28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death on 14 September 1973 of Mr Wilfred John Brimblecombe, an ex-member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Maranoa. I invite honourable senators to stand in silence as a mark of respect. (Honourable senators having stood in their places).
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply to his Opening Speech at Government House, on Wednesday, 19 September at 5.30 p.m.- that is tomorrow. For this purpose I propose to suspend the sitting of the Senate at 5 p.m. tomorrow. I extend an invitation to all honourable senators to accompany me on this occasion.
– I give notice that contingent on a message being received from the House of Representatives transmitting the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1 973 for concurrence, I shall move:
That standing order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Bill to be passed without a call of the Senate.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That the following matters be referred to the Privileges Committee for inquiry and report:
Whether the privileges of the Senate extend to committees meeting away from Parliament House, Canberra, and in relation to the place of meeting of such committees and the approaches thereto;
Whether any question of privileges arises in connection with the issue and service of a writ dated ti September 1 973 against Senator Mulvihill.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That this Senate recognising that the question of human rights is a matter of universal significance, believes there is prima facie’ evidence to support allegations by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov that human rights of political dissidents are being abrogated inside the Soviet Union and resolves that this question should be referred to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations for examination.
Contingent upon the above resolution being passed by the Senate and Contingent upon the Federal Government not having already referred the matter to the United Nations, the Senate directs the President of the Senate to refer the resolution forthwith to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
-My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows his assurance to the Senate that statements on his Government’s mobile decisions were myths and legends. Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate please reconcile for the benefit of honourable senators the following conflicting statements: Firstly, the assurance of the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the decision to site Sydney’s second airport at Galston was not final and the Prime Minister’s statement at the Baulkham Hills Shire Council chambers last Friday that you are getting Galston’; secondly, the Prime Minister’s statement on 9 September that all interest rates would rise and the Prime Minister’s subsequent statement a few days later that home interest loans would be exempted from higher rates; and thirdly the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Representatives yesterday that he had been promised trade union co-operation in restraining wages and incomes if the Government obtained powers to control prices, and Mr Hawke ‘s denial of the promise this morning. Do not these examples alone demonstrate a deliberate policy by the Prime Minister and the Labor Party to attempt to confuse and mislead the Parliament and the people of Australia?
– The honourable senator in the first part of his question suggested that certain matters are irreconcilable and used the word conflicting’ and then he asked me to reconcile them. That is an endeavour in which he has already supplied an answer which satisfies himself and I think that is where it ought to be left. As to the second part of his question- whether the statements are intended to confuse the people- I say that the statements made on behalf of the Government are not intended to confuse the people. The people, as shown by their decision last December, were sick of the confusion of the previous Government. They have accepted the lead of the present Government. I think they are benefiting very greatly from the great social and political program which is being embarked upon. The only people still in confusion are those opposite me who constitute an Opposition which is divided amongst itself. They cannot even get together to organise themselves into a coherent Opposition. They are split into the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. If ever there was confusion and bewilderment it is in the minds of the people opposite.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government, by seeking the constitutional power to deal with prices, thereby intends by the use of the single word ‘prices’ also to secure a power over interest, rents and wages?
– It is not usual or indeed wise for answers to questions of such a legal nature to be given at question time. What the honourable senator is expecting to receive in an answer to an oral question is an interpretation of a proposed constitutional amendment which he knows is a foolish thing to seek. I would have thought for a start that some matters might be covered and that the word ‘prices’ would probably be construed as extending to matters such as land, and perhaps beyond that. But it is not for me to start to give an opinion here and now on that question.
-My question is addressed to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that one reason for the decision to upgrade Learmonth air base was to enable the Indian Ocean to be covered more effectively by Royal Australian Air Force surveillance aircraft? In view of the concern of people in Western Australia over the Soviet mooring bases in the Indian Ocean, will the Minister give an assurance that Learmonth ‘s capability will be effectively maintained despite the severe cut in Royal Australian Air Force flying hours imposed by this Government?
– In reply to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I point out that the Minister for Defence has already given that assurance. He has said that there will be some reduction in flying operations. I think it is fair to say that the assurance from him is very clear. I will see whether he has anything further to give to the honourable senator in respect of that part of the question. In relation to the issue about mooring buoys, let me repeat what the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, said yesterday in the other place. He said:
The Soviet Navy is believed to have a number of anchorages in the western Indian Ocean where its ships can shut down their main engines and cany out minor maintenance tasks. At two of these anchorages buoys have been laid; these are located in the vicinity of the Seychelles and near Chagos Archipelago. There is no evidence to suggest that these buoys are anything other than mooring buoys. They are in exposed anchorages and are unlikely to contain special equipment. Soviet ships receive their fuel and supplies from Soviet auxiliaries deployed to the area. Soviet warships presently in the Indian Ocean comprise -
This is the latest information available to the intelligence people- one diesel submarine, a destroyer, 2 escorts, 2 minesweepers and a tank landing ship. To supply this force there are at least 3 auxiliaries in the area. In addition there is a force of minesweepers and auxiliaries in Bangladesh assisting in port clearance operations.
I will attempt to obtain further information from the Minister for Defence in respect of the last part of the honourable senator’s question.
-Is the Attorney-General aware that the Victorian Council for the Single Mother and Her Child is seeking removal of all legal discrimination against illegitimate children? I am aware that the Government is negotiating with the States on this matter; but, in view of the considerable length of time during which these negotiations have gone on, can he give an assurance that in laws passed by the national Parliament all discrimination will be removed?
– Yes, I can give that assurance insofar as the Government is able to put forward laws and to determine what will happen to them here. The Australian Labor Party at its July conference included in its platform a provision that was, as I recall it, precisely to this effect. The Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee of the Party certainly did so. I recall that the decision was, roughly, that the word bastard’ and other words referring to illegitimacy should be removed from the law as far as possible. It would not be possible to do so completely because it might be necessary to refer to legitimacy in order to remove some kind of discrimination which otherwise would exist. But, basically, the answer the honourable senator seeks is yes. I will supplement my answer if I can.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Repatriation. Is it a fact that on the basis of present repatriation benefits proposals the 100 per cent general rate pensioner who has been in receipt of a special compensation allowance benefit will receive no actual monetary benefit before the next Budget? Is this anomaly receiving consideration? Will action be taken to rectify the position?
– As the honourable senator knows, the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973 probably will be introduced into the Senate this afternoon. When the Australian Labor Party was in Opposition it promised the Returned Services League and other organisations that it would ensure that the general rate pension and the totally and permanently incapacitated pension were related on a percentage basis, to the minimum wage. We have honoured that promise. During the agitations against it, particularly in 1968, the previous Government introduced what it called the special compensation allowance, which applied only to those whose disabilities fell within the 75 per cent to 100 per cent range. Those below that range did not receive any increase. That action was taken at a time when the general rate pension had not been increased for many years.
As a matter of fact, the honourable senator might know that at that time the Labor Party in this place and in the other place criticised the previous Government because improvements had been made in the conditions of only about 30,000 ex-servicemen whereas there were at least 197,000 ex-servicemen- nearly 200,000 exservicemen who should have been getting some benefit from the improvements. We saw the special compensation allowance as a partial increase that did not meet the requirements of the ex-service organisations. From the Budget proposals which, we hope, will be discussed in the Senate this week, it will be seen that the Government proposes to raise the 2 pension rates. They will be raised and adjusted to the minimum wage in 2 stages- this year and in the early part of next year. As a result we can see no reason why the special compensation for small areas should not be done away with and the amount of money which would have been voted for that used to make the general improvements which are encompassed in the Repatriation Bill. May I mention that those general improvements, which have been welcomed, total approximately $22m.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer to yesterday’s Press reports of the seizure of a substantial quantity of heroin at Darwin last Saturday. I would like the Minister, if he can to do so, to provide the Senate with information on this seizure and in particular to advise on the method used to smuggle such a quantity of this drug.
-The seizure took place after several days of investigation by officers of the Bureau of Narcotics of the Department of Customs and Excise, who were working with the Northern Territory Police. The quantity of heroin was approximately 500 grams- that is a little over 1 lb- and the value would be about $50,000 on the illicit market in Australia. The method of concealment to get it through the Darwin airport was a clever one. A French national was arrested and has been charged with breaches of the Customs Regulations and the Narcotics Act. The investigations are being pursued and it may well be that other arrests may be made here and overseas. In those circumstances I think it better that no other information should be given on the methods which were used.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement made yesterday by the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture claiming that the Commonwealth Government’s decision to abandon free milk distribution to school children will cost the Tasmanian economy $550,000 per annum and will particularly damage the residents of the west coast area in relation both to cost and availability of milk? Can the Minister indicate whether this statement is accurate? Is it a fact that the State and Commonwealth Ministers for Health are to meet in Canberra on 28 September to discuss a modified free milk scheme? If so, what modified scheme does the Commonwealth propose?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture, therefore I am unable to comment as to the accuracy or otherwise of his estimate. I do know that in some areas of Tasmania certain suppliers have been on a liquid milk basis and in some cases have been specifically supplying schools; in fact, that has been the sole means of their income. I have been in touch with the Milk Board in Tasmania and also with the Minister. We have in hand plans which should enable us to alleviate the immediate position. It is not possible for me to be definitive at this stage because those discussions have not been completed. But the Government did indicate in its announcement at the time of the Budget that it would assist in whatever way was possible and practicable to alleviate the difficulties which would arise in certain areas. I am not in a position to speak of matters that will be discussed in February, but I think the general position- and the position that the Government is taking generally regarding the dairy industry- is that dairymen who have been supplying milk or cream to factories, for example, producing butter are in a similar position to those who have been producing liquid milk for the free milk to schools scheme. We want to adjust the position so that producers can put their product into a factory in which it can be made into products which the market requires.
The precise modification of the scheme is not a matter which has been decided. There have been suggestions that fruit juices rather than milk should be provided because some children apparently will not drink the milk. Basically, our position will be that we will assist schools in the areas in which the greatest need exists.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media in his capacity as Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has his attention been drawn to a newspaper report on the front page of this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ to the effect that the Innisfail Evening Advocate’, which claims to be Australia’s smallest daily newspaper, may have to close at the end of the month unless the proposed increase in postal charges is stopped? Is the Minister concerned that the staff of this paper, which serves the Innisfail region, could be out of work on 28 September?
– I have seen the newspaper article to which the honourable senator has referred, and I have recently sought information from my colleague the PostmasterGeneral concerning the proposed postal charge increases. Firstly, the postal charge increases to which the article referred will not take effect until March of next year. Therefore, it is difficult for one to see why the Innisfail ‘Evening Advocate ‘ should cease to operate as from 28 September, as has been stated in the report, if the reason is the increase in these charges. I understand that the newspaper concerned posts only 60 papers a day to subscribers. The PostmasterGeneral advises me that the increased charges would mean a total additional cost of $1.50 a week. A 20-word telegram from Brisbane to Innisfail costs 80c. Currently the paper is being subsidised to such an extent that it has to pay only 8c for the same telegram. The burden of the additional postage charges is currently being foisted upon the community at large. The
Government is concerned at any impending unemployment. However, it appears that in this instance the increase in the postal charges alone would not be sufficiently great to cause the paper to run on an uneconomic basis. If the management of the paper reviewed its whole mode of operation, the paper might be run a little more efficiently to cover any increase that might take place.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Following the overthrow of the communist Government in Chile by a recent military coup, does the Government intend to recognise the present regime which is in power in Chile or will the Government regard it as a rebel group and, as such, not recognise it? If the Australian Government adopts the latter course, does it intend raising the matter in the United Nations?
-At the moment the Australian Government has not recognised and does not intend to recognise the new Government. Our ambassador is returning to Australia so that discussions can take place.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the very high incidence of vandalism in the Australian Capital Territory which results in damage to public telephones, can the Minister say whether the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is taking any action to apprehend the offenders? Has the department any record of what times of the year the highest numbers of incidents of vandalism occur?
– I understand that the Postmaster-General’s Department is taking action through its own investigating officers and in conjunction with the Australian Capital Territory Police Force to apprehend vandals and to bring them before the courts. Several persons have been charged, punished and ordered to pay compensation to the PostmasterGeneral ‘s Department. I am given to understand that vandalism occurs over the whole of the year. But ic appears from surveys that have been conducted by the Postmaster-General’s Department that there is some increase during the warmer months when more people are moving about than normally.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the decision forced on the Government by Labor Caucus to examine ways of exempting home buyers from Government imposed higher mortgage interest rates, does the Minister propose to advocate consideration of a similar concession on existing and fresh borrowings by primary producers? Does he agree that higher interest rates will be a severe burden on farmers who already face record indebtedness of more than $2,000m?
– I doubt whether any increase in interest rates of the magnitude that has been the subject of discussion during the last few days would be as burdensome to the primary producer as the unwarranted short-term loans to which he has been accustomed over the years and which this Government, I think much more so than the previous Government, has attempted through the banking system to extend to longterm loans. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics conducted an exhaustive survey into this matter last year and came up with a very strong finding. It is that the rate of interest is not as important as the term of the loan to the primary producer. On that basis this Government has acted to increase the term of lending to primary producers. As to the other matters raised in the earlier part of the honourable senator’s question. I am not in a position to give any specific answer to them. As it concerns a matter of Government policy, I do not feel that I am even obliged to answer that part of the question other than to say that the whole question of rural credit is under examination at the present time. I have no doubt that the primary producer will be at least as well off and possibly better off for credit facilities in the future than he has been in the past.
-Is the Minister for Housing able to say whether the new interest rates will effectively dry up credit available for housing and whether people on relatively low incomes and newly married couples will find it more difficult to get enough money for their houses and most probably will be forced into bigger second mortgages with even higher interest rates because there will be no concessional rates on the second mortgage market?
-The whole question of interest rates is now under discussion and consideration. At this stage, I do not have the knowledge that there are to be higher interest rates for housing. Obviously, the problem with housing is that demand is exceeding supply at the present time. With the money available for housing, it is impossible to supply the material or the labour to meet housing requirements. The Minister and the Department of Housing are trying to overcome this problem by meeting the deficiencies in the area where the need is greatest. The grants to the States will be on that basis. I think that the honourable senator can rest assured that in the future this Government will see that money is available at all times for this housing problem.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. On 28 August the Prime Minister announced that the Department of Urban and Regional Development had recommended the Galston sub-region as the site for Sydney’s second airport and that it would not be acceptable to increase investment in Mascot in such a way as to make for more air movement there. On the same day the Minister for Civil Aviation stated that a second airport would definitely be located at Galston to meet Sydney’s airport needs for the 1 980s. How does the Prime Minister explain the statement on 28 August by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, whose Department allegedly recommended the Galston site, that the committee investigating airport sites had agreed that the best solution was to expand Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport in order to meet the demands in the 1980s? Furthermore, how does the Prime Minister reconcile his subsequent statements that the siting of an airport at Galston is a very strong probability, later that it was overwhelmingly likely, and finally to the people of the area that they would get Galston?
-I do not think it is within my province to endeavour to interpret and reconcile statements made out of context in this place and attributed to a Minister on a number of different occasions or, in this case, to another Minister as well, without the context in which those statements were being considered. In dealing with this matter the other day I said that all these things had to be considered against what the Government has announced and what has been its policy for some time. I refer to feasibility studies and so forth. All these things take place before projects proceed. There are various other considerations which no doubt affect matters. It is not for me to try to indulge in some kind of mental exercise here after being given a scrap of information about a statement that has been made and then endeavour to undertake some process of reconciliation. Those who make the statements know what they are talking about. I think the statements should be examined in the context of the occasion on which they are made, together with what else the persons concerned were saying and statements on Government policy generally.
– I understand that the Minister for Primary Industry will be visiting Japan for the forthcoming ministerial discussions. At that time will the Minister take the opportunity to raise with Japanese wool importers reports of their interest in providing financial assistance to the Australian industry to help to overcome price fluctuations which have an adverse result for both growers and consumers?
-I will be going to Japan next month with a ministerial delegation. While there I will be talking to members of the International Wool Secretariat in Japan. I understand that arrangements are being made for me to have discussions with the Japanese Wool Spinners Association. I am quite sure that during those discussions most matters pertaining to the wool industry in that country will be discussed, including the matter to which the honourable senator has referred.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Am I correct in understanding that the effective trading bank overdraft rate of interest prevailing today is 9.5 per cent? Am I correct in understanding that there is no differential in favour of primary industry and that 9.5 per cent is the rate of interest being charged to primary producers by trading banks as from today?
-I will get the reply for the honourable senator from the Treasurer.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In the Senate last week the Minister indicated that he hoped to be able to make a statement this week on the Government’s intentions towards financial assistance for sectors of the fruit industry affected by recent budgetary decisions. Can the Minister indicate whether he is now in a position to make any statements in this regard?
-The industry most affected by the Government’s decision to remove the exemption of carbonated non-alcoholic beverages has been the lemon industry. I think I made a statement on this subject last week. Suffice to say that the Government has made a decision about the lemon industry. The lemon marketing board in New South Wales sent me quite a detailed submission and requested $20,000 to ensure that the winter crop went through the factories for processing. The Government has accepted that proposition and I have advised the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales of that decision. I received his concurrence on Friday for the money to be paid through the New South Wales Government. With the other 2 main industries concernedoranges and apples- there is not the same immediate problem. A decision will need to be made fairly soon in relation to oranges but the immediate problem of the lemon industry has been overcome. Comments have come back to me indicating that people in the lemon industry are satisfied with the Government’s decision.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he and the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, were present at the July conference of the Australian Labor Party at Surfers Paradise. At that conference or on any other occasion did the Minister and the Prime Minister meet and have discussions with an African guerrilla leader called Eddison Zvobgo? Was Zvobgo present at the conference by invitation? If so, whose? Is the Minister aware that a report in the ‘Australian’ of 10 July 1973 in relation to Zvobgo stated:
He said the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and the Federal Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, had assured him the Federal Government was willing to do everything in its power to aid a black revolution aimed at the overthrow or the Smith regime.
If those words of Zvobgo are true and correctand that is the purpose of my query because I do not know whether they are or not- will the Minister explain this breach of section 30 of the Crimes Act?
-I would like to check with the Prime Minister on the circumstances of the meeting. Certainly Mr Whitlam and I were at Surfers Paradise. I recall meeting the gentleman. I think Mr Whitlam met him also but I really cannot recall whether we met him together. My recollection is rather that I did not meet him together with the Prime Minister but I am just not sure. As to the rest o. the statement, I shall check it. The Government’s attitude to Rhodesia is quite clear. The regime there is an illegal, racist regime. It has been condemned by the United Nations. One hopes that the people in that countrythat means the black people- will be able to relieve themselves of the regime which they have and overturn it.
– By force and terror?
– The force and terror being used in Rhodesia have been used against the vast majority of the people who are being oppressed by an illegal, racist minority in that country. The sooner there is democracy in Rhodesia- that means rule by the vast majority of the black people- the better for everyone. As to the reference to the Crimes Act and references to the overthrow of a civilised country, the honourable senator is asking me to look into a question of law. I shall look into it.
– My question, which is virtually supplementary to an earlier question on the political situation in Chile, is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Following precedents established when Australia gave sanctuary to people who were victims of the far Left- for instance the people of Hungary- what instructions, if any, have been given to our embassy in Chile in the absence of the Ambassador if any Chilean citizens seek political refuge from the extreme Right which is governing that country?
-As far as I know, no instructions have been given. The whole question of political asylum is a very delicate one in circumstances such as these. It arises in different parts of the world. I can check out the situation for Senator Mulvihill. As far as I know, we have not given any specific instructions about it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, relates to the import quotas on knitted garments, knitted shirts and woven shirts. I comment to the Minister that, according to an announcement made on 28 August 1973 by the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry, the Government decided that quotas on the import of such garments would be retained until the end of February 1974. Further, in a Customs notification issued by the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs importers were invited to place firm orders for overseas quota goods and then to apply for by-law admission. Will the Minister take action to ensure that his
Department does not set aside the earlier decision of his Government to retain quotas, as it appears that the action of the ComptrollerGeneral in advising applicants for by-law admission to place firm orders for overseas goods is a departure from the usual by-law procedure?
– I have some acquaintance with the subject matter raised by the honourable senator but, in view of the precise way in which he asked the question and the importance of it, I would prefer to answer it in a formal way. I ask him to place the question on the notice paper.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that currently there is an extreme shortage of building materials in Australia which, combined with labour shortages, is causing an inflated cost factor in the building industry? In the circumstances will the Minister consider imposing, after a discussion with Cabinet, a total ban on the export of building materials while the industry is under such pressures?
– It seems to be generally accepted that there is a shortage of building materials in Australia, and this obviously is an area that ought to be looked into. One does not know whether the answer to the problem is to prohibit the export of all building materials. It may be that in some sectors of the industry there is a surplus of a particular kind of building material in Australia, so that nothing would be gained by prohibiting the export of that kind of building material. The other question, which is concerned with whether steps ought to be taken to ensure that there are adequate supplies on the local market at reasonable prices, certainly ought to be considered, and I understand that some consideration has been given to it. There are other measures which the Government can take to ensure the availability of such supplies, and certainly on better terms than those applying at present. One of those measures is the operation of a proper trade practices law, which I hope to introduce into this chamber next week.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State or the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to a request forwarded by the National Committee for International Women’s Year to the Prime Minister on 6 June. The request also was sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Has the Government given consideration to the request to issue an invitation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations to hold a world-wide intergovernmental congress in Australia in 1975 as a major feature of the program for International Women’s Year?
-Neither Senator Willesee nor I am in a position to answer the honourable senator immediately; but we will obtain the answer for her today, if possible, or, if not, tomorrow.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that people living in the East Gippsland district, which was severely affected by drought last year, are still suffering from the aftermath of that prolonged drought and require continued financial assistance? Has the Victorian Government availed itself of the Commonwealth Government’s offer of either late December last year or early January this year of a grant of $250,000 especially earmarked for the drought stricken area of East Gippsland? If the State Government has not utilised that relief money, will the Minister remind the Victorian Government that this money is readily available? Alternatively, if the grant has already been used for its stated purpose, will he take urgent action to ascertain what assistance is required now to relieve the present hardship.
-I recall that I answered a similar question some three or four months ago and, if I remember the answer then, it was no, the Victorian Government had not taken up its options. I do not know what the position is now. Having said that, I will refer to the Treasurer the rest of the question put to me by Senator Brown.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I ask for further information concerning the Government’s announcement that it will be possible for the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd to resume its program of recruiting migrants. Does this indicate that the Government is reviewing its migrant target and that it will resume recruitment of additional suitable people to meet the urgent needs in many areas? Finally, does the Government plan to allow other organisations and companies to undertake programs of migrant recruitment?
-These matters are not within my immediate knowledge, other than the fact that I know that the Minister for Immigration has given permission to BHP to engage in the recruitment of migrant labour from abroad. However, the other matters in the generality are not within my immediate knowledge. I will refer the question to the Minister for Immigration for appropriate advice.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. Is it a fact that the Government has asked industry not to take advantage of the conversion to the metric system in order to increase charges? As the Government has announced new postal charges with a limit of 20 grams or 0.7 oz on letters that now attract a 7c postage charge instead of 28 grams or 1 oz as previously, will the Minister refer these increases to the Metric Conversion Board for comment as to whether the Government is taking advantage of conversion to the metric system in order to increase charges?
