk Board’s administration, every dairy farmer was given a quota and as a result, for the first time in his life, he was able to send his kids to school and employ labour. He was also required to pay award rates of labour, but he did not squeal. Sir Alister McMullin lives in the area and would know that what I am saying is true. In the area extending from about Nowra nearly to Lismore and over the mountainside the farmers have been able to survive, to build up their industry and to make profits. They have been able to achieve tremendous increases in production. There have been great increases in production in the Milk Board area.
It would not be necessary for me to remind Senator Webster that all dairy farmers looked with great admiration at the activities of the Milk Board. But now the State Government, I regret to say, is about to extend the operations of the Milk Board to cover all New South Wales. In my view that is wrong. By dispersing its activities beyond the present prosperous Milk Board area and by trying to satisfy the hunger of farmers outside the area the State Government will succeed only in destroying the area now served by the Board. The effect of the action proposed by the State Government is to extend the Milk Board area which, if the administration were available and proper methods were adopted, could supply almost the whole needs of New South Wales. For political reasons the Milk Board area is to be extended to the whole of New South Wales and quotas will be struck for each area. All that the Askin Government will achieve by this is the destruction of the Milk Board as an organisation and the destruction of the prosperity of the Milk Board area, replacing it with conditions which are now generally apparent throughout New South Wales. I think it is bad to do this merely to win a seat in Parliament, especially when farmers have had good conditions for 15 years.
For the benefit of farmers who might not have seen a Press report to which 1 now refer, J propose to incorporate in Hansard an editorial which appeared in the Southern Highland News’. The article by the editor, H. S. Lamond, speaks of the dairy farmers’ champion, Mr Jack Ferguson. I do not seek to have this article incorporated in Hansard merely because Mr Ferguson was formerly an official of the Australian Labor Party. I do not seek to give idle praise to Mr Ferguson. This article, which is not very long, talks about the great work that he did for the farmers and does not even mention that he was a member of the Labor Party. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard the editorial, which is headed ‘The Dairyfarmers’ Champion’ and which appeared in the ‘Southern Highland News’ of 7th August 1969.
Dairyfarmers throughout this district have not only lost their former champion, but also a friend, by the passing of Mr J. A. (Jack) Ferguson, on Saturday, less than a year following his retirement as Chairman of the NSW Milk Board.
He was 66 years of age and devoted 16 of those years fighting for a fair deal for the dairyfarmers in the milk zone and for the retention of its boundaries.
When Mr Ferguson was six years old, his father, a miner, was killed in a mine accident. In 1929, Jack Ferguson joined the railways as a carriage cleaner, by 1934, he was a state organiser for the Australian Railways Union and nine years later was elected state secretary.
In 1941, he became federal president. Elected an MLC in 1945, state ALP president in 1949 and federal president in 1950, he held these positions until his appointment as chairman of the Milk Board in 1952. His political views never intruded into that position.
Mr Ferguson always used to say that on his appointment to the Milk Board, he knew nothing of the milk industry, but it was typical of him that he immediately set out to find out everything that could be learnt from the men working in the industry. He attended farmers’ meetings; mixed with them in the field and at shows and discussed all their problems with them.
It was Mr Ferguson who stressed on the dairyfarmers that they must increase their winter production if they desired the boundaries of the /.one to be retained and although there were many grumbles at the time, the farmers later admitted the wisdom of his argument.
Mr Ferguson always told farmers that his sole job was to obtain milk for the consumer under the provisions of the Milk Act and if it could not be obtained from the suppliers within the /one, the board would have to get it elsewhere.
If suppliers in a certain area were disgruntled, Jack Ferguson did not deal with them by correspondence, but went into the area to ascertain their problems at first hand, and subsequently do what he could to solve them, provided it was in accordance with the Milk Act.
He raised the returns to dairyfarmers from $14 million to $47 million and when he retired last year, the board was handling business worth more than $80 million a year.
A dynamic and personable speaker. Jack Ferguson was never afraid of criticism and indeed, welcomed it if he thought it was for the betterment of the producer or consumer.
He was responsible for the preliminary organisation of the International Dairy Conference to be held in Australia next year and the tragedy is that he did not live to see it brought to fruition.
Dairyfarmers in this district will no doubt join with the Editor of the NEWS in this tribute to a man who did so much to improve their industry and to put it on a very sound basis. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” can aptly be applied to the late Jack Ferguson.
Mr Jack Ferguson ; perhaps because he was not bound by the authorities that operate in the dairy industry ; travelled throughout the world and introduced into Australia some revolutionary ideas in cow breeding, cow rearing and in other aspects of the dairy industry. I think it was Mr Ferguson who introduced the importation of cattle semen, a system which is now used to such an extent that production in the Milk Board area has trebled. That is something to the credit of a man who had trade union experience only. I sometimes become annoyed when I see the attitude that is taken towards trade union officials. When Senator Mulvihill was attempting to have members of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union appointed as members of the Australian Meat Board he was ridiculed. There are some great brains in the trade union movement, particularly at the top level among the organisers, and some of these men have had great success when they have gone into industry and taken over as Jack Ferguson did. I thank honourable senators for allowing me to incorporate that article in Hansard in memory of a man who did much for the dairy farmers but who did not get sufficient credit for what he did.
The matters about which I now propose to speak may not be so important in the long run, but they are important to me. I refer to a service given to the community by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. About 12 months ago I stimulated interest in a programme ‘Meet the Candidates’ which was televised by the ABC. I considered it a wonderful form of publicity for political candidates and the fact that it was shown indicated that the ABC was prepared to give service. This was a free service which was in demand. I know that much correspondence has been sent to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and to the ABC asking that a programme such as Meet the Candidates’ be re-established. Honourable senators will remember the programme. I do not know that all honourable senators would have agreed with it, but it gave the right to all parliamentary candidates to be seen and heard by the public, which is not the situation now. More and more the election campaigners are becoming the leaders of the parties and noone else. That is not good. Nor do I think that it is good for the parties or for the leaders. It is certainly not good publicity for our democratic system. I believe that the ABC should be influenced by the Government to provide this service for the community. It is a programme which provokes criticism, which is a good thing.
– We do not believe In party political pressure on the ABC.
– This is not political pressure, but it is the sort of pressure that it needs. What chance has an ordinary candidate for Parliament of having his name in the Press or being seen on television? He has no chance.
– Unless he is thrown out of the Senate.
– That is right, and that is not likely these days. Even the Senate is becoming respectable again. I should like the Government to bring some influence to bear on the ABC in an endeavour to have it re-introduce this service to the public. What is the good of electing candidates to Parliament if they are not seen or heard? Unless a candidate has a mint of money behind him he will not be seen on television. It is for this reason that I suggest that a programme like ‘Meet the Candidates’ be re-introduced. I would not mind if it were a radio programme. Before the ‘Meet the Candidates’ programme was shown candidates had radio contact with the public. There were all sorts of ways in which the ABC provided a service. Perhaps a programme of the kind I suggest could not be classed as public entertainment, but some politics is entertaining.
A programme of the type that I suggest would give publicity to parliamentary candidates. Instead of providing this service the ABC now seems to be breaking its neck to compete with what is considered to be way out. I need hardly remind honourable senators that we pay taxes to enable the ABC to continue. A tremendous amount of money is spent on the ABC which provides services which often are not appreciated. At one time I was a member of an ABC advisory committee. I served on that committee for a few years and I do not know how often I was told that the job of the ABC was to cater for minorities. I agree that it does cater for minorities. It even televised a chess tournament on one occasion and that certainly would not attract a very big audience. I thought it was rather a waste of time. There are minorities in the community and if a political party is in a minority it should still be given some opportunity to present its views. Something should be done to bring members of Parliament before the public. The British Broadcasting Corporation provides a service of this kind.
– Would the honourable senator allow Senator Turnbull, as the leader of a party, the same time as the Leader of the Australian Labor Party?
– If the honourable senator has the foresight, the imagination and the bravery to face this country as one member of a party I think he is entitled to a fair go.
– On what basis would the honourable senator allocate time to him relative to time allowed to the Labor Party and Liberal Party?
– 1 do not know how that would be worked out.
– Would the honourable senator give him as much time as he spends in this chamber?
– The honourable senator is asking me to be personal. I would like the Government to take some action. 1 am sure that the Postmaster-General would listen if an approach were made to him by the Government with the suggestion that the programme be re-introduced. The programme was a good idea and I know who killed that idea. Let us re-institute the programme.
I turn now to another matter. Again it is not important in the great financial structure of the Budget that we are discussing; but it is important to certain people. 1 am sorry that the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities (Senator Wright) is not here to listen to me. For 2 or 3 years Dorothy Tangney and I campaigned for some catering provision to be made in or near Parliament House for the one million people a year who come to Canberra as tourists. Our audience is not so good today. But generally I try to be in the chamber, if I can, when there are 2 or 3 Pioneer buses outside, because there is certain to be a crowd in the gallery. It is a little embarrassing when one is in the middle of a speech and somebody blows a whistle and all the people walk out.
As I said, each year about 750,000 people come to see the national Parliament. Yet there is only one ladies’ powder room here. Of course, when this building was built nobody thought that anybody except the politicians would come here. But today many people travel to Canberra. Not only are there insufficient toilet facilities in this building, but even now there is nowhere to have a cup of tea. 1 do not know whether honourable senators realise that. People travel all the way from Sydney and everywhere else and they cannot get a cup of tea. Of course, the Government agreed to build the Lobby. I think I can take some credit for having it built.
– Ormonde’s pie shop.
– That is what Senator Wright called it one night. Al the Lobby $1.75 is the minimum charge. He must have thought that only Liberals would come here. But the people who come here are not all wealthy Liberals.
– How do you know?
– I know that they are not because most of them come by Pioneer bus or by car. I cannot understand Senator Wright’s attitude on this matter. Sometimes I think he is a democrat; but other times 1 think he has no time at all for the common people. I thought that one way for him to work off some of his inhibitions in respect of them would be to provide something like this for them. But do honourable senators know what he said in this chamber? He said to me by interjection: ‘You would have the place an eating house’. That was not what I wanted at all. 1 just wanted a place somewhere near this building where people could have a cup of tea. Do not let us forget that we will have to put up with the one ladies’ toilet for another 10 years because the House Committee has decided not to build a new parliament house for another 10 years. It is a long time to wait for a second toilet, is it not?
– The Government will put the new parliament house in the wrong place when it builds it, anyway.
– 1 do not know where it will be. But we have to have a place where people can have a cup of tea. We have to provide facilities for the people. They are entitled to be treated better than they are now. After all, most of the people who come here are not on peace demonstrations or anti-Ky demonstrations. Perhaps the Government would have some justification for saying to people on demonstrations: You go and get a cup of tea wherever you can, if you are here to annoy us’. But all the people are not on demonstrations. Most of them come here legitimately and are shown through the building by the attendants. But we do not give them a place where they can have a cup of tea. I believe that this is wrong. In this building, even if it is not to be replaced for 10 years, there is enough room for the provision of these facilities. If we are to have people coming to this building, we should have some place in which to entertain them.
– Does the honourable senator know of any parliament house that has these facilities?
– The House of Commons has them, for a start. I am just expressing my own personal point of view on this matter. The Lobby is a place in which only Senator Gair could eat, because $1.75 is the minimum charge. I know that not many senators go there. The reason is that it is really too dear. Some moves have been made to reduce the prices. I thought that the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities would have been the first to notice what I am talking about. But he is not here. Actually, he does not believe that we should provide these facilities. He is opposed to people having them. He said that they would be a degradation of the Parliament.
I point out that there is no ladies’ room in this building. If half the people who come here are ladies, about 350,000 ladies have no place in which to powder their faces. If we are to be grown up in our attitude to these matters, surely we should provide such a place. In my view the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities should get busy and do something about it. There is nothing infantile about this; it is a grown-up proposition. In the national Parliament there should be facilities for the people who come here as tourists.
I am not necessarily raising these matters in order of priority. I refer now to education. The Government, in its educational plans, is providing money. It has been providing money for independent schools - I do not like that term very much - and state schools for various purposes for some years now. It introduced into the Senate a science blocks scheme. Everybody was thrilled about it because Senator Gorton, and Mr Menzies, as they then were, had found a way of implementing an idea that would be acceptable to all kinds of people. State aid was a hot potato. So they said: ‘We will find something about which nobody can be cranky. Nobody will object to our building science blocks if we hang them on the sides of the schools instead of putting them inside. We can say that they are apart from the schools. This will get rid of the vexed question of schooling being wrapped up with religious concepts and all that sort of inflammable material’.
So these science blocks were built. Starting 6 years ago the Government put them everywhere. I used to be amazed at the quotes for erecting these science blocks. An amount of $16,000 was the general figure that was used. Whether the block was built on level ground, on rock or on the side of a cliff made no difference; the figure was still $16,000. Actually the Government did not have time to organise the scheme. Had it had the time, it would never have performed as it did. It wishes now that it had not performed as it did because it has struck difficulties. The worst thing of all was that it erected the science blocks without providing the teachers. Today I would like to see the Government put down on paper the science blocks for which it has provided the money and the number of teachers who are working in them. This is Commonwealth money. If a school is still functioning without a teacher it should not have received the money.
It is said that when the teachers college system is operating - by 1971 - there will be sufficient science teachers. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that. But the period until 1971 is a fair time to wait for teachers. It will take 3 years to train them. It will be another 3 years before the pupils obtain their degrees and are ready to train as teachers. This has gone on in this country and nobody has done much about it because it is too hot a potato. If the Government builds a school for children, they are entitled to have teachers. That is elementary. But that did not happen in this case. I challenge the Government to put the position on paper. I am talking not just about independent schools but also about state schools. I know of state schools equipped with science blocks which have no chance in the world of using the facilities.
– Because they have no science teacher available and they have no equipment. People have steered away from this question because it is so hot. It is such a hot number that questions are not asked about it. It ought to be possible for members of the Government parties to approach the appropriate Minister and ascertain how many science blocks have been provided with science teachers. If this were done it would be found that what I am saying is true.
– Is this in government or independent schools?
– In both.
– In New South Wales?
– That is what I am talking about. That is all 1 know about.
– You are getting parochial.
– That could be true, but I do not think so. I speak only of the schools that I know about. If the members of the Government could speak personally I think they would say: ‘That was not our fault They were not ready for it’ Of course the schools were not ready because the Government only thought of the legislation the week before. Nobody was prepared. Also there was an election coming on. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), was on his way home one night in a car with a fellow parliamentarian named Doig who said, ‘I can win you this election. The answer is science blocks. Have you ever thought of it. You may not be able to give aid to Catholic schools but you can provide science blocks’. This was the technique and it worked. In fact, it worked with a vengeance.
– The Government blinded them with science blocks.
– That is right. On the Tuesday, the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, immediately saw the value of science blocks and within a few days they were lined up. If I remember correctly the lists were printed and the money allocated. The amounts were $8,000 and $16,000. In these days anything can be paid for from public funds so long as you are the Government.
That is about all I want to say about education. I am glad that something is being done for the schools, but of course it has been done upside down. The schools should have got the money with the teachers. This is the big problem with which the Government is now faced. I cannot help but think that the Government has passed the buck by announcing in a statement made by Mr McMahon on aid to schools that this money would go to the State governments which would have the job of distributing it, not the Commonwealth Government. AH this Government does is to give the money. I am afraid that the policy of the Government on education does not amount to any more than that at any time. I recall how we wiped out the Commonwealth Office of Education one night. Nobody knew that it had been done. The Office of Education had only a couple of typewriters in it, anyway.
– The honourable senator would not suggest that the Commonwealth Government should take away the whole of the authority of the States with regard to education, would he?
– No, not the whole authority, but at some stage I think that the Commonwealth Government has to take half of the authority away from the States or at least a big part of it. The greatest minds have to be brought together on this problem because the mere provision of money does not solve the teacher problem.
– Has the ALP a policy on this?
– We have a policy, of course. This problem is equally one for us. I have two close friends who are Christian Brothers and teach in a Catholic school. They are very good teachers, perhaps the best you could get anywhere. Beside them in this school are two lay teachers, one of whom is earning $94 a week and the other $88. Those two are getting big money and the other two are working for God. How long will this situation continue to exist? The people who are working for God will get a bit tired of it.
One of them has informed me - and 1 believe this to be so because Christian Brothers are very thorough fellows - that he has to show the other two how to teach. Why should he have to do this? The answer is because their teachers are not necessarily up to the standard of the teachers whence they came. If they are getting teachers from the state services the teachers might be too old or too sick. After all, they are only getting second choice. Can any honourable senator show me that that system is sound and that it will last? Of course it cannot last. Something must go wrong. The Commonwealth Government will have to be close by to resolve this problem for the independent schools.
Some of the wealthy independent schools are all right. Some of them are very wealthy and do not really need aid. They are only getting it because of the levelling up process. I think that state aid and the type of thing that we call state aid is here forever. It is good for politics and democracy in this country that that position has been reached. However, the responsibilities of the Government have not ended. It is my view that the Government should keep a very close watch on the way in which both systems function. As the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said on dozens of occasions: We are supporting both systems’. He talks about the dual system of education as though he was talking about the dual system of air services. Where children are involved this Government has a responsibility equal with that of the States to see that proper standards are maintained. You cannot maintain standards by suddenly throwing money over the fence. The Government should ensure that the teachers are available. The same problem exists in almost every school.
