26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware of the reports in today’s Press that oil companies are seeking a rise in the wholesale price of petrol? Is it a fact that the Executive Vice-President of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, Mr Kelly, said last night that the price increase sought was 3c a gallon wholesale and that the South Australian Prices Commissioner, whose decision will determine whether this increase is granted, has confirmed that he is discussing with oil companies a price increase? Did the Commissioner state that the petrol industry will start using Australian crude oil at the end of the year and that this would affect costs? Did the Minister state earlier this year that he believed petrol prices would rise before Christmas? Can the Government give any reassurance to motorists that they will not be slugged with an increase in the retail price of up to 5c a gallon as a Christmas present?
-I can assure the honourable senator that there will not be an increase of 5c a gallon in the retail price of petrol. I qualify that by saying that there will not be an increase as a result of the Government’s crude oil policy. In relation to the other parts of the question I should like it understood that there are discussions at regular intervals between the oil industry and the South Australian Prices Commissioner concerning changes in the cost of petroleum products made from imported and indigenous crude. I have no knowledge of what price increase, if any, the industry is seeking or the basis of the discussions.
At the present time petrol prices include an element for the additional cost of using Barrow Island and Moonie crude. These crudes represent less than 8% of Australia’s crude requirements and are only a small element in the refiner’s costs. It is true that next year Bass Strait will come into production and refiners will be required to take up additional quantities of Australian crude oil. However after September 1970 - Bass
Strait will not be supplying significant quantities of crude oil to Australian refiners before that date - the price of indigenous crude will be based on import parity. Price rises, if any, after that date which can be attributed to the use of indigenous crude by refiners and marketers should be minimal.
– My question is direc ted to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that customs officers have now been instructed that they no longer have to prevent the importation in passengers’ baggage of pornographic material or banned books?
– It is not a fact.I say most emphatically to the Senate that it is not correct. Customs officers will do all that is necessary to prevent the importation into Australia of that kind of material. Because of the limited time available to inspect baggage imported by passengers, a set of priorities has been established. Officers are instructed that their most important responsibility is to prevent the importation of quarantinable goods in order to prevent the introduction of diseases into this country. They must also take all necessary steps to ensure that narcotics and other dangerous drugs are not imported illegally. Similarly, they have to ensure that firearms and other prohibited imports are not imported illegally. Pornographic material and banned books will continue to be seized. But officers have been instructed that in the time available to them it is most important to detect these other prohibited imports.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of advice, which has been received in the last day or so, of proposed substantial cuts in Australian beef imports into the United States of America largely as I understand the position, because of the development of the manufacture of artificial meat and similar products? Is he aware that last year the value of imports of Tasmanian third grade beef into the United States was $4,300,000 and that any reduction in the level of activity in this section of the industry would be disastrous to the
Tasmanian beef industry? Can he inform the Senate of any steps which are being or can be taken to protect this vital industry?
– I am not aware of any new situation that has arisen in relation to importation of beef into the United Slates. I will obtain some information on the matter during the duy. However, I agree with what Senator Devitt has said: Any downturn in our exports of beef is a very important and serious matter. 1 take on board the references he has made to the State of Tasmania.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate any information on a question that 1 asked in relation to the proclamation of a special Commonwealth public holiday in South Australia on Monday, 29th December? He will recall that I pointed out that, as the the matter now stands, public servants in South Australia will be al a disadvantage compared with their counterparts in other Slates.
– The Commonwealth Public Service Board has authorised the observance of a holiday in Commonwealth offices in all States and Territories on Monday, 29th December 1969. This is in addition to the statutory holidays on Thursday, 25th December, Friday, 26th December, and Thursday. 1st January 1970. This provision for holidays is the same as that made in 1958, when Christmas Day last fell on a Thursday.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. By way of preface I refer to a letter in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ from Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (Australia) Ltd on alternative limestone deposits in New South Wales. Will the Minister for National Development seek from the Bureau of Mineral Resources a further affirmation of its previous survey in New South Wales which disclosed ample alternative supplies of limestone to those existing in the Colong reserve, and convey such affirmation to Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (Australia) Ltd?
– In view of the fact that we are currently discussing the estimates for the Department of National Development. I would have thought that the honourable senator would ask his question in that context. However, as he asks it now, I invite him to place it on the notice paper so that I may obtain an answer for him from the Minister for National Development.
Fill AIRCRAFT AND MEAT EXPORTS TO UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
– I direct a question i.o the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did the Australian Government come to an understanding wilh the United States that if Australia accepted the FI 1 1 the United States would relax its meat import restrictions? Would not this place the defence of this country secondary to Country Party interests?
– I do not know out of what part of his imagination the honourable senator draws a conclusion that the meat question has anything to do with the Fill problem. I have put down in the Senate a statement in relation to the Government’s decision on the Fill aircraft. So far as 1 and the Government are concerned it has no relationship in any shape or form lo meat.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the Amalgamated Engineering Union has asked more than 4,000 members to stop work tomorrow for 3 hours to protest against the National Service Act and alleged police brutality for the purpose of participating in a further demonstration at Williamstown Courthouse? Is the Minister also aware that the proposed stoppage by that Union and by other unions that have refused to pay their lawful dues to the Trades Hall Council is not authorised by the Trades Hall Council? Is the Minister aware that the Secretary of the Motor Transport Union has accused those unions of prostituting the proper purposes of trade unionism for political reasons? Are the persons participating in the stoppages acting contrary to any law? If so, is the
Government prepared to institute prosecutions? If not, what protection has the community against the consequences of this and any other industrial action for political purposes?
– I believe that the honourable senator in his question has correctly stated the facts. It is quite clear that the proposed stoppage is not authorised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It is also quite clear that the unions concerned are using industrial mass power for political and not for industrial purposes. As to the extent to which they infringe the law, I think my colleague would be the first to concede to me a little time to refer that point to the Attorney-General for his opinion. As to the protection of the community in circumstances like those to which he has referred, it is one of the unfortunate aspects of present day life that united action by unions who take advantage of their organisation is able to dislocate the community’s affairs to the degree that we have seen. But in a democracy we must learn to live with an interplay of forces. The Attorney-General’s attention will be directed to this matter to determine whether the action taken by this union constitutes a breach of the law.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the installation of incinerators at Queensland ports essential for the prevention of the introduction of foot and mouth disease into Queensland and Australia? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to criticism levelled at the Commonwealth Government by Mr Row, the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, for alleged slowness to finance the installation of incinerators at Queensland ports? Can the Minister indicate whether the criticism by Mr Row is justified?
– I regret that I have not read the statements referred to by the honourable senator. One of the problems associated with the prevention of the introduction of disease into Australia is the necessity to enforce strict quarantine laws in respect of the importation of goods. As the honourable senator is very interested in this matter, I ask him to place his question on the notice paper and I will get an answer for him from the Minister.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of anxiety in cheese manufacturing industries as a result of the importation into Australia of huge quantities of cheese? ls the Minister aware that the Petersville cheese factory at Trafalgar, Victoria, has closed down because of its inability to compete with imported cheeses? Would the Minister agree that if Petersville, with its large capital resources, cannot compete with imports, smaller companies must also be in trouble and will be forced to cease production? What action is the Government taking to prevent this partial or complete collapse of the cheese manufacturing industry in this country?
– The Government is very interested in keeping our factories operating. As to the closing down of a cheese factory, I must say that I have not seen the statement referred to by the honourable senator. I ask him to place his question on the notice paper and I will refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. When will information concerning the amount of money to be given to individual schools in the Cairns and Toowoomba dioceses for library purposes be available to honourable senators? What are the principles serving as guidelines to those advising the Federal Government as to the amounts of money to be made available to individual schools for library purposes?
– I regret that 1 am unable to give the honourable senator information with regard to the places he has referred to. With regard to the principles upon which the committee advises the advancement of library moneys, they have been set out in a recent statement made by the Minister to the House of Representatives and by myself to the Senate, and I will supply the honourable senator with a copy.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to an article written by Mr B. A. Santamaria entitled *We are Determined to Survive’ which appeared in a reader entitled ‘Australian Polities’, published in 1966. Mr Santamaria stated:
If one could be certain that the Soviet Union would become a positive military factor against Communist China, the fact that Russia is communist ought not to prevent Australians dealing with Russia in the interests of military security.
Can the Minister reconcile this statement made by Mr Santamaria in 1966 with the present attitudes on policy being expressed by the Democratic Labor Party?
– The honourable senator asked me initially whether my attention had been drawn to an article and the answer to that part of the question is no. Since I have not had my attention drawn to the article it would be quite improper for me to make any observations on it.
– I refer to the question just asked by Senator Wheeldon and I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: If the question by Senator Wheeldon quoting a statement from the book is correct, does it not indicate how untrue was Senator Murphy’s statement last week when he said that the Democratic Labor Party got its riding instructions from Mr Santamaria?
– Again I say that the question stands in its own right. I cannot make any comment since I have not read the article.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. If, as he stated in answer to my previous question, there is no relation between the acceptance by the Government of the F1 1 1 aircraft and meat exports to the United States, how is it that meat exporters, who learned 3 weeks ago that a rise in meat exports was imminent, claim that an announcement was delayed pending the Prime Minister’s approval of the Fill purchase?
– AM I can say is that if the Senate is to bc subjected to criticism in regard to every claim that is made by any person in Australia heaven help it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. ls he aware that some sections of Commonwealth Canteen Services Ltd downgrade employees when they become entitled to long service leave and, as a result, leave has to be taken at a lower rate? As this organisation operates canteens at most Service establishments, will the Minister undertake an immediate investigation with a view to eliminating this bad industrial practice?
– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honourable senator refers. 1 shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister. I am sure it will receive immediate attention.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry and follows on a question asked earlier by Senator Georges. Is it a fact that in recent years the export of meat to the United States of America has greatly increased? Further, is it a fact that, since the introduction of the quota system Australian exporters and producers have been negotiating with United States importers for an increase of Australia’s quota?
– The export of beef to the United States is of vital importance to the Australian meat industry, lt is a fact that over the years an increased quantity of Australian beef has been allowed into the United States market under the quota system. I understand that negotiations are taking place at present between the United States. Australia and other beef-producing countries in regard to Australia’s quota on the United States market next vear It is hoped that Australia will obtain an increase in the amount of beef that she will be allowed to export to the United States next year.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. I preface it by saying that on 16th September I asked him a question concerning alleged malpractice, brutality and so on at the Balcombe Army Apprentices School in Victoria. The Minister replied that he would take the earliest opportunity to refer the matter to the Minister who, no doubt, would give an early answer. I ask: Has the Minister seen a prominent article In the Melbourne ‘Truth’ of 20th instant in which it is alleged that the practices at Balcombe camp far outstrip those alleged to have taken place at Duntroon? In the circumstances, would it not be wise for the Minister to make an early statement on this matter to allay public disquiet?
– I have not read the issue of the Melbourne ‘Truth’ of 20th September nor, to my recollection, any other issue of that journal recently. The honourable senator can rest assured that he will receive an ample reply today or tomorrow to his question concerning the allegations in respect of Balcombe Army Apprentices School.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Could he have an inventory made of the questions which have not been put on notice but in relation to which the responsible Ministers have said that they will seek information and supply answers before the end of the sitting? By way of illustration, I refer to a question I asked on the participation of the Department of the Navy in the feasibility study on the Jervis Bay steel project and to a question I asked on the role of the Commonwealth Government in assisting those people who migrated to Australia after World War II and who have claims on the German Government in respect of Nazi atrocities.
– The procedure that is adopted with respect to questions asked of Ministers representing various portfolios, when we undertake to obtain some information about the matter in question, is that the Minister’s staff refers the question to the Department concerned. In due course a reply is furnished. For instance, today I have a reply to a question asked recently by Senator Bishop. I have some information to give him. All that we can do is follow up the matter in which information has not been supplied within a reasonable time. It must be appreciated that I represent six portfolios and that other Ministers represent four or five. We ensure that the references go to the Departments concerned. Where there is a delay in the furnishing of replies, we have a follow-up system. I can add only that if information sought by honourable senators is not avaiiable by the time we rise I certainly will see to it, as I have done on other occasions, that replies are forwarded to the honourable senators concerned.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport been drawn to a series of suggestions made by the Australian Medical Association relating to an investigation to reduce the road traffic toll? In particular I draw the Minister’s attention to the suggestion that there is an urgent need to set up a national traffic research council to conduct and to support scientific investigation into factors responsible for road accidents and to recommend appropriate counter-measures to both State and Federal Governments. Can the Minister indicate whether this suggestion will be given full consideration and whether it will be implemented if it is found to be likely to serve a useful role in reducing the road toll?
– I have seen the article to which the honourable senator referred. The Government, conscious of the great toll of human lives on Australian roads, set up the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety in the 1950s which was presided over by the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Anderson. That committee heard evidence at various centres throughout Australia on matters relating to car accidents and the avoidance of car accidents, and it made recommendations to the Government on ways and means by which the number of accidents, particularly fatal accidents, could be reduced. I believe that it is urgently necessary to set up a national traffic research council to study the causes of fatal accidents. Because of the honourable senator’s interest in road safety, I shall refer his question directly to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and ask the Minister to supply the honourable senator directly with an answer.
– Further to the question asked by Senator Mulvihill, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it would be possible, when Ministers are asked questions in relation to which they undertake to obtain answers from the Ministers concerned, to add to the bottom of the daily sheet of questions on notice to be answered the names of the honourable senators to whom the replies are to be furnished. If that could be done, it would be appreciated.
– I gather that this question refers to a matter that has previously been raised with the Presiding Officer.
– It is about the daily business paper.
– If I understand the honourable senator’s question, he suggests some means of procedure which will ensure that the identity of the honourable senator who asked a particular question will be established so that there will be no doubt who is to receive the reply. If that is the general burden of the honourable senator’s suggestion, I will refer the matter to the Presiding Officer and see whether there is any reason why this request should not be acceded to.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen a reported statement by the Australian Labor Party shadow minister for primary industry in this morning’s Press that the Government proposals on wool, including the abolition of 1, 2 and 3 bale lots, must be treated with suspicion, and the further
Press report that the Australian Wool Board had acted first and researched later? Is it not a fact that the Australian Wool Board appointed a special committee representing wool producers, buyers and brokers to study the elimination of 1, 2 and 3 bale lots and the preparation of the Australian wool clip? Is it not a fact that this committee sat for many months in taking evidence before making its report, which included a recommendation for the elimination of 1, 2 and 3 bale lots?
– I have to advise the honourable senator that I have read the report he mentioned. The Australian Wool Board did set up a committee which made recommendations to the Board and that committee advised the Government that it was in the interests of the wool industry that 1, 2 and 3 bale lots should be eliminated. This is the reason why the Government has provided finance which will help to achieve this objective. We believe that apart from the other encouragement that we are giving to the wool industry, such as the superphosphate subsidy of $12 per ton, this will play a significant part in getting for the growers the maximum prices envisaged by the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr Deputy President. Are you aware that this week Senator fan Wood has completed 16 years as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which is a record term as Chairman of this Committee and, I understand, of any Senate committee? Would you ask the Senate to note this fact and that in this capacity Senator Wood has given outstanding public service of the highest quality and importance to the benefit of the Senate and the people of Australia?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - ‘It has been drawn to my attention that Senator Wood has completed, I understand, 19 years service on this Committee and has for 16 years been its Chairman. I had the privilege of serving under Senator Wood on this Committee when I first came into the Parliament and I look back on those days with great enjoyment. I congratulate Senator Wood for the outstanding work that he and his Committee have done over the years. I hope that they will continue with their good work. I shall certainly see that this matter is noted.
– I hope you will not regard me as being out of order, Mr Deputy President, if 1 say that I should like to join in the congratulations that have been expressed by you and the Leader of the Opposition. I know that I speak for all Government senators, and indeed for the whole Senate, in offering these congratulations.
Honourable Senators ; Hear, hear!
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories aware of the contents of Press release No. 20 issued by the Public Service Association of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea wherein an allegation is made that in some instances illegal methods are being employed to recover over-payments made to public servants in some departments and that this is causing serious hardship to some employees? Will the Minister undertake an immediate investigation to ensure that no hardship is caused to employees and that good industrial practices are observed forthwith?
– That Press release does not come to my recollection specifically, but I can assure the honourable senator that his question will be brought to the notice of the Minister who can be relied upon to give it early consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. Is it necessary for senators and members to apply for permits to enter Papua and New Guinea? If so, how does he justify this?
– My understanding is that a permit is necessary for any person to enter the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and that that system has been in operation for many years so as to ensure that this Government as the trustee to whom the affairs of that Territory are committed will have proper control of entry to that Territory by all classes of persons.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the position flowing from the Prime Minister’s statement of 23rd September 1969 on the Fill aircraft, and from recent statements by the Minister for Defence, that if the fatigue tests on the modified wing box of this aircraft are not successful the Government will continue to refuse the aircraft and, if the tests are successful, acceptable terms of a final agreement will still depend on the arrangement to fit an entirely new box which is now under design and is to be available in about 1972?
– As I indicated yesterday, we have a statement on the matter listed on the business paper and a copy of the statement has been circulated to honourable senators. Senator Bishop is asking me for an interpretative answer in relation to a certain matter. I think it would be far better if I obtained a prepared answer for him because we are really in contravention of our Standing Orders to be discussing a matter which is already on the business paper. At the same time I want to be co-operative and if the answer is not forthcoming, perhaps during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Defence, which we have yet to come to, we can get to the point. I would not want to respond to any question on the matter at question time.
– I refer the Minister for Customs and Excise to a question asked by me some weeks ago in respect of the withholding of a number of books which were brought into Australia by Mr Norman Talbot of the University of Newcastle. The Minister will recall that I drew attention to the fact that this lecturer at the University had wanted these books for the purpose of a serious study and they had been withheld for about a year. In his reply the Minister indicated that some letter had gone to Mr Talbot and that the books were to be released to him. Has the Minister seen in this morning’s ‘Australian’ a further letter from Mr Talbot drawing attention to the fact that he had at no stage received such a letter from the Department as was said to have been sent to him last May, and that he has these books on some condition that he has to hand them back to the Department after 6 months? Are the statements in Mr Talbot’s letter true? Is it to be the practice that books such as this are to be handed over only for short periods and then returned to the custody of the Department? Is this normal departmental practice?
– I regret to say thatI have not seen the letter to the newspaper referred to by the honourable senator but I might advise him that in special circumstances where people in universities or other people want to study a particular book that is prohibited, under section 4a of the Customs Act I will allow a person to use a prohibited book for a specified period. It is not always for 6 months but the period is always specified. I regret that 1 have not seen the letter in the newspaper but I will have the matter looked into as expeditiously as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories please clarify the position in regard to the question thatI asked concerning permits for entry to Papua and New Guinea? I now ask: Is it necessary to ask a senator to apply for a permit to enter Papua and can this be justified?
– I understand the honourable senator to be endeavouring to draw some distinction between Papua, deriving from British territory, and New Guinea being a Trust Territory of the United Nations. The two Territories have been considered as one unit ever since our trust commenced and it would be impracticable, imprudent and completely impossible to draw any distinction between the two Territories for the purpose of regulating the entry of other people.
(Question No. 1343)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will the Minister give serious consideration to alleviating the position of farmers in the droughtstricken areas of Western Australia by varying the operations of the Wheat Boardto enable these farmers to obtain wheat for their stock at the price of $1.10 per bushel, the amountthey have received an advance payment.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The price at which the Australian Wheat Board may sell wheat for domestic consumption was written into complementary Commonwealth and State legislation last year. It is a feature of the wheat industry stabilisation plan which was negotiated in 1968 and which could be altered only with the agreement of all parties to the negotiations. The home consumption price for this year is $1.71 per bushel for fair average quality bulk wheal free on rails at export ports.
I have been informed that the Australian Wheat Board agreed on 28th August that wheal growers in declared drought areas who delivered wheat to the Board from their 1968-69 crop may obtain redelivery up to the quantity delivered by them. They would be required to repay what they had received by way of a first advance on the redelivered wheat and to pay the Board 12c per bushel to meet the Board’s costs. They would also have to make a declaration that the redelivered wheat would be used only for drought feeding purposes ontheir own farm. In effect growers would be withdrawing from the current pool wheal which they bad delivered to it.
(Question No. 1464)
asked the Minis ter 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. 1494)
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 senators question:
(Question No. 1534)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Will the Minister recommend to the Government that the loan for War Service Homes be increased from the present inadequate figure of $8,000 to a figure in the vicinity of $12,000.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The maximum War Service Homes loan was increased in November last from $7,000 to the present limit of $8,000 and this increase was made after the matter had been given the closest consideration by the Government. In accordance with its longstanding practice the Government will continue to keep the amount of the maximum loan under close review.
(Question No. 1548)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many cases are pending for breaches of the National Service Act.
– The Acting Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Asat 31st August 1969, there were 116 prosecutions pending for breaches of the National Service Act.
(Question No. 1563)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In view of the fact that it has been admitted that a hoax has been perpetrated in connection with national service ballots, will the Minister agree that many hundreds of false registrations would have to be received to achieve the number of errors recently reported; if so, would not this large number of false registrations invalidate the ballot.
– The Acting Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Some false registration forms have been received in the names of persons both real and imaginary from misguided persons at each registration for national service. On this occasion university students and others announced their intention of submitting numbers of false registration forms in order to disrupt the administration of national service. It is not always possible to detect all the false forms immediately and any inconvenience which may have been caused to persons who have received an acknowledgment of a form submitted in their name is regretted.
Some51,000 persons are involved in the ballot and any false forms remaining undetected at that stage will have no effect on its validity.
(Question No. 1571)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The earliest record of his National Socialist activity in Australia was in 1967. He was a Leading member of the National Socialist Party of Australia from July 1967 until he was expelled from the Party in February 1969. In 1968 Molnar publicly disclosed that he had been a Youth Leader in the Hungarian National Socialist Movement before he joined the Hungarian Army in 1941.
– Yesterday Senator Bishop asked me a question about the Turana pilotless drone. I promised to provide a more detailed answer. I remind honourable senators that I issued a Press statement on this matter on 7th August. The Turana is a pilotless drone developed from the Ikara, an Australian designed anti-submarine missile. The Turana is at present in the development stage and we are producing only a limited number of prototypes for the development programme. There will not be a large demand in Australia for this drone, but we are hopeful that as with the Jindivik and the Ikara, it will generate overseas interest and at a future date overseas sales will be effected. At present the project provides a useful task, particularly for design personnel at Government aircraft factories. If Senator Bishop wishes, I will send to him a copy of my Press statement on this matter.
– On 19th September Senator Keeffe asked me question No. 1565 in respect of matters concerning the Joint House Department. You, Mr Deputy President, have communicated with me in relation to the question. I want to make it known that I will be presenting by way of reply at question time tomorrow the information the honourable senator seeks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories on 9th September the following question, without notice:
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 ‘Post-Courier’ 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 (lie Administration voted for this ban? If so, will the Minister ascertain for the information of the Senate “low 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 an J the people when it is imperative that the traditional freedom of the Press be preserved?
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Statements made by Mr Albert Maori Kiki were referred to the Committee of Privileges ot the House of Assembly which consists of five elected members. The Committee reported that in its view people of Papua and New Guinea have a totally different understanding of and attitude towards their elected representatives and parliamentary institutions from that of the people in Australia. It felt that the allegations made were probably the most likely kind of allegations to bring the House into disrepute in the eyes of the people. The Committee sought an apology from Mr Kiki and the newspaper concerned. Both refused.
Official Members of the House of Assembly voted in support of the motion recommending the adoption of the report of the Committee in response to the view of the majority of the members that the conduct complained of would tend to denigrate the House of Assembly in the eyes of the people of the Territory. The report was adopted by 58 votes to 10.
Official Members also voted in support of the motion requesting the Speaker to exclude the representatives of the ‘Post-Courier’ until an apology was received. Official Members did so in the light of local circumstances, including their assessment of how the refusal by the newspaper to apologise would be regarded by the people of Papua and New Guinea. This motion was adopted by 55 votes to 11.
– On 10th September Senator Cant asked me the following questions without notice:
Is it a fact that the United States of America imposes a high tariff on the import of Australian wool? Does the United States impose restrictions on the import of base metals from Australia? Does the United States impose quota restrictions on the import of Australian meat? Docs Australia impose any restriction on the import into Australia of any goods from the United States? If Australia does impose any such restrictions will the Minister supply a list of them?
The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided me with the following reply:
(Question No. 1510)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Has the Minister received correspondence from the Commercial Apiarists’ Association of South Australia protesting over the operations of the Australian Honey Board and requesting a poll of bee-keepers on whether the continuation of the Australian Honey Board is desired by honey producers; if so, will the Minister grant such a poll.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 have received representations on this matter from the Commercial Apiarists’ Association of South Australia. I arranged for my Department to carefully examine the Association’s submission and after consultation wilh Mr K. J. Mitchell, the Chairman of the Australian Honey Board, and Mr H. Peck, the President of the Federal Council of Australian Apiarists’ Associations, my Department came to the conclusion that there was no substance in the charges levelled by the Association against the Board as they were based on a lack of knowledge and understanding of the marketing factors governing the volume and direction of Australian honey exports. In view of the Department’s report 1 informed the Commercial Apiarists’ Association of South Australia that f was not prepared to accede to its request for a poll of producers for the purpose indicated.
(Question No. 1371)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What Commonwealth subsidies, grants or other financial assistance are made available to the following industries:
Pineapples, bananas and other tropical fruits
Peanut growing and processing
Grape growing and wine industry
Dairying (including manufacturing)
Pig production and pig meat processing and what is the total amount paid to each industry.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following information concerning Commonwealth financial assistance in the fiscal years 1968-69 and 1969-70 to the primary industries referred to by the honourable senator:
In addition to the financial contributions by the Commonwealth to the industries specified in the Hon. Senator’s question, the Government provides funds for extension services to Australian primary industries generally. The Commonwealth Extension Services Grant amounted to$4.018m in 1968-69 and is estimated to be $4. 620m in 1969-70.
(Question No. 1508)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1131)
asked the Minister for
Supply upon, notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Firstly, it should be appreciated that the Superannuation Act is administered by the Treasurer through the Superannuation Board and that decisions as to acceptance or non-acceptance of persons as contributors under the Act arc not made by individual Departments but, currently, by the Public Service Board as to acceptance and the Superannuation Board as to non-acceptance.
The honourable senator’s question implies that employees who are ex-servicemen and who have suffered war injuries are automatically rejected on medical grounds as contributors under the Superannuation Act. This is not so and each case is treated on its merits.
As to the rest of the question I should say at the outset that where ex-servicemen are not accepted under the Superannuation Act it could not always be said that the medical conditions leading to the non-acceptance arise directly from war caused disabilities.
Since 1 January 1959 a total of more than 1650 employees of my Department were accepted as contributors under the Superannuation Act. That number included more than 400 ex-servicemen, many of whom no doubt would have suffered from war caused disabilities. In the same period some 360 employees of the Department were not accepted as contributors. Less than half that number, that is 130, were ex-servicemen of whom some 66 suffered from war caused disabilities.
Five ex-servicemen employed by the Department in Queensland and suffering from war caused disabilities were not accepted as contributors for the Provident Account over the same period.
(Question No. 1338)
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not possible to predict the future economic prospects for the industry which will depend largely on the supplies of fruit which come onto the market from time to time. In this connection it is noteworthy that the New South Wales Government has recently enacted legislation to allow the establishment of a Committee of Direction with wide powers to control the marketing of bananas. Implementation of the proposal is subject to acceptance by a poll of growers.
(Question No. 1327)
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. 1412)
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:
The Department of Trade and Industry has conducted a comprehensive investigation of the Australian lamb market situation. The increase in imports in 1968 was due to abnormal price and seasonal conditions in Australia as a result of the drought. Prices of imports in fact were generally higher than Sydney prices. They were lower than prices in Melbourne, which however were 3c to 5c lb. higher during May-June, the main import period, than for the same months in 1967. The basic reason for the fall in prices since June of last year, and this has been commented on by the Chairman of the Meat Board, was the unusually heavy supplies of Australian lamb reaching the markets.
– I present the report from the Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) - by leave - I move:
In presenting this report to the Senate, I wish to indicate that, although the Committee has made every effort to complete a full report upon its study of what has proved to be an extremely wide and complex subject, it has not been possible to complete that task by 30th September. As the report indicates, the Committee made considerable progress towards this end, but some 3 weeks ago was forced by circumstances to postpone further preparation of a full report and to prepare an abbreviated report to the Senate. This present report, therefore, constitutes an abbreviated statement of the subject matters which the Committee considered during its inquiry, and contains 60 recommendations upon which the Committee has agreed, to date, together with short statements in support of those recommendations.
The Committee recommends to the Senate that, during the next Parliament, it should re-constitute the Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, to complete the task given to the present Committee, and with power to have access to the documents and evidence submitted to the present Committee. A large volume of most valuable material, including many detailed tables of statistical information has been received, and although this material has not been included in this report, it would obviously be of great value to have these statistics listed in the final report of any subsequent Committee. In the same way, it would be expected that a full list of those organisations and persons, numbering over 130 so far, who appeared before the present Committee, would be included in a further report.
The terms of reference under which the Committee operated made it necessary for the Committee to determine whether its recommendations should be directed towards the retention, and improvement of the existing voluntary health insurance scheme or towards its replacement by a different type of scheme. The Committee considered all suggestions submitted to it and decided, by a majority vote, that its report should be framed with the intention of recommending ways of extending and improving the existing scheme, and of providing maximum levels of health care throughout the community. Two members of the Committee dissented from this basis. Their dissenting statement is attached to the report. I wish to inform the Senate, however, that the two dissenting members, having recorded their dissent to this basic approach, joined the other members of the Committee in framing recommendations which would effect improvement of the present scheme and, wilh the exception referred to in the dissenting statement, the recommendations set out in this report have received the approval of all members of the Committee.
In tabling this report, 1 desire, as Chairman, to express the Committee’s appreciation of the assistance received from all those who appeared before the Committee or helped it in any way. In particular, I would mention the assistance given by the Commonwealth Department of Health, whose principal submission to the Committee, and help in providing material at all times, was of inestimable value. I. would mention also the co-operation received from Government authorities in all States. This assistance was freely given and greatly appreciated. With regard to the functioning of the Committee itself, I place on record my appreciation of the work of my fellow Committee members, who applied themselves unsparingly to the task of hearing and assessing evidence in all States of the Commonwealth. The operations of a Senate select committee place considerable burdens upon honourable senators, and the successful outcome of this Committee has been due to the co-operative efforts of its individual members.
At the commencement of the inquiry the Committee asked the Commonwealth Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) whether an officer of his Department could be made available to assist the Committee in its inquiry, as the subject matter contained so many elements of a complicated technical nature. The Minister for Health readily responded to this request and, as a result, the Committee was fortunate to receive the assistance of Mr M. Carroll, an Assistant Director-General in the Commonwealth Department of Health. I wish to express the Committee’s great appreciation of the assistance given to it by Mr Carroll. His depth and breadth of knowledge and experience provided the Committee with a wealth of information which helped greatly in its comparison and evaluation of the outworking of present or alternative health schemes. I express the Committee’s thanks and my own to Mr Carroll for his complete dedication to the work required of him and his unfailing courtesy, impartiality and unflagging attention to the task of ensuring that the inquiry should result in the preparation of a document which would fulfil the requirements of the Senate. The Committee’s thanks also go to Mr J. McAuley, an officer of the Commonwealth Department of Health, who was assigned to assist VI r Carroll and the Committee. His work contributed significantly to the preparation of the Committee’s report.
The Committee desires to place on record its keen appreciation of, and thanks for, the invaluable assistance given to it at. all times by Mr A. R. Cumming Thom, Principal Parliamentary Officer of the Senate, who acted as Secretary to the Committee. Mr Cumming Thom, a graduate of the University of Sydney in Arts and Law, is a very capable and efficient Officer of the Senate. The Committee was most fortunate to have, throughout the inquiry, the advantage of his knowledge of parliamentary procedures and the value of his academic training.
Mention has been made in the report of the restrictions placed on members of the Committee by their being required to conduct the inquiry in addition to their normal parliamentary attendances and duties, but these problems necessarily must have been compounded as far as Mr Cumming Thom was concerned personally. To combine the full time duties of Principal Parliamentary Officer in the Senate with those of Secretary to a Senate Select committee with terms of reference as wide as those of the one now reporting, must have involved Mr Cumming Thom in a tremendous amount of work and study in time that should have been his own. For this and for his energy, efficiency and courtesy on all occasions, the Committee believes Mr Cumming Thom merits not only the thanks of the Committee and the Senate but of all members of the community, many of whom will, we hope, benefit greatly from the work of the Committee. As Chairman, I would like to add my personal thanks to Mr Cumming Thom. His organising ability and meticulous attention to detail made my work as Chairman much easier than it could have been. I place on record my warm appreciation of his help.
– As this report deals with a subject of vital interest to all people in Australia and as it is not in the hands of honourable senators, to give honourable senators an opportunity to peruse the contents of the report I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. If the report is not discussed when the National Health Act is amended in the present sittings, I will take steps to have the matter restored to the notice paper when we reassemble.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Mr Deputy President, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee I present the One Hundred and Thirteenth and One Hundred and Fourteenth Reports of the Committee. I seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
One Hundred and Thirteenth Report relates to the Report of the Auditor-General for the financial year 1968-69. Your Committee would again pay tribute to the AuditorGeneral and his staff for the sustained effort they have made over many years to present the Report to the Parliament during August. This practice has facilitated greatly the work of your Committee in this important area of its work. Due to the pending elec tions, your Committee’s inquiry this year covered only four matters involving three departments and constitutes one of the smallest of the inquiries conducted in this field in recent years. The matters examined in this inquiry covered the purchase of vehicles and amplifiers by the Department of the Army; the acquisition of interim search and rescue craft by the Department of the Navy and deficiencies that had occurred in Drawing Accounts administered by the Department of Social Services.
The evidence taken in respect of the purchase of vehicles and amplifiers by the Department of the Army has, in each case, disclosed circumstances which your Committee find most disturbing. The evidence reflects, among other things, a compelling need for the Department’s acquisition requirements and procedures relating to the payment for equipment to be reviewed as matters of urgency. The records maintained in the Department’s stores depots; systems relating to the initial ordering of equipment; audit review arrangements and the adequacy of its communications also require close examination. Your Committee regards the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the interim search and rescue craft by the Department of the Navy as most unsatisfactory and believes that the Department has a clear responsibility to ensure that they are not repeated in other areas of its administration. While it appears that the deficiencies that occurred in the Drawing Accounts operated by the Department of Social Services have been virtually overcome, some of the evidence reflects inadequate standards of past performance in the Department’s accounting operations. Your Committee’s decision to limit the area of its inquiry this year has inhibited inquiry into a range of matters which, in other circumstances, would have led to public examination. Your Committee would, therefore, refer its successor committee to other matters mentioned in that report, for evaluation in the context of further public scrutiny.
Honourable senators will recall that in its Eighty-ninth Report your Sixth Committee established the helpful practice of a committee, at the close of its term, reporting to the Parliament upon its overall programme, the situation regarding work in progress and any problems which could affect the committee appointed in the succeeding Parliament. The One Hundred and Fourteenth Report follows the procedure adopted in 1966. In particular it relates to changes in Committee personnel; Committee policy; the programme for the 3 years 1967 to 1969; Treasury minute procedures; annual estimates of expenditure; Committee facilities; assistance provided by the AuditorGeneral, the Public Service Board and the Department of the Treasury; Committee staffing and the state of the present work programme.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the level of activity achieved by your Committee. As one measure of this increase, it might be noted that in the 1 1 years from 1953 to 1963 inclusive, 63 Public Accounts Committee reports were submitted to the Parliament. By comparison, no less than 51 reports were submitted during the 6 years from 1964 to 1969. The increased activity, however, has brought problems associated with the staffing establishment of your Committee and, more recently, the existing committee rooms have proved inadequate for the purposes of public inquiries.
Your Committee reports that the early rising of the Parliament, coupled with the staffing problems referred to, has precluded reports from being presented in connection with our inquiry into the Advance to the Treasurer and the Consolidated Revenue Fund and our inquiry into the Department of Shipping and Transport. These reports, your Committee must refer, reluctantly, to its successor committee in the Twentyseventh Parliament. I commend the reports to honourable senators.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Rehabilitation of 1942 building, General Post Office, Sydney.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee are as follows:
– by leave - I propose to make a statement on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in relation to estate duty reliefs for primary producers. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The 1969-70 Budget Speech foreshadowed some reliefs from estate duty for the estates of primary producers and stated that the proposed reliefs would apply to the estates of persons who die after the authorising legislation has been assented to. Broad details of the scheme of reliefs have now been worked out but it will not be practicable for the amending legislation to be introduced and considered by the Parliament in the short time that remains of this parliamentary session. The Government has, therefore, decided that the reliefs should, when the amending legislation has been assented to, apply to estates of persons who die after today.
The purpose of the proposed reliefs is to provide assistance to discourage the breaking up of economic rural holdings, particularly family holdings, because of the need to pay estate duty. There will be two basic tests for determining whether an estate qualifies for the reliefs. In broad terms, an estate will be eligible if more than 50% of the dutiable assets are primary production assets and if more than 50% of gross income of the deceased for the 5 years preceding death was derived from carrying on a business of primary production in Australia. Primary production assets for this purpose will include land used in a business of primary production and improvements on such land. Also included will be livestock, farm produce and farm plant and machinery. One form of relief for eligible estates will be given by raising existing exemption limits by 20%. At present the exemption for an estate passing to close relatives is $20,000, diminishing by $2 for each $8 by which the dutiable value of the estate exceeds $20,000 and cutting out when the dutiable value is $100,000. It is proposed that, for eligible primary production estates, the basic exemption be increased to $24,000, diminishing in the same way as at present and cutting out at $120,000. For small estates not passing to close relatives the present exemption is $10,000, shading-out by $2 for each $8 in excess of that amount so that it cuts out at $50,000. It is proposed that, for eligible primary production estates, the end limits of this range of exemption will be increased to $12,000 and $60,000 respectively.
The other form of relief will be by way of the allowance of a rebate of part of the duty attributable to the value of primary production assets included in the dutiable estate. Both for the purpose of determining whether an estate is eligible under the assets test I have already described, and for the purpose of determining the duty attributable to primary production assets included in the estate, debts of the estate, including State death duties, will be distributed proportionately over all assets in the estate according to the gross vale of each asset. Duty will, in the first place, be calculated in the usual way. Against duty so calculated will be allowed a rebate, on a sliding scale, of part of the duty attributable to primary production assets.
Where the dutiable value of an estate before allowance of the appropriate amount of statutory exemption is $140,000 or less, the rebate will be 50% of the duty attributable to the value of primary production assets included in the estate. So if, after pro-rating all debts as 1 have already explained, it was found in such a case that 90% of the value of dutiable assets was attributable to primary production assets, the rebate allowable would be 50% of 90% of the duty. It is proposed that the rate of rebate will diminish by one-tenth of 1% for each $220 by which the value of the estate exceeds $140,000, so that, for estates of $250,000 or more, there will be no rebate available.
We have had a table prepared which sets out of the savings of duty that will, through the combined effects of the raised exemptions and the allowance of the rebate, accrue to estates passing wholly to close relatives. The table shows these savings for estates of various values, assuming that the value of primary production assets in the estate amounts to two-thirds of the dutiable value. To quote some examples, the saving, on this assumption, for an estate of a dutiable value of $50,000 is $1,051, for an estate of $150,000 it is $7,727 and for one of $210,000 it is $5,854. Larger savings would, of course, accrue if the proportion of primary production assets were greater than two-thirds. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate this table in Hansard.
The Government has not overlooked the fact that, in these times, it is not uncommon for the assets of a primary production business to be held by, and for the business to be conducted through, a family proprietary company. We have, therefore, given careful consideration to finding an equitable and administratively practicable means of including within the scope of the scheme primary production assets represented by shares in a family proprietary company. One difficulty that had to be faced is that, while such assets held by primary producers personally are, for estate duty purposes, valued at their true market value, shares in private companies carrying on a business of primary production are usually valued on an expected future earnings basis, a method of valuation which can produce a value for duty significantly less than the market value of the assets backing the shares. The Victorian Government, which also gives relief from probate duty on rural holdings by means of a rebate, faced a similar difficulty and adopted a solution which we think is also appropriate, and equitable, in the context of the proposed rebate of Commonwealth estate duty.
We, therefore, propose that, for the purpose of the two forms of relief, shares in a family private company, to the extent that they represent primary production assets, will be treated as such assets. If the trustee elects to have the shares valued, for all duty purposes, on an assets backing basis, that is, on the basis of a notional voluntary liquidation of the company without allowance for liquidation expenses, this will go a long way towards preserving equity between producers who have retained their farms as personal holding and those who have transferred them to private companies. It will also give trustees of estates of the latter producers an opportunity to decide which would give the greater benefit to the estate - election for an assets backing valuation with consequential higher exemption levels and a rebate, or for an alternative valuation with no rebate or increased exemption. There will, of course, be the opportunity for producers who have entered into private company arrangements to consider for themselves whether, in the light of the new reliefs, there would now be an advantage in reviewing the arrangements they have made.
I have mentioned that the proposed scheme will extend to family companies. By family companies I mean companies all the shares in which, at the date of a relevant person’s death, were beneficially owned by that person or by him and his family. I might sum up the Broad proposals as to the reliefs in relation to private company arrangements in the following way:
Reference was also made in the Budget Speech to a proposed relaxation of some administrative requirements of the estate duty law relating to lodgment of security and extensions of time for payment of duty. These requirements will be relaxed for the general body of estates, not only those of primary producers. I conclude by repeating that, in the Goverment’s view, the proposed reliefs, combined with the relaxation of administrative requirements, will be a substantial step towards ensuring the retention of economic farm units by primary producers and their families.
– by leave - I propose to make a statement on the Royal Military College at Duntroon on behalf of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch).
– If it is a long statement and it has been delivered in the other place, could it not be incorporated in Hansard?
-I would have no objection to that course but I was proposing to read it because I thought that Opposition senators would wish me to do so. However, with the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate the statement in Hansard.
As the House will be aware, there have been allegations of ill-treatment of the Fourth Class - the junior class - at the Royal Military College Duntroon. These allegations have been fully probed by a board of inquiry whose report and findings were submitted to me yesterday. I am taking this first opportunity to provide the House with a summary of the conclusions reached by the board of inquiry and an outline of the action which I propose should now be taken. Let me at the outset traverse the history of this matter.