-Yes, I will refer the question to the Minister for Science so that he can take whatever action seems appropriate to him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, refers to page 257 of the Hawkesbury River Valley environmental study background report which states:
Should the new Sydney International Airport be located within the catchment, the effects on the evironment are likely to be substantial.
As the Galston-Dural area is within the catchment area mentioned, can the Senate be assured that the report is brought to the attention of the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Conservation so that he might give full consideration to the matters dealt with as they affect his portfolio?
– I can assure the honourable senator that as a result of his question I will make sure that the report is brought to the Minister’s attention.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Repatriation in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. The Minister will recall that he told me last week that he intended to consult with his ministerial colleagues and various trade unions regarding the possible redundancies which are likely to occur as a result of the Labor Government’s decision to reduce defence expenditure. Can the Minister inform me of the exact numbers of people affected by this policy decision? As the Minister will recall, I am particularly concerned about the future of employees of the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury in South Australia. Is the Minister able to report in detail to the Senate on the outcome of these discussions? If not, when will he be in a position to do so? Does the interest in this aspect of Government policy by Mr Hawke and the Australian Council of Trade Unions suggest an area of disagreement between the elected representatives of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement? Finally, is the Minister aware of the rumour currently persisting that the Department of Supply as such is to be terminated? If this is true, can the Minister inform the Senate of the Government’s intention regarding the future of personnel employed in that Department?
-The honourable senator has asked a whole host of questions some of which he knows will take a long time to answer. In relation to the general question of redundancy and possible retrenchments, the idea of the Government was to announce to the central labour organisations what the redundancies and retrenchments might amount to and to discuss ways of making retrenchments made necessary by the reduction in the defence vote. Those discussions were held yesterday. The honourable senator will be pleased to know that as a result of those discussions it was mutually agreed that a committee should be set up providing access to the trade union movement and those central bodies which I have mentioned. This committee will consider where there might be some form of outside workload in the areas where there will be redundancies and/or retrenchments. That is to say, there are some areas in which work is already being attracted to government factories such as the engine works in Victoria and installations at Bendigo. There are some other areas where it is possible for Government departments which have the special machinery to get on the market for available work. That is the sort of exercise which will be carried out. Until that examination is completed there will be no retrenchments.
I cannot yet give a figure in regard to the general situation. It would not be proper for me to give this information until the position has settled down. But the figure is not very large. A large part of the expected redundancy would take place by ordinary attrition caused by people going out because of retirement and so on. The position in South Australia is rather minor if one looks at it in the whole Australia-wide scheme. The same position will apply there. There will be no action taken in South Australia until the committee has a look at the possibilities of obtaining other work. The trade union movement and people who work in the industry say that they believe there are ways and means of getting additional work. We hope there are. Until that is finalised nothing will be done other than a continuation of the investigations.
In reply to the honourable senator’s final question, I do not think there is any substance in the proposition that the Department of Supply will be done away with. There is an examination going on at the present time to see to what extent some section of the Department’s responsibilities at present might properly be taken over by another Department. But that is only to be considered. This matter will be the subject of Cabinet, Government and Party considerations. My own view is that the Department of Supply is a very efficient organisation. It is a necessary logistic base for the Defence Services and I feel very confident that that section of it will remain so. What is being done is purely an examination. The honourable senator can draw what conclusions he likes, but I do not think there is any substance in what he has suggested.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, follows the question just asked by Senator Jessop in regard to yesterday’s announcement that a special committee would be set up to look into redundancies in defence industries. I ask the Minister the following question: What is the composition of the proposed committee, when is it hoped that the committee will conduct the examination and how long will it take to complete? I wanted to know whether the Minister could give an estimate of the number of people involved, but having listened to the answer he gave to the previous question I realise that he cannot give the information at this stage. Perhaps he could give us some idea later. Also I ask whether any transfers or retrenchments have already occurred?
– In relation to the last part of the question I inform the honourable senator that there are no retrenchments at present taking place although I presume there will be some reductions because of attrition in some establishments. But the general position has been held as of this date. The committee has been asked to consider urgently the workload that might be available in the areas where there is redundancy because of the reduced vote. In one or two areas the Minister for Defence has already decided what factories should be kept in operation because of the need to keep decentralised industries going. The figures are not large. When they are finally available the honourable senator will see that the numbers are not large. But I do not think it would be proper for me to give these figures at present because we have made a mutual agreement with the trade unions- that is, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Commonwealth Council of Public Service Organisations and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations- that we will take no action until the search for alternative work has been completed. We expect it to be, and have told the unions that it must be, a speedy exercise. If the few hundred people who might have to go off at some plants have to be kept on for, say, 2 months and there is no work available, obviously the maintenance vote will cut out more quickly. We are hopeful, on the basis of the information we have, that much of the so-called necessary redundancy will not be necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In replying to a question asked of him earlier by Senator Donald Cameron the Minister referred to the lemon industry’s need for urgent assistance and indicated that certain relief measures would be taken. Does the Minister regard them as being anything like a satisfactory solution to the long term problem? Will they not be only a short term palliative? As the huge stocks of citrus, apple and pear juice concentrates are now being held by processors because there is no market for them with aerated water manufacturers as a result of the destruction of incentive due to the abolition of the sales tax exemption on those beverages which contain not less than 5 per cent of fruit juice concentrate, will the Minister move to have the ill-conceived abolition of the sales tax exemption set aside as the only really effective answer to the whole problem of those industries?
-I think it would be more accurate to say that the granting of the sales tax exemption in the first place- not its removalwas ill-conceived. As to the earlier part of the honourable senator’s question, 1 did not indicateat least I hope I did not- that I was talking about the citrus fruit industry generally. I was talking about the lemon industry, which is faced with a problem requiring most urgent attention.
– You made that clear.
– Yes. It was made clear to me by the industry that it was on the current lemon crop that action had to be taken, and taken quickly. We have done that. The decision concerned only the lemon industry. I appreciate, as I said earlier, that there will be problems with oranges later and with apple juice after that. I do not think the decision taken should be regarded as a decision by the Government now to commit itself to payments at some future stage. We have stated quite clearly that we will assist in the readjustment of the industry where that is necessary. There is no doubt in my mind that the Government will stand by that decision.
-Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that on 3 September 5 young people who were travelling to Australia by aeroplane were in some way suspected of being terrorists and, in circumstances of high drama, were apprehended and detained for several hours on their arrival at Sydney Airport? Is it also a fact, as reported, that after questioning these persons were completely and absolutely exonerated from any such suspicion? How did such a serious mistake occur?
– The newspapers have reported various accounts of the concern that is felt here and elsewhere about the possibility of there being some outbreak of terrorist violence in Australia emanating from outside the country.
– Is there any real evidence of that?
-I have already stated that there was a real possibility and there still is a real possibility of such an occurrence taking place. In the circumstances, the efforts of the various law enforcement authorities which are concerned with it ought not to be attacked. If some mistakes occur, they occur. The police forces of Australia- that is, the Commonwealth Police Force, the Australian Capital Territory Police, the Northern Territory Police and the police forces of the States- as well as other law enforcement officers are co-operating extremely well in order to deal with what is a real concern to them and to the Government. I heard one honourable senator interject. I think he should be assured that the concern which is felt by all police forces of Australia is not without some basis. The people of Australia ought to be pleased that effective steps have been taken to prevent, if it is possible to do so, the kind of horrible incidents that have occurred elsewhere.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. Has the Minister seen the report in today’s ‘Australian’ that the kangaroo in the new design for the Australian Coat of Arms is of a New Zealand variety? Can the Minister also inform me what is meant by the reference in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ to ‘the pregnant kangaroo, the misshapen emu and the foreign wattle ‘ of the old Coat of Arms?
– I have seen reports in the newspapers about the new design for the Australian Coat of Arms which appears to have tickled somewhat the newspapers’ fancy. I noted, for instance, the judicious use of a little chiaroscuro in the reproduction in the ‘Australian’. The kangaroo in the Coat of Arms is, in fact, a big red kangaroo, and I have been informed that the reference to a New Zealand variety, as it appears in the Australian’ this morning, was a misprint. Previously, the big red was neither pregnant- a phrase to which the honourable senator referred- - nor identifiably male. He was just badly drawn or, should I say, badly stylised rather than being naturalistic. The emu was not so much misshapen as in the line of a chick. In the new design it is a proud adult bird. The wattle leaves were also unnaturalistic and not representative of the wattle now generally recognised as the correct Australian floral emblem. The design section of my Department was asked recently to redesign the Australian certificate of citizenship. The design was selected by the Minister for Immigration and the opportunity was taken to improve the design. The design work was done by a young Melbourne girl, Joanne Hook.
– For the information of honourable senators, in accordance with section 78 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1973, I present the fortyfirst annual report on the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with the financial statement for the period and the AuditorGeneral ‘s report on that statement.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a copy of the Interim Report of the Lake Pedder Committee of Inquiry together with an engineering review which was prepared at the request of the Department of the Environment and Conservation by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Interim Report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– I ask for leave to make an announcement in regard to the sittings of the Estimates Committees.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I desire to inform the Senate that on Thursday 20 September 1973 I propose to move, at a convenient time after the luncheon adjournment, that the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 8 p.m. to enable Estimates Committees A and F to meet. If the Senate agrees, Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate Chamber and Estimates Committee F will meet in the Senate Committee Room No. I . Further proposed sittings of Committees are as outlined in the schedule which has been distributed to Committee senators. It will be understood that these meetings will be subject to the will of the Senate and any urgent legislation which the Senate may need to proceed with. I ask for leave to have the schedule of proposed meeting times incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Bill returned from House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
This is an historic Bill. It introduces the first phase of the Government’s program to abolish the means test on age pensions. It proposes complete abolition of the means test for residentially qualified men and women aged 75 or more. It confirms the Government’s desire to see an entirely new approach to the question of cash payments. It is the fourth Social Services Bill introduced by this Government since it assumed office just over 9 months ago.
The main provisions of the present Bill were announced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech on 21 August. Briefly, the provisions are as follows.
Let me now turn to a more detailed description of the features of the Bill.
The increases now proposed represent the second occasion on which the rates of pension have been raised by the Labor Government since it assumed office just over 9 months ago. In December 1972 the standard rate was $20 per week and the combined married rate was $34.50 per week. With the current increases these rates will have been increased by amounts totalling $3 and $6 per week respectively. The comparable amount for widow pensioners without children is even more dramatic. With the current increase, the December rate of $17.25 per week will have been raised by $5.75 per week. Moreover, we have removed the long standing discrimination against widow pensioners without children who were deemed eligibile for pension, but paid less than widows with children. Honourable senators will recall that in March this year the Government adopted the general principle that common needs deserve common rates of” benefit. Hence, unemployment and sickness benefits will be increased in line with the proposed pension increases. When the new rates have been paid, unemployment benefits will have been increased by this Government by amounts ranging between $6 and $15.50 per week and sickness benefits by amounts ranging between $3 and $15.50 per week.
The Government, of course is, committed to raising the standard rate pension until it reaches 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. This is the effect of an undertaking of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made when he delivered the policy speech of the Australian Labor Party on 13 November 1972. The latest available figures in respect of average weekly earnings are for the June quarter of 1973. Based on these figures, the Government’s goal of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings would be reached if the proposed standard rate were to be increased by a further $3.92 per week. The Australian Government is determined to achieve its goal of a standard rate pension of 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings and, if it is necessary, the pension increase for the autumn session will be greater than $ 1 .50 per week.
Unlike previous Governments, we will not allow pensioners to suffer adversely from economic movements’ and we are certainly not going to allow them to bear the cost and disadvantages of tight money economic policies in the unconscionable way so regularly resorted to by previous Australian governments. Indeed, this is the whole reason why we are pressing to quickly establish the standard rate of pension at 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings, and thereafter by regular adjustments to maintain this ratio.
In 23 years of conservative administration, previous Liberal /Country Party governments were never interested in such an objective. They resolutely eschewed proposals by successive Labor Oppositions, pensioner representative groups, other responsible and concerned groups and people in the community with a clear commitment to a formula such as this, that such a step should be undertaken in the interest of preserving social and economic justice for pensioners. I ought to point out at this stage that in the 12 months from the June quarter 1972 to the June quarter 1973 there was an 8.2 per cent increase in the consumer price index, and an 1 1 .4 per cent increase in average weekly earnings whereas the married rate of pension increased by 17.2 per cent and the standard rate by 17.8 per cent respectively. When the increase now proposed becomes operative, the married rate of pension and standard rate of pension will be $20.25 and $23 a week respectively. In turn this means an increase in pension rates since the June quarter last year of 26.6 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. I ask to have incorporated in Hansard the following table showing relative annual movements of average weekly earnings, consumer price index and the standard and married rates of pension.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
Honourable senators will note that the largest generous yearly increase in pensions in money terms and in percentage rates has taken place since this Government came to office. Unlike previous governments, the proximity of elections will not be a deciding factor in the rate at which pensions are increased; rather it will be our commitment to achieve social and economic justice for pensioners to establish pension payments at an adequate level and as a right, and to maintain these principles consistently. I would ask honourable senators to contrast what this Government has done- the generous rates of increase in pensions, both in money terms and percentage rates against the indices set out in the table- with the record of the last Government which in the year ended June 1971, for instance, when the average weekly male earnings increased by over 13 per cent, increased married and standard rates of pensions by a mean and miserable 7.6 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively.
I mentioned earlier that this Bill confirms the Government’s desire to see an entirely new approach to the question of cash payments. Confirmation lies in the fact that this Bill takes the first step towards abolishing the means test on age pension eligibility for people aged 65 or more. Complete abolition will be achieved within the life of this Parliament. The Government is hopeful that abolition of the means test will pave the way towards a system of guaranteed income for all. When the scheme is fully implemented and backed with national superannuation, national compensation and universal health insurance, Australia will have one of the best systems of social security in the world.
Abolition of the means test on age pensions for people 75 years of age or more will have immediate beneficial effects for a great many elderly people throughout the community. Immediate benefit will be felt by those now receiving age pensions at reduced rates. A great many others whose means presently exclude them from any pension entitlement will also benefit. The number of people in each group is estimated to be 34,000 and 31,000 respectively. The cost, including extension of free of means test service pensions for ex-servicemen and women, is estimated to be $40m in 1973-74. I think it fair to make the comment at this stage that in the first year of the new Australian Government the first positive step towards the elimination of the means test has been taken. Liberal/Country Party governments made promises for most of the 23 years they were in charge of the affairs of this country but they produced nothing. These were the people, remember, who consistently from the mid 1 940s promised a national insurance scheme but never did anything about achieving such a scheme in the long period they were in office.
Indeed it is worthy to recollect that their first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was a man who resigned from the Lyons Government in 1939 because national insurance legislationwhich would have included a national superannuation type scheme- was enacted but in fact the Lyons Government decided not to proceed with the program. In spite of this demonstration of principle, Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister of this country never introduced a national insurance scheme.
This Bill allows a period of 3 months gracethat is, up to 31 December 1973- during which, if an age pension is claimed by a person who qualified solely as a result of abolition of the means test, payment may be back-dated to the first pension pay day after the Bill receives royal assent. However, an important point to remember is that free of means test pensions will be available only to people who satisfy the normal residence requirement for age pension eligibility. A period of 10 years’ residence in Australia at any time is required. This period is reduced where a person has lived in Australia for periods aggregating more than 10 years and has had a period of continuous residence of not less than 5 years. Guardian’s allowance and additional payments for children will continue to be subject to the means test, as will wife’s pension. Supplementary assistance will also remain payable subject to the existing supplementary assistance means test.
A word about Australian Government ‘fringe’ benefits- that is, the pensioner medical service, funeral benefits and rebates on telephones and radio and television licences. These benefits are only available to people who would qualify for a pension under the 1967 means test. The Government has decided that the 1967 means test will continue to apply for ‘fringe’ benefit eligibility but that the pension increases to be paid in the autumn of 1974 will not extend benefits to people whose means are outside the new limits now proposed. The pension increases provided in this Bill lift the disqualifying limits of means as assessed for fringe benefit eligibility by $1.50 to $33 a week for single pensioners and by $3 to $57.50 a week for pensioner couples. What this means is that a married couple may have a combined income of up to $86.50 a week, including pension, and a single person a combined income of up to $49.50 a week, including pension, before eligibility for fringe benefits ceases. There are many people in the community, such as young marrieds with families to support, homes to establish and pay off and a future to be made, who have less income than this but are denied such benefits. This raises questions of equity. We will give special consideration to the needs of all people, through programs supported by the Australian assistance plan and programs to be developed following on the findings of the Henderson poverty inquiry which will provide useful guidelines for us here.
At this point I should mention that, because increases in the basic rates of pension have the effect of raising the limits of income and property at which pensions cease to be payable, many people who do not qualify for a freeofmeanstest pension will, nevertheless, qualify for either an age, invalid or widow’s pension for the first time. As a result of the increases now proposed a single person without property affecting his pension will retain some pension entitlement until his income reaches $66 a week. A single pensioner without other income will be eligible to receive some pension until the value of his nonexempt property reaches $34,720. For a married couple, the equivalent limits of income and property will be $1 15.50 a week and $60,880 respectively. A widow with one child and no property affecting will now be able to receive income of up to $90 a week before losing her entitlement to widow’s pension, or up to $94 if her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid child requiring full-time care. If she has no income affecting, a widow with one child may have property to the value of $40,480 or $42,560 if her child is under 6 or an invalid requiring full-time care, before her entitlement to widow’s pension is extinguished.
I have already mentioned the 2 new benefits called transitional benefit for the aged blind and double orphan’s pension which are proposed in this Bill. The transitional benefit is designed to alleviate any financial detriment which blind persons of pensionable age might experience when their pensions become taxable. The benefit will be payable at the rate of $3 a week and it will supplement age and invalid pensions payable to permanently blind persons who have attained 65 years of age in the case of men and 60 for women. It is proposed that the new double orphan’s pension of $10 a week will be paid to the guardian of a child both of whose parents are deceased. It will also be paid to the guardian of a child, one of whose parents is deceased, if the whereabouts of the other parent are unknown.
Double orphan’s pension removes an area of human neglect that should not have been allowed to continue. It is incredible and inexcusable that this anomaly should have been tolerated for so long by past governments. Imagine the grave social distress and severe disadvantage that have been caused to thousands of unfortunate and innocent children over the years because of these injustices. Let me give one illustration of the intolerable nature of this injustice. Children of a widow receiving a widow’s pension would attract mother’s allowance and additional pension for children. If the mother were to die, all pension entitlement from the Australian Government, until this Government accepted its responsibilities with this legislation, ended. Previous Governments washed their hands of all responsibility. I am pleased that this important reform has been achieved as one of our earliest actions.
The new pension will not be paid in respect of an adopted child if both adoptive parents are still alive. However, benefit will be payable to the guardian of a child if both adoptive parents are deceased or if one is deceased and the whereabouts of the other parent are unknown. There will be no means test. However, double orphan’s pension will not be paid if the child attracts a war orphan’s pension payable under the Repatriation Act.
The conditions for payment, generally, will be broadly along the lines of those applying to child endowment. Payment will be made in respect of orphans who are under 16 years of age or who are full-time students aged 16 to 2 1. The Department of Social Security will make payment by the same method and at the same time as child endowment. In most cases the new pension will supplement child endowment.
In turning to the rehabilitation aspects of the Bill I should first say that the decision to remove the time limit of 3 years on rehabilitation treatment and training is a practical move. It is designed to meet the needs of a small number of disabled people who, because of the severity of their disabilities, or their need for specialised training, are unable to return to suitable employment within 3 years and consequently do not, at present, qualify for acceptance. Greater use is now being made of tertiary training at universities and colleges of advanced education as a means of giving handicapped people vocational or professional skill that will ensure for them a suitable and satisfying career. Some of these courses are of 3 or more years’ duration and it is not unusual for training to be preceded by a period of treatment in a rehabilitation centre.
Provision is also made to increase the rate of rehabilitation training allowance from $4 to $8 a week to persons undergoing full-time training, and to pay $4 a week to part-time trainees. The rates of living-away-from-home allowance, payable to persons undergoing training, have been amended so that the married trainee will receive $16 a week instead of $8 a week. The new rate also will be paid to persons with the care, custody and control of children. All other trainees will have their rates doubled from $5 to $10 a week. When a handicapped person has been away from employment for many months it is natural for him to want to go back to work as soon as possible after medical treatment is concluded. This is a very good thing where the person’s residual disability permits him to return to his former job. Frequently, however, it is in the handicapped person’s interest, or sometimes a matter of necessity, for him to be trained for a different type of work.
Widow trainees, too, may need to be encouraged to train for a career that will afford them long-term satisfaction rather than turn to unskilled or casual employment. It is not easy for an adult to adjust to training for a new vocation and it may involve a temporary financial sacrifice, especially if there are dependants to look after. The higher rates of training and living away from home allowances are intended to make it easier for handicapped persons and widows to enrol in training courses, and to encourage them to opt for the long-term advantages that training will provide. Pension increases proposed in this Bill also will flow to persons receiving rehabilitation allowances. These allowances are paid in addition to the training allowance and living-away-from-home allowance. Sheltered employment allowances also will be increased in line with pensions.
I would now like to give the Senate further details of the costs involved. The expenditure on cash benefits for 1973-74, other than that resulting from the provisions in this Bill, is estimated to rise by some $200 m over the expenditure for 1972-73. This is partly due to the natural increase in the number of pensioners but mainly due to the full year cost of the significant increases granted after the Government assumed office, and the introduction of the new supporting mother’s benefit. The cost of the proposed increases in cash benefits and abolition of the means test for residentially qualified persons aged 75 years or more is estimated to add an extra $ 141m to expenditure which would otherwise have been incurred in 1973-74 on benefits payable under the Social Services Act. This will bring estimated expenditure in 1973-74 on benefits payable under that Act to $ 1 ,874m.
In accordance with the usual practice, it is proposed that the pension increases provided under this Bill will operate from and including the paydays following royal assent. The increases in unemployment and sickness benefits will, as usual, operate in respect of the benefit week ending on the date of royal assent and each benefit week thereafter. Mr President, I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
– by leave- I move:
This interim report and engineering review involve matters of very considerable public interest. I believe that it is of importance that the Senate have an opportunity to consider and debate these documents. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
I believe, Mr Deputy President, that this Bill contains some of the most significant changes in the repatriation field that have been presented to the Senate for many years. There will be increases in the rate of payment of most pensions and allowances. The means test for service pension purposes will be eased and, for service pensioners or applicants for service pensions who have reached the age of 75 years, it will be abolished. Free medical and hospital treatment will be provided for all ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War. Ex-service men and women who served in a theatre of war and who suffer from malignant cancer will be provided with free medical and hospital treatment for that condition. Artificial limbs will be provided free through the repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres to all amputees in the community who need them.
These new and extended benefits were referred to in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). This Bill will, however, introduce other changes which the Government proposes, both within and outside the Budget context. Repatriation benefits will be extended to members of the regular defence force. The admission of civilian patients to repatriation hospitals will be authorised, but only to the extent that facilities are available after catering for entitled repatriation patients. Statutory authorities giving determinations under the repatriation system will be required to give reasons for their decisions.
