27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday afternoon Senator Little asked me a question concerning the non-operation of the fountains in front of Parliament House. The Department of the Interior has informed me that the fountains have been closed down for cleaning and maintenance purposes and to investigate the accumulation of leaves in the 3 fountain pools. If Senator Little requires further information he should address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: On what date was a writ in the name of the Australian National Airlines Commission issued out of the High Court of Australia claiming unspecified damages against the Commonwealth and Canadian Pacific Airlines Ltd?
– The information I have with me does not enable me to give the exact date. I will have to obtain that information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask: Will he inform the Senate what enforcement provisions exist in the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act in relation to industrial awards and agreements?
– Recent discussions seem to have gone along on the basis that provisions for the enforcement of industrial agreements registered with the court are entirely novel. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides at present in relation to industrial agreements registered with the court that penalties shall be imposed upon parties who are guilty of a breach of the terms of an agreement for such an amount as the industrial agreement itself fixes. If no penalty is fixed by an industrial agreement the Act itself provides for a penalty of $1,000 on the organisation responsible, whether it be of employers or employees, and a penalty of$500 on an individual employer. The existing provision in respect of an individual employee is for a maximum penalty of $20 for a breach of the terms of an agreement. All the disputation that has been going on has been on the basis that there is no such provision in the present legislation. Of course, the decision yesterday will not alter the position.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air, I ask: Is it a fact that the use of a Royal Australian Air Force BAC111 aircraft by the GovernorGeneral of Australia, Sir Paul Hasluck; to participate in the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire will cost the Australian taxpayer$1 6,000, or will the cost be in excess of that amount? Will the Minister advise the Parliament why the use of a VIP aircraft was authorised when the Governor-General and his party could have used commercial aircraft at a fraction of the cost?
– The flight by the BAC111 to Iran was undertaken with the full authority and support of Ministers to enable the Governor-General to represent Australia fittingly at the celebrations of the 25th century of the Iran monarchy. Honourable senators will be aware that these celebrations are being attended by heads of State, heads of government and other distinguished representatives of many countries. Many of them will be travelling in their own aircraft. The Government feels that Australia, as a country with a significant standing in international circles, is fittingly represented by the Governor-General and that it is right and proper for the Governor-General to use the aircraft of the VIP flight. I am advised that under the existing cost formula for charging of VIP aircraft travel the estimated cost of the use of the BAC111 for the purpose is $23,347. The cost of civil fares for the same journey would be $7,431.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen the small anniversary brochure currently available in TransAustralia Airlines aircraft which reveals that on the occasion of the airline’s very first flight, in addition to the usual fare, the crew were on the menu, presumably to satisfy those whose appetites had not been fully appeased? Will the Minister, through the channels available to him, endeavour to induce TAA to revert to this practice as a supplement to such meagure offerings as the saucerful of doubtful looking fare called ravioli’ which had to suffice as a meal for passengers on TAA’s flight 496 to Canberra last Monday night? Alternatively, will he suggest that TAA try to do just a little bit better for passengers who have begun journeys at a time which does not permit them to get a meal elsewhere during a journey of some hours?
– 1 was not aware that we had cannibals in this country and I am surprised to learn that we still have one or two. 1 shall seriously direct the honourable senator’s question to the Trans-Australia Airlines people tomorrow when 1 am in Melbourne and point out that the honourable senator feels that he is not being properly fed by them.
– J ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Has he noted that throughout the report recently issued by the Australia to Europe shipping conference strong reference is made to what is described as the most telling factor in the increase in operating costs, and one of the reasons why freights should go up, namely the cost of marine fuel oil which it is claimed has increased in price at the rate of 100 per cent in one year? Because the Australian National Line’s bunkering costs as indicated in its last 2 annual reports do not show a similar steep increase or anything like it will the Minister seek an explanation of this disparity?
– I have seen the references mentioned. ] do not have a great amount of information but I think I am correct when 1 say that one of the reasons why the bunkering costs have risen so much for marine diesel oil is the concentration of the monopoly control of this kind of fuel in the Middle East. The problems of that area - disturbances and the possibility of war - are causing increased prices. I am not quite sure, but I think it is correct that the Australian National Line had the benefit of a contract arrangement. I shall have to seek further and more precise information for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Immigration. By way of preface I refer to a reply given by him yesterday to a question about the acceptability of United States and West German teacher migrants to Australia. My question refers to the United States teachers Edward Blesch and John Smith, who claim they were assisted migrants. If they were on assisted passages was it on the say-so of the State Government migrant recruitment venture? If the answer is yes, why are there not ministerial conferences between the Minister for Immigration, the New South Wales Minister responsible for immigration matters and Ministers responsible for education to settle the problem of standards? Further, has the Committee on Overseas Professional qualifications been asked to mediate in this apparent conflict involving United States and West German teachers which makes the teachers virtually educational beachcombers?
– I think the problem of the United States and West German teachers and their educational beachcombing activities is a matter for those 2 governments and not for this one. I cannot give a response for the Minister to the question of whether he has had discussions with the States concerned in areas of common responsibility because the Minister is not here at the moment. Knowing him as I do, I should think that he has. 1 have some information regarding Mr Piette, Mr Blesch and also Mr J. R. Smith. But this is long and detailed. It does not add anything for the information of the Senate. However, it will probably help the honourable senator and I shall have it put into the form of a letter for him.
– My question which is directed to the Attorney-General refers to reported statements yesterday oy the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth probably has no constitutional power to legislate on pollution, although he doubted whether anyone would challenge the appropriation of funds for antipollution measures. 1 ask whether the Attorney-General has noted in a report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution that the evidence presented to that Committee tended to establish firmly that the Commonwealth has, through a coalescence of Commonwealth power in a number of fields, sufficient legislative competence to enforce a national approach to water pollution? In view of the Committee’s emphasis on the urgency of a national approach, will the Attorney-General examine those sections of the Committee’s report which refer to its views on both the constitutional position of the Commonwealth and the Federal concept of the Constitution and let the Senate have his advice in due course?
– 1 have seen the report of the Prime Minister’s remarks made yesterday and 1 have read the Hansard account of what he said. I think that I would agree generally with every word that was used. It is a fact that the Commonwealth Government has no head of constitutional power in regard to which it may legislate on matters of air pollution or water pollution. Indeed, the whole subject of conservation of the environment is not a matter upon which the Commonwealth Government has any head of power. Accordingly, if the Commonwealth Government is to act in these areas it must use one of the alternatives or a combination of alternatives. It will seek co-operation with the States as a matter of high policy. Of course it can rely on the appropriation power to which the Prime Minister referred. By bringing together various heads of power it may extract from them a justification for a course on which a government could proceed. I have noted, as the honourable senator has asked, that the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution expressed a view that by a coalescence of various heads of power the Commonwealth Government might be able to do something 10 tormulate policy with regard to water pollution. I will again look at the proposals of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I do not know that 1 will make a statement to the Senate. But if I find anything useful on a reconsideration of the matter I shall discuss it with the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that there is a strong trend away from the use of plastic bags as wrapping materials in the more environmental conscious countries such as West Germany and other countries in Western Europe? Is the Minister aware that Australia is allowing the importation of millions of plastic bags from places in the East such as Hong Kong and China? Is the Minister also aware that the imported bags are less expensive than locally produced paper bags which, of course, are not such a polluting factor? Finally, has the Minister any plans to reduce the number of plastic bags imported?
– I have some information on the plastic bag situation which is part of my general information from the Department of Trade and Industry. I will summarise this information as briefly as I can. These plastic bags are not subject to import control. They may be imported quite freely subject to the appropriate duty being paid. Imports are substantial although local manufacturers are estimated to be able to supply the bulk of the domestic market for polythene bags. There is a disposal problem with them and that is understood. But the Government does not feel that tariff policy is the appropriate method to use to overcome this problem.
Local manufacturers supply the bulk of the requirements, so that the disposal problem would not really be met by import controls in any way. The plastics industry, I am given to understand, has formed a solid waste disposal committee which is looking at this problem of the disposal of plastic products. I admit, and I think that all honourable senators would admit, that this is a community problem which has to be solved by community action because plastic packaging is increasingly being used and the same problems as arose with beer cans on country roadsides are starting to arise in relation to plastic products.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Is it a fact that a British aircraft manufacturer is currently negotiating with the Australian Government for the manufacture of a new aircraft type in Australia? If so, can the Minister advise the Senate as to the details of the proposed aircraft and the proposed arrangements?
-I think it would be fair to say that there is a continuing flow into this country of representatives of aircraft manufacturers to discuss their aircraft in relation to the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force. In all cases evaluations of these aircraft are made against the background of RAAF requirements. Recently we had an example of this in regard to the replacement for the Mirage aircraft. An evaluation of an aircraft type by the Department of Air is then discussed with the Department of Defence in the context of the timing within the 5-year rolling programme. The aircraft to which the honourable senator refers is one which will be evaluated and will be considered among others as a possible replacement for the Macchi jet trainer at some future time. I emphasise to the honourable senator and to the Senate that up to the present time no decision has been taken in any way in regard to this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I ask: Does the cancellation of the plan for the building of a new local post office at Haberfield, the removal of the teleprinter there and the downgrading of the unit by the removal of at least 2 staff members mean that the Government is committed to the ultimate closure of this post office? Is the Department committed to a policy of centralisation with Leichhardt as the regional centre of the district? Is it not true that the acquisition of land at a considerable price would be required for such a project at Leichhardt? Does the Department own a large area of land suitable for a new Haberfield Post Office at Haberfield?
– Representing as I do the Postmaster-General I am unable to provide the detailed information which I think would be required to answer the question properly. I think that the appropriate course would be to put the question on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. I refer to my question on 14th September relating to the proposal of the Western Australian Parliament that a joint CommonwealthState study should be undertaken concerning public access to Garden Island as a result of the construction of the naval facility there. I now ask whether the Commonwealth Government has completed its consideration of that proposal and, if so, whether it will agree to it? If the Government has not completed its consideration of the proposal, when can we expect that it will do so?
– BROCKMAN - I recall the honourable senator asking this question. I recall saying at the time that the matter was under discussion between the State Government and Federal Government departments concerned. I believe that this matter probably would rightly be in the province of the Prime Minister’s Department at the present time. I shall seek information from the Minister representing the Prime Minister and ask him to give the honourable senator a reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. To what extent are launchings of sounding rocket experiments at Woomera in conjunction with the European Space Research Organisation and other Weapons Research Establishment activities at the range and Salisbury likely to maintain a continuing capability? Are these activities sufficient to maintain the existing scientific, skilled and other staffs in these locations? Do future programmes, including those in co-operation with the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other countries, guarantee stability for all these skilled workers?
– As the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Supply I am not well enough informed on this subject to be able to reply to the question. I shall seek the information from the Minister and supply it to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. As it has been ascertained by Mr President that the fountains immediately in front of Parliament House have been closed down for cleaning and maintenance, can the Senate be informed as to how much more time will be required to complete such maintenance? Is it likely that the investigation which is taking place of the accumulation of leaves will be concluded before the autumn fall, or are the investigators waiting to examine the evidence that will be provided by the trees next April?
– Yesterday when Senator Little addressed a question on this subject to you, Mr President, I thought to myself that perhaps I should reply to it; but having listened to the honourable senator this morning I feel that his question bears out the old adage in this country that one should never volunteer. What I shall do is find out for Senator Little and for you, Mr President, details about this matter because, like him, I would not like to think that next autumn would come without our seeing any water.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In the rural community there appears to be widespread uncertainty as to whether those rural producers who qualify for assistance under the terms of the rural reconstruction scheme will continue to have their financial affairs directed through their usual bank or stock firm, or whether there will be a direct Government to producer provision of funds. Can the Minister clarify this position for me?
– I think I would need to have the honourable senator’s question in writing and refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry before I would be in a position to answer it. 1 shall do that and then give the information to the honourable senator.
– Will the Minister for Health advise the Senate of the amount of subsidy paid to each State National Fitness Council during 1970 under the Commonwealth scheme which offers $66,000 for capital assistance on a $1 for $2 basis for the redevelopment of old camps and the acquisition of new sites?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, I shall get that information and make it available to the honourable senator. As I do not expect that we will be in session next week I shall try to get the information and make it available to him directly within the next several days.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether the members of the Citizen Military Forces who have served in Vietnam were officers and, further, whether they were volunteers?
– In answering a question on this subject yesterday I think I said that they were officers. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for the Army who has advised me that they were officers and other ranks, that they were all volunteers and that the average weekly number of members of the CMF in Vietnam has been between 25 and 30 officers and men. At present 18 officers and 8 other ranks who are members of the CMF are serving in Vietnam. While I am speaking on this subject, may I take the opportunity to answer Senator Cavanagh who asked me a question yesterday?
– I thought the Minister had done so in answer to the question from Senator Young.
– No, not quite.
- Senator Cavanagh has the option. If he is agreeable to that process 1 shall go along with it.
– I am agreeable, but I would have welcomed the information yesterday, instead of having it come through an answer to another senator.
– That is not quite right.
– It is. It is a prepared thing.
– Yesterday Senator Cavanagh asked me the following question:
If, as we were told during the debate on the National Service Bill last week, membership of the Citizen Military Forces is a protection against being sent to Vietnam, how is it that the figures supplied by the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service show that there were one death and 9 casualties of CMF personnel in Vietnam How many, CMF personnel serve in Vietnam? Was there a state of emergency or a declaration of war which permitted such personnel to be sent to Vietnam?
The answerI have obtained for him is that members of the CMF have been posted to Vietnam only if they have volunteered for such service. It will take some time to determine the total number of CMF members who have served in Vietnam. However at present there are 18 officers and 8 other ranks serving there.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to one 1 asked yesterday on controlled egg production. The Minister’s answer to that question led me to believe that he may not have fully understood my question. I now ask: Will the Minister, as a matter of extreme urgency, request the Minister for Primary Industry to convene a special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council before his departure overseas next month so that a full and frank discussion can take place between all State
Ministers for Agriculture in an effort to resolve the deadlock that now exists in relation to controlled egg production?
– I well understand the honourable senator’s concern, particularly when the Australian Agricultural Council is not due to meet until next February. I will pass his question to the Minister for Primary Industry and if the Minister has any comment I shall give it to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister had sufficient time to assess the worth of the Australian Wool Commission to primary producers? Is he in a position to express in monetary terms the value of the operations of the Commission to the wool growers of Australia?
– I have been trying to indicate to my colleague on the Opposition side. Senator Poke, for some days that I believe that the Australian Wool Commission has done a very good job. I think this is expressed in the views of the leaders of the wool industry organisations and by members of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. If the honourable senator looks at the interim report of the Commission for 1970-71 there is no doubt–
– What do the wool growers think?
– There is no doubt that without the Commission’s firm stand in the last wool selling season the price of wool would have fallen quite considerably.I think I expressed this view to Senator Prowse the other day when I said that wool which at present is not under the reserve price scheme had fallen by between 12 per cent and 34 per cent according to the type of wool. The report states that the action of the Commission avoided a loss of proceeds to wool growers of upwards of $30m in less than 6 months or an equivalent of$80m in a full year. Surely, Senator Cant would agree that the wool growers would have something to say in favour of saving that amount of money.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by reminding him that on 2 previous occasions 1 have asked about the installation of radar facilities in the Many Peaks area and be has contracted to endeavour to get the information. 1 now ask: Can he advise what action he has taken regarding the radar installation in the Many Peaks area at Townsville and is it proposed to proceed with the project?
– I thought I indicated last time that my inquiries into this matter had shown that this is substantially a subject for another department, not the Department of Civil Aviation. I asked the Department to let me have a letter giving the details that we have for the honourable senator. Beyond that I cannot go except to say that after question time I shall see whether that letter has yet been prepared and if it has not I will have it prepared.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Does the Government recognise that public transport in Australia is in a serious state of decline, particularly in the major cities? Have the State Ministers for Transport made any representations to the Commonwealth for sufficient funds to underwrite, in part or in whole, the capital indebtedness of the various State transport systems? Is it not a fact that the capital indebtedness of these systems is the principle influence in deteriorating public transport? Has the Government given any consideration to diverting the massive funds now made available to the States for road construction to the State public transport systems?
– A question rather similar to this one was asked yesterday. 1 could try to give a rather similar answer, except that I do not want to take up too much of the Senate’s time. It is true that transport is a serious matter in Australia. It is true that a large part of the cost to the Australian community, particularly the primary industries, flows out of transport costs. I am sure that anything that was done by the Commonwealth - in fact, this is being done by the Bureau of Transport Economics - to study the incidence of transport costs and any method that might be designed to relieve them would have everybody’s support. As far as the capital debt structure of the State transport systems is concerned, at the moment I cannot answer any further than saying that I understand the problem, including the interest burden problem. Perhaps it is a legacy of the past, of mistaken judgments on some of the lines and systems that nave been installed. That is only a personal view. I am sure that it calls for deep study. The Commonwealth is taking its place in that deep study, but that does not detract from the State governments’ concern and proper pursuit of the consitutional and financial responsibility which lies very much in their own hands.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As there appears to be some confusing comment on the Government’s announcement concerning its donation of rice to India and Pakistan, has the Minister any information on this matter, particularly on whether it is additional aid to Australia’s ordinary programme?
– 1 have seen statements that cast doubt upon whether the recent donations of the Commonwealth, amounting to $3m, are additional to the ordinary aid. I want to put before the Senate precisely what the position is. The Government has decided, to date, to provide $3m in emergency aid to India and Pakistan. Of that, $1,485,000 is in the form of rice and $1,515,000 is in other types of emergency relief. All this aid is additional to what would have been provided to India and Pakistan had there not been a refugee problem.
In normal circumstances India’s allocation of wheat under the Food Aid Convention this year would have been 40,000 tons. That is less than the 65,000 tons allocated last year, in accordance with India’s increasing self-sufficiency in wheat production. As India’s wheat production has increased our wheat aid has been reduced progressively from 152,500 ions in 1967-68. As the Senate knows, one of the principal aims of this aid is to enable the countries receiving it to achieve selfsufficiency. I remind the Senate that on 18th August this year the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that when we offered India an additional 25,000 tons of wheat for refugee relief India refused it. The Government agreed, however, to give the equivalent in rice. This rice, worth $lm, is additional to India’s normal Food Aid Convention allocation and is a high priority food for India.
Pakistan’s normal allocation of wheat is 26,000 tons. It was increased to that amount in 1969-70 and has remained at that level. Last year we gave an additional 9,000 tons in respect of the flood that occurred late last year. This year an additional amount of rice equivalent in value to approximately 9,000 tons of wheat will again be given to Pakistan to meet the current emergency. The value of this is $485,000. I hope that explains in clear terms the relationship between the present donations and the ordinary donations and shows that the present donations are completely additional to the ordinary provisions.
– -Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry noted the revelation in the Australian Meat Research Committee report that the eating habits of dingoes do not make them the stock assassins that they are supposed to be? Does he feel that this finding justifies a policy of co-existence with stock rather than a policy of total extinction?
– I will have to read the report. Until that time I cannot give the honourable senator an answer.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Is the Minister aware that the sudden lifting of interest rates on contracts involving the purchase of a house often can impose a severe burden on those who buy such houses? Will the Government consider exempting such contracts from any interest increases that may occur from time to time?
-I apologise to the honourable senator. I regret that 1 did not hear all of the question. Therefore, I suggest that the appropriate course would be to put it on the notice paper.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer prompt the Treasurer that there is strong support in industry generally for the reintroduction of the income tax investment allowance? Does it not appeal to the Minister and to the Government that Australian manufacturers require the utmost encouragement which can be given by the Government to improve and to modernise their production equipment? Will the Minister seek a reversal of the decision which eliminated that taxation benefit?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs I would have indicated on other occasions when similar questions were asked, this matter is one of policy, but I will prompt the Treasurer on the views expressed by the honourable senator.
(Question No. 1218)
asked the Minister representing the Treas urer, upon notice:
What has been the amount involved in approvals granted for the construction of multi-storey buildings in each of the capital cities, Newcastle and Wollongong, since the request made by the Government earlier this year for developers to ease downon this type of development?
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Statistics differentiating between single and multi-storeyed buildings are not available for either the building approvals or building operations series. However, the tables below showing monthly approvals, from January 1971 to July 1971 inclusive, for ‘Other New Buildings’ (i.e. buildings excluding houses and flats) and ‘Offices’ (included in the ‘Other New Buildings’ figures) may prove suitable for the honourable senator’s purpose. The figures are for the 6 capital cities and Newcastle and Wollongong and are dissected to show separately the private and government sectors.
Throughout Australia, approvals of private office building have to date in 1971 run well below their record level of 1970. For the period January to August, private office approvals totalled $152.8m in 1971 compared with $187.2m in 1970. These approvals thus declined in value by over 18 per cent between the two periods.
Question No. 1273)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1387)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Government direct the Reserve Bank of Australia to reduce interest rates as a direct move to combat the Government-inspired recession psychology, and to reverse the disturbing economic lethargy now affecting the nation.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The present pattern of interest rates and other aspects of monetary policy are parts of our eco nomic policy which has been designed to secure stability consistent with growth. As always the Government is maintaining a close and continuous examination of developments in the economy and will be guided accordingly so far as future policy is concerned.
(Question No. 1413)
asked the Minister for
Works, upon notice:
How many employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works will be dismissed before Christmas, 1971, in the Brisbane metropolitan area and in Queensland country districts.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question, which was asked on 29th September, is as follows:
On a current assessment of the workload in Queensland by the Department of Works, the answer is nil.
(Question No. 1423)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1433)
– I directed question
No. 1433 to the Minister for Works, but on perusal of its terms and as the men concerned have all been sacked by the Commonwealth Department of Works, I do not now propose to ask the question.
– Order! The question is on the notice paper and the Minister is entitled to reply to a question on notice.
- Senator Keeffe directed the following question to me, upon notice:
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1159)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1 1 60)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1161)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Have existing life insurance offices exerted pressure at both administrative and government levels to resist the granting of any new licences.
Adriatic Insurance Company.
The Mercantile Mutual Life Insurance Company Ltd.
In addition, the following life companies operating in Australia have acquired since 1945 a controlling interest in certain companies carrying on general insurancc business in Australia:
The Australasian Temperance & General Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd.
Australian Mutual Provident Society.
The City Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd.
The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd.
Commercial Union Assurance Company of Australia Ltd.
The Mutual Life & Citizens’ Assurance Company Ltd.
The National Mutual Life Association of Australia Ltd.
Commonwealth Government authority is not required under the Life Insurance Act to enable a life company to extend its operations into the general insurance field. However, the Insurance Act 1932-1966 provides that a person shall not carry on general insurances business in Australia unless he has lodged a deposit with the Treasurer as required by that Act.
(Question No. 1283)
asked the Minister repre sentingthe Treasurer, upon notice:
Has the Treasury made any overall survey, in the past 3 years, in relation to the various forms of taxation in use in Australia; if so, has consideration been given to (a) the introduction of either a capital gains tax or net wealth tax; (b) the abolition of death duties; and (c) any consequential variations in the form and incidence of sales tax, income lax, company tax and other taxes and, if so, will the Treasurer consider presenting to the Parliament a ‘white paper’ setting out the details of the various factors considered.
– The Acting Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In recent years some studies have been made in the Treasury and the Taxation Office of various features of the taxation system of Australia and of some other countries. These studies have naturally touched on matters of the kind referred to by the Honourable Senator. The question of presenting a ‘white paper’ will be kept under notice for consideration at the appropriate time.
(Question No. 1329)
asked the Minis ter representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is it lawful for a census collector to complete a census form on behalf of a person who refused to do so on conscientious grounds.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The question appears to seek a legal opinion which it is not appropriate to seek by Parliamentary Question. In certain circumstances the census collector has an obligation to assist an occupier in the filling up of a census form but it is not possible to provide a precise answer to the Honourable Senator’s question without a full knowledge of the circumstances.
If the Honourable Senator is aware of any case in which he considers that a collector has acted improperly I will look into the matter if he will supply particulars.
(Question No. 1355)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Official Liquidator by way of public tender. Australian interests had full opportunity to lender. For the Government to have sought to prevent the sale in these circumstances would have required it to overrule a decision of an officer of the Court and could have jeopardised the interests of the shareholders and creditors of the company.
– On 12th October Senator Cavanagh asked me, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for the Army, the following question:
Can the Minister give any information on the figures incorporated in Hansard last Thursday evening by Senator Wright, who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service in this place, as to the number of casualties in Vietnam? The figures show that the number of national service casualties in battle was close to the number of casualties in battle of the permanent military forces, and that the non-battle casualties of the permanent military, forces are far in excess of the non-battle casualties of national servicemen. Is this an indication that the deployment of national service trainees in danger areas in Vietnam is greater than that of members of the permanent military forces.
The Minister for the Army has provided me with the following information:
No. National servicemen have been allocated to combat units in Vietnam in the approximate proportions of 50 per cent national servicemen and 50 per cent permanent military forces. The reasons for the higher non-battle casualties for the PMF would appear to include such considerations as more PMF service in base units than national servicemen. It must be realised that many of the tasks undertaken in support units require more specialised skills than can be learned by national servicemen with their shorter period of service. However an analysis is being undertaken to determine the types of injuries sustained by the PMF which are classified non-battle casualties. I will provide the honourable senator with this analysis when it is completed.
– Mr President, I seek leave to table a document and, in the act of tabling it, to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in relation to that document.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI present the following paper:
Report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, August 1971.
Honourable senators will understand that when I use the first person personal pronoun in this statement it refers to the Prime Minister. 1 have pleasure in presenting to the House the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee. The Committee was composed of a group of eminent Australian lawyers. It was charged with recommending to the Government the procedures by which administrative decisions could be reviewed either in law or on their merits. The members of the Committee were Mr Justice Kerr, a member of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, as Chairman; Mr Justice Mason, who was first appointed to the Committee in his capacity at the time as the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth and who continued to be a member of the Committee following his appointment in 1969 as a Judge of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales; Mr R. J. Ellicott, Q.C., who joined the Committee on his appointment as SolicitorGeneral of the Commonwealth on 15th May 1969; and Professor J. Whitmore, presently Dean of the Faculty of Law in the Australian National University and an acknowledged authority on Administrative Law.
The report is a valuable contribution to Australian study of the subject of administrative review. It reflects the considerable expertise and industry which the members of the Committee brought to their task. A glance at the chapter headings of the report will serve to indicate the breadth of the Committee’s consideration of the matters referred to it. The report canvasses the problems associated with the review of administrative decisions. Against the background of experience in some overseas countries, it discusses the efficacy of traditional means of redress of grievances, including by representations by members of the Parliament. It notes the steps taken by the Parliament itself in particular statutes to provide for review of the decisions of administrative tribunals. It examines the adequacy of the traditional review procedures through the courts by the prerogative writs of mandamus, prohibition and certiorari. The Committee has concluded that a Commonwealth administrative court should be established to provide a means for judicial review of the decisions of Commonwealth Ministers, officials and administrative bodies. The jurisdiction of the court would be limited to judicial review on legal grounds. Alongside the court would bc established an administrative review tribunal. The tribunal would, in appropriate cases, review on the merits the exercise of administrative discretions under Commonwealth statutes and regulations.
In addition, the report outlines a proposal for an administrative review council. The council would be charged with supervising the procedures of administrative tribunals, and with making recommendations as to the administrative discretions lo be reviewed on their merits by the tribunal. The tribunal would be assisted by a General Council for Grievances and a small research staff. The General Council for Grievances would be a member of the council and have a right of audience before both the Commonwealth Administrative Court and the Administrative Review Tribunal. It can be seen that the Committee has produced a report which sets out in an informed and elegant fashion a comprehensive structure for administrative review. Even from this summary honourable senators will appreciate that the report will require considerable study. We have decided to make it available at this stage in order to promote informed and considered discussion in the Parliament and in public, academic and professional circles.
The Government has not had an opportunity to consider the report in detail. But we have decided that immediate action on 2 fronts is appropriate.