On 25th August last, Mr Gerald Walsh, a lecturer in history at the College, addressed a letter to the Commandant drawing attention to what he considered to be ill-treatment of members of the Fourth Class by the senior cadets. Following discussion between the Commandant, Mr Walsh and the Dean (Sir Leslie Martin), it was decided that the first available date on which action in relation to the letter could be taken was Friday, 5th September. Concurrently, I received from private sources information that incidents amounting to bullying might be occurring at Duntroon. 1 immediately directed that inquiries be made.
On Friday, 5th September, the Commandant met his senior academic and military staff to consider the allegations. Consequential upon this meeting and my own direction, a board of inquiry was immediately convened. The terms of reference were agreed on Saturday, 6th September, and the board held its first meeting on Monday, 8th September. The Board consisted of three: Lieutenant-Colonel Hosking, LieutenantColonel in Charge of Administration at Duntroon; Major Wells, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General; and Mr Hill, Senior Lecturer in History. I should point out that Lieutenant-Colonel Hosking and Major Wells were selected because, although on the staff at Duntroon, their duties were purely administrative and they had no direct relationship with the Corps of Staff Cadets, which is a self-contained group within the College. The terms of reference and the policy directive referred to therein are by now well known. However, for completeness, with the concurrence of honourable membersI incorporate them in Hansard.
TERMS OF REFERENCE
RMC Board of Inquiry
The Terms of Reference of the Board of Inquiry, which were drawn up after discussions between the Commandant and the Members of the Academic Staff are -
These are considered wide and general terms which will enable this matter to be thoroughly probed.
CSC POLICY DIRECTIVE
The Assimilation and Regimental Training of the Fourth Class 14th February 1969
Reference: CSC Standing Orders 239 and 240.
This responsibility falls generally as follows to:
The aims of the training of the Fourth Classes are:
The training of the Fourth Class falls into two categories:
Instruction in the proper standards of Corps custom, dress, manners, social relationships with other classes and dining etiquette.
This training hag secondary aims for the remainder of the Corps:
The training of the Fourth Class is to be carried out only to the extent that it achieves the aims quoted above, and within the following limitations:
It is a personal responsibility on a one for one basis.
At this pointI wish to divert from Duntroon for a moment and inform the House that consequent upon these allegations of ill-treatment I instituted inquiries in respect of other Army training establishments. I have now received from the Adjutant-General reports covering the Officer Cadet School at Portsea, the Officer Training Unit at Scheyville, the Apprentices School at Balcombe and the Recruit Training Battalions at Puckapunyal, Kapooka and Singleton. I have been assured that the General Officers Commanding Southern and Eastern Commands, in which these training establishments are located, have carried out thorough investigations into the practices currently extant. Honourable Members will no doubt be aware that within the last week or so there have been allegations in the Press that ill-treatment, similar to that which has been the subject of investigation at Duntroon, had occurred or was still occurring at Scheyville and the Apprentices School, Balcombe.
Dealing with Scheyville, I am advised that bullying of the type alleged in the Press does not occur at Scheyville. However, when a large group of young men live together, it is almost inevitable that there will be isolated instances of ragging of juniors as they join the group. There have been and no doubt will be occasional departures from permissible practices, but a very thorough inquiry has confirmed that such departures are rare and random in nature. Illegal punishments and bullying of any description are expressly prohibited by standing orders at Scheyville and the Commandant and staff are alert to the need for continuous vigilance to ensure that they do not occur.
With regard to the allegations of standing naked, screaming obscenities and other forms of humiliation, I have been assured by the Adjutant-General that no evidence of these practices has been found. Tt will be appreciated that the allegations appearing in the Press were general in nature and not specific as to time, names or the source of the information. However, if the exnational service officer who made the allegations is prepared to give names and dates, his allegations will be further investigated and any necessary action will most certainly be taken.
With regard to the Apprentices School, honourable members may have noted that the allegations quoted by the Melbourne Truth’ were stated to have been made by an ex-apprentice who, on his own statement, left the School in 1967. Honourable members may also recall that in 1966 a court of inquiry was convened to examine certain allegations covering the behaviour of apprentices. The findings of that inquiry indicated that insufficient staff had been available for proper supervision of apprentices. As a result the staff was increased to the extent that one Regular NonCommissioned Officer is now in charge of each platoon of 36 apprentices, company duty officers sleep in the company lines and one is always present throughout 24 hours per day. Further, the junior class is segregated into a company of its own and is not in close contact with the intermediate and senior classes, in addition to the Regular Non-Commissioned Officer, a senior apprentice Non-Commissioned Officer is placed in charge of each building containing 1 2 apprentices.
There have been isolated instances of bullying since 1967 which have resulted in the reduction in rank of one apprentice and the. discharge of four apprentices who were found guilty. I have also been assured that no evidence can be found of ill-treatment presently arising at the Officer Cadet School, or at the recruit training battalions at Puckapunyal, Kapooka or Singleton. That there have been or will be isolated cases where instructions are violated could not bc denied, but honourable members can be satisfied that whenever such instances are detected appropriate action is taken. I turn now to the proceedings of the board of inquiry at Duntroon.
Members of the military and academic staff were invited to give evidence before the Board, and statements were taken from all Fourth Class cadets. It will be noted that the terms of reference specified Fourth Class 1969. However, after the Board had commenced sitting, specific allegations were made that some, at least, of those 1968 Fourth Class cadets who had left the College during that year had done so because of the ill-treatment they had suffered. In these circumstances, the President of the Board decided to interview these cadets if they were prepared to give evidence. The 5 exFourth Class cadets of 1969 and the 12 of the 1968 year were invited to appear before the Board. Of these, 4 of 1969 and 8 of 1968 accepted and duly appeared before the board.
To ensure that all available facts were brought before the board, members of the public who felt they could give information were invited to submit statements on any matter relevant to the investigation, but no such statements have been received by the board. Between 8th September and 22nd September, the board took evidence from 143 witnesses comprising 11 members of the academic staff, 14 of the military staff, 101 current Fourth Class cadets, S cadets of the senior class and 12 ex-cadets.
The report of the board, based on the very comprehensive evidence which it had obtained, was submitted to the Commandant on 23rd September 1969. The board, after consideration of the evidence taken nas reported its findings in relation to the contravention or otherwise of the directive On Fourth Class training and I will now summarise these findings. Honourable members may be assured the summary I am about to give does not omit any significant aspect. I informed the House last week that nothing would be swept under the carpet and I trust the House will appreciate that it is my intention to provide a complete and frank statement.
The board found that there was evidence to show that the directive had been contravened particularly in regard to paragraphs 6 and 9. Amongst other things, paragraph 6 provides that no cadet is to .be bullied in any way; or threatened or coerced in any manner or subjected to personal indignities, humiliation or ridicule. The board made it clear that they viewed the term ‘bullying’ in its widest context and not merely as implying physical threat or violence. The board reports that evidence existed that the instruction contained in paragraph 6 had been contravened in instances of the following type:
Two senior cadets simultaneously giving conflicting orders to a junior, sometimes standing on either side of him.
Junior class cadets being required to stand at attention for excessive periods whilst being questioned by seniors. One cadet reported two cases of a light being directed into a cadet’s eyes whilst being questioned.
Awarding of unauthorised punishments such as ‘press ups’, amounting in extreme cases to 200 in one day and impositions for failure to answer questions when it was unreasonable to expect the cadet to be able to do so. One cadet fell and hit his head as a result of excessive ‘press ups’.
Placing a junior class cadet in such a position that some free periods were taken up in obtaining information for seniors, lest failure to do so led to additional imposts.
Junior cadets had been required to take additional cold showers, to shower in parts of their equipment and occasionally to do press ups’ in the bath.
Cadets, in some cases, have been refused a place at several tables in the mess or been abused in front of others or required to stand on a table and sing. In two extreme cases cadets were required to kneel before a senior cadet.
Isolated cases of cadets being required to eat sitting on the floor.
Although not a common practice, cadets had been required to consume a concoction of various condiments.
Cadets taking breakfast to cadets of the two senior classes.
I make it clear to the House that I would regard these instances in varying degrees as humiliating, stupid or simply a waste of time. Only one case of physical violence was included in the evidence before the board. A member of the junior class stated that he had been physically forced into a bathroom by an unnamed senior classman and had six buckets of cold water thrown over him. Although one cadet expressed his resentment at some comments made about his religion by a senior cadet, the board found no evidence of any improper reference, either stated or implied, to a cadet’s background, family, religious beliefs or personal life.
The board also found that assimilation training did not cease at the end of first term as intended by the directive. In addition, although the instruction that training should cease on week nights at 7.00 p.m. had generally been observed, some cadets had found it necessary to complete, during study periods, impositions which had been set by senior cadets. With regard to paragraph 9 of the directive, whilst no evidence was available that any junior cadet’s rest, nourishment or recreation had been adversely affected, there was considerable evidence that no allowance was made by senior cadets for the time involved in completing impositions set by them. The board states that, as a result, many junior cadets used private study periods and class time to the detriment of their work. Most junior class cadets found that training left them tense and flustered especially after the evening meal and, as a result, it took some time to settle down to study.
What I have said covers in detail the essential areas of the board’s report. I turn now to two specific cases to which reference has been made in the Parliament and the Press. It is a fact that early in 1968 a Fourth Class cadet collapsed and was admitted to hospital where he remained for some 25 days before discharge from the Army, lt is also a fact that, prior to admission to hospital he had been subjected to a period of some 3 hours ‘hazing’ by a senior Non-Commissioned Officer cadet. The hazing’ consisted primarily of a heavy pressure of questioning and tidying his room. The senior cadet’s behaviour was reprehensible and he was punished by reduction in rank. The ex-cadet concerned gave evidence before the board last week.
The other matter relates to the alleged attempted suicide at the Royal Military College on 1st September. The facts are that a junior cadet was discovered in his room at the Royal Military College on the evening of 1st September with cuts on his left wrist. He was admitted to the Royal Military College hospital. The investigating officer, the medical officer on duty, and the consulting psychiatrist who was called in, confirmed that what had happened was in the nature of a gesture to draw attention to his personal problems rather than an attempt to commit suicide. I am informed that the cadet himself attributed his action to his unhappiness wilh his academic progress and, when questioned, specifically denied that it had anything to do will illtreatment of the junior class. Nothing has arisen as a result of the board of inquiry’s investigations which would vary this conclusion. lt is clear from the board’s report that there have been breaches of the policy directive governing the permissible scope and limits of Fourth Class training, that these breaches should have occurred is clearly indicative of unsatisfactory administration both within the Corps of Staff Cadets and amongst those who are directly responsible for its day-to-day functioning, that these breaches cannot be condoned, and that disciplinary action against those responsible for these departures is called for as well as remedial action for the future.
These matters have been given the most careful consideration by the Chief of the General Staff in the light of the board’s report and the Commandant’s views thereon. The Chief of the General Staff has informed me that the following action will be taken:
I further emphasise that positive steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence of these unfortunate breaches and to ensure that the forms of training which have given rise to, or been exposed by, the inquiry must cease. In saying (his I make two points. In the first place, it is clear from the board’s very thorough and detailed report that, no matter what mistakes have been made in the application and interpretation of the directive regarding Fourth Class training, members of the senior classes with the one exception I have mentioned have adhered strictly to the rule forbidding any physical contact between junior and senior cadets. I am aware that the term ‘bullying’ embraces more than physical means, but I think in view of the Press publicity in this matter the House should know that there is ample evidence for the board to conclude that physical contact is one form of bullying rejected by the senior classes. In the second place, one question which must receive further consideration is whether or not: the type of training which is specified in the Royal Military College directive for Fourth Class training has a necessary part in achieving the purposes of the College and should, therefore, be continued.
Whilst outwardly it would appear easy and attractive to reject the whole concept and issue instructions prohibiting any training of this kind, this is a complex question and there are many factors which need to be taken into consideration. With the affiliation of the Royal Military College with the University of New South Wales and with changes in both the methodology of and approach to education in civil as well as military establishments, it seems necessary and desirable that the need for this type of training and the aims it seeks to achieve should be subjected to a critical scrutiny. To an extent perhaps not so much in evidence at universities, the Royal Military College is necessarily concerned with the development of character, personality and loyalty, and it relies upon the total environment to achieve the ends it is seeking, namely, a well trained, well educated officer capable of meeting the exacting professional demands which may be made upon him, often under conditions involving great personal hardship and danger.
What has to be determined is whether the present aims of first year cadet training are important to achieve. If so, can those aims be met in some other way, or by the present system so re-organised as to ensure that there can be no departure from the instructions. I have an entirely open mind on the matter at present and, after discussion with the Military Board, 1 have decided to establish a committee of inquiry with terms of reference which have been deliberately couched as widely as possible to ensure that the Committee will not be inhibited in any way in examining the whole philosophy underlying the training of the junior class at Duntroon.
The Committee will be headed by Mr Justice Fox, a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Members will be Dr A. M. Sinclair, OBE, ED, MD, FRCP, FRACP, Consulting Psychiatrist; Professor L. C. F. Turner, MA (Rand), Chairman of the Faculty of Military Studies, University of New South Wales; Brigadier G. D. Solomon. OBE, idc, psc, ptsc, fsc (US), Director of Military Training; Brigadier C. M. 1. Pearson, DSO, OBE. MC, (with recent operational experience commanding the Australian Task Force in Vietnam). The terms of reference will be to consider the question of new cadets entering the Royal Military College.
Within the framework of the present charter, and having regard to the prime purpose of the College - the production of professional military officers of the highest quality - and paying due regard to existing prescribed courses, the committee will be invited to consider the principles on which the training of first year cadets should be based and the methods by which these principles should be implemented. The Committee will also be asked to make such other recommendations on matters relevant to the particular terms of inquiry as seem appropriate to it.
It will be obvious that both I myself and the Army have taken the allegations most seriously and every effort has been made to ascertain the facts, to deal with those responsible for the situation which developed at the College, and to take remedial action for the future. Whilst there have been excesses which it is not my purpose to defend, these should not be allowed to obscure the successful part that Duntroon has played in the development of the Australian Army. The Army and the Government are proud of the Royal Military College, of what it has done and will continue to do in the production of officers who will bring distinction to themselves and their country as their predecessors have done over more than half a century.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1969-70 ofa special grant to Tasmania of$21,900,000. The payment of this amount has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its thirty-sixth report, which has already been tabled. In accordance with usual practice, the Bill also seeks authority for payment of advancesto Tasmania in the early months of 1970-71 pending the receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and the enactment of new legislation. The amount of $21,900,000 recommended for payment in 1969-70 is made up of a negative adjustment of $100,000 to the grant for 1967- 68 and an advance payment of $22m for 1969-70. With the concurrence of the
Senate, I shall incorporate in Hansard a table which compares these amounts with those paid in 1967-68 and 1968-69.
The relatively small negative adjustment in respect of 1967-68 indicates that the advance payment of $19mmade in that year proved to be close to the Commission’s final assessment of the amount required for the year. The advance payment for 1969-70, which is based on a tentative estimate of the State’s needs for the year, will be subject to adjustment in 1971-72. The Commission’s recommendations continue to be based on the principle of ‘financial need’ under which special grants are designed to enable a claimant State to provide government services of a standard similar to those of the standard States, provided it makes a comparable effort in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. This involves a detailed comparison of the standard and claimant States’ budgetary revenues and expenditure. From 1959-60 the standard States have been New South Wales and Victoria. However, subject to any developments arising from the forthcoming review of the financial assistance grants arrangements, the Commission intends, as from 1970-71, to base its recommendations on a standard derived from the experience of all non-claimant States.
The recommendations of the Grants Commission have been adopted by Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should again be accepted on this occasion. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply [11.46] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
This Bill proposes two amendments to provisions of the income tax law that relate to the investment of capital by Australian residents in companies engaged in mineral exploration and mining activities in Australia, Papua and New Guinea. The Bill also proposes an amendment to a provision of the income tax law that permits a primary producer to obtain a full deduction in the year of incurrence for certain capital expenditure. In broad terms, it is proposed by the bill to amend provisions of the income tax law - at present contained in sections 77a and 77aa of the Assessment Act - to remove difficulties which now exist for companies whose activities extend to general prospecting and mining as well as to petroleum prospecting and mining. In addition, the Bill proposes the elimination of a feature of the taxation law which, in the Government’s view is resulting in unwarranted taxation benefits being obtained by people who, in general, cannot rightly be regarded as providing long term capital for mining companies.
Under the present law, the incentive provisions relating to petroleum exploration and mining are quite separate from the similar provisions relating to general prospecting and mining. The petroleum provisions have operated since 1958 while the general mining provisions date from 1962. Under each of the schemes a company is able to declare to the Commissioner of Taxation that it will expend, or has expended, on prospecting or mining operations, capital moneys raised from Australian residents. Subject to the Commissioner being satisfied on these points, the persons subscribing the capital are entitled to income tax deductions for the amounts subscribed, but the company forgoes any deductions to which it is otherwise entitled for ils own expenditure of the declared moneys on prospecting or mining operations.
As I have already indicated, the two schemes are at present mutually exclusive. To take advantage of the petroleum scheme, a company’s principal business must be prospecting or mining for petroleum. To lake advantage of the general mining scheme, a company’s principal business must be prospecting or mining for minerals other than petroleum. This means that an enterprise interested in both branches of the mining industry must conduct its petroleum operations and its general mining operations through separate companies if it is to enable subscribers of capital to receive the full benefit of taxation deductions available. Until recently, this need to set up separate companies to take full advantage of the incentives has not caused any major difficulties. Of late, however, it has been found that an increasing number of enterprises wish to engage in the search for both petroleum and other minerals, without conducting the two activities through separate companies. For this reason, the Government has decided to amalgamate the two schemes. lt is therefore proposed by this Bill that, for capital subscribed after 30th lune 1969, a company will be able to make a declaration to the Commissioner in respect of moneys expended, or to be expended, by it on both petroleum and general mining activities. Declared moneys actually spent by the company on petroleum operations will be offset against deductions otherwise allowable to it for expenditure on those operations, and a corresponding adjustment will be made as regards declared moneys actually spent by the company on general mining activities. Whereas the existing provisions were due to expire on 30th June 1970, the proposed provision will not have a specified limitation on the period for which it will apply. The Bill also proposes that a declaration by a company shall not include moneys paid on redeemable shares, which are more in the nature of a repayable loan to the company than a contribution to its permanent capital. This is in harmony with the policy adopted last year when other provisions of the law authorising deductions for calls paid on mining shares were reviewed and amended.
The second major amendment proposed by the Bill is designed to eliminate a feature of the mining investments incentives which, in the light of experience, the Government judges to be unnecessary. Provisions for tax deductions are being availed of by persons classed as share dealers, who then sell out to others who, in effect, supply the funds to finance exploration and development, but who do not receive any tax concession on their original payment. It is a general rule of the income tax law that an amount of expenditure is deductible only once. There are, however, some exceptions. One of these relates to capital subscriptions to petroleum exploration companies, which are deductible in full, and another to calls paid to mining and afforestation companies, which are deductible to the extent of one-third of the amount paid. A person who, under longstanding principles of the income tax law, is taxable on profits made on share transactions and receives deductions for losses made, is not only entitled to the special deductions for capital subscribed to mining companies, but the same amount is also deductible in determining a taxable profit, or deductible loss, made on a sale of the shares. For capital subscriptions to petroleum exploration and mining companies, the amount deductible can be as much as 200% of the expenditure actually made. For calls to general mining or afforestation companies the amount deductible can be 33i% of the actual outlay.
As announced in the Budget Speech, the Government has decided to amend the law so that the deduction available to such persons cannot exceed the outlay actually made. The Government believes that one important result of this amendment will be a wider spread of new issues of mining shares among the Australian public, lt is proposed that the amended law will apply in respect of expenditure incurred by a dealer in shares after 12th August 1969, unless the shares on which the expenditure is made came into his ownership on or before that date, or after that date pursuant to an application lodged or an agreement made on or before that date.
The final amendment contained in the Bill will give effect to the proposal mentioned in the Budget Speech to assist primary producers to conserve water or fodder. It will also assist primary producers who find it necessary to construct storage facilities for grain or hay. It is proposed that the cost of on-farm structural improvements made for the purpose of conserving water or fodder, or for the purpose of storing grain or hay, will be deductible in full in the year in which the expenditure is incurred. At present, expenditure of this kind is deductible for income tax purposes by way of depreciation allowances over five years. This amendment will apply to expenditure incurred in the 1969-70 income year and subsequent years on improvements made for these purposes. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in a comprehensive memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
Thatthe Bill be now read a second time.
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate the amounts required for expenditure in 1969-70 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund other than those amounts provided by special appropriations and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1969-70. The amounts sought for each department are shown in detail in the Second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these amounts being $2,425,463,000. This Bill seeks an appropriation of $1,404,748,000, the balance of $1,020,715,000 having already been granted under the supply Act (No. 1) 1969-70.
The expenditure proposals of the Government were outlined in the Budget Speech and the details included in the Schedule to this Bill have already been examined under the procedure whereby the Senate in Committee has taken note of the amounts included in the document ‘Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year ending 30th June 1970.’ I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
With the concurrence of honourable senatorsI incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1969-70 on: (a) the construction of public works and buildings; (b) the acquisition of sites and buildings; (c) items of plant and equipment which are clearly definable as capital expenditure; (d) grants to the States under section 96 of the constitution; and (e) new policies not authorised by special legislation.
Details of the amounts sought by each department are shown in the Second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these amounts being $597,794,000. An appropriation of $376,254,000 is sought in this Bill, the balance of $221,540,000 having already been granted under the Supply Act (No. 2) 1969-70. The main points regarding the proposed expenditure were dealt with in the Budget Speech. The Schedule to the Bill is the same as that contained in the document ‘Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the Year ending 30 June 1970’ which has already been examined in detail by the Senate in Committee. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1128), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not intend to oppose this Bill but I understand that at a subsequent stage Senator Poke will be submitting an amendment to it. It is obvious to honourable senators on this side of the chamber that the Government has refrained from giving to the Opposition an opportunity to debate this measure during a period when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, as the Government has twice refrained from allowing this during such a period despite the fact that the matter was listed on the business paper, lt is quite obvious that in spite of the great fanfare of trumpets that introduced this so-called ‘great welfare Budget’ it has not been as acceptable to the public as the Government hoped and has turned out to be a damp squib rather than an election winning measure. There is plenty of evidence of niggardliness in its proposals and it is quite clear that the Government has gained no ground whatever with the people whom it hoped to win over. As an example, the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation has issued to the Press a news letter dated 1 1 th September 1969 which states that the organisation as a whole will be organising strongly against the Government although it declares that it is both non-party and nonsectarian.
– Which is right? ls it non-party or is it not?
– It is anti-Liberal Party at the present time because of the bad deal that the Government has handed out to pensioners. 1 do not propose to read the whole of the document but some paragraphs of it are well worth quoting on this occasion. The Federation claims that the Government has failed to honour its promises. This is quite true, because the Government has promised right from 1949 until now to make the lot of those people who are in need much better. In fact, the Government occasionally gives a handout when it thinks that it is in trouble politically but there is no attempt by the Government to analyse the matter as it should be analysed and to ascertain the true needs of people who are in want. The investigations of the organisations that represent the pensioners in this community have led the Federation to state:
The Government promised to help ‘those in most need’. Those in most need are those without saving, superannuation or other means, or unable to work, whose only income is the pension. New rate from October 1st- $13.25 or $15 a week - married couples $26.50 a week jointly. The Budget rise of 75c or $1 merely continues their present proverty existence.
This is the reaction of the people who have been wooed by what I suggest were inspired Press leaks prior to the introduction of the Budget to the effect that they were to be well treated. This is something that docs not always happen. A series of articles which seemed to have some authoritative background appeared in the Press a number of weeks before the Budget was introduced, indicating that the pensioners would get certain things. In the main these conjectures of the Press turned out to be true. This was obviously a buildup to bring in the great welfare Budget that was to save these people from the conditions of poverty that now exist.
But there are other aspects of social services that I think are equally as bad and have not been tackled. There are people who are in the twilight zone in relation to the receipt of social service benefits. 1 refer firstly to the people to whom 1 referred in the House 2 years ago, namely, the widows who when their youngest child has reached 16 years of age are told by the Government: ‘From now on you must find a job because you will receive no pension unless you are 50 years of age’. There is a great number of people in this twilight zone who suddenly have to find work. The labour market is very difficult for them by virtue of the fact that for many years they have attended to their family obligations and now may not be as competent us they were in the skills or the profession that they followed in their earlier days. Therefore they find it extremely difficult suddenly to have to find a job because they no longer have children under the age of 16 years.
Recently I made representations to the Minister about a case which I think is absolutely tragic in every respect. It is the case of a woman who lost her husband some 12 months ago. She has one child - I emphasise the word ‘child’ - of 25 years df age who has been a complete spastic since she was born. She is always in a wheel chair. All the things that a mother has to dp for a 3-months-old baby have to be done for this daughter. This mother with great courage, dedication and love has kept her child for 25 years when perhaps she could have placed it in a home. After 26 weeks the Government took the widow’s pension from her and she was reduced to a pension of $8.25 a week because she is under the age of 50 years.
I have written to the Minister to see whether there is some section in the Act under which a special grant can be made to this woman. The reply I received from the Minister contains the simple statement: ‘You will be pleased to know that as from the passing of the social welfare legislation your grant will be increased to $10’. She will receive $10 a week. She is a widow who virtually is looking after a child who is far more difficult to handle than three or four normal children under the age of 16 years. This woman is in one of the categories of people actually living in the twilight zone so far as social service benefits are concerned.
I appeal to the Government to review completely the situation of widows who, on many occasions, suddenly find themselves without income other than the unemployment benefit or, as the Minister has described it in this case, a special benefit equivalent to the unemployment benefit. If this is the kind of treatment the Government hands out to people in this category when their difficulties are brought specifically to its attention, something should be done. This would not be the first case of this kind that has been referred to the Minister yet nothing is done to give any kind of leeway or discretion to the Minister or the Department to make a special grant.
The Minister has conceded that when this widow reaches 50 years of age she will be able to apply for a widow’s pension. Meantime she is spending all of her savings. The little amount her husband was able to leave her has almost gone and she is in dire trouble because of the tremendous disabilities of her daughter. She has to keep a car on the road and have a special kind of device fitted to carry the wheel chair. She then has to lift this child - I emphasise again the word ‘child’ - into the front seat of the car. The whole thing is so tragic, and even more so when an appeal for a specific grant to help this person is rejected out of hand and she is told that she must exist until she is 50 on the miserly unemployment benefit which the Government chooses to term a special benefit in her case.
Then we have the very elderly people who in their later years of life become ill. I refer now to the specific case of a war widow that I have taken up with the Repatriation Department.This woman’s husband died of war injuries. She became ill and received treatment in a repatriation hospital, but upon her being declared to have a chronic illness the Repatriation Department, in accordance with the Act, said that it could treat her no longer. This lady had to go to a private nursing home for treatment, physiotherapy and so on with a view to rehabilitating her to some degree. She was paying something in the vicinity of $40 a week during the time she was in the home. Her funds have been dissipated and she now is living in her own home and her 85-year old sister is looking after her. This woman is in another twilight zone so far as social service benefits are concerned. I know that the Minister can say that homes are available for people in this situation but the waiting list for people of this age who are suffering from disabilities and cannot look after themselves is tragic. In my own city of Geelong we have a waiting list of 500 or 600 people for the home that we have there. I think more than 50% of those cases require immediate entry and urgent treatment.
Yesterday we passed legislation which will assist in some way elderly single pensioners who are able to look after themselves but we are failing in our duty to look after the people who are not able to look after themselves. Our present welfare legislation does nothing for them. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why a war widow is refused further treatment once she is declared to be a chronic case. I should like the Minister to give me the reason for that. The repatriation officer who told me about this case mentioned the section of the Act - I forget it but it could have been section 78 - which provides that once a war widow is declared to be suffering from a chronic illness she can no longer receive treatment or accommodation in a repatriation hospital. So there is another section of the community which is not being looked after in the manner in which we in Australia should look after them.
I do not propose to speak at great length on this matter because I understand that shortly an amendment will be proposed. Nevertheless I appeal to the Government to examine closely the social welfare requirements in the community instead of going from Budget to Budget, from election to election, seeing what votes it can get out of the amount of money that it hands out from time to time. The very regularity of the amount that the Government hands out from time to time proves that it is plucked out of the air. It has not been arrived at on the basis of a study and examination of the situation. The people who are most concerned are the pensioners who have organised themselves in various organisations. They are submitting their protests despite the fact that they are declared to be a non-party and a non-sectarian body from the point of view of membership. They have been put in the position now in which they have been forced to organise with all their strength and with all their weight to see that the Government is overthrown.
I hope that a further examination will be made of the two special cases I have mentioned - the case of a widow who suddenly is sent out to work after years of caring for a family, and the case of a mother of a child of 25 years in the circumstances that I have described being deprived of a widow’s pension and being put in the position of an unemployed person and told that she will have to wait until she is 50 years of age before any further assistance is given. I hope that the Government will examine these matters, not on the basis of electoral popularity but on the basis of humanity and of helping the people who are in need.
– As Senator Poyser indicated, the Opposition wishes to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I now move:
At the end of motion add: but the Senate condemns the Government because it has failed to -
increase adequately rates of all pensions and social service benefits to meet the increased cost of living;
investigate and deal with the real areas of need and poverty;
provide an equitable and just basis for regular review of social service benefits to maintain their purchasing power;
eliminate injustices of discrimination between pensioners and the sick and the needy;
provide ‘fringe benefits’ for all pensioners;
give effect to the 1949 election policy of the Liberal-Country Party to abolish the means test; and
make benefits retrospective to 1 July 1969.
Let me refer to paragraph (f) of the amendment for a moment. I am one of the first to admit that over a period of time the Government has eased the means test. I give it credit for that. But after being in office for 20 years it has not lived up to its 1949 election promise to abolish the means test. When I spoke on the Budget only a week or two ago, I drew attention to how the value of money has deteriorated since this Government took office in 1949. I do not want to go over all the figures again now. I merely mention that, taking 1949 as the base year, the $1 is worth only 42.5c today. So the Government has something to live up to. It should abolish the means test, as it promised to do about 20 years ago.
Very little positive action has been taken by the Government on social services. It is true, as Senator Poyser said, that only at election time or when it has been convenient to try to obtain a few votes has the Government done anything on social services or social welfare. When I received my copy of the document ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1970’, I perused the index, looking for references to the various social services items. I was rather interested to find that the index shows that social service items are mentioned on page 15 as well as on many other pages, but when I looked at page 15 I saw an absolute blank. I suggest that that is indicative of how many pensioners feel about the pensions and other social service benefits that they receive today. They feel that they receive absolutely nothing, or practically a blank. Unfortunately, the proceedings are not being televised, so the electors cannot see this page; and I cannot get around all the electors to show it to them. I believe that it represents something very close to what many pensioners feet they are receiving from this Government under its social welfare legislation.
Many comments on pensions and other social service benefits have been quoted. If one looks back over a few years one can find quite a number of such comments. I do not intend to go back over a long period of years. I have saved up quite a number of comments by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. I will go back only as far as 1968. On 22nd January 1968 the ‘Australian’ published a report of a statement by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in these terms:
The Prime Minister, Senator Gorton, is planning a new deal in social welfare to help people suffering genuine misfortune not due to their own fault.
His ideas would involve rethinking on the methods of paying pensions, repatriation benefits and the approach to health problems.
That might have something to do with page 15 of the document ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’; 1 do not know. In March 1968 the then Governor-General had this to say:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time not discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
One wonders why the Government has done some of the things it has done and has not done some of the things it should have done. During a debate on social services the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) said: 1 think the House will agree with me that this Bill represented one of the most significant steps yet made in our social service system.
I would like to know just what steps have been taken by this Government, particularly in regard to what the Liberal Party and Country Party claimed they would do in 1949, namely, abolish the means test. Why have these things gone on for 20 years? Why have spokesmen for the Government handed out snippets to the Press and made statements on social service benefits which virtually do not exist? This is what Mr McMahon said:
Social welfare has an honoured place . . . This Budget is designed to share some of the growing wealth …. It will be seen that humane values are in the forefront. 1 just fail to understand why the Government makes remarks such as those when we have the situation that we have today. Apparently somebody on the Government side is not quite happy. I refer to a speech made by Mr Bonnett in another place on 10th September 1969. As reported at page 1097 of Hansard, he had this to say:
I am pleased to see that the latest Budget proposals give more consideration to our social welfare and that some of the deficiencies in the system are being dealt with.
He admits that there are many deficiencies in the social welfare system. It is significant - the Government should take note of this - that even its own members are becoming somewhat disenchanted with the social service benefits in existence at the present time.
Senator Poyser referred to several matters I had intended to touch on. However, I will now examine several provisions of the legislation and will not relate them to election promises which have been made by the Government over a period of years. It is proposed to amend section 28 of the Principal Act by omitting the word ‘seven’ and inserting in its stead the word ‘eight’. The effect, of this amendment is to provide an increase in the pension of $1 a week, or $52 a year. It is also proposed to amend section 28 of the Principal Act by omitting the words ‘seven hundred and twenty-eight dollars’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘seven hundred and eighty dollars’. The effect is again an increase of $1 a week. That amendment is more or less complementary to the preceding amendment. Section 28 is further to be amended by omitting the words ‘six hundred and fifty dollars’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘six hundred and eighty-nine dollars’. The effect is an annual increase of $39.
I would like the Minister to explain the reason for the amendment proposed by clause 3 (d) (b) (ii). I am afraid 1 cannot follow it. The effect is certainly to give an increase in one respect, but provision is made elsewhere in the Bill for a section which does not now exist in the present Act. Perhaps the Minister will in reply explain that, to me. One proposed amendment which concerns me more than any other is that contained in clause 3 (d) (b) (i). lt refers to children under the age of 6 years. I wonder why the Government has arbitrarily chosen the age of 6 years. No explanation is given in the Minister’s second reading speech. When the Minister is replying 1 think she should explain why an arbitrary choice of the age of 6 years has been made.
I could go through the Bill, clause by by clause, and ask the Minister why the amendments are proposed. However, I think I should consider the stage at which this legislation has been introduced. 1 do not know why the Government did not want this Bill brought on for debate yesterday. It may have been because the proceedings were being broadcast. There is one other provision in the Act I would like to bring to the attention of the Government. Section 132, in Division 8 - General, provides in part: (2.) Where a benefit is payable in respect of any period less than a week, the benefit shall be payable in respect of each day, other than Sunday, in that period, and the amount of the benefit payable in respect of each day, other than Sunday, shall be one-sixth of the weekly rate of the benefit.
I do not know whether the Government is aware that in 1948 the 40-hour week was introduced in this country, because the provision I have quoted seems to be framed on the assemption that we are still working 6 days a week. It might be argued that there is not much difference in the amounts involved and it is not of great importance whether the calculation is made as one-fifth or one-sixth of the weekly benefit. But it is important to people receiving the unemployment benefit. A man may receive the benefit for a week, a fortnight or a month, plus part of a week. For that part of a week he is paid by the day. If the part of the week happens to be 4 days, by using the calculation of one-sixth instead of onefifth he loses $1.08. That may not seem to be much to honourable senators, but it is important to a person who has been receiving the unemployment benefit. For my calculations I have taken the base unemployment benefit of $8.25 a week. I think that matter is well worthy of consideration. 1 wish now to refer to national income. ] have studied the document ‘National Income and Expenditure 1968-69’ presented by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and ] have been led to wonder about the increases in social service benefits that have been proposed. I concede that some increases have been provided in the Budget and that the legislation we are debating will give effect to them. In 1964-65 the increase in the gross national product was 7.7%. In 1965-66 it increased by 0.9%, in 1966-67 by 6.2%, in 1967-68 by 3.4% and in 1968-69 by 8.7%. The gross national product increase was higher in 1968-69 than for any other year listed in the document. It makes one wonder why the Government has not kept pace with the increase in the gross national product.
I was most interested in Senator Poyser’s remarks about the pensions payable to widows, divorced persons and deserted wives. When a child of one of these people turns 16, the unfortunate woman must find a job or receive the unemployment benefit. Quite a number of women are in this category. It is difficult for these people to balance their budgets after becoming accustomed to receiving a higher benefit than a widow’s pension plus allowances. Then they are immediately put back on to unemployment benefits whether they be divorcees, deserted wives or widows. They still have to keep up payments for rent, light, power, food, clothing and the cost of looking for work. Their bus fares in looking for work cost almost as much as they get from unemployment benefits.
I want to refer to the tapered means test. I criticise this although it is welcome in many respects. It is quite welcome to those persons who will qualify. I cannot assess the benefits and 1 do not think the Government has yet been able to place before this Senate a table which sets out the benefits which will accrue to those persons who qualify under the tapered means test. But the criticism I have to offer of this aspect of the Bill is that there are no medical entitlements for aged persons. This is referred to on page 9 of the circulated Budget Speech presented by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) who represents the Treasurer (Senator McMahon). I do not think the Minister would wish to argue with me on this, but still in all, it is there. The Minister will no doubt recall it and we on this side of the chamber feel that this is discrimination by the Government against a certain section of pensioners. Let us face it, these are people who will benefit under the tapered means test and will be in no different category so far as pensions are concerned. They will still be pensioners. One cannot classify them otherwise. They will be receiving a part pension, and if they are to receive a pension or part pension why are they discriminated against in regard to medical entitlements? 1 will leave it at that. I trust that the amendment which I have submitted will be carried by the Senate and that the Government in the future will do something which will be more acceptable to the Labor Party and to the people who are receiving pensions.
– 1 rise briefly to support the amendment moved by my colleague, Senator Poke, and to endorse some of the remarks made by Senator Poyser. At the same time I wish to raise a couple of issues which 1 believe ought to see the light of day. It is true, as Senator Poyser said, that by some strange mischance this legislation has never been brought forward for discussion at a time when the Senate is on the air. It is equally significant that no Government speaker has risen to defend the payments made or to defend the so-called improvements to the Social Services Act. No doubt the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will tell us in reply that the pensioners of Australia are better off today than they have ever been and that their pension rates are higher than they have ever been, and make numerous other statements that will appear to put the Government in a good light.
The pensioners were very lucky indeed that we nearly had an election last year; otherwise they would have had no possible chance of getting a pension increase. If there had been no election this year that would have compensated for the great loss sustained by the Government last year because undoubtedly the pensioners would have been deprived of any increase this year. When we carry out an analysis of the actual increases paid we And in fact that they have not even kept up with the cost of living rises. We realise that when landlords who have pensioner tenants become aware of pension increases one of the first things they do is to increase rents. St is true, as my colleagues said earlier, that there are insufficient cheap dwelling places available for this section of the community who are entitled to at least the same standard of living as is enjoyed by the rest of us. 1 am disturbed by the increasing amount of police activity that is taking place within the Department of Social Services. I intend to give a couple of instances of this in a moment. I have the permission of one of the persons concerned to use his name and address. There is a tendency to pare the payment of social services and this is done by the increasing activity of inspectors.
– Snoopers or pimps, whichever way one likes to put it, who are reporting back to the Department. The next thing we hear is that some person has been deprived of his pension because Mrs Smith or Mrs Jones down the street decided to put in a complaint or talk to one of the Department’s inspectors who very frequently go from door to door checking on the activities of pensioners. In this way people are constantly deprived of their pensions. I know, and no doubt Government supporters know, that in every section of the community there is a very small minority of people who are out to get all they can. That applies to some politicians in this chamber. But when the average person who reaches retirement age decides to retire, in the great majority of cases they are completely honest and are getting back from the Department only those contributions which they have made throughout their working life. Of course, many of them never receive the amount that they have paid in taxes.
One of the weaknesses of the Act is the rigidly applied means test. This must breed dishonesty in some people who dispose of their assets in order to qualify for a pension or at least a part pension. I submit that the Labor Party platform for the forthcoming election shows a way in which this will be rapidly overcome. There are other anomalies, particularly where the breadwinner of the family is considerably older than his wife. Frequently where there are dependent children problems are created. It is true that some allowances are now made but they are completely inadequate. But it is not only in this sphere that the trouble arises. The social service benefits paid to those who are ill or unemployed are completely out of line with the parity which was established when they were first introduced in the 1940s. There has been no attempt whatsoever to keep up the value of child endowment. As the members of this chamber would know, child endowment was instituted for the express purpose of endeavouring to assist the working man, the man who has a limited income and three or four children to rear, but because of the fact that over the years the value of child endowment has been eroded -
– It was first introduced because of the necessity to forestall an increase in wages.
– I realise this. That is the point I was endeavouring to make. Because of the fact that the Government has taken no interest in this field, any purchasing power that child endowment may have had in the 1940s has now been completely eroded. An increase in child endowment is long overdue.
I want to refer to the point I raised a moment ago in relation to the increasing police activity of inspectors in the Department. In my home city of Townsville a gentleman named Mr Thomas Lafferty, of 6 Rowland Street, had served on him a form allegedly claiming that his wife had deserted him. The Minister’s departmental advisers should be familiar with the form and the nature of the questions asked. Margaret Lafferty was the name of the claimant in this instance, Mr Lafferty was asked:
Are you living apart pursuant to any agreement, order of the court, or deed of separation? If so, please give particulars.
Mr Lafferty was then asked to complete another form in regard to certain circumstances. When the first form was delivered to the home of Mr Lafferty it created certain problems. This man is a very respectable member of the community and his wife is equally well thought of. They have a fairly large family of decent young Australians. Mr Lafferty ignored the letter because he said that it did not apply to him.
Soon afterwards an inspector of the Department of Social Services was sent to his home to carry out a personal investigation into Mr Lafferty, who could be described as being at that time a criminal whose name was on the records of the Department of Social Services. This action frightened the wits out of his wife, who was particularly upset.
I am not blaming the Regional Director of the Department for what happened because I believe that any criticism should be levelled at the hierarchy of the Department. I am not even blaming the inspector who was sent to the home to make some standover inquiries. He was merely doing his job. Apparently the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) does not care how often such a thing happens. When a further form was sent to Mr Lafferty, I took the matter up on his behalf and complained in no uncertain terms to the Minister. I told him what I thought of the activities of his Department in this regard. I received a very lighthearted letter from the Minister in reply. In order to save the time of the Senate, I shall quote only the relevant sections. The reply stated:
A claim for invalid pension was received from a woman who stated her husband’s name was Thomas Lafferty, whose address was unknown. Mr Lafferty was mistaken for the claimant’s husband and the questionnaire was forwarded to him.
When a reply was not forthcoming, a departmental officer visited Mr Lafferty’s home address.
Distress could have been avoided if the inspector had interviewed Mr Lafferty himself, but he did not. The inspector was sent to the home to browbeat Mr Lafferty’s wife. The reply continued:
It was at the time of this visit that it was realised that the two people were not identical and the inquiries were immediately discontinued.