One of the great faults of this Government is that it thinks it can solve any problem by throwing enough money around, without doing any more about it. This is where the Government fails. It has to see these things through to the end. It has to see that the children are getting first class education. Many of the independent schools, whether they are rich or poor, are among the best schools in the community; but not all of them are in that category. There is a ring of poor people who feel they will get justice last. If you do not force your way through in the line you have to wait. We all know that. The principal problem is to get the teachers. 1 do nol want to repeat what Senator Cohen has said about the growing teacher problem because he has told us so often what is needed with regard to teachers.
In a few weeks time members of the Government parties and of the Opposition will be talking about their respective policies on health. The differences in the policies probably will not be as marked as a lot of people may think they will be. It is very expensive to be sick. Whether the health scheme in Queensland is better than that in New South Wales J do not know, but 1 do know that anybody who has sickness in the family can be placed in a position of bankruptcy without any chance of getting out of his difficulty. There should be a concerted effort to solve this national problem. The doctors are very hard to handle. One thing is certain - that the doctors today are making more money than ever.
I do not think any democracy is doing itself justice if it gets - if I might use this term - offside with the medical profession. Medical men come into the home, provide confidence to patients and do all sorts of other things. But 1 am afraid that in the present setup the emphasis is only on money. In the approaching election campaign the Government supporters will be attacking Labor’s policy in respect of health services, yet the report of the Nimmo Committee - the Committee set up by the Government to examine the success or otherwise of the hospital and medical benefits scheme - is wholly in support of Labor’s policy. Nobody who supports the Government will say that on the hustings but I am saying it now. After an investigation lasting nearly 2 years the Nimmo Committee, set up by the Government, reported as follows: 1 The operation of the health insurance scheme is unnecessarily complex and beyond the comprehension of many. 2 The benefits received by contributors are frequently much less than the cost of hospital and medical treatment. 3 The contributions have increased to such an extent that they are beyond the capacity of some members of the community and involve considerable hardship for others. 4 The rules of many registered organisations including the so-called ‘special account’ rules permit disallowance or reduction of claims for particular conditions. The application of these rules has caused serious and widespread hardship. 5 An unduly high proportion of the contributions received by some organisations is absorbed in operating expenses. 6 The level of reserves held by some organisations is unnecessarily high.
I could quote other paragraphs of the report which express stronger condemnation by the Committee. Will the Government support that report? I do not think so, but the report is an adoption of Labor’s policy on public health in this country.
– I do not propose to keep the Senate long.
– Hear, hear!
– But there are a few items of the Budget to which I wish to refer that even Senator O’Byrne might be interested to hear about. The Budget determines the stewardship of the Government in office and reflects the economic setup of the nation, the welfare of its people and its growth and development. The general public have always shown a particular interest in the presentation of a Federal Budget and it is always followed by an informed reaction. It is some time since the Budget was brought down. The immediate reaction could be considered to have been more favourable than to most Budgets. In fact, even members of the Opposition, who traditionally tear down a budget, have paid it a compliment or two.
When the Budget was introduced one comment was made that it is a vote catching budget. Another reaction was that the Government had implemented the policies of the Australian Labor Party or, perhaps I should say, some of its promises. However, it must be clearly understood that the contents of a Budget are not election promises made by those people who may have the responsibility to implement them. History has shown that many promises made at election time are not implemented. The Budget is not a set of rash promises made by those people who know that they will not have to carry them out. The items of the Budget related to new fields of assistance will be implemented in the normal course of the conduct of the Government’s business. No Budget can please everybody. It seems that almost everyone has a grouch about some portion of the Budget, but the general public must be reasonably satisfied with the management of the Government in recent years. There is no doubt that the ordinary people of this country are better off than their counterparts in most areas of the world.
There are a few items of the Budget with which I am particularly concerned. I wish to deal first with the benefits to be received by primary producers. I am particularly pleased to see that those benefits will considerably help the people in arid and remote areas of western Queensland, western New South Wales and north-western Australia. Relief to be granted from estate duty is particularly important to farmers in Queensland where most land is held under leasehold title which cannot be in more than two names, and is subject to the provision that no lease can be subdivided. This means that the capital required to develop and maintain grazing properties in the low rainfall areas is quite considerable. After properties have been held for one or two generations, payment of probate duty can force the next generation off the land. This is not only bad for the people concerned but also for the nation.
I am pleased that estate duty is now to be scaled down and an extension of time is to be allowed for payment. The drought bonds scheme is at last to become a fact. I referred to drought bonds in my speech on the Budget last year. These will be of great benefit, particularly to wool producers in the dry areas. Aid for research and promotion in the wool industry is to be paid in greater proportion by the Commonwealth; contributions by wool growers for this purpose are to be cut in half. Research is most important for the survival of the wool industry. Money directed by the Government to this end is well spent. The wool industry is still our greatest export earner.
Other new items in the Budget include the provision for full deduction for income tax purposes of expenditure on structural improvements for fodder conservation. This is another item of great importance to people in the arid areas. In Queensland, because of climatic conditions sporadic rainfall and the time at which it falls, the cost of production of fodder is prohibitive. Because it is uneconomic to grow fodder there it must be transported from areas in which it can be grown economically. As the distances involved are great it is essential that the fodder be purchased at times when it is relatively cheap - that is in good seasons - and stored on the properties so that when there is drought, such as has occurred in the past 3 or 4 years, the producers are able in some way to cope with its effects.
I turn now to consider national development schemes. This Budget does not contain increased provision for water conservation. We are still awaiting the Federal Government’s decision on the construction of a power house in central Queensland. For the continued growth and development of this country we must continue to invest money in schemes that will increase the national wealth. All increases in social service benefits should be paid for by increased wealth from production and should not become a burden on individual taxpayers. There are many ways in which production in Queensland can be increased by the provision of Commonwealth financial assistance. First of all 1 shall deal with the central Queensland powerhouse. At Weipa we have enormous deposits of bauxite and in central Queensland we have unlimited deposits of coal suitable for use in power stations.
– Steaming and coking.
– That is correct. As all honourable senators know, the processing of aluminium requires an unlimited supply of electricity. Therefore if we can process the unlimited deposits of bauxite that we have in the north by using the unlimited supply of electricity produced on the coalfields of central Queensland we will have the basis of a tremendous industry in the area. After all, if electricity is the main item in the production of aluminium it naturally follows that cheap power will play an important part in the economic development of the industry. Cheap power, of course, depends on enormous production and consumption. Not only will we be able to process our bauxite in this country instead of sending it to New Zealand and elsewhere, and as a result bring a great deal more wealth to the nation as a whole, but also other industries will be attracted to the area. This will encourage population and increase development in northern Australia.
In conjunction with the powerhouse if it is proceeded with - and I have no reason to doubt that it will be - I should like to see the construction of a power line between Emerald and the central western grazing areas of Queensland. I think the line would have to run from Emerald to Barcaldine. The Central Western Regional Electricity Board has been budgeting each year to increase its generating plant. Because of the scattered towns, the limited consumption of electricity and the high cost of production it naturally follows that the cost to the consumer there is very high. If the money that is being spent in enlarging the powerhouse were put towards building a great powerhouse on the coast the money would be used to better advantage. I hope this aspect will be taken into consideration when it is decided to proceed with the powerhouse project.
Another matter about which 1 am very concerned is the proposed irrigation scheme on the Burnett and Kolan rivers. I know the area and its value. The scheme is the Queensland Government’s number one priority and there are particular reasons why it should be commenced as soon as possible. In the first place there is no question about its being a white elephant. The sugar industry has been established in the area for many years. The even climate and the rich nature of the soil make it particularly suitable for the production of vegetables. As the population of the Commonwealth, and particularly of Queensland, grows so will the need for processed vegetables grow. Most of the vegetables for the Brisbane market are grown in the Redland Bay area which gradually is being taken over by urban development. It is significant that processing companies which arc commencing operations in Brisbane are looking particularly to the Bundaberg area to provide the bulk of the vegetables that are required.
Bundaberg is an established district. Many millions of dollars have been invested there, not only in the cane industry and on the farms but also in the five mills which operate in the area. Since 1962 when the expansion of the sugar industry commenced not less than $30m has been spent in the five mill areas. In a normal year the value of sugar produced is estimated at S36m. The town of Bundaberg has a population of 26,000 people and the district supports a total of 43,000 who are dependent mainly on the sugar industry. The area has one major drawback - the seasons are very erratic. It suffers from recurring droughts and in many years only those farms which have access to surface or underground water can meet requirements. Production from the dry farms is declining until virtually it ceases to exist. For example, in Isis, which is a non-irrigated area, there was a shortfall of 83 per cent in 1965. In other words it could supply only 17 per cent of its requirements. That gives some indication of the devastation which was caused by the drought in 1965. I imagine that because of the drought now being experienced production will not be much better than it was then. In 1964 and 1965 the shortfall in mill peaks in the BurnettKolan area amounted to some $18m, of which at least $15m could be attributed to drought.
The sugar Industry has become an important export earner for the nation. Despite the disastrous prices received overseas 2 years ago it has managed to survive and there is little doubt that if given the opportunity to produce in sufficient quantity it can continue to earn export income for us. It is obvious that a guaranteed income every year for farmers in the Bundaberg district as a result of irrigation will make them much more efficient producers than they are under the present hit and miss system. If you compare farms in irrigated and nonirrigated areas you get a fair indication of the economic value of irrigation in the Bundaberg district. Quite a deal of cane there has been irrigated over the years mainly by underground supplies but unfortunately the levels of those supplies are dropping rapidly and salt water is coming in. Unless something is done very soon to recharge those underground supplies by means of the proposed scheme future droughts will have an even worse effect on cane production in the district.
I hope that when the Commonwealth Government decides to place more money into our water conservation fund it will give serious consideration to the Burnett scheme because, after all, it has proved itself. We are not starting from scratch and wondering whether we will be able to produce goods economically and whether we will have a market for them. We already have an established industry and all it requires now is the insurance to ensure that it develops on sound lines. Quite a bit has been said of late on the matter of defence.
Naturally, to me as a Queenslander living in the northern part of the country, the defence of this nation is of paramount importance. I believe that it has always been of paramount importance to the Government, as our record over the years has shown. I believe that the Government has faced up to its responsibilities despite a lot of criticism from the Opposition and many other quarters and defence has always been considered on an overall basis.
In this Budget provision for defence expenditure is down by 5%. I am prepared to accept the explanation of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) for this, provided of course it does not occur next year and the year after. The Minister has explained why there has been a 5% reduction on this occasion and he has stated that there is no scaling down of the actual defence effort. I still believe that because of our geographical position we must always maintain a defence force. We must also consider the fact that by spending too much on defence we can neglect development programmes. If we do not expect an attack within a certain time all of our equipment may become obsolete and the money expended will be virtually wasted. If it so happens that we are not attacked for a number of years the best defence for the future is to build up the productivity, wealth and population of this country. It is a gamble to decide what a government does. I believe that the decisions made by this Government over the past 20 years have turned out to be the right ones. Therefore, I am prepared at this stage to go along and accept the statement of the Minister that there is no scaling down of our defences.
There has been an attempt by panic propaganda to bulldoze the Government into abandoning the purchase of the Fill aircraft. Everyone realises that this swing wing concept is very new. Most countries decided that it was too difficult to proceed with and they dropped their ideas for swing wing aircraft. But the Americans, through the General Dynamic Corporation, have proceeded with it. Although there was a great deal of teething trouble for a start, I believe that it has been proved that the concept can be applied successfully. In fact, it has been proved to such an extent that both Russia and France have decided to develop swing wing aircraft. The Opposition has always ridiculed the Fill aircraft. lt is more prepared to take the opinions of isolationist congressmen in the United States and opposition manufacturers who are probably a little put out. These manufacturers once had a monopoly of the United States programme and now that another firm has come in they want to run down its aircraft. It seems to me that the Opposition is more interested in what these people are saying than in seeking the advice of our own experts within the Royal Australian Air Force as to whether or not we should have this aircraft.
– When are we going to get it and when is it going to fly?
– The honourable senator’s interjection is, in my opinion, an expression of no confidence in our RAAF personnel and the fighting forces of this country. It is typical of the whole of the Opposition’s attitude towards defence. The people who will have the responsibility in the air of keeping an invader from these shores will be the RAAF personnel, not the members of the Opposition nor, as far as that goes, members of the Government. I believe that we have a responsibility al least lo give these people an opportunity to explain why they want this particular aircraft. Every single member of the top echelon of the RAAF and all of the experts have said that they want the FI 1 1 and that they must have it. I am prepared lo go along with these people when they decide that this aircraft is essential for the defence of this country.
There are one or two other items thai I am pleased to see included in the Budget. The improvements in our social welfare provisions in relation to the age pension will be of terrific benefit to many people who have reached retiring age but can still be of great use to this country. In my area of western Queensland the knowledge gained by some of these old people in the pastoral industry in the handling of droughts and tough times is invaluable. Many of them have led active lives and although they have reached the age of 65 years, and some of them over 70 years, they are still capable of serving this industry in particular with their advice.
– You say that these are the people who ordered the Fill?
– The honourable’ senator came in a bit late.
– No, I was here.
– He must have just wakened up. These people are prepared to work.
– They have to work beyond the age of 65 years to be able lo live.
– They are prepared to work. Most of them like to have their incomes supplemented.
– So do I. We all do.
– Does not the honourable senator believe in the means lest being liberalised? 1 feel that this is of great benefit, lt will be of benefit to our industry as well as to everyone else concerned. I now come to the matter of education. This assistance to private schools has been received by the people, I believe, with a great deal of enthusiasm. The subsidy for running costs of independent schools is in my opinion an important advance in education in this country. The old argument that stale schools are available and that if parents desire to send children to private schools that is their own business so far as I am concerned no longer holds water. There is an absolute necessity in this age for higher education and the costs involved place a heavy burden on the taxpayers of Australia and they will continue to rise. The tremendous number of students requiring higher education has taxed to the limit the resources of our state education system to cope nol only in the matter of classrooms and facilities but also in the training of teachers. It is most fortunate that those who have chosen to send their children to independent schools have eased the problem confronting slate schools, despite the fact that it has involved considerable expense on their part. I also feel that in this present situation the other benefits that private schools are able to give their children are of importance. Instead of there being one stereotyped system of education these schools can provide something different which adds to the benefit of the nation generally.
– You concede that state education in Australia is stereotyped.
Is this what has happened after 20 years of Liberal Government - stereotyped state education?
– I said ‘State education’, not ‘Federal education’.
– The honourable senator said that State education was all stereotyped and that it was appalling.
– Senator Wheeldon can make his speech later on.
– The honourable senator said it. I am quoting him.
– That is all right. I shall continue with my speech. A number of statements have been made by gentlemen like Senator Wheeldon about the Government providing too much money for private schools and not enough for government schools. It is significant that the contributions by way of direct grants by the Federal Government to the State governments for education amount to something like $5 14m per annum, as opposed to the $24m that is proposed in this Budget for assistance to private schools. The difference between $5 14m and $24m is considerable. I support the Budget. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on bringing down a Budget which gives increased benefits to all sections of the community but which does not increase taxation.
– I firmly believe, as my colleagues on this side of the House believe, that this Budget is purely and simply an election year Budget. I think that a lot of the benefits contained in the Budget would not have been there had it not been the year for the election of members in another place. The Budget contains many benefits for a great number of people but it overlooks a lot of fields in which the Government could have given some assistance. As I proceed with my speech I shall bring these matters forward. I believe that this Budget was framed on decisions made at the Australian Labor Party’s recent federal conference. At that conference the Labor Party proposed certain things and in this Budget we see that the Government has come out with almost the self-same proposals. On 27th August the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) incorporated in Hansard certain tables. If one looks at the table showing the effect of the tapered means test on the single pensioner one sees that under the present Budget a single pensioner with means as assessed of $10 a week will receive $15 a week pension, which will give a total income of $25.
– That is a good rise, is it not?
– That is not a rise at all. If one looks further down the scale one sees that a single person with means as assessed of $25 a week will receive a pension of $7.50 a week. As one goes down the list one sees that the amounts granted are considerably above the $1 a week that those with no income will receive. I refer to those people who are dependent wholly on the pension for their income. I am not critical of the fact that pensions have been increased. In fact I think it is a good thing. But I suggest that those people on the lower rung of the ladder or those whose pension is their sole means of income should have been given greater assistance. When one looks at the table for married couples one sees that a couple could have an income of up to $69 a week and still receive a pension. Again I do not decry this situation, but I believe that the means test could have been abolished over a period of time. This was proposed by the ALP at its last Federal Conference. It said that, if elected, it would abolish the means test over a period of 6 years - the life of two parliaments. The Government should have done the thing properly and thoroughly instead of half-heartedly. People whose means as assessed are below $40 a week should have been given some assistance.