A group of 3 people will be appointed to examine existing administrative discretions under Commonwealth statutes and regulations and to advise the Government as to those in respect of which it considers a review on the merits should be provided. This study of needs will proceed immediately and ahead of any decisions about further aspects of the report. We intend that the group lo study and make recommendations on the review of administrative discretions under statute and regulation will be constituted at a high level. It will include perhaps one member of the Committee whose report is now being tabled, a very senior and experienced public servant or ex-public servant and perhaps one other with wide experience in the legal, political or administrative fields. In the light of the recommendations from the group and of responses from those interested in the report now tabled, the Government will be able to determine in detail what additional arrangments for administrative review may be necessary.
In addition, the Government has decided to ask the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to institute a review of the prerogative writ procedures available in the courts. We accept the comment of the Committee that the legal grounds on which remedies can at present be obtained are limited and often complicated. The AttorneyGeneral’s review of remedies available in the courts will take place concurrently with the study I have mentioned of the existing range of administrative discretions under statute or regulation. This review should also lead to recommendations which the Government will consider. The Government believes that these 2 immediate decisions relating to the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee will be taken as a tangible demonstration of the significance it attaches to the protection of the rights of individuals at a time when governments excise extensive powers on their behalf.
I think it appropriate to add at this stage 2 comments. The first is that this report should be of particular concern to members of the Parliament. They themselves have a significant role in the review and criticism of the administrative processes. It is important that their own role be regarded as central and that any steps taken in response to the report should have this in mind. My second comment relates to the possibility of these reforms causing delays in the administrative process. The Government, and the Commonwealth Service, are often criticised for delays that occur in administration. In large part, these are due to the need for co-ordination and for clearance to ensure that all aspects of any particular matter are fully considered. It must be recognised that any substantial extension of institutions and procedures for the formal review of administrative action will in the nature of things add materially both to the time taken in the administrative process and to the costs it entails. I need not remind honourable senators that speed and efficiency in the conduct of Government business are important both for the Government itself and for those who rely on decisions of the Government. I believe honourable senators will welcome the report and the action the Government proposes to take. I commend the report to the Senate for consideration.
– 1 seek leave to move that the Senate take note of the paper.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The document which has been presented to the Senate today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is most important. It is a report which has been eagerly awaited by many people who are interested in this branch of the law. I think it is well known that a number of countries have had quite a considerable body of administrative law. This has not been the case in Australia. This document is probably one of the most important which has been presented to the Senate. I trust that the Government will give honourable senators an opportunity to debate this important report at some time before the conclusion of this sessional period. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
– I ask leave to make a short statement in relation to this report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I join with Senator Wheeldon in welcoming this report. It is of immense significance and tremendous modern relevance. Over the past 3 years such matters as the exercise of ministerial discretion, subordinate legislation and the interpretation and application of regulations have been of particular concern to this Senate. Such matters have provided topics of controversy between one side of the House and the other. As Senator Wheeldon said, in some countries bodies of administrative law - that is a vertical structure of law- lie parallel to the ordinary systems of civilian and criminal law. It is a structure which we do not have in Australia. lt may be something which would be more appropiate than the discharge of administrative functions under the general rule of law. Senator Wright may controvert me on this matter.
– I do not want to interrupt the honourable senator but -
– I am not going to make a speech. I have just said that Senator Wright may controvert me. However, I regard this report as a most important document. I welcome it. 1 commend it to honourable senators for close study before it comes before this chamber again for debate. It may be something which affects the whole judicial procedure in Australia and the application of this growing body of administrative law.
Debate (on motion Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
– 1 present the first special report from the Joint Committee on Publications relating to the distribution and pricing of parliamentary documents. I ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard a statement relating to this report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Mr President, the report which I have just tabled represents a landmark in the parliamentary oversight of Government publishing operations. This is the first report of the Joint Committee on Publications operating under the powers granted to it by Senate standing order 36 and House of Representatives standing order 28 which came into force last year. The subject matter of the inquiry was referred to the Committee by the then Treasurer, Mr Bury, on 5th March 1971 when he wrote asking the Committee to inquire into the whole question of the pricing of parliamentary publications and the associated financial arrangements. Parliamentary publications include Hansard, the notice papers, votes and proceedings and journals of the two Houses, the Parliamentary Handbook, the various pamphlets and lists published by the parliamentary departments and the parliamentary papers series which comprises some 250 papers which the Houses order to be printed during each year. This category does not include Government departmental publications which are circulated in the Parliament but not ordered to be printed as parliamentary papers nor does it include acts of Parliament although Bills and tariff proposals do fall into the category. In essence parliamentary publications are those for which parliamentary departments pay for the printing and distribution.
Most members of this Chamber tend to take for granted the supply of information papers and Hansards which are produced by the various Parliamentary departments. This is, however, an area of considerable importance involving the expenditure of at least Jim per annum. The present arrangements for the supply of parliamentary publications to universities, libraries and the public etc. stem mainly from edicts of the Presiding Officers at the beginning of the century and apart from their consideration by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Hansard in 1954 and the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Government Publications in 1964, very little attention has been given to these matters. One of the reasons for the then Treasurer requesting the Committee to conduct an inquiry into the distribution and pricing of parliamentary publications was the short-fall experienced by the Austraiian Government Publishing Service Distribution Section Trust Fund from which funds are provided to distribute such publications as Hansards, bills, parliamentary papers etc. The then Treasurer suggested that the arrangements, whereby the Trust Fund was reimbursed to the extent of 25 per cent of revenue raised by subscriptions to these publications, were not very reasonable as the expenses incurred by the publishing service were in some cases some thousands per cent greater than income earned.
During the course of the inquiry, the Committee established that there had been no real attempts to rationalise free distribution and paying subscriber arrangements for these publications and that the criteria of eligibility for free receipt of parliamentary publications had not been challenged or varied for some years. The Committee found that a large proportion of these publications were issued free, the cost of production being met by Parliament and the cost of distribution being met by the Publishing Service and that in the case of most publications there were few subscribers to parliamentary publications. In the case of publications to which there were a relatively large number of subscribers, for example Hansard with 1400 subscribers and Parliamentary Papers and Bills with between 100 and 200 subscribers, the subscription charges levied were totally unrelated to the cost of production and distribution and did not even cover postage costs.
The Committee also considered the publication of Hansard taking a special interest in the nature of the Daily and Weekly Hansards. The Committee heard evidence and received submissions pointing out that the Select Committee on Hansard of 1954 and the Joint Select Committee of 1964, both recommended that the Daily Hansard bc made a ‘for sale’ item which would be publicly available on the day after the debates which it reported. The Committee agreed that this seemed an excellent idea but established that the current work load of the Government Printer prohibited such a step being taken in the near future. However, the Committee has recommended that as soon as the Printer is able to produce Daily Hansards with sufficient speed and in sufficient quantity, arrangements be made to sell the Daily and to decrease the extent of the publication of the Weekly Hansard. This will not only change the nature of the Hansard from that of a reference document to a news item, but should also enable it to be produced somewhat more economically as revenue from sales should offset production costs to a greater extent than at present. The Committee has made several recommendations concerning the free distribution of parliamentary publications to educational institutions, such as universities, colleges of advanced education, institutes of technology, teachers’ colleges and secondary schools and believes that one of the most important functions of the Parliament is to inform the rising generation of Australians about its operations. The Committee can see no reason for charging institutions such as these for parliamentary publications and has made similar recommendations concerning State and municipal libraries.
However, the Committee has also recommended that certain classes of persons and organisations be deleted from the free distribution lists and required to pay subscriptions for parliamentary publications. In the main, these are trade, business, employer, employee, professional, commercial and similar organisations, excluding newspapers and the parliamentary press gallery. The Committee can find no justification for such organisations not contributing to the costs of production and distribution of the publications which they wish to receive. At present the subscription rates for parliamentary publications are substantially the same as they were several decades ago and the Committee has recommended that the subscription rates be increased. The Committee has had to bear in mind 2 conflicting factors in arriving at this decision. The Committee is well aware of the necessity for providing deserving organisations and persons with inexpensive access to parliamentary publications and believes that it has done so by recommending that persons and organisations failing into this category be eligible for free receipt. At the same time the Committee has borne in mind that persons and organisations capable of paying a fair price for parliamentary publications have obtained them very cheaply in the past. So cheaply, in fact, that the cost of an annual subscription to parliamentary papers of Hansard can be less than the production cost of a single issue of such publications. As a result the Committee has recommended that a person subscribing to Hansard, or parliamentary papers, or Bills, etc. be required to pay a subscription fee which approximates to the run-on production costs plus postage labour and overhead costs. This will represent a change in the annual subscription to the parliamentary papers from $5 per annum to $85 per annum, a change in the annual subscription to Hansard of the 2 Houses from $1.20 per annum to approximately $27 per annum and a change in the subscription price of Bills from $3.50 per annum to about $33.
The Committee is aware that, in percentage terms, these increases are considerable but points out to the House that the present subscription rates are totally unrealistic in the light of the present costs, that deserving persons and organisations have been recommended to be eligible for free issue of publications and that the Trust Fund of the Sales and Distribution Branch of the Publishing Service from which funds are made available to extend the operations of that Branch and publicise parliamentary and government publications will be boosted by this added revenue, or at least, the extra revenue will enable the Trust Fund to remain liquid. The Committee has made one other recommendation apart from those relating to the cost of subscriptions to parliamentary publications, the extent of the free distribution lists and the selling of the Daily Hansard. This relates to the equipment currently used by the Government Printer.
In evidence to the Committee and in letters to the Committee and the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the Government Printer has indicated that for several years he has been attempting to obtain new equipment which would enable him to use computer-controlled type-setting processes that would vastly increase his printing capacity and decrease his printing costs. The Printer advised the Committee that this equipment, which would cost some $775,000, would enable htm to make a saving of about $200,000 per annum in the production of Hansard, that is about 50 per cent, and similar savings on other major items such as electoral rolls. The Commitee is unable to see the logic of the Government in rejecting the Printer’s request for funds for this equipment and strongly recommends that the Government reconsider this matter.
In conclusion, 1 would like to thank the other members of the Committee for the work they have put into this inquiry and also I would like to thank the Clerk to the Committee, Mr G. Horsfield, for his invaluable assistance during the inquiry. Mr President, I would like to remind the Chamber that the present Joint Publications Committee, as it is currently constituted, is a direct result of the Report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications of 1964 and the actions of the Government and the Parliament in accepting the recommendations of that report. To a certain extent this Committee replaces a since disbanded committee of the Department of the Treasury - a welcome change with Parliament taking over some of the functions of the Executive other than vice-versa. This is the first report produced by the Publications Committee, constituted in such a manner. I trust that our next investigations, which will concern overseas exchange arrangements for Government publications and the publishing activities of a number of Government departments will prove as interesting to the Committee and as fruitful as I would hope that this report will be.
– Is notice of motion No. 1, Government Business, standing in the name of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) formal or informal?
– Is notice of motion No. 2, Government Business, standing in the name of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) formal or informal?
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to preserve competition in trade and commerce to the extent required by the public interest.
– I move:
The buildings and services included in the proposals are: Instructional complex, junior sailors galley and mess, junior sailors accommodation, senior sailors accommodation, apprentices accommodation, apprentices mess and recreation building, gymnasium and squash court, swimming pool, civilian staff amenites, engineering services, site works and roads etc. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $6. 4m.
I table the plan of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Ander son) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 26th October at 3 p.m.
Motions (by Senator Sir Kenneth Ander son) - by leave-agreed to:
That Senator Negus be granted leave of absence for 1 month on account of ill health.
That Senator Turnbull be granted leave of absence for 3 months on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
– Mr President, I do not wish to rearrange the business paper. As to what will happen after 8 o’clock tonight, I suggest that we might be able to deal with that matter at 8 o’clock tonight.
– by leave - Mr President, as I intimated to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) and yourself, I wish to make a short statement in relation to the Parliamentary Handbook on Commonwealth Financial Affairs. A few weeks ago, this document prepared by the Treasury was circulated in this place. I was gratified personally by the production of this document because I think that it stems from a suggestion made by me. The idea behind the concept of the document was that members of Parliament and the general public should be acquainted with the public account and the increasing complexities and intricacies of the public account.
This document has been prepared in a form in which a very technical exercise, a most complex proposition, has been laid out interms that may well be followed and comprehended by people who normally are not skilled in those fields. I can imagine ‘that a document such as this would be in considerable demand outside this Parliament. It should be in very considerable demand within the Parliament itself. As the Commonwealth assumes new responsibilities and as the public account becomes of greater significance and of greater complexity, it is important that members particularly should know how to thread their way through the public account. With the development of the committee system in the Senate and more particularly the Estimates Committees it is of vital importance that honourable senators should have an easy familiarity with the complexities of the public account so that more appropriately, more intelligently and more effectively, in the discussions of Estimates Committees they can interrogate the officers and the Ministers who come before them.
I have a suggestion to make to your good self, Mr President. This document sets out the nature and the details of the public account in its various phases. After all, whether it takes the form of the Budget, an appropriation Bill or any other financial document, such a document finds its passage ultimately through the Parliament. In order to conclude this document and, I think, to make it a definitive document of the whole subject, it appears to me that 2 additional chapters might well be written. They would relate to the mode of presentation and passage of financial documents - that is, bills relating to finance, particularly appropriation Bills or supply Bills - through the House of Representatives and through this chamber.
I commend to you this suggestion: I ask that you consult with your colleague, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir William Aston, and ask him whether he for his part would have prepared a chapter relating to the presentation and passage of finance Bills through that place and that you might consult with the appropriate officers in this place for the preparation of a similar chapter on the handling, presentation and passage of finance Bills through the Senate. With the 2 chapters having been added, the whole document might then be printed as a complete document able to be circulated and which can go then to universities and be available, of course, to members in this place. I commend those suggestions to you. I personally shall be gratified if you will find that they can be adopted as I am sure a complete document of this type would be of great value.
-I undertake to study the comments made by Senator Byrne, to reply to them in the Senate or to him privately and to indicate any decision that I take.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
This Bill, which is for an Act to replace the Trade Practices Act 1965-1971, was foreshadowed in a statement I made to the Senate on 7th September 1971 following the decision of the High Court of Australia in the case of Strickland v. Rocla Concrete Pipes Limited and others, commonly referred to as the concrete pipes case. The purpose of the Bill is to overcome the constitutional defects that were found to exist in the Trade Practices Act in that case. In my statement of 7 th September I pointed out that the High Court had held that, due to the way in which the Trade Practices Act sought to use all the constitutional powers believed to be available to sustain the legislation, it was open to legal objection. I also pointed out that the High Court had made it clear that the corporations power in section 51(xx) of the Constitution could be used to support legislation dealing with the restrictive trade practices of corporations and that the Government had accordingly decided that the immediate remedial legislation should be founded on that power alone.
Although certain provisions of the Trade Practices Act dealing with resale price maintenance were subsequently declared to be valid by the Commonwealth Industrial Court there are substantial parts of the Act which have been rendered wholly inoperative by the High Court’s decision. Proceedings which were on foot with respect to pharmaceutical wholesalers have not been able to be continued. The legislative requirements and powers of the Commissioner of Trade Practices with respect to examinable agreements and examinable practices and the provisions relating to collusive bidding and collusive tendering have not been able to be enforced or excercised. It is clear from the High Court’s decision that there are large gaps in the effective operation of the Act. In these circumstances the present Bill has been introduced as a matter of immediate need in order to remedy the defects in the legislation. It is an interim or holding measure, pending the introduction at the earliest possible opportunity of strengthening legislation. I shall have more to say about this strengthening legislation later.
The task of remedying the defects in the Trade Practices Act by way of amendment of the existing provisions would have been a complex and unsatisfactory one. The Bill accordingly provides for the repeal of the existing Act and for re-enactment of provisions that are similar except that, apart from the shipping provisions, they are founded on the corporations powers alone. The shipping provisions remain founded on the overseas and interstate trade and commerce power but the other provisions of the Bill do not draw upon that power or upon other powers such as the power with respect to the Commonwealth’s Territories. This has been done in order to avoid problems of the kind disclosed by the High Court and, by facilitating the drafting, to avoid undersirable delay in the introduction of the Bill. The relationship of the Bill to the corporations power is provided for in a number of the operative provisions of the Bill such as those defining the agreements and practices that it covers. As I indicated in my statement on 7th September 1971, the Government is satisfied that legislation thus based entirely on the corporations power will cover the vast majority of significant restrictive practices that could be covered by Commonwealth legislation if reliance were placed on all available powers.
The Bill does not make provision for complementary State legislation, nor does it draw upon the reference of power from Tasmania. The task of including provisions with respect to these matters would have been a complex and time-consuming one and it would have delayed the introduction of the Bill. Such provisions have accordingly been deferred for consideration in connection wilh the subsequent strengthening legislation.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill. Apart from minor drafting changes, and the inclusion of some transitional provisions, the provisions of the Bill differ from the existing Act only to the extent that is necessary to remedy the constitutional defects. I shall refer to some of the more important of the differences. Further details are set out in the explanatory memorandum I have circulated to honourable senators.
The examinable agreements and the practices covered by the Bill have been redefined so as to relate them in each case to the corporations power. 1 shall not take the time of the Senate to explain the details of these changes, which are indicated in the explanatory memorandum. The general approach, however, is to confine examinable agreements to agreements under which restrictions are accepted by corporations and to confine the practices to those practices which are either engaged in by or affect corporations. Similarly the provisions relating to the offences of collusive tendering and collusive bidding have been confined so that they apply only to tendering and bidding by corporations.
Part XIV contains a number of transitional provisions, which will give continuing effect to certain steps that have been taken under the existing Trade Practices Act. It would be pointless to require that these steps be taken again under the new provisions. It is provided, for example, that the persons presently holding offices under the Trade Practices Act should continue in the corresponding offices under the new provisions. This will apply to the members of the Trade Practices Tribunal, the Com missioner of Trade Practices, the Registrar of the Tribunal and the Clerk of Shipping Agreements.
As a great number of agreements registered under the existing Act will be subject to registration under the new provisions, it is provided that the parties to these agreements need not again furnish particulars that they have furnished for the purposes of the existing Act. The agreements in question are deemed to have been registered under the new provisions, and they are to be incorporated with and to form part of the Register kept under the new provisions.
The Commissioner of Trade Practices has of course received from persons and is currently holding much information which it is plainly desirable that he should be able to retain. The Bill accordingly authorises the Commissioner to retain documents he has obtained from other persons so long as the documents can be related to a relevant head of constitutional power. The Bil! also ensures that the new secrecy provisions apply to documents and information that the Commissioner has obtained under the existing Trade Practices Act. This means that, the Commissioner and his staff will be forbidden from disclosing documents and information of this kind except in the narrow circumstances in which the secrecy provisions permit disclosure.
Another group of transitional provisions deal with the various proceedings that have been conducted or are presently on foot in the Trade Practices Tribunal. The first of these proceedings was between the Commissioner of Trade Practices and Tasmania Breweries Pty Limited. These proceedings were ended when the company gave to the Tribunal an undertaking to cease engaging in certain conduct. In the second proceedings - relating to frozen vegetables - the Tribunal recently determined, after a lengthy hearing, that certain agreements were contrary to the public interest, and it made a consequential restraining order. The Bill will ensure that the undertaking, the determination and the order have continuing effect.
Two other proceedings are at present pending in the Trade Practices Tribunal. The first of these was instituted by the Commissioner of Trade Practices in May this year against certain wholesalers of pharmaceutical products. It concerns an alleged examinable agreement. The other proceedings concern an application that has been made by a publishing company for the exemption of books under the resale price maintenance provisions. In both cases preliminary conferences have been held before the Tribunal and steps have been taken towards a full hearing. In order to avoid the need for these cases to be instituted anew, and for the preliminary steps to be taken again, the Bill provides for these cases to be regarded as if they had been instituted under the new provisions.
The Bill contains somewhat similar provisions in relation to overseas cargo shipping. .Under the existing Act notices have been served by the Minister for Trade and Industry on a number of shipowners requiring them to appoint agents resident in Australia, and to have an address for service in Australia. The Bill provides for these notices and the agents appointed and addresses notified to the Minister in response to them to be deemed to have been served, appointed and notified under the new provisions. There is a similar provision with respect to notices served by the Minister on shipowners requiring them to undertake to negotiate with shipper bodies in certain circumstances, and to undertakings given to the Minister in response to these notices.
Conference agreements that have been furnished for filing under the existing Act will not need to be filed again. The secrecy provisions governing the Clerk of Shipping Agreements and his staff will apply to documents and information obtained by them under the existing Act. The agreements and practices of certain primary produce marketing bodies are exempt from the operation of> the present Act by virtue of regulations made under section 106. These exemptions are continued by the present Bill but they may be varied by further regulations.
Mr Deputy President, as I have made clear, the present Bill is a holding measure to deal as a matter of urgency with the immediate effects of the High Court’s decision in the concrete pipes case. Apart from changes made necessary by that decision the provisions of the Bill are substantially the same as those of the existing Act. At this stage the Bill does not provide for the extension or strengthening of the existing provisions. The Government has, however, made it clear that it places great importance on the need for effective restrictive trade practices legislation to help bring about a more competitive atmosphere in the economy. I remind honourable senators that in January of this year the former Prime Minister expressed the view of the Government that increased internal competition would help the economy. In April the Government introduced legislation to outlaw resale price maintenance. On 17th August the Prime Minister informed the Parliament that the Government was reviewing the Trade Practices Act in order to strengthen it and to encourage much more vigorous competition.
In my statement on 7th September 1971 I said that the Government was committed to strengthening the legislation and that it proposed to follow the present holding Bill with a further Bill the purpose of which will be to strengthen the legislation. 1 referred to the considerable amount of work and attention that was being given to this objective and, in particular, to the consideration being given to the matter by an interdepartmental committee. I take the opportunity now to inform honourable senators that the Government has in the last few days received a report from that committee. The report covers a number of important and complex matters which deserve close consideration. The Government is proceeding to give these matters full and proper consideration. Honourable senators may be assured that the Government will proceed with this task as expeditiously as possible. The preparation of a Bill on such a complex and important matter may take some time, but the Government proposes that, as soon as it is in a position to do so, it will inform the Parliament of the nature of the changes that it has decided to make to the legislation. The immediate and pressing need, however, is to restore to the statute book restrictive trade practices legislation that is constitutionally sound. That is the purpose of this Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to rectify a situation under the Matrimonial Causes Act disclosed by 2 recent decisions of the High Court of Australia. For many years it has been the practice in several States for some judicial powers under the Matrimonial Causes Act to be exercised by officers of (he Supreme Courts, such as registrars in divorce and masters, instead of by judges. These officers have made orders with respect to such matters as maintenance payments, property rights and access to children. However, last December the High Court held, in the case of Kotsis v. Kotsis, that the Registrar of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was not part of that Court but was merely an officer of it. He had not, therefore, been invested with Federal jurisdiction by the Matrimonial Causes Act. and any order of a judicial nature made by him in the purported exercise of federal jurisdiction was a nullity.
The decision in Kotsis v. Kotsis was followed, in May of this year, by a further decision of the High Court in the case of Knight v. Knight, which related to the position of the Master of the Supreme Court of South Australia. The High Court held that the position of the Master of that Court was indistinguishable from that of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and that, accordingly, the Master lacked jurisdiction to make orders of the kind he had for some time been making. The High Court’s decision in Knight v. Knight also cast doubt on a South Australian practice in accordance with which persons appointed as commissioners of the Supreme Court - usually retired judges - have purported to exercise the jurisdiction of the Court in granting divorce decrees and making related orders.
The 2 decisions I have mentioned have made it clear that many other similar orders are of questionable validity, and it is most desirable that the doubts that at present exist in relation to the rights of persons affected by such orders be removed. These rights are of vital importance to the individuals affected. They include, for example, the right of a wife to receive weekly payments of maintenance moneys, the right of a father to visit his children in the custody of their mother and the right of a wife to a portion of the property held by her husband. The enforceability of such important rights as these plainly cannot be left in doubt. The present Bill will remove the doubts that have arisen by providing that the rights of such persons are to be the same as they would have been if the orders had been validly made - that is, made by a judge of the Supreme Court.
The detailed operation of the Bill appears in an explanatory memorandum that 1 have circulated to honourable senators. However, I shall outline the main features of the Bill. The main provision of the Bill is to be found in sub-clause (3.) of clause 5. The effect of this provision will be that, in the case of an order that an officer of the court has purported to make in accordance with the long established practice to which I have referred, the rights, liabilities, obligations and status of all persons will, by force of the Act, be the same as if the purported order had been made by a judge. While it is by no means clear that orders made by commissioners of the Supreme Court of South Australia would be held to be invalid, the opportunity has been taken to put the position of these orders beyond doubt. The Bill accordingly deals with these orders in the same way as it deals with orders made by officers of the courts.
Where a purported order has already been the subject of a further order of a judge, by which it has been set aside or varied, the Act recognises that the subsequent order of the judge will be fully effective. In this connection I mention that the order which was held invalid in Kotsis v. Kotsis was subsequently replaced by an order made by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In the case of Knight v. Knight no order was actually made by a court officer, the matter having been raised for the High Court’s consideration by way of a case stated by a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia.
In the result, the present Bill will in no way deprive any litigant of the fruits of his litigation. However, in the many cases to which the Bill will apply, it will provide for the rights of persons to be as it was intended that they should be when the purported orders were made and will place the persons affected in the same position as they believed themselves to be in before the High Court decisions which 1 have mentioned. The absence of such provision would lead to an avoidance of responsibility and consequent hardship. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13th October (vide page 1358), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
– The Opposition has given consideration to this Bill. During the Committee stage it intends offering opposition to specific amendments made by the Bill in relation to the increase in the pharmaceutical charge on members of the public from 50c to SI. But at this stage I move the following general amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill:
At end of motion add: but the Senate is of opinion that:
the Commonwealth nursing home policy is unsatisfactory because of:
its costliness to patients and their families, and
an inadequate provision of alternative forms of accommodation and domiciliary services;
the system of voluntary insurance for medical services is on the point of collapse because of:
the failure of subsidised medical benefits for low income earners,
widespread non-observance of the most common-fee, and
the spiralling cost of medical insurance through the wasteful use of funds: and
pharmaceutical benefits should be provided at no cost to the patient’.
An earlier Bill, the National Health Bill, was presented to the House of Representatives on 16th September. The main provision in that Bill was to raise the level of patient contribution for general pharmaceutical benefits from 50c to Si per prescription. I point out that the contributions paid by members of the public for prescriptions do not go to the local chemists, which some members of the public might understand to be the situation, but go into Consolidated Revenue as part of the cost of maintaining the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Certainly if that Bill of 16th September had been before this chamber and not been withdrawn, as it was in another place, the Opposition would have been strongly opposing the measure because, on philosophical grounds, the Labor movement believes that those who are sick are those who are most in need and therefore it is the general responsibility of the whole community, through the government, to assist them to meet the financial cost of the medicines prescribed for them by medical practitioners to get them restored to good health and working once again.
On 5th October the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read to the Senate a statement that the Government recognised that the recent steep increases in running costs of nursing homes have placed many in an extremely difficult financial position and that, therefore, as an interim measure the Government had decided to increase nursing home benefits. The Bill of 16th September was then withdrawn in another place, as I have said already. The provisions of that Bill have been incorporated in the present Bill, which contains the Government’s proposals for an increase in nursing home benefits, and it is only because it appears that certain benefits will flow to an important section of the community - namely, patients in nursing homes - that the Opposition is not opposing the second reading of the Bill now before us. During the Committee stage we will be offering our opposition to the proposed increase in charges under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Other amendments will put the case of the Opposition so far as health generally is concerned.
Let me deal firstly with the Government’s proposal for increased nursing home benefits. I do not intend to raise the standard of existing nursing homes or the costs involved in the maintenance of patients in those homes. Suffice it to say, for my purpose, that some nursing homes are very good, some are not so good and others unfortunately are far from being good. I understand that at a later stage of the second reading debate my colleague
Senator Poyser will be dealing with some of these aspects. I note that the Government indicates in this measure that benefits for patients receiving ordinary nursing home care will be increased from $2 a day to $3.50 a day or $24.50 a week. The benefits for patients receiving intensive care in nursing homes will be increased from $5 a day to $6.50 a day or S45.50 a week. The Opposition is pleased that the Government has decided to move, at the very least, in this direction because the cost of maintaining elderly people in nursing homes has become a very great burden not only on the elderly people themselves but also on their sons and daughters who, more often than not, are flat out keeping pace with the ever-increasing cost of maintaining, rearing and educating their families.