The Minister went on to say in his reply:
I agree that the inquiries directed to Mr Lafferty in error must have been disturbing and I apologise for any inconvenience caused to Mr and Mrs Lafferty. You are assured that steps are being taken in an effort to prevent similar errors in future.
That is very poor compensation for the distress suffered by this family as a result of the standover tactics of the departmental inspector and the continued sending of these forms to this unfortunate individual. I submit that the explanation given by the Minister is weak in every sense. I believe that an explanation should not have been necessary because this inconvenience should never have occurred. This is one case which has been brought to my attention. How many times is it repeated throughout Australia? I am critical of the Minister because I believe similar incidents occur throughout Australia. I believe that some departmental officers are over zealous in their attempts to save the Department money. But the blame must go back to the Minister and probably the Directors of Social Services in each of the States. No doubt they have a direction to pare down on the payment of pensions and social services generally.
I know of a lady who is fully entitled to a pension being forbidden that pension because she has a male lodger in her house. What right does the Department have to question the morals of people? It is quite wrong for the Department to do so. I appreciate that a different set of circumstances may apply if there is a de facto relationship and there is a bread winner in the house. Because of the division that the Government is now creating between the rates for single pensioners and married pensioner couples - a division which the Government further accentuated in the last Budget by granting an extra 75c to the married pensioners and $1 to the single pensioners - people who would probably wish to get married are being encouraged to live together without getting married. As a result of a liaison of this nature these people are often able to obtain a pension which is $3 or $4 better than they would obtain if they were legally married. I have been assured on very good grounds that in the case to which 1 have referred there is no relationship between the unfortunate individual who owns the house and the person who lodges there. In fact, the man who is living there pays a few shillings towards the upkeep of the house. But apparently because of the woman’s snooping neighbours she has been refused the relief she is entitled to.
I know of a case of a single man who could not read or write being conned by a couple of local salesmen into entering into hire purchase agreements for a car and a television set. These commitments were beyond his capacity to pay as he was receiving only a pension. The man was most certainly entitled to the rent allowance he was receiving but, on the word of another pimp, the Department not only withdrew his rent allowance but required him to return something in excess of $200. Why does the Government have to adopt these cheese paring attitudes in our affluent society, which is capable of paying bigger and better pensions? The things that happen in this field are quite monstrous. However, as 1 said earlier, I do not propose to make a lengthy speech about the matter because I think that those honourable senators opposite who have a conscience are aware of the shortcomings of the social service payments that are made in Australia.
– There is not one supporter of the Liberal Party in the Senate.
– I think it is perfectly obvious that, apart from the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, no supporter of the Liberal Party deems this matter to be of any importance because they are not present in the Senate. However,I notice that the Minister for Social Services is in the gallery of the Senate. Senator Little is continually interjecting. I believe that when the day comes that he is in receipt of an age pension - he will never qualify for a parliamentary pension -he will appreciate my comments. He will have the benefit of a Labor government, which will take a more humane attitude to the living requirements of those people who are in receipt of a low income. Whatever happens at this late stage, I believe that there should be a good deal of soul searching going on within the Department - the Minister should be . the first person to appreciate the need for this - in an endeavour to give justice to the needy section of our community. It should be remembered that almost 1 million people in Australia - approximately one-twelfth of the population - live at a standard below that which should be acceptable in our affluent society. The time is long overdue for a complete overhaul of the whole social services set-up. It should be remembered that these people are not receiving any charity because they pay during their working lives for what they receive in retirement. If they do not live very long after their retirement they do not get back what they put in. But I make a plea for a proper investigation to be carried out. Even if it entails the Senate sitting for another week, I will be prepared to slay here if it will result in age pensions being increased.
– I thought that Senator Keeffe was a person who was motivated by the high principle of the interests of the aged. It is regrettable that in the concluding stages of his remarks he should come down to a personal plane and say that I will not be a member of the Senate for very long.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.
– I understand that the Government desires to interpose a measure. I ask leave of the House to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 29 May (vide page 1 770).
Clause 17. (1.) The Committee shall, as expeditiously as is practicable -
consider each public work that is referred to it in accordance with this Act; and
make a report to the House of Representatives concerning the expedience of carrying out the work and concerning any other matters related to the work in respect of which the Committee thinks it desirable that the views of the Committee should be reported to the House, and, for those purposes, shall do such things and make such inquiries as it thinks necessary.
Clause 18. (1.) A Minister who is a member of the House of Representatives, or any other member of that House, may move a motion that a public work be referred by that House to the Committee for consideration and report. (2.) A motion under the last preceding subsection may relate to a public work that has been referred to the Committee as constituted during a previous Parliament. (3.) Upon the moving of the motion, a Minister shall furnish to the House of Representatives -
a statement in relation to the public work (including the purpose of the work); and
such plans, specifications and other particulars as the Minister thinks necessary. (4.) The Governor-General may, at any time when the Parliament is not in session or the House of Representatives, is adjourned for a period exceeding 1 month or for an indefinite period, being a time when the Committee is in existence, refer a public work to the Committee for consideration and report to that House. (5.) After the receipt of the report of the Committee concerning a public work, the House of Representatives may pass a resolution that -
it is expedient to carry out the work;
it is not expedient to carry out the work; or
for reasons or purposes stated in the resolution, the work be again referred to the Committee for consideration and report. (6.) A public work the estimated cost of which exceeds Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars shall not be commenced unless -
the work has been referred to the Committee in accordance with this section;
the House of Representatives has resolved that, by reason of the urgent nature of the work, it is expedient that it be carried out without having been referred to the Committee; or
the Governor-General has, by order, declared that the work is for defence purposes and that the reference of the work to the Committee would be contrary to the public interest. (7.) A public work that has been referred to the Committee shall not be commenced unless the House of Representatives has passed a reolution (not being a resolution that has been rescinded) that it is expedient lo carry out the work.
Clause 19. (1.) Where the Committee has made a report concerning a public work, the Committee (including the Committee as constituted at any subsequent time, whether during the same or another Parliament) may, if it resolves, before the work is commenced, that the report be reviewed, review the report and make a further report in accordance with section 17 of this Act to the House of Representatives concerning the work, (3.) After the receipt of a further report by the Committee concerning a public work, the House of Representatives may, if the work has not been commenced -
rescind any previous resolution passed in accordance with sub-section (5.) of the last preceding section concerning the work; and
pass another resolution in accordance with that sub-section concerning the work.
Clause 39. (2.) Where, immediately before the commencement of this Act, a proposed public work was under consideration by the former Committee in accordance with the repealed Act, the Committee shall consider and report on the work in accordance with this Act as if the work had been referred to it under this Act. (3.) This Act applies in relation to a report made by the former Committee as if it were a report made by the Committee under this Act. (4.) Where, immediately before the commencement of this Act, a report made under the repealed Act concerning a proposed public work was under review by the former Committee in accordance with the repealed Act. the Committee shall review the report in accordance with this Act as if the report had been made by it under this Act.
– When this Bill was before the Parliament before the winter recess we had reached the Committee stage and I suggested to the chamber an amendment to the Bill designed to give the Senate recognition in the processes of Parliament associated with the Public Works Committee. Both Opposition Parties wished time to consider one aspect of the amendment, which has been the subject of discussion since that time. I intend to move the printed amendments which I circulated. Paragraphs (8.) and (9.) of the printed amendment are deleted. The net effect of the amendments is to put the Bill into such a form that either House of Parliament will have power to refer a proposal to the Committee and the Committee will be able to report to both Houses of Parliament. Paragraph (7.) will be the operative provision. It states: (7.) A public work that has been referred to the Committee shall not be commenced unless, after the report of the Committee (or, if there has been a further reference of the work under the last preceding sub-section, the report of the Committee on the further reference) has been presented to both Houses of the Parliament, the House of Representatives has resolved that it is expedient to carry out the work.
Paragraphs (8.) and (9.), which appear in the print and which are not part of my amendment, having been dropped after the discussions I mentioned, were designed to give the Senate a part in the parliamentary process following the report on the work. We have been unable to devise a formulation of the parliamentary authority appropriate and satisfactory to the Senate. The combined view on the Government side and on the Opposition side, as I understand it, is that paragraphs (8.) and (9.) should have no place in the Bill. That will leave the Senate in the situation that after a report of the Public Works Committee to Parliament a work shall not proceed unless the House of Representatives passes an affirmative resolution that it is expedient to carry out the work. The Senate will have no statutory authority by virtue of this Bill, hut the Bill contains no provisions which would deprive the Senate of the ordinary authority which it has under its Standing
Orders and due to its parliamentary status to take note of the report and to express any view that it thinks appropriate upon the report. I therefore move:
Leave out clause 18, insert the following clause: - “ 18. - (1.) A motion may be moved in either House of the Parliament that a public work be referred to the Committee for consideration and report. “ (2.) A motion under the last preceding subsection may relate to a public work that has been referred to the Committee as constituted during a previous Parliament. “ (3.) Upon the moving of the motion, a Minister shall furnish to the House in which the motion is moved -
– Senator Wright has expressed correctly the consensus of opinion arrived at in relation to the amendments. The result of the amendments is to give the Senate the opportunity to discuss these reports, that opportunity to be expressed directly in the Bill if it becomes law. In many ways this power is incongruous in a legislature that has the power to intervene in what might be thought to be the administrative exclusion of public works which have been decided upon. It would seem to me a somewhat anomalous power for the legislative chambers to exercise. Such power has resided in the House of Representatives for some time. The Senate contributes to the constitution of the Public Works Committee. Because of that it does seem right that a report should be made to the Senate on what has been done by the Committee. It is clear that once the report is presented the Senate can consider it and can pass any resolution it may think fit in regard to it. There seems little doubt that if the Senate were to pass some resolution about expediency or otherwise it would have great persuasive value, as have similar resolutions in regard to other matters. As Senator Wright observed, apart altogether from this legislation, the Senate has considerable powers in relation to various matters of administration. It also has its powers in relation to the appropriation of public moneys, which powers might be used if ever the necessity arose in connection with public works. We do not oppose the amendments moved by Senator Wright.
– This matter is one of personal concern to me. I do not wish to trespass unduly upon the time of the Senate at this late stage of its deliberations to canvass the matter in detail. 1 merely recite certain situations. Years ago I had the opportunity of directing my attention in the Senate, and the attention of the Senate, to the powers of this chamber in relation to the Public Works Committee. As Senator Murphy said, we provide members. The only power that the Senate had was to have a copy of the report presented to it; it had no power of referral to the Committee. The objective of this legislation is to confer upon the Senate the power of referral of a matter to the Public Works Committee on which honourable senators are called upon to serve. That is the additional power originally intended to be conferred by the amendment which Senator Wright moved in the Committee stage. The debate was adjourned. On the previous occasion I was reluctant to suggest that the matter should be adjourned for further consideration because it appeared to accomplish what I advocated years ago. Unfortunately a principle had been written in and I thought it would be very dangerous for the Senate to subscribe to that principle.
The principle was that it conferred upon the House of Representatives the right to veto a decision of the Senate. Although the original proposition would have been wider than the one that we are now asked to accept, it would have carried with it that unfortunate situation. Consequently I thought, on the balance of advantages, that it would have been better to accept less rather than give away so much. That is the result which is now embodied in the amended form in which the proposition conies to the Senate. Therefore 1 welcome it. However. I would say that it may well be that the Public Works Committee, as it has been carried on under the operations of a federal parliament, may be merely picking up from some State legislature a committee wilh powers that operate under State law.
As an example, consider the position if the functioning of this Committee and the establishment of its powers were constituted from and followed the precedent of the Slate of Victoria. Naturally in a State such as that, where the upper House was no doubt a House of restricted franchise, it would not have been wise to confer upon such a House a right of prohibition or acceptance of a public work involving finance, but in this Parliament the Senate has virtually coincident powers with the House of Representatives in the control of finance. The only circumscription is that we cannot amend a money Bill. Nevertheless, we can issue requests and we can amend a capital works Bill. In addition, we can reject either a capital works Bill or an appropriation Bill for annual works and services.
– Or any Bill of any kind.
– Yes, or any Bill of any kind. Therefore, it could be that in this legislature, under the former franchise with which this Senate was constituted, it may have been appropriate that this chamber should have coincidental powers with the lower House which properly may have been denied to an upper House in a State from which this legislation was originally taken by way of model. Therefore I suggest to the Minister that this is a matter which may well warrant further examination. Perhaps we can accept this as one step along the road lo the extension of the powers of the Senate into this field, but an examination may well reveal a situation such as 1 have canvassed and on a review it may be deemed proper and wise to endow this chamber with coincident power with the House of Representatives on the question not only of referral but also of prohibition or acceptance. After all, the Senate could have been left in a very difficult position if the original form of the amendment had been accepted. We could have been left in the position where a public work was proscribed by this Senate, accepted by the House of Representatives, and then came back to the Senate with a capital works Bill appropriating the finance for the work which the Senate had expressly said should nol be proceeded with. We would then be placed in the extraordinary position of having to vote money for a project which we particularly discouraged. That would have been unfortunate. At least we have avoided it by this method.
I am indebted to the Minister for heeding the suggestion that I made in Committee on the last occasion and accepting this as at least a temporary compromise. 1 hope that it will be a step along the passage to ultimate acceptance of the Senate as being coincident in power with the House of Representatives in this field. I urge upon the Minister the necessity, through his officers, to have my suggestion studied and the history of the adoption of these procedures from their original source examined. At a later stage we might well be able to see whether the principle can be extended further so that the Senate, most valuably, may add its consideration to this power of acceptance or rejection to that of the House of Representatives.
– Do you regard this Bill as in any way inhibiting the power of the Senate in its consideration of appropriation Bills?
– [ could imagine that as a matter of logic it could well inhibit it, but not in a legal or constitutional sense.
– Nol in its proper form.
– No, not in its proper form, but on the original proposal I would have said that it could have been inhibited. Imagine the situation where the Senate refers a matter to the Public Works Committee, a report comes back and wc say th:it the work is not to be proceeded wilh. The House of Representatives has a right to override our veto. The work goes on and the House of Representatives appropriates the money. The appropriation Bill then conies back and we are faced wilh the situation of having to appropriate moneys for a work which we have particularly and expressly vetoed. It is an extraordinary argument in logic.
– But not by dropping paragraphs 8 and 9 of the amendment.
– No, paragraphs 8 and 9 create a completely different position. This would have been the situation had the Bill in its original form been adopted by this chamber. I urge those considerations on the Minister. I commend the Public Works Committee for its acceptance of these principles. I trust that this will be only one step towards an enlargement of the Senate’s powers in this field. I certainly look forward to that consideration.
– I have taken full note of what has been submitted to the Committee by Senator Byrne. 1 add one remark, that the Constitution provides that, with the exceptions to which he has referred, the powers of the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be equal in respect of proposed laws.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1409).
– -Al the suspension of the sitting I was in the process of expressing my regrets that Senator Keeffe should have concluded his remarks on this measure by exhibiting a personal antipathy towards somebody who could become eligible for a parliamentary pension. He stated that in his view, on the next occasion on which 1 faced the people, I. would become eligible for a parliamentary pension. That is a matter of conjecture. However, I would like to think that in this place we at least share a common fraternity in which, whilst endeavouring to defeat one another because of our politics, we have a common spirit in hoping that the dependants of those whom we defeat are looked after.
I should have thought that the general trend of his remarks on social services was somewhat spoilt by the fact that at the conclusion of them he was prepared to become so political about a matter which, in the view of the Party which I represent, should not become a political issue. I make it perfectly clear that I accept that this was probably a personal opinion expressed by Senator Keeffe and that his colleagues in the Australian Labor Party do not adopt this approach to the elderly people in the community, whether they are political opponents or political friends, and that they, like myself, would like to see everybody enjoy the fullest measure of any pension rights. It may well be true, as Senator Keeffe has said, that there will be grave injustices in the two forms of pension, and I might consider that it would be a tremendous injustice if, having served this country in the State and Federal Parliaments for 1 1 years, I was still no longer eligible for a pension, as could well be the position. I should think that in Senator Keeffe’s case I would feel for him if he were placed in that situation. I might hold the personal opinion that it would be worth a parliamentary pension after having served 6 years in this place, particularly as the rigours of parliamentary life are considerably increased by the fact that so often I have to listen to Senator Keeffe making his contributions on various pieces of legislation.
I want now to take up the philosophy that the Government has enunciated in its approach to social services in the Budget and particularly in the Minister’s second reading speech. Time and time again the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), when introducing this legislation in another place, referred back to the conditions of 20 years ago, what the Labor Party did when it was in office, how much better conditions are now after 20 years of Liberal government and even how much better the new Liberal government is doing than the old Liberal government. Here we have again the old political football of social services. Instead of parliamentarians being rather ashamed that this should be so, the Minister bases the whole of his introduction of the measure not on the needs of the people but on how much we are prepared to promise in a budget to score over our political opponents.
We have been saying in this place and throughout the country in the whole of the history of the Party to which I belong that this is the wrong philosophical approach to social services. In our affluent society, where productivity has increased so tremendously in the last 20 years, we should be able to afford a better standard of living for everyone. We should not merely catch up with the cost of living increases in the provision that we make for the elderly section of our community. Let us face it. Everybody who has the good fortune to survive will go through this phase. When he reaches that stage of life he should share in the increased affluence of our society. In endeavouring to prove his political arguments by introducing figures, I believe that the Minister has created a complete misconception in the minds of people and he has confused himself. He suggests that the real value of the pension paid to a single aged person or an invalid who has nothing else and who pays rent will have been increased by about 75%. As I understand the situation, over the last 20 years wage standards irrespective of prices have doubled. They have risen by 1 00% .
The Minister suggests that as a result of the increases of 75% in pensions, counting the fringe benefits, those people who are most in need will have nearly twice as much as they had in the old days when Labor was in office. The general wage level has increased by 100% in that period and we would all agree that the general standard of living has risen as a result of those wage increases, but it has not increased by 100% - or doubled itself - in that period by any means. But the Minister suggested that because pensions have increased by 75% the standard of living of pensioners has doubled in the period during which everybody else’s income has been rising rapidly. He does not associate this with general price levels at all. If the Minister followed the general economy as I think he should, he would know what the position is. I should like to cite a statement by Dr H. C. Coombs as reported in a very recent volume, ‘The Australian Economy’, in which he refers to the phenomenon of increased prices. He states:
The characteristic pattern seems now to be a tendency for prices to rise more or less steadily by about 3% a year. Moreover, a significant new factor appears to have entered into the situation -that is a widespread acceptance of price increases of this order as natural and inevitable.
To prove his theory he refers to the position in the United States:
Between August 1957 and April 1958 the index pf industrial production fell by 13%, retail sales by 5% and unemployment almost doubled, but the consumer price index and wage rates rose - by almost 3%.
This happened even under those adverse economic circumstances. He cites this to substantiate his theory, which certainly is applicable to the last 20 years, that we seem in our modern economies to be cursed or blessed - whichever is one’s particular economic point of view - with this 3% annual increase in the general price level. I suggest to the Minister that he should relate his case as stated in his introduction of this measure to the 3% annual increase in prices over 20 years, remembering that the 3% each year is cumulative. The annual increase of 3% is not applicable in each year to the basic figure of 20 years ago. Each year there is an increase of 3% on the actual figure for the previous year, which includes the 3% increase on each earlier year. This would make the increase of 75% in pensions over that period very little if anything more than what is actually required to keep the standard of living of the elderly people of this community at the level at which it was 20 years ago.
I do not think that this provides any reason for politicians in general or political parties to boast of what they have done for the elderly people. We should all, without indulging in personal criticisms of each other, see why this nation is not doing more in this direction. It has long been our contention that this matter should not remain a political football to be kicked around so that every time a budget is brought down particularly, as Senator Keeffe pointed out, a pre-election budget a handout has to be made in the form of a political bribe to those people who have done the most to bring us to the position where we can expect the affluence of our society to continue to improve. There should be an independent tribunal to fix pension rates, as there is to fix the standard of living of nearly everybody else in the community. It should fix a reasonable and just standard of living and it should be the job of all political parties to see that the economy of the nation is so managed that we are in a position to give justice to the people to whom we owe a debt and who have created the set of circumstances which allow us to live as we live today. 1 make this point very strongly. The theme of the Minister’s speech, repeated so often, indicates that he is making a political football of this question. He stated:
For example, a widow with three children all over 6 will receive a pension, apart from any entitlement to family endowment and supplementary assistance, of $28.50, and this will be unaffected by her earnings, assuming that her assessable property does not exceed $4,500, up to $22 per week: and thereafter only half her additional earnings will be deductible from her pension, so that she would keep some pension until her total means reached $79 per week. Contrast this with the position when Labor went out of office in 1949.
Here we go again. Even in relating what has been clone to bring the children of widows up to some reasonable standard there is a political flavour. We are doing more than was done 20 years ago. Let us be honest, irrespective of our politics. Who could have foreseen 20 years ago the affluence of our society today, whether there was then a Liberal government, a Labour government or a government with any other form of political philosophy. But no, we are doing something. We arc taking a small step along the road that should be taken, a step that any political party in office would have to take out of ordinary common justice to try to catch up. Because of the atmosphere now clouding the morality of this issue we have to put it into a political perspective. When the Budget was brought down we moved an amendment accordingly. It was not carried by the Senate, but we cannot allow this Bill to pass without reiterating that the only satisfactory solution to this problem is to take this matter out of the political arena in which it has become over the years such a disgraceful political football.
We believe that the Act does not contain things which it should contain. We, like all honourable senators, will vote for the Bill. No-one would deny to the people who require it the small measure of justice which this Bill gives, but that does not mean to say that we go along wholly with the Bill. It contains too many obvious deficiencies. We ask the Government this question: Why is there so much explanation of the Bill to show the justice and the charity of the Government parties in raising the allowance for widows with children to meet increased costs? There is no recognition in the Bill for the increasing costs that people wilh large families have to meet. There has been no increase in child endowment to even try to catch up with the 3% increase that has been occurring in the consumer price index for the past 20 years; no attempt at all.
The Government says: ‘Oh yes, we will grant an increase in respect of a very limited number of children of widows and we will justify it by referring to the increased cost of rearing children. In doing so we presume that the breadwinner of the large family is in a position to enjoy all the increases in wages which have occurred in the past 20 years to cope not only with the cost structure but also the higher standards of living which flow from our affluent society’. There is no evidence to show that the larger families are in a position to enjoy either of those benefits. Indeed to the contrary, very often they are hampered by the number of children that they have. The man has to stay in his job because he has the responsibility of perhaps six children. He cannot go out as a bachelor or the nian with one or two children does and bargain wilh his labour power to get the full benefits of the increased wages that are being paid in the community. The man with the larger family is the man who is most tied and handcuffed by the great responsibilities he has taken on in the interests of this country as well as of his own family circle.
– Anything over two children is not accounted for in arbitration court decisions.
– That is right. Any family with more than two children is not taken into consideration. I was coming to that point. There is nothing in the Budget relating to an increase in child endowment despite the fact that the Government recognises the increases in costs that have taken place. Is it any wonder that we cannot accept the Government’s attitude which leads one almost to believe - indeed when I first read the speech I thought it to be the case - that the Minister for Social Services and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) were meeting the costs out of their own pockets, so much did they talk about ‘we will give this’ and ‘we will give that’. This is the taxpayers money. It belongs to the people. The Government is merely organising affairs on behalf of the those who want justice for the elderly people in the community and a better deal for the family man.
We politicians in this or any other place are merely the servants of the people. We are merely handling their money. We are not giving anything. As politicians, whether in government or in opposition, we are putting a case to the Government to try to make it realise that it has a greater responsibility to the community. We are only doing our job. We are not doing anything we should not be doing. Neither is the Government doing anything it should not be doing nor is it making any magnanimous gesture by handing a great gift to the people of the community who have reached the stage in life where they need the help of the community. The Government is merely paying back some of the things that they have invested in this country.
I want to refer particularly to the maternity allowance which also has been ignored completely in this attempt to bring our social services up to date. Here is an avenue in which the Government has ignored completely its responsibility to spread the taxpayers money amongst the people who are entitled to receive assistance at a particular time. In 1912 we fixed a maternity allowance at $10. In 1943, 6 years before the Government boasts that it took office, it was increased to $30. I do not want to make this political; I merely v/ant to answer the questions that the Government itself has raised. In 1943 one could get the cheapest bed in a public ward in a hospital for $20 a week, so the maternity allowance was $10 a week more than you paid for the cheapest bed in a public ward in a hospital. Today the cheapest bed in a public hospital is $70 a week yet we are still giving to the mothers of this community $30 a week as maternity allowance.
There has been no recognition for increased costs. There has been no recognition for the demand of the community for a bigger population. There has been no recognition of the fact that we are prepared to spend one hundred fold, and indeed need to do so - we support it - to get people to come here from other countries. We would spend on advertisements twice as much as the maternity allowance to get one person from another country to settle in Australia.
But the maternity allowance today remains where it was fixed back in 1943. That is the encouragement which is offered to the people of this community to have the families that we need so desperately to even retain the development, progress and indeed the affluence that we are enjoying today, not to mention the future security of a continent which is so large and with so few people in it.
Senator Keeffe in his remarks was good enough to refer to a matter which I raised 12 months ago. This is another anomaly which is becoming bigger with every increase in pensions that is granted in the political circumstances in which the present increase has been granted. We believe that an independent tribunal would remove completely the anomaly in our social services legislation that I am about to mention. I refer to the granting to single people of an allowance in excess of that which is granted to two individuals who happen to be married. Two sisters can live together and each can receive the single person’s rate of pension. The Government would not be in a strong position if it sought to reduce that pension to the amount paid to a pensioner couple. As all honourable senators know a pensioner couple living together receive a pension which is 50c a week lower than that paid to two single pensioners living together. Why do we have to continue thinking of people as pairs rather than as individuals?
Senator Keeffe mentioned another point that I raised 12 months ago. Yes, it is true that if a man and his de facto wife decide to live in what is loosely referred to in the community as sin, they will draw the pension rate applicable to single persons, but a man and his wife who have reared perhaps six children receive a lower pension. It is said that two can live more cheaply than can one. I suppose that in terms of figures one can work it out that way. But in terms of humanity it seldom works out that way. Very often, if there are two elderly people they have to accept responsibility for each other. Usually one of them is in very poor health. That in itself, in spite of free medicine, can increase the cost of living tremendously. But there is no allowance for that. If they are married they have to receive a lesser income than do two single people who are entitled to pensions.
Everything that the Government does in the field of social services indicates that it will continue with this type of philosophy, namely, that the pension must be the irreducible minimum and there must not be any chance of anybody getting a little extra ray of sunshine.
Anyone moving around as I do, among social workers who deal wilh the problems of the elderly and the aged will know that the greatest single cause of ill health, which under the free medicine scheme costs the Government money, is loneliness. These people have lived in a family circle all their lives. Now their children have grown up and, under the pressures of modern life, have their own families to rear. Very often young children do not mix well with very elderly people. Surely we all recognise that now. If the husband or wife has died, the surviving spouse is living alone and is lonely. We now even go to the extent of endowing pensioner clubs in an endeavour to bring lonely people together. They do come together. Many of these people, who have known the family circle all their lives, yearn for companionship. They strike up friendships. They even dare to strike up friendships with the opposite sex. Then they have the penalty hanging over their heads. They can meet one another once or twice a week at the pensioner club, but they must not get married, because if they do the Government will reduce their pensions. That is the Government’s approach to this great problem.
I could understand the people in the early days of social services legislation having that frame of mind. But we boast that we have a more advanced civilisation and that we think more deeply about these questions and problems of the people whom we are trying to assist today. We members of the Democratic Labor Party believe that an independent tribunal would set out to eradicate the discrepancy that exists between the married pensioner and the single pensioner. We believe that people in this community are entitled to justice in their own right, as individuals. If people happen to be married and in the rare situation in which two can live as cheaply than one, is it not better that somebody should receive a little extra ray of sunshine than that somebody else should be reduced below the poverty line because the Government does not see fit to give him a full pension in his own right?
This Bill is merely a result of the Budget. lt sets out to do what the Government said in the Budget should be done. We spoke about it in the Budget debate. I do not think we should speak about it at any great length at this stage. I may have taken more of the time of the Senate than I should have. The Senate has before it an amendment which puts into words some of the criticisms 1. have enunciated. I could not say that we agree completely with everything that is contained in the amendment. In some respects it goes further than we would like it to go. However, it is an expression of an opinion - an opinion that 1 believe I had adequately justified by the remarks I have made.
We wish that the amendment had nol been given the political complexion that it has in paragraph (f), which demands that the Government ‘give effect to the 1949 election policy of the Liberal-Country Party to abolish the means test’. I suppose it would be regarded as haggling if we asked the Opposition to amend that paragraph to read ‘abolish the means test’ and to forget about what was said in the political field 20 years ago. As I have said before, 20 years ago nobody could gaze into a crystal ball and see our economy and life as they are today. We feel that the Opposition is adopting a political attitude in criticising something that would bc expressed by whichever party happened to be in office.
But the amendment represents the crux of the criticisms that we have to make, lt certainly omits our proposition that the whole question should be in the hands of an independent tribunal. We slated our views on that proposition in the Budget debate. We did not receive the support that we hoped we would receive. Nevertheless, at this stage we consider that the amendment, whilst allowing the legislation to pass, makes some justifiable criticism of the Government.
– 1 wish to make the very briefest contribution to this debate. I enter the debate in the dying stages of this session before the election only because 1 want to be consistent in respect of a matter to which
I have referred in debates concerning Budget proposals on social services for the last 8 years, except for last year when I was out of the country. What I want to do, in speaking briefly in support of the amendment, is again to draw to the notice of the Senate and the Government the plight of pensioners with non-pensioner wives.
The position in regard to these unfortunate people is that a man who goes out of industry at the age of 65 years - in many instances not because he wants to leave industry but because the order of modern society requires that he leave - and who has a wife under the age of 60 years, has to live with his wife on the magnificent sum of $15 a week. Of course, that is if they have not any other means. Let us not make any mistake about the fact that many of these people have not any other means. We know that there are certain circumstances in which a wife’s allowance is paid. For instance, the wife of an invalid pensioner can receive a wife’s allowance; the wife of a man who is qualified to receive a pension, and whom a doctor is prepared to certify is unfit for any occupation, can receive a wife’s allowance; and the wife of a pensioner over the age of 75 years, whether he is physically unfit or not, can receive a wife’s allowance, irrespective of whether she is of pensionable age.
But when a married pensioner does not fulfil any of the qualifications to which I have referred and his wife is under the age of 60 years - even if she is 58 or 59 years of age - they are required to exist on the proceeds of only one pension. Surely in this enlightened age, when the Government boasts, as it does in the second reading speech in which it asks the Parliament to support this Bill, some consideration should be given to what is perhaps the most deserving section of the pensioner community, namely, men who have reached the age of 65 years and whose wives have not reached the age of 60 years.
I suppose that the Government’s supposition is that the woman can find employment. I would like the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), to tell me just how many women over the age of, say, 55 years are acceptable under the modern form of employment in industry. How many such women without talents or without qualifications could secure employment? Even if they could do so, how many of them are physically able to carry out the tasks that they would be required to carry out in order to earn a living to supplement the meagre pensions paid to their husbands? Surely the Government, if it were thinking in terms of humanity, could have reduced the pensionable age for women whose husbands are much older than they are to 55 years, regardless of the question of physical ability or physical infirmity. Surely some consideration must be given to people in this category. There are not many of them. I note from the table of beneficiaries under the new legislation that the Minister has been good enough to prepare for the Senate that the present number of people on part pensions in respect of a wife’s allowance is only 1,500. There are no new pensioners in this category and it is a fairly safe assumption that the total number of them would not be very great. 1 again make the plea that I have made for the last 8 years, that something ought to be done to remove this blot on our community. We should not ask two people to subsist on $15 a week when we accept that it is barely enough, or not enough, for one person. I hope that the Minister in her reply will indicate that the Government will give some consideration to this matter and will come to grips with it, at last removing the injustice suffered by these people.
[2.52] - Some of the points raised by honourable senators relate to individual cases which, I think, should be brought directly to the Minister’s attention and not dealt with in debate. Senator Poyser said that the pension increase proposed offered merely a continuation of a poverty existence. I contradict that assertion. I believe that the increases are more than those that would be warranted by the increases in the cost of living alone since the last pension increases were granted. Moreover, the real value of the pension is considerably in excess of that prevailing when the change of government occurred in December 1949. I gathered from the honourable senator’s remarks that he was making a comparison with that time. For example, the age pension of $4.25 a week which was in force in
December 1949 would, if adjusted for subsequent changes in the consumer price index, now be $9.38 a week. But the rate proposed under this Bill is $15 a week for a single person and $13.25 for each member of a married pensioner couple. I believe that that comparison illustrates the very realistic approach that the Government has taken.
– It shows the thinking of the Government since it came to office -0 years ago.
– What nonsense - after I have explained the value of the present pension in relation to that paid in 1949. The pensioner medical service has been introduced since this Government came into office. I think it is quite wrong for honourable senators opposite to attempt to give the impression that there has been no genuine thinking or move towards the betterment of welfare services since this Government came into office. There has been very real concern and consideration in respect of matters which are important to the aged, the ill and the needy. Honourable senators will recall that a variety of welfare benefits have been introduced by this Government and as I proceed 1 shall enumerate some: of them.
Another point raised by Senator Poyser concerned a widow with a child who turns 1 6 years of age. He said that she is ineligible for a class B pension until she reaches 50 years of age. This Government amended the Act to provide that a widow ineligible for a class A pension because her child turned 16 years could quality for a class B pension if she herself was 45 years of age. This Government also provided that a class A pension can be paid where there is no child under 16 years but there is a student child between the ages of 16 and 21 years. Moreover, this Government has introduced the mothers’ allowance for widows with children. This Bill provides for an increase of $2 a week in this allowance where there is a child under 6 years of age or an invalid child. This is a further illustration that the Government has had very real and proper concern for widows in these circumstances. I understand Senator Poyser to refer also to the hospitalisation of a war widow with a chronic illness. This circum stance is covered by the Repatriation Act and is not within the compass of the Social Services Act.
Senator Poke referred to the guardians’ allowance covered by clause 3(d)(b) of the Bill. This Bill provides for an increase in the guardians’ allowance from $4 to $6 a week where there is a child under 6 years or an invalid child requiring full time care and attention. Senator Poke asked why the line is drawn at 6 years. Generally speaking, when a child turns 6 years of age he is attending school and is thus demanding less of his mother’s time. This or the mother’s allowance is payable to a widow and to a single age or invalid pensioner who has the care of a child, lt was introduced by this Government.
Senator Keeffe referred to the pension payments made to two people living together. Where a couple is living together it is long standing policy not to place them a better position for pension purposes than a married couple. Thus the rate payable in these cases is the married rate and they do not each receive the single rate. I think that answers the point raised by Senator Keeffe, i also refer him to part III, section 18 of the Social Services Act 1947-1968, where a dependent female is described as follows: dependent female’ means, in relation to the operation of any provision of this Act a woman who has lived with a man (in this Part referred to as her husband) as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis, although not legally married to him, for not less than 3 years immediately preceding the operation of that provision in relation to that woman or nian;
The honourable senator will note that the definition of a ‘wife’ includes a dependent female. Senator Little spoke in support of the establishment of an independent tribunal. I think he has raised this matter before in this chamber. As has been said previously - and I believe it is right - a government charged with the responsibility to provide the necessary finance would be failing in its responsibility if it were to establish a body which, by its decision, could commit the government to increased expenditure without the responsibility of finding the extra finance required. The Government has and accepts that responsibility.
Senator Little also queried the improvement in the real value of pensions and decried the use of 1949 as a base. Using the consumer price index as the best available measure of the change in living costs, the increases required to maintain the real value of the age pension as fixed in 1968 would be for the standard rate 40c a week, and for the married rate 36c a week for each party. But this legislation will increase the standard rate by $1 a week and for each member of a married pensioner couple by 75c a week, or a little over twice the notional figure. There is obviously an increase in the real value of the pensions. This year’s increase comes on top of a similar increase last year. I remind honourable senators that last year’s increase was itself greater than would have been justified by reference to the consumer price index. This is typical of the Government’s record in relation to pension rates. This factual statement bears out the points I have made.
I inform Senator Poke, who moved an amendment on behalf of the Opposition, that the Government cannot accept it. The amendment moved by the Opposition condemns the Government because it has failed to increase adequately rates of pensions and benefits to meet the increased cost of living. I think I have answered this, and I cannot agree with the point that the Opposition has made.
– Why do you not reply to my questions?
– 1 can reply only to one thing at a time. After all. Senator Poke spoke before the honourable senator. Senator Poke also discussed an investigation to deal with the real areas of need and poverty. I believe this Government has played a tremendous part in dealing with this matter. It is this Government which has set up the Welfare Committee of Cabinet and it is this Government which has looked most carefully at areas of real need. This Government has investigated all kinds of ways in which it could help those people in need. It has already done this by continuing benefits which were in existence. It has, indeed, increased them. It has introduced new benefits. Last night in this chamber we passed completely new legislation for the housing of needy people. We have also introduced the pensioner medical service, additional pension for children and the mothers’ and guardians’ allowances for widows and other single pensioners with children. This Government, of course, brought in the Aged Persons Homes Act which assists church and charitable bodies to make accommodation available for aged persons. It introduced the personal care subsidy for persons over 80 and it introduced nursing home benefits. The Government reviews benefits each year in conjunction with the presentation of the Budget. Pension rates have a higher real value now than those which were in force when we came into office. Surely all these things are proof of the Government’s efficiency and its careful annual review.
Senator Poke also said that we should eliminate injustice, and he accused us of discriminating between pensioners, the sick and needy. I cannot think why he should accuse us in one breath of not assisting the needy and in the next breath accuse us of discrimination, because the whole point of the benefits that the Government has given and the whole point of its investigation into these matters has been an endeavour to assist those people who are most in need. I believe this is being done. Honourable senators also spoke about making benefits retrospective. This, of course, is a matter which has been discussed on many occasions in the past, but honourable senators all know, as I do, that this legislation comes into operation after it has passed through both Houses and has received the royal assent. Mr Chifley said the same kind of thing in reply to the same sort of question in 1948. He said:
I think I should make it clear to the Committee at the outset that the Government does not propose to accept any amendments to this Bill.
Senator Toohey has waited patiently for me to get around to him.
– I m pa ti en ti y.
– He has been very patient since he has realised that I cannot speak to two people at once. He asked about aged pensioners with non-pensioner wives. I do not think that I can give him a very adequate answer to this, but I appreciate the point he made and his concern. This Government extended eligibility for wives’ allowances to include the case where the pensioner husband is not an invalid but where there is a child. A non-pensioner wife may, of course, receive unemployment benefit and the real value of the benefit now available exceeds that applicable under the previous Administration. But I feci that that does not provide for the honourable senator the real answer he wanted. I appreciate his concern and I will be happy to place this matter before the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). In reply to some questions that have been raised in the debate, and in endeavouring to clear up one or two points that have been made, I want to say again in supporting the Bill and opposing the amendment that f believe this legislation is most forward looking. I believe that it is assisting in a very real way those people who need assistance.
I want to congratulate the Minister for Social Services and the Government for bringing in one more advanced piece of legislation, a new idea of assisting people which, I believe, will be of benefit to them not only today but in the future. I refer now to the introduction of the tapered means test. I believe this will do a tremendous amount for those people who will receive benefits under it. I would also remind honourable senators of other provisions liberalising pensions. This has not been mentioned by anybody, but there is the extension from 12 weeks to 30 weeks in the period for which age, invalid and widows’ pensions may be paid in respect of a temporary absence from Australia. There is also a modification of the residence qualification to permit a widow whose husband dies overseas to obtain a widow’s pension immediately on return to Australia if she has resided in Australia at any time for a continuous period of 10 years. There are also increases in unemployment and sickness benefits and the benefits to an unmarried minor who has no parent in Australia. I think these are of tremendous importance and I am surprised that they have not been mentioned more by the Opposition. But this is all part of an overall pattern of assistance to people through home care, through health services, through housing for the aged and through the extended benefits within the social service pattern. Therefore I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– i seek leave to amend the amendment which I have proposed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In clause (f) I desire to delete the words ‘give effect to the 1949 election policy of the Liberal-Country Party to’. This means that clause (f) will read:
Abolish the means test.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [3.9] - I want to assure the honourable senator that I still oppose the amendment.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Poke’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to section 1 32 (2.) of the Principal Act, which states:
Where a benefit is payable in respect of any period less than a week, the benefit shall be payable in respect of each day, other than Sunday, in that period, and the amount of the benefit payable in respect of each day, other than Sunday, shall be one-sixth of the weekly rate of the benefit.
I would appreciate it if the Minister would give consideration to deleting the words one-sixth’ and putting ‘one-fifth’ in lieu thereof. During my contribution to the debate on the second reading of the Bill I mentioned that by using the calculation of one-sixth instead of one-fifth, for a period of 4 days a man loses $1.08. That figure was worked out on the basis of the rate for an adult or married minor. But if one works it out on a wider basis and takes into account the dependants, including the spouse and the first and second child, the difference is much greater than $1.08 for a period of 4 days. As I pointed out in my speech on the second reading of the Bill, it is necessary to consider that we now work a 5-day working week and not a 6-day working week; it is the 40-hour working week as compared with the 48- hour working week that has made the difference. I ask the Minister to give that matter some consideration. I would like to hear some comment from her on this point.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting something to the Minister for consideration or is he suggesting an amendment?
– I seek advice from the Chair or from the Minister whether I have to move a formal amendment or whether the Minister is prepared to give an undertaking to supply information. If the Minister will give such an undertaking I will not move an amendment. If she will not give an undertaking I will move an amendment.
[3.21] - I have studied the point raised by the honourable senator. I am advised that, while it is true that many more people now work a 5-day week than did previously, it is a fact that a substantial number of people still work a 6-day week. Moreover any differentiation in respect of the number of days worked per week would create problems in the case of casual workers and people who work broken shifts. I think the honourable senator should give very real consideration to that point because these categories of workers are involved.
– I hope the Minister will forgive me for raising at this stage two points upon which I seek some clarification if possible. One concerns the question posed by Senator Toohey on the subject of the position of a wife of a pensioner.
– To which clause of the Bill is the honourable senator referring?
– I think it would come under clause 28. I think perhaps it would be covered broadly by that clause. Perhaps if I asked the question it would help. The Minister replied to Senator Toohey to the effect that a non-pensionable wife of a pensioner who did not qualify in her own right as a pensioner could receive unemployment benefits. Can the Minister indicate for how long a wife in that situation could receive unemployment benefits? 1 was not aware that she could. Apparently Senator Toohey had some doubts about a wife in this situation qualifying for unemployment benefits.