I think the Government has done the right thing in helping widows. Allowing them to earn more money has been a great step forward. The amount that widows with dependent children can receive has increased under the proposals contained in this Budget. Another policy brought down at the ALP Federal Conference has been adopted by the Government in its present Budget proposals. The Labor Party proposed that independent schools should receive a sum of money that would give them a great deal of help. I think the independent schools needed this help long before 1969. I do not take away from the Government credit for assisting independent schools by providing science block grants, scholarships, etc. I have spoken about this subject when other Budgets were presented. I believe that for many years independent schools have been crying out for some assistance. It was not until 1969, the year of an election, that the Federal Government decided to do something to help independent schools, apart from providing science block grants and scholarships. Now the Government will give assistance to primary and secondary schools by granting, in lump sum form, so much for each pupil. I would have been much happier had the primary schools and not the secondary schools received the greater part of this grant. As Senator Ormonde pointed out earlier this afternoon, the independent primary schools are in great need. If children in primary schools are not given sufficient education to enable them to reach secondary school level, the provision of more money for secondary schools is like building a house and putting the roof up before the foundations and the walls are finished. I think the independent primary schools could have done with a greater amount than that which the secondary schools will receive. I think i he Government should have looked at the matter in that light.
– Can the honourable senator refer to any report which would indicate that the area of greatest need is in primary schools rather than in secondary schools?
– I do not know of any reports in regard to independent schools. 1 do know that parents and friends associations and other bodies have worked hard to help the independent schools to continue to exist. They are the only people I know of who have done anything about assisting independent schools. I do nol know of any true report on the area of greatest need. I move among quite a number of independent primary schools in South Australia. I feel that this is where the need is greatest. I feel that the need is greater in primary schools than in secondary schools.
– 1 take it that the view the honourable senator is expressing is a personal one?
– lt is a personal one. I can go only on what teachers and headmasters have told me. Of course, some of them do not agree. A lot say that secondary schools need the most assistance. However,
I feel that the need is greatest in the primary schools. As I said earlier, if the children are not properly educated at primary school there is no use providing assistance to the secondary schools. As 1 said earlier, the Government proposes to give a certain amount of assistance to primary schools and a certain amount of assistance to secondary schools. Some people may not agree with this. Some honourable senators may not agree with it. But it is my firm belief that the area of greatest need is the primary schools.
Many parents provide assistance to primary schools by staffing tuckshops and raising funds by various other methods. This money is made available to the schools to give the children a better standard of education. I am not suggesting that this happens only in independent schools. Many State schools also receive a great deal of assistance in this way. I am sure that all honourable senators receive letter after letter from people who represent organisations within State schools saying that these schools are not getting a proper go: that they should be given more assistance and that unless something is done education standards will decrease rapidly. I believe that the Government should adopt the idea that the Australian Labor Party has proposed of setting up a commission to inquire into all aspects of education. I feel that this would go a long way towards alleviating the sort of thing that is happening at the present time.
– That ls the Kathleen Mavourneen system - postponing, postponing, postponing.
– No, it is not postponing the matter at all. Mr Whitlam has said that when returned to office the Labor Party will, during the course of the setting up of such a commission, make a certain amount of money available not only to the Slate schools but also-
– For 10 years you violently opposed any suggestion of State aid.
– If Senator Gair takes his mind back over the last 10 years he will realise why this sort of thing has happened.
– We know why it happened.
– Those who were violently opposed to any form of aid to independent schools replaced those who were all for aid.
– Take the division list in Brisbane in 1957.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Byrne) - Order! Senator Drury has the floor.
– State aid was in the platform of the Labor Party up until 1955. As has been pointed out. it is only over the last 10 years that this sort of thing has happened. Honourable senators know as well as I do why it happened, lt is no good beating about the bush. Certain circumstances arose. Honourable senators know this as well as 1 do. Until that time the policy of the Australian Labor Party had been aid for independent schools.
– lt has changed every year.
– The Australian Labor Party has a policy now that 1 feel is as good as, if not better than, that of any other political party. 1 cannot think of a better education policy than the present policy of the ALP. If the Senate wants me to read some of the ALP’s proposals I shall be happy to do so.
– We really do noi want you to.
– Sometimes these things touch on raw spots. 1 will quote the policy of the ALP. lt is:
Substantial Commonwealth assistance is needed to relieve the crisis in both government and nongovernment schools.
– Who is this by - Joe Chamberlain?
– lt was slated by Mr E. G. Whitlam, M.P., Federal Leader of the Opposition. Under the heading ‘Teacher Education’ he went on to say: implement the recommendations of the Martin Committee lo:
Financially assist States to provide adequate buildings and staffing for teacher education.
Ensure an adequate supply of teachers wilh a minimum of 3 years professional training for both government and non-government schools.
Ensure that all teacher trainees for both government and non-government systems should receive their training wilh allowances and without fees. Teachers will be free to serve in any institution and in any State. The Commonwealth would provide scholarships for such purpose.
Under the heading of ‘Payments’ he said:
The Commonwealth should make grants, based on periodic reviews, towards the payment of all qualified teachers’ salaries - as is now done with universities and is proposed for colleges of advanced education.
Under the heading of ‘Schools Commission’ he said:
Establishment of an Australian schools commission is proposed with similar functions to the existing Australian Universities Commission:
To make continuing inquiries into the needs of primary, secondary and technical education for both systems.
To recommend to the Commonwealth what grams and assistance are needed for both capital ami running costs.
In regard lo an emergency grant he said:
Pending the establishment of the commission - a Labor government in 1970 would provide an emergency grant of $50m for schools - at least half for non-government schools, primarily for teachers’ salaries.
This afternoon Senator Young, who is from South Australia, asked a question of Senator Scott the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, regarding a report that appeared in the Press concerning the Dartmouth scheme in Victoria. The Minister said that the scheme was supported by 600 or 700 irrigators, who belived (hal the Dartmouth dam would be more beneficial to South Australia than the Chowilla scheme. One has only to look for example, at the article published in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of 5th September to learn that the motion that was supposedly moved by Mr Rowland was not in accord with the view of the majority of irrigators and fruit growers along the River Murray. That article was headed: ‘Rebuke Over Dam Move’, and read:
A resolution for the building of the Dartmouth Dam would be repudiated and its mover rebuked, the Speaker of tho South Australian House of Assembly (Mr Stott) said yesterday. He was commenting on a Melbourne report which said a meeting of irrigators from three States had voted unanimously in favour of a South Australian move to have the Dartmouth Dam built immediately.
The South Australian irrigators’ delegate at the meeting, Mr P. W. Rowland, moved for the meeting to call for Dartmouth to be built. Mr Stott said: ‘Mr Rowland was not an accredited delegate representing South Australia.
He was scot as an observer and he only had authority to support a resolution for the building of both the Dartmouth and Chowilla Dams simultaneously.’
Further on, the report states:
It was claimed in Waikerie yesterday that Victorian manoeuvring this week had wrongfully given the impression that South Australian River Murray irrigators favoured immediate construction of the Dartmouth Dam in Victoria.
That charge was made by the Chairman of the steering committee of the South Australian River Murray Irrigators’ Association (Mr E. R. Barratt). Mr Barratt was referring to a Melbourne report in ‘The Advertiser’ yesterday that irrigators from three States had, on the motion of Mr P. W. Rowland, an orchardist in the Waikerie district, voted unanimously to call for the Dartmouth Dam to be built at once. “There is no doubt that the South Australian Parliament will block ratification of the interstate agreement to build only Dartmouth Dam if South Australian Labor members support Mr Stott’s stand.’
I am confident that if one were to peruse the reports and representations received by honourable senators and probably also by members of another place with regard to the building of both the Chowilla and Dartmouth dams one would become convinced that the majority of the people who derive their living from projects along the upper reaches of the River Murray in South Australia favour the building of both dams simultaneously.
Just recently I attended a meeting at Berri. I believe that the Minister for National Development was invited to attend but, for some unforeseen reason, was unable to do so. It was reported that there were about 550 people present at the meeting and that they unanimously supported a move for the building of both dams simultaneously. I would say that at least 98% of the 550 people present at that meeting would be people who obtained their living from vine production, fruit growing and citrus growing on the River Murray.
On 24th March 1969, I received from Mr T. C. Stott, Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly, a letter relating to a meeting which was held at Loxton on Thursday, 20th March, in which he said that the following resolutions were carried by the meeting:
That this meeting strongly supports Mr Stott’s stand in continuing to fight for the Chowilla Dam, realising that all States must agree on where a dam is built, and that as Chowilla by itself is not now possible, we support Mr Stott’s move to inform the other States and the Commonwealth that South Australia will not ratify the agreement nor provide the money to build Dartmouth unless agreement is reached to built both the Chowilla Dam and Dartmouth at the same time.
Further that the Premier and Opposition leaders in State and Federal Parliament be informed of this resolution, together with all South Australian Members of the House of Representatives and Senators, to support this proposal and assist in providing the necessary finance to do so.
The letter continues in that vein to the end. It would seem to me to be clear that the people along the upper reaches of the River Murray in South Australian are all for the building of both Chowilla Dam and Dartmouth Dam simultaneously. They are fearful that if Dartmouth Dam is started before a start is made on Chowilla then Chowilla will not be built at all. I wish to refer now to a letter dated 2nd July 1969 which I received from the United Farmers and Graziers of South Australia Inc. It reads:
I draw your attention to the following resolution which was unanimously carried at the recent Annual Conference of Zone 9, which constitutes all fruit grower members in the River districts, of the above Organisation.
That this Zone resolves
Premiersto amend the agreement to provide that a Dam be built at Chowilla and Dartmouth simultaneously.
It would be appreciated if you could give this matter your due consideration.
But it would appear from statements made by the Minister for National Development that Chowilla is a lost cause. I refer, for example, to the following statement from Canberra which appeared in the Press:
STAND BY MP ‘COULD END NEW VICTORIAN DAM’
The Minister for National Development. Mr Fairbairn, yesterday attacked the Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly, Mr Stott, for his stand over the Dartmouth Dam.
If Mr Stott continues with his attitude and sways a majority to support him there will be no dam,’ Mr Fairbairn said. ‘This would be to the great detriment of his own State, which has negotiated what 1 believe to be a remarkably good agreement.’
Mr Fairbairn was replying in the House of Representatives to a question that had been asked by a member from South Australia. It would appear, therefore, that Mr Fairbairn favours the building of the Dartmouth Dam as against the construction of the Chowilla Dam. Although it is true that, as has been said, we shall receive21/4 million acre feet more water, we have no guarantee that we shall receive this amount of water in dry years. Senator Bishop, and other honourable senators from South Australia have asked questions about this matter and there still seems to be some doubt. If we do receive this extra211/2 million acre feet of water in good years, what is going to happen to the surplus water that flows down the Murray? The same thing will happen to it as happens now - what is not used by the irrigators will flow out to sea and be wasted. It has always been argued that the Chowilla Dam would not provide more water for South Australia but it would store water in wet years as an insurance againstlean years and thereby provide South Australia with sufficient water not only to keep the irrigators going but also to help keep down salinity in the lower reaches of the River Murray.
I submit therefore thatthis question of the building of Chowilla is not such a cut and dried affair as the Government would have us believe. There are many people in South Australia, particularly among those who obtain their living from the. River Murray, who are adamant that Chowilla should be built simultaneously with Dartmouth. Because of the amount of water that is being taken out of the lower reaches of the River Murray not only by irrigators but by others who have installed pipelines to reticulate water from the River, there must come a time when the construction of Chowilla Dam will become essential.
Sitting suspended from 6 to ft p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sittingI was speaking of the importance of Chowilla to South Australia. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansarda letter sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) by the Chowilla Dartmouth Promotion Committee and signed by the Deputy Chairman and Secretary of the Committee:
CHOWILLA DARTMOUTH DAMS
BOX 188 P.O.
LOXTON S.A. 5333.
6 August 1969
The Right Honourable The Prime Minister,
Mr John Gorton.
As an elected Committee we are aware of the apparent correct method of approach re matters of this nature, but, the Chowilla Dartmouth Dams Promotion Committee considers these projects to be of such vital import to S.A., and indeed, to the Commonwealth as a whole, that we have respectfully decided to solicit your support. We will endeavour to set out some of the important and relevant facts and hope that these will duly be considered and we trust will be supported, after evaluation by you Sir, as the Right Honourable the Leader of this great Commonwealth.
Sir Thomas Playford has stated publicly on numerous occasions that, quote ‘South Australia has physically and financially supported the Snowy Mountains Scheme, from which South Australia receives no direct benefit in the form of reticulated water or electrical power; South Australia has completely honoured its agreement to the Federal Government and the respective Slate Governments in this important project, but, prior to entering into an agreement to assist in the Snowy Mountains Scheme, South Australia was promised a dam at Chowilla site because of the necessity to ensure South Australia of sufficient water to maintain its immediate existing requirements, and to ensure its continued and future development industrially and in primary industry and to the Metropolitan area. lt was agreed and the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, Victoria, N.S.W., and South Australia entered into and passed legislation ratifying this agreement with the support of The River Murray Commission, that Chowilla would be the next major dam constructed on the River Murray System’. Unquote.
It must be noted that South Australia has constructed 8,000 miles of main pipelines to reticulate water to its decentralised large industrial areas and to supply water to its Northern towns and farms, this at b cost of $200 million: There are one million people in South Australia who are dependent upon the River Murray for their livelihood, 650,000 directly and the remainder indirectly. At eleven very well attended Public Meetings held in the towns of Berri, Barmera, Waikerie, Loxton, Murray Bridge and Renmark within the last eight months these Meetings were practically unanimous In supporting the completion of the Chowilla project upon which $6 million has been expended in foundation work; these meetings have at times been attended by as many as 700 members of the public and numerous Members of the Goverment and Opposition in Federal and State Houses.
The quality of the water from the River Murray during the 1966-7 drought was extremely poor, to the extent that serious loss of permanent plantings of peach and citrus was sustained by many rehabilitated last War Servicemen, had the drought continued it is difficult to imagine the chaos which would have resulted in South Australia.
At a Public Meeting held 1/8/69 at Berri, South Australia, attended by SOO residents and addressed by Senator Drury, Mr P. Arnold, M.P., The Hon. T. C. Stott, Speaker of the House of Assembly, South Australia, and Sir Thomas Playford Mr Stott stated his views on the financial practicability of Chowilla and Dartmouth, quote, Assuming the cost of constructing the two dams to be SI 20 million, the financing could be done by the Commonwealth contributing fifty percent of the total cost and the respective States assuming the responsibility of the other fifty per cent over a period of five years. This then would mean the involvement of between $4 and SS million annually for each respective State’ unquote.
South Australia is the driest State in a dry Continent and though we support the building of the two dams we feel as a Committee that Chowilla should receive priority firstly, as it has been ratified by four Parliaments of Australia, secondly it is below all tributaries over which the River Murray Commission has no jurisdiction and thirdly to safeguard and ensure South Australia’s water supply.
In conclusion Sir, expertise opinion has stated that it would be possible to complete construction of Chowilla in three years and a possibility of it filling, depending upon Bow in two or three years, whereas opinion is that Dartmouth would require six years for implementation and five years to fill, giving eleven years between being of any practical assistance to South Australia.
It is also estimated that owing to increasing diversions, by 1985 the flow in the Murray will diminish by a further 35%, this will eliminate all tribute ry flow to South Australia; this could subsequently lead to stagnation.
The House of Assembly in South Australia unanimously supported the Chowilla project in November 196S.
Trusting Sir, this will receive your very earnest consideration and your valued support from a State and National aspect.
CHOWILLA DARTMOUTH DAMS PROMOTION COMMITTEE.
Copies to Federal and State Ministers, Senators and Parliamentarians.
This letter is very important because it shows how the people along the River Murray feel about a start to Chowilla dam as soon as possible. I should like to warn the Government that although it does not believe that the Chowilla issue is a political one, I can show that it is. I refer the Senate to an article which appeared in the Advertiser’ in Adelaide on 4th September. The report stated that Mr Dunstan, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, had given notice of a motion that no major storage on the River Murray system be allowed to supersede the building of the Chowilla dam. The report continued:
The Assembly will be invited to express an opinion after Mr Dunstan explains his motion on 17th September.
Outside the chamber, Mr Dunstan said: ‘It means, in essence, no Dartmouth dam without Chowilla.
In the foreseeable future the Commonwealth will have a net return of S42m a year from the Snowy hydro-electric project. This State has contributed to (he Snowy.
Any suggestion by the Commonwealth that it cannot finance the building of both dams at once is nonsense.
If a Federal Labor government were in office, SA would get the Chowilla dam.
The ALP Federal Conference unanimously affirmed SA’s right to Chowilla and said that work should proceed on it.’
Mr Dunstan said SA could not be expected to provide a one-quarter share of the cost of building both dams at once.
He was prepared to take part in a united approach by the SA Parliament to the Federal Government to build the two dams.
So it can be seen what feeling there is in South Australia regarding Chowilla dam.
– Did Mr Holding support that resolution?
– 1 do not know whether he would support it. I am speaking from the South Australian point of view. 1 do not think many people in Victoria are very much worried about South Australia’s entitlement to water. The Press report from which 1 have quoted shows what the feeling is in South Australia and 1 feel that in making these remarks J am speaking for the majority of people along the River Murray who want the Chowilla dam built. The talk about an irrigation committee being set up and overriding a decision to build Dartmouth without a start on Chowilla is a lot of nonsense. Even Mr Barratt whom 1 mentioned earlier condemned an attitude of this kind. Again 1 warn the Government that if it thinks this is not a political issue in South Australia it has another think coming, as I believe will be proved on 25th October this year.
