28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 22 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Australian citizens place great value on their freedom to choose their own doctor in all aspects of medical care.
That we believe in a doctor’s freedom to provide a personal service based on personal responsibility within a system based on quality rather than quantity, as opposed to an impersonal service in which doctor and patient lose their identity.
3 ) That proposals to change the existing health scheme are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
A petition in identical terms from 193 citizens of the Commonwealth was presented by Senator Jessop and a petition also in identical terms from 25 citizens of the Commonwealth was presented by Senator Davidson.
-My question is directed to the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. I refer to the ‘Australian’ of 1 1 December 1973, which states:
The Senate Select Committee on Securities will make a statement to Parliament this week about its long delayed report.
I should like to ask through you, Mr President, whether the Chairman of the Committee could elaborate on this matter any further.
– If the matter has been discussed by the Committee and the Chairman is prepared to make a statement, I will call on Senator Rae.
– Thank you, Mr President. The situation is that the Committee has met and has discussed the submission of a statement. The statement is in the course of preparation and will be given to the Senate. It will include an answer to the question asked by Senator O ‘Byrne.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Did Australia’s Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, attend a reception given in his honour by the South Vietnamese Provisional Revolutionary Government in Hanoi? What was the significance of the reception in Dr Cairns’ 5-day trade mission to North Vietnam? Was it not undiplomatic for a senior Australian Minister to attend a reception given by a revolutionary government when Australia has diplomatic relations with the Administration in Saigon?
-Yes, Dr Cairns did attend a luncheon or a dinner or some sort of entertainment given by the Vietnamese Provisional Revolutionary Government. The PRG, of course, was one of the parties that sat around the table in Paris and entered into agreements on the cease fire. As the honourable senator well knows, we have diplomatic relations with North Vietnam and South Vietnam but not with the PRG. Whether it was undiplomatic for Dr Cairns to attend the reception is a matter which I think only Dr Cairns can answer. I simply repeat what I said yesterday: In Dr Cairns you have a man who has been deeply involved in the whole question of the Vietnam war right from its early stages. He has written a couple of books about it. He was the host to the Vietnamese through an organisation to which he belongs when they came to this country in the early stages. During his visit, incidentally, he has told all the people involved that we are very concerned to support the implementation of the Paris agreements, that we want to maintain a very even handed policy in relation to both Saigon and Hanoi and that we would be critical of cease-fire violations by either side.
-I ask the Minister for Repatriation: In the face of the increasing weekend highway motor accident carnage, what immediate role can the modern facilities of the Concord Repatriation Hospital play to cope with such road victims in metropolitan Sydney? If the ambit of the use to which such hospital facilities are put is too wide, can ex-servicemen suffering from non-repatriation illnesses be granted hospitalisation at this establishment?
– The Government recently approved the establishment of such a clinic at Concord, and planning for it is well established.
The recommendation was made by the Repatriation Commission and also by the local hospital authorities. The thinking of the medical staffs also was that its availability would be of advantage to them and the proposal was also welcomed in the district. In addition the Concord Repatriation Hospital is consulting with the New South Wales Hospitals Commission to see to what extent the facilities of the Concord Hospital can help other hospitals in that vicinity. Since the decision was taken in April by the Government to open up available bed space in repatriation hospitals, there has been an increase in occupancy at the Concord Hospital from something like six to approximately sixty. This figure includes civilians or ex-servicemen who do not receive repatriation entitlements, and it could also include some staff. One of the reasons for the rate of occupancy not increasing at a greater rate is that some of the wards are still closed because of a shortage of staff at the hospital generally. The administration is seeking to open those wards by getting the required staff, in which case, of course, more facilities will be available for those people who fall into the categories I have mentioned. At the present time throughout Australia approximately 150 people who do not fall within repatriation categories are now in repatriation hospitals.
– I wish to direct a question to the Attorney-General. No doubt he would have seen the reports of proceedings pending in the Industrial Court concerning the deregistration of a union and threats made by one Gallagher of disobedience to court process, supported by mob action. Can the Senate, when it goes into recess, rely upon the Attorney-General to uphold firmly the court process?
-I think that the Senate can be confident that the laws are such that the court has, as it always had, ample powers to safeguard its own integrity and that the procedures which are appropriate will be adopted. But I think that it is not wise for us to discuss publicly a matter which is before the court and in any way to prejudice the position of the court, the parties or an individual on the basis of something that has been said in the media.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that under new regulations brought in by the present Government, people who wish to have their mail re-addressed, even temporarily, have to pay a special fee of $ 1 a month? Does the Minister realise that this new impost is a severe hardship on some people, particularly pensioners who might leave their homes for one or two months to live with the families of their sons or daughters for the school holidays, etc? Will the Minister ask his colleague to investigate the possibility of removing this re-address fee, which is a hardship on these people, from all needy groups of people in the community?
– I am aware that under the new regulations brought in by this Government which were included in a White Paper that I presented to the Senate on behalf of the Postmaster-General a re-address fee is charged by the Department. I just cannot say immediately whether it is $ 1 a month but I assume that what the honourable senator says is correct. I can appreciate that there might be some financial difficulties involved in the case of pensioners, the category to which the honourable senator refers. But in the main, the provision, as I understand it, was introduced because a number of businessmen were using this facility in the course of their business operations, travelling throughout Australia and abroad. I shall certainly refer part of the question to the PostmasterGeneral to see whether there can be some amelioration of the problem as it affects needy groups of people.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry read an article in today’s ‘Australian’ newspaper in which Mr M. Ridd, the President of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, is reported to have said yesterday that the price of bread would rise by five or six cents a loaf if the wheat growers were forced to organise their own price stabilisation scheme? As Mr Ridd is also reported in this article as saying that the Government’s proposed stabilisation scheme would have a disastrous effect on the wheat industry, can the Minister say whether claims such as this are correct?