The second point that I mention relates to a case which arose recently. While one ought not to particularise or to individualise, I think this case represents a group of people. 1 think it is easy enough to understand that it would be tremendously difficult for an Act to meet some of the rare and unusual situations that arise. An Act of Parliament deals very properly with the broad situation affecting the majority. The Minister would know that from time to time special cases arise. The case I. have in mind concerns a wife whose husband, because of a brain tumor, had surgery and consequently lost all his mental faculties. He is a pensioner. In order to attempt to provide something additional for the four children, the relatively young wife resumed her teaching career. She made some provision to have her husband looked after during the week. At the weekend she takes him home and looks after him. The problem arises in this connection: The wife is required to make some kind of financial provision to have her husband looked after during the week. She looks after the children. In the taxation return that she is required to furnish to the Taxation Branch each year she cannot claim for her husband as a dependant because he is an invalid pensioner. That is an odd situation. I think the Minister will understand that what it costs the wife to have the husband looked after is far in excess of the allowance that she is permitted to claim. She cannot claim for him. She can claim for other members of the family.
There may be a perfectly good explanation, but it did not occur to me when I first looked at the case, nor have I been able to find any explanation or justification since then. I would like some explanation. Similarly she cannot claim for chemists’ bills. She is prepared to go out and work. I think she is a very gallant lady. One should salute such people. I think the Minister understands what this woman is prepared to do to endeavour to overcome the tremendous difficulties with which she is faced. In her taxation return she cannot claim chemists’ bills for medications of the various kinds which her husband requires beyond the amount which is permissible. She cannot claim anything for her husband because he is a pensioner. I admit that such circumstances are rare. While the law covers the broad mass of the people, I do not think the intention of the law is that a person in a minority group should miss out because it is difficult to cater for every situation. It does not matter what side of the Parliament one is on, one must salute this kind of person. One must encourage this kind of person. The kind of encouragement needed is that which makes the greatest practical contribution. Provision should be made in our law to meet the particular difficulties and disabilities with which such families are faced. Can the Minister help me by supplying some information?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [3.27] - Firstly I refer to the question raised by Senator Devitt which followed on the question asked by Senator Toohey, to which I replied, concerning unemployment bene fits payable in the case to which Senator Toohey referred. Senator Devitt asked me for how long a wife in this situation could receive unemployment benefit. I am informed that for as long as she is registered for work, is taking reasonable steps to obtain it but cannot find any work, she will continue to receive benefits. I agree with the honourable senator that we should salute these very brave and courageous women who look after invalid pensioner husbands and families. I shall give him some information about the queries he raised. This Bill increases the deduction from the income of pensioners in respect of each child from $3 to S4 a week in arriving at net income for means test purposes. This liberalisation would be of assistance there in the type of case mentioned. The Bill also increases the pension payable for each child in excess of one from $1.50 to $3.50 a week. If the husband is a pensioner he receives the benefit of the pensioner medical service. There are other aspects in relation to taxation about which I cannot give an answer now. I will obtain what information I can for the honourable senator.
– Firstly I thank the Minister for the answers she gave to points I raised during my speech on the second reading of the Bill. I do not think she answered one question. I do not think it is covered by the Bill, but I think it is appropriate to mention it under this clause. For a very long period the maternity allowance has not been increased. I notice that the Bill makes provision for children of widows. In many cases a widow has one or two children. It has occurred to me - and I am sure that if I draw it to the Minister’s attention she will understand what I mean - that a young widow, in these days of high death rates due to motor accidents, who receives a $30 maternity allowance when hospital charges will cost her $70 a week even if she gets the cheapest accommodation, must meet the major portion of her hospital costs. She may even be sufficiently unfortunate enough to have, as a widow, a multiple birth. It is too late to rectify the situation now, but at some future date it might be rectified. I would have thought that if in the legislation we extended to a widow an extra allowance to enable her to support a child for a whole year, surely there would be justification for a young widowed mother to be given similar assistance and for the maternity allowance, which has not been given any attention since 1943, to be brought more into line with modern requirements.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [3.30] - I appreciate the point made by Senator Little. There are great tragedies in which yoting women whose husbands are killed are about to have babies or already have young children. We all appreciate and understand this point. It is true that there has not been an alteration recently to the maternity allowance. However, 1 point out that there have been increased benefits made available through the health and hospitalisation scheme. In the case mentioned by the honourable senator I should imagine that the widow would be entitled to take advantage of the pensioner medical service and that, as a pensioner, she would also be entitled to free hospitalisation in a public hospital.
– Would the Minister enlighten me on whether a maternity case would come within the ambit of free medical services available to a widow?
– That case would be covered by the provisions reletting to the public wards of hospitals.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
– 1 present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Sleeping quarters for officers and junior sailors al HMAS ‘Albatross’, Nowra, New South Wales. 1 ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the Committee was $900,000.
Debate resumed from 18 September (vide page 1017), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill is complementary to this measure and it might suit the convenience of the Senate if the second reading debate on both Bills were taken together.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls it the wish of the Senate that the second reading debate of both Bills be taken together? There being no objection, I shall permit that course to be followed.
– The Opposition considers that the legislation will provide improvements but that it will not meet the principles of maintaining repatriation pensions at the 1950 level, which the Returned Services League has regularly put to the Government. Honourable senators will recall that as far back as 1950 the Menzies Government accepted that the value of pensions should be restored and, after a proper inquiry, it established a level which has not been maintained. However, on regular occasions some improvements have been provided through the Budget. This is one of the occasions when improvements to repatriation pensions have been made in a budgetary context.
What the RSL wants and what I want to see is that once and for all pensions are related to a particular value of compensation and that this value is retained, irrespective of what the Budget does in the matter of social services. For example, over a number of years the RSL has stated principles in relation to pension rates. I think I should read what the RSL has said so that the principles may be well understood. In its annual report for 1968 the League said at page 22:
For the reasons that will be set out in the following sections of this document, the League believes that the question of values is by far the most pressing. These have been dealt with in such a way that the principle of compensation has virtually been abandoned and from year to year the position has steadily deteriorated.
A little later it said:
In the League’s view, the principal pension paid by way of compensation to an ex-serviceman who has been totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of his war service, should never be less than the lowest legal wage for workers under a Commonwealth award in Australia. This has- now been reaffirmed on a number of occasions as the fundamental principle of the League’s approach to the question of compensation.
By that the League means that regularly at its annual conferences it has reaffirmed the principle. In 1950 the Government accepted this approach and it made the TPI pension 101% of the then existing basic wage. The report refers to that in these terms:
In 1950 in the present Government’s first year of office in the post-war period, a General Review of Pension rates was carried out and this relationship was then established. The Special Rate TPI pension was increased to $14, slightly more than the basic wage, which at that time was $13.80. The General Rate 100% Pension was increased to $7, slightly more than half of the basic wage, and other pension rates and allowances were increased proportionately.
On numerous occasions in this place we have asked for a restoration of the value of these pensions, but this has never been done. There has been a piecemeal approach by the Government. For example, in 1966 the Government introduced an intermediate rate pension and last year, special compensation allowances which were restricted to certain more seriously handicapped pensioners, but it has never conducted a complete survey. The method of procedure has been for the RSL to meet sub-committees of the Government or the Cabinet to have discussions. This practice has not been satisfactory and has resulted in regular criticisms by members of ex-service organisations and by members of Parliament, so much so that, as is well known, we have suggested the appointment of a parliamentary select committee to examine this question.
Because the Government has refused to establish a committee to make inquiries and to determine principles in relation to compensation and pension rates, the RSL has requested that there be set up a committee for this purpose and has said that it need not necessarily be a parliamentary committee. It seems to me that the latest decision of the Senate in favour of a committee for this purpose is highly important because in this situation the value of pensions, about which we hear repeated arguments, could be properly analysed. Although we appreciate that there have been improvements, there is no doubt that the position will not be corrected until the whole question of repatriation is taken out of its present relationship to the Budget.
The Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr Swartz) has frequently said, not only in relation to the present debate on the Budget and legislation flowing from it but also in reply to questions asked in this place and elsewhere, that repatriation benefits will be adjusted according to the general situation of the Budget. The RSL and exservicemen generally want pensions to be taken out of this context and related to some basic principle of compensation which will ensure for all time that the standard is a good one and that it is continued in future. One of the bad things in the current position flowing from the relationships of pensions to the Budget is the intention to deprive any Service pensioner, who for the first time becomes eligible under the new tapered means test, of the so-called fringe benefits. I know that the ex-service organisations are very critical of this because it imports into repatriation a principle which has been adopted by the Governent, which is a bad principle and which, it seems to me, goes backwards from what the Government has been alleging to be its general philosophy. Since Mr Gorton assumed office as Prime Minister and since Mr Wentworth took over the portfolio of Social Services there has been some emphasis in publicity upon the Government’s intention to have a social welfare outlook. What has really happened is that services have not been extended.
In fact, in the general upward trend of extending maximum fringe benefits to general pensioners and now to repatriation pensioners what the Government has done is to establish a principle which takes something away from them. Not only does the new tapered means test take something away from those people who might become entitled to new fringe benefits but also it takes away whatever fringe benefits they would have had before this legislation was passed. In addition, all of the States ultimately will withdraw from those pensioners free rail and bus transportation which was given as a privilege. In a general atmosphere of a so-called ‘welfare outlook’ something which is bad seems to be established as a principle. There is a stronger case for denying the application of this system to ex-service pensioners than there is to the outside public. It seems to me that most of us accept that ex-servicemen have a special claim for compensation because of their involvement in wars. What is of great concern to them and to us is that the position is worse than it was before.
I have regard to the position that the RSL takes up, with which we agree, that an attempt ought to be made to have the position examined by a committee which is appointed for the purpose. The Opposition has never been against the appointment of any committee. While we have had carried in the Parliament a resolution for the appointment of a parliamentary select committee, everybody would welcome something other than the ad hoc arrangements which now obtain to deal with representations of organisations. These representations have failed over the years. Frequently when the RSL and other organisations have met Government committees they have been most dissatisfied. They are dissatisfied this year but perhaps not so critical as they were in former years. Most of us remember the agitation carried on by the RSL, the criticisms by its National President and State secretaries, the letters which were written to senators and the distribution of some half-million leaflets to politicians and members of the public prior to the Senate election campaign. The Government has had tons of time, in my opinion, to consider what might have been done about this position. What it has done is only piecemeal.
The principles upon which the 1950 deal whichtheRSLaccepted was made ought to have been applied. The 100% pension which has not been increased since 1964 and was at that stage equal to half of the basic wage should have been maintained at that level. The TPI rate should be not $36 as now proposed but $38.90. When introduced the intermediate rate pension was claimed to be a major reform, but the report of the Repatriation Commission shows that out of a total of 221,343 repatriation pensioners only 1,153 receive the intermediate rate. Whatever increases are made in the intermediate rate are very minimal. In relation to the so-called special compensation allowance proposed in this legislation, the report of the Repatriation Commission states on page 54 that 197,555 ex-servicemen are accepted as having war caused disabilities. Those who have a disability assessed at under 75% total 161,476 and those who are above 75% total 36,079. This means that the provisions of this legislation will benefit in this category only 36,000-odd pensioners. Some of these, of course, are already disqualified. As indicated in the second reading speech, some 1,000 or so are disqualified because of defective vision or hearing or because of tuberculosis. There has been no increase in the general pension since 1964 and there are 161,476 pensioners in this group.
Another important point about repatriation is the Government’s attitude towards hospitalisation. As honourable senators will remember, on two occasions in the Senate - in 1965 and 1966 if my memory serves me aright - we carried a resolution in relation to hospitalisation. On the first occasion we stated that hospitalisation should be accorded to veterans of the Boer War and of the First World War. This amendment was not accepted by the Government and was rejected in the House of Representatives. In 1966 we modified the proposition to provide that the Repatriation Commission should make this hospitalisation possible but it was not mandatory. This was carried in the Senate but again the Government rejected it in the House of Representatives. At that time the numbers of exservicemen involved were certainly higher than they are now. There were then 1 06,000 survivors of the First World War and 47,000 would have become entitled to the benefit, but already 27,000 of those were entitled to benefits which gave them hospitalisation, so 32,000 might have got some benefit from the proposal.
The RSL estimates that the numbers have decreased to 14,000. It estimates that there are 50,000 survivors of the First World War and the Boer War, including 200 or 250 from the Boer War. These figures closely follow those given by the Minister in reply to questions. In the First World War Australian servicemen totalled 329,883, most df whom served overseas. The survivors would probably total about 50,000. From the Second World War there were 735,781 ex-servicemen and women, most of whom would have served overseas. Out of that total the proportion who might require hospitalisation would be very small and the cost now would be very small. Consequently, we cannot see why the Government at this stage, having in mind the annual representations of the ex-service organisations and the annual decrease in the numbers of persons who would be entitled to it, should not grant this benefit.
The RSL estimates that there would be about 14,000 ex-servicemen in this group. It has carried out some research and it estimates that the cost would be $2,156,000, to include $1,120,000 for hospital treatment, $336,000 for medical treatment and $700,000 for medicine. The amount is quite small when you have regard to the Budget which provides something like $ 1,030m for defence. Having in mind the great expenditure on defence, you would expect the Government to have regard for all the people who fought in the wars and helped to defend this country. So the cost of hospitalisation is very small.
Even if the Government said: ‘Again we refuse your request but we will go some part of the way’, that would not be so bad. But it has not done that. Very strong pressures are building up. On two occasions honourable senators, including not only members of the Opposition and members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party but also, I think, one or two honourable senators on the Government side, supported our proposition that the hospital treatment should be provided. On the last occasion we left it to the Minister, expecting him to tell the Parliament later: ‘We can follow the principle only to a certain extent’. As is well known, the Government refused to do even that. Apart from the answer which was given to the RSL, I have here a copy of an answer to a question that Mr Webb in another place asked of the Minister. On 27th August Mr Swartz ended his reply by repeating what the ex-servicemen are entitled to now and by saying: ‘This is a reasonable provision’, as much as to say what is there is reasonable’. We do not think that it is reasonable and we do not see why at this stage the Government cannot provide what has been requested for a long time, and why it awards the benefits piecemeal.
The question of cost in relation to the funeral benefit has been raised. Honourable senators will remember that the funeral benefit of $50 has remained unaltered for many years. The RSL, on page 23 of its annual report where it deals with this aspect, states that the current charge for a minimum funeral is $213 made up of $43 for a grave site, $20 for advertisements and gratuities and $150 being the minimum charge for a hearse, one car and the cheapest casket. The Government still maintains that it cannot afford to give these people more than $50. In recent replies given to Mr Whitlam who has raised this matter the Government, after testing the position, has said that it would cost something like $780,000 to increase the funeral benefit. That is not a large amount if you look at it in the context of the Budget and we cannot understand why the Government refuses to increase the benefit.
Obviously if the Government continues to treat ex-servicemen in this way it will create not only a stronger pressure for the setting up of the select committee that we have proposed and claim to be necessary, but also increased discontent on the part of ex-service organisations. Ultimately the people now serving in our armed forces will have a grievance. We know that national servicemen are not receiving the entitlements which even the first volunteers received. They should get them. They do not receive even what we were entitled to when we came out of the Services after the last war.
– That is right. Rehabilitation. I do not know why they are not entitled to it. The Government argues the existing presence in Vietnam. It has been shown that more than one-half of the soldiers serving in Vietnam are national servicemen but, as everyone knows, when they return from Vietnam they will not receive the same opportunities for training as we received.
– You should recognise that allowances under the defence forces retirement benefits legislation, plus pensions, have doubled their entitlement.
– I admit that there have been improvements. In debates in the Parliament we have admitted that there have been improvements, but I am referring to what I regard as a great disability. A young man came to me the other day. He wanted to become an apprentice. He had not had the opportunity to do so before he was conscripted. On examination we found that he was eligible for training. He can do a part time course over 2 years and receive an allowance for it, or a full time course over 12 months. However, before being eligible to do that he has to satisfy the Repatriation Department that he has employment in the professionthat he wants to follow. If he cannot guarantee that an employer will take him he is not entitled to the benefit. When we were eligible for training there was an obligation on the Government to find employment for us. If, say, a fitters mate or a man who had some experience as a semi-tradesman, wanted to become a fitter and could do a job for himself and for the country, he was eligible for training. An employer was found for him and, in turn, the employer was subsidised a portion of the trainee’s wages. A 60-40 basis was arranged. The young man to whom I have referred has no chance of becoming apprenticed or of learning a new profession because the employer who was interested in his ability will not employ him unless he receives some subsidy from the Government. He will not get that. The fact is that down the line the standard of rehabilitation has diminished.
Although the Opposition has stated frequently that it accepts any upward trend, the present legislation does not go far enough. As we all know, the system has proved to be a failure. Often the charge has been made in the Parliament that repatriation has become a political football. The only way to cure that is to do the job once and for all. The present setup certainly supports our view that a committee should be established to examine the position. For those reasons I move:
At end of motion add - but the Senate condemns the Government because it has failed to restore the relative values of repatriation pensions’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill. This type of legislation, which is ancillary to the Budget, adopts changes in social service entitlements and in other fields. In this case it is the field of repatriation. Increases of this kind always leave lingering doubts about their real value in meeting the rising level of prices and costs. I think we must accept that there is a certain element of real increase in these increases but it would not represent the totality of the amount of money terms.
More particularly I rise to say that repatriation has been with us now over two wars and probably for the best part of 50 years. In this period certain things have changed. First of all, the whole approach to repatriation depends upon our social attitudes and upon the level of medical knowledge. Over 50 years these have changed vastly. Our social attitudes have changed and the whole texture and tempo of life have changed. The effect of time and tension upon ageing men who were subjected to the stress of war in their early years now is being reassessed. Medical knowledge, whether to rehabilitate men or to extend their age or to try to alleviate their particular illnesses, is becoming more highly developed and more highly specialised. We do wonder, therefore, whether the techniques which have been applied for 50 years in relation to repatriation benefits and the determination of eligibility and the level of acceptance, are any longer completely relevant to the modern scene. The pressures, which are now coming from many quarters, for another look at the whole of the repatriation system lend weight to my suggestion that there have been such vast changes that the irrelevance and inadequacy of the present system are becoming apparent.
Time and again in this place resolutions have been carried suggesting the appointment of committees to examine the whole repatriation system. Those resolutions have been carried not as instructions to the Government but as intimations to it of the attitude of the Senate. The reply of the Government has been that the whole question of repatriation is under the constant scrutiny of a Cabinet sub-committee in this field. That gives point to my proposition that obviously there is some concern in the Government as to the present system. If that is so, it would appear that there is almost national concern - at least concern at many levels - about the present system.
If that concern is validly based, if it is held widely enough and if it has penetrated deeply enough, it would look as if democratically there is warrant for a total examination of the repatriation system, lt has never been the desire of the Senate that such an examination should be imposed as a direction from the Parliament. There has been no express resolution of the Senate setting up a Senate select committee, for example; but there is already on the record of the Senate the suggestion that a committee should be set up.
I believe that the Government, having in mind alt these considerations, should indicate to the Parliament early in the new year just how far the deliberations of the Cabinet sub-committee have proceeded and just what is the Government’s intention. Next year the Senate may, with justifiable impatience and trying to reflect, as is its duty, the opinions which are now being made widely expressed in the community and which obviously are shared at some levels of Government, press upon the Government, using the forms of the Parliament, that in view of the resources that are available to the Parliament such an investigation could perhaps better and more appropriately be pursued in other quarters and by other people.
With those remarks, I say that the Democratic Labor Party supports the provisions of this Bill as an attempt in some way to equate the rights and entitlements of repatriation pensioners with the movements in costs and prices and the changed social attitudes. But we believe that the legislation does not accurately reflect the present situation, which requires a more detailed and urgent examination. The DLP supports the Bill.
[4.2] - - 1 thank the honourable senators who have spoken in support of this Bill for the comments they have made. 1 wish to reply to a few of them. In doing so, 1. inform the Senate that the Government opposes the amendment moved by Senator Bishop. Let me first refer to some of the points honourable senators have made. Senator Bishop says that the Bill does not meet the Returned Services League standards for pensions levels; that a standard should be fixed; and that this should be met independently of annual Budget considerations. The RSL’s point of reference is that for the TPI pension the amount should bc the minimum wage.
I say to the honourable senator in reply that the important point is that pensions levels should be reasonable in the light of their purpose. Their purpose is to provide compensation fairly related to the assessed degree of incapacity of each individual exserviceman. While this can be a matter of reasonable difference of opinion, the Government believes that the rates of war pension and allowances, viewed as a whole, are reasonable. For example, the TPI rate is $36 in consequence of this year’s increase, with $4.05 for a wife and $1.38 for each child, making a total of $41.43. The intermediate rate is $26.50. It is an important innovation because it fills a need for that class of pensioner who can work only part time or intermittently because of warcaused incapacity. That is a point of which we would do well to remind ourselves.
Senator Bishop also discussed the Government’s decision not to give fringe benefits to those people who become entitled to service pensions only because of the operation of the tapered means test. The honourable senator will recall that in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on the Social Services Bill - the Bill that we dealt with before this one - a great deal of reference was made to this very point. The Minister said: lt has been decided that the new pensioners who come in by reason of the extended taper limits, will not be entitled to the Commonwealth fringe benefits which are available to existing pensioners. Accordingly, those with means as assessed in excess of the free area plus the full rate of pension will not qualify for these extra concessions - pensioner medical service, funeral benefit and rebates on telephones, radio and television. In effect, those single pensioners who at present have means as assessed of $25 per week or over- married couples $43.50 per week- will not be eligible for these Commonwealth concessions.
In making this decision, the Government took into account the fact that it was precisely at this point that the application of the taper conferred the greatest pension increase - that is, $7.50 per week for a single person and S 13.25 per week for a married couple. It is true that, in proportion as pensioners’ means increase beyond $25 per week single and $43.50 per week married, the maximum pension gain under the taper is reduced by one-half of the excess until it tails out at means of $40 per week single and $70. per week married couple, but it fs felt that pensioners in these upper ranges should be able to afford normal hospital and medical insurance and to pay for their telephones, radio and television at the normal rates.
So the reason why these benefits were not given was the advantage that was given through the tapered means test. Senator Bishop also referred to medical treatment for veterans of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War. Let me remind him of the present provisions. Treatment at repatriation expense is currently provided to exservice men and women for all war-caused disabilities, and for most disabilities that are not war-caused to those who receive the 100% General Rate pension or higher, to nurses of the 1914-18 War and to service pensioners - although it is not intended that this benefit will be available to those who qualify for service pension solely by reason of the tapered means test.
The reasons for rejection of the proposal were something with which, I think, Senator Bishop was concerned. Although he was not aware of all the reasons, he was well informed on most of them. I point out that those who are disabled through war service or who, on existing means test standards, are judged to be needy are already entitled to medical and hospital treatment. Thus the proposal to extend treatment facilities to Boer War and 1914-18 War ex-servicemen would benefit only those veterans who are neither seriously incapacitated because of war service nor in financial need. They are already entitled to treatment facilities.
The Government’s rejection of the proposals has been based on the following factors: The present arrangements are quite generous and the Government has already provided for the more seriously disabled and for the older and more needy exservice men and women; consideration must be given to the priority which should be given to the proposal having regard to the needs in other areas; and it would be unreasonable to favour a class in which neither war-caused disablement nor need is present to a material degree. So I make the point that those in need do receive these treatment facilities.
I think we need to appreciate the purpose of this Bill. It provides increased pensions and allowances to the more seriously disabled, through the totally and permanently incapacitated pensions, the intermediate rate, the war widows’ pension and the special compensation allowance. Particular needs are also taken into account through the attendants’ allowance. This is another very important area of assistance, as I am sure honourable senators will agree. Benefits are given to the needy; to service pensioners and dependants, just as improved benefits have been approved in the Social Services Bill, which has just been passed by the Senate. All these measures are a continuation of the progressive development of a very sound system which has been in operation for over 50 years. This Government has been pleased to study, review and increase benefits.
The purpose of this legislation is to care for people who are in need of assistance through war caused disabilities or illness. Medical treatment is provided to help people to better health or to care for their incapacities. It assists families with education benefits and I have in mind especially the soldiers’ children education scheme, which covers children of TPI pensioners and war widows from the age of 12 years, right through secondary and tertiary education. Important benefits are included in this legislation. I am sure honourable senators will be interested to learn that over 8,500 children are at present being helped in this way.
Benefits are given in a variety of ways, including assistance with transport and recreation and damage to clothing arising from war caused disabilities, and treatment of those disabilities. Repatriation treatment services are extensive and of the best modern standard. Honourable senators know the work that is carried out in our repatriation hospitals by skilled staff in excellent surroundings for the people who need special attention. I thank the two honourable senators who have spoken in this debate. 1 know their very real concern for the matters they have raised and, indeed, in relation to all ex-service personnel. I am glad to know that they support the Bill. I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Bishop.
– I ask for leve to make a short statement to indicate the attitude of my Party, which I may not have expressed appropriately during my speech.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) - I indicated during my speech on the second reading of the Bill that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supported the Bill. Perhaps that was rather inappropriately expressed, in the light of the proposed amendment which has been circulated. I should have said that the DLP will not oppose the Bill to its rejection but will support the amendment, which will not have the effect of rejecting the Bill but is simply an expression of opinion as to certain inadequacies which I referred to in my speech. The DLP supports the amendment but will not reject the Bill.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake- Brock man)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from18 September (vide page 1017), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24 September (vide page 1279), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill that the Senate is considering is to amend an Act that was passed in 1965 to put some sort of equity into the price of petroleum products in country areas compared with the price in the capital cities. Since that time $61. 9m has been spent in this way. The expenditure in 1968-69 was $ 19.3m. The Bill is designed to continue this subsidy payment to the oil companies in order that the price of eligible products will not be more than 3.3c higher than that of the capital city price. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) stated in his second reading speech that the Government is satisfied that the scheme has proved worthwhile. I do not dispute this statement. There is practically no way of knowing whether the scheme is worthwhile because one would have to travel to every place where petroleum products were distribited to know whether the scheme was successful. The Minister is not required by the legislation to report to the Parliament and therefore it is almost impossible to say whether or not the scheme works. Therefore, in the circumstances, the Opposition does not propose to oppose the Bill. However, we would be in a better position if the legislation were presented at a more convenient time and more details of the operations of the scheme were made available. The Government can be excused somewhat in this year because there is to be an early election but this is typical of what is going on in the Parliament. We get this kind of legislation, which requires examination, in the dying hours of the Parliament when one -is unable to examine it properly. The Opposition will not oppose the Bill.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party does not oppose the legislation. It is legislation that attempts in an indirect manner to promote decentralisation in the community by stimulating rural areas. This is an attempt to eliminate the cost differential due to their remoteness from metropolitan areas. The scheme equates the cost of petroleum, and this Bill is an attempt to bring it up to date hi view of increased costs and the rise in price since the last determination was made. The Democratic Labor Party, of course, has a policy of decentralisation. We think that this scheme is a minor contributing factor in achieving a greater degree of population distribution than is now the case. For some reason or other it has never been possible to persuade governments which are responsible for transport to introduce a system of tapering freights although that seems to be one of the best ways in which to encourage people to go to remote areas.
The determination of what might be called a national price by commercial people for their products in some cases, as in the case of petroleum, does have this effect. It is a process that we think should be encouraged. The degree of success that accompanies this stimulation and encouragement has a bearing on the undue concentration in urban areas. Allowing for the fact that this legislation reflects, as does so much of the other legislation that is introduced, the constant spiral of costs and price increases which can become alarming, nevertheless because it extends equity to rural areas and attempts to overcome the disadvantages that they suffer, the Democratic Labor Party does not oppose the measure.
– I thank honourable senators for their cooperation. As both speakers have indicated, this legislation is designed to update the subsidy scheme which ensures that the wholesale price of motor spirit and some petroleum products will not be more than 3.3c greater in any part of Australia than it is in the capital cities. Of course, over the period since 1965 there has been a variation in the cost of freight to certain areas and this legislation is a move to update the prices to the 1969 level and to do away with anomalies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24 September (vide page 1280), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill which is before the Senate is a measure of considerable importance and obviously gives rise to a discussion as to the best method of spending public funds on education and the way in which the community’s resources are to be allocated as between government schools and what are called, in the Bill, independent schools. However, we prefer to call them ‘non-government’ schools because as a generic term I think that is a more accurate description. But I do not propose to address any argument to that matter. This Bill provides for per capita payments by the Commonwealth to the States of amounts which are calculated on the basis of S3 5 for each pupil receiving a primary education and$50 for each pupil receiving a secondary education at independent schools as defined, and that means a school or institution in a State, other than a school or institution conducted by the State, at which primary education or secondary education is, or at which both are, provided, but does not include a school conducted for the profit, direct or indirect, of an individual or individuals. The Australian Labor Party has a definite policy in regard to aid to schools. On behalf of the Opposition,I propose to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill to incorporate the basic principles of the Australian Labor Party’s policy. 1 think the sensible thing for me to do would be to move the amendment at the commencement of my speech and to address my remarks broadly to the amendment as well as to the substance of the Bill. Therefore,I. move:
At end of motion add:But the Senate is of opinion that the Bill is an inadequate contribution to education in Australia because it:
fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools;
ignores the needs of government schools, to which governments have a primary obligation; and
makes grants indiscriminately to nongovernment schools without regard to needs and priorities, and resolves that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for:
grantsto government schools based on sums that are not less per student than those made to non-government schools under the Bill; and
the immediate establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all schoolage children on the basis of needs and priorities.’
The Opposition docs not oppose the provisions of the Bill, but it does criticise -
– The Opposition is asking for the Bill to be withdrawn but does not oppose it?
– The Opposition is adding certain words to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Education and Science in the Senate, should know that. This is the form required in the Senate. The Opposition believes that the assistance provided by the Bill is lopsided. It provides only for non-government schools and does not touch upon the needs of the students in government schools, although the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says he recognises that the Government has what he calls a primary responsibility to government schools. The Minister for Works used the same expression in part in his second reading speech as is used in the Opposition’s amendment. He referred to a primary responsibility to government schools. Having done that, he was at some pains to indicate why the problem that this Bill attempts to meet is the most urgent of the educational problems.
The Opposition does not accept that one part of the primary and secondary school world can be separated as a fitting object for assistance from the Government, irrespective of any question of needs, whilst ignoring the needs of the remainder. We on this side of the chamber believe that the fatal flaw in the Government’s approach to the problem is that it has failed - indeed,I would go so far as to say that it has refused - to look at the problem on a needs basis. During debates on this subject the Government has been invited to consider the needs approach but it has declined to do so because, according to the Minister, the Government regards it as impracticable or undesirable to attempt to discriminate between non-government schools.In other words, the Government is saying that if one section of the non-government schools is deserving of assistance every nongovernment school has to get it on the same per capita basis. In order to give some relief to the needy parochial schools in particular - and the Opposition has never disputed that it is proper to provide assistance where the need is shown - the Government can find no sounder principle than to give the same level of assistance to schools which educate the children of some of the wealthiest people in Australia. It is the Opposition’s view that this distorts the whole concept of what is known as aid. Whilst distributing largesse in such an open-handed way the Government has failed completely to recognise the crisis which exists in the state schools - and there is a crisis. I propose to deal with that aspect in due course.
What is the difference between the approach of the Australian Labor Party and the approach of the Government on this extremely important question? I hope we can consider this subject without unnecessary heat. It should be recognised that the approaches are basically different. The Opposition believes that the way to approach the problem of assistance to all schools is to try and find sound principles upon which it is proper to expend public funds, particularly when those funds are in as large a measure as is provided in this Bill. The Opposition would seek to apply the same principle to the schools in the government system as well. It would ask: What are the needs of the government and nongovernment schools? Where are the needy areas? Obviously the needy areas are in the inner suburbs as well as in some of the outer suburbs and, to some extent, in country areas.
I think it is right to clear out of the way at the beginning of the discussion any suggestion of objection to what are often called prestige schools. I refer to the private schools, some of which charge very high fees to parents who want to send their sons or daughters to them. These schools have a right to exist and to provide education to those children who attend them. The Opposition does not dispute this right and it never has. The question is: On what principle should public assistance be given to non-government schools? The Opposition believes that aid to those schools to which parents are prepared to pay fees often amounting to some hundreds of dollars a term is indefensible in principle while there are needy schools which are not getting anything.
Insofar as the Commonwealth’s direct assistance is concerned, there has been a refusal by the present Government to accept responsibility for modernisation of Australian schools, lt is part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party that it would be necessary for the Australian schools commission which the Australian Labor Party would set up to have guidelines to enable it to proceed on the basis of bringing all schools up to an acceptable standard. The Opposition does not agree with the way aid is given indiscriminately. I do not want to deal with particular schools as I do not think it is important to name schools except to draw attention to the large sums that some schools will get under the present legislation but, as has happened with the assistance for the provision of science blocks and school libraries, there will be schools with a large number of boys or girls attending both primary and secondary levels or only the one level, which will get many thousands of dollars. No school will say: ‘Thank you very much, but we do not need it’. I cannot imagine any school saying that, although the stage may be reached where many schools will want to say that they do not regard it as a right in principle that they should be given such assistance.
We do not want to reach a stage at which the overall effect of giving $50,000 or $60,000 to one of these prestige schools will be that it will provide some new building or a second swimming pool while some schools have leaking roofs and improvised class rooms and generally are lacking in ordinary amenities. That is our basic objection to the Bill as it stands. Our amendment does not refuse assistance to schools which need it but would withhold assistance to schools which do not need it while some schools are in great need and are getting nothing. That is the way in which we approach this matter. We believe that a schools commission should be set up and we will undertake to set it up if we are elected to office on 25th October. I will not repeat in detail what the amendment says about the proposed schools commission, but I think it is important that the guidelines to the commission should be understood. The policy of the Australian Labor Party as stated in the Platform, Constitution and Rules as approved by the recent Twenty-eighth Commonwealth Conference is:
In making recommendations for such grants to the States, the Commission shall have regard to -
the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard open to all children;
the numbers of students enrolled in the various schools;
That would enable some proportional basis of distribution of numbers in schools in one system or another system. The policy continues:
That provides a proper basis of principle upon which assistance can be given to help all students, but the priority goes to those in need. It must be the needy schools first; there cannot be some indiscriminate basis upon which, in order to help some of the needy in the community, we have to give to those who, on any realistic understanding of the term, cannot be regarded as needy. The Leader of the Opposition has drawn my attention to a matter which ought to be taken into consideration to ensure that the amendment which I have moved conforms to the rules and to the Standing Orders. I ask leave to reframe the second part of the amendment by deleting the words ‘And resolves that the Bill should be withdrawn’ and substituting the words ‘Is of the opinion that the Bill should be withdrawn’.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - ls leave granted to reframe the amendment? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am obliged to the Senate. Those are the principles which we seek to have accepted as the basis of any realistic policy. I again draw attention to the four points in our policy that I mentioned. The first is: The primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard open to all children’. I do not think any honourable senator would deny that this is desirable. What we complain about is that, having acknowledged the responsibility, the Minister for Education and Science proceeded to ignore it. No doubt the Minister in charge of the Bill in this House will tell us that a large part of State governments’ budgets are spent on education and that those moneys are collected by the Commonwealth and disbursed to the States. But so are moneys for the State police forces and for roads. The moneys are collected from taxpayers in the various States. It is no more realistic to talk about this being a Commonwealth contribution to schools than it is to talk about a Commonwealth contribution to a State police force or to some other State instrumentality because the State needs the finances and the Commonwealth is the taxing authority.
We should be guided by what happens in those other areas. I draw attention to a recent statement by the Minister about science facilities, science laboratories and apparatus in government and independent secondary schools. The statement was made by the Minister on 29th May of this year. For the present year, out of an allocation of $12,573,800 for science laboratories, $5,336,000 is for non-government schools and $7,237,800 for government schools; so that some 42% of the money spent on science facilities is going to non-government schools.
The same trend is evident in the scholarship field. A substantial number of scholarship winners, disproportionate to the percentage of population, go to nongovernment schools, particularly to nonCatholic schools. In a reply given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in another place on 13th August of this year the Minister for Education and Science gave some revealing figures of the proportion of Commonwealth secondary scholarships awarded, in 1969, 58.6% of the total number of scholarships went to government schools and 41.4% went to non-government schools. Interestingly enough, of the 41.4% going to non-government schools, 20.7% attended Catholic schools and 20.7% attended other non-government schools. One could not suggest that the percentage attending Catholic schools was in any way disproportionate. But the percentage of scholarship winners attending other nongovernment schools was 20.7%. Although there are perhaps only a quarter as many attending other such non-government schools as there are attending Catholic schools, they are receiving the same percentage of scholarships.
At the same time a perusal of the percentage of students awarded scholarships out of the total number of students enrolled in the third last year of the secondary course in each type of school in 1969 shows that in government schools 4.7% received scholarships, in Catholic schools 7% and in other non-government schools 14.3%. It is very obvious from these figures, thinking in terms of population and the percentage of the population attending these schools, that there is a disproportionate number of students who have been awarded scholarships and who are attending nongovernment schools, particularly the non-Catholic schools, compared with those students who have been awarded scholarships and who are attending government schools.
– Do those figures include preparatory schools, junior schools, senior high schools and senior grades of other schools?
– The answer is that this table deals with the total number of students enrolled in the third last year of the secondary course at each type of school. We have the number of scholarship winners as a percentage of the number of students in that third last term. They are described as secondary schools, which they are.
– The earlier figures which you were quoting, the 40% and the 42%, were so far as science blocks were concerned and so far as scholarships generally were concerned?
– Science blocks are available to secondary schools only.
– Have you the figures of the percentage of Catholic students and other non-government school students at technical schools as opposed to students at all schools?
– No, I have not. These are the scholarships awarded to students shown as a .percentage of the total of students attending those schools, but I would be very surprised if you could express those figures in ano’ther way to make them mean something different. I think the trend is clear. I am saying this in advance, anticipating that the Minister will say: ‘The senator has misunderstood the whole position; in this Bill we are helping private schools and in all sorts of other ways we are helping government schools’. But when we come to examine the assistance that is going directly, from the Commonwealth we see that a disproportionate amount of it, at least in the instances that I have mentioned, is going to the non-government schools. It appears that a disproportionate amount of it within the non-government schools category is going to the nonCatholic schools as opposed to the Catholic schools.
– To which page was the honourable senator referring?
– 1 was referring to a series of answers which appear at pages 243 and 244 of Hansard of 13 th August. I invite attention to those answers because what wc are really faced with is a situation in which the Government says that there arc all sorts of reasons why it should help the independent schools, as the Government calls them. It says that they are under a lot of pressure, or some of them are, and that this is an urgent need. It says, in effect, that in its view the best way to help government schools is to spend money on nongovernment schools. That is what the Minister seemed to be saying in a lengthy statement he made explaining the basis on which this assistance would be given. The Minister seemed to be saying that he thought the sensible thing was to help with the nongovernment schools because otherwise the government schools would have to take more students, and, therefore, it would be more costly.
What we criticise about the Government’s policy is the piecemeal and lopsided approach to the whole question. I do not want to take time on this occasion to spell out in detail the urgent need of government schools for assistance; I did this in the course of a speech on the Budget, and other Opposition senators have drawn attention frequently - indeed, constantly - to the tremendous backlog, the neglect, the impoverishment and the lack of elementary facilities in many government schools. I should like to draw attention to what the State Ministers for Education, constituted as the Australian Education Council, said in 1963 in the ‘Statement of Some Needs of Australian Education’. They spelt out the sorts of things that are necessary to provide good educational facilities.
– Did the honourable senator say 1963?
– Yes. There was a later statement, I think in 1966, but the one in 1963 was the basic statement. Having spelt out the objectives, that there should be a variety of courses of study; that the system should provide for all children, at least between the ages of 6 3nd 15 years; that the system should ensure that every pupil can obtain an education adapted to his particular needs, and so on, the Minister went on to say:
To achieve these objectives, and to provide services of a quality that will not endanger future standards of national development, the Ministers of Education are convinced that the following conditions must be mct.
I emphasise ‘all schools’, because that is what we are interested in - should have facilities including well equipped libraries, suitable shelter spaces, sanitation of a satisfactory standard, staff room, playing fields and special purpose rooms.
The statement goes on to say that the system should provide teachers in sufficient numbers, that teachers must be adequately trained, and to make maximum use of the teaching strength there should be adequate staff in schools for clerical and other nonteaching duties. It mentions also that schools should be properly furnished and equipped. That is basically the broad spectrum of objectives and, judged by those standards, the schools are defective. The Ministers went on to list the enormous backlog of what had to bc done. Although one cannot deny that many more schools have been built, measured against the needs of expanding school population the problems to which the Ministers referred remain in large measure unsolved. So much remains to be done that it is unconscionable to put on one side the needs of those schools while giving assistance to private schools on an indiscriminate basis. That is basically what We are talking about and that is the difference between the parties on the subject.
There are one or two other matters to which I propose to draw attention. In the course of the Estimates debate and in the debate on some of the Bills there has been some talk about the need for accountability, that we should know what we are spending our money on. I believe that in this legislation the Government has not given sufficient indication, except in the broadest terms, of what the money may be spent on. It is referred to simply as recurrent expenditure. All that is required is a statement from a qualified accountant within 6 months after the moneys have been paid over under the Bill to certify that he is satisfied the moneys have been expended for the purposes of recurrent expenditure in respect of that school. There ls do requirement that the Parliament or the Minister should know what the money has been spent on; all that is necessary is a certificate from an auditor giving, in effect, his opinion that the money which has been spent was for the purposes of recurrent expenditure in respect of the school.
What we are proposing in the Committee stage is to move an amendment which would have the effect of requiring a statement of the needs of schools, as well as the names of schools, to be incorporated in the report or annual statement by the Minister which is to be laid before each House of Parliament under clause 7 of the Bill. We believe that it is necessary for that to be done so that we may know where the money is going. That is what we mean in our guidelines for our Australian schools commission which the Australian Labor Party will set up, if elected to office next month, when we talk about the need to ensure optimum use of resources in the establishment, maintenance and expansion of schools. Our resources are not unlimited, but it is quite obvious that a great deal more needs to be spent on education. Fundamentally we quarrel with the Government’s attitude because it ignores the primary responsibility to the State schools. It will be very hard for the Government to justify its assertion that it is doing much for students in state schools. The question is: What are the needs? We see these enormous unsatisfied needs in the government schools. The Government says: ‘We are doing something there but the urgent need is in this other area.’ Tell me that some of the schools which are getting assistance under the Government’s non-discriminatory policy are to be compared with some state schools, and I can only laugh. This morning’s Melbourne ‘Agc’ carries a pathetic story on the front page. It refers to Mr Jennings, headmaster of the George Street, Fitzroy, State School, and states:
He is the vice-president of the State Schools’ Relief Committee - a teacher-sponsored group which provides clothes and shoes for needy schoolchildren throughout Victoria.