– The time has come, as the walrus said, to speak of many things. We have heard all sorts of things in this debate so far. I do not wish to change the course of events by not keeping up the tradition which has already been established. I wish to deal with a number of items and because I appear very late on the list of speakers on the Budget I wish to make only a couple of remarks in relation to the direct provisions of the Budget. My colleagues have already spoken in general and specific terms about the provisions of the Budget. I join them in applauding the document as a realistic attempt to distribute between the competing good causes of which we are all aware the increasing benefits of our increasing affluence. 1 wish to mention two benefits. One to which I refer and which I am very glad to see included in the Budget is the tapered means test, and the benefits which have come to a very large section of the community as a result of the amendment in relation to the provision of pensions and in relation to the means test. The other matter to which I shall refer briefly is the increase in education expenditure which 1 note to be 38% this year. I think it is important when looking at that 38% increase this year to remember that in the 1967-68 period it was increased by 34% and in 196S-69 it was increased by 19%. Whatever arguments may be raised as to particular aspects - we have heard something of this during the debate - it is quite clear that education as such has achieved a very high priority in this Government’s considerations. I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Government may feel well satisfied at having achieved what he last year set out to do. He said in his speech on the Budget last year:
What we want to see is that the aged needy, the ill needy, those really suffering from some unfortunate circumstances through no fault of their own, are adequately provided for by the nation, but that this should be done without destroying the incentive to save and without destroying the incentive to self reliance.
I believe that the measures that have been taken by this Government in the last 12 months and which are foreshadowed in the Budget which has been introduced and which we are now debating do achieve, in real terms, the objectives which the Prime Minister last year set for himself. The achievement of those objectives I applaud. For the reasons which have been given by other speakers from this side of the chamber and for the general reasons which T have mentioned, I wholeheartedly support the Budget and I oppose the amendment which has been moved.
I now wish to move on to the other matters; this is the ‘speak of many things’ part of my contribution. I refer first to the question of legal aid. I am disappointed to find that it has not been possible yet to introduce a scheme to provide the opportunity for all persons to have equal access to the courts and adequate opportunity for recourse to our courts. Last year 1 spoke of this matter. I wish to say again some words that I then mentioned because 1 still believe firmly in them, that is, that the provision of a legal system whereby all people may exercise this right of recourse to the courts is primarily an obligation of government. In this regard there is still an opportunity for this Government to show that admirable lead which it has shown in so many other directions. I trust that it will not be long before it is possible for that to come about. In relation to the need, I should like to quote from a letter written by the chairman of the Legal Aid Committee of the Law Institute of Victoria in making a submission recently to the Federal Attorney-General (Mr Bowen). The letter states:
A substantial proportion of cases in which assistance is provided relates to matters of Commonwealth jurisdiction. The greatest number of these are divorce petitions, of which there were 134 in the period to 261h April 1968 and 199 in the period to 28th April 1969. However, assistance has also been granted to an increasing number of persons charged in courts of summary jurisdiction or on indictment for offences against Commonwealth laws and proceedings in the Bankruptcy Court. Assistance has also been provided for deserted wives seeking maintenance and in appeals against determinations under the Commonwealth Workers Compensation Act. In most of these divorce, maintenance and criminal cases the assisted person is able to make little or no payment towards the cost so that the payment to the profession for its assistance is proportionately reduced and experience has shown that over the period since the Legal Aid Committee commenced operations in 1964 the number of persons assisted in Commonwealth cases has been steadily increasing. The Victorian Government is required to provide the necessary disbursements in these cases and the administrative expenses associated with these cases must bc mct out of funds provided by the Victorian Government. On the other hand, the Commonwealth expenditure is actually being reduced, particularly in the case of divorce and maintenance when frequently the husband is required to maintain his wife who would otherwise be a charge on social service funds. It is respectfully submitted that justice requires that the Commonwealth make some contribution towards the Victorian legal aid scheme in respect of the assistance afforded by the Legal Aid Committee in these Commonwealth cases. At present assistance in these cases is being subsidised solely by the Victorian legal profession when the burden should be shared by the whole Commonwealth community through a grant from Commonwealth funds.
I simply say that what is said in relation to Victoria applies equally to the legal aid schemes and the situation in relation to the need for legal aid in every other State of the Commonwealth. I trust, therefore, that it will not be long before the Federal Government - the Government whose excellent Budget we are debating - will be able to take measures to cover this shortfall in the present provisions.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is workers compensation. The legislation in Australia at the moment varies from State to State throughout the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth legislation varies from that of the States. For instance, in all states except South Australia and Tasmania the injury, for it to give rise to a claim for compensation, must arise out of or in the course of employment; whereas in South Australia and Tasmania it must arise out of and in the course of employment. Although, on the face of it, the difference may seem small, in fact in application it is very considerable.
It seems to me to be an incredible situation that in a nation of only a little more than 12 million people we have this wide variety of provisions in relation to something as basic as workers compensation law. It seems incredible in a nation in which we have a great exchange of employees and in which companies are engaged on an Australia-wide basis and frequently find it necessary to direct employees from one State to another, when it may well be that in one State the coverage that those employees obtain under workers compensation law is quite different from the coverage that they obtain in another State. The employees themselves, because of their experience of being brought up under one scheme, may not realise the differences and the need to take some other measures to protect themselves, such as private insurance or whatever it may be.
The provisions in relation to the determination of questions arising under workers compensation legislation vary considerably. In New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia there is provision for the determination of compensation claims by special boards and commissions, with no appeal procedure of challenge before the Supreme Court, save the procedure of stating a case on a question of law.
– Does not a Supreme Court judge constitute the tribunal in New South Wales? That is my impression, but I do not know whether I am correct.
– That is not my impression. I am not disputing the honourable senator’s statement but it is certainly not my impression. In Queensland, as I understand the position, the matter is determined by the industrial arbitration machinery in the industrial magistrates courts, with appeals to the State Industrial Court. So, no review by the Supreme Court is possible, save perhaps by prerogative writ or some such provision. In South Australia provision is made for the settlement of claims by agreement, by an arbitrator or by a special magistrate, and the proceedings, whether before an arbitrator or a special magistrate, are subject to appeal to the Supreme Court. In Tasmania the situation is that claims may be settled either by agreement or by proceedings taken according to the procedure of the Court of Requests but heard in the Supreme Court before a judge of the Supreme Court. There is an additional right of appeal to the Full Court of the Supreme Court.
That alone, 1 believe, shows the variations that exist in the workers compensation legislation of Australia. I can only hope that the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral, which has done what I believe to be an excellent job in so many respects, will take this matter under its wing and will endeavour to rationalise and standardise the provisions in a nation which, because of the developments in travel and communications, is becoming smaller, comparatively, every day. It seems to me to be quite absurd that a man working at, say, Wodonga on one side of the River Murray should in a particular circumstance obtain workers compensation, and a man working just a few miles away on the other side of the River Murray at Albury should not receive compensation. It might be a case of the widow receiving compensation in one instance and not in the other.
The legislation in relation to a great number of matters which are the rights of the States and of the Commonwealth, as regards legislating for its Territories, has been standardised or at least made fairly comparable. At the moment I cannot see any reason why such steps should not be taken in relation to workers compensation. This is a matter in which there is a duty on all those concerned and all those interested to press for a getting together of the bodies that are concerned with administering this scheme - the insurance companies, the unions, the employers, the State governments and the Federal Government - in order to work out a scheme that will be reasonably uniform throughout Australia.
One can hardly discuss compensation without thinking of the situation that arises in relation to industrial accidents. I wish to refer for a moment to some of the figures on the cost to the community of industrial accidents and the very high incidence of these accidents in the Australian community. Mr Stafford Fox, the Managing Director of BP Australia Ltd, who I understand has made a close study of the situation, suggested that the annual losses to the nation as a result of industrial accidents are in the region of $750m. Mr Kessell, the Deputy President of the National Safety Council of Australia, said that careful estimates have established that industrial accidents, most of which are preventable, cost industry in Australia well over $550m each year and that if indirect costs were included this figure might be well over $ 1, 000m a year. Other people who are well versed in the problem have given close study to it and have come out with figures as high as S2,000m per annum.
Whatever the correct figure is, it is all too obvious that this is a very severe problem. It is a problem that is costing us somewhere between 2% and 4% of our gross national product. The remarkable point about it is that we find ourselves able to compare our situation with that of the United States in many ways, yet in that country the percentage of the gross national product that is lost as the result of industrial accidents is only 1%. So, our experience is either twice or four times as bad as the American experience in this respect.
Honourable senators may ask whether there is anything that can be done about this problem. I believe that the activities of the National Safety Council of Australia show that there is something that can be done about it. Companies that undertake specific safety programmes have reduced the losses as a result of accidents in their undertakings by as much as 93%. The average of the member companies of the Council is 70% lower than the average for Australian industry generally. It is quite obvious that those industries which are prepared to pay attention to this problem, which are prepared to take the advice of experts and to take necessary measures to overcome the problem, find it possible to reduce it by gigantic percentages. It is a matter for industry, for the unions and for governments to concern themselves with ensuring that the maximum possible attention is paid to overcoming this problem.
As some indication of the extent of the problem another way of viewing it is that every day in Australia 17,000 workers are on an average away from work as a result of industrial accidents. The productivity of 17,000 extra workers in our work force would be quite remarkable. Again 1 say that I trust that the Government will, when this matter is brought to its attention, give greater support to the activities of the National Safety Council. I understand that $10,000 per annum is still the amount given for the support of the Council by the Commonwealth Government. It is my view that amounts of money of anything like that size are totally unreal and inadequate. If a proper programme is to be undertaken then funds of perhaps $100,000 per annum would be much more realistic in regard to the seriousness of the problem and in relation to the sort of support which the Australian Road Safety Council receives. I do not say that the Road Safety Council receives an undue amount of support. It may well be that it could do with considerably greater support, but certainly the activities of the National Safety Council, with the record which it has of remarkable achievement, show that it is a body which is well worthy of a much greater degree of support than it is receiving, and a body which can save Australia huge amounts of money. Any sum of money invested in the activities of the Council will return a very handsome dividend if it can reduce as dramatically as it has in the past the percentage of lost time as a result of industrial accidents.
I believe that a programme of employment of trained safety officers available to industries on a consultative and advisory basis would be a good start. This could be undertaken by the National Safety Council using partially the income it would receive from hiring out its services, partially the income it receives from industry generally and partially the income which it receives - and I hope will receive in much greater quantity - from the Commonwealth Government. Small industries cannot afford a full time safety officer, but they could benefit very greatly from the advice of such an officer where they could call him in on a consultative and advisory basis to go through the industry and make recommendations to educate the employees on safe working practices. Greater attention could be given by Government departments in letting contracts which require adequate safety practices to be followed. I know that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) has in his mind this matter of the letting of contracts by his Department, but I am not sure from the replies which I have received to questions and from reports which one receives from other Government departments that adequate attention is being given to it by all departments. There are many departments which could assist in a general programme to reduce the loss which is occurring in Australia as a result of industrial accidents.
A system whereby insurance companies varied the workers compensation insurance rates by providing no claim bonuses also would encourage attention to this problem. It may be that there are insuperable problems preventing the introduction of such a scheme, but so far in some fairly extensive reading on this subject I have not come across reference to such insuperable problems. I believe insurance companies have an obligation to consider how they can, rather than by increasing premiums to cover the cost of workers compensation claims, reduce or help to reduce the number and the incidence of such claims.
The final matter to which I wish to refer is the projected development at Jervis Bay of a steel works for Armco (Aust.) Pty Ltd. I think that all honourable senators in this chamber will agree that this is an exciting project involving investment in Australia of about $300m or $400m. Such a works would provide vast employment and vast income and would mean the development of the area in a way which perhaps previously only the dreamers had thought possible, lt is certainly an indication of the confidence which overseas investors have in the future of Australia. It is, we are told, to be the subject of a feasibility study. In relation to this I can only say that I trust that the Federal Government, presumably as one of those concerned - I say only presumably - in the negotiations in relation to the establishment of this huge new industry, will ensure that the feasibility study will include reference to the effluent from the steel works and, if it does ‘come about, from the projected nuclear power station. We may not then have a repetition of what has happened in so many other harbours and so many other estuaries throughout Australia. I refer to the gross pollution to a stage where the ecology of an area is destroyed and the natural environment is so grossly polluted that the area becomes, rather than a joy to those who are brought there because of the employment provided, a misery.
We have the examples of what has happened in so many overseas countries. We have the example of Tokyo where on many days you cannot look from one building to the next building because of the smog. You would not bathe in Tokyo Bay or in the Sumidagawa River or any of the other rivers flowing from the city. I was told that if you happen to fall in they pump an injection into you before they give you artificial respiration, because unless they stop the infection there is no point in reviving you. This is the sort of thing which has taken place in the United States of America. This is the sort of thing which has taken place in almost every industrialised area in the world, and already we have the situation in Australia where a huge strip of beautiful coastline from north of Newcastle to south of Port Kembla is grossly polluted by industrial effluents and by the effluent of the community. We have the situation where Sydney Harbour is said by experts to be no longer capable of maintaining marine life in the lower portion of the waters in the marine bed.
We have the situation where large areas of the coastline are ruined for recreational use as a result of discharge of sewerage and industrial effluents. We have a situation which to say the least is a tragedy for the people who live in the area. I hope and I trust that we will not repeat that situation in relation to Jervis Bay, one of the few ports, one of the few harbours and one of the few estuaries left on the New South Wales coast which have not so far been polluted, lt is one of the few estuaries the ecology of which still remains reasonably as it was when man first came to this country. It has been affected and it has been partially destroyed, as man so often does, but at least it is still substantially as it was. If a new steelworks or a nuclear power station and the communities that go with such projects are set up at Jervis Bay without adequate control over the discharge of effluent into the bay the result will be that the last remaining unaffected estuary will no longer be of any use to man other than for the transport of goods over the surface of the water.
I believe that the destruction of our environment is already a very serious problem in Australia. Although I wholeheartedly applaud any endeavour to increase the industrialisation of Australia and to offer greater employment opportunities to Australians in our national development, we must not permit that to overshadow the need to preserve the environment in which the employees will live. We cannot afford to continue to disregard this aspect of our social life. If we do, future generations will curse us for our lack of foresight. We will have given them a situation in which we have destroyed a beautiful coast and climate of this wonderful land so that it is no longer a pleasant place to live. I hope and trust that adequate steps will be taken to ensure that this stage is not reached. I conclude by joining with my colleagues, for the reasons that have been given, in supporting the Budget and opposing the amendment.
– I find that for once I am in agreement with Senator Rae. I refer to his remarks about workers compensation. I do not know whether there has been a change of thinking by the Liberal Party or whether the thought has been projected only by Senator Rae. My experience and knowledge of the Workers Compensation Act as it has existed in Tasmania goes back to the 1920s. There has been a continual struggle by the Tasmanian Government - in the main by the Australian Labor Party Government in Tasmania - to effect reasonable ammendments to the Workers Compensation Act. The Labor Government had them passed by the House of Assembly only to see them rejected-
– By pre-arrangement with the Legislative Council.
– By people who stood as independent candidates for the Legislative Council but were actually undercover Liberals. I resent the implication by Senator Rae that the proposals were rejected by arrangement with the Legislative Council. This has not been so. As Senator Rae is a young man he was not living at a time when it was not necessary for Tasmanian employers to insure their employees under the Workers Compensation Act.
– Have you lived in such times?
– I certainly have. My experience, as I said, goes back to the 1920s.
– You must have been just a babe. because the legislation was introduced in 1910.
– 1 happened to be born before 1910 and 1 worked at a time when Tasmanian employers were not compelled lo insure their employees under the Workers Compensation Act.
– How old are you -
– Since Senator Branson has posed the question - 1 have never tried to hide my age - 1 will tell him that I am almost 64 years old. lt might just be - and if this is so 1 welcome the situation - that Senator Rae’s remarks about workers compensation are a reflection of the fact that the Liberal Party is taking a more lenient view of the Workers Compensation Act. I sincerely hope that the seeds he has sown here tonight amongst Government supporters will flourish and eventually bear fruit so that the Liberal Party will come to take a realistic view of workers compensation legislation, lt is not so long ago, before I entered the Senate, that I fought as a trade unionist in Tasmania to have employees covered by workers compensation while travelling to and from their places of employment. Because of the actions of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, Tasmania was one of the last States in the Commonwealth to adopt that provision. The Legislative Council had previously thrown out amendments proposed to that effect.
Tonight Senator Rae has told us of the workings of the workers compensation legislation of the various States and has said that the Commonwealth legislation should be brought into line. 1 agree with that proposal. Tn every State at present two sets of workers compensation legislation cover employees, because of the need to cover Federal and State employees. I hope that Senator Rae’s remarks truly indicate that a breeze of change is blowing through the Liberal Party in respect of its approach to workers compensation.
– He is a ray of sunshine.