These changes, Mr Deputy President, are an indication of the responsibility that this Government accepts in relation to those who have served their country in time of need, and now those who voluntarily make up the country’s defence forces. We also recognise that, when and where capacity exists, the facilities and expertise of the repatriation treatment services should sensibly be made available to the community generally. Although most existing pensions and allowances have been improved on this occasion, there are some that have not been changed or increased to the degree eventually intended. They have not been overlooked; but, as a matter of priority, benefits for ex-service men and women, and the dependants of deceased ex-servicemen, have been given preference on this occasion. Other benefits will be adjusted as circumstances permit.
In addition to the improvements that I will detail shortly, Mr Deputy President, there will also be increases in the rates of payment of service pensions that will result automatically from proposals that my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), has already announced. However, the Bill amends the principal Act to apply the increased rates of service pension payable in respect of some children and to incorporate in the principal Act the same principles that will apply to age pensions under the Social Services Act. A small pension of 25c a week presently payable to certain children of service pensioners, but not payable to children of social service pensioners, will be discontinued, but this will be more than offset by the increase in the rates payable to parents in respect of those children. The increased rate of means test pensions, the easing of the means test and, in some circumstances, its abolition will mean that many war pensioners and war widows will receive greater total payments than may at first appear to be the case. The opportunity will be taken in this Bill, Mr Deputy President, to remove the remaining instances of higher repatriation payments to dependants on the basis of the rank the serviceman held in the forces. This Government sees no justification for different payments being made for like circumstances. Probably fewer than 200 dependants will be involved and all of these people will receive an increase.
Another anomaly this Government considers exists in the pensioning structure will be removed. I refer, Mr Deputy President, to the special compensation allowance introduced by the previous Government in 1968. This allowance is paid to most of the 14 per cent of general rate pensioners who are in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent range. While these pensioners will not lose any money, most of them will not receive any of the proposed increases in the general rate announced in the Budget. They will, however, thereafter receive all general rate increases at a rate commensurate with their assessed extent of incapacity. I will now outline the specific increases proposed in the Bill. The rate of payment of the various pensions and allowances referred to will be weekly amounts unless otherwise stated.
The special rate- totally and permanently incapacitated- pension is payable to those exservicemen who, because of war-related incapacity, are totally and permanently incapacitated to much an extent that they are incapable of earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage. This rate is also payable to the warblinded and certain sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis, as well as those temporarily totally incapacitated because of war-related disabilities. About 20,000 will benefit from the proposal to increase this rate by $4.50 to $55.60 now and to increase it further by a like amount to $60.10 in the autumn, when it will again be the equivalent of the minimum wage. The Bill provides for the first of these increases.
I should remind honourable senators that war pensions are paid free of income tax and, in terms of purchasing power, have a greater value than equivalent earnings. Even without the various additional allowances payable in specific circumstances, and disregarding valuable fringe benefits available, the special rate pension of $55.60 to be payable under this Bill is in excess of the net value of the minimum wage after tax. The intermediate rate pension is paid to about 1,840 ex-servicemen who, because of war-related incapacity, are able to work only part-time or intermittently. The Bill provides for this rate to be increased by $2.25 to $38.80, and that rate will be further increased by $2.25 to $41,05 in the autumn.
This is the rate of pension that is paid to most repatriation pensioners. About 190,000, or 90 per cent of those ex-service men and women who suffer war-related incapacity, are pensioned under this rate at percentage from 10 to 100 per cent. The Bill provides for an increase in this rate at the 100 per cent level by $3 to $19. There will be corresponding increases at lower levels. The rate will be further increased by the same amount to $22 in the autumn. As I mentioned earlier. Mr Deputy President, in conjunction with these increases it is proposed to eliminate the special compensation allowance. Half of that allowance will be withdrawn now and the remainder in the autumn. The previous Government saw fit to leave the general rate pension unchanged for 8 years between 1964 and 1972 and consequently the value of the payment declined significantly. It is the intention of this Government to restore its value; but, because of the need to bridge such a wide gap and the numbers involved, this cannot be achieved in one step.
Dependants of Deceased Ex-Servicemen
Increases are proposed in the payments made to the widows of those ex-servicemen who died from war-related causes, and to the children and certain other dependants of those servicemen. It is in this area that differential rates based on the serviceman’s rank, to which I referred earlier, will be eliminated. The Bill provides, Mr Deputy President, that the war widow’s pension rate will be increased by $1.50 to $23. This pension will again be increased by a similar amount to $24.50 in the autumn. The pensions payable to the children of deceased ex-servicemen will also be increased. Where the child is in the care of his or her mother, the Bill provides for an increase of $1.90, lifting the pension to $9.25. The pension payable to a child who has lost both parents will be increased by $3.80 to $18.50 a week. Approximately 3,200 children are involved, of which about 130 fall into the latter category. Another relatively small group of dependants are the widowed mothers of deceased unmarried exservicemen and the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and invalid children of deceased exservicemen. In each instance the servicemen died from war-related causes and, apart from the widowed mothers, the other dependants must be without adequate means of support to be eligible for pension. The present rates vary according to the ex-serviceman’s rank, but it is proposed that in future the same rate of $8.50 will apply to all these pensions. Incidentally, Mr Deputy President, I would mention that the rate of this pension has not been varied since 1950 although most, if not all of these people would also be in receipt of a means test pension.
In addition to war pensions various allowances and amounts are paid for specific purposes. It is proposed to increase the rate of payment of these allowances to the order that I will detail. Attendant’s allowance is payable at the higher rate to the blind who also suffer from total loss of speech or are totally deaf and to those who have had both arms amputated. It is paid at a lower rate to the blind, the paralysed and to those who have certain particularly severe amputations or who otherwise have need of an attendant. The proposed increases are $4.50 to $22.00 for the higher rate and $2.50 to $13.00 for the lower rate. About 1,200 receive these allowances. Additional amounts paid to amputees vary according to the nature of the amputation suffered. There are 15 specified categories of the loss of a limb or an eye, or a combination of both, that attract this additional payment. The first 6 items are for those more seriously disabled, who have their pensions and the addition made up to an amount equal to the special rate (TPI) pension. For the remaining 9 items, the increases proposed in the Bill will range from 45c to $2.95 and the new rates from $2.25 to $14.70. Almost 2,100 receive an addition under the last 9 items of the Schedule.
Allowances authorised by Regulations
I should also like to point out to honourable senators that, in addition to the increases I have just outlined, there are further increases proposed which will be authorised by regulations under the principal Act, as amended by this Bill. With your permission, Mr Deputy President, I shall briefly outline the proposed increases. The domestic allowance, which is payable to approximately 97 per cent of war widows, either because they have children, including student children, or because they are at least 50 years of age or are permanently unemployable, will be increased by $ 1 to $9.50. Clothing allowance, which is payable at one of three levels depending upon the degree to which the pensioner’s war-related disability causes excessive wear and tear to his clothing, will be increased by 20c, 15c and 12.5c respectively. The new rates will be $1.05, 70c and 55c.
Recreation transport allowances will be increased by $3.50 at the lower rate and by $7 at the higher rate to $16 and $32 a month respectively. Where a gift car has been issued, the allowance towards the car’s upkeep, payable in lieu of recreation transport allowance, will be increased by $84 to $384 a year. Soldiers’ children education scheme allowances for other than tertiary students will be increased by various amounts ranging from 65c to $3.35 and the new weekly rates will range from $3.25 to $16.65. The allowances for tertiary students are adjusted in line with movements in the rates of living allowances paid under the university or advanced education scholarship schemes administered by my colleague, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley).
Cost of increased pensions and allowances
The cost of increases I have referred to, and which are authorised by this Bill, together with the increases to be implemented by regulations, is estimated to be $16. 167m for the remainder of this financial year and $2 1.540m in a full year.
The Bill will authorise the making of regula tions to permit the provision of medical and hospital treatment for additional categories of people.
All ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War will be eligible to receive free medical and hospital treatment for all disabilities, irrespective of whether they are war-caused. The majority of these ex-servicemen saw service under unusually severe conditions for long periods, Mr Deputy President, and the Government recognises that the added security this measure will give these men in the later years of their lives is well deserved. The full range of repatriation treatment facilities, including general practitioner services, out-patient and inpatient treatment, specialist services, the supply of artificial aids and appliances will be provided free of charge. Additionally, nursing home care will be provided where necessary, subject to a patient contribution of $17.85 a week. About 29,000 veterans could be eligible at an estimated maximum cost of $7. 13m this year and $9.5 lm for a full year.
The Government proposes to provide free medical and hospital treatment for malignant cancer sufferedby ex-servicemen and women who served in a theatre of war. The full range of repatriation benefits will, of course, continue to be made available in cases where the incapacity is determined to be related to war service. It is difficult to estimate the cost of instituting this proposal but, on the best available evidence, it is thought that about 5,700 persons could benefit at a cost this year of $2.25m and $3m in a full year.
The loss of a limb is an event which is a catastrophe in anyone’s life. Such an event can result from the increasing number of industrial and road accidents arising in today’s developed society or from diseases more common to the older age group. The Government proposes that artificial limbs will be provided, free of charge, to all persons in the community who need them, whether ex-service personnel or civilians.
Supply, at least in the early stages, will be subject to certain priorities, generally based on need and medical advice. The Repatriation Commission will supply artificial limbs either direct’ from the Repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres or through commercial limbmakers. In addition to supplying initial artificial limbs to new amputees, the Government proposes that replacement limbs will be supplied to existing amputees, estimated to number 13,000.
The estimated cost of providing the additional limbs this year is $0.6 15m and $0.9m in a full year. In addition, an estimated $0.5m is expected to be spent on provision of additional buildings and equipment over the next 2 years.
Disregarding War Pension as Income for Means Test Purposes
As a step towards implementing the Government’s undertaking to disregard war pensions as income for means test purposes, the Bill proposes that 25 per cent of all war pension payments will be disregarded in the assessment of service pensions. Some war pensioners whose means exclude them from receiving a service pension, or who receive such a pension at less than the maximum rate, will benefit from this proposal. Estimates are difficult to make, but it is expected that approximately 25,000 persons could benefit at a cost of $5.6m this year and $7.47m in a full year.
Provisions for service pensioners aged 75 years and over or blind
The Bill provides that the means test on service pensions will not be applied where the service pensioners, or applicants for service pension, have reached the age of 75 years. As with age and invalid pensioners under the Social Services Act, the Repatriaiton Act at present excludes the earnings of a blind pensioner from the means test.
Because it is proposed to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act to make age pensions subject to income tax, the Government proposes in the Bill that a transitional benefit of $3 a week will be paid to any blind service pensioner male over the age of 65 years, or over 60 years in the case of a female. This benefit will be free of tax and should ensure that those aged blind will not be disadvantaged.
Proposed amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act will also provide a rebate of tax for non-blind age and service pensioners totally or mainly dependent upon their pension.
The cost of the first stage of abolishing the means test on service pensioners and providing the transitional benefit for service pensioners will be of the order of $8.8m this year and $1 1.7m in a full year.
I come now, Mr Deputy President, to provisions in the Bill which are of a non-budgetary nature. Perhaps the most important of these matters is that, for the first time, repatriation benefits will be extended to servicemen and women in the peace-time services. In many respects the regular serviceman’s range of activities, location and potential exposure to personal injury are far less predictable than in the case of a civilian. Recognising these factors, the Government proposes in the Bill to extend to regular servicemen and women repatriation benefits in respect of disabilities arising out of or aggravated by their defence service on or after 7 December 1 972.
Persons who will be eligible are those members of the forces on continuous full-time service on or after 7 December 1972 who, whether before or after that date, have completed 3-year effective full-time service. Persons who were engaged or appointed for a period of full-time service of not less than 3 years but who, on or after 7 December 1972, died or were discharged on medical grounds for reasons attributable to their defence service before the completion of 3-years service will also qualify, unless their discharge occurred before the completion of 12-months effective service and resulted from a pre-existing condition which was not aggravated by service. National servicemen serving immediately before 7 December 1972, who complete the period of service for which they were engaged to serve, or who die or are discharged on medical grounds as a result of their service prior to the completion of that period of service are also eligible under the provisions of the Bill.
At the risk of repetition, Mr Deputy President, but so that this aspect is abundantly clear, I emphasise that only incapacity or death arising from service on or after 7 December 1972, will attract repatriation benefits. It must be remembered that regular servicemen and women are already provided for under the Compensation (Government Employees) Act, which I will hereafter refer to as the Compensation Act, and they will retain that cover even though the Bill extends to them eligibility under repatriation legislation. The dual eligibility concept avoids the many complications which would arise if servicemen and women were forced to make rigid choices of cover under only one of the 2 Acts. However, the Bill includes provisions under which benefits received under the Compensation Act are to be set off against entitlements under the Repatriation Act. Thus, while dual eligibility under the 2 Acts is proposed, double compensation is avoided. For example, a serviceman or woman disabled because of defence service may claim under both the Compensation Act and the Repatriation Act, but any pension payable under the latter Act will be reduced by the extent of any payments under the former. In any case where payments under the Compensation Act exceed entitlement under the Repatriation Act, no pension will be payable under the latter Act.
Similarly, repatriation payments will be reduced by the extent of any payments received by way of damages in respect of the same incapacity or death. In view of the widespread entitlement under third party and other forms of insurance against common law liability, the Bill recognises the possibility that a claimant may hold a right to common law damages and provides that damages received in any resultant action should be offset against repatriation pension payments. This is not a new concept. An example of its adoption is already in the Compensation Act, which makes similar provision where an employee has a right to damages additional to his compensation entitlement. As a logical extension of this concept, the Bill provides that a claimant who may have entitlement to damages from another party may be required to pursue his case to a court of law. The Bill also provides that a right of action may be taken over from a claimant and pursued either to settlement or judgment. Payments already made by way of pension may be recovered from any damages obtained.
The existing repatriation determining authorities will decide claims and determine appeals from members of the defence force using the same criteria, procedures, etc., including the benefit of doubt and onus of proof provisions, as now apply to ex-servicemen and women generally. Within this context, the repatriation benefits being made available under this Bill to regular servicemen and women are broadly those available to 1939-45 members of the forces who did not serve on ‘active service’. Specifically, where incapacity or death arises out of or is attributable to service in the defence force, or the condition leading to that incapacity or death is contributed to or aggravated by such service, the existing range of war pensions, allowances, and treatment will be available to the member, his wife and children. Other repatriation benefits will also be available, including benefits to eligible children under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme.
The second non-budgetary item in the Bill, Mr Deputy President, will authorise determining authorities appointed under the Repatriation Act to record and advise claimants of the reasons that led them to make the particular decisions. The Government takes the view that it is unreasonable to expect a person to prosecute a claim through an entire determination and appeal structure without at any stage giving him a reason for a decision. Armed with the reason for an adverse decision, a claimant would be in a better position to decide whether to accept that decision or to proceed with an appeal. The Bill also contains provisions to protect members of determining authorities, witnesses and others from proceedings, either civil or criminal, in respect of the determination made by the authority or in respect of evidence presented or provided to that authority. So that claimants and appellants are not inconvenienced by delays in the determining process, it is proposed to introduce the giving of reasons for decisions gradually, having regard to the additional workload involved. The Bill therefore provides that regulations may prescribe which determining authorities will be required to give reasons for decisions and, also, the provisions in the Act on which they will be required to give reasons. This phasing-in will provide the authorities with time to adjust to the new requirements and will also allow for assessment of the extent of administrative and other changes required in the light of experience. Honourable senators may be assured that the whole system will be carefully monitored, so that delays will be avoided. If necessary, additional determining authorities will be constituted.
The remaining matter to be dealt with in the Bill, Mr Deputy President, is to give legislative authority to make regulations to allow the Repatriation Commission to make its hospital beds available free of cost for non-repatriation patients if capacity is available. The same authority will provide for the supply of artificial limbs to all in the community who need them. But I emphasise that these facilities will be made available only after the needs of entitled repatriation patients have been satisfied. After entitled patients, priority will be given to exservicemen and women if, while in hospital for a war-related disability, it is considered medically desirable that they receive treatment for a nonaccepted condition.
Any remaining capacity could be made available to non-repatriation patients such as those attending the Repatriation Department’s artificial limb and appliance centres who require treatment associated with the amputation, or for that matter, for the actual amputation. Other patients could be admitted where it is considered specialised treatment can best be provided in repatriation hospitals or patients whose cases are of special interest for teaching purposes, and who are being treated privately for specialist repatriation consultants. It may also be possible to admit suitable patients who live in the immediate vicinity of the hospital. Treatment of non-entitled patients would not be automatic but would depend upon the circumstances that exist at the time at each particular hospital and would be subject, where necessary, to agreement with the various State health authorities.
Generally the Bill provides that increased rates of payment will be effected from the first pension pay day after royal assent is given to the Bill and that other provisions will apply from the date of assent. However, entitled members of the regular defence force will be eligible for benefits with effect from 7 December 1972. This Bill encompasses a wide field of repatriation activities and in order to assist honourable senators in their consideration of it, I have had prepared explanatory notes for each clause of the Bill. A copy of these notes will be made available to all honourable senators. It is my pleasure to commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to make the changes necessary in what will become the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act- in lieu of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act- to complement the new provisions to be included in the repatriation legislation that will put into effect the Government’s decision to extend repatriation benefits to members of the defence force in respect of disabilities related to defence service on and after 7 December 1972. This Bill is purely consequential upon the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973 that I introduced earlier. In the course of my second reading speech on that Bill I described, in general terms, the members of the defence force who will benefit from the extension of repatriation benefits to peacetime services. Technically speaking, they are members of the forces within the meaning of the proposed new Division 10 to be inserted in Part III of the Repatriation Act, and the dependants of such members. Honourable senators will recall that complete details of the new benefits to be provided by this Government for members of the forces and the necessary requirements to be fulfilled for eligibility were included in the second reading speech I made when introducing the Defence (ReEstablishment) Bill on 23 August 1973, as reported at page 167 of Hansard.
I explained earlier that, while there will be dual eligibility under the repatriation and compensation legislation, double compensation will not be payable. To provide for this dual eligibility it is necessary to amend sections 7 and 98 of the Compensation Act. The former provides that the Compensation Act does not apply in relation to the service of a member of the defence force in respect of which provision for the payment of a pension is made by the repatriation legislation. Section 98 of the Compensation Act provides that where an employee, or a dependant in the case of his death, is entitled to repatriation benefits, other than a service pension or funeral benefit, compensation is not payable under the Compensation Act. The amendments provided for by clauses 3 and 5 of this Bill will remove the foregoing restrictions in relation to members of the forces within the proposed Division 10 in Part III of the Repatriation Act. At the same time, because specific provision is to be made in the Repatriation Act, in relation to pensions payable under Division 10 of Part III of that Act, to take into account a payment under the Compensation Act, it is necessary to provide in the latter Act that such pensions be exempted from the operation of section 52 which allows other payments made by the employer to be taken into account in the determination of what weekly compensation is payable. The necessary amendment to section 52 for this purpose is provided for in clause 4 of the Bill.
Honourable senators will appreciate that if a person wishes to rely solely on repatriation benefits for his disability, he may achieve this simply by claiming under the Repatriation Act and not under the Compensation Act. On the other hand, having submitted claims under both Acts and qualified for benefits under both Acts, a person may decide that it would be in his best interest to take a repatriation benefit rather than a compensation payment. The Bill will therefore allow a person who has qualified for a benefit under the Compensation Act and also for a similar benefit under the Repatriation Act to request that an amount of compensation not be paid so that he may receive the repatriation benefit in full. Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the necessary amendment to this effect.
The Compensation Act at present requires that the compensation paid or payable under that Act be recovered from, or offset against, damages recovered by an employee or the dependants of a deceased employee. The provisions of the proposed new Division 10 of Pan III of the Repatriation Act will require an offset against repatriation pensions of damages recovered by a member, or his dependants, in the case of his death. So that damages recovered will not be taken into account twice, it is necessary to provide that damages taken into account in the assessment of a repatriation benefit will not be taken into account to reduce the compensation otherwise payable under the Compensation Act. Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of this Bill will provide the necessary safeguards in this respect.
I come now to the new recovery provision proposed to be inserted by clause 10 of the Bill. I mentioned during my speech on the Repatriation Bill ( No. 3 ) 1 973 that claims may be made under both the Compensation Act and the Repatriation Act but any pension payable under the latter Act will be reduced by the extent of any payments under the former. I also explained that where payments under the Compensation Act exceed the entitlement under the Repatriation Act no pension will be payable under the latter Act. The retrospective grant of compensation after payment of a repatriation pension had been commenced could result in there being an overpayment of the repatriation pension and also the cessation of such a pension, thus preventing recovery of the pension overpayment by the Repatriation Commission. To meet this situation provision is being included in this Bill to enable recovery of an overpayment of a repatriation pension from compensation payable. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill relates closely to the Repatriation Bill. It is to give effect, so far as seamen are concerned, to the Budget decisions that provide for increases in war pensions and allowances, and also will require authorities determining claims for benefits under the Act to give reasons for their decisions. Under the Bill the existing general rate pension will be increased from $ 1 6 to $ 1 9 a week and the war widow’s pension will be increased from $21.50 to $23 a week. The ‘intermediate’ rate of war pension is to be increased by $2.25 a week to $38.80 a week. This is the rate paid to seriously disabled persons whose war-caused incapacities render them incapable of working other than on a part time basis or intermittently.
The Bill also will increase the pension rates in respect of the children of deceased seamen coming under the Act. The weekly rate for each child will be increased from $7.35 to $9.25. Where the mother is dead also, the rate will go up from $14.70 to $18.50 a week. The Second Schedule to the Act prescribes allowances where attendants are needed by specially-handicapped seaman pensioners. The weekly rate of $10.50 is increased to $13 and the rate of $17.50, payable where both arms have been lost, is increased to $22.
In line with action being taken in the Repatriation Bill, the opportunity is being taken in this Bill to remove the remaining instances of differential general pension rates based on the rank or rating the seaman held in the Merchant Navy. This Government sees no justification for different payments being made for similiar circumstances. The highest of the rates will now apply, regardless of rank or rating. The Bill does not have to provide for the increase of $4.50 a week in the special totally and permanently incapacitated rate, which brings it to $55.60, or for various increases in the weekly amounts payable in respect of the serious disabilities set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act, as the increases in rates under that Act will apply automatically to seamen pensioners by virtue of section 22 A of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated in his Budget Speech, the increases now being made to various war pensions will be repeated during the autumn sittings. These are mainly the special, intermediate and general rate pensions and the war widow’s pension. The special compensation allowance introduced by the previous Government in 1968 is regarded as an anomaly in the pension structure and will be removed in 2 stages. It is payable to seaman general rate pensioners in the 75 per cent to 100 per cent range. The allowance is being halved under this Bill, but the loss will be off-set by the increase in the amount of general rate pension that will be payable.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the Bill will require authorities determining claims for benefits under the Act to give reasons for their decisions. This is in line with an amendment being made by the Repatriation Bill. Under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act the authorities concerned are the Seamen’s Pensions and Allowances Committees for each State and the Repatriation Commission. Those authorities will be required to set out the grounds upon which each decision is reached. That statement will become part of the claimant’s official record and he will be supplied with a copy.
Increases in the widow’s domestic allowance and the clothing allowance will be made by regulation. The Bill does not appropriate the funds required to cover the increased benefits, as they are included in the appropriation under the Repatriation Bill. The increases in pensions and allowances will be payable on the first pension pay day after the date on which the Act receives the royal assent. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I suggest that this Bill and the 2 preceding Bills introduced by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) could be the subject of a cognate debate.