The committee, which spent about $32,250 last year, has received about 7,000 requests to help poorly dressed children this year.
The story carries a photograph of Mr Jennings giving a little girl, 10 years of age, the first new pair of shoes she has ever had. The report continues:
Mr Jennings estimates that about 25% of the 20,000 children attending inner-suburban primary schools came from families ‘living below the breadline’. He said his was a typical innersuburban school. It has an enrolment of about 750 children- about 70% of them from Greek or Italian migrant families. Mr Jennings estimates that about 250 of the students are from impoverished homes. He hands out about 200 pairs of free shoes each year at his school.
The report also states that clothes are given by the relief committee and Mr Jennings is reported to have said: 1 just pick out the needy cases in the playground and ask them to come to my office. Then I give them the shoes or clothes. I try to save them as much embarrassment as possible.
– What has that to do with a debate on education? Is that not a question of social services?
– If the honourable senator thinks that this is merely a question of social services or if he does not recognise the inter-relationship between eliminating poverty and providing education to poor children I. can only say that I feel sorry for him. Does the honourable senator say that it is more important to give help to prestige schools than it is to give it in areas like that? To parochial schools, needy schools, yes, by all means. To poor kids in these needy areas, of course. What kind of principle is the honourable senator going to accept? He may not know a great deal about these problems but one cannot separate the problem of a child from a family that lives in poverty from the problem of the kind of education that is to go to children in those poor areas where the parents cannot afford to put up matching moneys so that they can get some grant from the Government for minor amenities. They just cannot afford it.
The particular school I have instanced may be a particularly bad one but the headmaster thinks that it is typical. There are children who come from homes which just have do English. These are major educational problems. The way in which the United States has tackled this problem with federal aid is to pour its assistance into the needier areas, into the depressed areas and make them part of communal social experiments, part of a revitalising of a community that has lost its soul. In pilot areas the authorities are working on this approach because this is the way to lift people out of poverty. This is the way to give equality of opportunity in education. If we are merely dishing it out to rich and poor alike when there are some poor who are going without we are not establishing any decent sort of principle on which to conduct an education system. That is what we are talking about in this amendment.
– Do you say that the United States of America system illustrates equality of opportunity in education?
– What I am saying about the United States of America system is that they are trying in a society that has many more basic problems and on a larger scale than we have to direct federal aid to areas where it can do most - where it can help need most. Areas are selected which really need some special assistance to the children of migrants, to the children of the negro communities, to those from areas disadvantaged economically, where unemployment is rife, and so on. This is where the major effort is needed. That is why we put our emphasis on pre-school education. Only one child in 12 attended a recognised kindergarten in 1966 in this Australia of ours, although the percentage is better in some States. In my own State, as you, Madam Deputy President, would know, the situation is somewhat better than it is in some other States though it is still bad. This is a way in which we can make equality of opportunity mean something, at the level where children are first forming their impressions, when they are most receptive to educational influences.
That is the way that we look at the problem. On that test this Bill is inadequate and we would do something about it. Firstly, although we do not like the per capita basis as a way of distributing education funds we believe that some measure of justice at least would be done if the same assistance that is being given to students in non-government schools were extended to those in government schools. That is the basis for that part of our amendment which seeks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for grants to government schools based on sums that are not less per student than those made to nongovernment schools under the Bill. Secondly we would set up our schools commission. We would have that reporting in time for the next Budget. In the meantime we would give some measure of justice to those, including many needy ones, who are benefiting by this Bill. We cannot accept in principle that we can proceed to establish an education policy that just ignores the realities and disregards needs. I am sorry that I have taken so long to indicate the Opposition’s ‘ approach to this measure. I would invite the Senate to join us in carrying the amendment. This would give us an opportunity to lay down a firm basis for a comprehensive plan of assistance to students in all schools with the emphasis on need.
– I realise that in speaking today Senator Cohen was conscious of the stage which has been reached in the sittings of the Senate and for that reason he may have been more brief than he would otherwise have been and in the comments that I make I take that into account. Nevertheless, I feel that the attitude of the Australian Labor Party as stated by Senator Cohen is extraordinary and inconsistent. First of all, we understand that the Australian Labor Party accepts that there must be help to some non-government schools and to some non-government school pupils. The Opposition’s principal objection to the legislation seems to be that it wants to take away from some citizens, from some parents and from some schools the benefits which this Bill would bring. Perhaps because of limitation of time Senator Cohen did not develop the argument but I can only assume that the Labor Party wishes to impose some sort of means test in relation to education, because it would seem that there is no other practical way. Certainly no other practical way has been suggested as to how needs would be determined and the differentiation suggested by the Australian Labor Party should take place.
Whilst Labor members are suggesting that in relation to education there should be a means test, or the equivalent of a means test, they are happily proclaiming to the electorate that in relation to social service pensions they will abolish the means test. The inconsistency seems to me to be marked but it is completely unexplained. Most people, I think, agree that as far as possible there should be no means test. I think that has been stated by most, if not all, parties and it has been set up as a desirable objective. Why, then, introduce it in relation to education at a time when most people agree that a desirable objective is to remove it in relation to social services?
Australia as a nation has an interest in education and in achieving for all its children as high an education standard as is possible. Its governments collectively have an obligation to assist in achieving the highest possible standard. Before we look at the way in which they should assist I think we should first define where the funds to provide education in Australia come from. First of all, they come from State public funds; secondly, from Commonwealth public funds; thirdly, from services given virtually, or entirely, free by certain religious organisations; fourthly, from fees paid by taxpayers as an extra contribution to the overall cost of education, and fifthly, from parents and friends associations, old boys unions and all sorts of other organisations which assist by raising funds or by making donations towards education.
It could be argued - I think quite strongly - that a proper approach would be to provide to all schools from Commonwealth public funds and State public funds an equal and adequate amount, and then let the parents who wish to pay an extra contribution do so if they wish to have what they consider to be the special benefit of a particular type of institution which is available upon payment of an extra fee. I think education in Australia has developed to the stage where no longer can we say that, however much merit there may be in that argument, it is practical of achievement in the near future. But something which must be borne in mind in relation to education in Australia is that we all have the same interest. We all oblige children to undertake education. There is a basic interest in the education of each child, whether in a government school or in a nongovernment school.
Senator Cohen has not said in the debate why he considers that some people should be singled out to pay the total cost of their childrens education and others should be singled out to obtain the full benefit of any funds which may be made available by the Commonwealth Government. The point which I think has been overlooked completely by Senator Cohen and by the Australian Labor Party is that there are many families in the moderate and low income groups which save and take out endowment policies, and in which the wives go to work and the husbands take extra jobs, because they believe that they should earn extra income to enable them to pay the school fees involved in their children’s education at the so-called affluent schools. Unless you get down to denning the affluent schools, this becomes perhaps a slightly waffly argument. It is made waffly because of the complete ^definition, or the complete lack of definition, in the approach of the Australian Labor Party.
The policy put forward by the Australian Labor Party seems to me to smack of gross inequality and gross inequity. It is a policy which perhaps encourages sectarianism, but maybe it arises out of political expediency. In any case it certainly does not have any principle of equality or equity basic to it. If it has such a principle, it is a pity that it has never been spelled out in any of the debates in either House of the Parliament, the record of which 1 have been able to read.
If a means test is to differentiate, why have we not heard any practical suggestions on how the means test is to operate? Would the ALP force the so-called richer schools to reduce their fees so that they could qualify? Would the ALP force them 1o sell their assets so that they could qualify? Would the ALP force the schools to face bankruptcy before they could get some assistance? What reward would there be for thrift, good administration and forward planning on the part of a school? If a school has achieved a better standard of buildings than perhaps another school has, it will receive no assistance. I also wonder what reward there would be for parents and friends associations in both government and non-government schools which work very hard to provide funds and facilities. 1 realise what Senator Cohen had in mind when he said that there are schools in certain areas where there are special needs, where there are special problems, where the problems exist because a large percentage of the parents of the children have not either the time or the ability to assist in fund raising to provide extra facilites for those schools. Perhaps that may be the subject matter of a proper approach from the States with a view to equalising their educational systems. But we are looking at this from a Commonwealth point of view, from the point of view of the distribution of funds to assist education in Australia on a basis which is equitable to all the people of Australia. Because insufficient time is available to me I will not develop further the argument that I was developing. It is abundantly clear that the Labor Party stands by its policy of inequality and inequity in this matter and is not interested in or concerned about listening to the other side of the story.
I pass to the suggestion for the establishment of an Australian schools commission. This suggestion has been developed by the Australian Labor Party in the same manner as the rest of its proposals have been developed, in other words, it has not been developed at all. What is this commission to do? That has not been made clear. How is it to be comprised? That has not been made clear. What will be its powers? Apparently the powers of advice, ls it to provide a centralisation of governmental control in Canberra over all of the education systems of Australia? That has not been made clear. But it would be fairly clear to anyone who thought about this suggestion for a short time that the only result of setting up such a commission would be to take away from the State governments their right to an independent approach to education. How otherwise can the Slates experiment without possibly suffering under the Australian schools commission which has been proposed by the Australian Labor Party?
Certainly there is a case for a full exchange of ideas, techniques and experience. Certainly there is a case for a mutual investigation of the areas of need and for a mutual exchange of plans for future development. But surely the Australian Education Council, consisting as it does of State and Commonwealth Ministers and departmental heads, is the proper body to do this. As Senator Cohen well knows, although he has never referred to it, the Council is already at work on that very project. I see no case made out by him today for any basis upon which an Australian schools commission could do anything that the Australian Education Council cannot do. But I do see the possibility, indeed the probability, that it would do something that the Australian Education Council will not do; that is, centralise the administration of education throughout Australia, in effect, in one body.
– It would inject a bit of financial assistance into the system.
– How could we provide for one body to control the provision of financial assistance fo the system without that body having a tendency to control the system itself. The funds would tend to control what the system could do, how it could be geared and how it could be set up. Obviously the result would be to take away from the States their rights with regard to education. Had the Labor Party come out with a proposition that these rights should be taken away from the States, that would have been a matter for consideration and debate. Perhaps the Opposition could have made out a case for that; I do not know. I have never heard members of the Labor Party put it on that basis.
– Would the honourable senator have listened?
– I would not have voted for it. At this stage I have not heard the argument. Maybe some case could be put up, although I do not think so. But, while the Constitution remains as it is and while the division of powers remains as it is, 1 see as undesirable and inequitable any interference by such a commission in the education systems which are primarily the responsibility of the States.
– This Bill provides for section 96 grants.
– Of course it does.
– They are on conditions.
– Of course they are, but they are not in accordance with recommendations of a body such as an Australian schools commission, which would be set up and apparently would take over on a unified basis the whole of education throughout Australia. I see no reason to support the amendment. The case that was made out in favour of it was disjointed and inconsistent. I oppose the proposed amendment and support the Bill.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill and congratulates the Government on its introduction. Personally, I also congratulate the Minister for Education and Science. Mr Malcolm Fraser, who has presented this BUI alter a great deal of public consideration and discussion in which, I believe, he has shown a fine example of impartiality and a strong sense of justice. I think it is only fair to say that in doing so he has followed the tradition that was established by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) when he was Minister for Education and Science.
Not so many years ago it would have been impossible or unthinkable for a Bill of this character to come before any Australian parliament. I remember the days when, if this kind of act of justice was suggested in political circles, one was told: It is too hot to handle’. One was told that it would cause an immense outburst of sectarianism and that it would lose votes. But today this is being done and one finds, as the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ said not so long ago, that the argument is no longer whether state aid is right but how much, in what form, under what conditions and to whom it should be paid.
Contrary to the opinion of those who felt that the bulk of Australians were influenced by considerations of sectarianism rather than considerations of justice, I find that the bulk of Australians support what some people call ‘aid’ but what I believe should be called ‘justice’ for independent schools. An interesting gallup poll was taken some time ago. It revealed that 65% of Australians favour justice for independent schools and that 62% of Australian Labor Party voters and 56% of Government parties voters favour it. When the poll turned to religion it was found, naturally, that Catholics favoured it but also that a majority of the non-Catholics in the community were in favour of it. So, in spite of any criticism, the fact remains that the Government is doing something that is supported by the overwhelming majority of the Australian people. 1 would like to think that that has come about because in all political parties a sense of justice has prevailed. But I believe that, without politicalising this discussion, I cun say that my Party had a good deal to do with making this, for the first time, an issue that could be debated in public. I say no more than that I am glad that the Australian people have accepted something which my Party first made an issue that Australians could debate without sectarianism and purely from the standpoint of justice. The policy of my Party on this matter is that parents have the right to choose an independent school for the education of their children. We claim that under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights a parent has the right to choose the form of education of his child. We also claim that one takes away that right from the parent if one makes it financially impossible for him to obtain for bis child the form of education in which he believes.
Therefore, my Party says that this matter should be treated on the basis of equality; that the Government should pay for each child in an independent school the same amount of money as it costs to educate a child in a government school. We point to the fact that the Commonwealth Government already follows such a procedure in the application of public money to hospitals. A patient may choose any registered hospital he likes, and the Commonwealth benefits are paid to that hospital on his behalf. It makes no difference whether it is a state hospital, a Catholic hospital or a private hospital. We say that the same principle should apply in education.
Today the annual cost of educating a child in a government school is more than $300. We recognise that it would be unrealistic to expect full equality overnight. We therefore accept this instalment of equality, and we hope that within S years equality by means of increasing grants will have been achieved. I believe that the Australian people have endorsed the principle that as every parent pays the taxes that are used to provide money for education, the children of every parent are entitled to a share in the disbursement of that money. I believe that that is a sound principle of justice. I welcome the Government’s adoption of it.
I would like to point to what is being done in a few other countries. Not a great number of countries developed to the degree that Australia has developed deny justice to independent schools. 1 would like honourable senators to join me in looking briefly at what is done in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales the State contributes 80% of the cost of all new school buildings. In addition, parish schools which come within the State system receive 100% of their running costs, teachers’ salaries, textbooks, ancillary school services and so on, at public expense, and the State meets the cost of teacher training colleges as well. What is being done in Australia, compared to what is done in Great Britain, is chicken feed.
In that part of Ireland the capital of which is Dublin, both the Catholic and Protestant schools are equally supported financially from State funds. Assistance is given for teacher training. Only a few weeks ago the Church of Ireland, which corresponds to the Church of England, opened a new training college near Rathmines in Dublin and the Government provided $1,100,000 as a grant towards its establishment. In Ulster, where one would expect such a proposition to be hotly contested, it is treated in a spirit of complete fairness. As is the case in England, the Ulster Government pays the salaries of teachers through the central educational authorities. The independent schools get maintenance grants of 64%. If they are prepared to have on their committees of management a representative of the local education authority, the Ulster Government pays 100% of the maintenance costs.
Scotland is the most generous country of all, in contradiction of suggestions sometimes made that Scots are canny where money is concerned. In Scotland today independent schools are supported by the local education authorities, which accept full and complete financial responsibility for all the elementary schools in their area. Public funds meet the cost of building and operating schools and the payment of teachers. Control is vested in school boards on which parents are represented. From what I have read of what is being done by the people of Scotland, I wish that a similar system prevailed in this country.
I wish to deal briefly - because we are short of time) - with the amendment moved by Senator Cohen. My Party is unable to support it. It states that the Bill fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools. I suppose that that charge could have been levelled at every government, State and Federal, that we have had in this country since responsible government came into existence. The amendment goes on to state that the Bill ignores the needs of government schools, to which governments have a primary obligation. I think there is a divisive influence in all suggestions that the Government has a superior duty to this type of school as against that type of school. I think we should look not at the duty of the Government to schools, but at the duty of the Government to the children. I acknowledge no superior duty of the Government to children according to the type of school that they attend.
I believe that the true and proper principle to adopt is that the Government has an equal responsibility for all the children of this country. The amendment then claims that the Bill makes grants indiscriminately to non-government schools without regard to needs and priorities. Not so many minutes ago my Party joined with the Australian Labor Party to call for abolition of the means test in respect of social services. It surprises me to find that the ALP now advocates a means test in education. Senator Cohen asked: ‘Why should wealthy parents receive the benefit of this legislation when they send their children to well-endowed schools?’ If that is the view of the ALP, why is it that it now fights for the principle that the pension shall be available to the multi-millionaire in this country in the same way as it is available to a poverty stricken person?
– And the payment of child endowment for the children of wealthy people.
– The principle of equity exists, as my friend says, in regard to child endowment. It exists with regard to medical benefits and over a whole field. Why do we have to bring In the principle of the means test for education? Behind it is the suggestion that there are extremely wealthy schools attended by the children of the idle rich, and that they ought not to benefit, or if they do, it will take something away from the poorer schools. The ALP suggests a means test only for independent schools. I have in mind schools like Melbourne Boys High School, MacRobertson Girls High School, and the University High School in Melbourne.
– Or Timbertop.
– No, that is an independent school. The three schools I have mentioned are government schools.
Where would you find better equipped or better staffed schools anywhere in Australia than the three schools I have mentioned, each of which is conducted by the Government? A very wealthy parent may well suggest to himself that his boy or girl should attend University High School, Melbourne Boys High School or MacRobertson Girls High School. Is the principle to be espoused that a millionaire can get his child into the best type of government school which would bear comparison with the best type of public school - as they are called in Victoria - and that if he sends his child to a government school of that type, he gets the benefit of government educational assistance, and if he sends the child to, say, Xavier College or Scotch College he does not? That indicates the principle that the ALP has to get over. I object to the suggestion that every parent who sends his child to Wesley College, Scotch College and similar schools is a wealthy person. Many parents make heavy sacrifices to send their children to those schools because they want them to have what they believe is the best.
I know from personal experience that many of those colleges give a considerable number of scholarships to poorer youngsters. When I was going to school I had one of those scholarships, because my parents were not very well endowed financially. Are we to adopt the suggestion that such schools will get nothing when they are providing that service for a large number of youngsters? In the days of the depression more than two-thirds of the children attending those schools paid no fees at all. Are we to adopt the attitude that they are to get nothing? I think that that would be repugnant to the average Australian. The only other point I want to make is that one can imagine the outburst of accusations of sectarianism which would have come if the Government had said: Well, we propose to exclude Scotch College and the Methodist Ladies College’, and similar schools, or if it had proposed to exclude those secondary schools which are conducted by the Protestant churches or the Jewish community on the ground that they were wealthy. Would not there have been a tremendous outburst of accusations of sectarianism? The suggestion would undoubtedly have been made that they were being excluded and the Catholic schools were to get the lot. So therefore my Party is not at all impressed with the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition.
In its amendment the Opposition says that it wants grants to government schools based on sums that are not less per student than those made to non-government schools under the Bill. The implication of that is remarkable. Any person who did not understand the system of education in this country would get the impression from that clause that the non-government schools were getting the lot and the government schools were getting nothing.
– That refers to this Bill.
– -To the Bill, if you like, but behind the campaign that is being worked at the present time is a deliberate attempt to put the impression in the mind of the parent of the child in a government school that his child is not getting a fair deal compared with the child in the independent school. Honourable senators know as well as I do that the finance being made available to the child in a government school is about three times as much as the finance being made available for the child in the independent school. That is, if the basis is $300 for state schools, as it used to be and $100 for non-State schools. Those figures may be open to question, but what is not open to question is the plain fact that even with what is being given to the child in the independent school, the amount of finance being made available for the child in the government school is infinitely greater.
I am sorry that for political purposes in this election certain people are attempting to suggest that the discrimination is all in favour of the child in the independent school and his parents as against others. I believe as I said at the beginning of my speech, that we should look at it from the point of view that our Government owes an equal responsibility to every child in the community. If all parents pay taxes then all parents’ children are entitled to equality in the disbursement of money made available for education. The question of a schools commission to examine and determine the needs of students is another matter, lt is a matter on which I have opinions one way and the other. I think it would need a lot more looking into than I have time to do at present.
The final point I want to make is that in reading the Minister’s second reading speech I noted that he said that the Premiers of all the States had indicated that they would be co-operative in putting into effect the provisions of this Bill but, of course, the Premiers can speak only for themselves and their parties. What the Commonwealth Government has to look at is the question of whether all kinds of governments will be co-operative. The official Opposition in Victoria, the Australian Labor Party, at its Conference some months ago carried two resolutions, one completely opposing what it called ‘atd for independent schools’ and the other a provision stating that the parliamentary party must accept directions of the parly machine.
– 1 do not think that is accurate, either.
– The Party Conference, would that be correct?
– There was nothing about accepting directions, it was a much more generally expressed definition of relations.
– It was stated in the Press that Mr Clyde Holding at the Conference asserted that if the motion was carried it would make the State parliamentarians of his Party completely amenable to direction by the Party itself.
– He said that it might bc misunderstood.
– I hope the honourable senator will clear it up. Taking into account the decision made by the Victorian Executive or Conference of the Australian Labor Party and asserted by an overwhelming majority with only two dissentients, according to one newspaper report, let me put this to the Opposition. If the Commonwealth Government were to give to the State of Victoria when a Labor government was in power money in the form of aid for independent schools and if the Australian Labor Party Executive directed the Labor Government of Victoria not to implement the aid what would the Commonwealth Government do? I think it is a fair question. 1 ask it only because I saw in the Minister’s speech a statement that the six
Premiers had agreed to co-operate. So 1 think it is fair to ask: What is the Commonwealth Government going to do if governments refuse to co-operate? Finally, let me say that I am in complete sympathy with the claims of government and independent schools for more Commonwealth financial assistance. I think they need it and they ought to get it. Because we are dealing with children, 1 think the way to deal with it is to give each child, no matter what school he attends, an equal sum for the purpose of his education.
– 1 want to indicate my support for the Bill because during the course of my life, like other honourable senators, I have had the opportunity of being associated wilh a number of schools, both government and independent, and of being involved with their administration. Latterly in one’s public duties, one sees something of them in the course of construction, in their maintenance and in their general operation. This has Icd me very strongly to believe that the measure which is before the Senate today is one that merits our support because, as I said the other day in speaking in another context, it is part of the Federal Government’s contribution to the total educational programme for our children and its influence on the next generation and decades to come is, of course, very important. This matter of Federal involvement in education is of recent origin as is the matter of government aid to independent schools. This point was raised by the previous speaker, but now such involvement has become an accepted fact, lt becomes a matter of interpretation and, indeed, of being aware of the needs and the nature of the needs as they arise.
The Government is concerned with the education of all Australian children. This has been outlined and stated over and over again in government speeches and, indeed, in government performance, whatever the school. If people expect the Government to deal properly with this situation as it applies to all children then the same people should expect that the institutions in our society that are known as independent schools should receive some support in order that they may be an integral part of the total education programme, lt is fair enough to say that, if we say they are entitled to receive this assistance, then they surely must accept the responsibility of maintaining standards of education and of holding the line at. a level that is acceptable to the State authorities and, in due course, to the Commonwealth educational authorities in terms of curricula.
There are many facets of life in Australia where the dual system of operations apply. The dual system does not apply only to education. But in whatever sphere it operates the dual system provides a wider range of services, a wider range of choice and a wider area of expression of one kind or another. The dual system in the education field of government and independent schools achieves this end. Indeed, the Government is anxious to continue the dual system. When speaking in another place the other day the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicated in strong terms that the Government favoured a continuation of the dual system of education on both educational and economic grounds. He said:
Just as there is a value in having separate systems in each State in the sense that it leads to wider opportunities for experimentation and to alternative lines of development, so too is there value in having an effective system of independent schools running side by side with the government schools.
Surely the fact that the Minister for Education and Science has indicated his support of the dual system and his acknowledgment of the value of government schools running side by side with independent schools is a very clear indication not only of the Government’s concern with independent schools but also, as I shall indicate later, with the section of educational institutions known as government schools. This will result in the total education of the younger generation of Australia as well as a wider diversity of interpretation in, as the Minister has observed, the field of experimentation and personal expression.
This Bill authorises special purpose grants lo the States for transmission to the independent schools as a contribution from the Commonwealth to their running costs. lt is pointed out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Education and Science in this chamber, that these grants will be made to what are known as independent schools and schools which are conducted for the profit of individuals will not be eligible for this kind of assistance. I note with special satisfaction that the Premiers of every State of the Commonwealth have indicated the willingness of their respective governments to cooperate with the Commonwealth in this new programme. Surely this is an indication that each Premier has recognised instantly that this amount of assistance will be of benefit to the education programme in his State and that in its own way not only will it provide for diversity of and greater dimensions in the lives of the people within his State but also it will be of great economic value to him as Premier in his grapple with the educational programmes that confront him as the communities grow and develop and the demands made upon the educational facilities are intensified. 1 am pleased that provision is made in the Bill for an annual report to be made to the Parliament. This programme will at all times be under a certain amount of controversy and it will draw to it a certain amount of inquiry - perhaps more inquiry than other areas of education - but if there is an annual report to the Parliament which indicates the total payments made, together with the particulars of the amounts authorised for each school, it will mean that this kind of assistance will be under the constant scrutiny of parliaments now and in the future and they will be able to give it their attention and express their judgments upon it. 1 want to say one or two things in relation to the development of independent schools within the total Australian education system. I had the very great privilege of spending a short period of time at an independent school. Like several other members of the Parliament, I attended Scotch College in Adelaide. My term came at a period when the economic condition of the country was somewhat depressed. I know something about the sacrifices that parents and others sometimes have to make to enable children to have the opportunity I had. In later years I had the privilege of sitting on the council of this College and I know something about the economic problems it has and the endeavours it has to make to meet the many demands and pressures upon it to provide a standard of education. The more I compare this type of school with the government schools the more I am convinced that it is educationally desirable for governments to support independent schools. I am also persuaded that it is equally economically desirable to the general taxpayer. If all children who are now enrolled in independent schools were to transfer to government schools the enrolment figures would be increased enormously - probably somewhere in the vicinity of one-third. I need not paint any picture at this stage to indicate some of the problems which could arise.
Independent schools have come under increased financial pressure in recent years. A great burden has been placed upon them as they have endeavoured to meet the high standards required by the educational systems within the States, by the universities to which they send their students and by the business and other institutions which employ the students when they have completed their education. I am sure that the independent schools will remain an integral part of the total system. Despite the pressures which are put upon them and the heavy overdrafts that so many of them are carrying they are surviving. But they cannot carry on much longer unless there is some support or an indication of some support from another source. At this point of time the Commonwealth Government is regarded as the most suitable source. I emphasise what I have just said by referring to a statement which was made in July of this year by Mr Herman, the President of the Victorian Parents and Friends Federation. He is reported as having said that:
Independent schools educated 25% of Australian children and any collapse of even part of this system would strain state schools to breaking point.
He went on to say that Australia would face an era of low educational standards. This is something that we cannot apprehend at this point of time. I wish to echo what Senator McManus said about the world situation in relation to education in independent schools. I read an article in the ‘World Year Book of Education 1966* entitled Church and State in Education’. I would like to leave with the Senate one or two quotations from this very knowledgeable source. The article states:
The debates about the state’s position in regard to non-state schools-
Meaning independent schools - have been going on ever since national provision of education emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but the urgency is now greater. The problem has changed in emphasis somewhat: It is no longer simply whether there ought to be religious instruction in schools and whether the slate ought to give money to religious schools but whether in view of the investment notion it can afford not to do so.
I substitute the term ‘independent schools’ for ‘religious schools’. The article continues:
Again 1 substitute the term ‘independent schools’ for the terms ‘church schools’ and parochial schools’. There is a world-wide reaction to the vast educational changes that have taken place, lt has become commonplace to talk in terms of the triple explosion in the areas of knowledge, population and aspirations, all of which bear very heavily on education. From the cost point of view the implications are disturbing to the independent schools. Financial arrangements which worked fairly well some years ago are now stretched to the limit. 1 repeat that government aid for independent schools is a subject which is receiving world-wide consideration.
In the few minutes left to me I wish to put before the Senate information which was compiled by the Department of Education and Science in regard to what is proposed in 1969-70. This information bears very heavily on the amendment which is before the Senate. Part of the Opposition’s amendment refers to the fact that the Bill is an inadequate contribution to education in Australia because it ignores the needs of government schools. To answer that suggestion in the amendment and for the information of honourable senators I give the following figures: For the year 1969-70 the estimated expenditure for government school purposes in the States is $39m, which includes expenditure on science laboratories, technical training colleges, secondary school libraries and teacher training colleges. For independent schools, including the per capita grants about which we are talking, the total is $24m. For school purposes in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory the total is $24m. There is only $lm for independent schools. The $24m is for government schools.
Other payments to the States cover a wide range including universities right through to pre-school teachers’ colleges. The total for Government institutions is SI 01m. There is not one amount for independent schools in this sector. Other payments by the Commonwealth, referring to payments to the Australian National University, the Canberra College of Advanced Education, scholarships, departmental expenditure and miscellaneous, total $74m for government institutions with nothing for independent schools. The grand total for government institutions throughout Australia amounts to $5 14m and the grand total for independent schools throughout Australia amounts to $26m. This includes the figures about which we are talking tonight. I support the Rill. I leave those figures for the information of honourable senators.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– The Bill that we are discussing is a most interesting one. It is one which for me brings back great memories of the political life of this nation. Generally the philosophy of the Liberal Party of Australia is to leave things as they are and to avoid change. I know that at times honourable senators opposite jibe at the Australian Labor Party because ours is a Party of change. If we were not a Party of change there would be no need for our existence. I remember well sitting at home during the 1963 election campaign and listening to a policy speech by Sir Robert Menzies, a man for whom I had very great respect because 1 love a winner. I have no doubt that he was delivering the policy speech on behalf of the Liberal Party to a special audience. Obviously it was not the type of audience that we used to have at ordinary public meetings in the past when policy speeches were delivered.
In the course of his speech Sir Robert Menzies was putting forth his Government’s various plans and telling people what his Party would do if returned to government. Then he came to this remarkable statement about which not many members of the Liberal Party knew - they were as much in the dark as I was - that his Government would give $5m a year to independent schools, as they are now termed, for science blocks. Of course I, in my innocence, made a few discreet inquiries. When one has been in politics for a long while one gets to know many people, so I was able to approach the right person to ask: ‘Was that the price?’ The answer was yes. As a result of this offer to assist the independent schools the Liberal Party attracted the second preferences and was able to win 14, 15 or 16 scats which enabled it to remain in office.
The next form of aid to schools was for libraries. That form of assistance was not so much out of the blue, as one might say, because the Government had already crossed the Rubicon by providing aid for science blocks. By this time the issue of state aid had been decided and it had become merely a matter of degree, a question of how much. Having given so many mil Lion dollars for libraries, there had to be a third measure of assistance to independent schools. I hope that honourable senators opposite do not think that they can stop at this point; the principle of state aid has been established and, if they want to remain in office, they will have to go on, election after election, offering further assistance until we reach the position in Australia that Senator McManus told us has come about in other countries. I suggest that anyone who has taken a keen interest in the political life of this nation can reach no other conclusion.
I have clear recollections of a time when, as a State member of Parliament, I was leader of my Party in the Legislative Council. At that time also we were a Party of change - we wanted change. In the Council the Labor Party then had eight votes and was supporting a Country Party government. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this chamber, is well aware that votes are important. I had an interest in a school in Hamilton where my sister, God bless her, had been a teacher of the Good Samaritan Order. Although my sister had left the school, the Reverend Mother at the convent knew rae and wrote to me saying that a teacher at the state school would not allow a couple of her pupils to travel on the school bus. I went to the Minister for Education, who was a member of the Country Party, and said: ‘Listen, brother, if you do not fix that you can forget our votes’. So honourable senators will ap preciate that aid to independent schools is a matter of degree. On that occasion I was able to get aid for that school by telling the Minister for Education that he would have to give some assistance if he wanted our votes. Consider Senator Gair’s position during the years when he was Premier of Queensland. As a member of the Labor Party, what did he do at that time? What have members of the Labor Party in New South Wales been able to achieve in this way? Even my friend Senator McManus - he is my friend - who led a political party in the Victorian Parliament after I had left it, will agree that the Labor Party’s policy then was free secular education, a policy which it maintained for many years.
– Free compulsory education?
– Free compulsory and secular education. Our Party has had a policy of change over the years, and now the executive of the Party has, without equivocation, said that the States cannot carry the burden of education for the children of this country without significant help from the Commonwealth, apart from what the States receive in reimbursement grants from which a large sum is taken in each State for education. Therefore we say that the Government, having crossed the Rubicon in 1963, has committed itself and further aid becomes a matter of degree only. It will have to continue to give aid because the moment that it stops doing so it is likely to lose between 14 and 16 seats in another place. Even governments cannot live unless they have the numbers, and so this Government will be pressed and further pressed for aid in future. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) has submitted an amendment to this Bill. His amendment is not contrary to the principle of the measure. We support the Bill - we are not opposing it - but we are a Party of change and will always be a Party of change. There would be no room for us in the political life of this country unless we were a Party of change.
– Your Party changes too often for most of your supporters.
– I do not know why the honourable senator is opposed to change. I know that he has two thoughts in mind. I do not want to be hard on him - I prefer to be gentle, as I always am - but first of all he wants to maintain his seat in this place and, secondly, he wants to change his seat in this place. Good luck to him if he can do so. I have nothing against that, but that is the reason that he will not fall our of step or want his Party to become a Party of change.
– Will you change your wool policy?
– At the moment I am dealing with education. If a wool Bill comes up and the honourable senator wants me to talk for half an hour on that I will be able to do so.
– What about rabbits?
– Yes, I trapped them once. I know about them. Senator Cohen says in the amendment that this measure fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools. No-one can quibble about that because it is true. All that the Government is doing in this measure is saying that it will provide $35 for each child who attends a primary school and $55 for each child attending a secondary school. I am delighted wilh that because the schools that my grandsons go to will get some benefit. There will be $55 for the brothers and $35 for the nuns. I only hope that it will be more; do not make any error about it. I am sorry as far as one section of education is concerned. It has not made a decision over the long years whether it wants the mind of the child from 7 to J 2 years or from 12 on. I have advocated this in certain circles over a long period. Financially, the schools cannot keep going. The only reason that the Government is making this provision is to gain votes. The Government may have a second thought. The statement was made here that unless this aid is provided one system will break down. I do not know why the Government has not come in to a greater extent with aid foi pre-school kindergartens. It is true, as I heard someone mention, that only about one child in ten attends or can attend a preschool centre, whether it is a kindergarten under the state system or whatever it is. I have another grandson attending one of these centres and I think it costs his parents $1 a week. If the Government is going to do a thing it should not do it piecemeal. Do not be forced into the position of having to do a bit more every 2 or 3 years. There is a famous saying that one should grasp the nettle.
I do not think the Government should have to be pushed all along the line. Why do we not make a go of it now and give children a chance of education? One of the most difficult things to do in Melbourne at the present time is to get kiddies of 5 years into a school of their parents’ choice. I know what I am speaking about. A tremendous number of independent schools are ceasing to take children in the first three classes - whatever they may be called. Some are even refusing to take children in the fourth class because they cannot afford to do so. The cost of employing lay teachers in one section of the independent schools is flooding the whole economic position of those schools. The schools cannot pay these teachers and they cannot employ them.
Do not think that these teachers work for less in Catholic schools. I prefer not to use that term, but I want to be explicit. Do not think that these schools get the teachers any more cheaply than do other schools. When a person has only his labour to sell, whether it be as a teacher or as an adviser to Ministers - be what it may - he sells it in the best market. He sells it at least in conformity with the prices that are paid elsewhere. I do not think that honourable senators opposite can argue against the statement in the amendment that the Bill fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools. It ignores the needs of government schools. Why are we having all the trouble today in state schools, as we call them in Victoria? It is for one reason: The teachers are not being paid the wages to which they are entitled. If 20 years ago I had heard any suggestion of a teacher going on strike I would have said: ‘Good God, what is the world coming to?’ But teachers are stopping work today. They are in the economic world of rising prices. They have lived in a certain economic stratum of society and they want to remain there.
The Government must be prepared to provide more money for state education either through the normal channels when Premiers come to Canberra for tax reimbursements, or by providing money along these lines. Unless this is done the Government will have trouble. It is not only one government or one particular Party in government in Victoria that has been at fault. Governments over long years have gone to weak trusts that look after parks and have taken, say, a quarter of the area. Thank God they have not come to me; they would not get it. Then they build a school. For one school mentioned by Senator McManus - a very good school, MacRobertson Girls School - a bit was taken out of a park with no thought of where physical education was to be had.
There is no thought of ensuring that schools have sufficient land for playing areas. I do not know what is done in other Slates but school authorities are finding it extremely difficult, no doubt financially, to buy sufficient areas not only to build a school but also to provide playing areas. The Government ignores them altogether. Do not say that they do not need money, because they do. In the Albert Park area about 2 minutes walk from where I live - Senator McManus would know it - there is an old state school which is being used as the South Melbourne High School. No doubt my friend and colleague from Victoria, Senator Greenwood, has read and heard about it.. There is some stupid idea of closing a road so that the school can get a bit more space.
The Government should not think for one moment that the state education system can run unless the Government comes in behind it and does more. I know that State authorities come here and tell how much it costs, but costs are running haywire and the State Education Department finds itself in a position where it cannot give to the school children for which it has accepted the responsibility the education that they deserve. The amendment proposed by Senator Cohen states that the Bill makes grants indiscriminately to non-government schools without regard to needs and prioritics. I believe that if the Government cannot do the whole job it should provide for the schools which need assistance most. Who needs it most in the non-government sector? The needs of the primary schools are greatest. I wonder whether other honourable senators hear as much about this in their homes as I hear. I have six grandchildren for whom schools have to be found. The primary schools have the greatest need. Therefore I say with great respect that if there is only a certain amount of money such schools as Xavier, Scotch, Grammar, Wesley and Geelong should not come into it at the present time, because those schools and the schools on the second rung - what we know as the Christian Brothers colleges - have got their share out of the provision made for science blocks and libraries. Most of the primary schools were not worried about that.
– The Christian Brothers pool their resources and the affluent schools help to pay for the poorer ones.
– That may or may not be the case. That may happen in your State.
– We are so far in advance of the other States in the matter of aid and so on that you would not recognise it.
– I gave you credit for what you did. Now I am certain that we want to be friendly. I do not want to take the credit from you but the facts are that the primary schools in the nongovernment sector need assistance urgently.
– That is the means test you are advocating?
– The Government has only a certain amount to give. Pressure will be applied and the Government will succumb. There is no doubt about that. That is only ordinary political common sense. The Government has only a certain amount to give at present so why not give it to the most needy, and as the Government is forced to give more in the future, as it will be, it can spread the amount over the whole sector. I do not care whether our proposal is called a means test or anything else. To me it is common sense and helping those who need help most.
– It is a bit different from the Bremner resolution of 1957.
– I think you will remember that we were both on the same side fighting pretty hard at that time.
– The conference carried Bremner’s resolution 36 to nil.
– That is right. Our proposal is that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to provide grants to government schools that are not less than those made to non-government schools under the Bill. What is wrong with that?
This idea that everyone must have a degree before he can get a job cuts no ice with me. With great respect, my only concern is that nothing happens to my sewer when there are no plumbers. I do not want fellows with degrees messing around with my sewer because I know they will not be able to fix it. That is all that concerns me with all this talk about Arts degrees and everything else. Senator Davidson cited some very interesting figures. I do not know them so I will not deny them, but at least, according to him, they showed a huge increase in the funds given to government schools compared to non-government schools. That is true, but that does not mean that the amounts being given are sufficient. We should remember that this country has taken on the responsibility of educating its children. Some sections of the community have said that they will educate their own children and they have suffered and have paid for it. Now they have sufficient political power to say: ‘The time has come when we can get a bit back’. That gives me a little bit of pleasure too.
– But you want to limit it, do you not?
– No, I will not limit it and neither will the Government, otherwise the Government will be on this side of the chamber. It is only a matter of time. The Government started this assistance in 1963. In 1966 it gave a bit more and now it is giving a bit more again. In those circumstances I ask what is wrong with this paragraph in Senator Cohen’s proposed amendment:
The immediate establishment of an Australian schools commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and nongovernment primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities.
– That sounds to me a bit like Mr Hartley’s policy. But he is much further left than that, is he not?
– You should know me. I never run away. I have a habit of saying what I think. I ask you, what is wrong with our proposal? I am surprised that my four ex-colleagues will vote against it because it would give to them the ultimate much quicker than they will get it otherwise. All they will get from the Government is a bit every 3 years. Some bits may be large; some may be small.
asked: ‘Why do you want an Australian schools commission? Is there not already an Australian Education Council? But what did the Government do in the matter of health? It set up a committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Nimmo. Is there not a council of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health and their offsiders? There is not a department, State or Commonwealth, which does not get together with its counterpart at some time during the year. I do not blame them for that. It may be useful in the interests of good government. So what is wrong with our proposal? Let us know the priorities. Let us know the needs. Honourable senators on the Government side would be only political babes if they believed that the Government will not go on and on and on. It will move even faster than I am able to speak the words.
– Members of the Labor Party must have been political babes when they went back and back and back.
– You know my opinion, do you not?
– The 1953 conference of the Party carried a resolution for state aid. In 1957 it was abolished.
– You know the position as well as I do because we were together at the 1953 and 1955 conferences. We were beaten in 1955 but we won in 1953. There is no doubt that the Bill before us will be carried. The Government has the only essential ingredient in politics - the numbers.
– And you said that you were supporting it.
– No. I want to know why the Government will not support our proposition. I do not mind anything that is said as long as our amendment is supported. I believe that it is logical. I believe that it would serve the interests of the scholars of this nation. It would build them better schools and, in time, I believe that it would put an end to the unrest that exists at present in the teaching profession. I notice from the Press that it exists not only in my own State but elsewhere. I nearly died when I read that teachers were becoming militant. But then I remembered what a very great man in my life, Mr Chifley, once said to me, namely: ‘The most important nerve in anyone’s body is the hip pocket nerve’. The teachers are being touched on the hip pocket nerve and therefore they are interested in getting a better deal.
As I said earlier, what we have done is logical from our point of view. We are a party of change.If we were otherwise, we would have no right to exist as a political party.
– That is why you put away your Socialist policy.
– I have signed that, just as the honourable senator did for a long period of years.I remember his name as well as my own on it. On the practical side, everyone knows that nothing can be socialised or nationalised as long as the Constitution is as it is. I only hope that honourable senators will understand the reasons why Senator Cohen has done what he has done. I do not think anyone can say that it is illogical.
Senator McManus said in his speech that this money is being given to governments and he asked what would happen in Victoria if Labor were in government in that State. With his years in the Party, he knows as well as I do that when there is conflict between the Federal policy and State policy on a matter the Federal policy prevails, just as it does under the Australian Constitution.