While expressing- our pleasure at the Government’s decision to increase these amounts - we do not know that the amounts have been increased sufficiently - we are pleased to note that the Government has announced that the measure is only an interim one. because the Labor movement believes that many other and better avenues can be utilised by the Government to assist these people and to relieve them and those who support them financially of a tremendous financial burden. In June last year the Senate select committee that was established to inquire info and to report upon medical and hospital costs in Australia came up with some very definite and far-reaching proposals on the subject of nursing homes. It is a great pity that the Federal Government seems to have taken little heed of the recommendations of this Committee which has become known as the Wedgwood Committee. The report of the Wedgwood Committee is much more far-reaching than the report of the Nimmo Committee about which we hear so much from the Government from time to time. The Labor Party is greatly disappointed that very little time and study seem to have been devoted to the deliberations of the Senate Committee. From the point of view of the Government and of the Australian people, it is a great pity that this report seems to have been pigeonholed.
The Committee made 3 very important recommendations on nursing homes. Those recommendations are set out at page 54 of the report, which was tabled in June 1970. They are:
That, as a means of overcoming shortages of nursing home bed availability, and to establish State Governments as being primarily responsible for providing nursing homes within the total hospital care concept, the Commonwealth Government should make unmatched grants to the State for the construction, or enlargement, of State nursing homes.
That a form of nursing home insurance should be developed, either as a part of hospital insurance or as an acceptable ancillary fund benefit, to provide cover over and above the existing arrangements for payment of Commonwealth benefits.
That immediate co-operative action should be taken by the Commonwealth and the States to end the confusion in terminology between ‘hospitals’, ‘private hospitals’ and ‘nursing homes’, so that it is clear what benefits, if any, are payable in respect of bed occupancy within an institution.
I reiterate that 1 am pleased to learn, from the Minister’s second reading speech, that the measures proposed in this Bill are of an interim nature only. Those who are interested in this subject of nursing homes should read pages 54 to 59 of the report of the Wedgwood Committee. Whilst I note that the Minister’s second reading speech referred to the fact that the number of nursing home beds has increased from 33,000 to 47,000 over the last 5 years, the Wedgwood Committee, after taking evidence on the subject, expressed the opinion that a far greater number of nursing homes is required in a relatively short period. It suggested that, in order that the criticisms about quantum of charges be kept in proper perspective, the homes should be erected by the State authorities and be managed or be controlled by the States. I hope that the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), who is now at the table, will give very close. consideration to the specific recommendations of the Wedgwood Committee. The Government seems to pay considerable attention to the report of the Nimmo Committee, which on the subject of nursing homes states at page 57:
It was repeatedly stated in evidence before the Committee that the standard of accommodation and care in nursing homes varies greatly. It was stated that in some homes the accommodation is of the highest order and programmes of geriatric and rehabilitative treatment have been developed. In others, however, it was said that the accommodation is poor, the food unattractive and monotonous, the treatment almost solely confined to the administration of drugs and a large proportion of the patients becomes prematurely moribund and remains bed-ridden until the end.
Although the standard of accommodation and care provided by nursing homes may not come directly within our terms of reference we feel it incumbent on us to stress the urgent need for the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments to jointly investigate all aspects of nursing home services wilh a view to joint remedial action where necessary.
The need for Commonwealth-State co-operation in a simple matter of terminology was mentioned lo us many times during the inquiry.
The report went on 10 mention the ambiguity confusing the mind of the public in respect of the terminology of hospitals registered under State laws and institutions approved for the purposes of recognition under the nursing homes scheme. On the subject of responsibility for the provision of nursing homes for elderly citizens it is interesting to note that on 7th October at a meeting of Senate Estimates Committee A the Minister for Health admitted that whilst the Commonwealth had not erected any nursing homes within the Australian Capital Territory in its own right - although I should add in fairness that the Commonwealth met two-thirds of the total construction cost of Morling Lodge which belongs to a charitable organisation - it apparently now is considering such a proposal. As reported at page 15 of the Hansard report of 7th October of the Estimates Committee A hearing, I asked the Minister for Health:
Are the residents of the ACT sufficiently catered for with nursing homes or should the Department be providing more expenditure in this area or engaging in it in its own right?
The Minister replied:
That question touches on the types of matter that are under examination and consideration at the present time. 1 ask the Minister now, while he is considering that matter, also to take out of the pigeonhole the very important Wedgwood Committee report and closely examine its recommendations for nursing homes so that they may be implemented, together with the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee. I emphasise that the Opposition is not opposing the passage of this legislation only because it provides temporary relief from the heavy burden of maintaining patients in nursing homes.
I turn now to the second part of our proposed amendment, namely, that the system of voluntary insurance for medical services is on the point of collapse because of the failure of subsidised medical benefits for low income earners, the widespread non-observance of the most common fee and the spiralling cost of medical insurance through the wasteful use of funds. I wish lo deal first with the subsidised medical services. Table 25 of the recent report of the Commonwealth Department of Health includes some very interesting figures. There are, of course, 3 categories for low income earners. Category A includes a man with a family whose weekly income does not exceed $46.50. He makes no contribution to a fund. Category B covers wage earners with a weekly income between $46.50 and S49.50. They pay one-third of the normal contribution to a medical insurance fund. Category C covers wage earners with a weekly income of between $49.50 and $52.50. They pay two-thirds of the normal contribution to a fund. Separate groups include people receiving unemployment and sickness benefits, and’ migrants for whom assistance is given for 2 months.
Some very interesting figures are set out at page 139 of the Department’s annual report. In category A the membership and coverage of the subsidised medical services scheme throughout Australia as at 30th June 1971 was 6,102 persons; category B covered 367 persons; and category C covered only 268 persons throughout the Commonwealth. Unemployment, sickness and special beneficiaries totalled 11,133 throughout the Commonwealth. Only 4,385 migrants were covered, making a total membership coverage throughout the Commonwealth of 22,255. The total estimated coverage, allowing for dependants, was 54,854. Earlier in the annual report it is mentioned that expenditure during the first year of operation of the scheme totalled $7,031,000, comprising $4,759,000 for hospital benefits and $2,272,000 for medical benefits. I invite honourable senators to keep in mind the figures I cited earlier; that is the membership of 22,255 under the subsidised medical scheme and the total estimated coverage of 54,854 and the statements made when the scheme was introduced in the National Health Bill last year. According to the second reading speech of the then Minister for Health it was estimated that 84,000 families and 271,000 persons would be eligible for assistance under the scheme. In fact, the membership of the scheme is about 25 per cent of the Government’s original estimate and the coverage is only about 20 per cent of the Government’s estimate.
The Government says that the scheme this year has cost about $7m. That is the figure stated in the annual report of the Department of Health. 1 suggest to the Minister that he read the second reading speech of his predecessor in May 1970. It shows that when the scheme was introduced it was estimated that it would cost about $3m. Surely this difference indicates that the scheme is not servicing the great bulk of the people who are in need. Only last weekend, when I was in the north west of New South Wales, many people, including some connected with hospital administration, expressed their concern at the bad debts occurring as a result of the rural crisis and the growing number of unemployed in rural areas. These people asked me for more details of the scheme so that the public couldbe better informed.
I say to the Government here and now that it must do something very rapidly to overcome the situation in which thousands of people in the Australian community who are eligible for assistance under this scheme have not been made aware, because of lack of communication by the Government, of the ramifications of the scheme. If something is not done to rope those people into the scheme, it certainly will become a noose around the Government’s neck at the next election.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was putting the Opposition’s case in support of an amendment it has moved to the motion for the second reading of the National Health Bill. I have dealt with the first portion of the Opposition’s amendment, which relates to the Government’s nursing home policy. Immediately prior to the suspension of the sittingI had detailed those people who are in fact receiving assistance under the subsidised medical scheme and compared their numbers with the numbers that the Government had anticipated last year would be eligible for some form of assistance.I shall repeat those figures merely for the sake of the record. The total membership figure of 22,255 which appears in the records of the annual report of the Department of Health has to be compared with the total estimated coverage of 54,854. When the scheme was first mooted last year it was estimated that 84,000 families and 271,000 persons would be eligible for assistance under the scheme. Frankly, when I penned the table set out in the annual report of the Department of Health, I found it incredible to believe that in the Class A category only 2,268 persons were registered under the subsidised medical scheme in New South Wales and 553 in Victoria. Even South Australia and Western Australia, States which have a much smaller population than Victoria, have much larger registrations than that State.I am amazed at the general low level of registrations throughout Australia under this scheme. On the Government’s own figures, the scheme has not yet reached the great bulk of the people who are most in need of assistance.
I turn now to another aspect of the Opposition’s amendment, namely, the widespread non-observance by medical practitioners of the most common fees. When the Government introduced an amendment to the National Health Act in 1970 it said that its new plan was founded on a list of the most common fees that were established throughout the whole range of medical services. New rates were written into the Schedule to the Act for fund and Commonwealth benefits. The common fee itself was not written in, but the portion of that common fee to be met by the patient was stated in the schedule to the Act as being the ‘specified excess’. The fact of the matter is that notwithstanding an increase in patient contributions to the funds and an increase in fund benefits, the real excess payable by the patient between the fee charged by the medical practitioner and the amount of the refund coming from the contribution fund is much greater today than the amounts set out in the Schedule to the Act. One has only to look at table 32 of the annual report of the Department of Health to see that, as at last March, the level of observance of the most common fee by medical practitioners throughout the whole of Australia amounted to an average of only about 75 per cent. That percentage is over the whole
Schedule. During the course of a ministerial statement on 7th May on medical fees and benefits the then Minister for Health, Senator Greenwood, said:
The new most common fees for general practitioner surgery consultation and home visits will apply for a 2-year period from 1st July 1971 to 30;h June 1973, and any increase in fees for other medical services before the end of that period will be based on a proper study of available information. The proposal for across the board increases will not be pursued. What this means is that the Government has achieved by a process of discussion and persuasion:
Modification of the AMA’s original proposals so that, instead of representing a cost of $35m a year, they will, in the immediate future, represent a cost of $9.3m a year.
Assurances have been obtained which should mean stability in the main general practitioner service fees for at least 2 years. The AMA will continue to advise and encourage its members to charge the recommended common fees. Adherence to the common fees is - 1 emphasise this point - as honourable senators are aware, of vital importance to the working of the medical benefits scheme.
Acceptance by the AMA that any increase in fees for other medical services will be based on a proper study of available information including details of any increases in doctors’ total gross income and of the gross incomes for groups of medical services. The proposal for across the board increases will not be pursued.
The Government considered then that it was vital to the successful working of the scheme that there be adherence to the most common fee. As shown in the annual report of the Commonwealth Department of Health there is in fact only about a 75 per cent observance. Whilst until June of 1973 there should be no increase in general practitioner fees, as mentioned in the ministerial statement, apparently there will be increases in so far as other medical services are concerned.
The Labor movement wants to place it on record that it does not mind any doctor receiving a proper fee for the very high services that he performs for the community, having regard to the long hours he works and the value of his work to the community. A doctor is as entitled as any other worker to receive a fair and just reward for his services. But if the Government wants its own scheme to work it just cannot allow the responsibility for the extra costs involved to be passed on all the time to the general public. I understand that the incomes of doctors in New South Wales - the State which I have the honour to represent in this Parliament - increased by 30.5 per cent between December 1969 and December 1970. Then last May (here was another increase in medical fees. We all know that, in addition to the increases in doctors’ fees which have made much wider the gap between the amount a patient pays for the services rendered and the return he receives from the funds, there have also been increases in the contribution rates of both the medical and hospital insurance funds. There has also been a 50 per cent increase in hospital costs in the State of New South Wales. Frankly, 1 think that the burden for most people has just about reached its maximum.
The Opposition’s amendment also raises the question of the spiralling cost of medical insurance through the wasteful use of funds. This was referred to at length in the report of the Wedgwood Committee. I draw the Senate’.s attention particularly to paragraph 145 of the Wedgwood Committee’s report. After considering taking evidence on the matter, the Committee had this to say:
On the question of advertising, the Committee sees little justification in expending much of the contributors’ money in this way. Competitive advertising, for the sole purpose of attracting members to a particular organisation, and often directed at existing members of other organisations, is undesirable and wasteful in a sphere which should be a matter of welfare rather than big business’. The more necessary and acceptable advertising of the benefits to be obtained from health insurance, directed mainly at the noninsured and under-insured, is considered by the Committee to be more the function of the Commonwealth Government within whose responsibility the successful operation .and extension of the voluntary health insurance scheme largely falls, and State governments, -who have a direct interest in the promotion and development of the scheme. Insofar as registered benefit organisations are in practice largely unaccountable to their contributors in these matters, governments must assume an effective supervisory role lo effect every possible economy in the scheme. In a multimillion dollar operation, management expenses involve immense sums of money, of which every dollar less is a dollar more for contributors’ benefit.
There are now 81 registered medical benefits organisations throughout Australia. There are some 93 registered hospital benefits organisations. Until the Government implements the recommendations of the Wedgwood Committee, a Senate select committee that was specifically set up by the Parliament to inquire into all aspects of health and medical costs, and until the Government implements that section of the Nimmo Committee’s report which recommended the establishment of a national health insurance commission, there surely will continue to be a wasteful use of funds by this multiplicity of health organisations. I should like the Minister to say in his reply what the Government has done to curb the wasteful expenditure by these funds of contributors’ moneys. That section of the Wedgwood Committee’s report to which I have referred, paragraph 145, is condemnatory of funds generally for the maladministration of the public purse.
I want to say something about the proposal contained in this Bill to increase by 100 per cent the charge imposed upon people who, because they are sick, go to a doctor and have medicine prescribed. Now upon presenting that prescription to a pharmacy they will be expected to hand over to the Commonwealth not 50c but $1. True it is that the amount payable for prescriptions by persons receiving assistance under the subsidised health insurance scheme will be maintained at 50c. True it is that those people receiving a full pension will continue to receive the benefits under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I am also pleased to note that the Government has recently had a change of mind since the introduction of the first Bill on 16th September in relation to friendly society dispensaries. It is undoubtedly as a result of pressure applied by the Friendly Societies Pharmacies Association that the Government has now agreed in this Bill to rebate the proposed $1 patient contribution, in whole or in part, to those people who became members of friendlysocieties prior to 24th April 1964. The relevant clause in the earlier Bill imposing a restriction of 50c has been deleted fromthe Bill which is now the subject of discussion.
The Labor Party, during the Committee stage, will oppose very strongly the provision to increase the charge imposed on prescriptions from 50c to $1, an increase of 100 per cent. The Government put forward the proposal that, because it is now concerned at the continuing sharp increases in the cost of the pharmaceutical scheme, it is not unreasonable that the community at large should bear the cost of increased patient contribution. But according to the Minister’s figures this added burden will cost the community$24.6m in a full year and $15. 8m in the current financial year. Frankly, I believe that the Government is acting very much in haste. After all, there was appointed last year, I think it was, a select committee of the House of Representatives to inquire into pharmaceutical costs generally. I would have thought it would have been prudent for the Government to have awaited the outcome of the deliberations and the recommendations of that House of Representatives select committee before rushing through quite an imposing additional burden on those who require prescriptions for medicines in order to restore them to good health once again.
I suppose practically every member of the Senate has received correspondence from people who suffer with chronic illnesses, people who suffer with diabetes, asthmatics, people who suffer with ulcers, who are not eligible for the subsidised medical scheme and who are not pensioners, age or invalid; from people who have family responsibilities or whose kiddies constantly require medical treatment, who might have to obtain a prescription once or twice a week and whose means are comparatively limited. They are the ones who will have to pay the most under this Bill when it becomes law. I think it is very wrong indeed for the Government to be pushing this aspect of the legislation without apparently having given any consideration at all to the recommendations of the Wedgwood Committee on pharmaceutical costs. I prefer particularly to the first recommendation which urges:
That continuous and searching scrutiny should be maintained by the Commonwealth Government of the wholesale prices of prescribed pharmaceutical products and their effect on the overall cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
Paragraph 224 of the Wedgwood Committee’s report reads:
In relation to costs, the Committee appreciates the difficulty of establishing a production cost structure when a large percentage of research cost is affected by. the global activities of operators in this field.
We all know that a large number of pharmaceutical companies operating within
Australia are international in their operations. Paragraph 224 of the report continues:
The practice of attributing local costs as a proportion of overall research costs may result in higher costs for local consumption, but there is clearly no easy solution lo that particular problem. Evidence indicates that drug manufacturers do attempt to minimise costs of production, particularly when influenced by some degree of critical supervision by the Commonwealth Department of Health, and it is apparent that constant awareness of the necessity to do so is essential. However, some evidence indicated that there is in existence a wide practice of granting discounts and bonuses to client chemists, under which a ‘chemist’s dozen’ may amount to fourteen or more. This, combined with what the Committee believes to be a too lavish system of free samples to members of the medical profession and a more than substantial publicity programme, must contribute towards ultimate costs to the consumer . . . and the Committee recommended that a continuous and searching scrutiny should be maintained by the Commonwealth of all costs connected with pharmaceutical products and their effect on the overall cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
A Committee of this Senate has expressed great concern about the overall costing of the pharmaceutical scheme and of the cost of production of pharmaceuticals in Australia and internationally. But I ask: ‘What has this Government done to implement the recommendations of the Wedgwood Committee’? I believe that the officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health do a pretty good job in the negotiations which they must necessarily conduct with pharmaceutical companies. Forever they have to be on the alert for overcharging and over-prescribing. I note that the negotiations they conducted during 1970-71 resulted in an estimated saving of $1,768,000 in the first year of listing or change of listing of certain products. The negotiations conducted in respect of products currently listed as benefits will result in a saving of $721,000. In other words a total amount of nearly $2.5m was saved merely because of negotiations. I wonder how much more could be saved if the Commonwealth more thoroughly conducted an investigation into the costs of drug production.
I also suggest that the facilities immediately available to the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories could be extended and expanded to make much greater use of production by the Laboratories of drugs which could be made available to people under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. We all know that the pharmaceutical companies case is that they have to indulge in a great deal of research. We all know that they complain about the costs of production which inevitably are passed on to the Australian community. In a publication headed: ‘Advertising Expenditure in the Main Media 1970’ at page 10 details are set out of the amount of national advertising indulged in so far as pharmaceuticals are concerned. It states:
The total amount spent on the advertising of pharmaceuticals was $5,442,768. In other words over twice as much was spent on advertising pharmaceuticals throughout Australia as was saved by the Commonwealth Department of Health in its negotiations wilh drug companies last financial year. I know that my time is limited but we say that because the Government has done very little except negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to check the cost of pharmaceuticals and overprescribing the public are now being asked to pay a very high price when they become sick. In short, we say that it is the responsibility of the Government to use all its resources and all its authority as custodian of the people’s purse - including the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - to ensure that when people are sick, especially those who suffer with chronic illnesses, pharmaceutical benefits are provided at no cost to the patient. I have before me a statement taken from the ‘Canberra Times’ of 28th May 1969 which states:
A Perth general practitioner attacked drug companies today for unnecessary and flamboyant advertising and for giving misleading information to the public.
He said drug advertising had become a rat-race and lavish amounts of money were being wasted on promoting certain drugs.
From recollection, I read in the Annual Report of the Director-General of Health that in the September quarter of 1969 doctors prescribing had increased by some 34 per cent over the comparable quarter of the previous year. The Labor Party says that all these matters have to be looked at and should have been looked at before the Government decided to embark upon this process of imposing an additional burden of 50 per cent for every prescription on the Australian community. Health is of vital concern to the Australian people, lt cannot be allowed to be dealt with lightly. All aspects of the subject must be given close and detailed consideration by the Parliament not only because the health of the Australian people at all times must be and must remain paramount but also because of the ever-increasing costs with which the Australian people appear to be faced. We believe that our amendment expresses in words a great deal of that which is wrong with the present Government’s health scheme which is completely different to that advocated by the Labor movement. We have set out this amendment in the hope that the Government and its advisers will give very close consideration to the important issues which are involved.
– I rise to speak in support of the National Health Bill 1971 and some of the aspects which are contained in it. Firstly, I refer to the fact that there is provision within this Bill to increase the nursing home patient benefit from $2 a day to $3.50 a day per patient. Also the benefit for intensive nursing home care patients will be increased from $5 a day to $6.50 a day. This latter benefit will give a patient in an intensive care ward in a nursing home a benefit of $45.50 a week. The nursing homes covered by this provision are those which are approved under the National Health Act.
I understand that some 40 to 50 per cent of nursing homes would have patients classified as intensive medical care patients. These nursing homes are conducted by private proprietors, religious and charitable organisations and State governments, particularly those under the States Grants (Nursing Homes) Act. Under that Act, the Commonwealth has offered the States $1 for each $1 spent on the construction of public nursing homes up to an amount of $5m over a 5-year period which commenced on 1st July 1969. This offer was designed to increase the number of beds available to people with limited means.
Nursing homes within our community fill an essential need. Many categories of people benefit from the opportunities which are given for care in nursing homes as distinct from hospitals. We have elderly persons who have some incapacity. We have patients who have a long-term incapacity requiring nursing care. We have elderly persons without families where home nursing care would be impossible and where domiciliary nursing care would be impractical also. So it is that we have a basic community necessity for nursing homes.
I understand there are some 46,000 nursing home beds within Australia. There is a shortage of beds in many States, particularly, I believe, in Victoria where there are long waiting lists of urgent necessity for nursing home services. The role of the Commonwealth Government with regard to nursing home care is one which is shared with the States. Indeed it is primarily the responsibility of the States because the legislation under which a nursing home is registered is a State government responsibility. Commonwealth assistance is provided through matching grants and there is patients’ assistance which is given within the provisions of the Bill to which I now refer.
This Bill has been introduced by the Government as part of a Government programme to improve services of all medical types throughout Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) when announcing these provisions stated that the increase of $1.50 a week is an interim measure to alleviate the difficulties of patients and the difficulties in some nursing homes, particularly those conducted by charitable institutions. The aim of the Government is to introduce long-term arrangements as soon as it is practicable to do so. This is a progressive aim. This Bill provides some assistance and will inject approximately $24m a year into the nursing homes service. The proposed increase will be added to the estimated Government expenditure of $51. 9m for 1971-72.
I am personally aware of the many difficulties of the religious and charitable organisations and of the deficits which so many of their annual reports reveal as those annual reports are presented this year. I have some information from the Department of Social Services which does reveal some of this story of deficit which is progressively being expressed by nursing homes and charitable organisations throughout Australia. My information shows that in South Australia some 6 homes with a total of 435 beds will be showing a total deficit of $250,000 this year. In Victoria 3 homes with a total of 122 beds will be showing a deficit of $124,000. In New South Wales one home with a total of 120 beds shows a deficit of some $46,000. Those figures do disclose that there are real problems in the financing of the nursing homes service in Australia. I believe that the provision of additional assistance in this Bill will do something to alleviate some of the specific problems with regard to cost.
It is necessary to realise that increases in salaries and wages would be most instrumental in creating some of these deficits which have occurred from year to year. These place an increasing burden on the management of the homes, on the organisations, on the people who voluntarily assist them and, of course, on the families of those people who are patients in nursing homes where there is a gap between what might be given in Government assistance and what is the lowest charge which can be made by a nursing home with the required service.
Reference has been made to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Hospital and Medical Costs and the recommendations included therein, particularly with regard to nursing homes and nursing home benefits. I find myself in strong agreement with the recommendation that, as a means of overcoming shortages in nursing home bed availability, the Commonwealth Government should make unmatched grants to the States for the construction or enlargement of State nursing homes. The scheme which provides a subsidy of $1 for Si up to $5m has been of great assistance. But the shortage of bed space throughout Australia perhaps gives an indication that the Commonwealth has an urgent role to play in this area. 1 am sure that it is one that has not been disregarded by the Government, as might have been suggested, but it is one which is part of a Government programme consistently to improve health services throughout Australia.
Another recommendation in the report of the Select Committee which I feel is of considerable interest also is the recommendation that a form of nursing home insurance should be developed either as a part of hospital insurance or as an acceptable ancillary fund benefit to provide cover over and above the existing arrangements for the payment of Commonwealth benefits. That, too, would give personal assistance to so many people who find this gap of which I spoke with regard to what might be Government assistance and then what might be the personal burden of cost.
Referring again to the report of the Committee I find on page 56 some interesting statistics to which I wish to refer. These statistics relate to hospital beds and the increase or decline in the use of hospital beds and, perhaps, an increase in nursing home beds. The Committee observed that between 1964 and 1968 there had been a decline in hospital beds from 6.35 to 6.21 per thousand of the mean population. For the same period there had been an increase of 22.8 per cen1 in the number of nursing home beds per thousand mean population. That was an absolute increase in beds of 32.1 per cent. This shows the increasing emphasis on the use of nursing home assistance for medical care in contrast with the usual assistance provided by hospital services in this Commonwealth. I am hoping that the role of the Commonwealth with regard to nursing homes will develop as it has with this progressive form of asistance which is being given. The fact that we have now increased assistance per patient up to the point where $6.50 per day is given for the person who needs intensive care is, I believe, something which has been a major contribution by the Government to this burden.
I wish to refer also to some other aspects of the Bill particularly with regard to pharmaceutical benefits. In this area we have found that there has been a necessity to revise the cost of pharmaceutical benefits to the people and to the patients who make a personal contribution. In 1960, the charge of 50c per prescription was introduced. The contribution by the patient is now to be raised from this level of 50c to $1 per prescription. This should not be regarded in isolation as an increase because we must relate also the fact that, since 1960, the incomes of all persons have been raised considerably. This increase of SOc at this stage would be rather in line with the movement of financial relationships between wages and costs in various fields.
The other provisions of this Bill with regard to pharmaceutical benefits cover those persons who are in the subsidised health benefits plan and, with this part of the health service in mind, I wish to make a few comments. The subsidised health benefits plan is a scheme to assist needy groups with medical and hospital expenses. This plan was introduced on 1st January 1970. The beneficiaries under this scheme claim medical and hospital benefits for the treatment of themselves and eligible dependents without payment or with part payment only of health insurance contributions. This is known as the subsidised health benefits plan.
There is an eligibility for persons to receive benefits under this scheme if they fall within certain categories defined in the Social Services Act. I refer, first, to persons in receipt of unemployment, sickness and special benefits under Part VII of the Social Services Act; secondly, to migrants during the first 2 months after their arrival in Australia; and, thirdly, to low income families which have been defined in section 82u of the National Health Act. Broadly, these arc people with family income and means as assessed of $52.50 a week. Certain dependants of these eligible persons also are able to receive benefits under the subsidised health benefits plan. It docs seem to nic that publicity to advise those who are eligible for the benefits may perhaps have more emphasis in the future in order to introduce more closely to those people the very great benefits which are available to them. 1 am sure that the programme for migrants could be handled quite closely upon the arrival of a migrant at a migrant hostel or in the other areas where migrants necessarily come into contact with government departments. I am hopeful that that sector of the community will avail itself of this very beneficial part of the Act which provides that within the first 2 months of their arrival they are covered for medical services.
The fact that this assistance is available to low income families brings to mind the ways in which they might best be advised of the services which they are eligible to receive. We think perhaps of the increasing development through local government authorities of social welfare officers who are in touch with persons living in a community and who, for various other reasons, are aware of many needs of families throughout the community. They could perhaps work closely with the Commonwealth Department of Health to advise these people specifically of the benefits which are so readily available to them under the provisions of the subsidised health benefits scheme. I am hoping that the publicity arrangements of the Department which were disclosed to me will result in a greater recognition of what is available and that the opportunity will be taken by people to receive the health benefits which have been provided within the national health scheme.