-That is a logical proposition which meets the Government’s wishes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- The suggestion that the Bills form the subject of a cognate debate should be made when the second reading debate is resumed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 September (vide page 579), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Program 1973-74.
Payments to or for the States, 1 973-74.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1974.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1 974.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1974.
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1 973.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income Year 1970-71.
National Income and Expenditure, 1972-73
Australia’s External Aid, 1973-74.
Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government.
Report on Possible Ways of Increasing Imports.
And on the amendment moved thereto by Senator Withers:
At end of motion add, ‘but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government has failed to honour its election promises in respect of defence, per capita grants to independent schools, pensioners, company taxation, the revision of taxation burdens, the home owner, its claim to come to government with malice towards none and its subsequent unfair discrimination against the rural community and its disregard of inflationary pressures and that this budget therefore deserves condemnation in the Senate as the budget of a government that has exposed itself as a government of double standards ‘.
-The Budget to which we are addressing our attention is the much vaunted first Budget of the new Labor Government and now, some few weeks after it was launched on the people, it has been exposed as a hollow and incompetent effort adding old conservative and reactionary notions for taxation- and, would you believe, Mr Acting Deputy President, resorting to a budgetary deficit of $687m in this year when in the other place they are screaming 3 weeks later that prices are rising and incomes are swollen and inflation is enveloping them and yet the Government does not even balance the Budget in those circumstances. The Government has seen red ever since its election and it is even printing the Budget in the red. One or two factors intrigue me because not only is it an incompetent Budget but I think it reveals this Government as completely wanting in reliability and credit.
Firstly, the Australian Labor Party went to the country on the basis that there would be no increase in income taxation and then, as the Government, it brought in a Budget which increased the income taxation of proprietary companies by no less than $90m. It is a snide reply to say: ‘We said we would not increase the rates of income taxation’; for, Mr Acting Deputy President, as you know, company taxation is part of income taxation. A differential rate applied for proprietary companies, and the Government puts its hand out and takes a short grab of $90m at the expense of the smaller proprietary companies which are, of course, a very strong and varied form of capital providing employment opportunities. But more remarkably in relation to that promise and the integrity of a government that seeks to live by it is the fact that, having promised not to increase income taxation, the Government calmly raked off an additional $ 1,089m from personal income tax. That is to say, without altering the rate, just by calling the bulldozer over the swelling incomes of persons in the community, the Government bulldozed into the Treasury an additional amount of $ 1,089m representing a cool, calm increment of 27 per cent.
Then with regard to the trustworthiness of the Government as exemplified by its actions, we have proposals for education which it says will be its top priority. Here we see the political prejudice that has pervaded the whole issue of independent non-government schools over the last 10 to 12 years. The Liberal-Country Party Government having established the principle that pupils at those independent nongovernment schools should be entitled to some uniform budgetary assistance, the Labor Party comes forward with Professor Karmel’s list of cranky categories in which he puts together 6 silly categories from A to H as a device to exclude a few to whom the Labor Party wishes to direct its prejudice, pretending to assess the needs of schools and so exclude some schools and reduce the pupil allowance for others. When that comes up for detailed examination, we see that on a most irrational basis- almost an insane basis, one would say- some needy schools have been included in the categories of schools which do not receive assistance along with others which, on appearances, seem to be wealthy. On that item it has saved $3m or $4m. That tortuous saving has been achieved to assuage a political prejudice- a 15 year vendetta on the part of a few in the Labor Party directed against the independent schools.
Mr Acting Deputy President, would you believe that in the same Budget the Government boasts of giving free university and tertiary education at colleges of advanced education, entailing additional outlays in the Budget of $179m this year? You and I can look with relish upon the fact that other people will get free opportunities for university education, but we should consider the integrity of excluding category A and reducing category B in the nongovernment schools to save $3m to $4m and then giving $ 1 79m to universities and colleges of advanced education which the most wealthy in the country are at liberty to attend. Those with most ample measure attend the universities and exploit their opportunities with far greater extravagance than the pupils who attend the nongovernment schools. So these champions of the needy and the underdog squander $ 179m in addition to what we were already spending on universities and at the same time satisfy their animus against the non-government schools by excluding category A and saving $3m to $4m. But the joy to all those who study politics a little must come when we look upon the Labor Party revelling in victory, exuding power and authority and resorting to new taxes and to indirect taxation, while we who have been in this chamber for a few years can recall without effort having been described by the Labor Party Opposition as the enemies of the working man because X on $40,000 a year was smoking the same cigarettes, attracting the same sales tax, as Y on about $4,000 a year, lt will cost the underdog just as much. The same comparison applies in relation to his beer, his spirits and all the other items on which there is indirect taxation. The Labor Government will collect a cool $283m additional in indirect taxation this year.
There is a fourth matter which has excited my envy. How proud I would be supporting the first Budget of this new, vamped up Labor Government. How proud I would be to see the Budget supported by overdraft trading bank interest rates of 9.5 per cent today! Shylock would come back into his own. Nine and a half per cent interest rates! By the time the working man gets on hire purchase his motor car, his refrigerator, his furniture and all the equipment needed to sustain his home, the interest rate at which those items will be available to him will be about 12 per cent to 14 per cent. This Party, which has claimed to be a low interest Party, now finds itself imposing that exorbitant interest rate on the working man, either by its own will and capacity or unwillingly but unable, because of its incompetence to find any alternative, having regard to the inflation that it has whipped up in the course of 9 months. So I approach the debate with those few preliminary observations. I am bewildered as to where we are going.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! Senator Wright, I am sorry that I have to interrupt you but there is too much audible conversation on my right.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, ladies and gentlemen, having witnessed that rather welcome interruption, let me say that the debate, last time we were addressing ourselves to it, was made unique, I think, by two other interruptions. The first was in the middle of the afternoon’s debate when Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, bounded in with a program for Estimates Committees and wanted leave to interrupt the debate. Leave was not granted. So he took the occasion to make his contribution- the contribution of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the Budget debate. The second interruption that caused me to have some interest was the intervention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). I ask the Senate, as a special favour to the Minister, to read his contribution because, for paucity of information and superficiality of understanding, I would think that in my political memory it was about the most feeble and impotent effort that has fallen from a Minister on the subject of his portfolio. With those pleasant preparatory remarks, I turn now to the substance of the Budget.
– I was wondering when you intended to come to grips with it.
-Well, I do not intend to use the debate to defame persons outside the Senate on the basis of rumour. I think the honourable senator absolutely degraded the level of the Senate by his contribution to the debate. Unless he gives people the opportunity to respond he should not use the Budget debate to degrade the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Senator Wright, will you please direct your remarks to the Chair and disregard the interjections?
– As always. I was about to say, with great respect and great obligement to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that it has to be remembered that this Budget is excessively inflationary. The Government has tried to have it both ways. It has tried to raise its taxation income without offending anybody and it has tried to seem to keep faith with the promises made to get itself into power and it has been left with a deficit of $687m notwithstanding. It has created an extraordinary increase in public expenditure. All this money is oozing out into the country and is creating an enormous flow of money. It is not the only source of the flow of money, but it has added to the flow significantly. Therefore, by increasing public expenditure the Government has created an almost unmanageable economic situation. Now we find the Government stumbling from stunt to stunt pretending that it knows the next step that is required to correct inflation.
It will be remembered that it advocated great increases in the basic wage and in industrial adjustments earlier in the year. Also, it will be remembered that since the Government came into office, strikes, encouraged by the Minister for Labour, Mr Clyde Cameron, have taken place to a degree not equalled in post-war Australian history. The loss caused by these industrial disruptions together with the increases that are compelled by the blackmail tactics which they represent have created enormous inflation. Added to that we find that public expenditure in this Budget has increased by no less than $ 1,938m. Public expenditure has increased from $ 10,000m to almost $ 12,000m.
We have just listened to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) deliver the second reading speech on the Social Services Bill (No. 4) 1973. He said in his speech that the amount provided for total services expenditure is $ 1,879m. I bring that figure into focus merely to show that real social services cannot be provided unless stability is maintained in the economy of the country. The addition of $ 1,938m to theflood of Government expenditure is one of the reasons why the economy is galloping towards unparalleled inflation. The Government has made up that expenditure in various ways and left a deficit of $687m.
– What expenditure would the honourable senator cut down on?
-We will discuss that when we debate the particular Bill. Let me at the moment deal with the Budget Speech as I think is appropriate. I do not have time, nor could I intrude upon the patience of listeners, to discuss the detailed reductions. One cannot even refer to all the subjects dealt with in the Budget. I have chosen one subject to deal with- primary industry. I ask the Senate to address its attention to the way in which this Government looks upon primary industry. Senator Wriedt, the new Minister for Primary Industry, knows one thing about it: That there has been an increase in wool prices. That fact has got completely over his eyes. There is not one other matter to which his attention is going to be given in order to help those primary industries that are in need and to which I have heard him refer since he took office. I am sure that he entered his portfolio with the idea that the primary industries are excessive recipients of subsidies. I put it to the Senate that these are subsidies that were being paid before the introduction of this Budget to the categories that I am about to mention.
The tariff net, according to Sir John Crawford in the report of a Committee established to advise on assistance to industry published in June, brought in S3,300m a year. That is the tariff limit. It is not the yield in every year. It indicates the degree to which tariffs were placed around the trade of the country. I repeat that the annual figure involved was $3, 300m. It was behind the protection of that artificial barrier or trade wall that the increases in incomes and prices that are so bedevilling us developed. That tariff protection has been reduced by 25 per cent in one slash by the Government since the presentation of that report. That represents an indiscriminant and an unselective attempt to prune this problem. But even that attempt leaves a barrier of tariffs of the order of $2,500m.
– Over what period?
– This is per year. It relates to general manufacturing and represents protection of mainly city dwellers. The second category of recipients of subsidy covers manufacturers. They were receiving in the form of specific payments and tax benefits $185m. The third category, the mining interests, was receiving $296m by way of payment for tax benefits and subsidies. The rural industries were receiving $299m on the same basis. So let us get our figures in perspective and relativity. With the 25 per cent reduction in general tariffs, $185m would represent the benefit for manufacturers, $296m for the mining industry and $299m for rural industries.
Having dealt with the subsidies paid to rural industries, next let us consider the income of primary producers. This year, according to statistics, primary producers are receiving a record net farm income of $ 1 ,888m. This is the second time since the last World War that their net income has been in excess of $ 1,500m. Let me give some of the figures during that 20 years of history: In 1950-51 the net farm income was $ 1,525m. In 1966-67 it was $ 1,401m and in 1963-64 it was $1,4 15m. The net farm income reached its low point in 1970-71 when it fell to $892m. There have been 2 years in the post-war period when net farm income exceeded $ 1,500m. The year 1950-5 1 was the year of the wool boom. The net farm income rose to $ 1,525m. This year, again a year of wool boom, it is up to $ 1,888m. But for the last 6 or 7 years the net farm income has been hovering around $900m to $U00m. This has happened despite the fact that the value and volume of rural production has been almost uniformly increasing.
The significance of those figures that I have quoted, from the point of view of evaluating the relative primary industry income today, can be gauged from the fact that in 1 950-5 1 the incomes of other sections of the community were of the order of $ 1,000m or $2,000m-I forget whichbut in 1 97 1 the figure had risen to $ 1 8,078m. We can see how absolutely flat and declining until this year were the incomes of the farm community. At the same time secondary industry and manufacturing elements in the community were enjoying fat, handsome and increasing incomes. The latter incomes increased many times over the period I mentioned.
I am not going to live in the past because I have been favoured, after inquiry at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, with a very valuable statement that the Director of that institute, Mr Honan, prepared and delivered only yesterday. That statement was on the farm situation in Australia. He drew attention to the fact that this year the farming sector has had a record income of $ 1,888m. But we should be reminded that this is a boom year in wool and beef and that sugar has been enjoying unusual advantages. If one studies the farm situation of January 1973 one realises that the income of the other sections of primary industry has shown little or no improvement in relation to costs. Taking that into account I want to bring to the attention of the Senate one or two passages from the Australian farm situation review of January 1972 by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. After considering the increase of other incomes over the period and the flatness or declining nature of primary industry incomes up until this year, consider this fact. I shall quote from this document in order to save time. It states:
A fairly rapid increase up to 1963-64 was followed by a series of substantial falls and recoveries in both aggregate and average incomes, culminating in a severe fall in 1970-71 when aggregate income was 41 per cent lower than in 1963-64 and average income was 33 per cent lower.
From 1963-64 to 1970-71 average farm income, taking the big with the small, was reduced 33 per cent.
I now quote from page 1 1 of the Australian farm situation review of January 1 972.
It is pertinent also to consider the dispersion of incomes around the average. It has been estimated that in the early 1960s about one-third of all farms in Australia had annual net farm incomes of less than $2,000. Given the recent trends in aggregate net farm income and in the numbers of farm operators, it seems that this proportion could well have risen subsequently.
The report goes on to point out that any increase has been fairly minimal, with one third of such people enjoying incomes of less than $2,000 a year during the 1 960s.
Having dealt with farm incomes I now want to refer to indebtedness, a matter to which the Minister for Primary Industry twice in the last 2 weeks, I think, has made superficial reference. If one looks at that same review- what I am about to say is confirmed in yesterday’s review- one will find that the indebtedness of the farming section of the community grew in the last decade. The gross amount of indebtedness in 1961 was about $985m and in 1971 it had more than doubled to $2,098m. When one takes the net indebtedness one finds that in the same decade net indebtedness increased almost tenfold, from $130min 1961 to$l,261min 1971. In the report of rural credit it is all very well to say that it is not an excessive amount having regard to the assets held by the farm community. I think it is stated to be estimated at no more than about 16 per cent of their assets but nevertheless the proposition that with farm indebtedness of that sort you can go along gaily with the present rural credit facilities cannot be supported.
A truly rural bank has to be established to enable long term credit with at least reasonable interest. It is farcical for the Minister for Primary Industry to suggest that the term of the loan is the all important factor and that interest rates are relatively unimportant. If $20,000 is borrowed and 20 years is allowed to pay it off, the annual repayment instalment on the principal is $ 1,000. It is to the advantage of the borrower if the term can be doubled to 40 years because he will pay an annual instalment of only $500. Of course, with inflation proceeding at the current pace, deferment for 5 years would almost cut the value of the instalment in half. So nobody denies that long term is an important factor in borrowing. But it is completely quixotic and weird for the Minister to voice the notion that high interest rates are not destructive and crucial to the ordinary farmer. They crucify him.
After considering subsidies, income and indebtedness we must remember that this year is a boom year and yesterday’s report tells us that the prospects for 1972-73 are good. But beyond that we get constant reminders from yesterday’s report that experience emphasises that the economy of the rural section is unpredictable; that it is subject to seasonal conditions, international considerations and prevailing market conditions. The concluding comments are:
Thus the basic longer term factors which have influenced the Australian farm situation over much of the post-war period will continue into the future. These factors include the relatively slow growth, in some cases decline, in demand for many farm commodities and importantly the instability and uncertainty of volume and price of such commodities on international markets. It is inevitable that these factors, coupled with unpredictable domestic supply and steadily rising costs, will result in considerable fluctuations in aggregate farm income in Australia.
With that before the Governnent what did it do? In its Budget it delivered a series of body blows to the primary producer for which it should never be forgiven. Those people like Senator McLaren who come here and read a few texts from people who say: ‘We have had a subsidy for a year or two and now we have to take tea without milk’ are just beating the rhythm of party propaganda. The farmers of the community ought to remind this Government of the complete betrayal which they have received. The primary producers still produce more than half of our export income and, for once, practically in every market overseas their commodities are enjoying a favourable price. But the revaluation which the Government has made has simply stripped money from the primary producer’s pocket. Wool and beef can bear it- although I am not saying that the Government is just to those sections. But let us look at fruit and butter. The Government’s treatment of these sections is an iniquity unparalleled. The pretence which has been made to give compensation is just unmentionable. The Government has started to phase out the dairy industry subsidy which I think has amounted to $27m. Senator Wriedt has said: ‘I think the farms are getting too much subsidy.’ He has dug out an old report from the McCarthy inquiry which we rejected out of hand 1 1 years ago. After that rejection we maintained what was still a fairly poverty stricken butter industry, although with the subsidy which we continued to give it had at least a stable base to beef and to subsequent exports.
But the Minister has started to phase out the butter subsidy. He has said: ‘We will deny them the subsidy which they are receiving at present’, thus saving $9m in a year of great flux in the dairy industry. This industry has lived by production. Where the Government sees production making wealth for the community it disadvantages that production.
Next the Government has found a little item which is worth perhaps $2m to $4m to the fruit industry. It is the sales tax exemption on fruit juice used in carbonated cordials. So the Government has skimmed that off. It has removed all development deductions for income tax which the primary producer formerly enjoyed. The
Government has abolished those deductions with the quip that it will inhibit the Pitt Street farmer. I am the first to agree that the time is overdue to modify those deductions in order to prevent abuse by non-farmers who are artificially increasing the price of land. But the genuine farmer who is spending a reasonable proportion of his income in developing a producing asset is entitled to consideration and to a continuance of some benefit.
The next matter with which I shall deal is postal charges. The Government has put up the rental and the cost of connection of telephones to the same figure for the country dweller as for the city dweller. Postal rates have been increased. The charge which a country dweller has to pay for his telephone has been increased. In addition to that, if the country newspaper surcharge goes on it will create a disadvantage of excessive severity to the country dweller. This has been imposed by a Government which prides itself on the promotion of decentralisation while it is making the burden heavier for everyone who has gone out into the country towns and properties and established his home there.
The Government chose petrol as a product on which to increase excise. From petrol the Governement will extract an additional $157m at the rate of 5c a gallon. I ask honourable senators to consider that cost. It will affect not only farm travelling but also the transport of farm products. Honourable senators can see that the Government is deliberately adding to the cost of the man for whom transport is important.
– Does the honourable senator think that a pensioner should pay more rental for his telephone than a rural subscriber?
-Senator McAuliffe is just absurd. The next industry the Government selected for attack is the wine industry. It befriended the wine industry for the purpose of gaining votes on the promise of a repeal of the excise. The Government is now imposing terrific additional costs on wine and this will go back to the producer as a disadvantage. The investment allowance was an important item to the primary producer in the purchase of his machinery and plant. That allowance has gone. Many members of the farming communities converted their businesses into proprietary companies because of the severe impact of death duties. The proprietary companies have been selected by the Government as its target for increased interest rates. Finally, as beef exports have been improved to the great advantage of the country, the Government sees in them the means of carrying off inspection charges by imposing a special tax on beef exports.
I have just tried to devote my attention to an analysis of the poor economic position of the farm industry compared with that of other industries. I note that this Government punishes the primary producer. Taking the cue that every primary producer is of the order of the gentleman whom Senator McLaren described the other day- a person purchasing rams at $37,000 apiece- the Government has no insight that enables it to see that primary industry, so far from being in need of punishment, is in need of better treatment than it is getting in this Budget. I deplore it. It is a matter for tears that the Government is boosting artificial expenditure on cities, including city transport and city sewerage. The subsidy to those 3 items in the cities in the Budget amounts to almost $100m. It stamps the Labor Party as a party which budgets for votes and which, in its assessment of the inflationary impact of the Budget or the equitable impact of the Budget as between the various people of this country, denies any sense of justice or competence whatever.
– I am delighted to join with my colleagues on the Government side of the Senate in supporting the Budget that was presented in this chamber on 2 1 August by the Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee. At the same time I take the opportunity to condemn the amendment moved by Senator Withers. During the debate on the Budget hardly any honourable senator on the Opposition side has supported or even mentioned the amendment moved by Senator Withers. I do not blame them, of course, because it is riddled with inconsistencies and untruths. I hope to be able to convince honourable senators opposite that it is riddled with untruths.
I intend to deal with only 3 items referred to in the Budget, two of which are referred to in the amendment moved by Senator Withers. By means of his amendment, Senator Withers wants the Senate to add these words at the end of Senator Willesee ‘s motion: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government has failed to honour its election promises in respect of defence, per capita grants to independent schools, pensioners . . .
As the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) completely destroyed the weak argument put up by Senator Withers regarding defence, I will deal only with the other 2 matters. I will deal, firstly, with the Government’s alleged failure to carry out its election promises regarding per capita grants to independent schools. Not one of the Opposition senators has tried to show where any Labor member of Parliament said prior to the election that a Labor government would continue per capita grants to independent schools indefinitely. In another debate Senator McManus referred to a meeting at Festival Hall in Melbourne at which, he alleged, the now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) said that, if elected to office, they would continue the per capita grants. There are very grave doubts about whether either of those honourable gentlemen said what Senator McManus alleged they said. If this was said, it is a wonder that other honourable senators in the Opposition did not support him in his allegation or did not try to support Senator Withers in his amendment.
But there is no doubt at all about what was said by the Prime Minister in the sensational election speech delivered at the Blacktown Civic Centre on 13 November 1972. The contents of that speech have been printed and reprinted in every national and State newspaper in the Commonwealth. For the information of Opposition senators and so that when a vote is taken on this issue they will vote either for the truth of what was said in the election speech delivered by the Prime Minister or for what is alleged by Senator McManus to have been said, I shall read to the Senate what the Prime Minister said. When dealing with education at that meeting the present Prime Minister said:
It is our basic proposition that the people are entitled to know. It is our basic belief that the people will respond to national needs once they know those needs. It is in educationthe needs of our schools- that we will give prime expression to that proposition and that belief.
The most rapidly growing sector of public spending under a Labor Government will be education. Education should be the great instrument for the promotion of equality. Under the Liberals it has become a weapon for perpetuating inequality and promoting privilege. For example, the pupils of State and Catholic schools have had less than half as good an opportunity as the pupils of non-Catholic independent schools to gain Commonwealth secondary scholarships, and very much less than half the opportunity of completing their secondary education.
The Labor Party is determined that every child who embarks on secondary education in 1973 shall, irrespective of school or location, have as good an opportunity as any other child of completing his secondary education and continuing his education further. The Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should give most assistance to those schools, primary and secondary, whose pupils need most assistance.
The Prime Minister then went on to deal with how a Labor government would set up a schools commission to conduct a full inquiry and investigation into the needs of independent and public schools. Summing up the points he had made on this subject in his election speech, the Prime Minister said:
A Federal Labor Government will:
Continue all grants under Commonwealth legislation throughout 1973;
Remove the ceiling imposed by Commonwealth legislation on grants in 1 974 and subsequent years;
Allocate the increased grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission which will include persons familiar with and representative of the State departments, the Catholic system and the teaching profession.
– Who wrote this?
-This is the election policy speech of the present Prime Minister delivered in November of last year. It is completely contrary to and completely destroys the allegations which were made by Senator McManus and on which other Opposition senators have been completely silent.
– You said that all the grants then existing would be continued?
-It says that all grants will continue throughout 1973, not after 1973. The present Government has introduced this program because it is well aware of the fact that children in very densely populated suburbs are at a distinct disadvantage compared with those attending privileged independent schools. The Labor Government sees this as a high priority, and that is why it has increased Commonwealth expenditure on education in the Budget. The Budget provides $843m for education in 1973-74, which is a increase of $404m or 92 per cent over expenditure on education last year. There will be a further substantial rise in expenditure on education in 1974-75, and further programs will be introduced during 1974.