– I accept that very good interjection. I turn now to the Budget. Although I agreed with Senator Rae’s remarks about workers compensation I must disagree with his opposition to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). I support the proposed amendment. Senator Murphy said in concluding his remarks in support of the proposed amendment:
We trust that this Budget will be the last Liberal Budget the people of Australia will have to endure.
We on this side of the chamber wholeheartedly agree with that utterance. It is quite evident that on this occasion, as has happened on many other occasions, the Budget has been designed merely with the approaching election date in mind. I suppose this is to be expected. The Budget was introduced in August and very shortly after Parliament resumed its sittings the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced that an election would be held on 25th October. One wonders why the Government should be thinking about an early election so soon after the introduction of the Budget. I suggest that there are two or three reasons, the principal one being that the Government is feeling a little shaky because Government supporters have noted the gallup poll which showed that support for the Government is falling away in favour of the Labor Party. The Government wants to get to the people so that that trend will not gain too much momentum, as it might if the election were conducted in late November instead of on 25th October.
Another reason why the Government is feeling shaky is that an officer of the Employers Federation, if I remember correctly, has forecast that a recession will occur in Australia towards the end of this year or early next year, similar in its effects to the recession of 1960-61. I believe that the Government wants to get the election over as early as possible so that it will not run into a possible recession before going to the people. I think all honourable senators will agree that the Budget was tailored for the election and, in my opinion, tailored in such a way that the newspapers would give to the people of Australia their interpretation of what it really meant. One cannot read into the Budget Speech many of the benefits which the Government claims it is extending to the people of Australia and particularly - I say this with no thought of writing them down - the little people of Australia. When I refer to the little people of Australia I refer in the main to those who receive a pension, be it an invalid pension, an age pension, a repatriation pension or any other pension. This Budget gives very little to them.
The Budget gives no relief from taxation. I will have a little more to say about that aspect in a few minutes. For the present let me say that recently I received a letter from a person who is the merchandising manager for Australia in a particular oil company. His remarks were along these lines: ‘The Budget did not help us people in the middle income bracket, and there is a feeling within my organisation, there is a feeling among those with whom I mix who in the main are people in the middle income group, and there is a feeling in the State in which I . live that this Government is going down in popularity and that the Labor Party will make considerable gains’. That also fortifies the argument I advanced a few moments ago when I said that the Government is anxious to get the election over so that it will not be faced with the Labor Party’s increasing popularity.
Much has been written and much has been said about the Budget since it was presented. As I have said, it was left to the newspapers to interpret the Budget and to put it over to the people in the way in which the Government hoped they would put it over. Let me refer to the daily Press of the morning following the presentation of the Budget. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 13th August 1969 carried the headline: Pensions go up in boom Budget . Strangely enough, there was also some criticism of the Budget by certain writers. It was referred to in glowing terms by the ‘Daily Telegraph’, and the ‘Australian’ was quite partial to the Government in its headlines on the front page of the issue of the same day. One can only say that this was done with the idea of catching the imagination of the people, particularly those people whom the Government wants to keep on side, namely, the pensioners. I intended to refer to the leader in the ‘Australian’ of 13th August but I seem to have mislaid it at the moment so I shall turn to another avenue of criticism. The ‘Sun’ of 14th August 1969 contained criticism by wool men of the Budget. Jim Berry, the ‘Sun’s’ agriculture writer, wrote an article in the following terms:
Wool growers had received little Budget relief from rising costs, Mr Roy B. Gerrand said last night.
He is president of the pastoral division of the Victorian Farmers Union.
Mr Bernie Leach, a vice president of the Victorian Farmers Union also offered some criticism on that point. It appears that the farmers, and particularly the woolgrowers of this country, are not happy about the Budget. I have referred already to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 13th August. On page 10 of that issue of the newspaper one finds that a number of people criticised the Budget, sometimes in no uncertain terms. An article under the heading ‘Critics Speak Out Against Budget’ states:
The Budget caused mixed reactions among political and industrial leaders.
The secretary of the NSW Taxpayers Association (Mr J. McKellar White) described the Budget as ‘distinctly disappointing’.
Mr McKellar White is a person for whom I think most of us would have a lot of regard. He and people like him, by reason of the position they hold, are virtually the watchdogs of the taxpayers of Australia, and when one reads their criticism of the Budget one must have some regard for that criticism. The article goes on:
He said: The Government failed to give any tax concessions, despite the obvious buoyancy of the economy.
While sympathetic with the Treasurer’s fears of inflation, we nevertheless felt that some amelioration of the present tax field would have been justified’.
The president of the Commonwealth Pensioners Association was also critical of some aspects of the Budget. Dr Whitby, founder of the Pensioner Power Organisation, had this to say:
We consider it throwing pensioners a meatless bone.
I think most pensioners would agree with those sentiments. The criticism does not stop there. Quite an amount of criticism of the Budget is to be found in the Taxpayers Association bulletin.
I want to touch on one or two aspects of the Budget in relation to which I feel the Government is very vulnerable. The nui in one is social services. The Government has given some relief by introducing what it terms the tapered means test. That is good; that is acceptable. But it does not go very far. Not many people will benefit from it. I would rather have seen the Government do something for the younger people. If it had only a certain amount of money to devote to this field why bother with it at all? The Government well knows, as does everyone else, that the Labor Party’s policy is the complete abolition of the means test within the life of two parliaments. We will have our opportunity as from 25th October when we become the Government to put the first phase of that programme into operation.
– You frightened yourself when you said that.
– >I do not think so. I suggest to the honourable senator that if the Government were to have more regard for the requirements of the people, for the things which are written against the Government and for the suggestions which are made by us on this side of the chamber the Government would not be in such a shaky position as it is in today. I suggest to the honourable senator that if he were to read some of the comments which are made against the Government he - not I - would be the one who would be getting shaky. I did touch on the subject of taxation. Perhaps I should continue on that subject for a few moments. A matter that gives me a lot of concern in relation to taxation is the income tax schedule. This Government was elected in December 1949. In 1950, immediately after the election of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the deduction allowance for a spouse was $208 - £104 as it was at that time. In 1969 the allowance for a spouse is S3 12. From 1950 until 1969, a period of 19 years, the allowance for a spouse has increased by SI 04.
– One hundred per cent.
– It is $104 in a period of 1 9 years.
– Is that 100%?
– I am not talking about percentages. I have worked these figures out. If the honourable senator wants percentages he may work those out for him self. In 1950 the allowance for the first child was SI 56. In 1969 it is $208, an increase of-
– One hundred per cent.
– Has the honourable senator 100% on the brain?
– lt sounds like it. It sounds like a needle stuck on a record. The increase was $52 over a period of 19 years. That is all of the amount by which this Government has increased the allowance to the taxpayer for the first child or for subsequent children. The allowance for second and subsequent children in 1950 was $104. Today it is $156. Again, there was an increase of only $52 over a period of 1.9 years. This is under Liberal-Country Party management. We have heard much in this chamber about Liberal-Country Party management. We have heard much about Liberal assistance to the family man. I put this question to honourable senators opposite: Does this constitute assistance to the family man? I think one can come up with only one answer. The answer must be no. I would underline that word and put it in capital letters. This is only one aspect of taxation. One could go on for a considerable time pointing out anomalies that have been created by this Government in the taxation field. However, time does not permit me to do that. I want to return to child endowment. Again we find that the Government has not done very well in this particular field. What has it done? In 1950 it came to office on the promise of endowment for the first child.
– Did the Government introduce it?
– If the honourable senator wants the history of child endowment let me give it to him. It might be of some benefit to him when he is speaking on the hustings during the next election campaign. Child endowment was first introduced into Australia by a New South Wales Labor Government.
– What about in the Federal Parliament?
– If the honourable senator wants the history of child endowment, this is it. I defy anybody to refute that statement. The Menzies Government did introduce endowment for the first child, following the 1949 general election. This one of the planks on which it was elected. But what has the Government done since? Only for the fourth and subsequent children has the Government given any increase in child endowment. Let us have a look also at what has happened to the 50c which the Government gave to the mothers of this country in 1949. As the honourable senator has tried to raise this Issue, I use 1949 as a base year and regard that figure as 100 per cent. This will indicate what money is worth, or is not worth, whichever way one likes to put lt. These figures were compiled by the research department of J. B. Were and Son, stockbrokers, showing the decline in money value since 1949. I remind the Senate that this was the year in which Mr Menzies - now Sir Robert Menzies - promised if elected to put value back into the £1. The value of money has gradually decreased and decreased and decreased until in 1968 what had been 100 per cent was 42.5 per cent. This reduced the 5s child endowment which the Menzies Government gave in 1950 to below half its value. At that rate it is worth about 22c or 23c today. Further, the majority of mothers today, particularly younger mothers, like to take their children to clinics. This happens more in relation to the first child in a family than in relation to others. If we are to have regard to what the clinics desire, let me read to the Senate a circular from the Child Health Association, Glenorchy Branch, which is in my district:
The Committee of the above Association wishes to draw your attention to the following details:
This Clinic is maintained by a Voluntary Committee.
Considerable expense is incurred with Cleaner’s Wages, Cleaning Material, Telephone, Hydro and Insurance, Chemist Goods and other equipment.
New Clinic Members would be appreciated. Contact Sister if interested.
As the Committee is under a heavy expense, we ask all Mothers to make a small donation (10c) each week, to help maintain this Clinic.
This is signed by the Honorary Secretary. If a mother desires to take her child to a clinic to obtain advice from a sister who is specially trained in this field, the 50c a week given by the Menzies Government in 1950 is reduced by a further 10c. If one has regard to the table prepared by J. B. Were and Sons as to what 5/- would buy in 1949 and what 50c will buy today, it is clear that the 50c a week for the first child has been reduced to a level where it is almost ineffective. I do not see why the people should have to put up with this Government past 25th October.
– They will not.
– I sincerely hope that that is so.
– The honourable senator has been saying this for 20 years.
– I am sorry that I have to interject in this debate between the two honourable senators. If one considers the times at which increases are given to pensioners, it is very noticeable indeed that almost invariably the pension rate is increased prior to an election.
– The pensioners always vote against the government of the day.
– Who is the honourable senator trying to fool?
– Pensioners vote against the government of the day, whoever it may be.
– The honourable senator is trying to fool himself; he is not fooling me. In the main pensioners are set in their voting habits long before they reach the pension age. Not many of them change. The majority are set in their voting habits.
– Just as they are set in their football habits.
– I thank the honourable senator for his mention of football. It appears that, with an election coming up, the Government is prepared to give the pensioners a small handout. What happened last year? Did the pensioners get a handout last year?
– There was no election last year.
– That is right. The honourable senator has said it. There was no election. If the Government intends to work on that principle, for God’s sake let us have an election every year so that the pensioners will get a decent increase in pensions. The approach that the Government has adopted is that in an election year it gives pensioners an increase. On the honourable senator’s own admission, if there is not to be an election they do not get an increase. Let us have an election every year. I am sure pensioners would welcome one each year, even if members of Parliament, would not.
– The honourable senator has always objected to the setting up of an independent tribunal.
– The honourable senator had his chance to speak in this debate. I will venture the opinion that on this occasion he will do the same as his Party has done on every other occasion - that is, support the Government. One of the greatest disgraces that this Government has to face is its approach to funeral benefits for pensioners. Its attitude has been a crying shame. Every member of this Government should hang his head in shame. Funeral benefits were introduced by the Curtin Government in 1943 and have not been increased since that day. In 1943 the benefit was £10. Today, by conversion into decimal currency, it is $20. Does any member of the Government for one moment consider that an amount of twenty measly dollars is anything like sufficient to give a person a reasonable burial?
– It would hardly buy a wreath.
– lt would not even pay for the digging of the grave. Why has this Government continually insisted that the amount payable for the burial of a pensioner should remain at such a disgraceful level? I would like to say a lot about this Budget.
– I wish the honourable senator would. He has not said anything yet.
– I think I have said as much on this Budget as I have heard the honourable senator say ever since he has been in Parliament. I have never heard him make a worthwhile contribution to a debate yet. He has made a lot of noise and he has filled a few pages in Hansard, but in my opinion he has never made a reasonable contribution to a debate in this Parliament.
– I will have to speak in clearer terms so that the honourable senator can understand.
– I was reared where it was tough. I was reared in the mud in the bush, brother. I can take it. I hope the honourable senator can take it. My opinion, after having listened to the presentation of this Budget, having read what the Press has had to say about it and listening to what a number of members on the Government side have had to say about it, and in view of the fact that the Government has decided to have an election on 25th October-
– It might change its mind yet.
– 1 do not think it can because it has forced itself into a corner. My opinion is that if by some accident - and I repeat that - if by some accident this Government is returned to power the people of Australia will have to face what they have had to face previously under this Government. They will have to face a tightening of the belt by the introduction of a mini-budget. Who knows when that will be introduced? It could be introduced in November, in December or in January. We do not know. Under the Constitution, Parliament has to be called together again before the end of January as a result of the forthcoming election being held in October. I think I will leave my comments at that. I hope that some of the things which Senator Rae said about workers’ compensation will have some effect on the Government. I sincerely hope so. I sincerely hope that the House will carry the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. As I said when I opened, we on this side of the House sincerely hope that this will be the last Budget that this Government will bring forward.
– In my younger days - and tonight we seem to be talking a fair amount about age - 1 remember quite a colourful character in Australia who used to operate with some thimbles and a pea and an umbrella. He would appear and quite a crowd would congregate, provided no police were about. When he felt safe from the police he would open his umbrella, get out his thimbles and peas and ask those around to select the thimble covering the pea. Eventually the police caught up with him. I liken this Budget to the thimbles and the pea. I liken Parliament to the umbrella. I liken the police to the people of Australia who will arrest this Government on 25th October. I think this Budget is deficient in many directions. 1 ask the Government how it defines an honoured place. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) commenced his Budget Speech wilh the words: ‘Again, social welfare has an honoured place in these proposals’. If I were to use a debating trick I could say: ‘Has it had an honoured place before?’ Apparently, in the eyes of the Government, social welfare proposals are to bc honoured; but they are honoured only by words and most certainly not by actions. I propose to produce evidence on this aspect of the Budget to prove my point.
Before doing so, I wish to refer to some of the contributions that Government supporters have made to the debate. I refer firstly to Senator Sim, who now feels that there is some merit in discussing propositions with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He, like the Government, has changed his position. Previously he would have been regarded as a Red baiter. Now he feels that the situation has changed somewhat and he likewise has changed his coat. It might be that Senator Sim will be persecuted over the years for his support of the Government’s proposals in this regard. If he is he will suffer only the same persecution that he has handed out to supporters of the Australian Labor Party over many years. I give credit to Senator Sim for at least being courageous enough to admit where he stands on this matter. I believe that the electors of Australia will determine whether his attitude and the attitude of the Government are correct.
I am pleased that Senator Webster is present in the chamber. His contribution to the debate was to the effect that private industry should be stifled. There is no doubt about what he had to say. He said that the manufacturing of margarine should be prohibited by legislation. That is a very fine statement to come from one who professes to believe in private enterprise! Does Senator Webster worry one iota when the workers of Australia are faced with competition from automation or any improved mechanism? Did Senator Webster give any thought to the wharf labourers of Australia when mechanisation hit their industry? He did not express one thought about that matter. If any honourable senator doubts me he should study Hansard to see whether Senator Webster ever rose in this place to say that something should be done for the wharf labourers.
Because he represents a few people in the dairy industry Senator Webster wants to ban private enterprise. It really amounts to Senator Webster wanting to stop progress because we are told by the Government that private enterprise is progress. On this occasion Senator Webster, who led for the Government, denied in this chamber the very plank on which the Government relies so heavily - private enterprise. I believe it is a very bad state of affairs that such a situation should occur. About 90% of the honourable senator’s speech in this important debate was along the lines that something should be done similar to what was done in Victoria to prohibit the manufacture of margarine. I have no preference for the use of margarine as against dairy products. It is immaterial to me which is used. The principle is that here we have an honourable senator representing the Government who is voicing his opposition to private enterprise expanding. Surely that is a complete denial of the Government’s policies over many years.
Senator Cotton’s contribution to the debate was to the effect that he did not know whether the Budget should be a deficit one. Here we have a supporter of a government which has been in office for so many years who cannot make up his mind how the Budget should be framed. With due respect, I suggest that the Budget itself indicates that the Government did not know how it should be framed. The Treasurer has been warning of the danger of inflation for many months now, but we find that the Government comes up with a Budget handing out millions of dollars here and millions of dollars there. What is the true situation? Do we need an inflationary or a deflationary Budget? Not one supporter of the Government, particularly the Treasurer, has been able to answer that question. What is the true situation?
– Tell us what you would do.
– 1 will tell honourable senators in a moment what the Australian Labor Party will do. Senator Cotton has now indicated that he favours a deficit Budget. What is the real situation? I repeat that the Government does not know what it is doing. Senator Marriott warned the Government about the effect that increases in the Public Service will have on the economy. Let me again point out the utter insincerity of supporters of the Government in this direction. Whilst Senator Marriott was uttering these thoughts - notwithstanding the fact that it would be obvious that the Public Service must grow - his counterpart in the Queensland State Parliament was advocating an increase in the size of the Cabinet because the Public Service was growing. These are remarkable inconsistencies.