Persons with a subsidised health benefit entitlement will obtain pharmaceutical benefits in much the same way as do beneficiaries under the pensioner medical service. This is a provision of the Bill. When prescribing pharmaceuticals the medical practitioner will note the beneficiary’s entitlement number on the prescription form and the chemist will charge the person presenting such a prescription for dispensing a fee of 50c only. It will bc recognised that this benefit under the subsidised health benefits scheme is designed specifically to assist in the prescription of pharmaceutical benefits. We must realise the enormous cost to the Government of pharmaceutical benefits provided under the national health scheme. We have figures which show us that in 1960-61 the cost of each prescription was $2.18, whereas it was $2.30 in 1970-71 and it is $2.65 in 1971-72. Other interesting figures show that in 1960-61 there were 2.13 prescriptions per head of population, whereas in 1971-72 there are 4.48 prescriptions. Relating this increased number to the increased cost, we find that in 1960-61 the cost per person was $4.62 whereas in 1970-71 it was $9.80.
Of course, factors contributing to the increase in this cost to the Commonwealth would include the new expensive drugs which have been consistently and repeatedly added to the list as they are useful in the service of medical prescription, and the relaxation of restrictions on some other drugs which have been regarded as being of benefit. Another factor is the increase in the number of prescriptions per patient. The proposed increase in the patient contribution from 50c to SI will effect a reduction in the cost of the scheme to the Commonwealth of $24.6m in a full year and SI 5.8m in the current year. These benefits have a priority with the Government in providing a service to the community, but they need to be looked at and balanced against the other aims of government.
I should like to say something about the pensioner medical service which also involves a great degree of cost in the overall medical service. A table which I have shows the movement in volume of the total cost and the average cost of medical benefits under the pensioner medical service scheme. We find that in 1969-70 the total number of services received were 38.1 million whereas in 1970-71 the number was 39.6 million. The total cost of matched services in 1969-70 was $ 183.4m, whereas in 1970-71 it totalled $224.7m. A matched service is one in which both the Commonwealth benefit and the fund benefit are paid. In the figures which I have disclosed we see a very great cost to and contribution by the Government for the service.
The other matter to which I would refer, because it is of some topical interest, is that of cosmetic surgery under the medical benefit scheme. Under the provisions of the National Health Act, where a contributor incurs medical expenses for a medical service rendered by a medical practitioner the Commonwealth medical benefit is payable in respect of that service. There is no requirement in the Act that the medical service must be medically necessary for the health or well-being of the patient to qualify for the benefit. The criteria are, firstly, that the service was a medical service listed in the first schedule to the Act; secondly, that the service was rendered by, or on behalf of, a medical practitioner; and thirdly, that the contributor incurred medical expenses for the service.
When considering this aspect of medical service it is considered neither desirable nor practicable to distinguish between surgical procedures for the correction of congenital or acquired deformity and procedures carried out purely for cosmetic reasons. Surely the practical problems of such a proposal can be illustrated if we ask simply 4 questions: Firstly, what criteria could be applied to distinguish between an operation performed for medical or psychological considerations and one performed purely for cosmetic reasons? Secondly, by what methods would the decision be made in each individual case as to whether the service was or was not necessary? Thirdly, who would make that decision? Last of all, would it be reasonable to apply the criterion of medical necessity to cosmetic surgery in isolation, or should that criterion not be applied to each and every medical service? Because this matter has attracted some public discussion quite recently I feel that the provisions of the National Health Act should be clearly described at this stage. We should note that this is a medical service which is being provided by a medical practitioner, and whether it is for psychological or medical reasons is not something which could be disputed.
This has been accepted as a medical expense under the scheme. A contributor who is a participant in a scheme and who has the medical service that I have described would perhaps regard this as a fundamental benefit to what might have been a sensitive personal problem. So medical benefits for cosmetic surgery apply, provided that those areas which I have described are within the provisions of the National Health Act.
– Does your research indicate how much that field is costing the Commonwealth?
– I have no figures which would show me what the cost is in that field. I understand that it is an area of surgery which would perhaps be used in the same way as other areas of surgery are used on medical recommendation after discussions with the patient. Because the provisions to which I have referred apply under the Health Act, I would assume that cosmetic surgery is regarded as being part of the medical service. I do not know that the figures for this kind of surgery have been isolated. How would the 4 criteria which I mentioned apply in each situation in deciding whether the surgery was for purely psychological or medical reasons?
– They could not get my chest back to where it ought to be.
– That might be your problem. In what I have been saying about the provisions of this Bill I have been itemising the very great benefits which are increasing under the voluntary health scheme which was introduced some years ago by the Government. I am sure that, as I have been speaking of the increased benefits in these new provisions, we are showing that there is a Government aim to provide adequate health services. There is a Government aim to improve the facilities within the realms of the voluntary health scheme which we have in operation. There is a Government urgency, I believe, to assist with the capital cost of providing, perhaps, more nursing home beds as a matter of priority. There has been already a recognition by the Government of the need for increased assistance to patients by way of patient benefit. The Government recognises a demand1 in the particular areas which have been outlined in this Bill. The Bill is a progressive part of the Government’s plans to improve medical services and I hope this will be recognised during the discussion of it. I support the National Health Bill 1971.
– I support the amendment moved by my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland. It has been read and circulated and it is not necessary for me to repeat it at this stage. Suffice to say that the amendment was drawn up after a very close examination of the legislation that we are debating and the problems that face people under the present Government policy relating to medical and health benefits. The Australian Labor Party came to no other conclusion but that this House should condemn the provisions of this Bill for the reasons outlined in the amendment. As indicated by Senator Douglas McClelland, we propose to take action again at the Committee stage to see that some of the impositions introduced in this Bill are removed.
I want to direct my mind and my remarks mainly to the position of private, public and charitable nursing homes within the Australian community. We will not refuse the passage of those clauses of the Bill that provide an increase of $1.50 to both categories of patients in nursing homes but we say unequivocally that it is too little too late. When we examine the history of the benefit given by the Commonwealth to patients in nursing homes we can see quite clearly that it has eroded to the extent that today it is almost a joke. In 1953 the benefit was the same as it is at the moment, lt was $2 a day when the fee in private nursing homes was $3 a day. This meant in effect that the Commonwealth was subsidising the nursing homes for aged persons to the extent of 661 per cent of the cost of hospitalisation. Today an increase of $1.50 is being granted. This will bring the current subsidy, in round figures, to something like 28 per cent of current charges in private nursing homes today.
I have checked this out very closely and very accurately and I have been informed that the current daily cost in a private nursing home is $12 a bed, which is $84 a week. For an ordinary patient who does not have intensive care facilities and who cannot get into one of the State or charitable homes that are operating, there is a short fall of about $40 a week that somebody has to find to allow that patient to have adequate and proper hospitalisation. I am addressing my remarks at this stage particularly to the private registered homes and not the rest homes which, far too often, are the last resting places of persons who need urgent medical care.
The position today is that ‘ those who cannot get into the State or charitable homes cannot afford to go to a nursing home that costs $84 a week. Those people often eventually find a last resort by living in what is known as a rest home. Some of the conditions in some of these rest homes are absolutely appalling. It would make you cry to see the conditions under which many aged people are left to die in this type of accommodation. They can stay there for $30 a week and there is no compulsion for any type of nursing assistance to be available. There is no compulsion for the people in charge of these rest homes to have any sort of nursing or medical knowledge. All they need is a few bedrooms. Any person who is prepared to hang up a shingle can say that he has a rest home for aged persons. In effect they are glorified boarding houses in which the facilities urgently required for aged people are not available.
As honourable senators know, 1 have had a long and close association with this problem of the aged, their hospitalisation and their care. I have been able to obtain certain figures relating to the current position in Victoria where about 8,000 aged persons require immediate accommodation in a nursing home where there is some qualified person to look after them. There are nother 7,000 to 8,000 persons who inquire about admission to such a home and never repeat the inquiry because they realise the futility of continuing with their application. There are another 5,000 to 6,000 who never make any inquiry for the same reason. One of the most appalling things I came across in my investigations is that at least 2 out of 3 of the 8,000 to 10,000 people who are applicants waiting for accommodation will die before they have any opportunity to be admitted to one of these places. We face what is almost a crisis in this nation in relation to the hospitalisation of our sick aged. We are facing this near crisis because of the cost spirals that occur. For private and government nursing homes the total increase in costs in the last 12 months was 22 per cent, which is roughly the increase granted by this Government.
I am pleased to see indications that this is to be purely an interim measure. I am hopeful that within weeks, not months or years, we will see fullfilled the promises made by the previous Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, on 2 occasions, that something will be done to allow persons who have spent a lifetime as members of a benefit society to utilise that membership when they become chronically ill in their old age. But we have been waiting now for some 2 years since those promises were made and nothing positive has occurred. I am bit afraid of interim measures. They are like temporary buildings. This Parliament meets in a temporary building and we look like being in it for the next half century because the Parliament has stopped considering its replacement. But interim measures and taxes imposed as an interim measure during wartime have a great habit of staying with us. The Government has only another 12 months - or less than 12 months if action is to be taken in the next Budget - in which to honour that promise. This is something that is urgently required not only in the field of which I am speaking now - the civilian aged person, male or female, who needs accommodation - but also in the field of the aged war widow. I spoke on this matter in this chamber recently. When people are ejected from repatriation hospitals after being there for 3 months and being declared to be chronically ill, the Repatriation Department pays for 2 weeks accommodation in a nursing home, and from then on they are on their own.
We as a Parliament, collectively, have a responsibility to ensure that the aged people in our community receive a far better deal than they are receiving at the moment. I am gravely concerned when I read articles such as one which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ on 7th October this year and which was written by a reporter by the name of Sue Boyce. I propose to read from that article at length because of the tragedy that runs right through it and the need to bring home to every member of this Parliament the urgency of the need to assist the aged persons within our community. The article stated:
Two Pensioners died In Melbourne last week.
The first, a woman, 83, had bronchialpneumonia, dehydration, and gangrene of tha right foot.
The second, a man about 65, died half-conscious, unable to swallow and with a nineinch incurable bed sore on his back.
Neither need have died, according to the secretary of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, Mr P. Giles.
They were the result of lack of nursing care and lack of money.
Both had been in rest homes where there is no nursing care and were transferred to registered private nursing homes.
The man who died within six hours of the transfer had $70 saved - barely enough for one week’s fees at a private hospital.
The two cases are part of a dossier the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association is compiling for the State Health Minister, Mr Rossiter.
The Federal Government on Tuesday announced interim increases of $1.50 in the subsidies for nursing-home patients.
This brings the ordinary nursing care subsidy to $3.50 and intensive nursing care to $6.50.
I seek leave to have the rest of the article incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The increases will cost about $24m a year.
The increases are a step forward’, Mr Giles said.
But it does not materially assist the pensionerpatient who has no other means of income. “They still cannot afford to go into private nursing homes. “So they go to rest homes which are really only boarding houses with no nursing care at all’.
He added: ‘Any further increases should be directed at helping the pensioner’.
The association believes its members cannot function at a fee less than $84 a week.
The maximum aged pension is $19.25 and nursing home benefit is $24.50.
The pensioner has to use his savings or ask relatives to pay the remaining $40.25 a week.
Mr Giles said members would not use the increased subsidies as an excuse for putting up fees. “This is purely a patient benefit’, he said.
The executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Mr David Scott, said the increases highlighted the need for a complete review of health services.
The Government has a very patchwork approach.
The wrong people are in the wrong places.
If there was a good domiciliary service and more hostel-type accommodation forthe aged, there would be beds free for those who need them in nursing homes.
The emphasis should definitely be put on helping the pensioner patient’, he said.
Two social workers at Austin Hospital, Mrs N. M. Bower and Mrs N. Smith, said the increase did nothing to help pensioners.
They say in a letter to The Sun:
It finances private enterprise but in no way docs it bridge the gap between the present pension and the cost of private nursing home charges.
As an emergency measure it would be preferable for the Federal Government to approach the owners of some of the larger privately-owned nursing homes with an offer to purchase.’
Private nursing homes provide 25,378 of the 46,750 geriatric beds in Australia.
– Statements by social welfare workers in Victoria clearly indicate that the increases that we have before us today are totally and absolutely insufficient to solve this problem. I give the Government full marks, as I have done on many other occasions, for subsidising, on a $2 for $1 basis, the construction of homes for the aged, hospitals for the aged and nursing homes if a committee or a charitable organisation is able to raise the necessary funds. Many thousands of dollars have been raised by good people in this field. These organisations receive a subsidy from the Governmentto erect the necessary accommodation. But, once that is done, the maintenance costs are such that some of them, particularly in the city of Melbourne, find that they have many beds vacant. I know of one very important hospital which has about 100 beds vacant. Although these hospitals have received the subsidy, they are not in a position to meet the maintenance and staffing costs.
In the city of Geelong we, in our own small way, have moved into the field of day hospitals in an attempt to solve this problem. 1 have referred to our position before, but at the risk of being repetitive I want to emphasise it because ours is not an isolated case. We have 800 persons on the waiting list for entry into our home, and 240 of those persons need admission urgently. Our committee believes - we have been ableto do surveys on this - that at least 2 out of every 3 of those 240 people will die before they can be admitted to our home. This is the tragedy that is facing people who have grown old and become sick. It may be said - it has been said by people who do not think very deeply about this matter - that the children of these aged persons have some responsibility to look after them when they are ill. I believe that the children do that, to the very limit of their capacity, until it is quite obvious that hospitalisation is necessary. But what young family is able to find up to$40 a week to subsidise the cost of private nursing home accommodation? Very few families can meet that kind of cost. The intensive care subsidy should be raised to at least $10 a day on the basis of a comparison of cost factors as at the time this subsidy was initiated and as at today.
What disturbs me in relation to this aspect of hospitalisation is the rule of thumb method by which this fund is administered. I think Senator Guilfoyle said that about 40 per cent of people in nursing homes receive the extra S3 a day. My investigations show that 331/3 per cent receive it, almost as a rule of thumb, and 66) per cent do not. This has always disturbed me. The Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) probably is disturbed, too, about the administration of this aspect of the scheme. Many letters are written, many cases are put forward and many applications are made to the Department of Health for the additional intensive care subsidy. A properly filled in application, with a medical certificate indicating that intensive care is required and a statement from the matron supporting the medical certificate submitted by a qualified doctor may be made; yet the Department, without any further investigation or examination, will reject that application.
Only very recently 1 sent the Minister a letter concerning a blatant case of bureaucracy. 1 am sure that he will agree with me when he carries out his investigation of that case. It is of very recent origin, and at this stage I am not saying anything critical of him. He has had the letter for only 2 or 3 days. It concerns the case of a very old lady having the intensive care subsidy taken from her. I believe that we have to examine this matter more closely in an effort to arrive at a workable system under which a doctor’s word is accepted by the Department, or at least there is another check at the medical level and with the patient personally - not by looking at medical books, reading the document and saying: ‘We do not think Mrs Brown’s condition is bad enough for her to receive the full subsidy’. I do not want to see this subsidy administered on the basts of economy. 1 want to see this administered on the basis that everybody shall receive that to which they are entitled. I firmly believe that the Minister will do everything possible to see that this is done.
I refer again to a matter to which I referred earlier in my speech. The assistance given in relation to the establishment of day hospitals is totally inadequate. Because of a lack of accommodation for people who need hospitalisation, we have had to establish day hospitals in a church hall and in another place so that we can give urgently needed treatment. We have approached the Government to consider at least granting to us the $2 a day subsidy, which will subsequently be S3. 50 a day, for the patients whom we are treating at the day hospitals because we treat them in an almost identical manner to that in which we treat persons who are in the home. In many cases the only difference is that we cannot give them accommodation in the ward of a hospital. We believe that we have a case to submit. We believe that it should be investigated. We believe that the subsidy of S3.50 a day, as it will be when this legislation is passed, or even part thereof could be granted to organisations which have established day hospitals which provide services for our sick aged.
I raise my objection to that portion of the legislation which increases by 100 per cent the cost of prescriptions. It would appear that the reason for this increase of 1.00 per cent, as is stated in the second reading speech, is that the cost has not been increased since 1960. That seems to be a good enough reason for adding 50c per prescription. As I stated earlier, the subsidy paid for aged persons was $2 a day in 1953. It was not altered until this legislation was presented to the Parliament. The Government has seen fit to increase the subsidy by less than 100 per cent. If the argument is valid in relation to the cost of prescriptions, at least a 100 per cent increase should have applied to both subsidies. That should have been the very least, on the argument that has been raised in relation to the increase in the cost of pharmaceutical prescriptions.
What disturbs me much more is that I believe that the high cost of pharmaceutical benefits should be examined very closely to see whether the Government could manufacture more pharmaceuticals in its laboratories. An examination of the structure of the drug industry .shows quite clearly that the people who are getting the big rake-off are the overseas companies. The latest information, as at 4th June 1969. shows that 141 listed companies supply pharmaceuticals under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Of these, 53 are Australian, 33 are American including 2 which are Australian-United States joint owned, 27 are British. 9 are German, 6 are Swiss, and 13 are from various other countries. Although the number of Australian companies is relatively large, they are mostly small companies. Australia captures only 7.3 per cent of the total prescription market in this country, the United States of America 53 per cent, the United Kingdom 10.2 per cent. Germany 6.2 per cent, Switzerland 9.9 per cent and other countries 0.8 per cent. It seems to me that an increase in the cost of prescriptions will give these overseas companies a golden opportunity to increase their charges beyond all reason. 1 can recall some years ago, before I was elected to the Senate, an investigation at the top parliamentary level into the price that the overseas drug companies in particular were charging. Subsequent investigations proved that some were charging 3 to 5 times the reasonable prices that they should have been charging. To its credit, the Government did something on that occasion and had the price of many of those drugs drastically reduced. 1 believe that the situation has got out of hand again. In some instances - not many, admittedly, because of the high cost of the preparations - a prescription is not written because it is cheaper for the patient to buy a proprietary line from the chemist. This happened to me on one occasion. I was given that advice when the cost of the prescription was only 50c. The doctor said: lt is far better for you to buy what 1 want you to take as a proprietary line’. I had to pay about 72c. If a prescription had been written, I would have had to pay the SOc plus the 72c- a total of $1.22. With the proposed increase it is obvious that this situation could continue. A doctor who knows his prices will be able to advise his patients, if the drug can be provided without prescription, to purchase it for less than they could purchase it if a prescription were written.
I hope that the Minister will examine very carefully what I have said about the plight of aged people. I know that he is aware of many of the existing problems and that he has an extremely humane approach. I ask him to make a very close examination of the figures that I have given about the needs of the community. I hope that there is some way in which he can initiate talks with State governments so that they will take up all the grants available to them. I know that in some instances this is not done, to the detriment of the aged. Above all, 1 hope that the scheme promised by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 2 occasions will be initated quickly to ensure that persons who have spent many years in homes run by organisations which have attracted the benefit, will not find themselves in a situation, when they are ill, of paying high private nursing home fees, after 3 months of receiving the benefit. I hope that we can move on to the introduction of an adequate and proper system of health care, particularly for the aged sick.
– As I see the National Health Bill (No. 2), it has 2 main purposes. The first is to increase Commonwealth benefits for patients in approved nursing homes. The second is to increase from 50c to Si the charge made for prescriptions written under the national health scheme. In my opinion, the assistance to nursing homes and the charging of a nominal fee for prescriptions are a major help to people on very low incomes and lo the poors the sick and the aged. Assistance to nursing homes is virtually a new measure, having been in existence for only a few years. It is one of the many aids provided by the Federal Government to the aged, and should be looked at as part of a broad programme.
Unfortunately, most people think of pensions as being the main form of or the total assistance to the aged, but this is not so. There are many additional aids. These are of great value. I instance the free medical attention from doctors of one’s own choice, free pharmaceutical benefits, free hospitalisation, homes for the aged, subsidies for nursing homes and free hearing aids. I believe that the subsidy to be paid to nursing homes is a major step forward. It assists not only aged persons but also their relatives. In the past many families have had to make great sacrifices. They have suffered heartache in trying to nurse and look after their aged relatives in their own homes. The cost of nursing homes to these people has always been beyond their means.
The Commonwealth Government originally introduced a daily subsidy of S2 for ordinary nursing care, or Si 4 a week, and a subsidy of $5 a day or $35 a week for intensive nursing care. This, together with the age pension, has enabled families to avail themselves of nursing homes. Following the introduction of the subsidy, the numbers of nursing homes and the demand for them increased. The standards insisted upon by the Federal Government have caused more homes to be built and the standards of care in them to be greatly improved. I believe it is of great importance that the Government should insist on high standards in approved nursing homes, not only in the condition of buildings, the cleanliness of beds, and the quality of the food, but also and even more importantly in the quality of the nursing care through a genuine humanitarian approach.
We must make sure that our old people preserve their dignity and are treated with kindness, devotion and a great deal of respect. Perhaps I am more conscious of the need for respect because I come from a race of people who have always placed great importance on the welfare of their aged and everything that is done for them. Perhaps today we as a people are losing something in that area and we should look very closely to discover our omission. Because of the rise in costs, the Government proposes in this Bill to increase the daily rates to S3.50, or $24 a week, for ordinary patients, and to $6.50 a day or $45 a week for intensive care. It is important that the authorities maintain generous standards in classifying patients eligible for nursing care. It is also important for the Government to insist on the highest possible quality of nursing care.
I repeat that this measure will help not only aged and sick persons but also their relatives. Properly supervised it will allow aged people to live in pleasant conditions and to receive good food and adequate medical attention. I realise that probably some nursing homes will seek to exploit this scheme and to obtain higher profits, butI am sure that they will be few. Such people must be located and, if necessary, deregistered and not allowed to carry on. Most nursing homes, particularly those run by religious bodies, perform their duties with great devotion and understanding.
Last year the pharmaceutical benefits scheme cost the Government about $160m. The cost has increased rapidly over the years. The increased charge of 50c a prescription will save the Government about $25m a year. The cost of the scheme will still be huge but the benefits will be great. We must keep in mind that whether the Government pays or we pay out of our own pockets, in the end the taxpayers have to pay the full account. I am quite sure that governments have no means of inventing money. They must get it from the taxpayers. If the people have a national health scheme, they have to pay for it. By charging a nominal fee of$1 a prescription and by bearing the bulk of the cost out of taxation, the Government has helped those people who are forced to live on lower incomes. I believe that that is a humane approach.
Speaking as a senator for Queensland, I hope that as we increase our national wealth we can do a great deal more to expand our social services and to help the poor, the sick and the aged. I want to assure you, Sir, and my colleague, that I will be working earnestly towards that goal. I believe very strongly in social justice. We must do everything possible to ease the burdens of the elderly and their relations. Because I have these beliefs I strongly support the Bill before the Senate.
– I support the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland. We of the Opposition welcome the opportunity to speak on this measure, not for what it contains as much as to form an assessment of whether we have the best national health system, so called, or whether we should look elsewhere to emulate other successful systems. In the 1950s the late Sir Earle Page introduced legislation of this nature. It was geared to the Blue Cross health insurance system operating then in the United States of America. It was supposed to be the be all and end all in the medical and hospital insurance benefits field.
It is history now that the United States has since developed its Medicare system. There has been extensive remodelling of that system. I do not think it is sufficient for the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Australia to say that because a national health system costs $Xm it is the best. In Europe today, irrespective of the type of government in power, on balance, the national health systems are much more comprehensive than our own. I appreciate the vastness of our own system. It contains provision for specialist treatment, hospital services, private practice and health research. It contains so many facets that I imagine that is the reason why the scheme is costing about $1,550m a year.
Senator Bonner in his very thoughtful speech pointed out that finally the taxpayer has to meet the costs. This is my prime criticism. If we adopted the Scott and Deeble system the cost of the scheme would be geared to contributors’ income. I think
Senator Bonner would appreciate this. In inland Australia people employed as stockmen or quarry hands, or in occupations of that nature, would reach their physical peak between the ages of 25 years and 50 years. Under the Scott and Deeble system these people would contribute to a national health scheme11/2 per cent of their income. This would build up funds from which the costs of the health scheme would be drawn. One objection I have is that a fellow who works in a foundry in Alexandria in Sydney has to pay virtually the same contribution to hospital and medical benefit funds as somebody who earns an extra $50 a week more than he does. That is where the system is inequitable. Most Australian households operate on a very finely balanced budget. 1 am not arguing about whether contributors get back 70 per cent or 90 per cent of their costs. What I am saying is that the 10 per cent, 15 per cent or 20 per cent difference, translated into dollars, plays havoc with one’s budget.
The Minister for Health argues that the present system is better than any other system, but there is no financial advantage to be gained from it. I know that if Senator Withers were present he would listen to me very carefully and then claim that I was whingeing if I were to say that when, after 14 years of good health, I had to go into a hospital 1 did not make a profit. The contrary is the case but because of this Government’s actions it will never again be possible for one to make a profit out of being hospitalised. I do not complain about this but the Government’s idea seems to be that by being a member of several funds one can make a massive profit out of an illness or hospitalisation. Because of a minor football injury I was in a hospital for a week. I am not questioning the skill of the doctors who attended me or the attention given to me by that hospital, but by being in several funds I made a magnificent profit of $1.50. I made that profit after paying into funds for 14 long years and never before getting anything back.
I once heard Senator Greenwood, when Minister for Health, stand up in his lofty ivory tower and say that people are making a profit out of membership of these funds. My mathematics are completely haywire if it can be argued that $1.50 was a magnificent profit after 14 years of contributing to funds. I belong to a railways hospital fund and to the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia. I joined the first fund because of a sentimental attachment. The fact is that I helped to keep the 2 funds solvent because I regarded them as a gilt-edged security. I have not made any profit out of being a member of them nor do I want to. But the Government is blandly saying now that one can be a member of only one fund. That is an example of its cock-eyed thinking. That is one criticism I have of the way in which this system operates at present.
But I want to go a little further than that. I have advocated that the European systems are in every way better than our own. In February, in company with Senator Davidson and other honourable senators, I was in Europe and while there I asked the Belgian Government for some details of its system. I received a document which I was assured outlined what the Belgians call subscriber democracy. That document, to be quite fair to the Minister and his predecessor, was in Flemish. I apologised to Senator Greenwood about that. I said: ‘I think the document has in it what I mean, but if it has not you may bowl me out on it’. Nothing happened. Then on 14th September I asked the present Minister for Health what had become of this document. He said that efforts were being made to locate it. Whether it is found or not the Minister cannot tell me that the European systems have not many inbuilt forms of assistance to subscribers which are not available here. My colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, has quoted on previous occasions what the Nimmo Committee said about some of the funny things that are happening.
– And the Wedgwood Committee.
-Exactly. The committee chaired by that very eminent senator, Dame Ivy Wedgwood, also exposed a number of funny things which were happening. Although probably in a backhanded manner, I do compliment Senator Greenwood for at least showing some militancy when he was confronted by Mr Cade and Mr Turner of the Hospitals Contribution Fund and the Medical Benefits Fund in New South Wales. A famous Mr Wilson - not Harold but the one from General Motors who became
Secretary for Defence in the United States of America- said once that what was good for General Motors was good for the United States of America. Mr Cade and Mr Turner blandly said that what was good for the HCF and the MBF was what the Government should accept. I must point out that Senator Greenwood did not buy that bill of goods, but, of course, the business was incomplete. I got an idea from what was said by Mr Jago, the New South Wales Minister for Health, and Senator Greenwood, that they were far from happy about what was going to happen. I therefore expected certain reforms to take place.
The Minister for Health recently gave me a very lengthy answer on health insurance organisations. The substance of it seemed to be that the major decisions necessary were so technical that it was not for the people on the lower deck to question what the captain was doing on the bridge. What I object to is that in a previous answer given to me the Minister for Health said that the funds - I am talking about both the HCF and the MBF in New South Wales - had reserves of something like S30m stacked away. I think the agreement which was finally reached by the funds and the Government was that the funds would feed in S4m a year. In a follow up question I asked whether, if the $4m was divided into $30m, it would mean that there would be stability for the next 7 years and people would not have to pay any more. I think it was Senator Greenwood who said that one could not look that far ahead. I am not disputing that completely. All I am saying is that at a time when there is a lot of clamour about whether the rank and file trade unionists are a party to decisions from above, something should be said on behalf of the contributors to these funds. The Minister for Health told me that there is member representation on the MBF in Victoria and the HCF in New South Wales. I say that there is no adequate consultation with members of the HCF in New South Wales and if there is representation in Victoria it has come about only because a group of militant people have been demanding equality.