The Labor Government has completely honoured its election policy regarding education. After being in office for only a few days the Government set up the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission to inquire into schools throughout Australia. I have always held the view that the standard of education in Australia declined very significantly during the last 27 years when the previous Government was in office. I make no reflections on school teachers because I am fully aware of the fact that with increased enrolments, and particularly with an influx of migrant children who have very little knowledge of English, the problem facing school teachers has become a lot harder every year. I have gained this knowledge from speaking to young students in secondary schools. I believe that a pupil in the second year of secondary school today has knowledge about equal to that of a seventh grade primary school student of 27 years ago.
– That is a sweeping statement, Senator.
-Senator Little says that it is a sweeping statement, but my statement is fortified by other surveys that have been conducted throughout Australia- some very recently. I refer to an article in the ‘Australian’ of Thursday, 30 August of this year. Under the heading ‘Teenagers fail at reading’ it states:
Some teenage students at a Victorian technical college have the reading ability of seven-year-old children, and two read so poorly that they are technically unable to read at all.
A survey of first and second year students at the Shepparton Technical College shows that only 30 per cent can read well enough to handle schoolwork above the primary school level.
Another survey, of schools around the area, indicates that about 1300 local primary and secondary school students have learning difficulties.
In the second form, where the average age was 13, 47 of the 1 59 students could read at or above their age grouping.
Another 7 1 could read only as well as children aged 10 to 12, and the rest could not read as well as most nine-year-olds.
In the first form, 38 of the 146 students were above the average reading ability of 12-year-olds, 59 had a reading ability of a child of 10 to 12, 24 read only as well as a child aged nine to 10, and 23 had the reading ability of a child of seven to eight and a half.
Two first form students did not register on the survey at all, as their score was below the test level.
– Are they 9-year olds of yesterday or today?
– If Senator Little wants more proof -
– What is the answer to that?
– I have given Senator Jessop the answer. The Government is to spend over $400 m more than was spent by the previous Government last year in order to try to overcome this problem where the education of school children is declining. An article in the ‘National Times’ of 17 September 1973- only yesterday- under the heading ‘Poor children get a poorer education, Western Australian survey shows’ states:
A massive effort will be needed to correct grave educational injustices in Australian schools, judging from a survey recently completed among West Australian children.
The survey, carried out by the State Teachers’ Union, found that children from poor suburbs were severely handicapped in learning skills, compared with those in wealthier areas. In one school in an industrial suburb of Perth, 80 per cent of the children were more than a year behind in reading ability.
At that school, among 80 Grade 7 children (who would be moving on to high school the following year) only nine had average reading ability. The remainder were often grossly handicapped in reading skills- the average rate of retardation was 3.5 years.
Among another group of children in the same grade, but in a suburb of more fortunate parents, only 7 per cent suffered reading retardation of a year or more. But even in more prosperous suburbs like this, the survey found there was a need for an extra teacher in each school to help children who were behind. Help on a much greater scale was needed in schools in poorer areas.
Surely those surveys, together with the survey of the Interim Committee headed by Professor Karmel, have all reached the same conclusion, that a lot more money is needed for education in Australia. The present Government recognises the plight of the States which are faced with increasing costs for education and which cannot meet the requirements. I venture to say that most States will be happy to see that at last a sympathetic Labor Government is increasing payments so that children in our schools can and will receive equal education.
The other matter which Senator Withers mentioned was the Government’s failure to carry out its election promises in respect of pensioners. I am a bit loath to show up even the members of the Opposition here in the Budget debate, particularly when we have just heard the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) read a second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill and Senator Douglas McClelland, in his capacity as the Minister in this chamber representing the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), introduce another Social Services Bill to give further increases to the pensioners of this country.
Prior to the last election the Prime Minister told the Australian people that if a Labor Government were elected he would give an immediate increase of $1.50 a week to pensioners and then would give an increase of $1.50 a week every spring and autumn until the pension rate reached at least 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Government has been in office now for only 9 months and it has increased all pensions- not only the standard rate of pension, but also the married rate pension, the invalid pension, the widows’ pension and all other pensions- by at least $3 a week. An increase of $3 a week represents an increase of 1 7.39 per cent over the previous rate which was increased last October by the former Government. Even if inflation is increasing, those who exaggerate the most would not attempt to say that inflation has increased by more than 8 per cent or 9 per cent. So in the 9 months that the
Labor Government has been in office the married rate of pension has increased by over 1 7 per cent.
– They never got such an increase before.
– I was pleased to hear the interjection by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) because what he said is borne out by figures showing the rate of pension increases during the reign of the last coalition Government. I believe it is worth reflecting on the comparison between the very generous increases that have been introduced by the Labor Government and the miserly adjustments that were made during the 23 agonising years of the last Government. I wish to refer to a table showing the pension increases that were made by the previous Government and I shall later seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard. But before doing so I would like to read some of the figures contained in the table. A table headed ‘Age and Invalid Pension Increases’ shows that in 1949 the maximum married rate of pension -
– Order ! From what are you quoting, Senator?
– I am quoting from a document entitled ‘Developments in Social Services 1 949- 1 972 ‘ which was compiled by the previous Minister for Social Services, the Honourable W. Wentworth. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these figures.
– Order! The honourable senator has foreshadowed that he will ask for leave to incorporate some material in Hansard. I am endeavouring to find out what it is that he wants incorporated.
-I might explain to the Senate that I am quoting figures contained in a booklet put out by the previous Minister for Social Services. This document shows that in 1949 the married rate of pension was $4.25. There were increases of 75c in 1 950, $ 1 in 1951, 75c in 1952 and 25c in 1953. There was nothing in 1954, an increase of $1 in 1955 and nothing in 1956. There was an increase of 75c in 1957, nothing in 1958 and an increase of 75c in 1959. In 1960 there was a 50c increase, as was the case in 1961. There was nothing in 1962 and 1963. In 1 964 the rate was increased by 50c but there was nothing in 1965. In 1966 the increase was 75c. There was no increase in 1967 but in 1968 the rate was increased by 75c. In 1 969 there was an increase of 75c and in 1970 an increase of 50c. The pension was increased by 50c in 1971. There was a further increase in that year of $ 1 . In 1972 there were 2 increases- one of 75c and one of $1.25.
If we look through this table it is not very hard to determine in which year a general election was held. The table shows that in the year in which an election was held the rate of pension was increased and also that in the year before and the year after that election an increase was not made. For example, in 1966 the rate of pension was increased by 75c but in 1965 and 1967- the years before and after the election- there was nothing. The same applied in other elections. In 1962, the year following the election year of 1 96 1 in which there was an increase of 50c, nothing was given in the way of a pension increase. The same applied in 1 958. In 1 955 there was an increase of $ 1 but nothing was given the year before or after. So there is a very sinister reflection through the table showing that the previous Government gave increases only in election years as a political gimmick. This was further emphasised in 1972 when the then Government, seeing the danger and the likelihood of its being thrown out of office, became desperate and gave 2 increases in the one year. But even that was not sufficient to make people forget the past and keep it in office.
The figures that I have quoted prove beyond all doubt that the Government has honoured its election pledge in regard to pensions. While on the subject of pensions, I might point out that there are other pensioners besides age pensioners. There are invalid pensioners, widow pensioners and so on. Of course, the supporting mothers pension has been introduced by the present Labor Government. In October last year class B and class C widows received a pension of only $17.25 a week. This class of pensioner will now get $23, an increase of 35 per cent which is over 300 per cent more than the present rate of inflation. Unemployment and sickness benefits also have been increased considerably since the present Government took office in December last year. At that time a single adult on sickness or unemployment benefits received only $17 a week. Uniformity has now been achieved increasing these benefits to $23 a week which is an amount equal to the standard rate of pension.
Even more dramatic is the increase which has been given to young people under 21 years of age. The level of benefits paid to these people has increased from the previous meagre amounts to the adult rate. Previously single persons under 2 1 years of age on sickness and unemployment benefits received only between one-third and one-half of the adult rate. The previous Government must have believed that it did not cost persons under 2 1 years of age as much to live.
– It believed that they did not need as much.
-That is so. Apparently the Government thought they they did not wear expensive clothes and that it cost less to keep them. Prior to the change of government the total amount payable to a married couple amounted to only $25 a week. Fortunately this amount will be increased to $40.50 when the new Social Services Act is passed. As I have pointed out, young single persons drawing unemployment and sickness benefits were expected to exist on only one-third to one-half of the adult rate. Not only have these anomalies and injustices been remedied but the Budget also completely abolishes any means test on the right to receive the age pension for anyone over 75 years of age who has the appropriate residential qualification. Legislation to give effect to this promise has been introduced in the Senate. Also, for the first time in the history of the pension scheme in Australia the payment of the pension for those qualifying without a means test after 75 years of age will be made retrospective to the date the legislation receives royal assent.
– That is another Labor record.
-That is so. What a contrast this is to the record of the previous Government where thousands of people with the entitlement and eligibility to receive pensions were denied that pension because publicity was not given to their pension rights. For example, an aged couple- a husband of 78 and a wife 75 years of age- told me that they had been existing for 13 years on the wife’s single rate of pension. They said that they had not received the $4 supplementary assistance and were living in a one-room hovel for which they were paying $12 a week because the fact had not been publicised properly that one did not have to be naturalised to be entitled to a pension.
The husband, who came to Australia from the United States of America in 1925, did not know until he was advised of his rights by a Labor senator that he was entitled to an age pension and that he did not have to be naturalised in order to be entitled to an age pension. Another example is the case of an aged couple who were looking after 2 grandchildren whose parents had died in a motor accident. They were not receiving any allowance for the 2 children. Even worse, when the aged husband died his wife ‘s pension was reduced to the married rate of pension. Although she received his rate of pension for 6 weeks, the amount she received thereafter was reduced to the married rate of pension. Until I made inquiries on her behalf, she did not receive any allowance for looking after the 2 grandchildren. That is typical of what the previous Government was doing to deprive pensioners of their entitlements.
– It made pensioners pay higher telephone rentals than rural subscribers.
-That is true. Another example I can recollect is the case of an invalid pensioner who had his pension reduced to about $26 a fortnight because it was claimed that his de facto wife was earning $52 a week. I explained to the officers of the Department of Social Services that she also was entitled to a pension as she was a dependant. The result is that now they both are in receipt of a pension. The previous Government failed to publicise the pension entitlements of many thousands of people. I can recall an honourable senator asking the previous Minister for Health how many people had applied for the subsidised medical benefits that are available to those who are on a minimum wage, to migrants who have been in Australia for only a couple of months and to anyone who is in receipt of unemployment or sickness benefit. Only about 7 per cent of the 250,000 people who were entitled to this coverage had made application for it. Contrast that with the existing situation whereby anybody who is in receipt of unemployment or sickness benefit receives with his benefit cheque a form which, if he fills it in and takes it around to one of the voluntary medical and hospital benefits funds, enables him to be automatically registered at no cost.
I say that the previous Government denied to thousands of people the right to a pension and other benefits to which they were entitled. It is unfortunate that those people were not entitled to retrospective payment. It is pleasing to me to note that this has been taken care of in legislation recently introduced and that anybody who applies for a pension after turning 75 years will have it made retrospective to when he was first entitled to it. A deplorable effort was put up by the previous Government. The Labor Government has carried out completely its electoral promises on not only education but also social services, including the payment of pensions. I would say that honourable senators opposite could not possibly vote in favour of the Opposition’s amendment as no support has been put forward for it by any of them. Mr President, at this stage I seek leave to have the table to which I referred earlier incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The last matter on which I wish to speak concerns probably the most important of all the proposals put forward by the present Government prior to the election. I refer to the introduction of the new national health scheme. This scheme has already received wide support throughout Australia. There is no doubt that 90 per cent of the people who voted for the Australian Labor Party at the last election will support any legislation which seeks to introduce this scheme. Provision has been made in the Budget for preparation for the introduction of Labor’s national health scheme. An amount of $8m has been provided in the Budget for the purchase of computing equipment for the universal health insurance program. A Health Insurance Commission is also to be established to administer the program which was put forward prior to the election. Labor’s national health scheme was given a lot of publicity in South Australia prior to the election. For one week a full page advertisement was inserted in a local newspaper outlining Labor’s national health scheme and explaining to the people of South Australia the benefits of the proposed scheme and the disadvantages of the existing scheme. At the bottom of the advertisement was an invitation to members of the public to ring a particular telephone number, which happened to be my own, if they had any queries. During one week I received 728 telephone calls about Labor’s scheme. After it was explained to them, they were all satisfied that it could not be any worse than the present scheme.
I want briefly to outline some of the anomalies in the existing National Health Act, which was introduced by the previous Government in, I understand, 1953 and which has been amended in various respects since then. Every time doctors increase their fees or charges, every time the funds increase the contributions and every time hospitals increase their charges an adjustment has to be made to the Act to cover those increases. The existing scheme, even if contributions were to remain at the present level, would cost far more than Labor’s proposed scheme, which is based on a 1.35 per cent levy on taxable income. There are very many anomalies in the existing scheme. It is cumbersome. I know that many of the contributors who have to fill in the necessary forms and questionnaires to receive a refund are bewildered by it all. At a later stage I will seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table from which the benefits that will accrue from Labor’s proposed scheme can be calculated. The table was taken from the ‘Taxpayer’, which is a national publication put out fortnightly by the Taxpayers Association. There has been a deliberate campaign of misrepresentation of the Labor Party’s proposed health insurance scheme. It has been waged by certain vested interests, including the Voluntary Health Insurance Association, the Australian Medical Association and dissident Opposition senators. The proposed national health scheme will automatically cover all residents of Australia for medical and standard ward hospital treatment. It has been estimated that 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent of the population are not insured in any way at present. The people who are not insured or who have an inadequate insurance coverage are those who are less well established and less financially secure- those who need protection the most. Low income earners, migrants and large families who live in densely populated suburbs where rentals are very high are the ones who are affected most.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the sitting was suspended for dinner I was drawing a comparison between the present medical and hospital benefits scheme and the proposed new scheme. I had referred also to propaganda that has been widely used to mislead people about the proposed health scheme. Contributions under the existing scheme range from about $80 a year, which covers medical and hospital costs, to about $ 1 30 a year. Under this current scheme, even if a doctor charges the common fee, it is still necessary for a fully paid up contributor to make up at least $ 1 of the charge for every surgery consultation and more for a home visit. Before the suspension of the sitting I had shown how calculations have proved that, even if a person takes out insurance to cover standard, intermediate and private ward accommodation in a private hospital, in 4 out of 5 cases he will pay less under the proposed scheme than he pays now. Low income earners with dependent families do not have to contribute anything to the cost of the scheme and high income earners will not have to pay more than the maximum of $150 a year. At this stage, Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table of taxable individuals for assessment year 1971-72 and income year 1970-71 which is taken from ‘Taxpayer’, a national publication published by the Taxpayers Association.
– Is it a complicated table?
– No, it is very simple.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The table of taxable individuals shows the grades of net income ranging from $417 a year to $30,000 or more a year, and the total number of taxpayers in Australia. It shows that there are 1,415,216 taxpayers in the grades of net income ranging from $417 to $2,199; 3,514,927 taxpayers in the range from $2,200 to $5,999 a year; only 513,619 taxpayers in the range from $6,000 to $9,999; and only 126,959 on a net income of $10,000 a year or more. This makes a total of 5,570,721. Under Labor’s proposed national health scheme a net income earner with less than $2,199 will not pay anything. Those on a taxable net income ranging from $2,220 to $5,999, with a levy of 1.35 per cent on taxable income, will pay the following amounts: Those earning $3,000, $40.50 a year; those earning $4,000, $54 a year; those earning $5,000, $67.50 a year; and those earning $6,000, $81 a year. So all those taxpayers earning less than $6,000 a year will pay, on the 1 .35 per cent levy, no more than $8 1 a year which will give them completely free standard ward hospital coverage, this being the amount they now pay by voluntary contributions to the existing funds. The only difference is that under the existing scheme, the minimum contribution for the lowest table that one can take up for medical and hospital coverage in South Australia is $8 1, but one would still have to contribute at least $ 1 towards the cost of every visit one makes to a doctor. Of course, with the proposed 29 per cent increase in doctors’ fees, it is obvious that the contributions will have to be increased considerably, and it is possible, of course, that even under the existing scheme contributions for standard, intermediate and private ward care could increase to $3.50 a week.
The table that has been incorporated shows that 4,930,143 taxpayers in Australia out of a total of 5,570,721, have taxable incomes of less than $6,000. They will pay less under the Government’s national health scheme than they are now paying. This leaves only 640,578 taxpayers with taxable incomes of $6,000 or more who will pay more than they now pay. The table of taxable individuals produced by the Taxpayers Association shows that only 126,95 1 taxpayers who have a net income of $10,000 a year or more would contribute the maximum of $ 1 50 a year under the proposed national health scheme.
I think that the figures I have given, particularly those showing the improvement and increases in pensions that have flowed since the Labor Government took office in December last year, show conclusively that the promises made prior to the election have been completely honoured; and the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) shows, I believe, that prior to the election no undertaking was given by either the Prime Minister or the present Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) that a Labor Government, if elected, would continue the per capita grants to independent schools. Statements to the contrary are only the fabrication of dissident senators in the Opposition and cannot be supported. They have chosen to ignore completely the achievements of the Labor Government. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay.
– As honourable senators know, this motion is a formal motion to which we always agree. I am aware, as are all honourable senators, that today Senator Murphy gave notice of motion that contingent on this Bill being introduced into the Senate he would move for the suspension of standing order 242. Mr President, I ask for your ruling that the motion now moved by Senator Murphy would not of itself suspend standing order 242 or that it would be necessary for him to move the motion of which he has given notice.
– I would agree with the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition.
- Senator Withers, do you want a ruling from me?
-In view of what Senator Murphy has said, I do not think that you need rule.
– It is not intended in any way that this motion would embrace the suspension of standing order 242.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
My second reading speech will be in terms almost identical to those used in the second reading speech that was delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the House of Representatives. Under this Bill, the Government proposes to ask the people of Australia to approve an amendment to the Constitution to enable the Australian Parliament to control prices. We share at present with every comparable country a problem of price inflation. This Parliament possesses no comprehensive power over prices. The Government believes it is unreasonable that the Australian Parliament should lack a power possessed by the national Parliament and national Government of nearly every comparable country. We cannot obtain this power by any law of this Parliament or with any prospect of success by any other arrangement. Accordingly we wish to invite the people of Australia to confer that power upon their national Parliament. This Bill itself does not, cannot, give the power; it merely gives the people the chance to have their say. It gives the people the chance to say that they believe the Australian Parliament should have reasonable powers to ensure the best possible economic management of this nation.
Controls over prices are not a cure all for inflation, but they can be used responsibly and selectively as one of the elements in an antiinflationary strategy. They are no panacea, but an essential part of the treatment. In applying that treatment, the Australian Government has been active and effective over a broad front, from the time we took office and inherited a growing level of inflation. We inherited ‘stagflation’. The great difference from the situation we inherited is that the economy in December combined a high inflation with the worst unemployment for 12 years. We now have a strong demand for labour, growth at 7 per cent and rising, and record profits. We have combined this strong and basically healthy economic situation with the most effective and far-reaching program of social reform ever undertaken in this country. Every section of the Australian community is better off today than 9 months ago. Our task now is to see that the even brighter prospects ahead for all Australians are not undermined by runaway inflation.
By vigorous and decisive actions on the currency, capital inflow and tariffs, by setting up the Prices Justification Tribunal and the parliamentary committee on prices, by the introduction next week of trade practices and consumer protection legislation and above all, through the Budget- a remarkable combination of economic responsibility and far-reaching reform- we have erected excellent defences against such a misfortune. It is in that perspective, and the perspective of international economic pressures, that the Bill should be seen; it is in that perspective that the power the Government seeks from the people under this Bill should be seen. It should also be seen in the perspective of the events leading up to its introduction. At the Convention on the Constitution a fortnight ago the Prime Minister outlined the various courses open to us. As his statement on that occasion clearly sets out the Government ‘s position on the matter, I propose to refer to it here in some detail. He said that a prices freeze- and of course a price and income freeze- along the lines adopted by the American Administration, was beyond the law in Australia. The Prime Minister did not assert or concede that an effective prices policy could not be established under the corporations power, but that any action taken under that power would be subject to immediate, long lasting and debilitating appeals in the courts. He said that the Australian Government could seek a constitutional change by referendum, but acknowledged that the process takes some months, the number of months depending upon the attitude taken by the Senate. Finally he said:
The Parliament can obtain the power by reference, by some or all State parliaments. That is something which could be done in a matter of weeks. The reference of power could be permanent or temporary. If, however, the governments in the two great States of New South Wales and Victoria, governments which currently have a majority in both Houses of their parliaments, decline to introduce a Bill, then the reference would be ineffective. I venture to say that without New South Wales and Victoria, it would be a largely futile exercise, while, with those two States alone referring, it could be made effective throughout Australia. We have actively and at great length sought action by the State governments to refer the necessary power to the national Government. Nothing in the public or private responses of the Premiers of New South Wales or Victoria- not to mention the Premier of Queensland- gave the slightest room for hope that they were prepared to refer such a power to the national Government on remotely practicable or acceptable conditions.
So we have decided to go direct to the people of Australia. I should point out that, by this referendum, we do not ask the States to give up anything. We seek for the national Parliament a concurrent power. We are not seeking to take a power from the States and transfer it to the national Government. We seek a power for the national Parliament which the States already have, which they will retain, but which they have either refused to use or have been unable to use. All our experience from 1948, political as well as economic, shows that the States together or separately cannot apply effective price control, even were they willing to do so.
The outstanding example of the States’ failure is the price of land. This is the outstanding commodity which is unaffected by wage costs, but it is the commodity subject to the greatest price increases. In all capital cities, the price of residential land has been rising much more rapidly than average weekly earnings and much more rapidly than the Consumer Price Index. In Sydney, the annual rate of increase during the first 3 quarters of 1 972-7 3 was 45 per cent.
The Australian Government has for some time been seeking the co-operation of the States in important new programs designed to relieve pressures and stabilise prices. We have had some co-operation from New South Wales and Victoria in relation to acquisition of land for Albury and Wodonga and the South Australian Government has taken measures to slow down the rate of inflation in land in Adelaide. But where the major problems lie- the provision of new residential land in the outer suburbs of the great cities- it has to be said that the States have been either unable or unwilling to apply effective measures.
In approaching this or any other reform of the Constitution, we have to take account of the realities. Before we put the nation to the trouble and expense of a referendum, we want to give it the maximum chance of success. This was the basic approach taken by the Prime Minister at the Constitutional Convention in Sydney a fortnight ago. He announced to the Convention a number of proposals the Government intends to put to the people at the next elections, whenever they are held, whether for the Senate, or both
Houses. These are constitutional matters in the strictest sense. The referendum now proposed is not one such, for it involves important economic policy matters. Therefore, if this proposal is to be given the maximum chance of carrying, it is best that it should stand alone on the day of decision -for the people to judge on its merits, without political entanglements.
There is one other great consistent approach we have on this matter. We acknowledge the basic duty and responsibility of the national Government for economic management. I do more than acknowledge it; I assert that responsibility. We do however recognise how much we depend upon the co-operation of all sections of the community, and upon the force of public opinion. We wish the Government to be able to act on the public recommendations of public bodies, publicly arrived at. We recognise, for example, that the effectiveness of the Prices Justification Tribunal pardy depends upon its persuasive powers, working through informed public opinion. Yet it will help the effectiveness of the Tribunal immeasureably if the people know it is backed by a comprehensive and undoubted power, as is sought through this proposal. Such a power will increase public confidence in the Tribunal.