– ls the same type of government as this Government in office in Queensland?
– Exactly. Both are Liberal-Country Party coalitions, continually fighting amongst themselves. Let us have regard to decentralisation. What aspect of the Budget assists decentralisation? The Government pays lip service to decentralisation, lt has not done anything whatsoever for the common people who live in the country areas of Australia, it is true that the Government has given assistance to the wool growers. I believe that some important sections of the wool growing industry are now denouncing the Government’s propositions. I do not know whether the Government’s propositions are good or bad, but Sir William Gunn, who is a fairly important figure in the wool growing industry, has said that the industry does not want this additional assistance. I do not know whether it does or does not, but the Government has given assistance to the industry. What case was presented to the Government by the industry for this assistance? I do not know whether the Government has granted the assistance in ignorance. Perhaps someone influenced the Government to do so.
– I do not know. The Government has also given assistance to the farmers. But what assistance has it given to the ordinary people in the country areas of Australia? It is obvious that the Government has given them absolutely nothing. It is not for the want of pressing for assistance. On several occasions the Opposition has raised the question of a zone allowance, particularly in Queensland. I wish to refer to a question I asked in the Senate on 15th April 1969. I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer give favourable consideration, at the appropriate time, to reviewing zone income lax allowances for workers who work in zone allowance areas in Queensland?
Senator Anderson replied on behalf of the Treasurer in the following terms: lt is the practice of the Government to consider the many requests it receives each year for new and increased taxation concessions during the preparation of the annual Budget when the scope for concessions can be properly assessed. Accordingly, the proposal referred to by the honourable senator will bc listed for consideration during the preparation of the 1969-70 Budget.
Senator Anderson is not in the chamber at the moment. We regard him as an honourable person. If he were here I would ask him whether the Government considered that request. If the Government considered the request and rejected it, I would say that it has no sense of fair play whatsoever. In 1943, the zone B allowance in Queensland was $40 and the zone A allowance $60. In 1969, the zone B allowance is $90 and the zone A allowance $540. How any government can justify a discrepancy of that nature, 1 do not know. Nor do 1 know how it could arrive at the conclusion that there should be no review of the zone allowances applicable to people living in the country areas of Queensland. Do the members of the Government know the conditions under which these people live? Do they know of the high freight charges that these people are required to pay? Do they know of the high electricity charges these people are called upon to meet in order to enjoy a standard of living fitting for the year 1969? The Government has said that television will soon be available to the people living in the country areas of Queensland in particular. That is one promise that as yet has not been fulfilled. That promise was made 6 or 9 months ago, but still nothing has been done. Surely the people living in the country areas are entitled to some consideration in these directions. They pay top prices for all their commodities. Senator
Maunsell would know that the people living in western Queensland in particular pay top prices for their commodities. But they are given no consideration whatsoever in this Budget by way of increased zone allowances.
I have a list of the many high charges the people living in these areas are called upon to meet. I would suggest that it is the responsibility of the Government to gather some of this information and make an assessment of what is needed. If the Government’s assessment of the position is such that it does not believe that the people in these areas are entitled to some additional zone allowance, then it fails miserably. Not only does it fail the people living in these areas but it also denies the argument of decentralisation. We have seen the Government deny this policy time and time again and I raise my voice in protest tonight at the fact that although the Government has been asked to do something for these people it has neglected to take advantage of the opportunity given by the 1969 Budget to do so. The members of the Government should hang their heads in shame if for no other reason than that they have ignored the requests of the people living in the areas to which I have referred.
Education is supposed to be one of the big features of this Budget. I wonder whether any of the members of the Government saw the television programme ‘Four Corners’ last Saturday week when the principal of one of the most important secondary schools in Brisbane was interviewed. This man was asked what he was going to do with the money he would be receiving as a result of the proposal contained in this Budget. He said: ‘I do not know where I am going lo spend it.’ For the Minister’s information, 1 might mention that the man concerned was the principal of the Brisbane Boy’s Grammar School, one of Brisbane’s largest secondary schools. You can go to other large secondary schools in Brisbane and find the same situation obtaining. I do not think they would know where to spend the money. 1 invite the members of the Government to visit some of these schools and see for themselves just what magnificent structures they are. They would then realise that these institutions would not be able to spend the money they are to receive.
– Are you opposed to state aid?
– I support the policy of the Australian Labor Party.
– What is it?
– The other night you had the opportunity of having the policy incorporated in Hansard but you were so rude as to deny the Deputy Leader of our Party (Senator Cohen) thai privilege with the result that another honourable senator had to get up and read every line of our policy, lt is now all in Hansard. Senator Young can read it for himself. If he cannot understand it, he can come and see some of us and we will put him on the right track.
Let me develop my argument a step further. The principal of the secondary school to which 1 have referred was asked what he believed was the correct procedure to adopt. He replied: ‘If you ask me as headmaster of the school I am forced 10 say I will accept the money; if you ask me as a private individual, then I will say that the money could be spent in much better areas.’ And that would be the situation with quite a number of schools. Honourable senators would also know as a result of the disclosures made on the programme ‘Four Corners’ that there are many schools in Australia that have not the money to provide the essential equipment that is required today. Do any honourable senators on the Government side go around the schools of Canberra and compare those beautiful structures with the schools in their own areas? i make so bold as to say that if they did they would regard the schools of Canberra as being far superior to those in their own States.
Let me state the true position: In those school areas in which the residents enjoy substantial salaries or wage rates, the parents, as a result of the activities of the Parents and Citizens Associations, are able to provide additional services required by their schools. But what about the schools in areas where the parents are not in that affluent position? What about the parents of the school children at Cribb Island, near Brisbane, for example? Many of those people hardly earn enough to sustain themselves. They cannot afford to put money into additional educational requirements. Can honourable senators on the Government side visualise many of the parents of the school children in the Rocks area of Sydney having sufficient money to finance additional services for the schools in the area? In almost every State there are these areas which should be given additional protection.
That being so, do not let us talk about state aid. Let us ask: Where is the greatest need? I know of a place in central Queensland - Blackall - where there was one teacher teaching thirty-six children divided amongst five grades. Does anyone imagine that any one teacher could give adequate service and adequate instruction to thirtysix children divided into five grades? The teacher to whom I refer became sick and had to go to hospital. There was nobody to replace her. The doctor’s wife had to go and teach these thirty-six children and she received no pay whatsoever for her efforts. Surely that is an area in which money would be better spent than by giving it to some edifice the headmaster of which says he does not know what he is going to do with the money.
– Are you in favour of a means test for education?
– That is what it sounds like.
– I wish Senator Young would grow up and not interrupt with such inane interjections. He is very young and we excuse him on that score. He is so young and immature that he could not see the writing on the wall in South Australia when the people of that State preferred the Chowilla Dam to the other dam that he supported. There are many areas in Queensland - I also know of some in New South Wales - where much money can be spent to the advantage of the children. I am not worried now as to whether they are state schools, Roman Catholic Schools, Church of England schools, or any other schools. I am interested in the kids. I am not interested in what their religion is. I want to see every Australian kid given a decent standard of living.
– And so they are.
– If the honourable senator says that they are, I ask him to recall a ‘Four Corners’ programme of about 6 weeks ago. Would he like his child to be attending a school of thirty-six children which had only one teacher? Does he think that his child would be properly educated in those circumstances? If so, I suggest that he had better start going to school again because he has not been taught thoroughly.
I come now to defence. What stupidity it is that in this day and age we are reducing our defence expenditure by 5%. One could perhaps appreciate a reduction in defence expenditure if the Government were to announce that we were getting out of Vietnam as the United States of America is doing, but it has not done that. The Government continues to hedge on that question. I suggest that it would be far better to increase defence expenditure if it would provide finance for what I regard as the fourth arm of the Services. I refer to shipbuilding in Australia, aircraft manufacture in Australia and things of that nature. Surely we are entitled to expect these industries to be built up. But instead, we have shipbuilding yards destitute for orders. At Evans Deakin Co. Pty Ltd it is quite on the cards that 1,400 skilled workers will be put out of work within the next month unless further orders are received. What is the situation in the aircraft industry? Senator Bishop has raised this matter on innumerable occasions and has appealed to the Government to do something about the aircraft industry and the skilled workers in that industry, but the Government waves these workers aside and does not worry one iota about them.
I have asked that consideration be given to relief from taxation for sporting and cultural organisations in the country areas of Queensland. No-one would deny that they do a good job in the community, nor would anyone deny that they are an integral part of community effort. However, unless the Minister can assure me otherwise, I must say that the Government has paid no consideration whatever to my request. Surely as the representatives of the people of our State, if we put to the Government a request from the people we should be entitled to some explanation in reply. But when we make requests the Government says quite nicely. ‘Yes. we will look at that at Budget rime’. But when Budget time comes we get no reply, or if we do receive a reply it is in the negative. 1 suggest that this is not good enough, that it is a situation that should be corrected.
I claim that the Budget is deficient in many directions, lt appears to me that it was framed and then had to be altered as a result of something that had happened. As a matter of fact I have been informed that the Budget was in print, or was ready for printing, and had to be discarded and redrafted. Why was a change necessary? I suggest that it had to be changed because, as Senator Poke has said, the Australian Labor Party came out with such a forwardthinking policy, a policy that had been approved by the Press throughout Australia, a policy that excited the imagination of the people. I suggest that for these reasons the Government was forced to patch the Budget that had been prepared, ls this good administration? What new features are in the Budget? I invite honourable senators to study the Budget and to tell me what new features it contains. The one new feature of which I am aware is the tapered means lest. Notwithstanding that the Government for many years has said that it desired to abolish the means test, it now changes its tune completely and says that the means test should not be abolished, that whatever is available should be given to those in need rather than to the wealthy. Who would deny that argument? Professor Greenwood shakes his head and says ‘no’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! The honourable senator will refer to him as Senator Greenwood.
– If I may make a personal explanation, there is a Professor Greenwood in Brisbane. I apologise for using the expression. What I have just said about the abolition of the means test is confirmed by what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said at a Liberal rally in Brisbane.
– What did he say?
– I shall quote what he said.
– Is the honourable senator talking about the Prime Minister?
– Yes, the Prime Minister who changes his mind so frequently that perhaps he did not tell Senator Greenwood that he said these things. He did say them and I shall ask Senator Bishop to look through my papers to find the reference. It cannot be denied that back in the days of Sir Robert Menzies the Government did not promise to abolish the means test. Does Senator Greenwood deny that?
– Senator Greenwood is too young to remember that.
– I am interested in the present and what we are saying at present because that is what counts.
– If the honourable senator continues to interrupt like that 1 shall answer him in a most appropriate way. The Budget contains no new principles. The people of Australia are asking - in fact, almost demanding - that there should be an abolition of the means test, but all we are to get is an indistinguishable and indefinable reference to a tapered means test. Where are the references to improved health standards and protection for the community? The Government has had reports from committees which it has set up and which have severely criticised this aspect of the Australian way of life. But the Government has done nothing about the situation. The only exception is that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), about 9 months after the presentation of the report of the Health Insurance Committee of Inquiry, known as the Nimmo Committee, told the insurance people that they had better do something about the high costs of medical insurance. It is not good enough that the Australian people should have health services of a lower standard than those in other parts of the world. Australians are paying too much for health services which are inefficient and which should be improved. Under the programme laid down by the Australian Labor Party an improvement will be effected.
Could anyone have imagined that in 1969 there would have been presented a Budget containing not one word about the Government’s intentions with regard to water conservation? Let me remind honourable senators that Senator Anderson, in reply to a question from this side of the chamber, said somewhat facetiously that the art of this game is, when legislation becomes obviously wrong, to try to do something about it. Although that was said quite facetiously, nevertheless it would be regarded as a truism by the Administration. When legislation becomes faulty, then the Government sets out to remedy it. Has water conservation in Australia become a thing of the past? Let us suppose, for the purposes of argument, that the Government has tried to do something in this direction. Has it succeeded? Has its legislation become faulty? Have weaknesses appeared in what it has done? Obviously they have. But there is not one word about water conservation in this Budget.
– ls not water conservation primarily a State matter?
– If the attitude is that water conservation is a State matter, why has the Commonwealth Government been spending money on it and giving the States substantial amounts of money for it over the past few years? Even Senator Young, by interjection, denied Senator Greenwood’s argument. Senator Young says that the Government has done a good job in this direction.
– What I said was: ‘What about Dartmouth?’
– Dartmouth is completely unacceptable to the people of South Australia. Senator Young is representing the people of South Australia and he should adhere to what they require. Now let me draw attention to the plight of the people of Queensland at the present time. I quote the following from a statement on drought issued by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) on 21st August 1969:
Severe drought conditions are being experienced in the Queensland districts of Lower and Upper Carpentaria, Central Highlands, Central Lowlands, most of Upper and Lower Western, Central Coast and South Coast, and conditions are serious in some areas of the neighbouring districts of Maranoa, Warrego and West Darling Downs.
Yet we find that in the Budget there is not one word on how we can try to arrest this situation. If we spent hundreds of millions of dollars today we would recover it in the years to follow because we would have done something to minimise the effects of drought. The Government knows that this is a recurring problem, but it has done nothing. As a matter of fact, only the other day the Liberal bible in Queensland - the Courier-Mail’ - criticised the Government for its failure to maintain the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
– Has Senator Bishop found the paper that you were looking for?
– I do not know whether he has. But the honourable senator should not worry, because I will go and ask the Prime Minister myself. Of course, the Prime Minister might have changed his position, as he does so frequently. In this Budget we would have expected the Government to say something about the Fill, but it has failed to say anything at all about it. Can the Government say that it is governing in the interests of Australia when it has spent such a huge amount of money, this matter has been going on from 1963 to 1969 and we have not received an aeroplane yet and do not know whether or not the order will be cancelled? Surely it is the responsibility of the Government to acquaint the people of Australia through the Parliament with how we are to proceed. But there is not one word in this Budget concerning that proposition.
– Some things are better forgotten, you know.
– I do not think this should be forgotten. In this connection, a very good publication has come on to the bookshelves recently. It is called ‘Homo Insipiens’ or ‘Man the Fool’, which is the English title. It is written by Dr L. J. J. Nye. Let me say that he is a pacifist. He is a wonderful man. He is regarded as a wonderful man throughout Queensland at any rate. He is well known for all his good works among all sections of the community. But I make the observation that he is a pacifist. The money for the book has been made available by the father of a lad who was killed in Vietnam. This is his way of trying to let people see the destruction of war. One section of the book deals with the cost of the Fill, among other matters. So that we can see this matter in its perspective and see what Australia is being denied because of this wasteful expenditure, I quote the following paragraph:
The famous Spitfire of World War II cost a mere $40,000. By contrast, the latest American Fill costs about $8m - as much as a full, equipped hospital of 1,000 beds.
That is what the people of Australia have been denied because of the wasteful expenditure of this money on the Fill. We talk of civil aid to other countries. How would the people of Vietnam or the people of any country reciprocate if we were to make available to them a hospital of 1,000 beds and all the equipment to go with it? This Government has said: ‘No, we will not speak of the Fill. We will send some experts overseas to have a look at it and to see whether it measures up to our specifications; but we hope to give an indication of what we will do about the contract for the Fill before the election’. Time is running out. I suggest that if we are to continue to negotiate for the purchase of Fills there should have been something in the Budget in the direction of prospective budgeting.
The Government is now negotiating with the Queensland Government on a loan or gift of $I00m to that Government for a power house in central Queensland. I have no criticism whatsoever of its negotiations in that direction.
– I hope you have some praise.
– Of course. I always give praise where praise is due, unlike the honourable senator, who will not acknowledge - he cannot deny this-that with the prospective expenditure of $100m there should have been at least some reference to it in the Budget. He turns around and says: ‘Where will you get the money to enable you to introduce the proposals of the Australian Labor Party?’ Yet the Government can bring $100m out of the air to assist a State. I have no criticism whatever of that. But honourable senators opposite should not criticise us when we make positive proposals for the advancement of Australia and they do nothing about it.
– 1 take it that a Labor government would accept the same expenditure of $ 1 00,000m, would it not?
– Not $ 100,000m.
– My learned colleague, Senator Greenwood, should know that once an arrangement has been entered into by a government a succeeding government honours that arrangement. So, should the present Commonwealth Government lend or give the Queensland Government SI 00m and lend or give Western Australia $X, an Australian Labor Party government will honour those agreements, as our Party has always honoured agreements.
I refer now to another section of the Budget which 1 believe is of importance and which indicates that the Budget was prepared somewhat hurriedly and, if I may say so, in a loose form. Honourable senators may recall that the other day 1 asked the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) a question on a paragraph in the Budget speech which reads:
I asked the Leader of the Government what the phrase ‘family cash income’ meant. Senator Anderson was unable to answer that question. I put down a series of matters that could be regarded as family cash income, one of which was child endowment. Senator Anderson said, in effect: ‘You can forget about child endowment. That does not come into it. But 1 cannot tell you the definition of family cash income, lt may mean income as stated in the income tax form.’ I want to refer the honourable senator to the words ‘an honoured place’ in the Budget Speech. When workers in Australia are asked to try to sustain themselves and their families on $39 a week, does that give them an honoured place? Yet honourable senators on the Government side criticised the trade union movement when it fought the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission refusing to give wage increases to lower paid workers.