The prime criticism I make is that it is too little too late. A natural corollary to the criticism that I am advancing at present has been put forward by Senator Douglas McClelland, namely, that there should be a health insurance commission to police these things. I will take the matter a bit further. I refuse to believe that 5,000 people in Sydney are not as capable as Mr Cade and Mr Turner. I believe that they should have the democratic right to suggest to their leaders’ that when they confer with the Minister for Health they - should advocate that instead of feeding in S4m a year the fund should feed in SI Om a year and not increase the contribution rates for the next 3 years. There may be an argument against that, but nobody has been able to tell me whether it was Senator Greenwood and Mr Jago who said that the fund should provide an additional $4m a year or whether Mr Turner and Mr Cade put forward this idea. If they put it forward they had no right to do so without first consulting their members.
Nobody can convince me that a person does not have every right to demand consultation. As a matter of fact, this is not the first time that the funds have done such a thing. There was an occasion when they bought a light aircraft to fly all over New South Wales but when that aircraft was smashed up they did not buy another one. If it was an essential armament in their organisation they would have bought one; but they did not. Why? Because public opinion was against the funds doing so.
I will take the argument a little further. I will use the system in New South Wales as a parallel to the situation in Belgium. Irrespective of what government has been in office in New South Wales it has, when determining housing allotments in country areas, sought advice from the local Country Women’s Association, the Returned Services League, trade unions and so on. The point I am making is if we had regional groups to analyse some of these decisions we would have speedier justice.
When I asked Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson whether he felt that he had sufficient top echelon officers to handle the day to day situation he said: ‘Yes, we have’. I do not for one moment criticise the officers. They have given me answers to all questions I have put up. But what I do criticise is the length of time it has taken them to do so. I refer to a question I asked on 28th September, on which I will embellish somewhat, in regard to the bugbear about the referral system for women with pregnancy problems.
I listened to Senator Guilfoyle make a fairly sound case earlier about a special coverage for cosmetic surgery and that sort of thing. Sydney newspapers have carried stories about males who had what they called beer bellies. I suppose that from the male angle it could be argued that there should be some coverage in that respect, too. I could argue that if these fellows did a few push-ups each morning they might keep their waistlines down and it might be less of a burden on the funds. The Minister wants to put the view that this system is an expansive one; but what about the women who have difficult pregnancies? I put it to the Minister that, if a woman was referred at one stage to a Macquarie Street specialist in that field and had an extremely difficult birth, if she is pregnant again 3 years later and if she has some trepidation because she is in another suburb, she should not again have to go through the rigmarole wilh another general practitioner. This is the sort of question I asked Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson on 28th September. He said: ‘This is a medical question. I will have to consult my advisers.’ This gets me back to my earlier question: Has he sufficient top echelon officers who can give a prompt reply? Perhaps he is dealing with the Australian Medical Association. People talk about the power of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. But when that organisation is compared with the Australian Medical Association, it seems to be only a pygmy organisation. And I regard myself as a very good friend of Bob Hawke. This is the way that people see it.
I want to go on to deal with the situation in Europe. The figures that I have in relation to the extensiveness of medical health coverage more than prove what was set out in the 1971 immigration planning report. That report compared the situation of a husband, wife and 2 children under the European system with the situation under our system. I would like the Minister to show me a translation of the description of the Belgian system. It was not my fault that it is in Flemish. Any member of the delegation would confirm that I discussed the system with many people. I deliberately took the Belgian system because if I had chosen an eastern European country there may have been a question of ideological bias. The Belgian system has operated since about 1910. In that time that country has had a variety of Governments and this system has stood the test of time. Just as the gap between the money spent and the benefits returned is getting wider and wider in the United States system, I feel that we are in a situation in Australia where there is not enough control over the expenditure.
I go a little further. I have mentioned the referral system and the delay in receiving answers to questions. I have written to the Minister’s advisers about other cases, and although I have received answers there has been a delay of 6 and 8 weeks. As a matter of fact, the woman who approached me at a Saturday night barbecue about her problem - I know it takes an effort for a woman to unburden herself in such a situation - is another month closer to going into the maternity hospital, but she still does not know what her position is in relation to medical benefits. I repeat that if it is good enough to be extravagant in relation to these cosmetics operations and beer bellies, I think we could be a little easier in relation to the case I mentioned. The Minister could say: ‘Look, if a woman had one difficult pregnancy, there will be a case history’. I will not mention the name of the doctor concerned because I will be accused of giving him a free plug. Why can she not go back to the Macquarie Street specialist and say: ‘Look, I am Mrs X. This is my case history. About 3 years ago I had a difficult birth. You told me that I would have the same difficulty with my next baby’. Why does she have to go to another suburban general practitioner? This is a human case. These are the things that the Minister is not facing up to.
According to the Minister’s own argument, we have the best system. The report of the Nimmo Committee dealt with the question of the employer deducting health insurance contributions from wages. Again it gets back to the question of the weekly budget. 1 have my own views about whether the fund contributions should have been increased recently. But if we have to live with these funds it would be much easier if we had this check off system in a number of trade unions, which even employers are prepared to accept. The Government has accepted only some of the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee and the Wedgwood Committee, and it did not go far enough. I want to return to the question of the nursing homes. I know the difficulties involved in many cases. I feel that there is one point on which the Minister may be able to satisfy me statistically. I draw an analogy with the Commonwealth arbitration inspectors. I have raised certain cases and have reported a breach by an employer. Sometimes it was caused through ignorance. I have asked: ‘If I had not got on to this matter, how long would it have been before you would have visited the .particular workshop?’ I have been told: ‘About 2 years’. 1 would like the Minister to tell me how often the inspectors visit these hospitals and larders. I will not mention names - perhaps I will give them to the Minister later on - but I would be particularly concerned to know what is the top qualification of the sister on duly and what is the role of the wardsman on the night shift at some of these nursing homes. I know of a case where a panic situation arose because something was designated as overdue alcohol when the patient had never had alcohol. So errors can be made. This is not meant to scare anybody, as the Minister and his advisers know. I am just curious to know the situation in relation to the supervisory staff in these nursing homes.
I want to return to these famous negotiations that took place between Mr Jago, Senator Greenwood and his officers in relation to hospital insurance funds. Even if we accept for the purpose of discussion that the terms agreed upon with the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd were the best, was it the specific idea of Senator Greenwood or did the representatives of these funds come up with the suggestion that $4m should be injected into their operations? I will quote figures that were given to Mr Whitlam in another place on 16th March. They show that between 1969 and 1970- this is in the broad sense - hospital funds had accumulated reserves of S70m. Yet 12 months later the reserves had risen to S83m. If $4m of the reserves is being used by these funds each year and if in theory they are living off part of their own fat, would it not be reasonable to assume that, because premiums have been increased, bigger and bigger reserves could be still accumulated? What I would like the Minister to consider if he looks at the figures and if my thesis is correct, is whether at the end of 12 months the accumulation of reserves will justify his saying to the MBF and HCF: All right, you have to feed in not $4m a year but perhaps $6m’. I think Senator Douglas McClelland, along with myself, was a member of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare which was looking at the problems of physically and mentally handicapped children. I know that a lot of the funds argue that fringe benefits should be given to spastic children and other groups. This is where some of these reserves could be diverted. Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood who is an outstanding authority in Victoria in this field said to me on many occasions that she knew that the funds wanted to do this but somehow they were strangled by the existing National Health Act. We are happy that the responsible Minister is here in this chamber so that we can fire these cannonballs across the chamber at him. But I say to him respectfully that I feel that quite a number of these matters have accumulated since he took over the Health portfolio and I suggest that he should appoint a hospital insurance commission to do the day to day work that I have suggested. I have a high regard for the officers of the Department of Health. When the Department’s estimates were being considered the other day they gave me a very quick answer on one particular matter. I still believe that in relation to this referral system that I mentioned, particularly in cases of difficult pregnancy, the Department is not coming up with answers as quickly as it should and people have to wait for answers. It should not be forgotten that for every person who approaches a senator or a member of the House of Representatives there are a lot of people who whinge about their difficulties but who grin and bear them.
I think I can speak with some feeling about the problems that arise on the workshop floor for the trade union movement. I think Senator Georges would agree with me that it is good to go back occasionally and see the work being done. We should remember the words of Tom Paine who said: ‘Either you have got too far away from your contemporaries or you have not’. I hope I have not. I have spoken to former workmates on the workshop floor about hospital funds. Perhaps the Minister will say that I am touting for something like the European system. Fellows in the workshops say to me: ‘Look, the funds are not what they should be’. If the wife or the kiddies need medical attention they will have it. But a fellow might have a hernia or something like that. Not so long ago I saw fellows with such conditions swinging 12 lb hammers in a boiler shop. We talk about unsung heroes, and these fellows who put their wife and children first come into that category. Quite frankly, with some of them the margin between what they pay out and what they earn is very small and they hold off with the operation they need.
Nobody likes paying taxation of any sort. I know that but I emphasise that under the Scott and Deeble system the 1.5 per cent contribution rate is an income tax deduction. But under this system there would not be 10 per cent or 15 per cent of the medical bills left for the patient to meet which is a sizeable slab of their weekly pay packet. This is the point which I keep emphasising and I think it would be a far better system than the one we now have. There was a slight overtone in Senator Bonner’s speech which he might not have intended. I may have misunderstood the point he made but he seemed to have the idea that if there were an all embracing cover we would be a lot of hypochondriacs. He seemed to think that everyone would go into the operating theatre to be sliced up and that everyone would get medicines and pills. I think the position is the reverse. I do not know many people who do that. I know that on one occasion I criticised people in relation to APC powders. But those powders are not on the free list. They are things one buys oneself.
For a long time I have felt that we could do a lot better in relation to these systems. I refer to the Minister a very analytical article which appeared in the ‘London Economist* of 6th March. It dealt with pains which were suffered by the
American health system. One need only replace the word ‘American’ with the word Australian’ to know of our situation. There is one matter which stands out. I have always been very pragmatic in my socialism. I say to this Government that it knows in its heart that it should give open house, as it were, to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I say this respectfully to Senator Lawrie who is a member of the Australian Country Party. The Government should give encouragement to Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to compete actively in lifesaving drugs as it does in stock drugs. I do not object to this situation because honourable senators know my attitude in relation to animals. But J believe that if the Government gave encouragement to the laboratories in relation to health drugs for human beings as it does in relation to drugs for animals it would do 2 things. It would certainly reduce drug prices considerably. Anybody who has read about George Nader in the United States will know of the exposure which has gone on in relation to big American and British firms, going back to the time of the MacMillan Government and Wilson Government in Britain and to successive United States Presidents. There is always exposure of overcharging by drug companies. Maybe the Government is too gentlemanly. I have asked that the report of the Director-General of Health should give the names of drug firms that have over-charged but it never has. The most significant matter I identify with Senator Douglas McClelland. This situation happened before I came to this chamber. Perhaps some honourable senators will say that it is a pity I was ever here at all.
– We do not say that.
– I thought somebody may have, but Senator Gair is not here. However, the point I am making is that Senator Douglas McClelland referred to the ramp which went on with a West German firm over Thalidomide and some of the deformed births which occurred. Later on in this chamber I drew attention to the fact that in Great Britain and West Germany certain drug companies were paying an overdue but well deserved restitution to these children. I did not receive a satisfactory answer here. I am not indicating Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson because it was in the time of his predecessor. I suppose he was part of the system. I was told: ‘Look, we do not have any legal control. We do not have anything like that’. I put it to honourable senators that if a black ban - it is a pretty good trade union weapon at times if it is used on the right issue - were put on some of these drug companies, and they were told that if they did not do the right thing by those children who came into this world minus arms and such things, we would see some action. It does not matter who it is, particularly with big business - if a big stick is waved at these people we would have a much fairer go as far as drugs are concerned.
I leave the Minister with this challenge. With this across the board system, if we were given more detail in health reports such as which firms were dealt with for false advertising and who gypped the general public we would have a higher concept of business ethics. At the moment, people at large are being told what moral codes they should follow. But when it comes to business this does not matter. Senator Poyser in his own vigorous way has repeatedly pointed out the massive salesmanship which is carried out in relation to drugs. They are peddled to the various doctors. This is a particular cancer in the Health Act. I know that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is a very kindly man but I think he could leave a very strong reputation as a Health Minister if he were to take on a number of these issues and, by implementing to the full the Nimmo Report, expose some of these lurk activities of the drug companies. Some clearcut answers should be given in relation to a lot of women who have difficult pregnancies. Why can they not bypass some of the general practitioners and go straight to their Macquarie Street specialists or their counterparts in the other capital cities?
– I desire to make a small contribution to this debate. As honourable senators know the National Health Bill is in several distinct parts. One part concerns the increase of benefits paid to nursing home patients; another part increases the patient’s contribution for the prescription of a pharmaceutical benefit; another part refers to the friendly societies dispensaries and their members; another part refers to the substantial health benefits plan and a further part to amendments to medical services and the Commonwealth benefits which are payable. A series of provisions which originally were regulations have been incorporated in the Bill.
Firstly, I shall deal with nursing homes. It is proposed to increase the benefit for patients receiving ordinary nursing home care by $1.50 a day to $3.50 a day. The amount will be raised to $6.50 a day for patients who are receiving intensive care. These benefits are paid on behalf of the nursing home patients. They are not a subsidy in any sense at all to the owners of the nursing home whoever they may be, although they do receive the money. There has been criticism of conditions in some private nursing homes. But such homes are only a small minority. The deficiencies found in the few homes mentioned do not apply generally. There is a federal check - admittedly irregular - of conditions including food supplies. The statement that increased benefits will assist only the proprietors of nursing homes is entirely wrong. It is in the interests of patients that both public and private nursing homes remain solvent. The criticism made by the previous speaker, Senator Mulvihill, about the subsidy being too little and too late is not quite correct. I think the amount provided represents quite a considerable lift in the subsidy. It will be of tremendous help in keeping these homes solvent. The Federal view is that such homes are too few in number and that patients cannot always gain admission.
I shall refer briefly to the pharmaceutical benefits and the patients contribution which is to be increased from 50c to $1- Since the introduction of the 50c charge - a little over 10 years ago - benefits have increased and continue to expand. It is interesting to look at a few figures in relation to this matter. The average number of prescriptions per head has increased from 2.13 in 1960-71 to 4.25 in 1970-71. A large number of people would go for a year or more without receiving any prescriptions at all so those figures mean that a lot of other people must receive considerably more than the average of 4.25 prescriptions each. The cost for each prescription has increased from $4.62 in 1960-61 to $9.80 for 1970-71. That is almost $10 a head. When one thinks of this amount in relation to a population of over 12 million people that is a very large sum of money. I point out that the cost of many medicines is probably not very great. I think that the Annual Report of the DirectorGeneral of Health shows that the average cost of medicine in a lot of prescriptions is a little over $2. But in some cases the cost of medicine is very great. I shall cite the case of a man whom I know. He had to have a certain drug. He was prescribed this drug for his particular ailment and it cost him $100 a month. He had to have it every month. The extraordinary thing about this case was that this drug was designated as a pharmaceutical benefits item for another ailment but not for the ailment that this man had. So he paid the full cost of this drug out of his own pocket for a while. Then, as a result of representations, the Minister for Health and the Department of Health agreed that the designation of the drug should be broadened to cover the illness from which this man suffered. This was a tremendous help to this man as he was not required to pay $100 a month for the drug.
What I am trying to point out is that because of his illness this man could not receive this drug under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. But if his illness had been diagnosed as another ailment the same drug could have been available under that scheme. I mention this case to show also how great the cost of some medicines is if they must be paid for in full - I doubt that the number that cost this much is great - and to show what a wonderful help this scheme is to people in this category.
Another matter upon which I wish to touch briefly is that of friendly society dispensaries and the members of those societies. I have had representations from the friendly societies on this matter. I am pleased to see that in this Bill, generally speaking, the rights of these dispensaries and the friendly society members have been preserved. There are a few little catches about which they are not happy. Friendly society dispensaries are divided into 3 groups. Between 1960, when the 50c prescription charge was introduced, and 1964, friendly society members could obtain medicines at less than that rate of charge because of their contributions to their own organisations. The relevant provision of the Act was altered in 1964 and remained unaltered until 1970. Members who joined during that period are on a par with the rest of the Australian community so far as paying a prescription charge to friendly society dispensaries is concerned.
Friendly society dispensaries, some of which have been established recently, which dispense medicine or prescriptions to non-members are not able to extend the benefits of the pharmaceutical scheme to those non-members. Let us take the example of 2 dispensaries in one suburb. One is an ordinary ‘guild’ dispensary while the other is what is called a limited friendly society dispensary. Even if the prescription came within the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, a patient who was not a member of a friendly society would be required to pay the full cost of that prescription if it was dispensed by the so-called limited friendly society dispensary. I am informed that there are only 15 of these limited friendly society dispensaries in Australia. Most of them serve only their own members who are entitled to receive the pharmaceutical benefit with respect to eligible prescriptions. They cannot serve any member of the public under this scheme but must charge non-members the full retail cost of the prescription. To make it clear I point out that 144 ordinary friendly society dispensaries operate in Australia. They can deal with non-friendly society members in the same way as guild chemists do and provide to them the Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefit. As a matter of comparison I mention that I am told that there are approximately 5,750 guild chemist shops in Australia. That number is additional to several hundred dispensaries in the larger hospitals.
This Bill provides for certain classes of people to receive increased benefits. This is the subsidised health benefits plan. Those eligible to receive benefits under the scheme are persons in receipt of unemployment, sickness and special benefits under Part VII of the Social Services Act; immigrants during the first 2 months after entry to Australia, and such immigrants must be the holders of entry permits not being temporary entry permits in force under the Migration Act; and low income families as defined in section 82u of the National Health Act. These people can obtain prescriptions at a lower cost under this scheme. I think that this is a big help to them. I understand that many of them will receive prescriptions at the existing 50c charge and that some will not be required to pay for prescriptions at all.
In addition, this Bill contains amendments to the medical benefits scheme. There are approximately 30 medical services in respect of which the Commonwealth benefits payable have been amended. Several of the variations of this type which were made by regulation will now be incorporated in the Principal Act. A condition of a provision of the Principal Act passed some time ago was that this must be done within 12 months. I oppose the amendment. I do not think that if it was carried it would achieve anything. It should be thrown out. I support the Bill.
– I rise to indicate the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to the National Health Bill 1971 (No. 2) and to the amendment moved by the Opposition. At the outset I say that the view of my Party is that the Government is to be commended for its decision to withdraw the National Health Bill 1971 and to introduce the Bill which we are now considering in lieu of the withdrawn Bill. It is said - and I think well said - that one of the besetting sins of politicians in power is the sin of pride. It is rare that we find people in power who have the humility to admit that first decisions are not always right ones and who are prepared to make necessary changes.
The decision of the Government in having a second look at this legislation and in doing what it has done is worthy of commendation. I think that, in no mean measure, this action can be attributed to the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). I put on record that that is the attitude of my Party towards this Bill. Naturally, as would be expected, we were quite elated to find that the Government looked again at this question of the proposals on the friendly societies and the fact that the withdrawn Bill provided that friendly societies would not be permitted to rebate more than 50c of pharmaceutical benefits items supplied. The Bill before us alters that concept entirely. The Government has decided to allow friendly society dispensaries to rebate the proposed $1 patient contribution in whole or in part to those members who joined a friendly society prior to 24th April 1964.
We see also that the Government has decided to reverse its previous decision on the matter of nursing home care and to increase the payment per day from $2, which was the figure set in 1952, to $3.50, an increase of $1.50. We do not believe by any means that that is all that is required. But we are impressed with the Government’s argument that the Bill is in effect an interim measure. This goes at least some of the way towards meeting the additional costs involved in the operation of these institutions. These additional costs I understand are brought about primarily by increased wages, having regard to the 48 per cent wage increase claim by nurses.
In my State of New South Wales, there are 600 private hospitals and nursing homes of the type dealt with in the Bill. They provide accommodation for some 21,000 patients, approximately half the total number of patients catered for in that State. Many of the patients in these nursing homes are the parents or relatives of wage earners who are incapable of paying more than the $10 a week that they are paying already. As I say, the increase in this Bill goes at least some way towards meeting the situation.
We will not support the whole amendment proposed by the Opposition although we will support part of it. We shall ask that the propositions contained in the amendment submitted by the Opposition be voted on seriatim. We support the first part of the amendment which asks the Senate to express the opinion that: the Commonwealth nursing home policy is unsatisfactory because of:
We do not agree with and will not support the remainder of the Opposition’s amendment as we see it. To do so would negate the whole position of the Opposition which in the final analysis is to support the Bill, not to oppose it. The third proposition submitted in the Labor Party’s amendment is one that we in no circumstances could support. That is the one that seeks to provide pharmaceutical benefits at no cost to the patient. I understand that the cost to the Commonwealth of adopting this proposal would be $24m. This amount would have been taken into account as part of the Budget, but when the Opposition moved its amendments during the debate on the Budget at no stage did it indicate that it intended to move a motion of this kind. As I see it, to move the amendment now is an act of irresponsibility. I suggest that even our enemies would have to admit that whatever the Democratic Labor Party might do, it will always act responsibly. We intend to do so on this occasion.
The provision of free pharmaceutical benefits is in line with general socialist thinking, which is to provide free benefits for everybody. On this subject I feel that it is well to look at the remarks of Dr Colin Clark, a very renowned economist, who in writing an article ‘Financing Social Services’ for the ‘Institute of Public Affairs Review’ gave a message which it would be well for us all to consider. Dr Clark states:
Every family with young children has some kind of a Christmas ceremony. The whole idea is that there should be presents for everybody.
This idea has its attractions in politics too. Nobody shoots Father Christmas’ has become a favourite slogan.
But what would the family think if, shortly after the distribution of Christmas presents, the head of the family went around to assess each of them for their share of the cost of the presents, plus a substantial remuneration for himself as administrator? For this is exactly what Father Christmas politicians do. To say that such a man would be regarded with contempt is too mild a word. And this is the sentiment which the ordinary man, who has to pay taxes, is coming to feel for both political parties, who promise ‘something for everyone’, with the object of winning the next election.
Dr Clark continues, and I agree with what he says:
There can be no compromise on this question. The ‘something for everyone’ principle in politics must be discredited and abandoned, completely and without qualification, before it reduces the country to economic ruin and, as it well may, degrades and destroys the whole principle of democratic government.
To say that governments have money to spend surely is utter nonsense. Governments spend the taxpayers’ money. If we were to give social service benefits to everybody, as has been said it would involve a taxation structure that would destroy the economy of the nation.
As I said earlier, we agree with the decision of the Government in respect of pharmaceutical benefits. We agree that the Government has gone part of the way towards meeting the needs with regard to nursing homes. For those reasons, and because the Bill is an interim measure, we are prepared to support it. We reject the Opposition’s amendment, except for the first proposition, on the grounds I have outlined. We ask, therefore, that the proposals contained in the amendment be voted on seriatim and in the order that I have suggested. Having said that, I commend to the Senate the passing of the Bill.
(4.30) - in reply - I trust it is understood that I am closing the debate prior to the vote being taken on the amendment and the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The first thing I want to say in response to the debate is that the Bill is narrowly confined to certain matters. It relates to an added subvention by the Commonwealth for nursing homes; it relates to pharmaceutical benefits, in respect of which there is a budgetary implication; and also it relates to regulations whereby various amendments have been made to schedules to meet previous requirements of the Parliament. These regulations have to be formalised within a certain time and they will be formalised by this piece of legislation.
Senator Douglas McClelland, who led for the Opposition, but more particularly other speakers and significantly Senator Mulvihill covered the whole spectrum of health and social services in the Commonwealth. In the nature of things it is not possible for me in reply to respond to all points raised by Senator Mulvihill with the same rapidity with which he mentioned them. I remind the Senate that the estimates for the Department of Health were considered by an Estimates Committee a few days ago. Senator Mulvihill was entitled to be present on that occasion and to pose questions, at which time it would have been possible for me, with the aid of my officers who were sitting with me, to give immediate answers to bis questions. It would be absolutely impossible for me in responding to the debate on the motion for the second reading to give answers to many of the points raised by the honourable senator. He raised questions of policy, the relationship between the Commonwealth and the funds, and also the report of the Nimmo Committee.
– Those matters were raised weeks ago.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI heard the honourable senator in silence and I shall reply to him in complete fairness. He raised questions in relation to the Nimmo report and in some respects he criticised decisions taken by the Nimmo Committee. When he subsequently spoke of the Nimmo report his argument was the opposite of what we had heard earlier. Because of the many matters raised during the second reading debate I propose, not only for Senator Mulvihill but also for every honourable senator who spoke in the debate, to put my officers to a study of the issues raised and to ensure that a written reply is sent in relation to these matters. Not only will I do that but certainly I shall be responsible for reading the replies before they go to the honourable senators.
In the short speech by Senator Mulvihill about 25 issues were raised, involving matters which it would be beyond my capacity to deal with off the cuff and which would probably take me a couple of hours to deal with. They involved points of policy. Having said that and having given the assurance, which he knows I will carry out, I propose to deal with some matters of issue on the Bill itself. These were not necessarily matters of health. The first matter to which I refer is nursing home costs and benefits. The decision reflected in this Bill will come into effect after the Bill is passed and after it receives royal assent. It will result in an increase of $1.50 a day in the payment to patients in nursing homes.
In passing I might point out that Senator Poyser was not talking about nursing homes at all, per se. He was talking about homes which are under the control of the Department of Social Services, not nursing homes dealt with under this Act. Most of his argument was directed not at the nursing home problem but homes such as rehabilitation centres and homes which attract the subsidy of $2 for $1 but which are not within the ambit of this Bill. This Bill provides for an increase of $1.50 a day. That means that the subsidy for persons in those homes will increase from $2 a day to $3.50 a day. Those persons who are under intensive care will find that their subsidy will rise from $5 a day to $6.50 a day. What this will cost already has been referred to in the speech I made earlier. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said when he made the announcement that the Government regards this as a holding decision to enable a further study to continue into nursing home costsand benefits.
Some of the matters that are under study have been referred to in this debate. They include the question of the domiciliary side of nursing, the association with the States in regard to this matter, and various schemes such as one referred to today by, I think, Senator Mulvihill and that is the question of seeking from the funds an additional benefit for members of the funds. Here again it would be well to remember, because it was not brought out in the debate, that about 75 per cent of the people in the homes are pensioners to whom this particular fund argument will not apply. That does not mean that the possibility of trying to arrange an extension of the insurance cover with the funds is not a valid point which must be examined. Honourable senators should not imagine that this will be the end of all our problems because, as I said, about 75 per cent of people in the homes are recipients of pensions.
This is the task that I, as Minister for Health - perhaps as a junior Minister for Health, since I have held this portfolio since the beginning of August only - have to undertake, with all the goodwill, help and co-operation I can get, so that we can improve the position in nursing homes and submit a plan to the Government for its concurrence. Ultimately a national health Bill will come before the Parliament and it will then be subject to scrutiny. We nope that it will consolidate the situation facing nursing homes and provide wider coverage, comfort and security to the people in them. That is the challenge with which we are confronted and to which we have already turned our minds.
Senator Douglas McClelland, who led for the Opposition, dealt to some extent with the subsidised medical service scheme. He presented a series of figures which cut across figures I had given earlier at question time. They also cut across the figures I have with me at the moment. Superficially the situation looked pretty difficult for me because he was quoting from the annual report. However I feel bound to point out that he was quoting from a table in that report which referred to a situation at a particular time - I think it was 30th June. The figures I presented previously and which I am now about to repeat relate to the year 1970-71.
The thing to remember about the scheme is that it has been in existence for only about 21 months. It had to be launched and people had to be educated on how it applies. It has significant application to people with very low incomes. In the economic sense the recipients under the scheme would be influenced by the economy and by the very nature of the earnings of the community. That is the first thing I want to point out. I read in the Press some days ago that the average weekly income was in the vicinity of $80 a week. Looking at the Act we see that the benefit applies to people with certain incomes and it is understandable, having regard to the figures, that the number of people affected would not be very significant. But I want to counter the figures given by Senator Douglas McClelland which related to a particular date.