The importance of tribunals is already accepted and has been accepted for generations, in the case of incomes. And, if the power we now propose for the National Parliament is granted by the people, it will increase the confidence of those who have to work through the industrial tribunals for their wage and salary increases. The effectiveness of the arbitration system itself will be increased if those who have to operate within it know that there is a reserve power, with a government willing to exercise that power, to prevent their hard-won increases being filched by unjustified rises. The 90 per cent of the Australian work force who depend upon such decisions and such tribunals, for their incomes do not at present have that confidence. This power would provide that additional element of confidence which will enable us to obtain complete co-operation from employee organisations. I believe the people will support this referendum. It would be an additional insurance, however, if the members of the Opposition were to show their sincerity and support of it too.
This is a measure which I believe will receive the endorsement and support of the Australian people when it is put to them. For the moment, all we are asking is a chance for the people, a chance for them to have their say. That is all this Bill proposes- that the people should decide. We believe the National Parliament should have a power possessed by every State Parliament. We believe the National Parliament of Australia should have a power possessed by every other national government, particularly when it comes to dealing with an international problem. And we believe- and say so by this Bill- that the people should make their judgment upon those 2 propositions. On these grounds I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
– Senator Donald Cameron, I think that you were to continue your remarks.
- Mr President, I have nothing further to add to my remarks.
– I rise to speak on the Budget. I would rather speak on the demonstration of ineptitude, inanity and imbecility to which we have just listened. But I have to speak on the Budget. I follow a speaker who said many things and covered a lot of ground. I do not propose to deal with what he said except to refer to one statement he made to the effect that the Government has honoured all its promises since the last election.
– When the honourable senator refers to the previous speaker, I take it that he is referring to Senator Donald Cameron and not to Senator Murphy?
– I am referring to Senator Donald Cameron. I think that it has been demonstrated very clearly in the Senate and authenticated evidence has been produced to show that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that no school receiving assistance would have one single benefit reduced. I believe it is a fact that approximately 100 schools have suffered that fate. I do not think there is any doubt- it has been proved right up to the hilt- that promises that were made have been revoked and have not been honoured.
I have been goaded into speaking about another matter at the outset of my remarks. Senator Murphy replied to a question today about Rhodesia. I am not going to say anything about the Smith regime in Rhodesia- whether it is right or wrong. But I understand that there is an organisation in Sydney which disseminates information in regard to the position in Rhodesia. Of course, when asked the question,
Senator Murphy had a lot to say about racism, the treatment of the black people in Rhodesia and other matters. It is strange and indicates a strange mentality that when racism is mentioned by some people, white people always have to be involved in it. It does not matter whether the white people are right or wrong. If they are involved at all it is a clear demonstration of racism. There is not a word about the fact that racism has been practised by most African states. It is a fact that one African state has a statute that precludes a white man even from being a citizen of that country. He cannot stand for Parliament in that country. This same racism has been practised in these African states almost to the extent of genocide. Not a word is said about that. But it is the peculiar attitude of mind of some people- I think that Sir Robert Menzies referred to this-that in some way white people must be involved before racism can be described as such. I just make those remarks on the subject.
I now speak with much concern about the defence vote. There were many people in Parliament House last week who were very concerned by the fact that this vote had been reduced and that their jobs were in jeopardy. Of course, they have a right to be concerned. There are other people in Australia who are very concerned for the safety of this country because that vote has been reduced. In fact, I have heard it said that some people are concerned to such an extent they say that in a few years time Australia will have little more than a coast guard service to defend the shores of this comment. Mr Kim Beazley, the Minister for Education, referred to that. I do not know how it leaked out, but it did. He said that there is one thing on which the Labor Party always falls down; that was the subject of defence. I agree with him absolutely and completely but I go further: What concerns me is this dangerous and indiscreet advice furnished to the Government that Australia faces 15 years or more during which we are reasonably certain of peace.
I have heard that advice discussed on television and it was referred to in this place last week. I want to quote the exact words used by one Minister. He said:
On the one hand he criticised the Government for adopting the attitude that we have 1 S years of possible peace time.
He went on to indicate that this was the advice tendered to the Government. Senator DrakeBrockman had something similar to say, in reference. He said:
Mr Barnard, the Minister for Defence, assures this nation that there is no foreseeable threat for IS years. I only hope for the sake of this nation that Mr Barnard’s crystal ball gazing is much more accurate. . . .
That kind of advice frightens me. If it was tendered by people whose job it is to advise the Government, and it was, then I say that to gamble with the security of your fellow man in that fashion borders almost on treachery. I say that for this reason: The path of history is strewn with the wrecks of countries which thought they were safe. One can think right back to the Tarentines and Pyrrhus the Greek, 2,000 years ago. They thought they were safe and when they got into trouble they sent for Pyrrhus to come and help them out. But we have kicked our Pyrrhus in the face. We have insulted him on numerous occasions. This matter has been well summed up by my local newspaper which stated:
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam is home again after his first really big meeting with the world. What has he achieved? A lot of his former ardent supporters must be feeling something of a sense of disappointment, for his one outstanding achievement seems to be that he has succeeded only in isolating Australia to a new and dangerous degree. Apart from the goodwill created, his visit to Mexico seemed to be more of a personal archaeological adventure than anything else.
But it was something else. He went to Mexico and it was in Mexico that he announced that he would discuss with his Ambassador friend in Paris the prospect of breaking off diplomatic relations with the French people.
When I read that I thought that for a Minister for Foreign Affairs to go to a foreign country and announce there that he was going to discuss the possibility of breaking off relations with another country surely was an amazingly indiscreet thing to do. This article went on to state:
It was when he reached Washington that he began to show rather more promise: He needed to, of course, because he was starting with the handicap of strained relations caused by his senior ministers ‘ criticisms of American activities in Indo-China at the beginning of the year and his own somewhat truculent attitude towards the United States. Report had it that his talks with President Nixon were ‘cordial and frank’ and certainly they appeared to have met and parted on reasonably good terms. But it must now be wondered if, indeed, the relationship has not been dumped right back into the melting-pot by Mr Whitlam. From Washington he moved on to Ottawa for the Commonwealth heads of government conference: there, in conference session, he made some new friends like Tanzania and Jamaica by supporting their views . . . , but out of conference session returned to the attack on America. His criticism of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Administrations was so sweeping that it must surely have caused a good deal of antiAustralian feeling throughout the United States.
Well as one man put it, if he had had time he would have gone right back to the time of George Washington and given them all a touch up. That appears to be the discretion of the man who holds the portfolio in which discretion is so important. He went about the world dropping bricks and berating our former allies, particularly one which saved us in the past, but kowtowing to the Chinese. However, he is not alone in that. The other night I heard the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, on television and I nearly fell off my chair. I am not exaggerating when I say that. He said, in the mien of a man who is uncovering some awful sacrilege, that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, had poured sand into the diplomatic relations that exist between this country and China. He went on to say that the Chinese leaders had told him so and that they were very offended by some of the things Mr Snedden had said about them. Thus spoke the man who had said insulting things about the President of the United States, the only ally fit and able, or which would have been fit and able, to come and help us in time of extremity. Mr President, when I see these things happen I speculate on what I would do. I would have such people psycho-analysed and treated because I believe they deserve it.
– I completely agree.
– Yes. Our defences have been reduced. They are being whittled away. We make no attempt whatever to make friends with those people with whom we could join for the purpose of protecting this country. This is a most remarkable attitude of mind. What makes it all the more serious is the fact that it is not just the fate of this Government which is at stake but it is the fate of every Australian whose security is being placed in jeopardy by the continuous and repeated indiscretions of the Government. Not long ago the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) joined issue with the United Kingdom over multi-national corporations. From what I could deduce from the statement Britain was doing something sinister and underhand in regard to those corporations. I could not make head or tail of the Prime Minister’s remarks. But I noticed last night, or some recent night Mr Jenkins, who is a socialist, was asked what he thought about multi-national corporations. He said: ‘You must have them ‘. I believe that we must have them. If we ever reach the position in the world where the capital to develop any country must be raised in that country then a mighty lot of the world will not be developed, a mighty lot of Australia would not be developed as it is now, that much is certain. We have reached the stage where we need all the capital we can get hold of if we are to go on and develop this country as it should be developed.
– I have heard the honourable senator in this Parliament criticising the importation of peas and beans.
– That is a very different thing altogether. That has nothing to do with the general set-up of the multi-national corporations. I completely agree with everything that was said by Senator Wright in regard to the position in which the primary producer is placed. At the present time I believe that the statements which he made and that the figures which he quoted simply cannot be refuted. If one reads through this Budget -
– One will find a lot of good stuff.
-It irritated me. The honourable senator is a primary producer, or they tell me that he is. He should not go along with this Budget. Senator Wright had something to say about the dairying industry. The Government took the proposition for the industry right out of the McCarthy report on the dairying industry. I remember that report and it has remained in my mind ever since it was presented. It is correct- or it was then- that New Zealand exports 80 per cent of its dairy production and that Australia exports only 40 per cent of hers. Yet the price of butter and milk in New Zealand was so much cheaper than it was in Australia. Because of this it was said that the Australian dairy industry must be inefficient. That is the thesis which the Government had adopted from the beginning. It was on that basis that the Government very largely built its case. In this same Budget speech the Treasurer stated:
But to achieve this objective -
That is to have sound and healthy industries in Australia- it is essential that industry be competitive and responsible to the challenge of economic change, and that such assistance as the Government does provide facilitates desirable change and does not impede it by propping up uneconomic and contracting industries. Against this background we have carefully examined the arrangements for assistance to industry which we inherited from the previous Government.
After having said that the first thing the Treasurer has on his list is to cut out the subsidy for the dairying industry. Of course the inference is that the dairying industry is unsatisfactory and inefficient. I have dealt in this place with that aspect of dairying in this country before and what I have said bears repeating. I say that there is no comparison whatever between dairy production in Australia and in New Zealand. It is a fact of nature. The climatic conditions and everything else differ so much. Because we cannot be as productive in dairying as New Zealand is, honourable senators opposite say thai this reflects an unsatisfactory and inefficient condition in our dairying industry. This is something that is so completely wrong to anyone who knows both countries- and I claim that I dothat it is laughable. Yet the Government goes on and says that this most decentralised primary industry in Australia has been propped up too much. Senator Wright dealt most effectively with that suggestion. He quoted figures indicating the way in which secondary industry- the mining industry and other industries- had been propped up by tariffs- which means subsidisation from the pockets of the people who purchase the goods- or by direct grants. Secondary industries have been propped up, helped, assisted and aided by the people and the Government of this country. By comparison the subsidisation of primary industry is only a fleabite. Yet it is all to go. I have the list there from A to Z. Most of the props which were handed out to primary industry over the years by the previous Government are going. I say to the Government: Do not forget that the phase through which primary industry is passing today can rapidly change. There is not an industry in the world which fluctuates as much as primary industry. I suggest that the dairy farmers, especially those in electorates which have elected Australian Labor Party members, should sit up and take notice. A Press report in the ‘Advocate ‘ states:
Senator Wriedt said the subsidy had not helped the dairy industry ‘one iota’. It might have helped many people renew their cars every 1 2 months instead of every 2 years, but that was all.
Do honourable senators know what I would like to do with a man who made that kind of statement? I would like to put him on a bit of really good old mother earth to follow a herd of cows for 12 months, and then see whether he would still say that. I guarantee that he would not say it again.
– How many people do you have on your side who have done that?
– I milked cows in the cow shed long after I became a member of Parliament. I did it for 25 years at least, and I never missed a milking. At one time I was the only serving member of Parliament who was still working in the cow shed except when Parliament was sitting. So I am not talking a lot of theory. I am not a person who sits back and works things out and says that things should be like this, that or the other. I am speaking from experience. The newspaper article continues:
He said products should not be subsidised if they could not be sold at an economic price.
I do not think that remark needs any comment.
– The Minister acknowledges that he is ignorant on a few points in regard to primary industry.
-I should think he would. I refer again to an article in my own local newspaper. The Government proposes to tax the export of meat. Previously there was a proposition to ask the Australian Meat Board to draw up proposals to reduce domestic meat prices. This newpaper says- in my view, rightly- that it is like asking the Australian Council of Trade Unions to make plans for cutting wages. The article continues:
The Government cannot arbitrarily lower meat prices, nor should it expect a long-depressed primary industry to bear the burden of countering the inflation which others (and not least the Commonwealth and State governments) have caused.
– What newspaper is that?
– It is a newspaper which I think would help the honourable senator if he read it. If the honourable sentor did so, he probably would end up having a better grasp of this situation. I would like to speak about inflation, but that will be a matter for discussion as a sequel to the jargon we heard in this chamber earlier this evening.
– From Senator Murphy?
– From Senator Murphy. It was just jargon. I have here a statement made by another man who appeals to me. He got into trouble for making it, but he appeals to me mightily. His name is Moore.
– The old Moore of the almanac?
-No, he is the head of the Chrysler motor company in Australia. He criticised the Government for trying to reduce the number of cars in Australia in favour of a Utopian public transport system, for trying to dominate completely the medical profession, for keeping the oil and gas industry parochialheaven’s above, there is no doubt that it is parochial in the Australian Capital Territory today- and for stifling the expansion of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Mr Moore claims that the Government is hitting industry from all sides with a discriminating Prices Justification Tribunal, an economically wrong tariff cut and policies which could regulate the mining industry into bankruptcy. I agree entirely with those remarks. I cannot help regarding one of the Ministers as a complete ignoramus in respect of the things he administers. He is going to Japan with 2 other Ministers to show the Japanese how to make a deal.
– Who is this?
- Mr Connor- the man who calls the people who have built up the mining industry in Australia hillbillies and all the rest of it. Another newspaper article which I have here says that by his indiscreet utterances he has done a mighty lot of harm to the mining market and the other markets Australia has in Japan. But he is going to Japan with the Prime Minister and other Ministers to show the Japanese how to make these deals.
– He made a good deal on iron ore prices. You must admit that.
– The Minister said something about iron ore prices, but someone else said something about them too. Writing in the ‘Bulletin’, a man called David McNicoll was highly critical of the attitude taken by Mr Connor with regard to mineral disposal, mineral marketing and so forth. He wrote:
The mining industry boys are sick of Minerals Minister Connor’s jibes and hindsight, wisdom . . .
Connor has made the Japanese wary of the government, and has possibly put at risk a lot of future business between Australia and Japan.
I find it hard to credit that this bulldozing and insensitive Minister doesn’t realise this- and that he has the gall to continue his abuse of Australian businessmen.
He could finish up as one of Whitlam ‘s major embarrassments.
– Who was that?
– David McNicoll.
– To whom was he referring?
- Mr Connor- the man who said that the pioneers of mineral development in Australia were a lot of hillbillies. I think he said something else about them. He has adopted a completely arrogant and dominating attitude in regard to them. Now he proposes to go to Japan with two or three other people and to show the miners and other how to market their products in Japan. They are going there to make the deals.
I will not say anything about inflation. A debate on that matter will come at a later stage. We have heard some extraordinary statements made about inflation. It has been said that is the product of the policies of the previous Government. That is one of the comments we have heard, but it is not worth answering. If Australia were to have another 23 years of progress and development similar to that of the last 23 years, even despite the faults- we all have faults- the population would double again, the development of potential would more than double and, what is more important, we could be reasonably certain that we in this country could go on with a reasonable sense of security that we would continue to be here to develop it. Instead, the position at the moment is that we have men in responsible positions going around insulting those people with whom we should be friends and cringing to those people who want to be friends with us. I know that these people want to be friendly with us; but their method of being friendly with us is that they manoeuvre themselves into a position where they can gobble us up completely. The Minister for Foreign Affairs some time ago made a speech in which he referred to Taiwan as a province of China. I went to the trouble to look up the history of Taiwan and do you know what I found? It was under the jurisdiction of the Japanese for many years and it was under the jurisdiction of the Chinese for many years. It had 2 considerable periods of independence. Now it is under the jurisdiction of Chiang Kai-shek. When one looks at that record it is difficult to believe that anyone could think that Taiwan is naturally a province of China. The only way in which this could happen would be for the Chinese to take it over by force of arms, which proposition I understand this Government, without doubt, would accept.
I support the amendment moved by Senator Withers. I believe that this Budget is something which will be paid for by an increase in the rate of inflation. I am one of those people who believe that the tiddling methods- that is all they areadopted by the Government to try to curb the effects that result from a large section of the community doing its utmost to break down the economy by unreasonable and impossible demands will fail. The Government is just fiddling and temporising- whether it be by revaluation or some other means- but sooner or later the basic root cause of the whole of our economic troubles will gain sway, and eventually will have to realise that that basic cause has to be tackled.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, increases in the price of petrol, cigarettes and spirits are the sorts of issues that some people always seize upon initially at the time of the introduction of a budget, quite regardless of the overall purposes of a budget. But as Senator Willesee said in outlining the Budget proposals of this Government to the Senate:
This Budget incorporates far more decisions than any previous Budget. Its overriding theme is one of reform. It is designed both to clear the decks for progress in the years ahead and to ensure that in major areas of concern- social welfare, education, the quality of urban life-real forward moves are being made immediately.
The Government has pointed out that this Budget is not merely an economic document, but it is the means of setting about achieving our goals and aspirations, of making the policies on which the Australian Labor Party won office a reality in the lifetime of this Parliament. In shaping these concepts of how to make life better for the average Australian and thus serve the interests of the nation as a whole, we as a Labor Government have changed the nation’s priorities. Henceforth, the rules of the game as they were previously will never be the same again. We have given form and direction in place of the mumbling and bumbling and the chaotic clamour that existed under the previous Government with its lack of foresight and planning. This Budget was designed to carry out the requirements of a new far-sighted program and in the long term this is what it will be seen to have done.
Therefore, Mr Acting Deputy President, the short term issues upon which the Opposition has seized are not the overall important ones. It is only too easy to concentrate on the same assessments that always have been made of budgets in the past when 95 per cent of budget outlays each year were pre-determined by what had gone before. The changes inherent in the Liberal Party’s budgets were always palliative rather than constructive. Honourable senators opposite seem unable to grasp the significance of the reformist nature of the Budget that has been brought down by this Labor Government. This is probably because seeing things in long term perspective is foreign to them even in this age of future shock when tomorrow is part of today. But nowhere more than in the field of communications, with its rapidly expanding technology, has the blind mole philosophy of the previous Government been more apparent.
The Labor Government established a Department of the Media because of a real awareness of the necessity for forward planning in the vital and nationally important industry of communications. Without encouraging and developing an Australian identity in the production of films and television programs, we as a nation would be ignoring the power of the greatest medium of mass culture ever known, and forcing our nation into virtual captivity to another culture not of our own creating. The communications system of a nation is akin to the arteries of a human body. The new Department of the Media has participated actively- (Quorum formed). As I was saying at the time Senator Jessop called for a quorum to be formed, the new Department of the Media has participated actively in implementing Labor policy affecting film, radio, television, Government information and publishing, printing and advertising. I take advantage of this Budget debate to set out for the information of Parliament the things that my Department has accomplished in a relatively short time.
My Department is a mixture of the old and the new. Most of its divisions formerly performed similar or identical functions under other ministries. It is essentially a grouping together of all Australian Government branches and authorities involved in the media so as to ensure a more efficient service to the Australian public, to government, and of course to other government departments through a rationalisation of their structures and a pooling of their resources. I firstly emphasise the new section of my Departmentthe Film, Radio and Television Division, the Planning and Finance Branch, and changes made to the structure and status of other parts of the Department necessary for the intergrated performance of their functions. It will be appreciated, of course, that the concrete achievements of the new part of the Department to date are merely the tip of the iceberg. The establishment of a department of this nature, unprecedented in western parliamentary democracies, has demanded hard, forward looking, creative thinking particularly in relation to functions, structures and facilities. I publicly congratulate the officers of the Department for their untiring efforts to get the Department launched.
There has been a wide ranging number of decisions already put into effect at this stage, and these of course have been taken prior to the introduction of any major legislation and within 6 months of the Department having been established. Let me enumerate some of them. In furtherance of the Labor objective of increasing opportunities for the employment of Australian creative and technical talent on television the Australian Broadcasting Control Board announced on 22 June last the introduction of a points system. This is designed to give encouragement and incentive to the types of programs which are costly to produce and to provide increased employment in the industry. In providing for an improvement in the quality and quantity of Australian production this scheme is designed to overcome the problem that previously existed of quota quickies’ being produced to meet the Australian content requirements. Working in conjunction with the ratings that determine the popularity of programs it will ultimately provide a better overall balance in the types of Australian programs we are making.
The first stage of this new system became effective on 19 August. It will be reviewed early in 1 974, prior to the introduction of the second stage, which will reallocate points for provincial stations. I can say that on the information coming to me to date since the introduction of the scheme in August there has been an average 5 per cent increase in Australian content already and in the case of one station it has meant an increase of some 15 per cent of Australian content in one month alone. Also, of course, as from 1 July last commercial radio stations have been required to play music performed by Australian artists for not less than 10 per cent of the total time occupied in the broadcasting of music. This requirement will be increased progressively so that within 3 years music performed by Australian artists hopefully will represent 30 per cent of the total time devoted to the broadcasting of music. This requirement is in addition to the statutory requirement that 5 per cent of music that is played be composed by Australians. Though the arrangements to which I have referred relate to commercial stations, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has undertaken to increase its locally produced television and radio programs. An additional $3 1 1 ,000 was granted by the Government to the ABC for this purpose in the last financial year and an extra $10m has been allocated in the Budget this year for Australian programs and extensions to ABC services which will provide additional work for our writers, producers, actors and journalists. A lot of the productions will be sold on the export market.
A new award has been negotiated for ABC journalists and the ABC Commissioners have approved in principle of a public access program on ABC television. So far as ABC radio is concerned, the Commission is looking at public access programs in this regard and I too am conducting negotiations with the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters. The additional $10m for operational expenditure for the ABC includes $2,600,000 for increases in rates of salaries and wages as a result of determinations issued by the Public Service Arbitrator during 1972-73 and $6,917,000 for the development and improvement of programs and other activities during this financial year. There was also $89,500 as the balance of cost for a full year for new projects commenced during 1972-73.
Following the grant by the Government of the additional $3 1 1 ,000 in March of this year- that is in the last financial year- a number of new Australian programs have been able to be produced by the ABC for both radio and television. The Australian content in almost every area of radio programming has been increased. Two additional radio serials and a new series of Australian plays were commissioned. A new series of short stories was also commissioned. There was an increase in the number of documentaries produced. Sufficient money was made available for a series of 12 documentaries on Australian science and for additional rural programs. A children’s opera was commissioned by the ABC’s Young Peoples Department and the light entertainment programs had an immediate injection of more Australian material. A number of the new programs have commenced to appear in the new evening Radio 2 schedules. In the ABC’s Melbourne studios work has started on the television production of a new Australian drama series written by Clifford Green. Melbourne also provides a new light music series using entirely Australian artists.