I want to put that aside for the moment and deal with the family on $39 a week which will receive free health and medical services. In an endeavour to track down the number of families on $39 a week I wrote to the Department of Labour and National Service seeking the minimum wage under every federal award in Queensland. The Department acknowledged my letter and supplied the information in a letter dated 5th September which staffs: 1 have much pleasure in forwarding to you five copies of the information you requeued in your letters of 26th June and 9th August.
That reply was signed by A. Gibson, Regional Director, Department of Labour and National Service, Queensland. I have read that part of the letter to indicate that these are not figures which I have plucked from awards but are the official figures. If we were to go through the awards we would find that there are very few workers earning $39 a week.
– In Queensland?
– Yes. Queensland has the lowest base rate of any State in the Commonwealth. For instance, a tradesman such as a fitter and turner doing a job in Queensland would receive lower wages than a fitter and turner doing the same work in New South Wales, Victoria or other States. The reason is that Queensland is supposed to have the lowest cost of living in Australia. I dispute that statement, hut of course that is another argument. I hope that explains the situation to honourable senators. The table supplied to me shows the minimum rates payable in each State of the Commonwealth. According to the table there are very few people who receive less than $39 a week, so that the concession means nothing.
– What about State awards?
– State awards provide far superior wage rates to the Federal awards. For the information of the honourable senators, the basic State wage as we know it in Queensland compared with the Federal basic wage operating in Queensland is $4 a week more, so the Federal award worker is $4 a week worse off than the State award worker. Again I thank the honourable member for his interjection. The situation is that there are very few workers on $39 a week. In trying to define or obtain the meaning of family cash income it may be assumed that it is the award wage plus over-award payments, attendance money, night shift allowance and things of that nature.
– And overtime. Therefore nobody would qualify for this magnificent relief that the Government has offered. It is like giving a man who has no legs two pairs of boots. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table to which I have referred.
– What is the length of it?
– It is quite lengthy.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
– That was very kind of Senator Wright. I do not want to take up any more of the Senate’s time with this matter, but I believe that the 1969-70 Budget is deficient in many directions. The Budget Speech has referred to social welfare as having an honoured place, but if one compares the rates of the social service benefits when the programme started with what they are today one finds that they have not even kept abreast of the average yearly earnings of workers. How can it be said that social welfare is in an honoured place when an unemployed worker is asked to exist - and I repeat the word ‘exist’ - on $10 a week? The Government’s understanding or definition of ‘honoured* is quite different from the meaning I give to it. I have tried to examine several aspects of the Budget. I hope that I have not just conveyed the impression that I am a knocker. I have tried to examine parts of it objectively and to suggest ways in which the Budget could have been improved for the advancement of Australia.
– The Senate is discussing a motion by Senator Anderson that the Senate should take note of the Budget Papers for 1969-70. The Budget Papers incorporate the Budget Speech which was delivered by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and repeated to this Senate by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson), and also a group of allied documents which explain the way in which the Government proposes to raise the revenues from which the expenditure for the current year will be taken. A debate of this nature in which note is taken of those papers permits honourable senators to roam at large and to discuss matters which in any way touch upon the financial commitments which the Government indicates that it is undertaking. I suppose it is fair to say that the primary attack - if attack is the accurate word to describe what was said - upon the Budget Papers was made by Senator Murphy. What he had to say was of a generalised character, as indeed was the contribution of Senator Milliner.
Necessarily, 1 suppose, these speeches of attack must be based upon assumptions. 1 think it can be established by an examination of the Budget Papers that some of the assumptions were wrongly based. Senator Murphy in particular conceded - and I hope 1 do him no injustice when 1 say there was something of a regretful air about his concession - that the Budget gave some relief, some measure of justice as he described it, to deprived persons. He went on at some length to express concern about inflation, but an examination of this Budget and a contrasting of the provisions of this Budget with Budgets of earlier years indicates that if it is to be regarded as either inflationary or deflationary, then the whole emphasis is that this Budget is deflationary.
Senator Murphy somewhat inopportunely expressed criticism of the Government’s Trade Practices Act. Only a day or two after he delivered his speech the report of the Trade Practices Commissioner was tabled. It indicated that much of what Senator Murphy had said in criticism was illfounded. Senator Murphy went on to propose an amendment which seems to follow the stereotyped pattern of all Labor Party amendments proposed in respect of the Budget iri recent years. With the change of one or two words, last year’s proposed amendment can be regarded as the amendment proposed this year. It is suggested by Senator Murphy that this Budget is to be criticised because taxation has increased, and health and housing costs for families have also increased. But the basis upon which Senator Murphy founds that proposition appears to escape him. I would think that it would also escape any honourable senator on reading the Budget Speech.
This Budget does not increase taxation or health costs. It does not increase housing costs. If the argument is that because in a general progress of inflation there is a certain drop in the real value of services rendered, that can be answered quite effectively by saying that the remuneration received by people who have to pay those costs is periodically increased in award rates and other forms. It is completely erroneous to say that this Budget increases taxation and health and housing costs.
I think it is significant that at no stage did Senator Murphy in the course of his address seek to justify the terms in which his amendment criticising the Government’s Budget had been couched. I wish to refer to some aspects of the Budget in the light of comments which have been made. Earlier today Senator Drury said that congratulations were due to the Labor Party upon the conference it held about 4 or 5 weeks ago. Well may congratulations be due, because there is nothing in the past upon which the Labor Party can congratulate itself. One might suppose that the conference, particularly in view of the way in which Senator Drury sought to draw some strength from it, was a magnificent exercise in paperhanging because the cracks it was intended to cover are still evident. As with all paperhanging, the passage of 3 or 4 months will reveal those cracks to be as wide and deep as they have ever been. It is only 2 years ago that Mr Whitlam referred to the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party as destructive, disruptive and disloyal to everything for which the Labor Party stood. I know that the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party is essentially the Labor Party it has been ever since certain people left it in 1955. As Mr Whitlam referred to these people in such condemnatory terms 2 years ago, it must be expected that there has been a change of face, faith or attitude and outlook by people in the Victorian Branch in the space of 2 years. If Mr Whitlam now believes that he can congenially meet these people and work out policies with them, it is not because there has been any radical change in their attitudes. It is simply because an election is approaching and the cracks must be papered over. I suspect that as soon as the election is over the cracks will be as apparent as they ever were and the Labor Party will be revealed to the people of Australia for what it is, and what they in fact know it to be - a party which is so divided and so rent asunder as to be incapable of producing a coherent policy which all wings of the Party, flying as they often do in different directions, can unite behind.
Mr Calwell, the esteemed past leader of the Labor Party, to whom Mr Whitlam gave such renowned support, as I would see it, recently conceded the difference between the Labor Party which is bent on office and the Labor Party which is concerned to be a propagandist success. He readily recognised that after 20 years the Labor Party had not achieved much of what it was striving for, but he said that in terms of propaganda Labor has made a tremendous gain. If Mr Calwell were to look at Labor Party politics in very broad perspective he would be entitled to make that claim, but I think it probable that he claimed for it far more than he is entitled to claim. I concede that many of the ideas which have emerged from the Labor Party over a spectrum of 50 or 60 years have found their way into the statute books - into the quality of life which characterises Australians. I think the Labor Party is entitled to lay claim to the origin of those ideas. But I suspect that it is not a terribly satisfactory claim for a political party which, above all else, would like to be the government of the country, to say that it has been a propaganda success but not an electoral success.
Every political party - Labor or Liberal - has twin objectives: One is the bringing forward of ideas which lt believes justify its existence as a political party, and of having them brought into operation as part of the fabric of the society in which it operates. The other objective - that which all political parties strive for - is to be electorally successful and, when in government, to put into operation the policies it supports. In the Australian political scene today only the Australian Democratic Labor Party is denied that latter possibility. I think it is fair to endeavour to assess the impact of the Budget In terms of what the Liberal Party, the major party supporting the Government, seeks to establish as part of its policy. The Liberal Party seeks preeminently a way of life in which individual values are recognised and given an opportunity to operate. This derives from an objective which since the inception of the Liberal Party has been part of its platform; that is, that it is dedicated to political liberty and the freedom and dignity of man.
These objectives of the Liberal Party have been achieved to a recognisable degree over the past 20 years. We have seen an acceptance and a putting into effect of individual initiative and enterprise which promote progress and development. We have seen a development of individual responsibility and a promotion of individual opportunity. A reasonable amount of what the Government has done in the way of legislation and administration over the past 20 years has reflected this approach. Much of what the Government has done has been pragmatic, and inevitably mat must be the role of any successful government that is not doctrinaire. I think this is illustrated by the incentives and concessions which appear in our tax structure. I refer, for example, to tax concessions for life insurance and superannuation contributions. Because people take advantage of them, they promote thrift and self-reliance.
I wish to refer specifically to three examples, each of which is adverted to in the Budget, which illustrate the way in which the Liberal Party and the objectives for which it stands have sought to be impressed upon the Australian fabric of living so that it can be said that these principles of self-help, individualism and self-reliance have become part and parcel of the Australian way of life. The first to which I refer - I think it is a remarkable achievement - is the development of Commonwealth Government scholarships. I will readily concede that these originated in the days of a Labor government many years ago but it is the way in which a Liberal government has seized upon them and developed their scope and content, and the persons to whom they are available, which marks one facet of government activity that has transformed the face of Australia.
– You are great followers.
– I am quite happy to accept that in some respects we are followers but I am equally happy to accept that the Labor Party, as its paperhanging conference of the past 2 or 3 months has revealed, is also a following Party because many of the things which the Labor Party there adopted follow Government policy. But I would have said, in response to Senator Ormonde, that any government will take that which appears to it to be valuable and bring it into legislation, and it should not be regarded as a just criticism that governments do that. The Commonwealth Government has extended and expanded in successive periods its scholarships scheme. From an origin where the scholarships applied to students who were attending university, the scheme now applies to both undergraduate and graduate students at universities; it applies to students attending colleges of advanced education; it applies to students attending technical colleges and it applies to secondary students. This year the Government proposes to expend on scholarships $32m, which is an increase of $3. 5m on the amount expended last year. Currently some 56,000 students hold scholarships. In the current year some 24,000 new scholarships will be provided. Of course the scholarships do not simply provide the fees of the institution at which the student attends; they provide fees and also substantial living allowances. 1 suggest to the Senate that this particular venture of the Government over the years is an indication of the Government’s desire and realisation of the need for the promotion of equality of educational opportunity. The individual is enabled to make the most of his inherent abilities, developed as they may be by the educational opportunities which come his way. There has been a remarkable transformation in a period of 20 years in the number of students attending secondary schools and the number of students undergoing courses of tertiary education. I think it is useful to recognise that the university population increased from some 30,000 in 1950 - that was a fairly inflated year because there were still some students receiving the benefits of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme- to 69,000 in 1963. In 1967-68 there were some 95,000 students at Australian universities. Of those students approximately one-third were receiving Commonwealth Government scholarships. That does not take account of the many other students who were receiving scholarships or other forms of assistance from State governments or from other bodies which provided assistance.
– The workers’ children were left out.
– I think it is fair to say that it is the workers’ children who have benefited most from Commonwealth Government scholarships.
– Statistics do not prove that. A student has a ten times better chance if his father is a high official in government employment.
– I recognise that there is more than a germ of truth in what Senator Cavanagh has said, but notwithstanding my acceptance of his point of view I feel that over the years the real beneficiaries of Commonwealth Government scholarships have been those people who, but for those scholarships, would never have had any opportunity, in terms of what their parents could afford, to go to university. Whilst there is room for improvement - I am not prepared to say that everything is perfect at the present time - the real benefits which have been recognised and achieved should not be overlooked. I instance the Commonwealth Government scholarships scheme as one distinctive Liberal achievement, one distinctive Liberal contribution to our way of life, which reflects one of the positive benefits which Liberal rule over some 20 years has given this country.
The second aspect to which I wish to refer is the aged persons homes legislation. This was introduced in 1954 and over the period of 15 years that it has been in operation some $94m has been made available and accommodation has been provided for some 33,000 aged persons. The Budget this year provides a further Slim which will be available for persons who wish to avail themselves of the subsidy provisions of the legislation. It is an example, as I see it, of government help being made available to those persons who, helping themselves and helping others, are prepared to initiate action. This government help is available on the basis of a $2 subsidy for every S I which organisations and groups of persons are prepared to raise for themselves.
By way of additional government subsidy - I wish to refer specifically to what has happened since Mr Gorton became the Prime Minister - nursing home benefit of S2 a day has been provided. I think that was instituted in 1963 and extended by the Government over the past 12 months to $5 a day in cases where intensive nursing care is required. This Budget provides for S5 a week for each person over 80 years of age residing in hostel type accommodation and receiving personal care. I took the trouble to read what was said by our present Treasurer when, as Minister for Social Services, he introduced the Aged Persons Homes Bill in 1954 because he there set out what was basically the approach of the Government in introducing this type of legislation. He said:
The whole concept of the Bill is to provide government assistance to voluntary effort and selfhelp and for the matching, on a £1 for £1 basis, of funds actually raised by an eligible organisation for the building of the home.
Emphasising the particular approach which I think is inherent in this legislation he went on to say:
Wc look forward to the day when the principle of government assistance to self-help and voluntary effort will be more widely accepted.
The aged persons homes legislation, I think, is a fairly classic example of the type of governmental role which a Liberal government particularly desires to emphasise - that government assistance is available to those who are prepared to help themselves; that government assistance is there for those who are prepared to take the initiative, to act responsibly to look after themselves, because if they are prepared to do that they will find the Government, by the provision of funds, willing to aid their endeavours in terms of approach, in terms of the philosophy of life and in terms of government relationship to individuals in the field of services provided. I think that is something which the Liberal Party distinctively has provided for this country and 1 hope that this is the kind of assistance which governments hereafter will provide.
– How is it that so many make a profit out of the aged?
– I do not accept the proposition which Senator Georges has advanced. If he had been following me he would have realised that his comment was totally irrelevant to the points 1 had been making. The next aspect to which I refer relates to the health scheme and the various competing health scheme proposals which are currently being put before the Australian public for their attention. The health scheme which the Government introduced in 1953 demonstrates again a basic approach of a Liberal Government to the provision of services in which government financial assistance is the substantial assistance given and is supplementary to the action which individuals take to help themselves. The
Government’s approach substantially is that in the field of social services and social welfare, assistance will be provided with the object of benefiting those who are in need, without discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance. When the health scheme was introduced in 1953, Sir Earle Page, as the Minister who introduced it, said in regard to the first Bill which was put before the Parliament:
The great danger in any government aided health scheme is the tendency to develop a psychology of dependence and diminished personal and community responsibility. The fundamental aim of any social security scheme should be to raise the individual to a level at which he can help himself. Any such scheme should contain elements that encourage self-reliance and a sense of personal responsibility. Also, it should stress the obligation of the individual to make at least a part of his contribution directly to the functioning and cost of the scheme. The Government is doing this by a unique device of stimulating voluntary insurance by government aid which tremendously increases the value of (he premium in medical security.
That was the basic approach of the Government’s health scheme. When Mr Gorton became Prime Minister he indicated in his earliest statements that the examination of this health scheme and a comparison of its intentions with what it was actually providing was a paramount matter for attention.
In the 1968 Budget the sick, the needy and the aged were placed in the forefront of the Government’s domestic programme. The health scheme was subjected to amendment in that chronic illnesses, which previously had been limited as to the period of time for which benefits could be provided, were given a different position in that the period of time was abolished and there were supplementary benefits in the form of intensive care in nursing homes to which I have referred. Throughout the year in respect of health services, assistance was granted to the States for home care of aged persons, for housekeeping and home help services, for senior citizen centres and for certain paramedical services. This particular Budget increased, by the sum of $192m, the amount available for social services, health, housing and repatriation.
In terms of the health scheme there are particular proposals under which free health insurance benefits and Commonwealth benefits will be provided for family groups whose income does not exceed S39. I appreciate what Senator Milliner had to say, which suggests that not very many people will receive this benefit. 1 for my part would imagine that no government - I think looked at honestly by members of the Opposition this would be agreed - would put forward a proposal which was designed to benefit nobody. There must be people who are beneficiaries of this proposal. I would have thought that ordinary honesty on the part of the Opposition would accept that there are such people. Whether this number is large or whether it is small must depend in the light of the research which Senator Milliner has done on an examination of the figures.
– The Government went to considerable trouble to tell us how many were affected by the tapered means test but it cannot tell us how many are to benefit by the proposal for free health insurance benefits for family groups whose income does not exceed $39.
– I do not accept that the Government went to considerable trouble to say how many were affected by the tapered means test because I have not seen the figures relating to the persons affected any more than I have seen the figures relating to the persons affected by this particular provision. All that I will say is that basically what the Government has proposed with regard to persons whose family income does not exceed $39 a week is in line with what the Nimmo report recommended. I appreciate that the Nimmo report also had other qualifications about making provision for an increase in the amount for families with a certain number of children, and the Government is still considering that aspect. Basically what the Government has done is in line with the recommendations of a report which took some 12 months iti the compilation. Therefore I say there must be value in what the Government has done, while accepting that what Senator Milliner has said requires examination to determine precisely how many people are covered.