– The Federal policy is accepted.
– Yes, it is.
– Not on unity tickets.
– I do not want to run away from anything, but I do not want to say any more. I am sorry that I have taken the time I have taken. I support the logical amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party.
– I welcome the opportunity to bring the attention of the Senate back to the Bill that is before it. It is a Bill to provide grants to the States for payment to independent schools. The amount that is provided for under the Bill is to be assessed on the basis that for each student at a secondary independent school an amount of$50 will be paid to the State and for each student at a primary independent school an amount of$35 will be paid to the State.
It is true that this measure has excited a great deal of public controversy. I believe that the form that it takes is significant because the form indicates what is the fact, namely, that the Commonwealth has no direct power over the subject matter of education and that if the Commonwealth desires to act to provide assistance in educational fields it must act through the States by making grants to them. It follows, therefore, that the States retain the power and the ability to determine the allocation of funds that are available to them in whatever educational fields appear to them to be appropriate.
It is relevant in one’s consideration of this measure to recognise that the Commonwealth acted at the express request of the Premiers of two States and that in all the States of the Commonwealth there have been, with differing effect and in differing degree, provisions under which the independent schools have received assistance from State governments. A further significant fact is that there is broad agreement among all the political parties that independent schools require financial assistance, and that all political parties are now prepared to make such assistance available.
It is curious - I believe that there is a degree of inconsistency in the Australian Labor Party’s approach - that it says that this measure is to be supported, yet by an amendment it seeks to have the measure withdrawn. As Senator Kennelly indicated, the Labor Party stresses reasons why the measure is inadequate. I was intrigued by the references that he made to the history of this matter. He, of course, has a reputation - a deserved reputation - of being one of the most astute political gymnasts in this country. I noted with some pleasure the great enthusiasm with which his colleagues on his side of the chamber welcomed his justification of this measure.
All I can suppose is that, although he was not present at the Labor Party conference which in the spirit of change to which he referred altered the Party’s policy yet again some 2 months ago, his influence was there to be heard and felt.
– You were not present either.
– No, but one reads a lot about what happened at that conference. We know that the Labor Party quite belatedly, after having had a record of indifference on this issue, indeed a record of positive opposition to this issue, decided that because it was an election year and because a plastering job was being undertaken now was the time for the Party to adopt the principle of state aid.
– Many politicians change their minds in an election year, apparently. You prevented us from having this issue discussed about 6 months ago when you voted with the Opposition.
– I do not know what Senator Little is referring to. He would well know what the Labor Party has done to change its views in an election year. If Senator Little, with that misrepresentation which is his particular forte at the present time, chooses to say without reference to the record what I might have said in the past, he is merely running true to form. All I am concerned to assert is that this is an instance in which the Labor Party has followed the great spirit of change to which Senator Kennelly referred. The element of change is pursuing it fast because at the same time as it says that it supports this measure it indicates that it wants to have the measure withdrawn because it is unsatisfactory. The way Senator Kennelly expressed his viewpoint demonstrated yet again his versatility as a political gymnast.
As I see this measure, it has a number of justifications to support it. In the first place the Government has indicated over a period of years that it recognises that there has developed in this country what it calls a dual system of education. That dual system of education has been recognised in the statutes of all the States, I think, for approximately 100 years. The present situation, which has been well recognised - as I understand the position, no-one challenges it - is that independent schools require assistance. They need some finance for recurrent expenses. They need to reduce the sizes of classes and to improve the pupilteacher ratio, which is far higher in independent schools than in government schools generally.
Above all else, the children who attend independent schools are entitled to have available to them opportunities reasonably comparable with those available to children who attend government schools. If parents, because they have certain religious beliefs or because they have the idea that their children will receive a better training at independent schools, decide to send their children to independent schools rather than to take advantage of the government system, their children should not be penalised because of the inadequacies of the existing independent school system. It follows that independent schools, because they are part of the system of education in this country, are entitled to recognition by the Government as requiring assistance if a lack of finance is denying to children in those schools the opportunity of educational advantages open to children in government schools. I think it may also fairly be said that taxpayers with children at independent schools are entitled to look for some assistance from the public purse. I think the facts which have been disclosed in the public controversy which has surrounded all the discussions on this measure indicate that independent schools throughout this country at present receive from State governments less than 1% of the total moneys spent by State governments on primary and secondary education.
It is also evident that if all pupils at independent schools were to go to government schools - not that it is likely but it indicates a position which could arise - the enrolments in government schools would increase by about 30%. In terms of financial cost to the Government, this would involve an amount estimated at about $130m without any resulting improvement in the standards currently existing at government schools. I said that there can be no real belief that all children at independent schools will overnight be transferred to government schools, but there are indications that a trend is developing whereby more students are going to government schools than to independent schools. The proportion of children attending independent schools as against children attending government schools is one in four. In all the estimates which have been made in recent years it has been supposed that any increase in enrolments at independent and government schools would be roughly in that proportion; but the figures which are available indicate that throughout Australia over the last 3 years enrolments in primary government schools increased by over 100,000, whereas enrolments in primary independent schools decreased by 1,000. One would have supposed that if the proportion of one in four were being maintained, far from a decrease of 1,000 pupils attending primary independent schools, there would have been an increase of between 20,000 and 25,000 students.
The fact is that independent schools are not drawing students in the same proportion as previously. The proportion of students commencing at independent schools has fallen and the result is that a greater burden is thrown upon government schools. That is part of the problem which has to be met, as I readily concede it must be met, by government schools; but it also indicates the inability of independent schools as at present constituted to take those students whom they would otherwise be prepared to take.
I would have thought that the reasons in support of this measure which the Government has introduced would be well recognised. However, it stands reiteration that the reasons of the character I have mentioned must have prevailed with the major political parties in this country and that they accept the need for assistance to be given to independent schools. Certain attacks have been made on this measure, albeit they have been made under the guise of supporting the Bill but wanting it withdrawn. It may be that this great spirit of change to which Senator Kennelly has referred has also overtaken the Labor Party in the short space of time between the introduction of this measure in the other place and its introduction in the Senate, because as recently as 23rd September the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is reported to have said - he originally made the remark in speaking on the Budget - these words:
The Liberals have chosen instead to make grants to non-government schools alone and on the basis of enrolments alone. There is not one cent in the Budget for government schools which cater for the needs of three out of every four Australian schoolchildren.
That was a clear statement. Its import is that in the Budget the Government was doing nothing for government schools. It is a statement which is entitled to be regarded as having weight because it came from the Leader of the Opposition. It is incredible that a statement of that character could be made, because an examination of the Budget indicates that the statement is totally false. When a statement like that is made and repeated it must cast doubt on the veracity of statements of any character made by the Leader of the Opposition. It may well explain why the Leader of the Opposition is not relied upon by people in the community.
– Cut it out.
– The record shows that the statement was made. I do not believe that Senator Cohen would make such a statement because he knows that there is provision in the Budget for government schools. Yet Mr Whitlam’s statement indicates positively and unequivocally that there is not. An examination of the Budget shows that there is provision not only for science blocks and libraries but also for teacher training. The greater part of those moneys is provided for government schools. In money terms the Budget contemplates an expenditure of about $24m Which will go to the States to be handed to independent schools for libraries and science blocks, and to the grants covered by this measure. In this current year about $40m will be direct expenditure to government schools. That does not represent the sole contribution which the Commonwealth Government is making to educational facilities throughout this country.
The amendment proposed by the Labor Party states that the Bill fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools. My reaction to that assertion is that the contributions by the Government over the years are far more coherent and systematic than would result from an ordinary ad hoc approach which might be - but would not necessarily be - deserving of censure. It is quite unreal to say that the activity of the Commonwealth Government in the field of education shows no proper appreciation of the problems of education throughout this country. I ask honourable senators to direct their minds back to 1956 when the Murray Committee was appointed. An examination was carried out in depth by that well qualified committee of the needs of universities. Action was taken on the Committee’s report and ever since our universities have been financed through the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission. Subsequently the Martin Committee was appointed and again there is evidence of a systematic approach to the problems of education.
– All tertiary.
– All right. The Commonwealth Government, having made inroads into the tertiary field and recognising that there are problems in secondary and primary fields, determined what action should be taken in those fields. It must be borne in mind that the Commonwealth Government, acting in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution, deals with educational matters by co-operation with the States. The Commonwealth cannot decide that there is an area of need as the Commonwealth sees it and that it will immediately rectify the position. It must have regard to the feelings and rights of the States. We must live in a situation where these different views have to be accommodated. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Government initiated the grants to the States for the provision of science laboratories and equipment. That was on a basis which was obviously considered and rational and designed to meet a particular need. Thereafter we have assistance given by the Commonwealth in the field of teacher training, in the field of technical training facilities, in the field of secondary libraries and, of course, to a limited degree in the pre-school field. If that is regarded as lacking comprehension of the problems that exist, if it is regarded as lacking in system, then I feel that those accusations are made without any real appreciation or any willingness to give credit for what the Government has done and the rationale upon which it has operated.
– Why is there a crisis in education then?
– That is one of the silly remarks which we hear so often from the members of the Labor Party. We have been hearing for the last 15 years that there is a crisis in education. I will give honourable senators just one fact which emerged from Victorian experience and which might help to explain something that I think has not yet sunk in. In Victoria in 1953 there were fewer than 1,000 matriculation students at high schools. Today there are over 10,000 and that is an elevenfold increase. The number of high schools in Victoria in 1955 was 88 and now there are over 250. That is an increase of something like 400%. It is the very fact that figures like that can be demonstrated - and those figures are true - which illustrates the sort of problem which all governments have had to cope with.
It is the coping with those problems which has been castigated by the perpetual Opposition of this country as the crisis in education. There has never been sufficient recognition of the facts I have just stated. It is the failure of the Opposition to recognise the tremendous achievements which have been made, and the constant belittling of the Government by reference to a crisis in education, which more than anything, I believe, has contributed to the Opposition being so pathetically in opposition over the years. When one examines what has been provided in the course of the last few years by the Commonwealth Government in terms of actual financial contributions one finds that the Government has made provision for grants to the States for the purpose of acquiring science laboratories and equipment over a 6-year period of a total amount of $S0m. In this current year the amount is $7. 2m. In the field of libraries for secondary schools there is a 6-year programme involving S27m and the amount to be provided this year is S6.7m. Likewise for teacher training places in teachers colleges an amount of SI 3m is granted to the States. Over the next 3 years S54m will be provided for over 12,000 places. The same applies to colleges of advanced education.
A further 1,700 places are being made available with Commonwealth assistance, in co-operation with the States, and the amount to be expended is some SI 4m. The estimates of the Martin Committee as to the number of teachers that would be trained in the next 5 years have in fact been exceeded. I mention these matters because they are part of a record which discloses that the attack made upon the Government that it has done nothing whatever for government schools is an attack made without an examination of the record or without regard for what in fact has been done.
The amounts which I have mentioned are, of course, grants which have been made in an area of capital expenditure. They might also be regarded as grants which are given for specified objectives.
What is new and what is distinctive about this measure is that for the first time there is a Commonwealth move into the field of grants for recurrent expenditures. Before this measure came in I would have felt that it was desirable for the Commonwealth to retain, if possible, as its field of activity a specific objective as it did in the case of science blocks and libraries for secondary schools. But this is a field in which the Government has felt that there would be difficulties in taking a specific objective. That certainly is not the viewpoint which is adopted by any other party. In terms of practical politics it is not capable of achievement.
– Have you ever visited a primary school?
– I have a son going to a government primary school, if that serves the purpose which the honourable senator is trying to get at by asking the question. 1 should have preferred an approach which would have taken a specific objective, and because such an objective was chosen, to have permitted an amount to be allocated to government schools and an amount to independent schools, as in the case of science blocks and libraries. There are very practical advantages in achieving that. What the Government has done is to adopt a policy which is dual in its approach. It has adopted a policy of providing assistance for the independent schools, and through the Australian Education Council it has undertaken as a matter of some urgency an investigation as to what are the needs and priorities of all schools so that when that survey has been completed there can be assistance provided in the field of government schools and additionally in the field of independent schools.
– Who is to undertake that survey - the respective States?
– I can only say that if Senator Milliner is interested in pursuing this matter further, the record is available. The Minister has stated on many occasions that it is being carried out by the State Education Ministers together with the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It is a survey being conducted by their departments, lt is also suggested that in some way the Government has ignored the needs of government schools. That was the main attack which Senator Cohen made on this measure and in support of his amendment. But the financing of government schools is and always has been a primary function of the State governments. The Commonwealth Government cannot intrude into the very heart of a State government department and, applying some condition to a grant of moneys, determine how the State Education Department shall apply its funds. Any intrusion of that character is direct interference with and usurpation of a State government’s function. That is not what this measure provides and, of course, it is in accordance with the general Labor policy of having an Australian schools commission that this should occur. May I in conclusion suggest that the Labor Party is endeavouring to have something not only each way, but every way.
– We do not have a narrow outlook like you.
– The honourable senator is concerned only because the election is near. If one examines the Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Labor Party of 1969 one finds that the Labor Party has an elaborate policy about an Australian schools commission and an Australian pre-schools commission, both of which to have any effectiveness must involve the taking over by these commissions of functions presently carried out by State Education Departments. Then we find a special pre-election resolution which is called ‘Emergency Education Grants’. Under this resolution what the Labor Party has on the record that it is proposing:
The resolution continues:
Notwithstanding any other provision of the policy or platform, any emergency grant made by the Commonwealth for education shall be such as to give government schools a sum that is not less per student than any grant made to nongovernment schools.
I leave aside the fact that Mr Whitlam has already promised SI 00m for education as well as hundreds of millions of dollars for other things. My point in referring to that resolution is to say that it destroys fundamentally Senator Cohen’s statement that the Australian Labor Party would have regard to special needs when examining the position. Here we have the Labor Party offering to give SI 00m to the States and at the same time trying to decry the Government’s measure on the basis that in the terms of the amendment, it fails to have regard to the needs and priorities. The Labor Party stands condemned because, under its platform, it is guilty of precisely the crime - if it is a crime - with which it is now charging the Government. When there is such hypocrisy and inconsistency in the Labor Party’s approach is it surprising that Senator Kennelly’s statement that there is a great spirit of change in the Labor Party is a particularly telling message?
– The effort that the Australian Labor Party has made during the debate on this Bill to give the appearance that there is genuine unity in the support for the principle of aid to independent schools has been to no avail. It is quite apparent from the way in which the Opposition presented its case that there is still disunity on the subject and that honourable senators opposite remain disconcerted and discredited. The only advocate the Opposition trundled forward in support of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) was a veteran and venerable member of the Opposition, Senator Kennelly, who revealed that since about 1953 he has been an advocate - apparently to no avail - in the Australian Labor Party for state aid for independent schools. Senator Kennelly made it quite clear that he was convinced that but for this measure being advanced by the Government there would have been a collapse of the two-school system. He said that the area which is chiefly in need of assistance in the educational field today is the primary non-government school area.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask you to bear in mind this statement by Senator Kennelly, which is unfavourable to the Party he supports, as well as the pre-election resolution referred to by Senator Greenwood, when determining whether this moulded appearance of unity and support for aid for independent schools is in fact the real position. It was reported yesterday that the Executive of the Labor Party had split 7 votes to 4 on the question whether it would provide total opposition to the Bill and that when the matter went to Caucus the move for outright opposition was supported by 15 votes and opposed by 38. But let us proceed on from that little reflection upon politics and consider the arguments put forward by those who really oppose aid to independent schools.
The Opposition claims that the Bill is an inadequate contribution to education in Australia because it fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools. The first thing that should be borne in mind in that respect is that the Government has been developing its education policy for something like 16 or 17 of the 20 years it has been in office. Its policy has followed the course of providing assistance to universities and then advancing aid to the various facets of education. Colleges of advanced education have been set up. The Government is now, by way of direct finance, assisting the States to expand education. It is moving into the field of providing aid for independent schools. These schools are an indispensable part of the school system and are necessary if education is to be provided to the youth of the nation.
The Opposition’s second claim is that the Bill is inadequate in that it ignores the needs of the government schools. The Opposition beguiles the people of Australia by saying that we have before us a measure which is specifically devoted to supporting independent schools. The Opposition claims that this legislation is unfair because nothing is provided for the support of the government schools. In 1963-64 the Commonwealth provided by way of direct grants about 12% of the total capital expenditure by the States on education. The Commonwealth now provides one-third of the total capital expenditure by the States on education. It should be noted that in regard to the recurrent side of the expenditure the States have increased their expenditure on schools and teacher training from $300m in 1963-64 to $500m in 1968-69.
– And they are still in trouble.
– A further comment I wish to make - it may even penetrate into the mind of Senator Georges if he listens - is that since 1957 nearly 1,000 new government schools have been established, a large percentage of them being secondary schools. Honourable senators should be able to appreciate from those figures the degree of assistance the Government has provided to the school systems in the States. I shall refer to two States in particular. The South Australian Budget this year provides for an increase of 11% in education expenditure. The Victorian Budget this year provides for an increase of 14% in education expenditure. Those figures indicate that when there are Liberal governments operating in thefield of education the State school system is regarded as of primary responsibility. These governments have made it their objective to expand the State school system in the way I have mentioned. In order to put the matter in true perspective, I point out that between 1961-62 and the present time the direct expenditure of the Commonwealth on education has risen from $55m to $266m. One can see from those figures that the Government, together with its partners in the States, has been able to provide increased assistance to the State school system.
The third item that Senator Cohen advanced as criticism of this measure is that it makes grants indiscriminately to nongovernment schools without regard to needs and priorities. What remedy does the Australian Labor Party offer? What does it say in regard to needs and priorities? It does not, of course, come forward and candidly inform the people of Australia that it would consider the asset value of a school, the wealth of the parents or the opportunities available to the children. The Labor Party will try to cover that up in some way until after the forthcoming election. But it is unquestionable that the Labor Party’s proposals in this respect involve an imposition of a means test on education. How hollow are such proposals when we remember that yesterday the Opposition advocated that our universities should be free of any fees for all sections of the community and that it advocates the total abolition of the means test on social service pensions. The Opposition’s proposition is a most hollow sham.
The original form of the amendment was copied from the amendment moved in another place. It expressed the Australian Labor Party view and stated:
And resolves that the Bill should be withdrawn.
It had escaped Senator Cohen’s notice that that part of the amendment had come under criticism in some of the newspapers of the day. He was reminded by his Leader, Senator Murphy, that that wording was a bit too effective and was not veneered sufficiently for the purpose of camouflaging the Opposition’s disunited policy. So we gave leave to Senator Cohen to substitute words calling on the Senate for a mere expression of opinion so that his Party could go forth with an aspiration of purpose and not accompanied by any effectuation. I pass by that delightful little change of phrase which gives such an insight into the true purpose of the gentlemen concerned and which I think will be detected by the heeding section of the electorate. Having noticed that the Opposition now does not wish to resolve but wishes the Senate to express an opinion, the amendment goes on to say:
Is of opinion that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for -
grants to government schools based on sums that are not less per student than those made to non-government schools under the Bill.
That is the manner in which the Opposition considers the Bill should be redrafted. I think it will be sufficient answer to that section of the amendment if, with the concurrence of the Senate, I incorporate in Hansard a small table. The incorporation will enable me to dispense with a recital of a number of figures.
– Read it out.
– I ask leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cormack) - Is leave granted?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.
– We shall entertain ourselves by reminding ourselves of the figures of Commonwealth direct expenditure this year on education. Government institutions receive for school purposes in the States, under the heading of science laboratories, technical training colleges, secondary school libraries and teacher training colleges, a total of S39.4m. Other payments to the States in the form of grants to universities, to colleges of advanced education, to the Australian Research Grants Committee, to pre-school teachers’ colleges and for Aboriginal advancement total $1 1.3m. For school purposes in the Territories the total is S24.4m. Other payments by the Commonwealth by way of grants to its own university, the Australian National University, and to the Canberra College of Advanced Education, for scholarships and for departmental and miscellaneous expenditure total $74m. The total, aggregate expenditure by the Commonwealth directly on government institutions in education amounts to S239.4m.
As against that we have the amount out of Commonwealth expenditure which is to be appropriated to independent schools. Under the heading of science laboratories, technical training colleges, secondary school libraries and teacher training colleges, and these per capita grants that we are making this year, the total is $24.5m. For school purposes in the Commonwealth Territories, for the independent schools the total is $1.7m. The total Commonwealth expenditure for independent schools is $26. 2m, as against Commonwealth expenditure for state educational institutions of $239. 4m. Yet the Government is being barracked by the Opposition with this inane nonsense that the vote of money under this Bill is giving an unfair advantage to independent schools to the neglect of the state school system. When we add to our direct expenditure the Commonwealth general revenue grants that are devoted to education in the States, amounting this year to approximately $275m, the total appropriation out of Commonwealth moneys is $5 14.4m. All that comes out of Commonwealth moneys for independent schools is a mere $26. 2m. It was unfortunate that the Opposition was afraid of such figures and therefore wished to have my time taken up by reciting them, instead of having the figures put forward in their proper sequence. I shall hasten through my reply to the debate, because our point of view has been stated so adequately by my colleagues, particularly Senator Greenwood,
I wish to refer to the idea of a commission to study all aspects of school education. This practical Labor Party that has been without the experience of government since 1949 and at present in no State enjoys the confidence of the electors so as to exercise government, has put forward a proposition to set up a commission for school education. Schools, State and independent, throughout the Commonwealth number more than 10,000. The Opposition would apply to the schools the same system of control by a commission that we established for universities, of which there are fifteen. The Opposition disregards the whole interest of the States in this field. The States have the primary responsibility for education. The Opposition would seek to establish a Canberra-based commission that no doubt would be intended to gain control of all the schools, resulting in a centralised monolithic system. I would have thought that if spokesmen for the Party had consulted some of the veterans about the expediency of this policy there would have been considerable misgivings with regard to the setting up of a commission. The idea has only to be stated to show its impracticability. I would have thought its obvious inacceptability would have merited consideration.
The Government deserves congratulation and I am pleased to note that the Government received congratulations from the spokesman for the Democratic Labor Party for having recognised the justice, first of all in an economic sense, of assisting a system whereby one fourth of the school children in Australia are supported in the main by finance contributed by their parents, and for having seen that is a good business proposition and that this arm of education should be maintained. If it were to collapse the increased requirement of finance on the state school system would be very significant. Secondly, I submit that it is simply a recognition of the fact that there is a need in the majority of independent schools for this assistance, a need which has been recognised by, I think, all State governments and is now being recognised by this Government. It is a measure of assistance to those parents who meet the main burden of the financial obligations of the independent schools. The justice of that having been recognised, the Australian Labor Party wishes to conceal its actual opposition to the Bill and puts forward what I should think is a rather unimpressive amendment. I have analysed it in detail and, from the point of view of its entirety, I should think that it is mere camouflage to conceal the disunity that exists in the Labor Party ranks on this subject. 1 hope that the Bill will be passed.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Cohen’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like a little clarity on two points. First, am I to understand that this grant is to be made directly to the States? If so, how is the allocation to be made to the various schools? Also, will the Minister define ‘school authority’? Does it mean the individual school or an authority which may administer a group of schools?
– The grant is to be made to the States and the quantum of the grant will be determined by the number of students enrolled at the independent schools eligible for the grant at the census date of each year. The census date is defined in the Bill to be the date in the relevant year as at which the Commonwealth Statistician compiles statistics in relation to the numbers of pupils in schools in that State. In the second reading speech that date is said to be in August of each year. The honourable senator’s third question related to the meaning of school authority. That means, in relation to an independent school, the person or body conducting the school.
– One school and not several schools?
– The person or authority conducting that school, but there is nothing to prevent the same authority from conducting two or more schools.
– I refer to clause 7 which reads:
As soon as practicable after the end of each year, the Minister shall cause a statementto be laid before each House of the Parliament setting out -
I do not propose to address any further argument to this. In the course of my speech on the second reading I set out the view of the Opposition that the difficulty that we saw with the Bill was the lack of an approach based on needs. We believe that in the statement that the Minister will be obliged to lay before each House of Parliament each year there should be included not only the name of the school and the amounts paid but also the needs should be specified.
– What sort of needs?
– What are the needs?
– That is what we want the Minister to tell us.
That the amendment (Senator Cohen’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
– by leave - With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a statement which was made in another place today by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
The negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments for a new sugar agreement have been satisfactorily concluded, and the basis on which a formal agreement can now be drafted has been arranged. The agreement between the two governments will be the most recent in a very long line of agreements which go back to the 1920s; they assumed their present form in 1934. The basic objectives which the sugar agreements were designed to serve had been endorsed by every Commonwealth Government, and no less by the present Government. These were to regulate the marketing of sugar in the interests of both sugar producers and consumers. The agreement which has now been negotiated will be substantially the same as the one it replaces. It will run for 5 years, during which time the Commonwealth has agreed that it will continue the present embargo on the import of sugar and sugar products, and the Queensland Government will control raw sugar production and meet Australian needs for refined sugar and sugar products at agreed maximum prices, as a first priority.
The assurance of supplies for relatively long periods at fixed maximum prices for a staple commodity is of inestimable benefit to both sugar producers and domestic consumers. Australian domestic prices have remained constant from 1960 to 1967 despite very wide fluctuations in world prices. The domestic sugar rebate scheme, which has been a feature of sugar agreements for a very long period, will be continued in the new agreement, but the rate of rebate will be increased from $10 to $15 per ton from 1st July 1969, to bring it back towards the position it held before the 1967 sugar price increase of $25 per ton. This will be the only change of any substance in the new agreement. To finance the increased rate, it has been agreed that the funds made available by the State, on behalf of the raw sugar industry, to pay the domestic rebate, will be increased to $924,000 per annum. Although on the face of things, it might appear that this imposes an additional burden on the raw sugar industry, this is far from the case. The sugar industry’s interests are best served when consumption in the domestic market - its best market - is maximised. The increase in the domestic rebate is designed to serve the interests of both the fruit processing industry and the raw sugar industry. In the case of the former industry, this assistance takes the form of the provision of an additional incentive to processors to purchase fruit for processing at reasonable prices. In the case of the sugar industry, the advantage of maximising domestic consumption is patently clear, when it is realised that the alternative to domestic usage is exports at the vagaries of the world market price.
The maximum wholesale domestic prices for sugar and sugar products, which are prescribed in the existing agreement, will remain unaltered in the new agreement. The export sugar rebate arrangements, which had also been a conspicuous feature of past agreements, will continue to apply. This rebate ensures that exporters of products in which sugar has been used will obtain their requirements at prices related broadly to the Australian import parity price, or, in other words, what they would have paid had there been no embargo on the importation of sugar. This will continue to ensure that the unique position granted to the local sugar industry did not react to the detriment of exporters, and is in keeping with the Government’s policy to do everything possible to encourage the maximum exports of both the products using sugar and, as a consequence, the sugar contained in those exports. Since the export of sugar in manufactured products is not a charge against Australia’s quota under the International Sugar Agreement, the maximum utilisation of sugar in exported manufactured products is of vital interest and great benefit to sugar producers.
Experience in operating the provisions of the existing agreement, since the last major review in 1962, has indicated that some changes can make it more effective in its operation, and clearer in its expression. During the drafting of the new agreement the opportunity will be taken to effect these adjustments, which are largely of a technical or drafting nature, and will have no bearing on the principles on which the agreement is based. This, as previously indicated, will follow the traditional lines of previous agreements. Action is in hand to prepare a formal new agreement and the two governments have agreed to extend the operation of the present agreement to give time for this work to be completed. They have also agreed that the new agreement will have retrospective effect from 1st July 1969.
Since it is not possible to bring the new sugar agreement before the Parliament in its present session, and since it was agreed by both the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland that it is in the interests of both producers and consumers that it should be brought into operation as soon as possible, it has been agreed that it will come into full force and effect upon its signing, in order that the benefits could commence to flow without delay. The new agreement would need to be brought before the new Parliament early in its life. I am confident that Australian sugar producers and domestic consumers will find the terms of the new agreement acceptable, and, in their long term interests. In the case of sugar producers, it gives them the assurance of sole access, at remunerative prices, to their largest single market for a reasonable period. Domestic consumers are assured of constant supplies at stable prices. In conclusion, it has been agreed between the parties that, since Commonwealth parliamentary debate on this agreement is not possible in this session, printed copies of the formal agreement, when signed, would be prepared by the Commonwealth for distribution to interested parties.
– by leave - With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a statement which was made in another place today by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
The benefits provided by most superannuation schemes in Australia are payable on the employee’s retirement, for example, at age 60 or 65, or prior to retirement, only in the event of his invalidity or death. Employees leaving in any other circumstances, for example, to take up employment elsewhere, usually receive only a refund of their own contributions, often without interest, that is, they do not receive any benefits from their employer for the years they have spent in his service. The prospective value of an employee’s interest in a superannuation scheme increases with his length of service; the longer he serves his employer the more valuable his benefits will become. Thus, a superannuation scheme can operate as a very real barrier to the willingness of employees to move from one employer to another.
The Government has been increasingly concerned with this obvious deterrent which superannuation arrangements can provide to changes in employment and, in 1967, asked Sir Leslie Melville to investigate ways of making superannuation schemes continuous so that scientists, in particular, could benefit from the added experience that accrues from greater flexibility of employment. The Government’s objective was to seek means of preserving the accumulated superannuation rights of employees moving from a position with one employer to a position with another employer. That is to say, to preserve for them the total interest or stake which they had built up in the superannuation scheme of the employer they were leaving including, of course, the interest or stake in the contributions which their employer had made, or undertaken to make, to their ultimate superannuation pension. The Government has now decided upon certain changes in the superannuation arrangements relating to its own employees, and those of Commonwealth instrumentalities, and to remove for those employees the existing barriers to mobility which are created by the loss of superannuation entitlements.
What we propose to do is to ensure complete interchangeability between the different spheres of Commonwealth employment at any stage of an employee’s service without loss of his accrued superannuation rights. His service, if it is continuous, will be regarded as continuous for superannuation purposes and he will suffer no loss of these rights as a result of moving from one form of Commonwealth employment to another. Where provision does not already exist, we shall offer similar arrangements for those employed by the Commonwealth who choose to move to public employment with the States, including a State university. But beyond the field of public employment, we also intend to reduce the restrictions on other movements from Commonwealth employment, be it to private industry or even to self-employment. We intend to provide that employees who leave after com pleting 20 years’ service with the Commonwealth will retain their accumulated interest or stake in our superannuation scheme including the commitment towards their retirement benefit which the Commonwealth has incurred in respect of their service up to that date. Normally the benefit will be payable to them at the retirement age they have selected, which can range, for example, between 60 and 65, or in the event of their death or invalidity occurring prior to that age. The benefit will be calculated actuarially and will be notified to the employee as soon as possible after his decision to leave Commonwealth employment. However, employees will still be able to choose to receive a refund of their own contributions if they wish to receive an immediate lump sum but in this event there will be no supplement for the Commonwealth’s accrued share of the ultimate benefit that would have been payable.
In the reciprocal circumstances of persons entering Commonwealth employment, we shall place no barriers in the way of preservation for people with preserved superannuation rights of one kind or another in respect of their previous employment including private employment. The Commonwealth hopes that other employers will follow its lead and allow their employees to retain their accumulated interest or stake in their superannuation schemes. It will be necessary to ensure, however, that when superannuation benefits are not calculated according to length of service there is no duplication of benefits. In other words, whilst in the circumstances I have outlined we will provide our share of the benefit in respect of years of service with the Commonwealth, we would wish to guard against a doubling-up of benefit from another employer in respect of the same years of service.
The Commonwealth’s superannuation legislation will require amendment to implement these decisions and we intend to seek legislative authority to give them effect at the earliest practicable date. The Government believes that these arrangements mark an important step forward in the development of Australia. We believe that there are great advantages for our community from an interchange of employees between the Commonwealth, the States, the universities, and industry, and we have now acted to ensure that the Commonwealth’s superannuation arrangements should not impede them. It is a step which the Government very much hopes that other employers will emulate, and that they, too, will accept a share of the final retirement benefit payable to an employee according to the length of service he has given to each of them. We do not believe that those employees who have spent a considerable part of their working life in one field of endeavour and who could contribute much more to the community should be compelled, by the fear of the loss of their accumulated superannuation rights, to remain in their employment waiting only for the effluxion of time and the arrival of their date of retirement.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[9.38] - I move:
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard the second reading speech, copies of which have been circulated.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide machinery by which special groups of people in need may receive adequate medical and hospital insurance benefits. The people who will be assisted by this Bill fall into two groups - those on low incomes and migrants. With regard to the first group the Bill provides machinery whereby people on low incomes may have adequate insurance cover under the national health scheme without the burden of paying contributions normally necessary to secure the benefits available under the scheme. These people on low incomes fall into two categories: firstly, people in receipt of unemployment, sickness or special benefit under the Social Services Act 1947-1969, and secondly, families whose means are within prescribed limits.
Those eligible for unemployment sickness or special benefit and who are already members of a medical or hospital benefits fund, may continue membership without the need to pay any further contributions to the funds for the period of unemployment or sickness and for 4 weeks after the unemployment or sickness ceases. Claims for benefits in respect of medical or hospital expenses during the period of assistance will be paid by the funds in the normal way. The funds will claim on the Commonwealth, not only for the Commonwealth benefit as provided under the existing law, but also for the fund benefits paid. Similar provisions will apply to persons who join funds during the period of unemployment or sickness except that the benefits will not be available in respect of medical or hospital expenses during a waiting period of the first fortnight. This period is considered necessary to prevent undue abuse of the arrangements.
Special beneficiaries under the scheme are those who, although not qualified to receive unemployment or sickness benefits, are unable to earn a sufficient livelihood, by reason of age, physical or mental disability or domestic circumstances, and to whom the Director-General of Social Services has granted a special benefit. It is estimated that there are in Australia approximately 30,000 unemployment and sickness beneficiaries at any one time.
Assistance under the Bill is available for medical and hospital expenses incurred after 1st January 1970 and the fund benefits which are the subject of reimbursement are those available under approved scales of benefits. The approved scales will be, for medical benefits, the highest table of fund benefits available, and, for hospital benefits, the table providing cover for the public ward hospital charge in the State concerned. The medical benefits available will be limited so as not to exceed 90% of the medical account in accordance with the principle of the present scheme.
For low income families, where the head of the family is of pensionable age, assessment of eligibility is on the same basis as that for age pension purposes. That is, the assessment takes into consideration both property and income and is therefore consistent with age pension assessment. A family is eligible for benefits if, on this basis, the means as assessed does not exceed $2,028 per annum. That amount is the annual equivalent of $39 per week. For younger families, where the head of the family is not of pensionable age, assistance is available if the weekly cash income does not exceed $39 without regard to property. The ceiling of $39 provided by the Bill approximates the average minimum wage payable under Commonwealth Awards in the various States.
Assessments of income and means levels of beneficiaries will be reviewed from time to time and in cases where income has moved above the ceiling, the contributions to funds will continue to be waived for a further 4 weeks after notification of the withdrawal of the assistance. The levels of benefit available are the same as for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and there is no waiting period for those who, on becoming eligible under the scheme, are not already insured. Those eligible are persons who qualify under the income or means test, who have at least one dependant and who are not enrolled in the pensioner medical service. It has been estimated that about 100,000 families comprising nearly 300,000 people will be eligible for the assistance now being made available under the Bill to low income families.
With regard to migrants, the Bill provides cover under the national health scheme for medical or hospital expenses which are incurred within 2 months of entry into Australia. This cover is available even if the migrant has not joined an organisation at the time when the expense was incurred. Migrants in the first few weeks of their arrival in Australia have health insurance problems which are not necessarily financial ones. In the short term, migrants, especially those from non-English speaking countries, are faced with a bewildering number of problems in adapting to our ways of life. This has been noted particularly in the matter of health insurance, and despite assistance and guidance in many directions by immigration officials before, during and after migration, many migrants fail to insure quickly enough to avoid the burden of medical expenses in the early period after arrival.
Many migrants, of course, do insure promptly. However, individuals who suffer illness can be faced with financial hardship if they are not insured. The Bill therefore has been drafted to provide a breathing space for these people by ensuring cover during the period of 2 months after arrival. Migrants who incur medical or hospital expenses during that period may, on joining a benefit fund, claim for normal benefits in respect of those expenses. The fund which pays the benefits will then claim reimbursement from the Commonwealth for the benefits so paid.
The Bill provides for the benefits to be available notwithstanding that the migrant was not a member of a fund when the illness occurred. Migrants who insure themselves in the breathing space afforded by this legislation will also be covered in respect of claims for medical and hospital expenses incurred after the expiration of the 2 months period thus ensuring continuous cover. Benefits available are at the same level as under the other measures contained in the Bill, that is, the highest medical tables and the public ward hospital tables. The benefits are available to all migrants on first permanent entry into Australia and operate in respect of illnesses after 1st January 1970. It is estimated that the measures will cost approximately $8. Im in a full year. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 September (vide page 1277), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1969, and then deal with the three Bills separately in Committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has anticipated the request that I was about to make. These Bills are obviously very closely related. Honourable senators will recall that the second reading speeches were incorporated in Hansard with the concurrence of the Senate and were not read. I should like to open my very brief remarks on this matter by referring to the second reading speech on the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill, which summarises the intentions of the Bills. It states:
Three separate Bills are necessary to provide for drought bonds. The Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill 1969 provides for the creation, issue and redemption of the securities, which will be called drought bonds. The second Bill, the Income Tax (Drought Bonds) -Bill 1969, imposes the tax payable when the bonds are redeemed for reasons other than drought, fire or flood. The third Bill, the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1969, covers all other taxation aspects of the drought bonds scheme, including provision for deductions on purchase, and the consequences of redemption.
As I have said, I do not propose to take very long to discuss these three Bills. The Government has presented them and the Opposition is not opposing them. I do not think the Australian Democratic Labor Party is opposing them and I am pretty sure that the Australia Party - Leader, Whip, etc. - will not oppose them. Probably the only person holding some doubts is myself.
When the idea of drought bonds was suggested in this House some 2 years ago I said, I think during the debate on the Address-in-Reply, that I held some reservations about them. Although the graziers appreciate, they say, the opportunities which are offered in drought bonds, I am sure that they have not thought it all out very thoroughly. This applies only to graziers, that is, persons who receive 90% of their income from grazing. In a good year a grazier can place a large portion of his income for that year, up to a limit of $50,000, in drought bonds. The bonds then become non-taxable. That is the purpose of taking them up - they relieve the grazier of income tax during that period. Incidentally, the only people who will be allowed to take up drought bonds are those who are in areas where droughts are likely to occur. This could cover a fairly wide area but it does not necessarily mean that everyone is covered.
In a lean year graziers can redeem drought bonds to help them over a difficult period. During that period when they have no income and need the bonds to carry on, the graziers will have to pay income tax. I appreciate the fact that as the income during that year would be much lower than normally would be the case, the income tax payable would be at a lower rate than if tax were paid when the grazier earned the high income.
Let me take the case of another grazier who has not taken up drought bonds. He has spent his money improving his property and has received deductions for income tax purposes for the amount so spent. Then a drought comes and he asks for relief, telling us a very pitiable tale to which we all listen because we appreciate his difficulties. A lot of people in the State apply for relief and what happens? The Commonwealth Government comes to their aid. So those people would have obtained the high income in the good year and then would have a legitimate case for assistance in a drought year.
About the only value that I can see in these bonds, without subtracting a little disadvantage here and adding a little advantage there, is that they will oe useful for purposes of probate and definitely will help those families which are placed in a difficult situation due to the death of the owner of the property and the consequent high death duties that could be involved. I know that I will not convince anyone that my ideas are correct, and I point out that I am not stating them as a really solid objection to the bonds. I just feel that the bonds are not all that they are cracked up to be. The graziers themselves think that they are a good thing but I do not think they have really thought the matter through. They do not apply to wheat farmers. They are meant only for graziers. I feel that there are a number of problems in this. Experience in the next few years will show to what extent the drought bonds have been taken up and how the graziers have responded to the value that they feel is in them. Despite my views I will support the Bills. The Opposition is not opposing them. We will give them a speedy passage.
– The Commonwealth Government has provided, throughout past years, and particularly in this year, considerable assistance for the primary producers of Australia.
– And how.
– Senator Turnbull is quite right and I hope that he will join my Party, and indeed the coalition, in supporting the very important primary industries of this country. This measure is of great importance to the grazing industry. Contrary to what Senator Wilkinson has said, it is for graziers perhaps one of the most important measures that has come before the Parliament. I think that the honourable senator’s conception on at least two points is incorrect and I will endeavour to clear them for him. When these Bills have been passed a grazier - who is a person who received 90% of his income from the grazing of sheep or beef cattle - will come within the provision of the bills provided that he is likely to face drought, fire or flood. Indeed this means all graziers in the Commonwealth, not necessarily those who are faced with an immediate drought.
The Bills have been described as drought bonds Bills. That term is entirely incorrect. In fact the bills provide for investment in inscribed stock because a bond, by its very name, indicates that it is a negotiable instrument, which these bonds are not. They are actually inscribed stock.
– It is a misconception or misunderstanding to call them drought bonds.
– That is right.
– You mean there is no definition of area?
– Read the Bill.
– A reading of the Bill is most important. There are several aspects that I wish to mention quickly. Senator Wilkinson said that this matter came forward some 2 years ago. From my researches I have found that Senator Edgar Prowse who sits beside me was the first person in the Federal Parliament to suggest these measures. If anyone can indicate that the suggestion was advanced before Senator Prowse advanced it, I will be pleased to hear the facts. Meantime I pay tribute to him. One of my colleagues has mentioned Senator Laucke, but in 1965, before Senator Laucke entered the Parliament, Senator Prowse is recorded at page 325 of Hansard of 2nd September 1965 as raising during the Budget debate a matter which had been brought to his attention rather forcefully, as undoubtedly it had been to the attention of others, that in very good years a primary producer who now faces drought can be taxed heavily in a year of substantial income. Indeed when his provisional income is applied it is most difficult for him to set aside any money even in such a good year. After discussing a particular case, Senator Prowse said:
This is a condemnation of our attempt to deal with the problems of taxation in the outback country. Surely, if the Prime Minister says that the Commissioner of Taxation will allow a grazier to buy a reserve of oats to put by and that that expense will be deductible, it would not put the Commissioner of Taxation in any worse position if, instead of buying oats in a period of good income, the grazier put by a similar amount as a financial reserve, lt is not always a good thing in a particularly good year to put by a reserve of fodder, be it oats, wheat or hay, because no one knows how long it will be before the reserve will be required. It has to be held and protected, and it inevitably deteriorates over the period. A financial reserve, on the other hand, can be used when and as it is required. Hut there is no incentive or encouragement for a man to put by a financial reserve of this nature because it first must incur a heavy burden of taxation. Inevitably it comes in a good year and it is taxed at a high rate. I think that we need to look at methods such as I have mentioned to encourage producers to set up a financial reserve that can be used in the future. If the economy is stabilised, if industry is stabilised and if die effects of drought are lessened, inevitably the financial result will benefit the Treasury.