The additional funds that have been made available by the Government will also enable the ABC to start work on a new comedy series. As I have said, negotiations are being made to have some of these programs sold on the export market. The ABC also was provided by the Government with $1 1.3m in this Budget for expenditure on capital equipment including equipment required for colour television. A number of new proposals which have now been developed for implementation during the next financial year have been provided for in the Budget for the Department of the Media. This includes a sum of $227,000 for the Department’s Audio Visual Branch. This division is being established particularly for the purpose of assisting and advising other government departments and instrumentalities in audio visual communication techniques. Because of miniaturisation and other recent technology audio visual services have now become one of the most important aids for teaching and providing information that has ever been devised. The smallest school house, factory, business or for that matter government department can now have a whole storehouse of information readily available to it through the electronic or film assistance of the audio visual medium at comparatively low cost and capable of presentation by comparatively unskilled people. The amount of $227,000 which is to be provided this year to this division is intended to cover the purchase of equipment which will be used by the Audio- Visual Branch in demonstrations to and the training of personnel from other departments and instrumentalities in the proper and effective use of this enlightening medium. Already the advice of officers of my Department has been sought by and readily made available to many government departments. In particular, advantage is being taken of this new division by the Department of Foreign Affairs in the establishment of audio-visual techniques in our missions abroad.
The amount to be provided is intended to cover the purchase of audio-visual equipment for use in the Australian and overseas offices of the Australian Information Service. It is intended also to cover the production of a basic library of audio-visual program materials in association with Film Australia, which is another branch of my Department, the Australian Information Service, the Australian Government Publishing Service and the Australian Government Advertising Division. Film Australia has been allotted $2,755,000, which represents an increase of $381,000. I am speaking in round figures. The productions of Film Australia, which was formerly the Commonwealth Film Unit, are now being given wider distribution. Only this evening I received from one of the large commercial networks a letter advising me that 5 dramatised documentary films produced by Film Australia have now been purchased by that network and will be shown nationally by it in peak viewing time. The Department also is negotiating with a number of other networks on a number of other Film Australia productions.
Film Australia is beginning to extend its range of productions further into the relatively new and exciting field of public access, which involves the making of films in communities, with the members of the communities themselves taking part in controlling the film’s content and in some cases taking on the role of film makers. Steps are being taken to allocate to Film Australia the added authority and staff resources that it needs to maintain quality of output and to be able to distribute its products effectively. Tenders will be called shortly by the Department of Works for the extension of the studios of Film Australia at Lindfield at an estimated cost of $2m. At present, of course, my Department is considering the Tariff Board’s report on motion picture films and television programs. Arising out of its recommendations, we will be able to forge ahead in further building a viable film industry in Australia.
I should point out in this regard that Austraiian film production is now higher than it has been at any other time since World War II, when a promising infant industry unfortunately was abandoned. The total number of Australian feature films being shown in Sydney cinemas at the one time last June was 7. Such films as ‘Libido’, Essay on Pornography’, ‘Stork’, ‘Night of Fear’ and ‘The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’ have been performing successfully and attracting profitable audiences. Other Australian films which have been playing this year include ‘Marco Polo Junior Versus the Red Dragon’ and ‘Country Town’. In addition, there have been coproductions, including ‘Sunstruck’ and ‘Don Quixote’. Village-Roadshow, an Australian controlled distributorexhibitor, has ploughed back profits into investment in 2 films- ‘Alvin Purple’, which was produced by Mr Tim Burstall, and ‘Sittin’ by the well known Australian writer David Williamson. In the last few months- I am proud to say that my Department has contributed substantially to this effort- at least four of those films have been sold on the international market. Australia at last is on the way towards successfully building a viable film industry.
I wish to deal now with the work connected with Government publicity. Preliminary work has commenced on the preparation of material on the publicity of government. To enable the development of this function, an amount of $1,250,000 will be required for special advertising in respect of the role of government. The intention is to publicise government activities so that a wide cross-section of the Australian community will become aware of its rights, entitlements and responsibilities, the Government’s responsibilities, how those responsibilities are being fulfilled and the overall functions of government insofar as they relate to the Australian people. It is intended that the publicity be in the form of paid advertising in all of the media, with the use of high impact advertisements of a standard which could be considered by the public to be of adequate relevance and importance to warrant its reading, listening and viewing but which would still match the integrity of responsible government.
It will not be a vehicle for the policy propaganda of any political party. It will be directly for the basic purpose of providing information to the Australian people, as is done by the governments of the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom. Subjects to be covered in this publicity will be of a type that includes combinations of objectives of various departments as distinct from specific departmental responsibilities. The aim is to project total government to the public in a cohesive, continuity form that is not possible from within the current advertising campaigns of individual departments.
– It will not be a propaganda machine.
– While I am Minister for the Media it certainly will not be tolerated as or allowed to be a propaganda machine. It will be principally for the purpose of making people aware of the problems of other people within the community, rather than of allowing these problems to be swept under the carpet as appears to have been the practice for far too long.
Apart from the publicity of the machinery of government, an amount of $150,000 also is to be allotted to my Department to publicise its functions and activities. That will enable the public and other government departments and instrumentalities to become aware of the services being provided by the Department for the Australian people- for example, Film Australia, the Australian Government Publishing Service, the Australian Government Advertising Division and the Australian Information Service- and of how they may avail themselves of those services. It is also proposed, in accordance with the principles embodied in the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, which is known as the Vincent Committee, that my Department conduct a number of seminars during the next financial year. The total cost is expected to be about $25,000. Once again we will be carrying out a recommendation of the Vincent Committee of the Senate of some 10 years ago.
The Australian Information Service was formerly the Australian News and Information Bureau. It is the Australian Government’s principal information organisation. One of its functions is to present a contemporary and authentic picture of Australia to the world, to explain national policies and to further Australian objectives internationally. This role is being realised directly through 34 officers at 21 Australian Information Service posts in 19 countries, supported by 8 officers within Australia. Other countries are serviced through 55 Australian Government diplomatic posts, where officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Overseas Trade co-ordinate information activities with Australian Information Service material and support. The Australian division of the Australian Information Service maintains a constant flow of reference material, background information on policy, editorials, photographic, radio and television information, exhibitions, publications and specially requested material to all Australian missions overseas. The Australian Information Service also has the important role within Australia of providing professional and technical support for other government departments and organisations.
By a Cabinet decision made last July the Australian Information Service now has a new charter. It has been given the additional role of keeping the public within Australia informed about activities within Australia, a role to be regarded as important as that of helping to publicise Australia abroad. On 17 August the first inquiry office of the Australian Information Service was opened in the Australian Government Publishing Service bookshop here in Canberra. A network of such centres is planned for each capital city and principal regional centres. With the establishment of my Department, the Commonwealth Film Unit, which was formerly part of the Australian News and Information Bureau, became Film Australia with a separate identity and role under the films, television and radio division of the Department. Although no longer an integral part of the Australian Information Service, Film Australia documentaries continue to play an important role in the Service’s activities overseas.
By administrative arrangements made earlier this year, the 8 overseas Press and information posts that previously were operated by the publicity branch of the Department of Immigration, and the 9 officers attached thereto, were transferred to the Australian Information Service. Immigration information will remain an important aspect of the future activities of the Australian Information Service posts involved. During the year the AIS post at The Hague was transferred to Brussels, the newly approved post in Wellington was filled and Press officers were appointed to and opened offices in Hobart and Adelaide. An officer was attached to the National Library, bringing to five the number of journalists on full time secondment to other Government departments; the other four are the Public Service Board, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Health and the Bureau of Meteorology. Shortly after the close of the last financial year the Public Service Board approved of the establishment of an information office in Papua New Guinea. The activities of the Australian Information Service in Japan and Asia are to be extended. Only in the last couple of weeks a new information post has been established at Osaka.
The election of a new Government and the implementation of its policies have involved administrative reorganisation and a rise in the demands on the Australian Information Service. Throughout the world continuing comprehensive reports were required by all sections of the media on the brisk moves of the new Labor Government; for instance, the abolition of national service, revaluation of the dollar, recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the establishment of diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic and North Vietnam, Australia’s stand on the French nuclear testing in the Pacific, the subsequent finding by the International Court of Justice and the effects of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. In Asia and Africa great interest was displayed in the new approaches being taken by the Australian Government to Aboriginal affairs. This stimulation of interest in Australia internationally was graphically reflected by steep rises in inquiries and authoritative advice, information and publications sought from Australian overseas posts.
The number of overseas media representatives visiting Australia more than doubled in the last half of the financial year. The increasing demand and the policy of providing ‘targeted material continued at a high level. ‘Targeted’ material, of course, refers to information material specially prepared for the specific requirements and interests of individual posts. An increasing number of high level visitors and missions also involved escort work, preparation of articles and releases, assembly of photographic albums for presentation purposes and liaison between all Australian Information Service offices and other Government departments. Photographers were also attached to the Prime Minister’s party for visits to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and India, and to various Ministers for official tours within Australia. AIS continued to be an active participant in various interdepartmental committees. It also provided the secretariat service for the Interdepartmental Committee on Publicity Co-ordination and its various subcommittees.
The following points seem to me to be particularly noteworthy: The art-design section of the Service was responsible for the preparation of Australian wall displays and material for exibitions mounted by Australian overseas posts. The call on the photographic section in Canberra by other departments grew from 60 per cent of the work load in July 1972 to 80 per cent in June 1973. Assignments for other departments numbered 1,500 out of a total of 2,100. This trend was reflected also in State offices. Greater use also was made of intersectional co-operation in the production of audiovisual, television and publications material. A new quarterly ‘Australia’, numbering 32,000 copies was introduced and printed for distribution in Asian countries. A new 25-title series of reference papers was commenced with a proposed print run of 8,000 for each title. Plans were complete for a 1973-74 publications program to include a complete restyling of ‘Karinya’, which was a general publication on Australia printed in 1971-72 in a substantial number of different languages. The New York office of the Australian Information Service has estimated the 314 minutes of air-time given to Australian Information Service television material in the United States alone, based on overall average advertising charges of US$1,550 a minute, amounted to a conservative US$487,475. During the year my Department through the Australian Information Service assisted 310 visaing publicists coming to Australia, including 18 television and film teams from 33 countries. The largest individual national groups were 101 from Japan and 68 from the United States.
– What was the cost of those visits?
– I do not have the cost at hand but it is set out in the Estimates and I will be quite happy to draw it to the attention of the honourable senator. A comparison of the 310 publicists with the 150 publicists who were assisted during the same period in 1971-72 shows the international media traffic imposed an increasing burden on Australian Information Service staff both at home and overseas. As a consequence a substantial increase in space and time was given over to Australia by all sections of the media abroad.
Let me quote one or two instances. An illustration of the merit in assisting visiting publicists followed Australian Information Service advice and guidance to the ‘National Geographic’ magazine teams that came here to prepare reports on Australia. Fifty-nine pages of full colour plates and highly favourable text on the Top End of Australia subsequently appeared in the February 1973 edition of the Magazine published in Washington in the United States of America, which boasts a world wide monthly circulation of more than 7 million and a readership of some 25 million people. The author indicated that it was due largely to the efforts of the Australian Information Service of my Department that such a comprehensive report about Australia had been made possible. The magazine also devoted 69 pages of its June edition to a feature on the Great Barrier Reef. In both cases the AIS officer in Washington was approached, and he assisted in checking all printers’ proofs of the articles before publication.
In terms of presenting an authentic picture of Australia to the world, the value of the ‘National Geographic Magazine’ publication and publicity were immeasurable. A monetary estimation of their worth could be gauged from the magazine’s published advertising rates of US$34,880 per full black and white page and US$50,230 per full colour page. We were fortunate enough, as a result of our efforts, to get publicity devoted solely to Australia in the February and June issues of such an international magazine. One of the major breakthroughs during the year was the introduction of the ‘Visit Australia Program’ under which, with the co-operation of Qantas Airways Ltd and the Australian domestic airlines, the Australian Information Service was able to extend invitations to 5 prominent and highly respected representatives from varying fields of the United States media to make a 2-week visit to Australia. So much for the functions of the Information Service.
Let me deal now with the Australian Government Publishing Service. It facilities, of course, are centred in Canberra with elements operating from capital cities and overseas posts. The printing resources available to the Parliament and the Government were recently increased following the installation at the Government Printing Office of computer phototypesetting and web offset printing equipment at a cost of $85 1 ,000. These facilities are now being used to produce Hansard- the first time that a Government Printer in Australia has used such methods for this purpose. In addition, it has been decided to establish a computer output microfilm service bureau, incorporating high speed COM equipment and micropublishing enhancements of the phototypesetting facility. It is expected that installation of the COM equipment, in which Senator Milliner in particular is interested -
– And Senator Davidson.
-And you, Mr Acting Deputy President- the installation of that equipment will begin this financial year. A new Government Printing Office for the Northern Territory, to be sited on the Stuart Highway at Darwin, has reached the preliminary planning stage. When this office is completed in 1975-76 it will cater for most of the printing requirements of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, the Department of the Northern Territory and branch offices of other Government departments located in the Territory. To meet the increasing document reproduction needs of departments generally, new subprinteries are being planned for a number of areas in
Canberra and other capital cities. These installations are intended to provide departments with the full range of their minor printing requirements, such as forms and documents intended for internal use. The publishing function is now being performed with respect to almost all Australian Government publications.
During this financial year it is expected that approximately 4,000 different publications, ranging from simple brochures to major bound volumes, will be produced on behalf of various elements of Government. Progress is being made towards the establishment of new bookshops and the redevelopment of existing bookshops. They handle sales of Government publications and, in collaboration with the Australian Information Service, will provide the Australian public with central points of inquiry for information about Government activities generally. The existing centres which are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Canberra are now being relocated or redeveloped in the business quarters of those cities. New centres are planned for Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and Hobart during this year, and subsequently in major regional centres. Sales of Government publications have increased substantially. As a result of initiatives taken by this Government during the last financial year sales of Government publications amounted to $800,000, an increase of $200,000 on the sales for the previous year, or an increase of 25 percent.
A design team is now being located with the branch office in Melbourne to assist in the preparation of design concepts and art work for publications and printed matter originated in Melbourne-based departments. It is intended during 1974 to extend publishing branch procurement activities to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth by locating officers in those cities to handle printing and publishing requirements of branch offices of departments of the Australian Government. Major publishing projects in the course of preparation are multi-volume editions of documents on Australian foreign policy, which are being published for the Department of Foreign Affairs, and a new consolidation of Acts covering the years 1901 to 1973, on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department. Another publication is to be a book about the Australian Constitution which is considered suitable for senior high school students and the general public. The main difficulties experienced by the Information Division have been those associated with human and material resources, particularly a shortage of specialist staff, and, in some respects, inadequate accommodation when, at the same time, workloads have been increasing substantially in all branches. For example, there has been a considerable increase in parliamentary and departmental work, particularly parliamentary Bills. This has caused competition for the manpower required to be trained for the new computer phototypesetting system. My Department is closely considering these matters.
Additionally, we have established the Planning and Research Section. It is concerned with anticipating the scope and direction of changes in the media field. The area of planning in the Department of the Media and in the media generally is critical in that it seeks to provide the tactical means by which changes in media can be best used to the nation’s advantage. Research in this Section is intended to be undertaken on a great variety of subjects, from assessing audience responses to detailed cost- benefit studies of possible areas of Government involvement in the media. Extensive library facilities are planned to satisfy a long-felt need for a central repository for the rapidly increasing volume of information available on all aspects of the media.
– Is there any prospect of programming on the computer the disposition of library resources throughout Australia?
-This matter is being looked into. My Department has been forunate in obtaining the services of the Senior Planning and Research Officer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr Ray Newell. Mr Newell and Mr Becker of the Audio Visual Section of my Department are, among other things, looking at the matter which the honourable senator has raised.
Now let me deal with the Australian Government Advertising Service. Since the formation of my Department the Australian Government Advertising Service has continued to provide a service for arrangement of advertising for all departments and for some statutory authorities. Negotiations have been conducted with advertising industry representatives to assure the availability of media space and time for Government advertising, at special rates, and the continued willingness by the advertising agency industry to provide advertising agency services, on a basis that is both efficient and favourable from a cost point of view, for the Australian Government. The Government Advertising Service arranged and supervised the creative or media placing work of 42 different advertising agencies in Australia. Expenditure in advertising on behalf of departments, arranged through my Department, last financial year totalled $5,844,774. The types of advertising ranged from simple classified Press advertisements to larger, more complex high impact national advertising campaigns, the most recent of which has been the current information campaign for the proposed Australian health insurance program which was planned and arranged by the Australian Government Advertising Service of my Department in association with the Department of Social Security. The Australian Government Advertising Service has not expanded in size since the formation of my Department. But its role in counselling of departmental advertisers has been considerably broadened as a starting point for continued improvement in the standard of effectiveness of Government advertising.
A moderate increase in the number of professionally trained advertising staff is proposed adequately to originate and supervise the increased work on advertising communication between the Government and the public, especially for subjects related to the total process of government, in addition to the specific communication needs of individual departments. At the moment I have under review a complete restructuring of the existing Commonwealth Advertising Council.
As I said during the course of my remarks earlier, the officers of my Department, each and every one of them, are playing a vital role in assisting the Australian Government to allow talented Australians to be given an opportunity to develop their tremendous skills and talents, not only for their own benefit, but for the betterment of this Australia and also to portray Australia abroad as a dynamic nation which at long last is on the march. They also play a role in providing information of real value to the Australian people. I am honoured to have been elected to the Labor Ministry by my colleagues of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and this Budget has the unqualified support of each and everyone of us.
– I am afraid that I am going to bore a lot of people because I am going to repeat my talk on national health. I propose to keep on talking about national health until I get some sanity amongst the members of this Parliament. I do not refer particularly to supporters of the Government nor to Opposition senators because both are equally to blame in certain respects for what has gone on in the past.
-I think that the honourable senator is the only one who has spoken on the subject.
– The honourable senator should straighten his halo a little.
-Yes-practically. Having adjusted my halo, let me inform the Senate that at least I know my subject. Tonight I might digress a little. First, let me talk about fees which should be the last thing to be talked about in regard to a national health scheme. What we should be talking about is the betterment of the deal for the patient. But let us get the matter of fees out of the way first because this is the subject to which the Government keeps on reverting in the course of their fight with the Australian Medical Association. As I have said before, there is no doubt that, prior to the passing of the National Health Act, doctors were in a far better financial position than they are today. .
When I started to practice medicine the basic wage was about two pounds ten shillings a week- the equivalent of $5 a week. The consultation fee was the equivalent of $1. Therefore, in order to have kept pace with average weekly earnings, the present consultation fee should be $20. That increase would just provide for inflation. So when we hear Government senators saying that people cannot afford to go to a doctor, my reply is that I have never heard such twaddle and such utter rot and imbecility. Who cannot afford to pay $4 to see a doctor? People can afford to pay all they want for their washing machines, television sets, etc. But when it comes to a matter of their health or life they say that they cannot afford to pay $4 or, in the case for some people, $5. So I refute the theory that is given emphasis by the Government that people cannot afford to go to a doctor and therefore they have to remain sick. Government supporters forget that if people do not want to go to a doctor there is no reason why they should not go to the public hospitals which are provided by governments. Those facilities are provided so ineptly, of course, that people do not want to go to the public hospitals. When we come to examine the question of fees, we forget that the Australian Medical Association and the doctors never asked for the national health scheme. As I said, the doctors were quite happy in the days when they earned a lot more although bad debts were of the order of 33 per cent. Having introduced a scheme, the Government said that it would contribute to it. No-one asked it to contribute but this was a good political gambit. The Government then in power- the Liberal-Country Party Government- wanted votes.
– When is the honourable senator going to talk about the patient?
– I said that I intended to talk about fees first. I shall come to the patient.
– He is more important.
-I will come to his in a minute. I think that the honourable senator was interjecting when I said that I should not be talking about fees. However, I said that I wanted to get that over because the essence of the matter is the betterment of facilities for the patient.
– I agree with that.
-Right. What is forgotten is that having entered the field of national health the Government then became perturbed by the cost of the scheme to the Government. Therefore, it tried to stop any increase because it meant that the Government would have to increase its share of the cost. Therefore, according to the Government any rise in fees is detrimental to the scheme because it has to pay more. Of course, the Government forgets that in the meantime the doctors have paid towards the cost of keeping concessional patients such as repatriation patients and pensioners charging only two-thirds of the ordinary fees for them.
– They treat many of them for nothing, anyway.
– Yes. Doctors treated such patients for nothing when we had a 33 per cent bad debt. We have the Government saying that fees cannot be increased because that will cost it more money. The Government then says that therefore the doctors have no right to put up their fees without arbitration. I do not think any doctor would refuse to go to arbitration if he could trust any government. When I say ‘government’, I mean a government from either side of the Parliament. It was the previous Government that the chemists could not trust. This is the reason why the doctors will not trust any government. The chemists agreed with the previous Government that any dispute over their fees would go to arbitration. They went to arbitration. The arbitrator said that the fees should be increased. The Government said that the arbitrator had assessed the position wrongly and refused an increase. When a government acts like that, how could any government be trusted to abide by the result of arbitration? When it suits a government it says: ‘You must have arbitration’. When it does not suit it, it says: ‘There is something wrong with the arbitration’. I leave the subject of fees, I wish to deal with one other aspect of the matter. Unfortunately, we have the report of the economists, Scotton and Deeble. If they were only doctors, I may have some time for them. Furthermore, I do not have much time for people who advance schemes with the idea that they will get the jobs that are envisaged in those schemes. I view such people with grave suspicion. Surely the most important point is not the question of fees for general practitioners but for the better training and the better provision of general practitioners. That is essential if there is to be a national health scheme. I am not opposing the national health scheme because we will have one. What I am trying to do is to get it into the heads of those on the Government side of the chamber who are now in power -
– I would not capitulate so quickly.
– Let me make my speech. I want to get through a lot of material without boring too many people. The point is this: We need more general practitioners and we need better general practitioners. That is what we should have in a national health scheme. The Scotton and Deeble greeen paper does not devote one sentence to the betterment of general practitioners or to increasing the number of general practitioners. It disregards this matter which to me is essential. Unfortunately, Senator Milliner is not present in the Senate chamber. He thinks I should have a halo on my head because I am the only one who knows what 1 am talking about. If he were here, I think he would agree that what I am saying is correct if we are to have a national health scheme which will be of some pride to the nation. Apparently we are not interested in improving the national health scheme under the Scotton and Deeble report. All we are interested in is economics. No matter what happens a national health scheme is going to be introduced and surely we should bring in a scheme that is worth while for the people of Australia. The first point is that you cannot run a national health scheme without doctors. Members of the Labor Party should know that as I will indicate in a minute of two when I refer to their proposed new scheme.
How do we get more general practitioners? The Government that did most harm by reducing the number of general practitioners in Australia was the Gorton Government. I have a lot of time for John Gorton but he damaged Australia by decreasing the number of people interested in becoming GPs. He did this by introducing the differential rate. This Government knows that but it will not remove the differential rate. Every honourable senator who lives in the country sees his GP. Probably he is the person who does operations and confinements. You go to him because you have no one else to go to. I suppose that about 50 per cent of the honourable senators who live in the cities would go to their general practitioner in the same way. Why is the general practitioner not paid the same rate as the specialist? He is doing exactly the same work. Is the Government going to abide by this differential rate for specialists and GPs? Does it have a grudge against general practitioners in country areas? The general practitioners might say: ‘Why should we operate and why should we deliver your wife’s babies?’ Why should they do this work when they are not paid the same rate? It is the same job. Are they not doing it efficiently? Every honourable senator who lives in the country knows that his doctor does his work efficiently. If he did not they would not go to him. Yet honourable senators sit back here and do nothing about this. No one is interested.