– Can you tell the Senate what family income is?
– Family income is an expression which indicates that the amount received by a family group consisting of basically two units is $39 or less. This provision must require legislation for it to take effect and 1 would imagine that when we get that legislation we will see how it fits into the existing national health scheme. Any suggestion on my part is really not going to make the honourable senator any wiser. I indicated that the Government’s health scheme represents a certain approach by the Liberal Party to the whole provision of government health services. I have shown that past Budgets and the present Budget indicate that certain ameliorating provisions have been adopted. I do not stand here - I do not think any person who has made any examination of the provisions can stand here - and justify the present health scheme as it operates. I think it needs a considerable number of amendments because what it is designed to provide is not being provided.
– Could not that have been instituted 7 years ago when Mr Whitlam first commenced his crusade of criticism on it?
– I suppose it is fair to say if you look into the past that a lot of things could have been done in the past which never have been done. As I said earlier, all I am concerned with is to look at the present and what is being proposed at the present and to determine essentially whether a compulsory health scheme, which is what I understand the Australian Labor Party proposes, is preferable to a voluntary health scheme remedied and reconstructed as 1 believe it will be.
– Do not tell us that this is voluntary.
– The Government’s scheme is certainly in its essentials a voluntary scheme and the Labor Party’s scheme in its essentials is a compulsory scheme. In one very real way this epitomises the difference between the Labor Party and the Government Parties, because we believe that the development of individual responsibility and a proper quality of life in this community will best be assisted by a development of the voluntary principle. The Labor Party for its part in some curious way believes that by compulsion one can achieve those things which quite honestly and sincerely one believes are desirable in a society. I believe that the approach of the Labor Party is completely wrong. There is, I believe, clear evidence that the present health scheme requires some far reaching amendments but it does not follow that existing deficiencies require a complete about face and the adoption of a compulsory health scheme. A compulsory system is the one which the Labor Party has chosen. It points - and I think quite fairly - to some deficiencies in the present scheme but says: ‘The only way that these can be removed is by scrapping the scheme and bringing in a compulsory scheme’. The Government’s approach is to say: ‘There are deficiencies in the present scheme, but since February 1968 we have been taking positive action to remedy these deficiencies. When we have examined the reports of committees action will be taken’.
It is not fair to say that since February 1968 nothing has been done. The Nimmo Committee took at least 12 months to prepare a comprehensive report which contains some forty-two recommendations which the Government is considering currently and in respect of which some action has already been taken. In addition, as is well known, a welfare committee of Cabinet has examined various aspects of social welfare. Results of that committee’s work have found recognition in legislation. The Government could properly be taken to task if, believing there were deficiencies, it took immediate action without regard to the origins of the deficiencies, the operations which produced the deficiencies and what might be the consequences of any remedy it proposed. Accordingly the Government appointed a committee of competent people who took time lo examine the problem and who have presented a report which, on perusal, stands out as a tremendously competent survey of a complex problem and which contains recommendations worthy of the closest attention.
The basic problems in our current health scheme are that a proportion of the community - leaving aside the question whether it is a substantial proportion or not - is either not adequately covered or is underinsured, lt is not good enough if a person seeks cover under the present health insurance and receives only 30% or 40% of the cost of his medical or hospital treatment. If insurance means anything he ought to be able to receive J 00% or something approaching 100% of bis costs. I recognise that the scheme does not provide that at the moment. 1 think that is the main area where reform must take place, lt is equally true that under the present scheme, even with this inadequate coverage, costs bear heavily on the lower income groups. I think it is fair to say that the present scheme is costly and involves a complex system which is difficult to understand. Any health insurance scheme ought to be understandable to those people who want to take advantage of it. If my expression of these problems is not sufficiently comprehensive, they can be expressed in another way; the gap between the fees paid and the benefits received is so large that it stands out as the area requiring striking reform. Having said that and having conceded that there are problems which require reform. I think the basic question which arises is whether the problem will be solved best by a compulsory, tax-financed scheme or by an acceptance and recognition of the voluntary system and the embodiment of that principle in appropriate legislation.
– The honourable senator is fooling only himself with words when he says that the present system is a voluntary one. Who can afford to be out of it?
– I may agree with Senator Cavanagh. I am not sure whether I do or not because I am not sure what he is getting at. All I say is that the present scheme has its difficulties, thai the difficulties are a matter of Government attention and that they ought to be a matter of Government attention. I believe, from what Mr Gorton has said, that they will be remedied and that these remedies will involve the voluntary principle which is far superior, as a principle of health insurance, to the compulsory, tax-financed scheme.
– We might die before the remedial action is taken.
– It may be a good electoral gimmick to refer in that way to what I think is a serious subject, but 1 do not think that advances the argument any distance. If one examines the broad position with regard to health services, I think one will see that there are three ways in which the health services which members of the community require can be met and paid for. The basic proposition is that health services cost a lot of money and that the cost of medical services, hospitalisation and hospital treatment has always been beyond the means of many people. It is proper - whether as a matter of national concern or as a matter of individual right - that when illness or accidents strike there should be access to medical and hospital facilities. A person wants financial security from the consequences of hospitalisation and other costs associated with illness. A person should want to be free from the financial insecurity that he may not be able to pay for that illness which he does not want but which comes upon him when he least expects it.
Basically there are three alternative answers to this question. The first is that individuals should be prepared to save to meet these commitments - and this involves the highest degree of responsibility. This system, I believe, will not work. It will not work basically because most people have not the means or the inclination to save for an event which may never occur. The second alternative is that the Government should provide and pay for all the services which are required so that when a person senses he requires or simply wants some medical or hospital service he goes to his or any doctor or to his or any hospital and the Government foots the bill. The third alternative is that the individual should insure, by small regular contributions, so that if he ever requires medical, pharmaceutical or hospital benefits his insurance will guarantee that he receives them. The payments will be covered by the society or the organisation with which he insures. The practice in Australia has been essentially this third system, complemented by substantial Government assistance.
The Government’s system provides for membership of an insurance organisation together with a Government benefit as the means by which a person insures himself against the heavy expenses which hospital or medical treatment may involve. Under this system - and this is based upon what the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) said recently - 80% of the community is covered by the existing voluntary health system; 10% of the community, those who benefit under the pensioner medical system, receive free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical services - and to that 10% will be added those who come in under the provisions which the Government has announced recently for those people receiving less than $39 a week - and 10% of the community is either unable to or is disinclined to insure. This is the national health scheme, operating generally on a voluntary contributory basis through insurance by individuals with approved, non-profit-making hospital and medical benefit associations. The insurance is designed to meet approximately 25% of the total cost of hospital and medical services. The governments - both State and Federal governments - provide some 60% of the cost. The balance, some 15%, is met by the individual. These figures come from what the Minister has said.
What is important about the present scheme? Essentially it is a voluntary scheme. A person has a choice whether or not to insure. If he insures, he receives Government help. This enables him to meet the heavy costs that he would otherwise be unable to meet. If he does not insure he will still receive some help, but his own outlay will be heavier. As I stated earlier, it expresses an essential, intrinsic government philosophy that government assistance is available to those who are prepared to help themselves. Secondly, the system requires a degree of patient responsibility. The patient decides for himself whether he will go to his doctor. He knows that the bill will come to him and he knows that if there is a pharmaceutical prescription he will still have to pay 50c. He knows that he must perform some elementary clerical tasks before he receives his rebate or refund from the insurance fund. These are just sufficient as deterrents to dissuade the person who would abuse a freedom by going to a doctor regardless of whether a doctor was really required. Thirdly, the system carries with it the unquestioned right of the person to choose his doctor. It also carries with it an unquestioned ability on the part of the doctor, within his own professional ethics, to choose his patients. I think the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) expressed this clearly in a speech he delivered to the Melbourne Hospital on 15th August 1969. He said:
So taking first the ordinary member of the public as the person we are seeking to help, let us look at what he wants from the health insurance scheme. Basically he wants security from the financial consequences of illness. This security has to be organised for him in the shape of a health insurance scheme and, in shaping such a scheme, we regard it as essential that the freedom and responsibility of individuals, that the spontaneity of life, should never be smothered by controls and compulsion. We want a health insurance scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being and not just a cog in a medical care machine. We want a scheme in which bis feeling, his convenience, even his idiosyncracies, are respected, in which he always remains a person and not just an illness or a cipher on a computer card. We want also a system which preserves a measure of self-reliance and which does not encourage the individual to rely entirely on the machinery of some monolithic government agency for care and sympathy - qualities which any bureaucracy, however well motivated its personnel, is ill-equipped to provide.
The Minister for Health went on to say:
You cannot command sympathy from a doctor working within a system which does not recognise his full aspirations for job satisfaction; nor can you compel cheerfulness from a nurse, helpfulness from a clerk in a health insurance office or courtesy from a receptionist. These qualities must live within the system. These can be guaranteed only within a system with a fundamental devotion to freedom - a system whereby the health services are rendered by independent professionals and accepted by people free to choose what services they need and who will provide them. Another essential in this context of freedom is for voluntary agencies to be able to play their traditional role in recognising new needs as they emerge, in demonstrating community concern by moving to meet these needs and in joining with the professional groups and with government agencies and local authorities to offer a range of services to cover every contingency in life.
In those remarks the Minister for Health has given a broad outline of what the Government has in mind as the desirable form of health insurance. The Australian Labor Party’s approach is, basically, that instead of having a voluntary principle there should be a government agency which will finance health services, which will fix the fees of doctors - this is essential lo any tax financed scheme - and to which people must go because there is no alternative available to them. The Labor Party’s proposals envisage an increase in taxation. They involve, of course, removal of the tax deductions which exist at present and they involve a basic public ward coverage. One can only say - because I think it is pointed to make the comment - that Mr Clyde Cameron, who is not without experience in the Labor Party, in a capacity which he exercises as a member of an extraparliamentary body which controls the affairs of the Labor Party, indicated that there must be doubt about whether Mr Whitlam’s proposals for the costing of this scheme were well founded. If he is prepared to say that in the course of a public assembly one can only suppose that he is not talking without some appreciation of the real costing problems which are involved.
– Where did he say that?
– He said it at the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party, which was held in August of this year and was reported in newspapers throughout the land.
– That was discussion during the debate.
– It was discussion during the debate. Mr Cameron recognised this as one problem that the ALP should be careful about. When Mr Whitlam replied that no proposal of the Labor Party had been more thoroughly investigated, it represented one hollow debating triumph which was demonstrated to have its falsity when in the other place within the last fortnight certain facts and figures relating to this scheme were shown by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) nol lo have been so thoroughly investigated. I do not want to get involved in a costing problem because costing must of necessity be complex. No person can regard the costing as finite or as satisfactory. It is surprising to me that Mr Whitlam says he can do so. Al) 1 wish to say is that Labor’s proposals must involve an increase in taxation. Mr Whitlam concedes this point.
– Anything is better than what we have at present.
– <! would go so far as to say that something better than what we have at the moment is required. But I do not think that to say that anything would be better than what we have represents the approach of a Party which ought to be trusted with the government of this country. The next point I wish to make is that the Labor Party’s proposals involve compulsion inasmuch as they require an imposition upon everybody. They will bring in the less than 10% who are not covered under the present scheme. Some of that 10% are, of course, people who objected to being in a health insurance scheme. Some 56% of the people in the State of Queensland are uninsured. They are uninsured because under the State hospital scheme in Queensland they have the benefit of free hospital insurance. The Labor Party’s proposals would involve compelling 56% of the people in Queensland to pay an increase in taxation which they would not regard as necessary because they have chosen not to insure under the present scheme. They would also inevitably involve a lack of patient responsibility because a person could go to a doctor whenever he wanted to regardless of whether he needed to do so. In this regard it is interesting to look at recent developments overseas. The British Medical Association requested an examination of the British system. A report was prepared for it by Mr Arthur Seldon, who is a respected economist and a specialist in social welfare policies. That -report recommended a mixed system of medical and other social services for Britain, partpublic, part-private, along the lines of the Australian system. The report reads:
The strengths of the evolving Australian method lie in its central principles - encouragement of self-dependence, maintenance of direct financial link between patient and doctor or hospital, competition between voluntary insurers, avoidance of direct government influence - which would be abolished or at risk in a compulsory, tax financed, semi-governmental system.
Mr Seldon recently stated in a newspaper article that although Australia spends only 7i% of her national income on government welfare compared with 10% to 15% in most other Western countries, she does more good with it Seldon praised Australia as a country where people who need social benefits get them and those who do not need them do not get them. He said:
In an increasingly affluent society, the Australian emphasis on selective rather than universal benefits has much to commend it. This concentrates the direct responsibility of the Government on the poorer sections. But the rest of the community is still assisted indirectly through grants to hospitals, subsidies to voluntary health insurance funds, and liberal tax concessions for contributions to life assurance and superannuation funds. Experience with the British system of universal benefits for all-
And that is in essence what the Labor Party’s proposal envisages - regardless of the circumstances of the recipient, must surely cause Australians to hesitate before they lightly abandon their present system in favour of an alternative which leads to the all embracing Welfare State.
The fourth objection to Labor’s proposal is that it would involve control and, possibly, civil conscription of doctors. I say that because obviously fees would have to be controlled because Mr Whitlam’s proposal expressly says that doctors will receive 85% of scheduled fees. In that context, scheduled fees’ must be ‘prescribed fees’, fees which are laid down in some schedule.
– Is that conscription or price fixing?
– Let me continue. Once that is accepted it is a ready step to other forms of control, to localisation of areas of treatment, to limitation of patients and so on, and it should never be forgotten that the Constitution of this country permits the provision of medical and dental services but so as not to include civil conscription. That is contained, if anyone wants to look it up, in section 51, placitum xxiiiA of the Constitution. One can only suggest to members of the Opposition - and indeed judging from some of the things that Mr Whitlam has said I suggest there is some recognition of this problem - that in 1948 a scheme which the Labor Government of that day introduced was held by the High Court to be invalid because it required doctors to prescribe prescriptions on a form which was set out and laid down by the Government. It is said that any prescription is part of a doctor’s services. If you compel a doctor to perform his services in a particular way, then that is compelling or conscripting the doctor to do something which, if he were left to his own devices, he would do in a different way. It is far wiser for this country to accept a voluntary principle in preference to being misled into a supposition that some scheme which is called ‘tax financed and compulsory’ will not involve civil conscription and then to have the whole edifice which is desired to be built around this notion collapsing because there has been a clear affront to the Constitution.
There are other objections to Labor’s scheme. I think the fifth objection is that the essence of a compulsory scheme, with everybody paying the same, is that identical services are to be available for everybody. The voluntary scheme does permit different contributions according to means and ability and according to what is wanted, and if 1 say that the present scheme does not effectively give that, that is no reason why it cannot be amended to ensure that it does give it.
The sixth objection is that what is involved in Labor’s scheme is something dear to the heart of all Socialists - the creation of one huge bureaucratic structure. We will have departments in every State; we will have some departments in major capital cities and we will be involved in a whole apparatus of a host of civil servants genuinely trying to do their best but lacking ability to render a personalised service because the very nature of the work they are involved in prevents it being given. If the Opposition challenges that, I have heard in the short time that I have been here sufficient criticism of the Repatriation Commission to know that what is experienced there by persons dedicated to doing their job would be experienced by persons in some monolithic health commission trying to perform similar functions. It is suggested that some such monolithic organisation will involve some reduction of cost but in saner moments I think members of the Opposition would be prepared to recognise that any government agency, under Parkinsons Law, must survive only on the basis that it costs the taxpayer more.
The second last objection I would make to a compulsory scheme is that where no charge is made for a service - and that is what is involved in a compulsory tax finance scheme - the demand for that service will increase. The best example of this is the experience in the United Kingdom where the Government was forced not so long ago to impose charges on a range of previously free services in order to reduce the high rate of their utilisation.
The final point I make by way of objection to a compulsory scheme is that the excess reserves of the existing registered voluntary health benefit organisations which have been built up over some 16 or 17 years will not be able to be expropriated for the purposes of a national compulsory plan. The introduction of a compulsory plan would therefore mean that many contributors would inevitably lose the equity and advantages which they have built up over the years in these existing voluntary organisations.
– What equity is there?
– There is a substantial equity because if your argument is right about the great reserves which exist, there must be an equity adhering to the contributors. I have taken longer than I intended, but I did so because I feel that involved in this element of competing health schemes there is something far more important to consider than the question of what the scheme is going to cost. The basic question that arises is what is going to best improve the performance of a health services system? Should we have a scheme which embodies the voluntary principle, a scheme in which there is some scope for patient responsibility, some scope for doctors to administer services which they are trained to administer, knowing that there is a real and direct doctor-patient relationship; or some compulsory tax finance scheme where, try as you will, you will not be able to avoid the idea that what you are doing is going to a doctor who is a government servant? I think those factors are vitally important in the consideration of a health scheme. I would hope that in due course, when this matter is elaborated before the public and in other ways, there will be some recognition of the fact that the voluntary principle is vital to a successful health scheme and, above all, that it represents what has always been the Government’s approach to this problem.
-I listened with great interest to Senator Greenwood. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690909_senate_26_s42/>.