– They were the Department’s figures.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, the Department’s figures and in fact they were contained in the annual report. During the last financial year this scheme benefited 82,000 unemployed, sickness and special beneficiaries. Of course, unemployment is a transient thing. People can be unemployed for a certain time and then, thank God, be re-employed. It is very difficult to quote figures for this legislation because that part of it affecting unemployed persons would be influenced by the circumstances of the people concerned. I think Senator Douglas McClelland quoted a figure of something like 56,000.
– It was 54,000.
– Very well, 54,000. The figures I have are in the order of 82,000, 11,000 low income families and 28,000 migrants.
– Is that 82,000 all told?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn fact it brings the total figure, as I recall it, to something of the order of 120,000. The arguments produced in relation to this scheme are very difficult when based on figures because of the changing scene. That is not to say that I and my Department, and the Government as well, do not believe that we could not give wider publicity to the scheme. It does not mean that I do not accept that we may be able to simplify some of the requirements of the scheme. It is fair to say that there has been tremendous coverage given to it amongst medical practitioners, in medical journals, in the advertising field and the like. I think it was Senator Mulvihill who asked whether we could advertise this scheme through the trade union movement. Certainly one Opposition senator said this. I said that we certainly would look into that matter and that still holds.
The concept of the scheme is good. It has not been operating long enough to warrant the criticism that it has received from the Opposition. The scheme serves a good purpose. It was designed to help the unemployed and low income families who are unable to meet fund payments. People with low incomes may be employed for a while and then unemployed for a while. Certainly the scheme gives a special benefit to migrants in the immediate period after they arrive in this country.
The other main matter that has been touched upon is the proposal that the pharmaceutical benefits charge be increased from 50c to $1. I found it difficult to follow some of the arguments that were used in that regard. For instance, Senator Poyser sought to make a comparison, which I found to be an extraordinary one and whichI could not follow, between the cost increases in nursing homes and the difference between the 50c increase and the $1 increase. Everybody who goes into a nursing home has to pay. The point he did not bring out is that pensioners, who represent about 75 per cent of the people in nursing homes, do not pay for pharmaceutical benefits at all. They will not pay the $1. They do not pay the 50c and they never have. Therfore, 1 found that comparison a little difficult to follow. 1 think it is proper to point out, as was pointed out in the second reading speech, that there has been a significant increase in costs in the pharmacy field. This is not peculiar to this country. The increase is consistent with the increases in other countries. I also point out that the original concept of the 50c charge was to have recipient participation. The original charge of 50c has been translated in terms of current costs. In the Bill we have preserved the position of members of friendly societies who, because they paid lodge dues prior to 1 964, were excluded from payment of the charge. That exclusion has been preserved in relation to the $1 charge. But we have not - let this be understood - carried the exclusion beyond the people who were in the societies prior to 1964.
I repeat that it is impossible for me to respond to all the points that have been raised in relation to the national health scheme, given the very great tolerance that honourable senators enjoy in a second reading debate. They are allowed to ranga very wide. But, because many of the points were of significance in relation to the broad policy, 1 will ensure that they are picked out and that answers are supplied to the honourable senators concerned. I was particularly interested in the remarks made about subscriber participation in fund administration. I have already answered questions on that matter at question time. I am sorry if the answers I have given are not satisfactory. Perhaps I can give an expanded answer covering some of the points that were not covered. T would be delighted to have this Bill passed quickly. I have no doubt that when we reach the Committee stage Senator Douglas McClelland, who is leading for the Opposition, will speak more directly on certain clauses of the Bill. Perhaps we will then have a more definitive discussion than we can have in a second reading debate.
– Mr President, in relation to-
– Order! The second reading debate has been concluded with the reply by the Minister. However, it has been indicated to me that some honourable senators are adopting the attitude that the words proposed to be added by Senator Douglas McClelland’s amendment should be divided in order to accommodate some honourable senators. That is what 1 am considering. Senator Byrne, is that the matter lo which you wish to address yourself?
– Yes, Mr President. With your solicitude, I wish to intimate just what is proposed. It is proposed that the amendment be put in 2 segments; that the first segment, namely:
At the end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate is of opinion that:
the Commonwealth nursing home policy is unsatisfactory because of:
its costliness to patients and their family, and lb) an inadequate provision of alternative forms of accommodation and domiciliary services; bc put as one amendment; and that the balance then be put as a second amendment. Of course, the words ‘but the Senate is of opinion that’ would have to be inserted before the balance; the ‘(1)’ would have to be deleted from the first segment because it would no longer be necessary; and the ‘(2)’ and ‘(3)’ would have to be deleted from the second segment and the paragraphs to which they apply would have to be re-numbered ‘(1)’ and ‘(2)’, again to make (he amendment logical in form. Accordingly, Mr President. I ask the Senate to consider the presentation of the amendment in 2 segments.
– It is within the competence of the President to do that automatically, but I invite the Leader of the Government in the Senate to offer some comments on the proposal. 1 think he had some difficulty, as I did, in following it.
– First of all, the amendment was moved by Senator Douglas McClelland and, if it is being suggested that his amendment be divided, I think his views would be important. The second point is that I found it very difficult to understand what is intended. That is no reflection on Senator Byrne. If the first amendment, with the leave of the
Senate and the concurrence of the mover and seconder of the original amendment, simply said:
At end of motion add: but the Senate is of opinion that:
the Commonwealth nursing home policy is unsatisfactory because of;
– That is right. That is the intention.
– Yes; but then Senator Byrne went on to deal with a scries of other things which I had difficulty in following.
– I suggest that Senator Byrne let me finish. I am suggesting that, if we take the first segment and dispose of that first and then see where we are, that may be a helpful way of handling the matter.
– That is exactly my suggestion. My suggestion is, as the Minister has said, that the first segment, containing paragraph (1) of the amendment, be put as one specific proposition, and that the balance of the amendment–
– Let us come to the balance after we have dealt with the first segment. You are confusing the issue when yon talk about the balance.
– Very well; that is all right. However, I suggest that in putting the first segment the ‘(1)’ be deleted because it will no longer be relevant as there will be no second or third paragraph in that segment.
– The Opposition has no objection to its amendment being dealt with in 2 segments. If the Democratic Labor Party finds that it can go only part of the way in supporting our amendment, that is its fault, and its responsibility. We are prepared to agree to our amendment being split into 2 segments and being put in the manner that has been suggested.
– Is the Leader of the Government agreeable?
– I take it that the amendment, which is to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’, now simply is:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of opinion that:
the Commonwealth nursing home policy is unsatisfactory because of:
its costliness to patients and their families, and
an inadequate provision of alternative forms of accommodation and domiciliary services;
– That is right.
– Then I resist the amended amendment.
– If the Senate is agreeable, I will now put the question in that way. The onus is on me as President to split the question because it seems to me that the desire of the Senate is that it should be split. Therefore, the amendment I will now put is the first part of the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’, namely:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of opinion that:
The Commonwealth nursing home policy is unsatisfactory because of:
its costliness to patients and their families, and
an inadequate provision of alternative forms of accommodation and domiciliary services:
At the request of the Senate and in accordance with standing order 130 I have divided the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland. The question is:
That the words proposed to be added by the first part of Senator Douglas McClelland’s amendment be added to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time’.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
the system of voluntary insurance for medical services is on the point of collapse because of:
pharmaceutical benefits should be provided at no cost to the patient’.
The question now is:
That the words proposedto be added by the second and third parts of Senator Douglas McClelland’s amendment be added to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time’.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
– I suggest that paragraph (b) of this clause, which relates to the definition of the refund agreement, be postponed and dealt with when we are debating clauses 5 and 6 which relate to the increased charges to be imposed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. We intend to move an amendment to clauses 5 and 6. If our opposition is carried, paragraph (b) of clause 4 would come within the same category.
– Why do you not take clauses 4 to 6 together?
– We are not opposed to clause 4(a), but we are opposed to clause 4(b). Our opposition to clause 4(b) is related to our principal opposition to clauses 5 and 6. That is why I have suggested that procedure.
– Perhaps we could resolve that first. I want to make certain that I understand what Senator Douglas McClelland is proposing. Is he proposing to agree to clause 4, with the exception that paragraph (b) be deferred?
– I will agree to that.
– I want to raise one or two points in respect of clause 4 other than paragraph (b).
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Senator McClelland, do you wish to continue discussing clause 4?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDYes, Mr Deputy President. 1 wish to raise with the Minister the question of the interpretation. The clause states: “ ‘dependant’, in relation to a subsidised beneficiary, means -
The clause then defines dependants upon a person who becomes a beneficiary under the subsidised medical scheme. Paragraph (a) relates to a wife; paragraph (b) relates to a de facto wife; and paragraphs (c) and (d) relate to children under the age of 16 years in the custody, care and control of a beneficiary, or over the age of 16 years and under the age of 21 years. I wish to raise with the Minister the figures he cited in his reply at the second reading stage of the debate. Again 1 invite his attention to the figures in the annual report of the Department of Health, appearing in table 25 on page 1 39. The Minister has said that 11,133 people were eligible for the medical services scheme as at 30th June 1971 because they were in receipt of unemployment, sickness or special benefits. Did I understand him to say that during the year ended 30th June 1971 - not at 30th June 1971-82,000 people became eligible for assistance under the scheme because they qualified for unemployment, sickness or special benefits?
I point out to the Minister that the figure of 54,854 is in fact the estimated coverage of the scheme as at 30th June 1971, whereas the figure of 22,255 for total membership is specific. The figure of 54,854 is only an estimate which, I understand, is made on the basis of the membership books of the hospital and medical benefits funds. I should like to know what check is made by the Department on the membership records of the hospital and medical benefits funds insofar as they relate to the subsidised medical services. I know that the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs gave some consideration to the accuracy or otherwise of the membership figures submitted by the various hospital and medical benefit funds. I have raised this matter because of a specific case which was broughtto my notice recently. On 20th May the Hospitals Contribution Fund wrote to one of its contributors in the following terms:
We have received your application for the issue of a duplicate book and advise that a check of our records can only establish your membership paid to 31st April 1970, the last payment that can be traced on your behalf being made on 28th October 1969. In view of the length of your association, the Fund is prepared to accept the arrears from 31st April 1970 with full continuity of benefit rights if you so desire. In this regard a remittance of $72 should be forwarded to this office within the next 21 days.
The letter went on to say that that amount would cover the arrears and so on. By coincidence the person to whom the letter had been forwarded had applied for and obtained subsidised medical services assistance from 23rd February 1970. A photostat copy of this information was supplied to me.
I believe that the Department should be paying particular attention to the membership records of the hospital and medical benefit funds because it could well be that a contributor under the subsidised medical services scheme might not be regarded by a particular fund as being a member of that fund. That was the situation in regard to the constituent who brought this matter to my attention. It is an important matter. We should not have any variation in the number of people who receive assistance under this scheme or, as the funds set out, the estimated coverage of the number involved. I use this clause for the purpose of asking the Minister to clarify the situation.
(5.17) - I want to say 2 things in reply to the remarks of Senator Douglas McClelland. The first is that the honourable senator has dealt with a particular case. I will have that case looked at. I have also asked my officers to give me some information on the matter to which he referred about the checking of the statistics from the funds. If at any time during the Committee stage I am in a position to give a categorical answer one way or the other I will do so. If the necessary information is not available to me during the debate, I will supply it to the honourable senator as soon as it is made available to me. An officer has just gone out of the chamber to check on the point that the honourable senator has raised but, having regard to thetime of the day, it may be difficult for him to do so.
– Will the Minister comment on the other matter I raised of the figure of 82,000 that the Minister adverted to in his second reading speech? The Minister said that 82,000 people were eligible for assistance under the subsidised medical scheme throughout the year - not as at 30th June - because they were eligible for unemployment, sickness and special benefits.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (5.19) - The information I have is that, for the purposes of the subsidised health benefit plan, certain people are grouped and a distinction is made between the various classes of beneficiaries. I repeat that of the 121,000 persons who become members of the fund in 1970-71, some 84.000 would have been from families on low incomes. This means that 84,000 low income families will receive assistance at a time of need.
Clause 4 (a) agreed to.
Ordered that clause 4 (b) be deferred.
Clause 4 (c) agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 - by leave - taken together.
- Mr Chairman, might I suggest that, in conjunction with the debate on clauses 5 and 6, we take into consideration the postponed clause 4 (b) because they are interwoven and interlocked and, if the Opposition’s amendment is carried, the result will affect clause 4 (b) as well as clauses 5 and 6.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– I stated during the course of my contribution to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill that during the Committee stage the Opposition intended dividing the Committee in order to express its opposition to clause 4 (b), which is the definition clause relating to the appropriate maximum amount to be inserted in the Bill, and to clauses 5 and 6, which in fact carry out the Government’s intention in this legislation to increase the immediate cost of a pharmaceutical prescription to a person who has to obtain one from 50c to $1. I have already stated the Opposition’s case on the question of the proposed 100 per cent increase in the charge imposed by the Government for a pharmaceutical prescription. Therefore, I shall cut my remarks short.
First of all, our opposition to the proposal is based on a philosophical ground. On the one hand the Government says that its present policy - I emphasise the words present policy’ - in regard to providing pharmaceutical benefits to the general public other than to pensioners is based on the principle of government assistance to the individual in meeting the cost of medical treatment rather than the provision of free medicine in the literal sense. I think that is basically what the Minister said during the course of his second reading speech. On the other hand the Labor movement believes that if a person is sick - be that person an adult or a child - it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that that person has the best treatment available to him or her at all times, irrespective of income and irrespective of position. The Opposition believes that the imposition upon such a person of an additional charge of the type intended by this legislation could in many circumstances, because of the limited financial means of that person or that person’s family, delay him or her from seeking the necessary attention and could keep him or her off work longer than is necessary, thus depriving the community for a much longer period than is in fact necessary of the value of that person’s productivity. That, In short, is the philosophical ground on which the Opposition asserts the doctrine that all members of the community, irrespective of their position or income, should be entitled to all possible assistance available to overcome their illness and get them restored to good health again.
Despite having stated the difference between the philosophy of the Government on the one hand and the philosophy of the Labor movement on the other, I want nonetheless to take up the Government’s statement that its present policy is based on the principle of government assistance to the individual to meet the cost of medical treatment. Because of that principle and because of the increasing costs of pharmaceuticals the Government is now moving to raise the direct prescription charge from 50c to $1. Even in the Minister’s second reading speech it is pointed out that that was not the case between 1950 and I960 when all prescriptions under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme were available free of chargeto all members of the public.
Indeed, I think that during the course of his second reading speech the Minister said that in March 1960 a major departure was made from the then existing scheme which, prior to March1960, had provided certain lifesaving and disease preventing drugs free of cost to anyone on obtaining a doctor’s prescription. 1 suggest that the charge of 50c, which we have had from 1960 until now, was imposed only because of economic measures then being implemented by the Government. In fact, there was a credit squeeze at that time. The Government for the first time imposed a direct prescription charge of 50c, and it was only for the reason of cost that the Government altered its policy over those 10 years from complete assistance for all to part assistance as it is now.
During the course of his second reading speech the Minister went on to say that the pharmaceutical benefit scheme is the most expensive component of the Government’s overall health benefits plan. It seems to me that the Government implies from this statement that the public might be lending to patronise this sort of service a little too much. The fact is that the vast majority of people go to a doctor only when they are sick and they then have a prescription filled only if the doctor has prescribed medicine as a result of their being sick. It is true that there are some hypochondriacs in any community, but the overwhelming majority of Australians go to a chemist only when it is absolutely necessary in the opinion of the doctor for that person to have a prescription.
It is all very well for the Government to pass this excessive charge on to the community at large. But I ask, as I asked in my speech during the second reading stage: What is the Government doing about some of the prescriptions? At page 35 of the annual report of the Commonwealth Department of Health, the following very salient paragraph appears in relation to the cost of pharmaceutical benefits:
A further factor which contributed significantly to costs was the compounding increase in the rate of prescribing in the winter months. In the quarter ending 30th September 1970, costs increased by 21 per cent over the same period in 1969. This increase represented 34 per cent of the additional costs for prescription benefits recorded for the whole year.
The simple plain fact is that very many medicine chests in Australian homes are chock-a-block full of pills, powders, tonics, medicines and bottles that are half full and never likely to be used. That overprescribing by medical practitioners is costing the Australian community, I would suggest, millions of dollars. This cost is being imposed by the Government on the taxpayer by way of this pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Therefore I suggest to the Government that it should have given consideration to that aspect of this matter before it proceeded with measures of this nature which impose a 100 per cent increase in charges on the people who are sick, who go to a doctor and who, as a result of going to a doctor, go to a chemist with a prescription.
– He may prescribe 3 or 4 prescriptions for the one illness.
– Of course. What my friend Senator Cavanagh says is true. It has happened to members of my own family. A doctor might give you two or three prescriptions. But then again there are the people who are chronically ill, diabetic or asthmatic. There are people who suffer with ulcers and people who have kiddies who are chronically ill and who might have to have a prescription once, twice, three times or sometimes even more per week. These are the people who will be the victims of this measure introduced by the Government. I mention also the matters 1 raised in my speech at the second reading stage, and they are the failure of the Government to utilise fully the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, excessive advertising by the pharmaceutical companies, discounts being given to certain chemists by the drug companies, and the large number of free samples that are issued to doctors by the pharmaceutical companies. All of these costs are eventually paid by the taxpayer, by the Government. We believe that the Government should have looked at all of these matters and many others before it moved in the direction it has.
In offering our strong objection to these clauses, we say that the Government certainly should have awaited the outcome of the deliberations of the House of Representatives select committee which was established to inquire into and report upon pharmaceutical costs. The majority of members on that committee are Government supporters. Surely if committees set up either by the House of Representatives or by the Senate are to be of any value the Government should heed the results of their deliberations. On the philosophical ground and on the basis of the administration matters that I raised, the Opposition intends to oppose the clauses now under discussion.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (5.32) - I agree with Senator Douglas McClelland that there is a philosophical difference between the Government’s point of view, which found expression when this Bill was first introduced, and the view expressed by Senator Douglas McClelland on behalf of the Opposition. I have dealt with this in my second reading speech. In relation to the philosophical point of view, I think we have to agree to differ.
– Ne’er the twain shall meet.
– Yes. I understand that expression as you would because we have heard it all our lives since childhood. So 1 will not elaborate upon the philosophical difference. It is there. We believe that the principle on which we have introduced this 50c increase in prescription charges is correct. Of course, as we know, pensioners and those people we were talking about earlier who receive special assistance are exempted from paying this charge. I thought that what Senator McClelland said rather substantiated the Government’s philosophical approach. He talked about medicine chests being full of pills and medicines that will never be used and all the rest of it. I recognise the argument which he was putting, but it seemed to me to be significant for it expressed some of the phiosophical approach that the Government has in relation to this matter, that the charge should be calculated so that the recipient of the medicine would have a financial interest in it. Previously the patient contribution in respect of general pharmaceutical benefit was 50c. Now it is$1 and the Government’s subvention goes beyond that amount.
I would be surprised if the Opposition as a party were prepared to sustain an argument that the medico who prescribes a medicine over-prescribes. It would lake a very stouthearted man to do this. If any one of us were sick or if our family, wife or children were sick we would go tothe medico. He prescribes a whole series of medicines. Could somebody who was humanly involved in this matter say: Look, I am not going to give these medicines to my wife. I am not going to take them myself. I am not going to give them to my children. In fact, 1 do not think that the doctor knows his business. He is overprescribing. He is only giving me medicines to get me off the premises’? That is where we get to in relation to this argument of the over-prescription of medicines. In the legal profession it is said that you have a fool for a client when you start giving yourself your own legal advice. It seems to me that this situation applies in relation to medicine. There is always a terrible danger in kerbside diagnoses by somebody who is not a professional person. I do not get a reaction to the argument of over-prescribing by the medical profession. When I am sick I am anxious to go to the medico. I am anxious to have his judgment and the benefit of his knowhow, experience, training and exchange of views in the medical sense, be he a general practitioner or a specialist in any category.
I think honourable senators will have great difficulty in relation to this argument of over-prescription. It is not peculiar to this debate. We hear this argument in our day to day life.I am not suggesting that Senator Douglas McClelland is coming up with some new argument. Here again, never the twain shall meet so we shall have to agree to differ. I think we should bear in mind that the increase was from 50c to$1 in terms of contemporary economy and that the exemptions which are written into the Bill are a reasonable proposition.
The other point which was madewas in relation to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Also there was reference to a tendency for drug housesto give drugs to the medical detailers. In turn they go around and give the drugs to various people - mostly to doctors in surgeries - who in turn distribute them. I think the inference is that the doctors may give the drugs to some people who obtain a feeling that the drugs are efficacious and thenstart to demand them. It is very difficult to start putting sanctions and strictures on people. As Senator Douglas McClelland would know and as I know - both of us have been associated with hospital administration - whether it be in the home or a Hospital, if the doctors say they believe a certain thing is satisfactory in their judgment one cannot say–
– The honourable senator has a lot to learn yet. Does he not have the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse?
– No. I am not worried about that Committee’s report. I am not saying that in the final analysis. I put this test to the honourable senator: He is a family man. If one of his family goes to the doctor - be it his child, his wife or himself - and the doctor prescribes does the honourable senator tell the doctor that he does not know his business?
– I might have to accept what he said but I would be very suspicious.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am testing the honourable senator because the situation in medicine is similar to the situation in law. If one seeks a lawyer and because one is a bush lawyer one says: ‘I am not interested in that. I reckon I know more about the law than the Q.C. then one runs terrible risks. I am trying to make the point that the argument about over-prescription is a very difficult one. When one tries to nail these things one starts nailing the professional integrity of the people who prescribe. I think that is where difficulties arise. 1 return to the matter of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It is true that it is to an extent under the administrative control of the Department of Health but only in a limited way because it is a statutory authority. Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is doing tremendous work. There is a limit to the work it can do in terms of expansion and development beyond what it already does. I do not believe that the sorts of arguments which Senator Douglas McClelland used would be resolved by even a dramatic expansion of the role of CSL. I know, as we all know, that particularly in the drug field a tremendous amount of research work is done. A Drug Evaluation Committee has been set up. Professional people on this Committee evaluate drugs. That is a very important task. I suggest that one has to be very careful when one starts departing from the experts.
The other point I make quickly in relation to Senator Douglas McClelland - because we may reach a vote on the matter before we rise - is in relation to the criticism that we did not wait until a select committee had dealt with the matter. The Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources has been working for a long time. The Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange has been working for a reasonably long time. I do not deprecate the work of committees but one can not simply say in relation to the issues involved in this matter that we are going to do nothing until we have the benefit of a report. When one receives a report one has to evaluate it and then decide what one will do in a contemporary sense at the time the report is put down. For those reasons I believe the clauses are valid and that they should stand.
– Despite the desire of the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) to obtain a vote on this matter prior tothe suspension of sitting I could not let go unchallenged his criticism of Senator Douglas McClelland’s statement about the possibility of over-prescription of drugs by the medical profession. I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse which went to a lot of trouble to bring down a report which, among other things, emphasised the possibility of some over-prescription. The Minister said that he was not concerned with the Drug Committee’s report. I take it for granted that he means that he is not interested in it in relation to this discussion. Nevertheless there is clear evidence that there is gross over-prescription by the medical profession. One reason is that it is cheaper to get rid of a patient and clear the surgery by writing out a prescription than by using therapy and telling the patient that he does not need a drug.
Another reason for excessive prescription of drugs is the lack of knowledge of the medical profession. No matter what the Minister says the medical practitioner does not study pharmacology at the university. He does not know the potential of drugs. As he cannot keep abreast of new drugs he depends upon the drug companies for his knowledge of drugs and what he should prescribe.
– And the medical detailer.
– Yes. Some thousands of medical detailers are employed throughout Australia for no other purpose than to push drugs upon the medical profession. The medical profession relies on the sales talk of the detailer and the advertising of the drug houses to advise him whether to prescribe a particular drug and in what quantities to prescribe. Many times a medical practitioner has wrongly prescribed. After the suspension of the sitting I will bring a case to the attention of the Minister where a drug house has supplied a drug which has been dangerous and which has been prescribed by the medical profession.
– Like thalidomide.
– I believe that thalidomide was an unfortunate example because enough research was not carried out. Evidence concerning the case that I intend to raise came from a country doctor. He was visited by a detailer who told the doctor of the benefits of a certain drug. The doctor was not prepared to prescribe the drug until such time as he had consulted by telephone specialists in Melbourne who knew of the disease. Having contacted the specialists the doctor found that the drug was dangerous. He then telephoned the drug company.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
General business taking precedence of Government business after 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That General Business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was trying to correct some false impressions which the Minister had as to the capabilities of members of the medical profession in the prescription of drugs. The Minister showed that he had these false impressions when he was replying to Senator Douglas McClelland’s accusation that there is an over-prescription of drugs by members of the medical profession who are influenced by the drug houses.
Immediately before the suspension of the sitting I was informing the Committee of sworn evidence which had been given to the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse by a country doctor in Victoria who had told of representations by a detailer from a drug house who had told him of the magic cure for a disease known as psoriasis. The doctor, having some doubts about the drug, said that he would not use it until he had sought advice from a specialist in Melbourne. When he rang the specialist in Melbourne he was told not to prescribe the drug because it was a dangerous drug.
He then rang the local chemist and asked him to refrain from using the drug in prescriptions for other doctors until such time as he had received a report on the drug. The chemist was not prepared to do that. So he rang the sales manager of the drug house asking him to withhold promotion of the drug until such time as he was able to obtain an evaluation of the drug. The sales manager told him that it was more than his job was worth to do such a thing. Subsequently the doctor referred the matter to the Drug Evaluation Committee, which banned it from the list of permissible drugs because of its dangerous nature. In this case the drug had been prescribed by doctors over a period of 1 month before it was eventually banned on the recommendation of the Drug Evaluation Committee. The term ‘iatrogenic’ is well known among the medical profession; it is from a Greek word which means physician induced disease’ and generally the disease is caused by the overprescribing of drugs. In Australia we have possibly the greatest drug taking population of any country. This has arisen from the belief that there is a cure for all ills. The resultant disease is induced simply through the taking of drugs.
Drug houses employ one detailer to every 18 doctors, which shows what efforts the drug houses make to sell their products. That their methods are not ethical is shown from the evidence which was presented to the Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. In the journal ‘New Ethics’ of November-December 1962, which is a journal circulated to medical practitioners only, the drug palfium was advertised for the management and control of severe intractable pain of inoperable or terminal carcinoma, severe post operative pains, severe colic and in other cases of intractable pain where simple analgesics had failed. The advertisement goes on to tell of the benefits of the drug, but the side effects are shown in small print. This drug had been condemned by the World Health Organisation 5 years before the advertisement appeared in the ‘New Ethics’ journal which was circulated to medical practitioners throughout Australia in 1962. Yet 5 years after this recommendation from the world’s greatest health authority on the dangers of this drug, it was still being promoted in Australia.
A further illustration is a full page advertisement in the journal ‘Modern Medicine in Australia’ of 4th May 1969. This publication is circulated to chemists and members of the medical profession. The advertisement was for the drug dicthylpropion which was used to induce a loss of weight. The advertisement set out the claim of studies made of more than 2,000 patients and went on to mention the beneficial effects of the drug. The ingredients of the drug have been condemned throughout the world as harmful. The British Medical Journal in 1968 said that it was a pep pill causing elevation of mood and pace of thinking.
– Have you some evidence to show that doctors were prescribing this drug in any quantity?
– J have medical evidence that doctors are over-prescribing drugs and especially are they overprescribing barbiturates and analgesics. As 1 mentioned prior to the suspension of the sitting, doctors who were practising their profession al that time had no training in pharmacology as part of their university education. AH they were taught was the result of using a particular drug and the reaction that a drug would have on a patient when it was prescribed for the relief of pain, or its power to cure certain diseases. The rapid increase in the manufacture of antibiotics in post-war years leaves the doctor who is only a few years out of university completely without knowledge of the possible effects of all new drugs. His only source of information is the medical journals or representatives of the drug houses, and in the medical journals people read advertisements inserted by the drug houses. Those organisations are run essentially for profit; they are not concerned about the welfare of patients.