– Whose responsibility is it to train doctors?
-That differential rate was the fault of the last Government. John Gorton brought it in and he had no right to do so.
– I am not questioning that point. I am asking whose responsibility is it to train doctors?
-I shall come to that in a minute. The honourable senator is ahead of me. He is one ahead of me all the time. The first point to consider is the differential fee. If the Government abolishes differential fees doctors will go into general practice. Why be a GP now after getting a degree and go out into the country? Why do that when by getting a senior degree you can get a higher rate of pay? After all, that only takes a couple of years more of theory. If you are good at theory you can get a senior degree. However that doctor may not have practical ability when compared with the old GP who has been doing that type of work all his life and who does not have the higher degree.
The first thing to do is to remove the differential rates but the Government will not do so. I keep on asking it to do so but it does not bother because it does not care 2 hoots. Yet every time Government supporters talk to their own doctors in country areas they say that they should be paid the same rate as the specialist because they are delivering children or are removing tonsils just as a specialist does. However the Government will not do this. The absurdity is that GPs remove small things like sebaceous cysts. Very few surgeons do that work because they regard it as being below their dignity. After all a doctor gets only $4 or $5 for that operation whereas for an appendectomy they can get up to $50. The specialists do not worry about small things and the GP does them. He has practical experience in removing sebaceous cysts. However, under the national health scheme specialists will do this work and get $5 to $10 more although probably they have had less practice. Usually such operations are done by GPs. The whole thing stinks but we cannot get anything done.
I wanted to speak ahead of Senator Douglas McClelland, the Minister for the Media, but I gave way to him. He read his speech and now he is not here to listen to me. He is the Minister representing the Minister for Health and I told him that I was going to speak on health matters. I am just wasting my time because who reads Hansard?
– We do.
– As a Minister he is a specialist.
-The Minister who is present, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), has done a very good job. There were Ministers in other governments who did not know their jobs when appointed and they still did not know them at the end of their time. I must say that Senator Wiedt has tried to get a grasp of his responsibilities. Everyone knows he is not a farmer. The previous government did not appoint a doctor as Minister for Health, and so on. So do not criticise anyone for doing his best. If they are doing their best what more can they do? The next step in getting more doctors is to stop this absurdity of requiring academic qualifications for entry into universities. All honourable senators know that if a person wants to go to a university he has to be in an academic list. The number of entrants is decided by quota. This leaves out a lot of people capable of becoming good GPs. These are the people we want. A person does not need brains to be a GP. I am one. The point is that a good GP does not have to be academically brilliant. At last, after many years, I think one university in Sydney is recognising this point and is going to alter its system and help people who wish to enter the medical profession although not given priority on the academic list.
– How are they going to do that?
-I do not know but I understand it is to be done. Those responsible believe that there is more value in a person being dedicated than there is in academic qualifications. A scheme is being worked out. I am not sure which university is doing this but it is in New
South Wales. This should be encouraged because there are many people who cannot get into the universities because they are not on the academic list who would be good GPs. I told the Senate this last time and I tell it again. I did a locum in Deniliquin and found that there were 2 good Indian doctors there. There was an Indian doctor 27 miles away; there was another Indian doctor 60 miles away; and another Indian doctor 47 miles away. The reason for their being there is that Australian doctors cannot be obtained. The universities are stopping the training of Australians. Do not tell me that entrants to universities have to be academically sound. If a person has matriculated he has passed the standard set for entrance to universities. The responsibility falls back on the Government to provide more places for people wishing to enter medical courses.
– Which government?
– Any government; the last government and this Government. More doctors have to be provided.
– The Federal Government? But medical training comes under State government control.
-Oh come on! From 1 January all tertiary education is to be free. I am trying to emphasise that the Government should ensure that there will be more room for Australians to take part in the medical profession instead of having foreign people, good as they are, taking over from our Australian boys.
– What would be the attitude of the Australian Medical Association to training more doctors?
-I think it is a furphy or a myth that the AMA tries to cut down on the number of doctors. The AMA has no say whatsoever. If the Government says that it will pay for X number of places for medical students the university will take them. After all it is the council of convocation of the university which runs the university and I hope it will not be influenced by a body such as the AMA.
– What will the AMA do when they want to set up practice after being trained?
-I do not know.
-What is the failure rate in that faculty?
-I do not know but when I went through there were 1 10 of us who started the first year and 55 completed the final year. The only reason I got through was because they wanted 56 residents. Only 55 got through so I had to be one of them. It was wonderful. I was in a lucky year. The third point I want to make relates to academic training. All the training in universities is specialist oriented. Where the Government is wrong is that in its new scheme, which I will come to in a minute, it is putting the cart before the horse. What it should be doing is insisting that there be a department of general practice in every university. The Australian Medical Association and the College of General Practitioners have been trying to get this but there is no support anywhere. The AMA is really not interested in the idea. It gives a sort of lip service to it. But unless there is a department of general practice how are we going to get boys interested in general practice? So the first essential thing is to let people who want to be doctors go to the university if they have matriculated and the second thing is to have a department of general practice to train them in general practice. The tendency now, which I hope will be intensified, is that all undergraduates should serve 2 to 4 weeks as part of their training in a general practice under what we call preceptors so that they can learn what general practice is all about instead of having it pooh-poohed by the specialists when they are going through their training in hospital.
– Does not the honourable senator think that they should do 12 months in general practice before they are allowed to specialise?
-Yes. Now the honourable senator is getting on to my hobby. I do not think that anyone should be allowed to specialise until he has done 5 years in general practice. He should get his degree first. That is an economic reason. He must get his degree because after 5 years he will have about 3 children hanging around and then it is very difficult to sit down and do a senior degree. The thing to do is to get a degree for surgery or medicine but one should not be allowed to be a specialist until one has done 5 years in general practice. I am all for that. This brings me to the scheme which the Department of Health has just announced. The Department will now assist postgraduate doctorssecond, third or fourth year residents- by paying 40 per cent of their fees to go into general practice. As I said before, this is putting the cart before the horse but I cannot get people to listen. I spoke to Dr Sax about this. He said: ‘Well, perhaps it is, but it is something which we can do. ‘ I said: ‘ Why can you not set up a department of general practice? Why can you not train undergraduates?’ An announcement was made in a big Press statement about what the Government is going to do. It will provide 40 per cent of the fees to allow a third year resident medical officer who receives $8,000 a year to go for one, two or three months with a general practitioner. Firstly, of course, he will act as an assistant. He will sit in with the doctor. This means that the doctor sees fewer patients and there will be a further banking up of patients. There will be further irritation all round. Also this resident will be used as a locum, which is not a bad thing anyhow. But these people can say: ‘No, we will not go into your scheme, but will assist the same doctor as a locum and receive $ 12,000 a year’. So the scheme is absurd at the beginning. The Department will subsidise a resident to the extent of 40 per cent. He will go at his resident’s salary into general practice whereas he could go as an assistant to a general practitioner and receive perhaps twice as much. The scheme is wrong in its concept. This is a good idea but surely that is not the basic thing which should happen. We have to get GPs. We have to train them. They have to like general practice and start right at the beginning. As I said, we need more and better GPs. Instead of this postgraduate resident medical officer going into practice the Government should insist by law that every general practitioner must attend a postgraduate course every 4 or 5 years. Medicine advances so quickly these days that we have to go -
– It should be every year.
-That is economically impossible. There has to be a post training course. In the College of General Practitionersas honourable senators may remember- so many hours of postgraduate training have to be done each year. It can be done by attending lunch hour or evening lectures. But that is not sufficient. Every few years- say 5 for the sake of argument- this Government instead of subsidising resident medical officers to be assistant GPs when they do not want to be because they can get a higher salary by being locums should be subsidising resident medical officers to act as locums while the GPs go into hospital for a fortnight. I do not mean that a GP has to be a resident medical officer, but he should go through an approved syllabus of training for general training. That is essential.
When I go out in practice now I have to look up authorities to find answers. Medicine moves too fast for anyone these days. It is no shame that we cannot keep up with everything. Let me tell honourable senators that general practice is far harder than any specialty because one has to know everything. It is like being a Minister in this chamber. The Ministers in the other place have one portfolio. The Ministers in this chamber- are doing a damn good job, as did Ministers in the previous Government- have to learn five or six departments. That is the difference between a GP and a specialist. It means that a GP must be given more training and must be allowed to train more. Some of them cannot do this but if the Government were to say: ‘We will pay you for a fortnight’ what would the cost matter? The people of Australia will have a service which is far better than the present scheme which the Government has put up and which I think is putting the cart before the horse.
We all talk about community centres. But what has the Government done about helping the present private practitioners with their communities? It is all very well to set up 2 community health centres in Canberra and say: ‘We will run them.’ The Government has the money to do this. But why does it not do this in the country where such centres are needed and not here where they are not needed? This is what gets me all the time. The Government does not do any thing for the people who really have a need. Honourable senators admit in their hearts that this should be done but the Government will not do anything. General practitioners, in order to be made better GPs, should be allowed to go into public hospitals. I have been fighting for this for years. At last the AMA has agreed that this should be done.
– Who is the AMA to decide that anyway?
– It is like the honourable senator’s association or his Party. The point is that GPs have not been allowed to go into public hospitals because the specialists have refused to allow them to go in. That is the basic reason.
– They have no right.
-I know they have not but any government, whether Labor or Liberal, will not support the suggestion that GPs should be allowed into public hospitals. I have been trying to get this accepted even in Tasmania but I cannot do it. I cannot get the Labor Party to understand. There is tremendous hypocrisy in the Labor Party in relation to this matter.
– Hear, hear!
– I will come on to you if you like. But the Labor Party is in government at the moment. It says that there should not be GPs in hospitals. Of the people in the hospitals, 70 per cent need only GP care. They do not need specialist care. They can be treated quite well by their general practitioner. Why do many poor people go into private hospitals? Is it for better treatment? I should not think so. I think honourable senators will find that once one gets into a public hospital one has the best of everythingexcept food. People go into private hospitals because they want their own doctors. The hypocrisy from both sides of this chamber- but I must admit more so on the Labor side- is that honourable senators themselves go to private hospitals. I challenge everyone in this chamber on this matter. I bet that 90 per cent of honourable senators or their wives or other members of their families in their last illnesses went into private hospitals. I ask honourable senators to stop and think.
– Not I.
– What about your wives and families?
– I have never been to a private hospital.
-I will withdraw that statement and say 60 per cent. Let me put it this way: When I was a Minister in Tasmania I raised this same question with Cabinet- there were nine of us- because I knew that eight of them, or their wives or children, had been in a private hospital rather than a public hospital. Why do Government senators allow something for themselves which they deny to the poor? It is the honourable senators on this side of the chamber who should not be allowing such a thing to occur.
– But we go into public hospitals. What are you going crook about?
– I may have picked on the wrong bunch of people. Many Labor Party members go into private hospitals. I know a few Labor senators who have just come out of private hospitals because I have been told by representatives of the hospitals concerned.
– Not me.
– All right, it was their wives or their children.
– No, my wife went into a public hospital 10 months ago.
-I will withdraw from that argument, but as far as I am aware a considerable number -
– Labor Prime Ministers do not go into public hospitals.
-No, they are just the same.
– What about Liberal Party Prime Ministers?
-I am not attacking Liberal Party members because they do not say they support the poor; it is supposed to be the Labor Party members who do so. Labor Party members demand certain treatment for themselves which they deny to the poor. This is what gets on my goat every time.
– Last time I went into a hospital you put me there. You know where I go.
-Senator Little went into the best private hospital that I have seen run by a government.
– You sent me there. I had no say in it. It was the only place to go.
– It was the only hospital the honourable senator could have gone into because the psychiatric hospital was full and I could not get him in there. He asked for that. I now turn to the community health system which has been established in Canberra. When it was decided to set up these 2 community health centres, the idea was that one would be run by private doctors and the other would be run under a salaried or nationalised scheme. The document containing the proposals was sent to me to read. I was very kindly asked to give my comments on them, which I did. It was proposed to have 4 doctors in each of the nationalised centres. I said: What you need is 8 doctors in a nationalised centre and 3 instead of 4 doctors in a private centre’. What has happened? This is just about to be done. Advertisements have been placed for more doctors for the nationalised community health centre because the doctors in that centre have to see only one patient every 20 minutes. That is wonderful.
But that is Parkinson’s law. When the work is spread over the hours available, that is applying the principles of Parkinson’s law. This is the attitude taken in any typical public service, be it Commonwealth or State: ‘Because we have very few patients, let us extend the time spent on each patient’. The theorists, the idealists, can say that 20 minutes spent on each patient is wonderful because this allows the doctor to give a lot of time to each patient. But let us get down to the practicalities of the situation. In general practice a doctor cannot spend 20 minutes on each patient. It is just an impossibility. A doctor may have to spend 40 minutes on some patients, but it does not take more than 5 to 10 minutes to deal with a patient who has a sore throat or a rash, and these are the patients who comprise the bulk of his practice. If a doctor has an appointment sheet allowing 20 minutes for each patient, this means that he can see 24 people a day if he works an 8-hour day. But the doctor is supposed to do visits as well. The usual surgery hours are 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon.
– This is the private doctors?
-No, I am speaking about government doctors under a nationalised scheme. I suggested that the number of doctors in the nationalised centre should be doubled, whereas the number in the private centre should be cut down because the doctors in the nationalised centre do not have any incentive at all to see patients at a greater rate than one every 20 minutes. This is how the national health centres are operating. Just think what will happen when the national health scheme is introduced if no incentive is given to the doctor.
I want to deal with private hospitals because this is where the Government is making a grave error. It will not listen to suggestions. In the last sentence in the paragraph dealing with private hospitals the Scotton and Deeble report states: We will let them continue until we can virtually nationalise them’. That is what will happen. Why is it that a person finds it difficult to get a bed in a private hospital? It is because people want their own doctors and they want to go into private hospitals. But the Government says: ‘No, you cannot have your own doctor. You cannot have a private bed. We are going to abolish private beds’. This is what the Government intends to do. But why abolish them? If somebody wants a choice, surely it does not matter that he goes into a private hospital. It does not matter 2 hoots that the doctor is making money. The Government gets most of it by way of income tax. All this talk about doctors making a fortune is nonsense because it is well known that with provisional tax he pays tax at the rate of 66-2/3 per cent. So what does it matter if the doctor does make a lot of money? The Government will get it by way of income tax in order to help it pay social service benefits.
– You are not looking at it from the socialist point of view, though. The Government wants to bring everybody down to the lowest level, you know.
-No, 1 do not believe that.
– It does. It wants to abolish private hospitals.
-That is true, and I cannot understand it, because many Government supporters -
– About 90 percent of them -
– I cannot say whether it is 90 per cent, but many Labor supporters- I have had many Labor supporters as my patients -go into private hospitals and they do not want to go into public hospitals. They could have the best surgeons and the best physicians in a public hospital, but they prefer to go into a private hospital where they can have their own doctor treating them. That is what they want and that is what the Government will deny them.
– Labor Prime Ministers have been in private hospitals.
-I know they have, and Labor senators have been in private hospitals, although all the Labor senators in the chamber deny this.
– Tell us why you think they want to abolish private hospitals.
-I cannot understand it.
– You must have a view.
-No, I do not have a view. I just think they are crazy to do this; that is all.
– The trouble is that you have been supporting them for too long.
– I have been saying this for years. The point is that, if people want to go into a private hospital, why should they not? Why should the Government stop them from doing so. What does the Government have against private hospitals? Many of these private hospitals are run by religous orders. They are not out to make huge profits. Some of them do not even make a profit. But the Government wants to abolish them. Why does it want to do this? There are not enough hospital beds at the moment and the Government goes on about private hospitals as if they were some infectious disease which it wanted to get rid of.
I do not want to speak for too long about pharmaceutical benefits because I have been at the Government about this matter previously. The Minister for the Media, who is at the table, knows more about the National Health Act than anyone else I know. I must say that during the Committee stage of our consideration of the National Health Bill the Minister surprised me by his knowledge of the provisions of the Bill. 1 am not buttering him up, because he does not damn well listen to me. I ask the Minister to listen to me. That is why I want him in the chamber while I am making my speech. When the National Health Bill was before the chamber the Labor Party supported a couple of amendments that I proposed, but the amendments were defeated when the Democratic Labor Party changed its attitude. Yet the Labor Party has been in government for nearly a year and it has not done anything about these matters. Why does it not do something?
In relation to pharmaceutical benefits, how many honourable senators- I have asked this question before- would prefer to believe their own doctor rather than a doctor who lives in Sydney, Hobart or one of the capital cities? Every honourable senator knows damn well that if his own doctor told him that he should take drug A that is the drug he would take without waiting for a Government medical officer who has not even seen him, has not seen his family and does not know anything about his history to write and say: ‘Yes, he can have that drug’.
– That is not the way it will work. You know that.
– That is the way it works now. Do not tell me that I do not know what I am talking about. This is what irritates me. If a doctor prescribes intal, the law provides at the moment that he must write to the Commonwealth doctor in Sydney, if the patient being treated lives in New South Wales, to obtain the Commonwealth doctor’s permission. Is that not right?
– But what has this to do with it?
– I am asking honourable senators on the Government side to remove this stupid -
– But you as the doctor prescribe the drug.
– I prescribe it, but the patient is not allowed to have it without approval. The honourable senator does not understand.
– You prescribe it.
-I prescribe it because I think the patient needs it. Permission can be refused- it never has been refused- by a doctor located 400 miles away. Is that correct?
– Not on the basis of the patient’s need.
– It is. Does the honourable senator think then that the patient should pay $8 instead of $ 1 for the drug?
– No, I do not.
– Then I do not know what the honourable senator is arguing about.
– You are the one who is griping, not me.
– All right. If I prescribe intal for a child who I think needs it, he cannot get it under the National Health Act unless the Commonwealth doctor in the capital city of the State in which I am practising gives his approval.
– That is right. Has he ever said no?
-No. Therefore, that brings me to the next point. Why is it necessary to obtain his approval? Why do we have to do it? I remind honourable senators that 19,000 prescriptions for intal have been lodged with the Commonwealth doctors for approval and none of them has been refused. I mentioned this last time I spoke on this matter. Why do we have to doit?
– It makes work.
-That is right.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Does the Government of the People’s Republic of China consider the effects of nuclear fall-out to be of little significance to health, or does it display a callous disregard for the health and welfare of its people.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Australian Government does not presume to speak for the Government of China on this matter.
Government Housing: Rents
-On 22 August 1973, Senator Withers asked the following question, without notice:
Why are government rents rising while rental for privately owned houses must remain static. Is this another example of the Government’s double standards.
The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Government house rentals in the A.C.T. have been below an economic level for many years, which meant that housing operations were being conducted at a loss met by Australian taxpayers.
The proposed increase is intended to do no more than bring rentals of Government houses to an economic level. Even at the increased level they will still be low by comparison with rentals charged for privately owned accommodation in the A.C.T.
Australian Capital Territory Ordinances
-On 28 August 1973, Senator Greenwood asked the following question, without notice:
Why has the Minister for the Capital Territory departed from the practice of the previous Government and declined to submit all proposed Ordinances to the Advisory Council of the A.C.T.
The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The question has no foundation in fact. Since January 1973 I have submitted 19 Ordinances to Council in draft. Other Ministers involved in the administration of Canberra also follow a similar course.
-On 28 August 1973, Senator Guilfoyle asked me a question without notice concerning Lending Organisations. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Treasury and Reserve Bank are currently undertaking a detailed study of the various aspects of the regulation of nonbank financial intermediaries. When that examination is completed the Government will decide what measures are desirable in the interests of the community. It is hoped that, at an appropriate time, consultations can take place with the relevant State authorities regarding permanent building societies and other financial institutions covered by State legislation that would come within Australian Government legislation.
French Nuclear Tests: Reports on Fall-out (Question No. 220)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:
What was the wording of the most official report to the Commonwealth Government on the effect on Australia and its inhabitants of any nuclear test carried out by the French Government in the Pacific area.
– The Minister for the Environment and Conservation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Reports on the effects upon the Australian population of each series of French nuclear tests in the Pacific have been made public by tabling in the Parliament or release to the press after the monitoring program for each series has been completed. The latest report by the Australian Academy of Science entitled The Biological Effects of Nuclear Explosion FalloutReport to the Prime Minister (April 1973) was presented in the Senate by my colleague, the Attorney-General, on 2 May 1973.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer which I have is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The reasons for the various items are as follows:
The transfer to the new valuation basis of 5 per cent per annum in lieu of 5.5 per cent per annum for the 10 years 1962-1972 and 4.5 per cent per annum thereafter has resulted in an adjustment in the actuarial reserves which would otherwise be required. The $14,779,000 surplus does not take into account the loss of $205,000 incurred after 30 June 1967 in respect of the conversion of units in force at that date to non-contributory units.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Did Marrickville Holdings Ltd or its associate companies Eta Foods Pty Ltd and Arnotts Ltd import potatoes from New Zealand in 1971-72 and 1972-73, if so,
how many tons did they import;
b ) what was the price per pound paid;
was any subsidy paid to the company or companies; and
) what, if any, are the details of the contracts entered into for the current financial year; and
what is the current price.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (a), (b) and (c); no potatoes were imported in 1971-72 or 1972-73.
-On 29 August 1973, Senator Greenwood asked the following question, without notice:
Is it a fact that the increases in the price of petrol, necessitated by the Government’s budget proposals, have been approved by the Prices Justification Tribunal as able to be included in the petrol retailer’s price of petrol throughout Australia. Is it not also a fact that the fixation of the price at which petrol may be sold in the Australian Capital Territory excludes the increase necessitated by the budget proposals. If so what is the reason for this discrimination.
The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Prices Justification Tribunal authorised the oil companies to pass on increases in excise, however, this in no way precludes the Tribunal from examining at any time in accordance with Section 16 of the Prices Justification Act 1973, the price and pricing structure of petrol. In the Australian Capital Territory the prices of petrol have been fixed at pre-budget levels. It is for the oil companies now to justify any higher prices they would otherwise charge.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer provide an itemised statement of the funds paid out under the Export Incentive Grants Act for (a) the financial year 1971-72, and (b) for the financial year 1972-73, to date.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
With certain exceptions that are not relevant to the honourable senator’s question, the secrecy provisions of the Export Incentive Grants An 1971 prevent the Commissioner of Taxation from communicating to any person information with respect to the affairs of any other person (including a company) that is disclosed under that Act. Similar provisions are included in the legislation relating to pay-roll tax rebates which the grants replaced.
As regards statistics of export incentive grants, no export grants were paid during the financial year 1971-72. Payments under the grants scheme, which applied first to 1971-72 exports did not commence until after 30 June 1972. Grants paid in the 1972-73 financial year amounted to $40,360,000 and refunds of pay-roll tax rebates during this period amounted to $17,981,000. In addition, certain amounts of grants and rebates allowed were applied to tax; the figures for the 1972-73 financial year were $647,000 in respect of export grants and $36 1 ,000 in respect of pay-roll tax rebates.
Statistics of export incentive grants classified by commodity group are not yet available, but the latest statistics of pay-roll tax rebates, tabulated by reference to 1970-71 exports which show rebate allowed from current year entitlement to 31 December 1 972, are set out below:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730918_senate_28_s57/>.