I believe that what has been proposed flows from that. This is quite a difficult matter. The Treasury and the Taxation Department have studied the principle, and the result is in the three Bills that are before us at the present time. The only person who will’ be able to gain the benefit of this legislation will be a grazier whose income from grazing sheep and/or beef cattle in an income year represents at least 90% of his gross farm income for that year. The scheme is subject to an overall limitation on investment of $50,000.
I put it to honourable senators that in the future this legislation will be refined and expanded. Undoubtedly, this will serve as a very good stepping stone for the application of greater benefits in this and other areas of primary production. A grazier will be allowed to invest in inscribed stock up to a maximum of 20% of his gross income from sheep and/or beef cattle in any one year.
– Is that cumulative? Is he allowed to accumulate it over a period?
– Yes. A grazier can invest more than 20% of his gross income if he wishes to, but the benefit he will receive is limited to the 20% . It is interesting to note that if a grazier invests more than the 20% he will be able to redeem the over-investment at any time or, as Senator Devitt suggests, to carry it forward into future years, if he so wishes.
– I think Senator Devitt was asking-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Webster has the call, and there is only one Senator Webster.
– There is great wisdom in your comment, Mr Deputy President. The amount invested in inscribed stock becomes an immediate deduction of up to 20% of the income of the grazier in that year. The investment earns him 3%. As 1 see it, it is not intended that this should be attractive to graziers as an investment. The point is that in a good year a grazier can set aside this amount and then recoup it at a time when different circumstances apply. When the income comes back to the grazier he receives great benefit not only in the form of the interest on his investment at the rate of 3% but more so in the form of the taxation deduction that he has gained.
I wish to make clear one point about this matter which probably is not clear. I refer to the various methods by which the investment may be redeemed. The term of the bonds will be 10 years. They will be available as from 1st November this year. After that, bonds will be available each year. The rate of interest payable at the moment may be increased in future years. Once the Minister for Primary Industry has declared an area a drought area, an investor in this inscribed stock will be able to recoup the total amount invested or such amount as he wishes to recoup.
– Only if the area has been an arid area before.
– Honourable senators may take it that once an area has been declared a drought area a grazier may recoup any part of the investment he has made. This amount will then be included in his income for that year. An interesting point is that when he redeems for reasons other than drought, fire and flood, it is not that amount that goes into his income in that year. The amount which he will pay will be the result of a calculation of the tax that he did not pay in the years in which the saving was made. This is a vital part of the scheme. It appears that a notional calculation will be made of what would have been the tax paid.
– Who makes the notional calculation?
– Obviously a record would be kept of the 20% initially deducted from the grazier’s gross income in the year concerned. In short, this Bill is of great importance for primary producers.
– For graziers.
– Let us not make that distinction. If a primary producer derives 90% of his income from grazing sheep and/or beef cattle, he is still a primary producer although he happens to be a grazier. I believe that every senator should go out to his electorate and attempt to draw the attention of every grazier or primary producer to the fact that he should immediately take advantage of the prospect that is offered under this legislation. The amount saved by a primary producer can be up to 21% in 1 year.
The Government has studied this matter over a period of time. This legislation has been introduced despite no mean problems within the Taxation Branch, which has been required to look very closely at this matter. But I think every honourable senator will agree that what has resulted is of great credit to the Government. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the introduction of these measures. I hope that honourable senators will give them a very speedy passage.
– I join with the two honourable senators who have already spoken in welcoming this legislation. I also wish to give it a speedy passage. As far as Queensland is concerned, the measure is of tremendous significance at the moment because we are involved in a drought of extensive proportions. It is one of the greatest droughts ever experienced. It extends over almost the whole of the State. If time permitted, it would be interesting to give a short review of the extensiveness and depth of the drought in the primary producing areas of Queensland, in all its aspects. But I will give only one or two references to show how grave the situation is. The first is:
Beef Cattle: All major beef cattle areas are affected by dry conditions except for a narrow coastal strip from Bundaberg to north of Mackay and Cape York Peninsula.
Sheep: Drought conditions are extreme in far northern areas, bad in central western, and the season is fair to good from Cunnamulla and south of Charleville, . . .
. winter rains cannot be expected to relieve the drought.
I am quoting from the ‘Financial Review’ of 17th June. It went on:
Sugar cane: Northern production should offset disastrous drops in southern areas and overall the production is expected to be about 14 million tons of cane which would be only slightly below the peak production set this year . . .
Wheat: Recent rain on the Darling Downs and scattered lighter falls have improved winter crop prospects which had looked grim. Preliminary reports suggest a record 2 million acres could be planted with an expected yield of 38 million bushels. Over-production is not likely because the large acreage planting should be offset by the lower yield per acre.
In other words, the drought is a total disaster in many areas of Queensland. Why is this legislation confined to grazing areas and to the sheep and beef cattle industry? In Queensland the sugar industry is in need of assistance. In some areas production has been lost to an extent of 60% or 70% In the Childers area possibly this would apply in 3 out of 4 years. I cannot see why a primary industry such as the sugar industry, which is subject to drought, should not be included in this legislation. I know that in respect of grazing areas it applies very widely to Queensland, but with the diversity of agriculture in Queensland, why is it not applied to dairying? Senator Prowse indicated that the dairy industry carries its own type of insurance insofar as fodder conservation is possible, and that is not held as stock in hand and is therefore not chargeable under the Income Tax Act. No similar provision is available in the beef cattle or sheep industry. It certainly would not be the position in the sugar industry.
I do not know whether representations have been made to the Government on behalf of the sugar industry. It is heavily committed in capital and I see no reason why this new approach should not be applied there. I welcome this legislation. To use a term which has been mentioned elsewhere, this is not part of a defensive drought strategy but is rather an aggressive action against drought. It is drawing the farmer in under a type of insurance which will protect him in bad time by drawing upon such moneys as he can put aside in times of plenty. But we are dealing ephemerally with the drought situation. This is one of the inbuilt situations in Australia and it is handled only when disaster actually strikes.
There must be co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States. There is need for a secretariat - a Commonwealth and State body - which would have before it constantly disasters of this kind and situations that can develop so that they can be handled before they reach the point where there has to be a very substantial and often emergent aid given by the Commonwealth as loans for drought relief through the States. So much of our approach to this problem is ad hoc. We should plan over long periods and inclusive of all the industries likely to be affected.
I am interested to learn why the bonds are redeemed for the purchase of drought relief fodder only when the position has virtually reached disaster, just as a person would cash an insurance policy only when there was no alternative. At that stage the economic position of the farmer would possibly be at an all time low. Would it not seem incongruous that it is in that year that he cashes the bonds and the notional amount is taken into calculation of his income for that year? Would it not be more logical and certainly fairer that at least the payment of that amount should be deferred for another year or two until he has a chance partially to restore his position? It would seem to be the very worst year.
– But is that the year?
– The Minister stated in the second reading speech:
Where drought bonds are redeemed on account of drought, fire or flood, the proceeds of bonds in respect of which tax deductions have been allowed will be included in me taxpayer’s assessable income of the year of income in which li;y are redeemed.
It seems to be the most incongruous year for income tax purposes.
– Why do you think that?
– I would imagine that at that stage his economic recovery would not have started.
– But his income would be the lowest of any year.
– That may be the reason. But on the other hand it would seem to me that the repayment of income tax should be passed in for the succeeding 2 or 3 years. It certainly would make bis recovery more certain and it would ease the burden which at that stage must be extremely heavy on him. Perhaps the Minister could give some information on that aspect either now or at the Committee stage of the debate. The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill and welcomes its advent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to ask a couple of questions because I am not quite clear on whether the legislation is to apply merely to graziers in arid areas, or to graziers as defined in the Bill throughout the whole of Australia. I would also like to ask, since the legislation is designed to benefit people who suffer from drought, why mention is made of disaster through fire or flood. This seems to indicate that assistance in respect of such disasters can be claimed by a grazier outside an arid area. I think Senator Byrne raised the query of why the legislation is confined to graziers and does not cover all primary producers. I do not see how a grazier can suffer any more than a wheat farmer, or as was indicated, a cane farmer, or some other primary producer. I would like an explanation in regard to those three points.
– The honourable senator has referred to matters which perhaps would have been more appropriately raised at the second reading stage. He has asked whether the legislation applies in respect of fire and flood, and the answer is yes. He also asked why it is confined to a special area. It is confined to an area designated by the Minister and he will make that designation in relation to the nature of the area and the drought conditions that are prevailing. The question was asked: ‘Why not include other areas such as dairying areas?’ The answer is that this Bill sets out to deal with special areas and it is not considered that the dairy industry-
– What about sugar?
– You could have a dairy farm in a designated area.
– What about sugar?
– This Bill is designed for special areas, to deal with special problems.
– But the principle would be an advantage for all primary industries.
– But the Bill does not go that far.
– I am asking why.
– Because the Government decided that at this point in time it could only deal with this particular area which had special problems which are not notably significant in other areas where, for example, there is a different rainfall.
– And replacement of stock.
– Yes, and factors such as replacement of stock.
– Is there any reason why this could not by the addition of a few words have been applied to the sugar industry?
– Because this is a Bill set out, as the second reading speech makes clear, for special areas.
– Why should not sugar have been included as a special area?
– I am not going to argue that issue at all. This Bill seeks to improve the situation in a special part of Australia which was considered to have special problems through drought and, in certain circumstances, as Senator Georges mentioned, through fire and flood, and disasters of that nature.
– There is one more point I would like to raise. At what stage is the area declared? This is important, because if the area is to be declared at the point of disaster then every grazier has to anticipate the possibility that his area might be subject to disaster. This means that every grazier would have to take advantage of this legislation.
– The Minister will declare the area, after advice from the Department, when he considers that the area is a drought area, but there is a period of 12 months, I gather, in which the grazier or the person involved may redeem his bonds. So it is quite clear that on the advice of the officers of his Department the Minister will make a judgment in relation to a declared area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24 September (vide page 1277), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24 September (vide page 1278), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1398).
– This Bill has as its purpose the payment of a special grant to Tasmania of S21.9m for the coining year which has been authorised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Last year when I was speaking to this measure I drew attention to the fact that a very serious crisis had developed in CommonwealthState relations and this crisis is mounting in intensity. Each State has its own problems, and I think that Tasmania, being the last of the claimant States, has an even greater problem than the others. Tasmania has a smaller population than the other States and I think that after all these years of this type of dispersal of Commonwealth funds since the Commonwealth was granted the power to collect taxation, something should be done. Perhaps I should enumerate some of the conclusions 1 have come to about this form of Commonwealth policy.
The population of Australia is very unevenly distributed amongst the States. Tasmania has little more than 3% of the population. There is considerable variation between the States in the rate of population growth due mainly to immigration. Tasmania’s net immigration rate is lower than the other States for the simple reason that employment opportunities are not available as a result of the continuous stultification of its activities due to lack of the funds which would enable it to embark on a policy of expansion and development equal to that of other States. We have the misfortune to have Bass Strait between Tasmania and the mainland. This expanse of water disadvantages Tasmania considerably. The other States have four methods of transport; sea, air, rail and road, while Tasmania is confined to two - sea and air, both of which are very expensive. It appears that over the years the Grants Commission has failed to make the necessary compensation for this disability.
I would like to point out that Tasmania’s growth rate is low and so its comparatively small percentage of the population of Australia tends to decline further. Compared to the other States Tasmania has a much higher proportion of its population in the rural areas and therefore has a considerably lower population density. It is also different from the other States in having less than half of its urban population in the metropolitan area. There are some significant differences in age distribution. Tasmania has the youngest population in Australia in terms of the pre-school and school age sections of the population. We have a problem in that we have a very young population needing education in the preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education levels. There is also the problem of transporting the children from, the rural areas to the central schools, plus the fact that we at least have tried under difficult circumstances to give the widest and fullest education within our capabilities. Our school leaving age is the highest in the Commonwealth. This, of course, does credit to those who have been responsible for the administration of education over the years.
I do not think that 16 years is too old to leave school. I hope that eventually the other States will catch up to Tasmania and that we will reach the situation where education continues up to the time when a child has fulfilled its capacity to absorb education. This is an important matter. Tasmania has the lowest proportion of the working age group and a comparatively low proportion of elderly people, indicating that one of the big exports from Tasmania is our young people who have to go to the mainland seeking employment.
– So many of them become Saints’ when they get there.
– Yes, they play for St Kilda or one of the other teams. I will admit that they play good football, as Senator Devitt has reminded me. The matters T have referred to are important factors which mitigate against Tasmania being able to claim equality with the other States of the Commonwealth. Now that Tasmania is the last of the claimant States, I believe that the real story should be told about the Commonwealth Grants Commission so that as many people as possible will understand the difficulties under which the former Labor government was trying to administer Tasmania. An election was held in Tasmania recently. I think I should outline to the Senate some of the dishonest statements that were made by the Liberal Party in Tasmania during the election campaign.
– Be careful.
– I think the Senate should be made aware of the true position.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! The honourable senator should come back to the terms of the Bill before the Senate.
– I am talking about Tasmania. The State has been impoverished by the-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I want the honourable senator to link his remarks with the Bill.
– I can do it immediately. Tasmania has been impoverished by the control which has been exercised over the years by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– By 34 years of Labor government.
– No, by 24 years of control by the Grants Commission, lt restricted expenditure by the former Labor government on schools and hospitals as well as in other areas because it would not provide the finance. The major newspapers in Tasmania, the ‘Examiner’ and the Mercury’, told the people of Tasmania that it was the fault of the Labor government that these facilities were not provided. The people of Tasmania realise now that such statements were untruthful. But the dishonest statements that were made by the Liberal Party in Tasmania are catching up with it because the present Liberal Government has found it has inherited the same difficulties. The Liberal Government told the people of Tasmania that it would raise funds by taxing commodities sold in the other States. That was one of its election gimmicks. But the right to impose such a tax has been challenged and the Tasmanian Government will have to find an alternative method of raising finance. There is no provision in the legislation before the Senate that will make up for the difference. The Tasmanian Government will have to find other means of raising money to meet the expenditure that it promised during the election campaign it would make if elected to office.
If Senator Marriott will bear with me for a moment I shall outline the problems which will have to be solved if Tasmania is to take its rightful place in the Commonwealth. Tasmania should have equality with the other States. It has the lowest proportion in the Commonwealth of work force to total population. These demographic factors contribute to Tasmania’s apparently low fiscal capacity. On the other hand, Tasmania has possibly the most fertile land in the whole of the Commonwealth. Although not a large proportion of Tasmania can be used for agricultural purposes the State has every form of agriculture. Tasmania has perhaps a better overall rainfall than any other part of the Commonwealth. Its potential is large. Recently there has been tremendous development in the exploitation of the mineral resources of Tasmania. But none of these things are bringing any benefit to the State. The Grants Commission visits the State each year and compiles details in regard to how much it costs to run the State. I appreciate that it is trying to keep Tasmania equal with the other States, but the State is not getting any benefits from its agriculture policies, its extension services, its subsidies, its methods of eradicating stock diseases such as brucellosis, its pasture improvement method, its forestry improvement methods, its assistance to the mining industries and its development of hydroelectric power resources to encourage industries to become established in Tasmania.
Despite all the things that are being done the State is going backwards, as has been pointed out by the Grants Commission. It is necessary to nail down the reason why Tasmania is going backwards. I think it is because the Grants Commission is underestimating Tasmania’s needs. The grant this year is $21. 9m. It is all right for Senator Lillico to interject. He lives in the garden area of Australia, the north west coast of Tasmania. In that area they are able to provide products for food processing and the like which cannot be matched anywhere else in Australia. The people who live in this area are in a little better position than those who live in the other parts of the State. This area is going ahead in comparison to other parts of Tasmania. The point I wish to make is that, overall, Tasmania is at a disadvantage when compared to the other States. All Tasmanians should be trying to break this vicious cycle which is causing Tasmania to have the least proportion of young people of any State in the Commonwealth. Tasmania is losing too many of its young people to the mainland States.
As I mentioned earlier, the need for a greater proportion of young people in Tasmania leads one to think that there should be greater expenditure on education as well as infant and child welfare services. These points were seized upon by the Liberal Party during the election campaign and used to attack the State Government. But these things cannot be done unless there are funds. However, funds are not available. When contracts were let for the Burnie Hospital the successful contractor was asked to give a quote for some additional work. The Liberal Party seized upon this as an election gimmick. It said that it is a scandalous thing that a contract should be given without tenders being called. But exactly the same thing happened within a month of the present State Government coming into office. It had to do exactly the same thing in regard to the Launceston General Hospital. No matter what Government is in office in Tasmania it is handicapped by the fact that the Grants Commission does not dole out sufficient money each year for Tasmania to develop properly and take its rightful place in the Commonwealth. This is a very serious matter.
– How much was the contract?
– It was supposed to be for $2m. A contract was let for $800,009. The Government is supposed to be giving the people of Launceston a better deal than they would have got if there had not been a change of government. But the truth is coming out. The present Government has been in office for only 4 months, but its sins are catching up with it. The new Premier of Tasmania claimed that the Grants Commission would provide an extra $2m this year because a new government was in office. Sir Leslie Melville, who is Chairman of the Grants Commission, vehemently denied that any discrimination would be made because of a change of government. This is an example of the type of election gimmick that was pushed out through the restricted Press of Tasmania.
– Is the honourable senator saying that Sir Leslie Melville was used as an election gimmick?
– I said that he vehemently denied that the Grants Commission would provide an additional $2m to a Liberal government, if it were elected to office. That was an election gimmick that was used. Sir Leslie Melville denied it. However, it was claimed by the Leader of the Liberal Party in Tasmania that this was a fact. Tasmania has a comparatively high number of State Government employees to the total number of persons employed in the State. I am taking the number of people in the work force to represent the number of potential taxpayers. Tasmania’s relatively small percentage of work force to population tends to contribute to the comparatively low taxpayer capacity. This vicious cycle is going on all the time. I make this plea on behalf of Tasmania: Whilst it may seem that, as the last claimant State, we are the last of the Mohicans and although Tasmania may be the most southerly of the States it does not want to be just tucked away and forgotten. Every Tasmanian senator has to keep pressing the claim of his State in order that it can achieve equality. Tasmania’s natural resources should be developed as much as possible so that its citizens can enjoy a high standard of living. They should have a standard of living which is at least equal to that enjoyed in any other part of the Commonwealth. Tasmanians are humans like everybody else and they want to share in the prosperity of the nation. Although the Opposition does not oppose the Bill, I rose to speak on it because it presented an opportunity for me to bring to the notice of the Senate the present position in Tasmania.
– I wish to touch on a particular aspect of this Bill concerning the functions of local government in Tasmania. Senator O’Byrne said that this State is in a unique situation. On this occasion the uniqueness does not warrant praise or lauding in any way. The Bill provides for the granting of funds to enable the services of the State to be carried out. The grant is based on a formula which I believe is extremely inhibiting in that it penalises enterprise. We have heard previously about the penalties incurred by States, due to the particular policy attitude of the Party in power, in respect of social services, education, State transport systems and even, I believe, forestry and other activities. Where a State’s performance is better than that of another State and where, as a consequence, the expenditure in particular areas of responsibility exceeds the standard performance of the States used as a measuring stick, then that State incurs the penalty of an adverse grant. I believe that the Bill indicates that Tasmania has received an adverse adjustment of $100,000. Notwithstanding that, an amount of $21,900,000 will be granted in due course through the normal process will be provided to the State.
At the moment I am concerned about the position of local government in the general spectrum. I believe it is pertinent to comment upon this. In the normal course of events there will be a flow-on of funds, as a consequence of this grant, to certain areas where assistance will be afforded to local government. In Tasmania a great deal of difficulty has arisen and a great deal of concern has been expressed about local government resources. Apparently there has been a disagreement as to interpretation. The problem which has arisen is duc to the cut. back in available funds for matching grants for rural roads in a number of important municipalities, particularly in the north west part of the State, as a consequence of which there is a threat of retrenchments in the staffs of those councils. There will be other areas of embarrassment to the municipalities concerned unless some solution can be found to the problem. The problem has arisen because councils, as a normal pursuit of their responsibilities, have levied rates to match anticipated grants from the Government for the carrying out of this rather special purpose of providing rural roads. Decentralisation in Tasmania ought to weigh to some extent in favour of the State when priorities for urban road systems are determined. This was mentioned at the time of the hearing before the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Because of the short distances between towns it could almost be claimed that roads connecting a number of towns in the north western section of the State could, if the Commonwealth adopted a sufficiently liberal attitude, be called urban roads. This would increase the grant to the State for the construction and improvement of urban road systems.
Apparently the Commonwealth believes that local governments are facing a difficulty. This was spelt out quite definitely by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) in another place when he replied to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), as reported at page 1724 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 23rd September. The Commonwealth believes that it has made an excellent grant to Tasmania. This is the situation on the one hand. On the other hand there is a statement attributed .o the State Minister for Lands and Works, Mr Barker, which appeared in the Tasmanian Mercury’ of Wednesday, 17th September, as follows:
The Minister for Lands and Works, Mr Barker, last night blamed the Commonwealth for a reduction in the rural road budget.
There is a conflict of opinion between the Commonwealth and the State. One would not have expected such an eventuality to occur, but such is the case. The State Minister is representing to the various municipalities that their reduced roads grants for the purposes I have mentioned are the consequence of a reduction in the amount available to the State under this legislation. I believe it can be argued fairly that there has been a cut back in the percentage allocated to various authorities for road construction and for developmental activity. In terms of money involved, the amount has been increased. The Minister, when dealing with this new formula, said:
Tasmania received a 50% increase in its allocation over the 5 years of this Agreement by comparison with the 5 years of the earlier Agreement.
He also said:
For all the local authorities which under the old Act received a 40% allocation there is provision within the new Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement for an increase of 5% above the amount that was allocated for roads in the last year of the previous 5-year Commonwealth Aid Roads period.
In terms of percentage provided to municipalities, the new system provides an increase from 40% to 45%. The Minister said:
Consequently this should ensure that in Tasmania and every other State of the Commonwealth there will be an enhanced road construction programme for the ensuing period. Certainly there should be no reduction.
I hope the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) can throw some light upon the matters that concern me. He will recall that in the last week or so I have asked a number of questions about the problems of local government, particularly in Tasmania. I am concerned about the interests of the ‘municipalities and about retention of employees of the various councils. Will the Minister clarify the position? Has the Commonwealth increased the grant, as it claims it has, or has the Commonwealth reduced the grant, as the Tasmanian Minister for Lands and Works has claimed? I ask that so that the councils which are in a dilemma can get some clarification and some elucidation of the problems with which they are faced at present. That is the present situation which demands immediate action so that the councils will know what provisions they can make in their budgets. I alluded to the long term position in a question 1 asked a few days ago. I believe that the situation is fast approaching the stage at which some special assistance must be given to local government. The Commonwealth makes the grants to the States. That system surely must limit the finance available to a mendicant, dependent or claimant State like Tasmania and must limit the amount of money which those States in turn provide by way of grants for various purposes defined by the law. Coming down from the highest level of government, the Commonwealth Government, and flowing through to the local government system is an inbuilt inhibiting element so far as available finance is concerned.
I know that the Minister and I could talk about this matter for a week across the chamber. We do not want to do that, particularly at this stage of the session. Over the years the national debt has decreased and the indebtedness of local government has increased by an alleged 950%. Surely this must indicate an imbalance in the financial positions of the various levels of government because State government indebtedness has increased by 400% in the same period. I think it is as clear as day that Federal authority has the bulk of the finance. If it is conscious of the needs of people, which must be the dominating consideration at any level of government, and if it bears in mind the tremendous burden now being carried by ratepayers who are required to supply a sufficiency of finance to local government authorities to enable them to carry out their function and provide the facilities that are necessary, there must be a full appreciation by the Commonwealth of all these features. I believe that the time may well be approaching when some sort of investigation should be made so that we can be better informed of the problems affecting the various levels of government throughout the country.
– The honourable senator is getting rather far from the Bill.
– I am sorry if I am doing that, but I believe that the Bill makes provision for finance for local government. As a consequence of this Bill it is being claimed in Tasmania, rightly or wrongly, that the Commonwealth Government, through the agency of this Bill, has diminished the amount of finance available to the Tasmanian Government, from which finance flows on to local government. I suggest that local government is a very important feature in a consideration of this Bill and that the local government element of this measure should be highlighted if there is a need to do so. If I am not in order in making these remarks I apologise, but 1 suggest that in the interests of the people, and the preservation of our three-tier system of government, with all its defects and inefficiencies - at least those inefficiencies of which we are aware- this matter should be considered.
Perhaps as we have now attempted to cure, begun to cure or have cured some of the problems of local government by grants under section 96 of the Constitution for capital works in various areas, we may be able to make some contribution to the problem. But I do not think that as senators we can come here, representing the various levels of government in our States, and neglect the essential elements of political life of the States from which we come. After all, this is a States House. In any consideration of a measure of this kind which provides for Commonwealth financial assistance to the States and a flow-on to the instrumentalities, an essential element of the consideration from which we cannot divorce ourselves is a proper consideration of the problems besetting local governments. Perhaps I shall be raising this issue for the remainder of my career in this place, but I hope that will not be necessary and that one day we will become aware of and dispense with the attitude: we are doing all right; damn you Jack. That is a wrong attitude.
There is no point in having a federal system in which the indebtedness is continually increasing at levels of government which are closer to the people. I mentioned earlier that the State’s indebtedness has increased by 400% and that local government indebtedness has increased by 950%. I suggest that we cannot come to this place and close our eyes to these problems. Would the Minister, once and for all, advise us whether the Commonwealth is at fault or the State is at fault so that we will know whether there was justification for the allegation made by the Minister for Lands and Works in Tasmania that the grant has been cut back, or whether we can accept as correct the assertion made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in the statement that I read to the Senate earlier in which he said that the grant had been increased.
– I thank the Senate for its co-operation in enabling a speedy passage of this Bill. I feel bound to acknowledge that under this Bill Tasmania will receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth and, as Senator Devitt has suggested, there will be flowthrough of moneys to local government authorities. To that extent I would acknowledge that the honourable senator can tie in with the debate on this Bill problems of local government. Nevertheless, I feel bound to say to him that the Bill as such deals with allocation to the State Government of Tasmania and is involved solely with that. The total grant to Tasmania in 1968-69 was $16,810,000 and this year it will be $21,900,000. If, as the State Minister has suggested, there is some reduction in the allocation to a portfolio in Tasmania, that will be because of the sovereign judgment of the State of Tasmania in allocating its revenues in some special way.
Senator Devitt spent quite a part of his speech dealing with roads. It is my clear understanding that any allocations made to Tasmania for roads would be made under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which was amended quite recently. Whether there has been a shift in expenditure on roads from the rural sector to some other sector is a matter which we can discuss at some other time, but that question is not applicable to a debate on this Bill.
I feel that it is necessary to point out that recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission continue to be based on the principle of financial need and that special grants are designed to enable a claimant State to provide government services of standards similar to those enjoyed by the standard States, provided that it makes a comparable effort in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. This involves a detailed comparison of the standard in claimant States budgetary revenues and expenditure. I am sure that we all recognise that it would be a very complex matter involving pluses and minuses and all sorts of calculations to arrive at the figure which the Commission has recommended for Tasmania. As a final comment I remind the Senate that the recommendations of the Grants Commission have been adopted by Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception. There has never been any governmental interference in what the Commission has recommended for a State. The Government considers that the recommendations should be accepted on this occasion also. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1400).
– This Bill contains three amendments which are extremely important. Two of them relate to investments in companies. The measure deals first with companies which are engaged in petroleum exploration and also engaged in ordinary mining exploration or operations. At the present time the Act under which income tax is assessed for companies like this provides that the companies have to divide into two so that one can handle petroleum exploration and the other can handle ordinary mining operations. This is not considered desirable by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and it is considered much more satisfactory to eliminate this feature. The Bill does this.
Another very important feature from the investment angle is that a number of investors obtain benefits from taxation by operating on the share market when they are really not contributing to the development of mining operations; they are purely speculators. The Bill provides for this class of operator so that in future he will not be given the special benefits that he has had in the past. A third and very important aspect of the measure relates to primary producers. It is proposed that primary producers who expend capital on water conservation or on buildings for fodder reserves will have the opportunity to claim these expenditures as deductions in 1 year instead of, as was previously the case, spreading them over 5 years. The Opposition supports the Bill.
-I sense very readily the pressures which the imminent close of the session impose upon us in our discussion of these matters and I shall limit what I have to say. I note that the Opposition does not oppose the measure but I feel that it is a measure that ought to be given a lot more attention and a great deal more concern than has already been given to it. I do not advert to those parts of the Bill which relate to the concessions available to primary producers but I am concerned at the prospective consequences of the removal of the incentives to those who are interested and prepared to invest in petroleum exploration companies. I note that the purpose of the Bill in this aspect is twofold.
The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) when introducing the Bill indicated that one of its purposes was to eliminate a feature which, as he said, results in unwarranted taxation benefits being obtained by people who in general cannot be regarded as providing long term capital for mining purposes. He expressed it secondly as a design to eliminate a feature of the mining investment incentives which in the light of experience the Government judges to be unnecessary. I think it is a pity there has not been any elaboration in any of the material which is available of the bases upon which this objection is founded, but it appears to me that the persons who are share dealers obtain two tax deductions and sell out to persons who, having purchased the shares from the dealers, do not receive any concessions at all. It is felt to be unfair that these people who ultimately arc left holding the shares are persons who are not receiving any concessions with regard to those shares, yet they at the last stage are the people who are putting in money for investment.
I can only say that the whole of our development through the joint stock company depends upon persons being prepared to spend money on the purchase of shares, whether for a dividend or for ultimate speculation, and it is curious that there should in some particular field be a concern that those people are not getting some tax concession. But it is these buyers, as I understand it, who in effect supply the funds to finance exploration and development and they receive no tax deduction. It is thought that that is a bad result.
The Government asserts that there is a general rule of income tax law that an amount of expenditure is deductible only once, but it is said that there is what is called a ‘double deductibility’ which applies to dealers in shares, that is, people who subscribe to a petroleum exploration company and under section 77a of the Income Tax Act are entitled to receive a deduction in full of the amount they subscribe, and those people who subscribe to mining and afforestation companies under section 77aa who receive only a one-third deduction of the amount they subscribe. Where the dealer is in one or other of those categories he not not only benefits from a deduction but he is also entitled, when ultimately he sells his shares, to benefit from what is called a further deduction’.
I think it is inaccurate in strict language to call it a ‘further deduction’ because what he in fact does is to put his cost prices of shares alongside his selling prices of shares and whatever is the profit or loss goes into the determination ultimately of his taxable income. Naturally in those circumstances the cost price is deducted under section 77a or section 77aa and he is allowed to bring it into account a second time in determining what his profit as a dealer is. In those circumstances three questions do arise and it is to these three questions that I propose very shortly to direct my remarks. Firstly, for what reason was double deductibility introduced? Secondly, has double deductibility achieved its original purpose? Thirdly, what consequences are likely to flow from its abolition?
– What about the question of whether it is abused? Would that be relevant? I do not know.
– I am prepared to touch upon that but I must say that my researches and what reading I have been able to do do not indicate to me precisely what these abuses are. I think it is a pity that we are looking at this on the basis that abuses are alleged to have occurred and we have not really any material before us as to what the abuses are. Prior to 1959 the general principle of income tax law applied and a person who benefited from a deduction under section 77 was not entitled to benefit from a further deduction when he came to determine his profits. Prior to 1959 he was not allowed to take the cost price of his shares into account in determining what his profit or loss was.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1478).
– Before 1 refer to the actual reasons for the introduction of the provisions in 1959 I should refer to the provisions as they stand at present. The deduction for investment in oil search shares was introduced originally in 1958, and in its present form section 77a has been in the Act since 1959. Section 82, the substantial section which is to be amended by clause 12 of the present Bill, prevents double deductions. That has long been in the Act. But sub-section 4 of section 82 permitting a double deduction in circumstances which are there set out - I shall not read the section because it is a magnificent example of the lawyer’s craft - was introduced along with the new section 77a in 1959. When introducing the measure in the Senate the late Senator Paltridge is reported on page 1164 of Hansard of 27th October 1959 in this way:
Action is being taken to ensure that share dealers will not bc deprived of the incentive to subscribe capital for oil exploration. At present, a share dealer, in common with other taxpayers, is eligible for the deduction of the capital he subscribes for oil exploration. When, however, the share dealer sells his shares the taxable profit or deductible loss on those shares is calculated on a basis that does not permit of the allowance of the amount be has outlaid in acquiring the shares. Provision is being made accordingly to preserve die allowance to share dealers in these circumstances.
Looking at the provisions enacted last year, together with the widened scope of the allowances now proposed, it may safely be said that tens of thousands of Australians are being afforded, by way of taxation relief, great encouragement in the investment of funds in the search for oil, the discovery of which is so vital to this country.
When the matter reached the Committee stage there was a discussion which indicated that the absence of the double deductibility was regarded as an anomaly which should be removed. On page 1555 of Hansard of 17th November 1959 Senator Paltridge is reported as follows:
In the generality of cases, profit is the sale price of the shares less their cost. However, the present law - section 82 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - operates to deny the share dealer this basis of ascertaining the profit on shares taken up in an oil exploration company that makes a declaration for the purposes of section 77a. In effect,, the proceeds of the shares, not merely the profit, is taxed. There is accordingly an adjustment that withdraws the benefit of the original deduction, but only in the case of the share dealer. The amendment removes this anomaly.
That anomaly has been removed since 1959. My opinion is that that anomaly having been removed and the taxation legislation having been in existence for 10 years, it has served abundantly the purpose for which it was intended. Over the past 10 years the sum of approximately $45 lm has been invested in oil search and oil exploration in Australia. On the figures available to me, the sum of approximately $350m has been spent in oil search and oil exploration onshore and approximately $110m in oil search and oil exploration off-shore. It must be recognised that the greater part of the money which has been spent off-shore has come from overseas. The Esso-BHP combine is a 50% Australian owned enterprise, but the Esso part of it provided the substantial amount that was expended on the discoveries in Bass Strait. In the exploration off Western Australia - strictly it is onshore - which has been undertaken by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd, the Australian interest is only one-seventh. In the only other currently successful drilling operation in Australia - the Moonie field in Queensland - the Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Ltd, I think, has only a 20% interest.
Accordingly. ignoring the overseas interest, there has been a very substantial Australian participation in oil search and oil exploration. I believe, as Senator Paltridge on behalf of the Government believed when he introduced these measures in 1959, that they have provided an incentive which has brought into the oil search and exploration field vast amounts of Australian capital which otherwise would not have been interested in coming into the field. In the last 18 months a tremendous number of oil exploration companies have been floated on the Australian market. Of course, the market was buoyant until earlier this year. Those Australian companies received by way of capital investment a sum of $70,090,000. In regard to those flotations there is uncalled capital amounting to $260,970,000. It is significant that an amount of just over $70m has been invested in Australian oil exploration companies.
From discussions I have had, I am quite confident that the reason why that money has been invested is the existence of these incentives in the Income Tax Assessment Act. From talking with stockbrokers and persons who arc interested in some of these companies and from reading a mass of material, I believe that something in excess of 90% of the moneys that are still uncalled in respect of these flotations will not be available if these incentives do not exist. The prospect of floating new companies seeking Australian participation in oil exploration companies is minimal. In these circumstances I believe that one of the grave consequences of this amendment to the Act will be that we will dry up, and dry up permanently, the prospect of Australian investment.
– I wish you would dry up.
– I could not help hearing the interjection that came from Senator Poke. It indicates that members of the Labor Party are not interested in this serious problem. I would have thought that, if there was a real concern about Australian investment in enterprises that offer much to Australia, there would be some concern about what may be the consequences of this amendment.
If the amendment is effected, an incentive which at present is available to the share dealer to subscribe to exploration companies will be removed entirely. A person who wishes to buy shares in oil companies will be a person who can claim a deduction under section 77a. An investor, if he chooses, will be able to invest and claim a deduction. A share dealer will be in pre cisely the same position and there will be no added incentive for him to take something in the form of a speculative interest.
It has been the speculative interest which has been part and parcel of the whole business of oil exploration and which has contributed so significantly to the development of the capital of these companies over the past few years. We must recognise that if a person is interested in investing he will not invest in oil shares when he can make other investments that will return him a dividend, because until there is a discovery oil shares will not return a dividend. Accordingly, there will be no incentive for a person to put his money into oil exploration.
There is one other aspect of the matter. In order to float an oil company not only must there be the interest of the original entrepreneurs but there must be the stock broker or the other person who in some way is prepared to underwrite the issue. The underwriters have been prepared to underwrite most of the recent issues. Some of them have never been called upon to take up their commitment.
– Is the honourable senator the only one who has ever read anything about this? We. have read all this.
– I am indebted to Senator Wilkinson for his statement that he has read it. But I am not indebted to him for the fact he has not paid any attention to what he has read. Had he understood what he read, I am quite certain that it would have been-
– If we bought you a little drill, would you go out and look for some oil?
– I can imagine that the Democratic Labor Party is not interested in this matter. Certainly Senator Little is not.
– Not at this hour of the night, and particularly when we all know about it anyway.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order!
– In the past the underwriters have been prepared to underwrite these issues because they have been in the same position as share dealers. They knew that if they were called upon to expend considerable sums they had the advantages that section 82 (4.) of the Income Tax Assessment Act gave them. Once that deduction is removed there is no incentive for the underwriters to underwrite what is essentially a speculative issue from which their prospects of return will be nil unless there is a discovery. In my opinion these are serious matters that affect the whole structure of whatever oil exploration and exploitation may take place in Australia in the future.
I believe - I think there is good ground for holding this belief, in the light of the way in which the great exploitation of Australia’s mineral resources has occurred - that, unless there is an incentive for the Australian investing public to put its money into these prospectively very profitable enterprises, the only persons who will be interested are those persons from overseas who are prepared to invest in a stable company and take their return, not out of these income tax deductions because they do not give the incentive, but out of the profits that they can make. Our whole pattern and policy in regard to interesting the Australian public in investing has been by incentives under the Income Tax Assessment Act. I believe that the removal of these incentives does not augur well for the future of the oil industry in this country.
There are other factors alongside which this removal should be placed. Over the past 2 or 3 years, as a result of the discoveries in Bass Strait we have been faced with the very real political situation that there could be an increase in the price of petrol even though crude oil has been discovered in Australia. But as a result of negotiation - I believe that it was a commendably organised and arranged negotiation which was of benefit to this country - that position was overcome. But the way in which it was overcome was by the removal of the incentive payment that had been made in 1965. The absence of that incentive payment means that for any of the marginal producers or any of the prospective producers who may be marginal there will not be that benefit or that profit which makes oil exploration so attractive.
To that must be added the removal of the subsidy - strictly it was not a complete removal but a modification of the subsidy paid under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act, which occurred earlier this year. In those circumstances, the pattern that is evolving in this country is one in which the Austraiian oil developer is in a difficult situation and one in which, if he is starting his enterprise, there is not much prospect that he will be able to pursue it.
Because of the flotations that have occurred in the last 12 months, in recent times a number of rigs which had been on stacks were being put into operation and crews which had been disbanded were being brought together, and there appeared to be a buoyancy and development If this cannot continue - and my belief is it will not continue because the money will not be forthcoming for the companies who want to continue the development - we will be faced with the situation to which I have referred. 1 have raised these matters because I believe they ought to be of concern, lt is quite obvious that the Opposition is not concerned, but I hope some steps will be taken.
– It is the concern of the Government. It is a Government Bill.
– I was about to say that. I am saying that as far as the present situation is concerned, this measure naturally will be passed but it will remove an incentive which I feel can be demonstrated to have played a tremendously significant role in the development of the Australian oil industry, or the prospects of an Australian oil industry. I hope that the Government will take action at an early stage to replace the incentives which have been removed with other incentives which will sufficiently interest the Australian public to invest its money in this type of development. Unless that is done I think - I would like to believe that I could be wrong, but on the information I have culled I do not think I am wrong - that the interest will be displayed by overseas companies. That will not be in the best interests of Australia and certainly not in the interests of the development of an Australian oil industry.
Senator WOOD (Queensland) [11.221- I wish to compliment Senator Greenwood on the very fine sentiments he has expressed with regard to this Bill. I look upon it as one of the most backward measures that has come into this Parliament so far as the progressive development of this country is concerned. Tt amazes me that this action is taken by a government that came into office in 1949 breathing a spirit of private enterprise. We were going forward to a greater Australia, and so on. After having moved forward to encourage development through oil search, we are now taking a very serious backward step. I think the points raised by Senator Greenwood warrant very serious study by the Government.
Parliamentarians probably think that they can do this and do that and people will still fall for it. But parliaments do foolish things. My mind goes back to 1960 when the Government did some silly things. From my point of view this is another stupid piece of legislation. As Senator Greenwood said, people were coming forward with their money aiding in the search for oil in this country. Now we are taking a backward step. The Government is afraid that somebody might be getting too much of a taxation concession. But look at the broad picture. These people were investing considerable sums of money in oil search. If oil were found, would the Government lose anything? Of course not. It would gain the taxation payable on the profits of the oil produced. The Government should keep firmly in mind that any action it can take to reduce imports is very important. Our balance of trade is such that we need to export more or to reduce imports, and oil search is very crucial for this country.
Because encouragement was being given, an atmosphere of development was generated in other aspects of mining. People were beginning to invest in oil search companies promoted in recent months. Because it was said that some companies were getting out of the payment of tax this action has been taken. We should look a little further ahead. If the Government continued to encourage the search for oil Australia would be better off later on. Despite the millions of dollars invested in oil search on the mainland of Australia, how much success has been achieved? I well remember when the late Senator Sir William Spooner started the encouragement of oil search. There was opposition to some of the things he did. One suggestion was that the Government should look for oil. Judging by the amount spent on oil search by private enterprise, I would say that if the Government had followed that line our taxation would be much higher.
Encouragement was given over a period for private enterprise to engage in oil search. Despite all the money that has been spent, in how many areas on the mainland of Australia has oil been found? In my own State of Queensland oil has been found at Moonie. There is quite a considerable expenditure in the search for oil. Investment in shares of oil search companies is highly speculative. It is just about the most speculative and risky type of investment. It is therefore essential that every practical type of encouragement should be given to the people who are prepared to invest in those shares. There must be an incentive to find oil. If it is not encouraged, what will happen? The search for oil on the mainland will stagnate. I believe that it is already stagnating. Only last week the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) made a statement in which he regretted that the search for oil had slackened off considerably.