One witness who gave evidence before the Committee was asked to state his interpretation of a drug pusher, an expression which is generally applied to someone who is running about Kings Cross selling illicit drugs for profit. The witness’s definition of a drug pusher was one who sells drugs for profit disregarding the welfare of the purchaser of the drug. Surely this definition could be applied to drug houses. We find that their advertising clearly fits within the definition of a pusher as one who sells drugs not t,o much for the benefit of the patient as for the money. In various copies of the ‘Australian Journal of Pharmacy’, which is a journal circulated to pharmacists, we find advertisements for analgesics. One full page advertisement is head in bold type: ‘This is a New Analgesic That’s Fast and Lasts’, and under that it states: ‘For Chemists Only Profits That’s Fast and Last’s. The point is that chemists may push a particular analgesic because the profits are ‘fast and last’. The welfare of the purchaser is not the consideration. Another advertisement displays a photograph of a heap of coins with analgesics and states: ‘Painless profits’. It also says that this represents one of the largest pharmacy sales the company has. These things illustrate the attitude of the pharmacy and this was the very point that Senator Douglas McClelland was putting - the pushing of drags and the overwhelming evidence today of the over-prescription of drugs.
Another reason I wish to mention is that doctors prescribe the maximum amount of pharmaceutical benefits available under this Act to save the patient the cost of visiting the doctor to get a second prescription. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson asked whether, if my child was ill and I took him to the doctor, I would accept his advice. I would have to accept his advice because I have no-one else to turn to. I would accept the opinion of the doctor because his knowledge would be the best available to me. I may adopt a different attitude if I were a man on a low wage with 3 or 4 children whose medicine chest is overstocked with drugs prescribed for a previous illness. There may be a tendency for that man to try the kiddie on one of the drugs that helped it on a previous occasion rather than pay the increased $1 for a prescription following a visit to the doctor, and this could result in the most harmful effects possible. This would be the result of desperation, an act of kindness out of affection for the child, to try to cure the particular ailment. A person on a low income must consider carefully the occasions on which he can go to a doctor in order to get a drug prescription.
Every time there is a collection of drugs for charitable work overseas the extent of the over-prescription of drugs throughout Australia today is revealed. The entire medical profession admits that it does this because of the pressures on the profession and that many drugs could be done without. Experiments conducted in English hospitals revealed that patients were better off without sleeping tablets at night and the substitution of therapy for those who could not sleep. Australia today is in this race to become one of the greatest tablet swallowing nations in the world. There is no desire on the part of this Government to curb the activity of drug houses who are poisoning the Australian people. Passage of this Bill means that we will be paying a higher prescription fee in order to stop the over-taking of drugs. Let us do what is sought in the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland. If the Government is not going to do anything about the drug houses, at least it should not put the responsibility of excess drug taking on the invalid and sick. AsI said by way of interjection, a doctor may furnish 3 or 4 prescriptions for the one illness and this would necessitate expenditure of $3 or $4 to get the medicine required to cure the complaint.
(8.14) - What I said before the suspension for dinner was directed to the human side of this question and I think Senator Cavanagh recognises that sort of problem. When a person receives medical advice there is tremendous pressure on him, in terms of logic, emotion and anything you can think of, to accept that advice. I do not want to dwell on this matter. Senator Cavanagh has made a point in relation to drugs and I suspect it flows from his experience on the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse.
When talking about medicines and drugs it is well to remember that before a drug is made available as an item in the schedule of pharmaceutical benefits it must be recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. That Committee sends a recommendation to the Minister for Health. It is made up of 6 doctors, 2 pharmacists and 1 pharmacologist. They are the people who make the elevation and say whether a drug should go on the list. If it is not on the list it does not attract benefits even if it is prescribed. That is one argument. I am prepared to rest my case on that argument and on the human factor I mentioned. As I said before the adjournment there are some issues on which the Government on the one hand and the Opposition on the other have to agree to differ for the purpose of this debate. I do not think there is any sense in prolonging it because our fundamental attitudes are different.
– I have been wondering what the learned discourse we heard from Senator Cavanagh on the wrongful prescription of dangerous drugs by certain doctors has to do with the matter before the Committee. However it did remind me of something I read during the dinner break. The saying was German in origin and was this: ‘If you cannot be a king then be a doctor’. At least I am indebted to Senator Cavanagh for reminding me of that remark.
The Democratic Labor Party does not agree with the Opposition’s attitude to these clauses. The Government’s proposal is to increase the contributions from 50c to $1. The 50c contribution came into operation in 1960. Having regard to costs and prices since then and the deterioration of the value of the $1 the proposition seems to us to be fair enough. What is more, if the Opposition’s proposal were successful it would result in an additional cost of something like $24.6m. That reminds me to repeat what I said in my speech earlier, that if we adopt the Labor Party’s attitude of benefits for everybody it would mean the destruction of the economy of this country. I merely repeat what I said at the beginning: My party will vote for the clauses as they stand.
– I regret that the Democratic Labor Party cannot see its way clear to support the proposition of the Opposition.
– You are merely voting against the clauses, are you not?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDYes but I intend to say something. I repeat that I regret that the Democratic Labor Party cannot see its way clear to support a genuine proposition put forward at this stage by the Labor movement to protect the take home pay of the ordinary average Australian workers, particularly those with families and with dependents who suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, ulcers or what have you. I remind honourable senators that the Government has a House of Representatives select committee inquiring into all aspects of the pharmaceutical industry. It is quite wrong for Senator Kane to stand in this chamber and say that if the Labor Party’s attitude on this aspect were implemented and benefits were available for everyone, this must destroy the economy of the country. Frankly. I have never heard so much poppycock in all my life. There are many other nations whose economies are on a much sounder footing than is Australia’s and who provide free pharmaceutical benefits for all sections of their communities. Again I point out that the Labor movement believes that if a person is–
– What about the British Labour Government?
– If any government in England dared to interfere with the British national health scheme it would suffer annihilation at any election. As I was saying, the Labor movement believes that if a person is sick, no matter who he may be or what his income may be, he is entitled to all the treatment he can receive to restore him to good health and to get him back to work earlier so that the Australian community can reap the value of his productivity. It is a very false argument to say that if handouts of this nature are given to everyone the economy of this country will be destroyed. The present Government knew the political facts of life between 1950 and 1960 when it had a policy of free pharmaceutical benefits for all. It was only in 1960, at the time of the credit squeeze, that it decided to impose a 50c charge. Now that charge has been increased to $1.
– The British have a contribution.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDWhat happened when the British Government introduced that before the last election? The British Government was defeated. I suggest that this Government could well be defeated on this aspect. Be that as it may, let me say this in relation to the argument that Senator Cavanagh has been putting: Because this increase will impose a very heavy burden on a great number of wage and salary earners, having regard to the half empty bottles in their medicine chests it could well be that the health of a large section of the community will suffer because the worker on a limited income and with family responsibilities, rather than seeing a doctor after having a recurrence of an illness that he had 2 years ago, might well decide to use the contents of that half empty bottle. I have put the case on behalf of the Labor movement. I rose only to put in context the remarks of Senator Kane. I believe that if this Government continues acting in this way in regard to health it will be defeated at the next election.
That clauses 3 and 6 and proposed clause 4 (b) stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 7 to 9 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 10 (Regulations may be made before the commencement of amendments).
– The Opposition intends to seek a division on this clause. As was indicated in another place by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), but for the time that was taken up in the debate there the Opposition would have sought a division in that place. This clause relates to regulations being made before the commencement of the amendments. As I see the clause, regulations may be made between the date of the royal assent and the date on which the legislation comes into operation, as fixed by proclamation, relating to the definition of the appropriate maximum amount’ in section 84 of the National Health Act as if clause 4, which is the interpretation clause, had in fact come into operation; but the regulations so made will not come into operation before the date which is fixed by proclamation.
I merely say on behalf of the Opposition - and I am cutting the case short - that we are opposed to the general principle of adjusting rates, especially those relating to ‘the appropriate maximum amount’, to use the terminology in this Bill, by way of regulation instead by way of legislative process. We know that eventually regulations have to come before the Parliament, but we are concerned about the increasing number of these administrative matters which are being dealt with by way of regulation and not by way of amendment to legislation. We believe that, if matters involving moneys to be payable by the Australian people are to come before the Parliament, they should come before it by way of the Government seeking an amendment to the appropriate legislation. In short, on that basis, the Opposition opposes this clause.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (8.31) - I think there was some misunderstanding in Senator Douglas McClelland’s mind about the rates. It is not easy to deal with the Bill under the pressures under which we are working now. Firstly,I wish to clear up the point in the honourable senator’s mind. The rates are in the Bill. That is the important thing.
– This time, but what about in the future?
– Is the honourable senator wishing to make a speech?
– He is asking a reasonable question.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONLet him make a speech. I am putting my mind to the rebuttal of an intelligent presentation by Senator Douglas McClelland. I am entitled to be heard without interruption. The rates are in the Bill. The purpose of clause 10 is to authorise the making of regulations, in accordance with clause 4, prior to the date on which clause 4 comes into operation. The regulations so made will not be effective until clause 4 comes into operation. Clause 4 provides that pharmaceutical benefits will be supplied at the concessional rate of 50c where the prescription has been marked in a way laid down by regulation. In other words, the exemptions about which we are talking are involved in this. Our view is that it is appropriate for details of this kind to be dealt with by regulation. The manner in which pharmaceutical benefits are given to pensioners is already detailed by regulations. Clause 4 would enable the manner in which benefits are to be supplied to persons eligible for assistance under the subsidised health benefit plan to be similarly detailed. All that clause 10 does is to permit regulations under clause 4 to be made earlier than they otherwise would. Honourable senators have to bear in mind that here we have to get signals to every pharmacist and to every doctor who writes a prescription. Therefore the time factor is tremendously important. The scheme has to function on a set date. The clause makes provision that we can do by regulation what is in the Bill. It relates to benefits that will be provided in certain circumstances.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party opposes the proposal submitted by the Opposition in relation to this clause. As far as I can see, the principle enunciated by Senator Douglas McClelland does not relate to the contents of the clause. Apparently the clause is not an attempt to do by regulation what otherwise would be done by statute. The clause deals with an altogether different principle. Actually it seeks to operate a regulation as from a date before the regulations generally are proclaimed but after the commencement of the Act. I do not think that the principle enunciated by the honourable senator - one in which the Opposition is always very interested - is violated on this occasion. For those reasons we have a different attitude to the operation of ministerial discretion and of regulations. Our attitude has been stated from time to time in this place, and it is not necessary for me to state it again. The DLP opposes the proposal put by the Opposition.
That clause 10 stand as printed. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Ayes . . . . . . 27
Noes .. .. ..22
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1333).
– When this measure was before the Senate earlier 1 was about to put the point of view to the Australian Democratic Labor
Pary on the proposed amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. We approve of this Bill, lt results from a request by the industry which has had problems of varying size in different parts of Australia in the last year or two. The purpose of this Bill should not be confused with the problems of the canning industry, particularly in the areas where pears are grown. Last year the pear crop was a great embarrassment to the industry and to the canneries. This Bill relates to the production of apples and pears grown mainly, it seems, for export. This industry has a large Interest in Tasmania and I have no douh that that is what inspired the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who is from Tasmania, to speak in this debate.
The DLP has had no representations from the industry in regard to this Bill. Representatives nf the industry have put their case to the Government and have received some co-operation. We were not swept away by the figures cited by the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman), who introduced the measure in the Senate as the representative of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). He said that about SI Om will be spent over a period of 5 years in an endeavour to achieve stabilisation in the industry. If stabilisation can be achieved as cheaply as that, the expenditure will certainly be worthwhile, particularly in view of the large sums that have been spent on other primary industries that are at present in trouble.
My Party has had no representations from the industry to suggest that the proposed amendment would be acceptable to it in any shape or form, it is true that in many primary industries a single national marketing authority is of advantage, but because of the localised nature of the apple and pear industry in particular States, and the different purposes for which the fruit is produced - I refer particularly to the canning industry, which is extensive in Victoria - it may not be wise to suggest that what is adequate for other primary industries by way of a national marketing authority should be imposed upon this industry; that is, unless the industry expressed very strong views in that direction.
If the apple and pear growing industry favours a national marketing authority, its representatives have not conveyed that view to us. Therefore we assume that the industry has no strong views on the question. In the absence of advice from the industry we are unable to gauge its requirements. We believe that the Bill is adequate to achieve the measure of stability in the industry that is required by the growers. We will support the Bill as it stands and oppose the proposed amendment.
– in reply - I thank honourable senators who have participated in this debate. After listening to what they have said 1 fully realise that they are very concerned about the present crisis in the industry. I think all honourable senators will agree that any assistance the Government can give will be welcomed by apple and pear growers. Because of the serious situation in the industry the Government for the last 3 years has been negotiating with its leaders. Discussions have been held between officers of the Department of Primary Industry, representatives of the industry and officers from State Departments of Agriculture in order to form a plan which would be suitable to all concerned.
Tonight we have 4 Bills before us which endeavour to implement a scheme for the stabilisation of returns to apple and pear growers for 5 years commencing with the 1971 crop. I said earlier that the industry negotiated with the Government for about 3 years. I believe that its leaders and the industry generally have indicated very strong support for the proposed scheme. I will remind honourable senators briefly of details of the scheme. Its purpose is to give stability to the section of the industry most in need of it; in other words, the section of the industry which is exporting at risk by selling free on consignment, on consignment against a guaranteed advance payment, or afloat.
I do not think any member of the Senate, any Government supporter or any grower in the industry would regard the scheme as a cure for the industry’s problems. However, at least it will give the industry some help for the next 5 years over which period it will be able to adjust itself to some of the difficulties confronting it. I will outline briefly the scope of the plan, lt is based on risk exports of 4.4 million bushels of fruit which attract a maximum payment of 80c a bushel. If exports at risk exceed that maximum quantity the rate for each bushel is reduced in proportion. The maximum Commonwealth liability is therefore calculated at 80c a bushel on 4.4 million bushels, or S3. 52m in a season. Over a period of 5 seasons the Commonwealth’s maximum liability would therefore be about $17. 6m. However, acting on the advice of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Department of Primary Industry the Government believes that the probable cost will be about $2m a year, or $10m over the life of the plan. f will touch briefly on the economics of the scheme. Varietal funds will be established for each variety of apples and pears. Varietal support prices have been negotiated and agreed with the industry. These will move each year in sympathy with the movements iti cash costs. At the end of each export season average varietal returns will be calculated from the results of all export sales. When the average varietal return exceeds the varietal support price growers will bc called on to contribute to the varietal fund. When the average varietal return falls below the varietal support price a payment will be made to growers from the fund. If insufficient money is available in the fund, the Commonwealth will contribute to the extent necessary. I remind the Senate that the maximum contribution of the fund is calculated on 4.4 million bushels at 80c a bushel.
These are the mechanics of the scheme. I would like now to spend a few minutes in replying to some of the points raised by honourable senators. I will deal briefly with the point raised by Senator Milliner in his opening remarks. He expressed the concern of the Opposition at the fact that the Bill was introduced on one day and he and his colleagues were called upon to debate it the next day. I regret that this situation has arisen. However, I think the honourable senator will agree with me that the conduct of the business of the Senate from day to day is determined by the leaders of the various parties in the Senate. Unfortunately, although the Bills were in my hands and ready for introduction to the Senate, because of the arrangement reached between the leaders of the various parties as to what would be the business of the Senate, the Bills were not introduced in sufficient time to enable Senator Milliner to have 1 week in which to consider them.
– That is happening a little too often and we are not very happy about it.
– I think the honourable senator’s view on that matter is something which he should bring up in his party room.
I want to remind honourable senators that it is very important for this legislation to go through the Parliament because, as Senator Wright said in his remarks, the 1971 season has drawn to a close, the receipts from the sales of fruit are coming in and very shortly a payment must be made to the growers. I understand that the coming season’s crop is in such a situation that it is now time for many growers to begin spraying operations and that if these spraying operations are not carried out when the time is ripe it could have a drastic effect on next season’s crops. As many growers are dependent on the payment from last season’s crop to make a down payment on their spraying operations, it is essential that there be no hold-up in the payment of this money to them.
Senator Milliner, who lead for the Opposition in this debate, believes that there should be a single national marketing authority. There are probably many people who agree with the honourable senator. Perhaps it is the best type of stabilisation plan to have. But it has taken the Government 3 years of negotiations to arrive at the present situation. Before a single marketing authority could be set up it would be necessary first of all to have agreement among all the States and I do not believe that such an agreement could be reached until the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which will be in February. It is obvious that there would be States at that meeting which would listen to the submissions put forward and then say: ‘We cannot agree to that proposition at this stage. We believe that we must take it back to our own governments’. So the matter would have to be raised again at the next meeting of the Agricultural Council in the middle of the year, and perhaps at the subsequent meeting in February 1973. I do not believe that the industry can afford to wait that long.
Those are some of the problems involved. Furthermore, it would be necessary not only lo have complementary legislation in all of the Stales but also legisla1ion passed by this Parliament for the setting up of a single marketing authority. I believe it would take time for this legislation to be prepared, introduced and passed. I also believe that considerably more than the amount of money which has been set aside under this legislation would be needed to acquire the whole of the apple crop. Such a proposal would require lengthy consideration by the Commonwealth Government. For the reasons 1 have stated, I do not believe that the industry can afford to wait so long for such a scheme to be introduced. 1 suggest to the Senate that it should support the 4 Bills which are before it and give the industry time to have a look at, thrash out and perhaps accept the proposal for a single marketing authority. Such a proposal could follow up the legislation now before the Senate. I am not condemning that proposal. Many industries have single marketing authorities at the present time. But they did not get their single marketing authorities overnight and they did not get them as a result of someone standing up in this Parliament and saying that they should have them. Single marketing authorities were established only after long and protracted negotiations between the industries concerned, the Department of Primary Industry, the Minister Primary Industry and the Ministers for Agriculture in the States. I believe such an authority could be established in this industry, but a lot of water will flow under the bridge before it is.
One other comment I wish to make in regard to the remarks of Senator Milliner is in relation to his reference to having 2 Government representatives of the Apple and Pear Board. I believe that that is in the best interests of the apple industry. One representative will be there representing the Government and watching the interests of the Commonwealth and the other representative will be there as an independent chairman. Surely as an independent chairman he will act in the best interests of the industry itself. I believe that this will be a lot better than what has happened in the past.
I wish to make a brief reference to the submission made by Senator Webster. I agree with his remarks about this stabilisation plan and how the Government tailors such a plan to suit the circumstances of an industry in consultation with that industry. Senator Webster went on to point out, as I have just done, the complexity of the plan and the negotiations that have been conducted between the Department of Primary Industry and the industry generally. He also made reference to devaluation. I do not want to debate that aspect at this stage. Senator Webster also spoke of the tariff position if the United Kingdom were to enter the European Economic Community and how we would go from a position where we have a slight preference to a position where the preference is against us. I agree with his remarks. He referred also to the performance over a long period of years of the Tasmanian ports and how the Chairman of the Tasmanian Fruit Board had this month expressed the industry’s thanks lo the men at these ports for the work done by them! I could not agree more with him on that aspect.
Senator Devitt made a very useful contribution to the debate. He spoke from his experience of the industry in Tasmania. He also referred to the national marketing scheme in New Zealand. Senator Wright also spoke on this matter. I listened very carefully to their comments. I support Senator Wright’s remarks on this subject. I point out to Senator Devitt that sometimes other fields look greener. New Zealand has one national government and no State governments. lt would be very much easier to implement such a scheme in that circumstances than it would be to implement one in Australia. Senator Devitt spoke of the difficulties experienced by the Australian industry. The Government has recognised these difficulties by introducing this plan. He spoke of how the freight situation at the present time is beyond the capability of the industry to manage. I remind the honourable senator that the Apple and Pear Board will be reopening negotiations with the shippers in London later this month on this matter. A special meeting is also to be held in Melbourne at the direction of the Minister for Primary Industry between representatives of the industry and representatives of the State agriculture departments and the 4 Commonwealth departments principally concerned. I know that Senator Devitt well understands the situation.
He mentioned also the New Zealand marketing authority, and recalled the fact that the Tasmanian Government had asked for a Federal authority to acquire the apple and pear production and market it domestically and overseas; or secondly, a Federal export marketing authority; or thirdly, financial support for a State export marketing authority.
We recognise all the points that honourable senators have made in this debate but the fact is that we have been able to reach this stage only after 3 long years ofnegotiation. The Government believes that by giving this assistance to the industry over the next 5 years the industry will beable to come to grips with some of the problems that face it. We hope that this will provide a breathing space. The Government cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment.
That the words proposedtobe added (Senator Milliner’s amendment) be added. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Ayes .. .. ..21
Noes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Average export return).
– We have no desire to raise objection to the wording of clause 6 but I feel we should direct attention to sub-clause 3 because we may run into some difficulty later with the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I may be wrong in that belief and the Minister may be able to correct me. Sub-clause 3 is in these terms: (3.) In paragraph (b) of the last preceding sub-section, ‘accountable cost’ in relation to fruit referred to in paragraph (a) of that sub-section means any cost, charge or expense (not being provisional export duty or export duty) that, in the opinion of the Minister, was necessarily incurred in respect of the fruit. . . .
I direct attention to the words ‘in the opinion of the Minister’. It appears to me that the Minister is restricted by the terms of that sub-clause to take into account accountable cost. If it is handled by way of regulation, there may be objection to the Minister, not the Parliament, having determined that. I raise that matter not for the purpose of being quarrelsome, but in view of the decisions of this Senate in the past I felt I should raise the matter for consideration.
– I would like to say a few brief words on the point raised by Senator Milliner. I have some apprehensions about that matter as well, but the Minister may be able to clear up at least some part of the problem. For my own edification can he indicate to me the origin of the word ‘regulations’ which appears in clause 6 (4.)?It reads:
At any time before the end of a season, the regulations may, . . .
It then goes on to talk about the regulations. My reading of the Bill leads me to believe that this is the first occasion on which the expression ‘regulations’ has been used in the Bill. Therefore it gives some ground for the type of apprehension that Senator Milliner has raised as to the expression ‘the opinion of the Minister’, which appears in sub-clause (3.). It has been the practice of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances over recent years to insist that the expression ‘the opinion of the Minister’ be spelt out to the extent that fairly specific criteria are established, laid down and made effective so far as the right of the Minister to express an opinion on a matter is concerned. I just have that concern about it because, in what was certainly a rather quick reading of the Bill, I had not seen any reference to the world ‘regulations’ prior to clause 6 (4.). Can the Minister help me in that regard?
– In reply to the honourable senators who have just spoken, I understand that there is no mention of this information being published by regulation. Clause 6 (I.) reads:
As soon as practicable after the end of a season, the Minister shall, by instrument in writing, determine, in accordance with this section, in respect of each variety of fruit, the amount per reputed bushel that is the average export return for the season in respect of that variety.
I understand that the Minister makes this determination in writing within his Department. Clause 6 (7.) reads:
A determination under sub-section (1.) of this section shall be published in the Gazette.
That is ail that happens, on my understanding.
– 1 do not want to be provocative, and I hope that the Minister will understand this. We have a schedule which is referred to in another clause of the Bill and which applies to the varietal statistics concerning the various types of fruit and so on as it applies to the current season’s crop. Do I understand that there will be no scrutiny of these decisions by any substantive enactment of the Parliament or by any regulation which is subject to scrutiny at a subordinate level but that a notice will appear in the Gazette? Will there be any opportunity provided at any level of the legislature for a debate on that issue or will the mere publishing in the Gazette be a sufficient indication of the accepted expression of the provision of this Jaw? Will that in fact be the procedure to be followed and will they be the figures in respect of that year’s crop?
– I understand that when the amount for each variety is worked out this information is handed to the Minister by the Australian Apple and Pear Board, I believe. The Minister then puts this information in writing and it is later published in the Gazette. lt does not come before the Parliament. It does not go into regulations.
– It would be a factual set of figures, anyway.
– It would be a factual set of figures as handed to the Minister.
– Surely this procedure is based upon certain accepted criteria which are set out in the Act. I think that some observations will be made in due course about the extent of these criteria but the Minister seems to suggest in his reply that there will be no widening of these criteria for a period of 5 years, which is the period of operation of this Act, notwithstanding that in the intervening years some rather important factors may arise in connection with it. The Minister has acknowledged that this is virtually a private scheme. It is based upon some sort of averaging process which has been spelt out in fairly extensive terms. Nevertheless, some other factors may well arise which may have to be taken into account. Those of us who have concerned ourselves with the ramifications of this Bill can appreciate pretty readily that in a sense it is a pilot thing. It is the first time that we have attempted anything like this. We would not have been prepared to go to the extent of introducing a complete marketing scheme. Therefore I suggest that if there is a need to take additional criteria into account at some stage subsequent to the 1970 crop, which we are hoping to get off the chocks, no opportunity will be provided to do so. This may be wrong. I hope I am wrong in this, but if I am not wrong I think there is a very grave deficiency in the Bill.
– I say again that as the average varietal return comes in the Minister makes a decision on it. It is then printed in the Gazette. It is my understanding that, with the operations of this Bill, should the industry or the State Ministers of Agriculture come to the Minister and say: ‘We believe that this is not functioning as we understood it would’, then the Minister will investigate the matter, make a decision and no doubt the Bill will be amended to operate in the way in which the honourable senator wants it to operate.
– My interest has been aroused in this matter following the remarks of Senator Devitt. It is very difficult to pick up the meaning of the Bill just from looking over it. In relation to the average return price, clause 6 (1.) states: . . in accordance with this section … the amount per reputed bushel that is the average export return for the season in respect of that variety.
The remaining sub-clauses provide the method to ascertain from, I take it, a factual account, the cost and then the average export return for the season. Of course, that is set out. in an instrument in writing which is published in the Gazette for public information but is not subject to any scrutiny by anyone as to whether it is factual. It is taken for granted that it is factual. The criteria on which it must be based is set out. I am therefore concerned with sub-clauses (4.) and (5.). Sub-clause (4.) reads:
At any time before the end of a season, the regulations may. for the purposes of sub-section (6.) of this section, prescribe an amount per reputed bushel, or a manner of ascertaining an amount per reputed bushel, that is the minimum price for the season in respect of a specified variety of fruit.
We have dealt with the average export returns. Now we come to the price for the reputed bushel which is the minimum price for the season. Apparently the price is decided by regulation which is gazetted and submitted to the Parliament. Parliament can reject the regulation. Therefore this subclause suggests that someone else could determine a different price to that determined by the Minister under sub-clause (4.). Sub-clause (5.) states:
The Board may, at any time before a minimum price for a season in respect of a variety of fruit has been prescribed by regulations under the last preceding sub-section, make a recommendation to the Minister with respect to the minimum price for that season in respect of that variety of fruit and, if such a recommendation is made, the Governor-General shall take it into consideration before making regulations under that sub-section prescribing a minimum price for that season in respect of that variety of fruit.
From that sub-clause we see that the regulations made under sub-clause (4.) will take into consideration any recommendation of the Board. But the recommendation is not mandatory. The Governor-General may or may not accept the recommendation of the Board. He subsequently issues a regulation which again can be affected by a subsequent decision of Parliament. I suppose it is only a decision to dissallow. I would be glad if the Minister could explain the meanings of the various methods of arriving at 2 different prices; that is the minimum price for the season and the average export return for the season in relation to a particular variety of fruit.
– Under clause 6 (1.) the average return for a variety of fruit cannot be determined until all documents are received from the importers. This position may not always occur until after the end of a season. Clause 6 (2.) provides the method of determining the average export return. The returns to be brought to account are, firstly, those from sales of fruit exported on consignment; secondly, those from sales of fruit exported under a guaranteed advance contract and. thirdly, those from forward sales. Surely when all these are added up the price must be factual. One would not fool around with them. I think the honourable senator referred to sub-clause (5.) first.
– No. sub-clause (4.).