– Is not that a government responsibility?
– The responsibility of the Government is to provide the right sort of incentive for people to search for oil. This is where the Government is lacking. I think this legislation is a serious blunder. My information is that there is no taxation concession whatever in respect of money paid on application for oil search shares and money paid on calls on those shares. I challenge the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to deny that. Let him prove it if he can.
Nobody seems to understand exactly what this legislation is driving at. If my information. about money paid on oil search shares is correct, it is a very serious situation. Looking at it fairly and squarely, we are destroying the incentive provided by this Government in 1958-59. Why are we retreating? Why are we so timid? Have we gone back to the attitude of 1960 when we went a little silly in 3 or 4 matters to which I and another senator were opposed? This country is surging forward. There is investment and imagination in development. At that time the Government did more than anyone else to stop it. I said then that the foolish measures introduced by the Government would hold the country back for many years. And it was many years before we recovered.
This legislation is bound to have a most retarding effect on the development of this country. What else can it do? Members of the Opposition demand that there should be more Australian equity in our industries. Does any honourable senator think that this type of legislation will establish more Australian equity? Of course not. lt will mean that the average Australian investor will not take a risk. The big overseas oil companies will come into the field and instead of having an Australian equity in our search for oil, once again overseas companies will have control in a very major way. The need is urgent to find more and more oil. Recently a person associated with the Bass Strait oilfields said that it is necessary for Australia to find every 3 or 4 years more oilfields like those in Bass Strait, or some period like that. Have we done it? Are we doing it? Of course not. This is the worst type of legislation possible in its effect on oil search. It will do more than any other factor I know of to retard the development of this country in respect of oil search. I am completely opposed to the Bill and all that goes with it.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12.7 a.m. (Friday)
Friday, 26 September 1969
– in reply - Before the suspension of the sitting the Opposition had indicated that it supported the Bill. The only other speakers were Senator Greenwood and Senator Wood who, as I interpreted their remarks, spoke in diametrical opposition to the fundamental principles that are inherent in the Bill. Because they were so positively opposed to the Bill I do not think there is much point in going through the issues in this debate. To me there cannot be any doubt that if they subscribe to the views that they have expressed, they are opposed to the considerations that were in the mind of the Government and the instructions that the Government gave to the Draftsman on matters to be included in this Bill. Senator Greenwood gave reasons why what was being done was wrong, and both he and Senator Wood, as I saw it, not only opposed the Bill but were critical of the Government’s policy in relation to the search for oil in Australia. I do not want to get into that field, but inherent in the criticism of this Bill - 1 think Senator Wood made the criticism without any embellishment at all - was the criticism that in fact what was being done would destroy the incentive for investment and destroy the incentive to search for oil in Australia.
I just want to say in response to Senator Greenwood’s comment that under the present law a dealer on a marginal tax rate of 50% or more - that is, on any taxable income in excess of $8,000 - does not put at risk any capital he subscribes to oil companies which is subject to a section 77a deduction. Even if his shares are completely worthless his tax saving is equal to his capital outlay. If he sells the shares for any sum at all he shows a profit on his deal. The situation in which the dealer runs no risk at all has resulted in the situation where the dealers have been taking up the bulk of the new shares and stripping them of their tax benefits before reselling them, usually to members of the investing public who are thus denied the benefit of the incentive under section 77a.
Moreover, the double deduction can - and this must be obvious to everybody - create a rash of floats of companies which in fact might not. have very great prospects of finding oil. Under what is proposed the dealer and the investor will, if they are on the same rale of tax. bear the same proportion of the risk. The revenue will carry the bulk of the risk if the purchaser of the shares has a taxable income of over $8,000 because his marginal tax rate is above 50%. As 1 said, the double tax reduction has never been available for subscriptions to general mining companies where the moneys are deductible under section 77aa, but the lack of this incentive has certainly not inhibited the flow of funds to general mining companies.
The Government believes for good or ill, and it believes it because this is part of the taxation proposals we are dealing with, and the Opposition sees merit in it, that this legislation will produce a wider spread of new issues among the general investing public. Senator Greenwood made reference to circumstances in 1959 and, as I recall it, he quoted from statements made by Senator Paltridge. But in 1959 the second deduction was provided for dealers in oil shares for the reasons given by the Government at that time. However, the situation that developed early this year in the oil market, with the great number of new issues by the established companies and others - some, indeed, with few prospects - has led the Government to look again at this double taxation situation. I would say that this legislation must stand on the principles which are designed to ensure that investment in the share market is going to be open to ordinary people. It will ensure that we are going to have a situation where, when floats are made, the shares will be available to the ordinary person who normally does not get a sight of them because they are taken up by the dealers who are on a certain winner because of the basis on which they take them up.
I only want to say in relation to the comments made by Senator Wood that the major amendment proposed by this Bill is to amalgamate two separate concessions for investors in mining and oil exploration companies. This will assist those companies which are engaged or will engage in both oil exploration and other mineral exploration. I am sure, and I know the Government believes, that the companies concerned will appreciate this action, as under the present law they are required to set up separate companies to give their shareholders the full benefit of tax concessions. I say that the Opposition recognises the purpose of this Bill and I ask the Senate for a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement concerning allegations in regard to the treatment of Aboriginals at Yuendumu in the Northern Territory. Where the first person personal pronoun is used it should be understood that it means the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). On Tuesday, 23rd September 1969, Senator Cavanagh called for an inquiry into allegations made by a Mr Nichols about an inci dent claimed to have occurred at Yuendumu welfare settlement in the Northern Territory. Senator Cavanagh stated that Mr Nichols had alleged to him that six Aboriginal males living at the settlement were directed, with the approval of the superintendent of the settlement, to round up three girls and, as punishment for an offence, take them out to the bush to be continually raped. The Administrator of the Northern Territory has now reported to me the result o£ inquiries made at my request.
The Administrator reports that inquiries amongst officers of the Administration in Darwin and Alice Springs as well as at Yuendumu who could be expected to have heard of such an incident disclosed that none has ever before heard any mention of the alleged occurrences. The Aboriginal council at Yuendumu, including two women councillors, was interviewed this morning by a senior Administration officer. The Council denied the allegations. They commented that the practice of rape as a punishment for offences against rituals had been known in other tribes but that such a practice would be offensive to the Wailbri people at Yuendumu. The Council recalls that about 2 years ago three girls were removed from Yuendumu settlement to Mount Hardy for 1 month by a near relative following repeated promiscuity with youths, but this of course has nothing to do with the present allegations.
Regarding the allegation that girls had been rounded up with a Landrover and that one was ‘driven up from the camp like an animal’, the Council said that this had not taken place. It was reported to be amused at the suggestion of a ‘round up’ of people in the way cattle are mustered. The Reverend Mr Fleming, a Minister of the Baptist Church, who has lived at Yuendumu for about 20 years, said that he had no knowledge of the alleged raping. Mr Fleming is a person whom the Aborigines respect and if an incident of this nature had taken place he certainly would have heard of it. The officer who was superintendent of the settlement at the time Mr Nichols was employed there as a mechanic says that in all cases where young people were causing trouble he encouraged the parents to exercise discipline and on occasions when the parents were disinterested he had put the problem to the council. In soma instances, it had been necessary for him to promote action but this was always done in consultation with the council.
In the light of the Administrator’s report, I consider that a public inquiry is not warranted. In reaching this conclusion, I have carefully considered what Senator Cavanagh had to say and especially his statement that Mr Nichols, who made the allegations, had established some bona fides. Mr Nichols left Yuendumu settlement on 3rd February 1969, after having been dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service because he had refused a transfer from Yuendumu to Darwin. On 19th May 1968, I saw Mr Nichols at his request at Orbost. At that time he was protesting against the transfer. He made allegations of some irregularities at the settlement which were enquired into. In August 1968 he visited Mr Orr, M.L.C., at that time a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council for Alice Springs. As well as raising the issue of his transfer, he made further allegations of irregularities at the settlement which were also investigated.
On 29th April 1969, Senator Cavanagh asked questions on notice in the Senate based on allegations by Mr Nichols that ten young Aboriginal girls at Yuendumu were forced as punishment to pick up stones and pluck a lawn. Senator Cavanagh now reports Mr Nichols as having written that most of the staff at the settlement were, like Mr and Mrs Nichols, appalled by the alleged raping incident but had refrained from complaining because they would jeopardise their positions. I do not believe that this would be the attitude of the staff at Yuendumu settlement or any other welfare settlement if such an incident had occurred.
But aside from this, it seems inconceivable that Mr Nichols was prepared to report other less serious allegations but made no mention of this most serious charge until now. Even if he had felt some restraint while still a member of the Commonwealth Public Service - though this did not restrain him from bringing forward the other less serious allegations - there can have been no possible restraint on him since he left Yuendumu over 7 months ago after his dismissal. I also place reliance on the statement the Reverend Mr Fleming has made. If any incident as alleged had occurred, Mr Fleming would have known of it. He would certainly not have condoned such conduct and would, I am sure, have reported it immediately.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia)by leave - I raised this matter in the Senate on Tuesday, 23rd September 1969. I think all honourable senators will agree that they are most serious allegations. The investigation which was carried out at the direction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) indicates that there is very little truth in the allegations. Honourable senators will recall that when I raised this matter I said that my informant, Mr Nichols, had stated that any departmental inquiry which sought information only from the officers of the Northern Territory Administration would be of no use because the allegations had been directed against these officers and therefore they were the accused.
I can go no further than say what Mr Nichols told me when commenting on whether these girls were forced to pick up stones and tidy up the lawn. It was said that the agreement of the menfolk of the girls was obtained. Mr Nichols queried whether the Aboriginals who were supposed to have made this decision were the same ones who, with the support of the superintendent, sent three young girls out into the bush with six men to be repeatedly raped as punishment for some small misdemeanour. Mr Nichols informed me that these girls were chased around the settlement before being thrown on a truck by Aboriginal men. It is alleged that at least one of the men carried a rifle during this incident, which took place in August or September 1967. Mr Nichols has stated in correspondence to me that he is prepared to sign an affidavit to that effect if a public inquiry is held at which witnesses are on oath and are assured that they will not be victimised. He said that under those circumstances these allegations would be proved. But the Minister went to the Northern Territory Administration, which is the accused, to determine the accuracy of these allegations.
Mr Horner, the Federal Secretary of the Aborigines Advancement League Incorporated, rang me today. He is interested in this case. He said he knows that maltreatment does occur. He also said that it is a general principle in some parts of the
Northern Territory that men are not regarded as men unless they are attached to an Aboriginal girl. He referred me to the Reverend Jim Dowling in Alice Springs, who is well respected by the Aboriginals. Apparently he is continually bringing up complaints. Mr Horner also referred me to a man named Stevens who had toured the area and reported on the maltreatment that he had seen of Aboriginals. I was informed that he had seen too much maltreatment to publish in one report as the public would not believe it. I believe that his report on some incidents has been published. In this instance we have a man who is prepared to make a statutory declaration about these allegations and he has told the departmental officers where proof can be obtained, but they have not seen fit to seek that proof. Instead they have sought a statement from the accused on whether the allegations are correct. This station is under the control of the Department of the Interior, but it is surprising that the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has disowned responsibility for the welfare of Aboriginals who come within the jurisdiction of another department. He is concerned with Aboriginals on mission stations but he has not cleared this matter up - and it must be cleared up. The public demands a complete explanation of the allegations made.
– I present the tenth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Consideration resumed from 24th September (vide page 1371).
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $39,839.000.
Proposed provision, $38,233,000.
– Since the Committee commenced the debate on these estimates of the Department of National Development about a week ago quite a number of questions have been asked. In fact similar questions have been asked on more than one occasion even though the replies have been given and recorded in Hansard. I refer particularly to questions relating to Division 392 - Northern Division and more specifically item 392-2-04 - Contract Investigations. The answers to questions on this item appear in Hansard of Thursday, 18th September - page 1094 - and again on Friday, 19th September - page 1161. Perhaps I can best clear up the question of the decrease in proposed expenditure for 1969-70 for the Northern Division - Division 392, in relation to the 1968-69 appropriation and expenditure in the following terms. On page 63 of Document A, the Committee will note that there are three separate sub-divisions involved; namely, sub-division 1, Salaries and payments in the nature of salary; subdivision 2, Administrative expenses; and subdivision 3, Other services.
– I raise a point of order. Important questions on this issue have been asked. I find it very difficult to understand the Minister in the way he is replying. He is gabbling off a lot of statements. It is impossible to follow him. I ask him to repeat what he said, but this time slowly.
– (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Taking each subdivision in turn we find that in sub-division 1 - Salaries there is proposed expenditure for 1969-70 of $244,900 compared with an appropriation of $210,000 and expenditure of $189,077 in 1968-69. Insofar as expenditure is concerned this represents an increase of $55,823 and this is due to an expected increase in the staff of Northern Division from an average of 33 to an average of 38 in 1969-70. So there is no diminution in Northern Division’s activities here.
– I raise a point of order. We have asked specific questions. We raised matters under various sections. In answer we are receiving from the Minister a survey of the whole of the expenditure.If he had intended to do this he should have done it before we asked questions on various items. I think it is now a little late to give a general survey. I suggest that the Minister should continue from the point that he had reached when he sought leave to continue his remarks. At that stage he was about to answer a question I had asked relating to the sub- sidy for the search for oil. I cannot see the point of what the Minister is doing at the moment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANThere is no substance in the point of order. The Minister has explained that he is replying to a number of questions that have been asked.
– I have been accused of not answering questions on this subject and now I am answering them in full, notwithstanding that I have answered them on two previous occasions.
– You have not.
– I ask the honourable senator to read Hansard and to satisfy himself as to whether it is recorded on the pages that I have mentioned that I answered questions related to the Northern Division. I inform him also that on one occasion last week he enumerated 6 or 10 separate items and then did not speak to any of them but spoke only of the problems arising from the drought in Queensland and referred to the Burdekin River.
– That is not true.
– I suggest that it is true. The honourable senator then came back yesterday and complained that I had not answered his questions. I am now endeavouring to do so.
– Whether this is regarded as a point or order or not, may I say that it is obvious that we on this side of the chamber have heard little of what the Minister has been reading at break-neck speed from some document. Honourable senators are waiting to see whether their questions have been answered. It is no wonder that they complain that their questions have not been answered. I have not heard more than a few words uttered by the Minister. I ask you Madam Temporary Chairman, to invite the Minister to read his answer a little more slowly so that we may all hear. This may save time in the long run.
– In view of the interest displayed by honourable senators I shall read the statement more slowly.
– Have it incorporated in Hansard so that they may read it.
– Honourable senators might want to ask further questions and I am becoming tired of answering the same questions 3 or 4 times.
– I rise to order. I suggest that in fairness to the Opposition the Committee should report progress to allow the Minister time to circulate to honourable senators the document from which he is reading. If he had done as Senator Wright did when we were considering the estimates for the Department of Works, in other words, prepare a document of this type to explain various features of the estimates we would not be in the position in which we now find ourselves. I suggest that at this stage the Minister should withdraw so that the statement from which he is reading may be roneoed and distributed to honourable senators.
– I move:
I do so to enable the Minister to circulate copies of the document to honourable senators.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
The remaining sub-division 3 provides for a Commonwealth contribution to Kimberley Research Station and this remains unchanged at the amount of $186,000. It should be clear that there is no diminution of work or effort contemplated in the Northern Division’s activities.
As to his other question, the only operalion by Artesian Basin Oil Company Pty Ltd which has been subsidised under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act was the Muttaburra seismic survey in Queensland in 1959. This operation, in which the operator fulfilled all the conditions pertaining to the agreement, entitled the applicant to a subsidy of $22,906, which is 50% of the audited cost of $45,811. The company provided the balance. The Act is designed to encourage the search for petroleum in Australia. Providing the conditions as outlined in my answer to the first question are fulfilled and petroleum is not discovered, the question of refund does not arise. 1 now ask for leave to have the remainder of the answers to the questions raised by honourable senators incorporated in Hansard.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANLeave is not granted.
Helicopter Hire 23.8.68 Rotor-works Helicopters, New South Wales 22.10.68 Helicopter Utilities, New South Wales 1.11.68 Helicopter Utilities, New South Wales 26.5.69 Jayrow Helicopters, Victoria 26.5.68 West Australian Helicopters 23.6.69 Jayrow Helicopters, Victoria
Fixed Wing Aircraft Hire 15.8.68 Geraldton Air Charters, Western Australia 28.8.68 Murchison Air Charters, Western Australia 6.9.68 Geraldton Air Charters, Western Australia 2.9.68 Connellan Airways, Northern Territory 24.10.68 Geraldton Air Charters, Western Australia 13.12.68 Canberra Aero Club 5.3.69 Bush Pilot Airways, Queensland 23.4.69 Executive Air Services, Victoria 5.3.69 Executive Air Services, Victoria
I now refer to survey and mapping work in Division 394 carried out by the States with proposed expenditure of $50,000. This item provides for payments to the States for survey and mapping work carried out as part of their normal functions, which is of value to the Commonwealth and conforms to required standards. The decrease from the 1968-69 expenditure of $92,955 arises from the fact that certain items subsidised during 1968-69 will not attract further payments in 1969-70.
I now refer to an appropriation of $460,00 for aerial survey and photography. This item provides for payments due under contracts for aerial photography and aerial surveys carried out by contractors. This item is treated on a ‘programme’ basis and estimated expenditure in 1969-70 has been calculated as follows:
During 1969-70 it is proposed to let contracts for about 280 map sheet areas in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland at an approximate cost of $310,00 and to continue the coverage of the Papua-New Guinea mainland. Funds for new contracts will be allocated as follows:
New projects have increased by $10,000 from $420,000 in 1968-69 to $430,000 for 1969-70. With the increased contractual capacity now available payments in 1969-70 are expected to attain $460,000 compared with $396,753 in 1968-69. Contracts let in 1968-69 were as follows:
The proposed expenditure in Division 364 for contract mapping is $900,000. This item provides for contracts to private enterprise for some of the basic investigations and processes of map compilation - for example the astronomical determinations of latitude and longitude and the photo-identification of selected points, airborne profile recording, third order levelling for height control, the preparation of template assemblies, etc. The accelerated increase in activity in this area flows from the Government’s decision to map Australia on the scale 1 : 100,000 over a period of 10 years. The capacity of private contractors to handle airborne profile recording and photogrammetry work has increased during the past twelve months. This has enabled an increased programme for 1969-70 and will involve additional cash requirement for contract payments during 1969-70. This item is on a programme basis and estimated expenditure for 1969-70 has been calculated as:
I refer now to the appropriation of $17,500 for hydrographic surveys under Division 394. Under this item funds are provided for contributions to the cost of those hydrographic surveys in northern Australia, undertaken on behalf of commercial development companies, which provide information useful for developmental or navigational purposes. Such subsidised operations must be carried out in accordance with standards laid down and supervised by the Department of the Navy. The Department of Shipping and Transport is consulted as to the nature of information required and the range of the survey. The Department of the Interior is consulted as to its interests in relation to surveys in Northern Territory waters.
The extent of the subsidy in each case is approved by the Minister having regard to the value of the information to the Commonwealth. Subject to the approval of the Minister, the contractor is also reimbursed the full cost of additional work undertaken to meet a specific requirement of. the Commonwealth. The 1969-70 estimate provides for contributions towards hydrographic surveys in the following areas:
This expenditure varies from year to year according to surveys carried out.
I come now to the appropriation of $82,000 for incidental and other expenditure under the same division. For the general information of the Committee, I mention that the item ‘Incidental and other expenditure’ provides for those items of administrative expenditure which are not inculded in other items of subdivision 2. It comprises the following sub-items, with details of estimated expenditure in 1969-70 compared with actual expenditure for 1968-69:
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– We have listened to considerable elucidation of answers to some of the questions that have been asked by honourable senators. T regret that it has not been very helpful to us in the manner in which it has been given. Although it has been given to the best of the Minister’s ability, because of the time at which we are sitting - about 6 minutes to I in the morning, after a heavy day - it is not possible for honourable senators to absorb the valuable information that has been given by the Minister. 1 think the Committee would long ago have reached the view, which I believe is shared on both sides, that if we are properly to examine these estimates and if we are to see what has been done, whether under administration, other services or other matters, this has to be done in a rational manner. We do not intend to live under the dead hand of the past. We do not intend to allow things to be pushed through at these hours of the night, even if the Government thinks that the sensible thing to do is to push the Committee to deal with matters at so late an hour of the night that it will not be allowed to deal with them properly.
– Is that a threat?
– No. I think the feeling of honourable senators is that they will not be submitted to this kind of conduct. We have been sitting here for a long time today. We have co-operated in every way in debating the Bills that have been brought forward and we have tried to have the Estimates dealt with expeditiously. The Opposition for its part is prepared to deal with these matters. I regret that we are holding this discussion in the absence of senators of the Democratic Labor Party and the Australia Party, but those of us who are here think that we should have ended at the times that were appointed as the normal hours of sitting. It is just nonsense for honourable senators to be sitting at this hour. It sickens me to think that we must go through this procedure at the end of a session and that a great, responsible Senate has to put up with this kind of nonsense. The most important officers of the departments have been brought here and have been sitting around until this hour, as they were last night. Instead of this we should be appointing times for the Committee to deal with these matters in a rational way. I do not want to be too critical, because I know that on the Government side there is a strong feeling similar to the feeling on this side.
– Speak for yourself.
– I will. I know that there is a feeling that there should be a rational disposition of the business of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives, and there is a very strong feeling that together we should frame sensible ways of dealing with these matters. It is just ridiculous to be sitting here at this hour. I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has a strong feeling, and I share it with him, that the remaining business must be dealt with before the Parliament rises. We are conscious of this. We have to get up. But this procedure has been going on for years and in some way it must be brought to an end. We should not go on as we have been. There must be some more sensible way to deal with the business of the Senate. On this occasion let us put an end to the procedure we have been following. Let us say we will not tolerate these procedures any longer. It is not satisfactory for us and it is not satisfactory to honourable senators opposite.
This is no way to dispose of the business of the Senate.
It do not offer these comments as any very great criticism, because I know that this procedure is an inheritance of the past and that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has his great responsibilities. But I feel that we should dispose of the business in a much more rational way. I ask that the motion I will propose be accepted. I move:
That progress be reported.
– I really cannot speak on this motion. Therefore I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Earlier today I said to Senator Murphy and to Senator Gair that I would not keep honourable senators here any longer than was necessary for me to satisfy myself that tomorrow the Senate could complete its business and rise at the time that had originally been set down - that is, 4.30 in the afternoon. I can draw only one conclusion and that is that there has been a definite, deliberate and concentrated effort not to pass the estimates that Senator Scott is dealing with at present. I will come back to what Senator Murphy said a moment ago, because I will take up his invitation. Up to this point of time, accepting my responsibility as Leader of the Government in the Senate, I have not had any understanding or appreciation that we will be able to deal with the estimates tomorrow and with a major Bill.
As I said last night, all I want is to be able to allow every honourable senator to leave here not later than 4.30 this afternoon, but my prime responsibility is the Government’s legislation. Senator Murphy has now said: Let us have an ordered plan.’ All right. I am prepared to walk out of here now and make a plan with him, because conjointly we have the numbers to set out a programme to deal tomorrow with the remaining Bill and the remainder of the Estimates. The moment we have made such a plan I will be prepared to agree to the adjournment of the Senate. It is up to Senator Murphy. Until such an agreement is reached
I want to get at least a little further advanced in our debate on the Estimates because after we have dealt with the Estimates it is necessary to deal with legislation in terms of the Apropriation Bill - although that is only a formality.
I am quite prepared to walk out of the chamber now, to Senator Murphy’s office or to mine, to work out a time-table to deal with the Estimates later today. I do not: think anything could be fairer than that. But until we have an arrangement to ensure that the Estimates for the administration of the nation are passed, how can I do other than keep insisting that we get ourselves into a position where we will be sure to pass the Estimates later today?
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - by leave - The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has made a sensible suggestion for the formulation of a plan, but as he imported into his remarks criticism that in some way we are at fault, 1 point out to him that the Government decided that the election will be held on 25th October. The Government decided that this session should be one of the shortest in the history of the Australian Parliament. The Government had an opportunity to come to us 2 or 3 weeks ago and say: Let us have a plan.’ It is not because of the Opposition that business is being conducted in this fashion. The Opposition agreed to the proposition put forward by the Government in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate suggested days and times of sittings. We agreed to that proposition without any amendment whatever to the days or times of sitting suggested. We agreed to exactly what was put forward. Now at the death knock Senator Anderson says this. I say that we ought to be dealing with our business in an intelligent fashion. Ft is not dealing with our business in an intelligent fashion to be sitting here at 1 o’clock in the morning.
– This is the second consecutive morning.
– That is so. If there is resistance from the Opposition, so there should be. We will not tolerate this nonsense of sitting at this hour of the morning. So far as the Opposition is concerned, for now and for the future, we will not tolerate the practice of sitting at this hour of the morning. If the Government wants to deal with the business of the Senate in a sensible and rational way, let it put forward a proposition that will mean honourable senators on both sides of the chamber will not be subjected to this kind of extended sitting.
I am prepared to sit here. I will sit here until 5 o’clock in the morning, if necessary. I am reasonably fit and perhaps I am a little younger than some honourable senators opposite. I notice that some of the Ministers are going to sleep. They have all sorts of problems to attend to. Perhaps we of the Opposition are a little fitter, but that may be just our way of thinking. It may seem that way because our spirits are uplifted by events. Nevertheless, this is not the way to conduct our business. I think we should now adjourn and not subject everybody to this treatment.
– Come and talk to me in my office.
– I am always prepared to talk to the Leader of the Government. If we are able to arrive at an arrangement, I will be only too pleased. I was certainly pleased to arrive at the earlier arrangement we had. I am not suggesting that there has been a breach of that arrangement. As an institution we must arrange our affairs better. What we are doing now is stupid. I know that this sort of thing has been happening in another place for a long time, due mainly to the circumstances of numbers, but I do not think this is what honourable senators want. We do not want to punish ourselves in this way, nor do we want to punish the officers of the Senate and other people who have to be in attendance while we sit. Let us say there will be an end to this sort of thing and let us arrange our business far more sensibly.
Question put -
That progress be reported.
The Committee divided (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood)
Ayes . . . . 20
Noes . . . . . . 22
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In the discussion of the Estimates of the Department of National Development we have had an exhibition from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) here tonight. When I referred to the Northern Division the Minister ran through a whole series of figures under at least two divisions of the Estimates, Division 392 in particular. When I interjected and asked for the item numbers - after all, there are at least two items numbered 01 on every page - he failed to accede to this request. His replies were completely confusing and assisted in turning the debate on this section of the Estimates into a farce. At no time were more than 5 or 6 Government supporters, including Country Party supporters, in the House, and most of the time the Minister was sleeping on the front bench. That is quite wrong.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, I shall protect you, but you should keep to the subject that is under discussion.
– Yes, Mr Temproary Chairman, but I want to point out that the whole debate has been turned into a farce. I am asking now that the Minister go back over the divisions to which he referred and give the proper item numbers. Unless he does that, how can these things be understood? If the Minister wants to turn this Parliament into a joke then the people of Australia are not going to be impressed with him.
– I rise to order. Senator Keeffe is not referring to anything in the Estimates.
– I will be the judge of that. The point of order is not upheld.
– I am asking for these details and in addition I am asking for information concerning Division 398. The proposed expenditure is a substantial increase on the actual expenditure last year. It is true, as the Minister said, that I did not continue with some questions the other day. The reason for this was that I felt that I was wasting my time, the Parliament’s time and the people’s time. Might 1 point out to Senator Sim that this is relevant to the discussion that took place and that I am merely replying to what the Minister said.
During the discussion of the Estimates last year we asked about sirex wasp research. The proposed expenditure for this year has been reduced. Last year we also asked about the areas of infestation. There seems to be a lot of vagueness as to what paris of Australia are infested with the sirex wasp. I asked on that occasion whether there was any infestation in Queensland. I believe that we ought to be told, because there have been areas of this country where the sirex wasp has wiped out forests. Information about this has been suppressed and kept from the Australian people. Other excuses have been given for the loss of those forests. Are there infestations of sirex wasp in any other State? If so, what are the areas in which the infestation has occurred?
– I would like to advise the honourable senator that the answers to his questions on divisions 392 - Northern Division - are contained in two Hansards, one of last week and one of this week. The honourable senator’s other question, which also related to Division 392, was specifically put to me by Senator Martin Cameron yesterday and it was answered fully.
– I would like the Minister to state clearly the position in regard to the questions that 1 have asked. The Minister has assured me that a full explanation of the reduced expenditure for Division 392 - Northern Division, can be found somewhere in Hansard. As I understood the Minister, he said tonight that there is no reduction in the activities of the Northern Division. If this is so, why is the expenditure of the Division being reduced? Of course, one would have thought that with the development that is going on and should go on in the north, there would be an increased appropriation on this occasion. I apologise if I am causing difficulties for the Minister. I realise that the question I am raising may have been answered tonight. However, no-one could digest the multitude of figures that the Minister rattled off. A senator has a responsibility when he seeks information to ensure that he is told what he wants to know. He may need to ask a follow-up question.
In the early hours of yesterday morning I remarked that whilst there is to be a reduction in the total expenditure of the Northern Division, expenses in certain avenues are to increase. For instance, postage, telegrams and telephone services are to cost $1,500 more. The main reduction is in contract investigations. The amount provided for this item last year was $152,882 and we will appropriate only $6,000 this year.
– This was dealt with on the first day of the estimates.
– Nevertheless I still think I am justified in seeking an answer. I am inclined to think that the Minister made some mention of this matter tonight but what he said was too difficult to understand.
The other question I raised concerned mapping surveys. We are told tonight that the contract for this activity is determined by public tender. The explanation is that payments to the States this year do not attract as much subsidy. This is all a mystery to me. What subsidy did we pay to the States in the previous years and why are we not paying the subsidy on this occasion? 1 see that the Division of National Mapping produced 280 maps last year and that we are surveying Western Australia and northern Australia at a cost of $310,000, which I believe was the Minister’s figure. What is the purpose and extent of this mapping? I would like to know the method of engaging helicopter services. I see that the division engaged Rotor-works Helicopers, New South Wales, Jayrow Helicopters, Victoria, and West Australian Helicopters. Also, among another group of aircraft companies was Geraldton Air Charters, Western Australia. I would like to know whether the operators of these helicopter services are subsidiaries of Ansett Airlines of Australia. It is obvious that these surveys are costly.
I regret the length of time which has been spent on the estimates of this Department. It has been suggested that I may be implicated in some move to delay consideration of these Estimates. I point out that the only proposal which has been put to honourable senators on this side of the chamber to assist in completing the consideration of the Estimates by tomorrow has been accepted. We agreed upon a reduction in the meal hours as well as to sit each night till 11 o’clock and to sh Wednesday mornings. We also agreed to sit on Fridays. Nothing el’se has been proposed to honourable senators on this side of the chamber since then to assist the Government in getting out of the dilemma it is in at the moment. We have co-operated with the Government.
Order! I suggest to the honourable senator that he confine his remarks to the estimates for the Department of National Development. We have already had a long discussion on this aspect.
– All I am suggesting is that all honourable senators on this side of the House would assist as much as possible if a proper approach was made to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and it was discussed by us. The Government should not direct criticism at the Opposition because of a decision the Government has made. This exercise has shown only that there has to be cooperation in the running of the Parliament. If the Government is not prepared to co-operate with the Opposition the thing falls down. I ask the Minister to provide me with the details I have requested, and at a speed that will make them comprehensible, and also with incisive replies to the questions 1 have asked.
– Answers have already been supplied on two occasions to questions asked concerning contract investigations. Those answers appear at page 1094 of Hansard of 18th September 1969 and page 1161 of Hansard of 19th September 1969. However, I shall repeat that information for the benefit of honourable senators. The only item in which there is any significant variation is item 04. As I stated previously, this variation is due to the fact that $160,000 was provided in last year’s estimates for contract investigations whereas only $6,000 is sought for 1969-70. The amount of $160,000 was provided for an investigation of the development of the port of Darwin by consultants. Whether consultants are used for investigations of this nature depends on the availability of these services within the Department. If staff had been available for the Darwin investigations those investigations might have been carried out by the Department of Works and the cost would have then appeared in the estimates of that Department. The question of whether there is a provision for contract investigations is no indication of the level of activity of the Northern Division. It is expected that there will be only one investigation this year for which consultants will be required, and that is for certain aspects of a power scheme proposal for central Queensland. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is to carry out this work. Perhaps the term contract investigations’ is a misnomer; it might be more correctly designated ‘consultant fees’.
asked certain questions regarding contracts for helicopter services. Contracts for surveys by helicopter and fixed wing aircraft are called for by public tender. I do not know whether any of the companies mentioned are subsidiaries of Ansett Airlines of Australia. After looking through the list I would think that by far the majority would be private companies.
I refer now to the survey work being done by the States. This was the other question which the honourable senator raised. I advise the Committee that the Stale Departments of Lands assist in the Commonwealth’s mapping programme to the extent that they can after considering their own programme requirements. The States are accelerating their programmes. To the extent that they assist the Commonwealth they are paid an agreed proportion of the cost of the work which is of use to the Commonwealth.
– Before referring to the oil search subsidies I again want to draw attention to the difficulty of being recognised by the Chair when one sits in this corner of the chamber, particularly at the Committee stage. When a Bill was being debated today -
Order! Senator Georges, I appreciate your difficulty but this is not the time to raise this matter. You may raise it at another time. Keep to the business before the Committee and ask your question.
– It is very unreasonable for honourable senators to be placed behind the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANOrder! I appreciate what the honourable senator is saying. When I occupy the chair I watch the position. I ask the honourable senator to come back to the Estimates.
– I refer to the oil search subsidy. I want to go back to the reply which the Minister gave me in connection wilh the subsidy paid to Artesian Basin Oil Co. Pty Ltd. What I have been saying might not have filtered through. I am suggesting that there is a racket in the use of oil subsidies. I make no bones about this. It is very important that we get the matter cleared up. This year the Commonwealth intends to spend $14,300,000. Last year it spent $12,500,000. That is a considerable amount of money. At this rate the Commonwealth will spend $140m over a 10-year period. Therefore it is fair for us to criticise the use to which this amount of money is put.
The Government should ensure that these subsidies are not being used by oil flotation companies merely to upgrade the value of their leases so as to make a kill on the share market. I brought up a case in Queensland concerning .an individual who paid $4 for a lease and then, by the use of oil subsidy moneys amounting to about $22,000, was able to convert his interest to some $700,000. I suggest that this was a misuse of subsidy moneys in order to upgrade the value of a lease. I ask: How did the Department evaluate the cost of the work on which subsidy was paid? It does not appear that tenders were called. Are tenders called for particular work to be carried out in a particular year? What guidelines does the Department have to measure the value of the work to be done? Does it check with other search companies and say: ‘Look, this work is to be done by Artesian Basin Oil. What is your estimate of the cost?’ I want to know how this is done. I want the Minister to explain quickly what guidelines are used. I have another question and I want to phrase it carefully.
– Ha, ha.
– This is important. I point out to Senator Sim that we have been sitting since 10.30 a.m. yesterday. The Government is responsible for keeping this debate going. After all, honourable senators opposite are part of the Government. It is the Government that wants us to stay here until 3 o’clock in the morning. I would not have deviated had I not been provoked by Senator Sim. I will return to the amount of which I was speaking. To whom was the $22,000 paid? Was it paid to Artesian Basin Oil or was it paid to the company that carried out the seismic survey? Did the Department check to find out whether the only cash that changed hands in this operation was the $22,000? The point I make is this: Did the company that carried out the seismic survey accept the $22,000 subsidy and receive in payment for the rest of the cost of the survey some interest in Artesian Basin Oil or some other consideration? Is the subsidy paid by the Department the only cash that changes hands for these surveys? This could open up a field for a considerable amount of corruption if this were so.
– The honourable senator has asked several questions about this amount. We are quite happy to satisfy him to the best of our ability. If we cannot satisfy him by answering questions tonight, we will satisfy him by letter until we meet all his requirements. This is what we are here to do and we want to do it. To give the honourable senator a guide and to endeavour to answer his question I will read the following for the second time.
– It will be the third time because you gave it to me in answer to a question.
– I am sorry. I did not mean to say that. In answer to his other question, the only operation of Artesian Basin Oil Co. Pty Ltd which has been subsidised under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act was the Mutabirra seismic survey in Queensland in 1959. This operation, in which the operator fulfilled all the conditions pertaining to the agreement, entitled the applicant to a subsidy of $22,906. Artesian Basin Oil Company received the $22,906. It may have paid a contractor to do this work. This is the bill that was paid by the Department of Nation Development, Bureau of Mineral Resources, to Artesian Basin Oil. Senator Georges is trying to inteject again but I do not want to participate in an across the floor debate on this. I have answered the honourable senator’s question. Now I am talking to the Committee. The amount paid was 50% of the audited cost of $45,811. The company provided the balance. The Act is designed to encourage the search for petroleum in Australia. Provided the conditions as outlined in my answer to the first question are fulfilled and petroleum is not discovered the question of a refund does not arise.
A question was asked about the syrex wasp. As far as I know the syrex wasp is found only in Tasmania and Victoria. It is hoped to contain it in those two States. However, all States and the Commonwealth are contributing to the syrex fund to carry out research into eradication and containment. I gave a breakdown of contributions to Senator Cameron last night.
– I direct my remarks to the proposed expenditure of $14,300,000 for subsidies in respect of the search for oil under Division 396. The question that I direct to the Minister - a question which has not been answered - is: Did the Department audit the amount that was paid by the Artesian Basin Oil Company Pty Ltd to the company that carried out the seismic survey? Did the company pay to the survey company in cash the full amount of the cost of the survey or did it pay merely in cash the subsidy and offer some other consideration, which may have been shares in the Artesian Basin Oil Company? This is important because it means that if only the subsidy money has been paid the $14,300,000 can be used in manoeuvres to improve the value of leases and so enhance the value of shares whereby certain individuals can gain a quick and substantial profit. If the Minister will answer this question before 1 proceed to some other item of expenditure I shall be grateful.
– In answer to the honourable senator’s question I can advise the Committee that in the operation that we are discussing the operator fulfilled all of the conditions pertaining to the agreement. He was entitled to a subsidy of $22,906, which is 50% of the audited cost of $45,811. The honourable senator asked how the audit was carried out and whether it was done properly. The Government pays the money on the receipt of documents which are audited. If the honourable senator thinks that a mistake has been made - and he is entitled to think this - officers of the Department of National Development and of the Bureau of Mineral’ Resources, which are the authorities responsible to the Minister and the Government for paying the subsidy, will go back and make another check as to what the audit consisted of in 1959, and I will advise the honourable senator.
– I am interested in the appropriation of $140,000 for the maintenance and running expenses of aircraft used by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. This item appears in Division 396 and is related to administrative expenses. This year’s appropriation is an increase of about $35,000 over last year’s expenditure. What aircraft does the Bureau of Mineral Resources use? Has it its own aircraft?
– This was answered last week. You could not have been listening.
– Unfortunately, I was not listening last week so I am seeking that information now. Is the increased maintenance necessary because of the age of the aircraft? Is it intended to replace the aircraft? I am interested to know why the proposed expenditure of $32,000 for office services under Division 398 represents an increase of almost 50% over last year’s expenditure.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I rise to a point of order. Can you make inquiries to ascertain who has turned off the heating?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANOrder! There is no point of order.
– I am not guilty. I am finding it very difficult to continue while honourable senators are laughing and it is rather depressing to see Senator Ormonde shivering in the corner. It is the ruthlessness of this Government which makes a man of Senator Ormonde’s age suffer as he is suffering tonight. 1 wish to refer to the Forestry and Timber Bureau, but it is difficult to compete with the noise. The penetrating female laugh is very distracting. If the honourable senator cannot stop laughing I suggest that she should remove herself from the chamber until we have been able to get some enlightenment on these estimates. For office services an increase in the appropriation is proposed. Last year we appropriated $23,000 for this purpose, of which only $21,445 was spent, but this year the proposed appropriation is $32,000. I would like to know the reason. What is meant by ‘office services’ and why is there a necessity to increase the vote? I point out also that an increase is proposed in the appropriation for motor vehicles - hire, maintenance and running expenses. I should like to know the reason for this increase.
– Would the honourable senator please raise his voice as we cannot hear him?
– With the heating turned off I am too frozen to be able to raise my voice. I notice that the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) has come into the chamber. Perhaps he has a message to convey to us. First, I ask: What hiring of motor vehicles is done by the Forestry and Timber Bureau.
– In Division 398, under administrative expenses for the Forestry and Timber Bureau, in addition to normal requirements provision has been made for an increased usage of fuel, light and power at the new glasshouse potting shed complex at Yarralumla. It is estimated that the increase will be $6,500. In Division 396 provision is made for $140,000 for aircraft maintenance and running expenses. This item includes provision for the modification, repair, maintenance, overhaul, registration, licensing and crewing of aircraft owned by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and for the purchase of fuel, oil, lubricants, stores and spare part requirements for their operation and servicing. Two aircraft are operated by the Bureau, a DC3- VH-MIN - and an Aero Commander - VH-BMR. Crews are provided by Trans-Australia Airlines which also services the machines and either carries out or supervises the periodic overhauls or repairs that are necessary. The DC3 aircraft, VH-MIN, is to be replaced during 1969-70 by a Twin Otter aircraft.
– by leave - May I intercede to indicate that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and I have had a discussion and have agreed on the desirability of setting our course to complete the task we have by 4.30 p.m. on Friday. I think Senator Murphy might perhaps like to speak to this for a moment.
After he has spoken we may then be in a position to move a motion.
– by leave - I agree with what the distinguished Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) has said. We have agreed upon the desirability of finishing at the allotted time. In this chamber each honourable senator has the privilege of speaking on matters. There are a great number of matters to be dealt with. No-one can be certain of what might happen in this place, but we have certainly agreed upon the desirability, if it commends itself to the collective will of the Senate, of adjourning at the allotted time of 4.30 tomorrow afternoon.
– It will be this afternoon.
– It is now 1.45 a.m., so it is today that we hope to finish. A great number of matters have to be disposed of, and no doubt the respective Parties would like to consider their position. There are matters which the Government wants to get through and there are some matters that the Opposition wants to get through. We feel that it may be possible to do this if we co-operate. I agree entirely with what has been said by the Leader of the Government about the result of these productive discussions. So far as we can, we will endeavour to see that we end at the allotted time tomorrow.
Senate adjourned at 1.47 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690925_senate_26_s42/>.