– The honourable senator mentioned sub-clause (5.) and then referred to sub-clause (4.) afterwards. Under sub-clause (5.) the Board makes a recommendation in relation to the minimum price under the preceding sub-section; that is sub-clause (4.) Subclause (4.) provides for the prescription of a minimum price for a variety of fruit. But I understand that this regulation will be introduced when there are signs of irresponsible selling of fruit sent on consignment. In other words this sub-clause gives the Minister some basis on which to work out a minimum price when there has been some trouble within the industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Support price)
-At this stage when we are considering the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill 1 think it is appropriate to say that the problem was not created in the Garden of Eden by eating the apple. It was created on the ground by the pair. But I suggest that this is a most important Bill. As the Minister has indicated it will have its growing pains and will have to be watched very carefully. I say with respect to the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) that the Government appears to be a little hesitant about some of the provisions of the Bill. If you will pardon me, Mr Temporary Chairman. I shall read a part of the Minister’s second reading speech. I do not wish to engage in a debate more suited to the second reading of the Bill. However, my motion flows from what the Minister said in his second rending speech. He stated:
It has been estimated that the scheme is likely to cost the Commonwealth of the order of $10m over the 5 years of its life and this gives some idea of the unfortunate position in which this industry finds itself. Because of this unfortunate position it is true that this stabilisation scheme and the likelihood of the subvention by the Commonwealth under the scheme of this $I0m over 5 years will not provide solutions lo all the industry’s problems. However, it is intended that the scheme will give a considerable measure of stability to the industry to assist it to examine its other problems and to take steps to meet them.
I emphasise 2 points in that passage. The first point 1 emphasise is that this is a costly proposition. Over 5 years $10m may not sound a lot of money to some people, but to the people of the Commonwealth SI Om is a substantial amount of money. Consequently it is our responsibility to see that the money will be spent to the best possible advantage. The second point I emphasise is that this can be regarded as pilot legislation because the Minister has said that $I0m over 5 years will not provide a solution to all the problems of the industry. It is in this direction that we move an amendment to be added to clause 7. On behalf of the Australian Labor Party I move:
As an instruction to the Government:
That specific provision should be made in the clause that the regulations, in fixing the support price for a season, shall make such increase or decrease, if any, in the amount as is considered appropriate by reason of increases or decreases in prices, wages or rates of charges (including rates of interest) payable in connection wilh (a) the carrying on of operations wholly or partly for the purposes of the production of apples and pears, and (b) the transport, handling or storage of apples and pears
If honourable senators look at the legislation as it stands they will see that it does not cater for some of the regulations which we seek by way of this amendment. Clause 7 suggests when the support price will be determined. But we believe that many other matters should be taken into consideration in addition to the brief statement which has been outlined. I am convinced that the Government recognises the validity of such arguments. I shall refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry which is to be found at page 1947 of the debate which took place on 6th October 1971 in another place. The Minister stated:
The actual field of difference between the Opposition and the Government on this issue is not very wide. In fact it had been my intention to try to include a clause in this part of the Bill in an endeavour to give to the Minister for Primary Industry the responsibility to make the determination in accordance with a listed series of additional cash costs. . . .
I shall not read any more, not because there is anything to hide but because I think the Minister indicated in his approach to the issue that there was not a great deal of difference between the Government and the Opposition. Consequently, we believe that the motion will strengthen the legislation. It most certainly will not have a detrimental effect on any of the provisions contained in the legislation but, on the contrary, will improve the legislation. Therefore I believe that, even at this late hour, the Government should accept the motion that we propose in respect of clause 7.
– The Government cannot accept this motion. As Senator Milliner has said, there is not a great deal of difference between the view of the Government and the view of the Opposition on this question. In framing this clause the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) recognised that, over the years, the Senate has said that it did not want the Minister to make regulations proclaiming things, or to make statements, as a result of which certain matters were determined. The Senate has said that it wanted the Parliament to prescribe various matters. This clause has been framed in this way to meet the wishes of the Senate that the varietal support price set for seasons subsequent to the first season may be examined by the Parliament. Surely this is the wish of the Opposition. If additional charges as set out in the motion are to be included, the concept of the Commonwealth’s liability of $10m would have to be renegotiated because the charges for the transport, handling or storage of apples and pears have not been taken into account in arriving at this figure.
The Commonwealth has offered the industry 81.0m for a period of 5 years. The industry has said that it wants 80c per bushel, which would provide maximum support for a total of 4.4 million bushels sold at risk. If the industry is willing to accept 60c per bushel a greater number of bushels can be sold in this way. I understand that this year about 7.6 million bushels will be available and that on this quantity the return to the growers will be about 47c per bushel. As I said a while ago when summing up, the growers are looking forward to receiving that 47c per bushel almost immediately because they want that money to enable them to carry on with their spraying operations for the crop which is coming on. If this Bill is delayed that money will not be available to the growers. I believe that the Government has tried to meet the wishes of the Senate by putting in this clause so that the Parliament shall prescribe the support price. At the same time the Government has offered $10m to support the industry over the next 5 years whereas the industry has asked for support to the extent of 80c per bushel. The industry’s request puts a ceiling on the number of bushels that can come under the support plan. It is for these reasons that the Government cannot support the motion proposed by the Opposition.
– A point which arises here and which the Minister for Air could probably .quickly clear up relates to the origins of the thinking by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on this matter when this motion was proposed by the Australian Labor Party in the other place. On that occasion debate ensued and it was apparent that there was a wide area of common ground in the approach of all parties to this matter. There might well have been circumstances in which there could have been an agreement to accept the proposition which was submitted by the Labor Party, and I believe that somewhere in the depths of the Minister’s thinking there was a desire to reach some accommodation of my Party’s thinking on the matter.
Apparently some advice was tendered to the Minister on some administrative problems which could arise from our proposal. Perhaps I could remind the Committee of the Minister’s words when indicating the Government’s non-acceptance of the Labor Party’s proposition. In reply to the Labor spokesman, Dr Patterson, and in justification of a rejection of the proposition the Minister said:
However, there seems to be some conflict between the procedures which are acceptable to the 2 Houses of Parliament. I am told that there is a feeling that it is advisable in measures of this sort for either House to have the ability to disallow a regulation, which, of course, would be the consequence of a prescription of the cash costs if imposed in accordance with clause 7 as it is now framed.
I am not quite sure that I clearly understand what was meant by those words. I appreciate that in all cases where regulations are tabled in both Houses of the Parliament, in accordance with the Standing Orders either chamber can move for the disallowance of the regulations and they can bc disallowed. 1 see no difference in approach between the 2 Houses of Parliament on this question, so I am in some doubt as to just what the Minister means. Perhaps he could clear it up for me.
– I wish to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party does not consider that the amendment, if carried, would have a significant effect on the Bill.
-(Senator Lawrie) - Order! I draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that this is not an amendment; it is a motion that the clause be postponed. Later I shall be putting the question ‘That the motion be agreed to’.
– We are not prepared to agree that the clause should be postponed for the purpose which has been outlined. Clause 7 already contains a great deal of flexibility within the bounds which are set by the sum of money which it is proposed to allocate to the industry to sustain it over a period of years. How that money will be allocated over the various seasons is to be left to the industry and the Minister. The figures which have been mentioned by the Minister show that there will be a flexibility in the operation of this scheme. If there are increases in prices c-r wages as. envisaged in the motion, they may. or may not affect the profitability of a particular crop and it may or may not be necessary to take those charges into consideration.
The increases or decreases referred to include a reference to rales of interest, but I would not have a great fear in this regard. It would be most unlikely that the rate of interest would fluctuate very rapidly. All honourable senators know my opinion about which way the rate of interest should fluctuate. It would be a most unstable economy if the Government were 10 allow the interest rate to fluctuate very rapidly, whether up or down. I should not imagine that in the period involved here the rate of interest could fluctuate up or down to any marked degree, or to such an extent that it would affect the market. I suggest that if it did do so, there would be added difficulty in implementing the proposition that has been outlined by the Opposition which refers to the carrying on of operations wholly or partly for the purpose of the production of apples and pears.
I am in some confusion as to precisely what that means. Does it mean that we are to take into consideration some operation which is only partly involved in the production of apples and pears, and if it is only partly for that purpose how great is the part? Is it 1 per cent, 10 per cent or 20 per cent? On the other hand, do we have to assume that the whole of the expenditure is for the purpose of producing apples and pears, or that only some portion of it is used for that purpose? If the proposal were expressed in that way it would be clearer, but the proposition as it has been put is certainly not expressed clearly. I see the whole proposition as an unnecessary complication to the simplicity of what is contained in the Bill. If the purpose in postponing this clause is to ensure that there is flexibility in the operation of this scheme, surely there is already sufficient flexibility in the Bill. For that reason I feel that the clause should not be postponed but should be carried by the Committee.
– I want to add a word or two because this to my mind has become confusing. There is insufficient protection in clause 7 and Senator Milliner is trying to overcome this with his amendment. Clause 7(1.) states:
The support price for the season that commenced on the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and seventy, in respect of a variety of fruit is the amount per reputed bushel specified in column 2 of the Second Schedule. . . .
That is clear. We know the support price and it is defined for the year ending 1st October 1970. We do not know the support price for 1971. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 7 sets out the manner of determining what it will be. It begins with the words: “The support price for a season,’. Let us find out how the support price is defined. Previously we debated clause 6 relating to the average export return, which is a factual thing. The bounty that the Government will give to the apple and pear growers is the difference between ;he average export return and the support price. The Parliament is now fixing, in this legislation, the support price for the year commencing 1st October 1970. According to this legislation the support price is to be determined from year to year and it is determined under sub-clause (2.) of clause 7 which states:
The support price for a season, other than the season referred to in the Ian preceding subsection, in respect of a variety of fruit is such amount per reputed bushel as is prescribed as the support price for that season in respect of that variety. 1 am of the opinion that this means that it has to be prescribed by way of a regulation. Therefore a regulation will be issued setting the support price for 1971 and it will be the difference between the average export price and the average export price plus the amount of subsidy that the Government is prepared to pay. Therefore the support price will be stated in a regulation that will be published. When it is published the Parliament can let it go through, resulting in the establishment of a support price, or alternatively it can disallow it. If the Parliament disallows the regulation no support price is fixed and another pi ice will have to be fixed.
Senator Milliner, who moved the amendment realises that the Minister for Primary Industry has the discretion of fixing a support price which may be too low and may provide an insufficient return to growers. Therefore he wants to prescribe criteria upon which the Minister can act from year to year, and which will require the Minister to take into consideration increases or decreases in prices, wages or other rates. These are some guidelines so that the Minister cannot simply pluck a figure out of the air. He wants to provide guidelines for increases or decreases on which the Minister can make calculations when drawing up the regulation.
Another important question arises in this matter, lt is one that has been concerning me for some time. I refer to the operation of regulations. Under the Acts Interpretation Act a regulation becomes operative on the day it is gazetted. It is laid on the table of the Parliament and within 15 days of the sitting of Parliament any member of Parliament has the right to object to it and to move for the disallowance of the regulation. There is a period from the rising of the Parliament until the resumption of the Parliament in which no-one has the opportunity to disallow a regulation and therefore the regulation is law. The effect of then disallowing the regulation could well be that the situation reverts back to the previous regulation. A period of 3 months is involved. The date, 1st October, seems to play an important part in this Bill. This could well mean that there would be a legal support price on 1st October although the Senate, Or the Parliament as a whole, does not agree with it. That price could well be operating legally. Then, if we decided on 15th October that we did not agree with that support price we could disallow the regulation. Passage of this clause in this form could result in the fixing of a legal support price which was too low in the opinion of the Parliament. Therefore, contrary to what the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, slated, passage of this clause would mean that we are giving complete power to the Minister to prescribe the support price under such conditions.
– It is limited by the sum of $1 Om over a period of 5 years.
– There may be that limitation but the point is that I do not know what happens if, in the opinion of the Senate, the Minister sets too low a support price for that year. He may still be within the limit. He may set too small an amount this year and then we have no redress at all. We can disallow a regulation and the Minister can make another one but from the time the regulation was gazetted until (he time that this Parliament disallows it there will have been a legal support price prescribed by the Minister to apply to the industry. By the operation of the Acts Interpretation Act we are giving the Minister complete power.
Senator Milliner’s motion indicates that he does not know how to overcome this problem completely. There is no way in which we can take it out of the hands of the Minister but at least Senator Milliner wishes to have criteria inserted in the Bill. This Parliament is establishing the price for 1970 but at present the Minister has no criteria to take into consideration when fixing the price for 1971. He can simply decide on any figure or repeat the figure for 1970. Senator Milliner’s amendment stipulates that he shall have to prescribe a figure after taking into consideration certain increases or decreases. Therefore he is seeking to set a criterion under which the Minister should work. All that Senator Milliner asks - I do not think this will hold up the scheme - is that this clause be postponed until it is written into the Bill that the Minister will take into consideration certain criteria, as set out, when fixing a figure. That seems quite reasonable to me. This Parliament should establish the criteria upon which money is paid rather than let it be determined by ministerial action.
– I support what Senator Cavanagh has said and perhaps it is appropriate for me to mention this before (he Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) replies. What
Senator Cavanagh said seems to be implicit in the further observations made in the other place by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). Without going beyond what I indicated to the Senate a short while ago, the Minister said:
For that reason the preference expressed ‘.n the other place is that rather than give the discretion to the Minister there should be a requirement that there be a prescription that gives to the Parliament itself a continuing right to review from year to year the level of support price that might be set.
It seems to me that what Senator Cavanagh has just put to the Committee is supported by the comments made by the Minister for Primary Industry on this very point during the closing stages of the debate in the other place.
– I think honourable senators will agree with me that in the past when dealing with primary industry Bills, particularly with clauses in the Committee stage, there has been criticism by the Opposition that quite often Parliament has been by-passed when it is sought to take certain action under those Bills. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has been conscious of that criticism. In this Bill he has tried to introduce a clause which prescribes that Parliament can examine the varietal support prices set in seasons subsequent to the first-
– Where does it say that?
– In this clause.
– Where does it say that the Parliament can examine them?
– It says that in this clause. I went along with Senator Cavanagh’s comments in the early stages. But then he started to deal with the theoretical part of it. He started to put to the Senate something that could happen in some way out case. I do not think that he was then dealing with a practical situation. I went along with the early part of his comments. I followed them closely and I agreed with them: but T could not follow and I could not agree with the latter part of his comments.
Senator Milliner said that Sl Om was a significant figure. 1 agree wholeheartedly with that. But, if he wants to include in this motion the transport, handling and storage of apples and pears, goodness knows what sum he will end up with. If that was the case, the Government would have to renegotiate the whole scheme because the Government has said to the industry, and it has agreed: ‘Here is $1Om This is the support that we give you.’ If Senator Milliner wants to include all those charges, he will finish up with goodness knows what sum. lt could be S15m or it could be $20m. I could not say what it would be. In that case the Government would have to say to the industry: ‘We cannot go on with this. We have to have another look at this situation.’ I do not think that Senator Milliner or his Party wants that. Senator Milliner wants some assistance to be given to this industry immediately. Then, having given that assistance to the industry, let us consult with it as we have been doing over the last 3 years and try to come to grips with some of these problems that are besetting the industry at the present time. For those reasons, neither I nor the Government can support the motion that Senator Milliner has moved.
– I would not have responded 10 the Minister’s remarks except for one comment that he made early in his remarks. If 1 have misinterpreted what he said, I apologise; but I do not think I have. I think he said that if the Opposition holds up this legislation it will affect the people within the industry, or words to that effect. I take umbrage al that. I do so for the very good reason that it is the Government’s responsibility if it has set. a date for the commencement of the operation of the Bill; it is not the responsibility of the Opposition. It is our responsibility to analyse the legislation in order to see that the best possible legislation is introduced. For the Minister then to charge us with holding up the legislation because we are examining its provisions is. I think, most unfair. I believe that he should withdraw that remark.
Senator Little dwells on the fact that we have referred to those partly engaged in the industry. Looking at the provision as it stands at the present time, I do not know how anybody who is partly engaged in the industry will be fitted in. It is a well established fact that the industry is in a parlous position and it is quite conceivable that some of those who are engaged in the industry are doing part time work. Surely they should be assisted. I suggest with respect that if the Government does not provide for them it is ignoring them. I will not labour the point, but we believe that the motion that has been moved would strengthen the legislation and be to the advantage of all concerned with the industry.
– 1 do not want to delay the passage of the legislation; but 1 want to put straight the case I was making out. Obviously the Minister did not understand it. I will leave it at this, whatever the Minister’s reply may be, in the hope that those who read the record can understand it. lt is not a hypothetical case, as the Minister said. It is a real case. It is factual.
The Minister has pointed out that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who is responsible for the administration of this legislation, is concerned about the criticism by the Senate in relation to parliamentary scrutiny. Senator Devitt read out the Minister’s remarks on this question. Obviously, the draftsman or the Minister considers that he has given parliamentary scrutiny in sub-clause (2.) of clause 7. With the greatest respect, I submit that he simply has not. He has given the Minister the right to prescribe, and the prescription is by regulation. He has given the Parliament the right to disallow the regulation. That is all the power the Parliament has been given. If the Minister prescribes a support price, which is a very important price to the apple and pear grower, of X, the Parliament cannot alter that and make it Y. Under this provision, the Parliament can reject X. But what happens then, I do not know. Possibly the Minister, having had his prescribed support price disallowed, finally would have to come up with a price acceptable to the Parliament.
But the main point 1 am making - it has not been considered in relation to many regulations - is that, from the making of the regulation until the disallowance of it, h is an enforceable law. If such a regulation has been made, for some period there was a legal prescribed price. There is not a prescribed price at the stage when the Parliament disallows the regulation. It could well be that, as there was a prescribed price, the amount to be paid can be determined under the Act itself. The Minister, although seeking to meet the requirements of the Senate in relation to parliamentary scrutiny, has done the very opposite of what he said in his second reading speech he was seeking to do. He has retained for himself the right to fix the support price. I suggested that the Parliament might be in recess and the matter might not be dealt with for 3 months; but, even if the Parliament is sitting, until the Senate decides otherwise there is a legal support price. On no account is it a hypothetical question.
We do not know how to overcome this problem. The Minister, in fixing a price, has to take certain factors into consideration. I think the indications are that the Government has the numbers to defeat the Opposition’s motion, but I seriously suggest to Senator Drake-Brockman that he seek the adjournment of the debate on this clause in order to see whether a wording can be drafted which will give, as the Minister desires lo give, the Parliament the power to fix the support price during the operation of the legislation.
– For the purpose of clarity I feel that 1 must reply to what Senator Milliner said in his attempt to clarify paragraph (a) of the reason for his motion. It contains the words: the carrying on of operations wholly or partly for the purposes of the production of apples and pears,
He said that that paragraph was designed to cover a person who was partly engaged in the production of apples and pears. If a person produces apples or pears, he is producing them. If he sells them for export through the Apple and Pear Board, they are part and parcel of the scheme. As I read the paragraph, if somebody came to Melbourne as part of a jaunt to see the Melbourne Cup and if he took back some spray to spray a pear or apple orchard, in Melbourne he has been engaged in an operation partly for the purpose of the production of apples or pears. I cannot see how one could read anything else into that paragraph. It refers to operations wholly or partly for the purposes of the production of apples and pears. It has nothing to do with the person who may be a part time producer of pears and who is producing strawberries or something else as another line. If a man were producing one bushel of pears and the rest of the production from his orchard was strawberries, under this paragraph he is partly engaged in the production of pears. In the interpretation of Senator Milliner, somehow he would be eligible for a support price for that portion of his skills which were devoted to the production of strawberries.
– With respect, it does not say that.
– You may think that it does not. I think that it does. As a matter of fact, that is what Senator Milliner said.
– It does not say that. It says that any increase or decrease will be taken into consideration.
– It states: . . increases or decreases in prices, wages or rates of charges . . . payable in connection with:
The operation has to be only partly concerned with the production of apples or pears. If the price rises or falls, that will affect him.
– It does not give him an entitlement.
– It may not give him anything at all. I am talking about what the paragraph says, not your interpretation of it. If my interpretation of plain English is wrong and if Senator Milliner’s interpreat ion and your interpretation are right, I will be happy for the Committee to tell me so. But I cannot read into the paragraph anything other than what it says. It refers to increases and decreases in prices and then it refers to ‘the carrying on of operations’. The operations are the production of apples or pears. Then it says ‘wholly or partly for the purposes of the production of apples and pears’.
– Senator Milliner was endeavouring to explain that.
– I know what the honourable senator was endeavouring to say, but I am saying that the provision does not say what he suggested it said. However, I do not think (hat that matter is of a particularly serious character when applied to the whole philosophy behind the argument which is that, for some strange reason unknown to any of us, when the prices are evaluated and when it is seen that the industry needs particular help within the limitations of the amount that has been prescribed for 5 years, for some perverse reason the Minister for Primary Industry will allocate an amount lower than is required by the growers and at the end of 5 years he will finish up with a surplus from the $10m that has been allocated. If that was the Minister’s purpose I do not think the Bill would have been introduced. lt is obvious that the amount of assistance to be given is designed to provide stabilisation for the industry when affected by an uneconomic export price. The Minister has a particular sum that he is allowed to spend. If the honourable senator’s philosophy were true, the only way in which the Minister could finish up with a surplus would be if the export price obtained put the industry in such a prosperous state that it could not show cause why it should get public money to assist it to the extent of $10m over 5 years. If that is the argument, have all these precautionary provisions, which have become so confusing and which allow a man who has been to the Melbourne Cup and who has bought spray on the way to say: ‘I. was partly engaged in the production of pears while I was in Melbourne. I got the spray. Therefore the cost of the trip and the labour costs can be part of the costs of production’?
The Minister has been given $10m over 5 years to stabilise the prices that are obtained or to meet the difference between the export prices obtained and what is necessary for the industry to function on a profitable basis. For that reason I think there is no need to introduce into the philosophy of the Bill a proposition that the Minister might budget to have at the end of 5 years an impoverished industry and a surplus from the $10m. If the proposal were to be accepted, it would be sound to leave the upper limit of payment completely open to cope with the things that the Opposition seeks to introduce. The upper limit would have to be left completely open and not limited to the $1 Om prescribed in the legislation. By our vote on the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’, we have already agreed to that amount. Despite the argument advanced by Senator Milliner, we find no merit in the motion to postpone the clause.
– I think we are wasting precious time in discussion quite apart from that which is fundamental to the legislation and its effect on the apple and pear industry. The legislation contains some very vital parts which relate to a scheme which has taken 3 years of patient endeavour to achieve. In the process a decision has been reached by which$10m will be provided, if necessary, for the industry in a 5-year period. Any variation of that could ruin the whole basis of legislation and cause harm to the industry. Surely everybody wishes to avoid that. I hope that we can short-circuit further discussionon this matter, because what the Opposition is striving to do now is detrimental to the ability of the legislation to assist the apple and pear industry. I completely support what the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) has advocated in reply to the motion before the Committee.
– I wish to answer one or two points that have been raised. If I have offended Senator Milliner, I regret that. I did not argue the purpose of any delay. I argued the effect that any proposed delay could have on the industry. ] hope he accepts my comments in that way. I agree with the early part of Senator Cavanagh’s comments. The Minister for Primary Industry will prescribe a varietal support price set in seasons subsequent to the first and the price that he prescribes will be in accordance with the movements in cash costs.
– The Bill does not say that. That is what we are complaining about.
– This is what I am saying now. It would only be in accordance with the movements in cash costs. In that case it would be hardly likely that the Parliament would reject the change in the support price. On the other hand, if the matter were before the Parliament, it would have an opportunity of discussing and examining the whole situation.
The Opposition has been critical of the Government because such a provision has not been contained in previous Bills of a similar nature. The Minister for Primary Industry has tried to overcome this criticism by inserting this clause in the Bill. Because he has tried to do this and because of the effect that possible delay could have on payments, the Government cannot support the motion moved by Senator Milliner.
That the clause be postponed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 - by leave - taken together.
– Clause 8 states that the funds are those specified in column 2 of the First Schedule and that they are thereby established. I have added column 1 in the edition I have and 1 have arrived at a total of $6,796,000. I am wondering how that figure accords with the figure of$10m referredto by the Minister as the Commonwealth’s probable liability over 5 years and the figure of$ 17.6m that the Minister said was the maximum possible cost. I cannot see the relationship between those 3 figures. By my addition the maximum amount involved would be about $6. 75m.
-I am advised that the figure referred to by the honourable senator relates to clause 1 7, which we have not yet reached.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 1 8 - by leave - taken together.
– The Opposition proposes the amendment that has been distributed. I move:
The purpose of the amendment is that a review be conducted after a year and prior to the establishment of the support price. On innumerable occasions we have heard in the Senate of the effect, of cost pressures on the rural section of the economy. We accept that. There will be further pressures and the clause asit stands at present will do nothing about them. The amendment we have proposed would not affect the provisions of the legislation. It would not interfere with the estimate of $10m referred to by the Minister. We believe that a review conducted in the manner we suggest would be a fair arrangement.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the honourable senator. As I said earlier, the Government is prepared to support the industry to the extent of $10m. The industry has said to the Government: ‘We want support to the extent of 80c per bushel’. Over the 5- year period the support will amount to 4.4 million bushels. If the assistance were to be reviewed at the end of the season the industry could not possibly expect to receive the 80c per bushel it has asked for because if it did the Government would be up for twice the sum it has said it will give to the industry. What the Government is saying under this legislation is if the Industry wants more than the total of 4.4 million bushels it must take less support.
A while ago I said that I understood that something like 7.6 million bushels had been sent overseas at the end of 1971 under this scheme. That quantity divided into the sum that the Government has said will be available over the next 5 years would mean that the growers would be entitled to something like 47c per bushel. If the Government were to go ahead in the manner the honourable senator has suggested and review the situation at the end of the first season and increase the quantity to be supported under the scheme and if it were to accede to the request of the industry for the payment of 80c per bushel it would cost the Government a lot more money. For that reason the Government cannot support the amendment moved by the Opposition.
Thatthe words proposed to be inserted (Senator Milliner’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– Mr Chairman, 1 wish to make a short reference to the question asked of me a while ago by Senator Devitt in regard to clause S of the Bill, which establishes the stabilisation fund under the names specified in column 2 of the First Schedule to the Bill. If the honourable senator will turn to clause 17 he will find that it refers to column 3 of the First Schedule to the Bill, which sets out the maximum allowance allowed for each fund. When the amount in a particular fund gets up near the maximum amount of payment is made to the growers.
– Mr Chairman, an important matter has arisen in relation to the regulation making powers to be conferred by this legislation. I refer in this regard lo clause 24 of the Bill. Under the regulation making power of what one might call the principal apple and pear industry legislation, that is, the Apple and Pear Organisation Act, certain regulations have been made which deal with the election of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. I refer lo the Apple and Pear Organisation (Election of Board) Regulations. Those regulations actually purported to confer jurisdiction on the High Court of Australia as the court of disputed returns for elections to that Board. That was an extraordinary use of the regulation making power. This was done some time ago by Mr Pollard, the then Labor Minister of State for Commerce and Agriculture.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator prowse)Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– This illustrates the extent to which the regulation making power has been used. Earlier this year the High Court held that the regulation was invalid. Perhaps it is fortunate that it did so because if the High Court were to be invoked as a court of disputed returns for elections such as this, the extreme burden of work which it already has would be increased very greatly.
– What was the basis of that judgment that it was ultra vires?
– That the regulation making power did not extend to conferring such a jurisdiction on the High Court. In fact, it is alarming to contemplate that it would be thought that this Parliament, by a regulation making power of that general character, would intend, or be thought to intend, to confer power on the Executive lo confer such a jurisdiction on the High Court of Australia to act as a court of disputed returns in relation to a body such as this. I ask the Minister whether it might be possible for him to inform the Senate - not on this occasion but as soon as convenient - whether there are any other examples in relation to marketing or like boards in the primary production area, of similar purported jurisdiction being conferred upon the High Court of Australia or upon any other court.
– I am glad that the honourable senator did not ask me to reply now. Most certainly I will direct the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in another place to what he has said and will obtain a reply either in writing or in a form that I can present to the Senate as a whole.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 October (vide page 1290), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
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 12 October (vide page 1291), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 12 October (vide page 1292), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment or debate.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) proposed:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
– I suggest that in future when Bills of this nature are being dealt with it might be more convenient and satisfactory for the Committee stages of the Bills to be dealt with together instead of the present procedure being adopted.
– There is merit in the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. During the ensuing week when the Parliament is in recess I shall consider the matter in consultation with Ministers of the Crown.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
– I present the eleventh report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711014_senate_27_s50/>.