-I did see the statement attributed to Mr Ridd. In answeing a question yesterday concerning statements by Mr Smith, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, I said that Mr Smith was irresponsible in making public statements on a matter so important as the wheat stabilisation agreement which is currently being negotiated between the Australian Government, the State governments and the industry. If Mr Ridd made the statement that he is now alleged to have made he was equally irresponsible.
There is no suggestion on the part of the Government of bringing into effect a scheme which will increase the price of bread in Australia. As I said yesterday, I do not intend to spell out the details of these negotiations. They will be continuing until the Australian Agricultural Council meeting in February. Until such time as those negotiations are complete, I have no intention of commenting on them.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Supply recall my asking him a question last week on the dangers of fires from the current rocket firing program at Woomera rocket range in South Australia? Has the Minister seen reports that a large fire destroyed several square miles of stock feed in the area last Thursday as a result of rockets being fired in the area? Is it a fact that the fire was discovered late on Thursday afternoon? Can the Minister say what time a rocket launching was made on that day and whether investigations showed that the fire was started by a rocket? Will the Minister take urgent steps to arrange for discussions to take place between those concerned with the rocket firing program and pastoralists in the area to alleviate the potential fire risk which could, under certain circumstances, cause great damage and a loss of production over a large area this year?
– It is true that Senator Young did raise this matter a week or so ago. I have endeavoured to obtain information as to the precautions being taken at Woomera. I did see the report to which the honourable senator has referred. It does in fact demonstrate the potential danger in the area, despite the precautions that are taken. I have endeavoured to get all the details available on this incident. I am not in possession of any detailed information at this stage. The fire does highlight the fact that there could be a very severe loss of pasture in the area. I will certainly be asking the Minister for Supply to ascertain in what way the precautions taken can be tightened up.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in yesterday ‘s Melbourne ‘ Herald ‘ written by the renowned Asian affairs journalist and author, Denis Warner? Did the Minister note that Mr Warner, on a recent tour of South East Asia, found widespread belief that Australia had adopted a double standard that turns a blind eye to communist contempt for human rights coupled with a highly critical attitude to its former friends? Is the Minister concerned that Mr Warner found ‘even a fear that Australia has changed sides’? Is there justification for those fears, in view of the apology given in Hanoi by Australia’s Minister for Overseas Trade about Australia ‘s involvement in the Vietnam war?
-If honourable senators opposite were to have a look at the comments of leading Asian statesmen in recent times they would find that they give the lie direct to Mr Warner’s allegations. There are several examples. For instance, General Romulo of the Philippines said when he was in Australia recently that Australia had begun to orientate itself to Asia in a decisive way and that his respect and admiration for Australia had been greatly enhanced. Mr Malik said several things; and so on. I am not going to talk about them. It is very easy for political journalists to criticise and to say that we are suddenly reversing decisions and upsetting people. I have no doubt that some of the countries of the world, particularly the big ones, have had to take another breath and do not like the fact that for the first time in its history Australia is going to have an independent stance in foreign affairs. Some of the big countries can no longer take it that we are automatically going to follow them in whatever they do. They ought to be mature enough- I believe that they are mature enough- to understand that that is the situation. That does not mean that we are going to be bad friends with them. It does not mean that we are going to disagree with everything they say. We are going to reverse what the previous Government did. We are to take an independent stance. At long last we are going to put the rights of the Australian people before the interests of any other government in the world, irrespective of which government it is.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Is the Minister aware that the tourist industry is important to the Tasmanian economy and that the tourist industry is a large employer of females? Is he aware that any government impost that leads to an increase in air fares , such as an increase in the fuel tax or an increase in air navigation charges, both of which were effected in the last Budget, has a detrimental effect on tourism to and from Tasmania? Is the Government aware that eventually total government revenue would be increased by the reduction or removal of such restrictive charges as the fuel tax and the air navigation charges through the consequent growth of the tourist industry? Has the Government considered setting up a committee to examine all aspects of tourism or having the Australian Tourist Commission examine all aspects of tourism and the effect of such taxes and charges upon tourism?
-There seems to be involved in the honourable senator’s questions a number of matters which concern a number of Ministers. First of all, there were some argumentative matters in his questions which generally probably relate to the overall budgetary context. Therefore that portion of the question probably should be referred to my colleague the Treasurer. Senator Townley also directed my attention to air fares and air navigation charges. Those matters, I suggest to him, should be more properly directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. However, in regard to those aspects of the question which relate to tourism, certainly I agree that Tasmania is dependent to a large extent on tourism. It is the desire of the Australian Government to establish the tourist industry for Australia and Australians generally. A large number of females is employed in the industry; that goes without saying. I know that my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation is devoting a great portion of his energies to ensuring that the tourist industy is placed on a proper economic and viable basis. I shall refer the honourable senator’s questions to my colleague to see whether he can give a more detailed reply than I have given.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. By way of preface I remind the Minister that 2 or 3 weeks ago I asked him a question about locust plagues which I said were ravaging South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. I asked then whether there was anything more that either governments or individuals could do to prevent the spread of these plagues. I noted in this morning’s Press a report that the locusts are now threatening in Queensland and that farmers are having to sit back and watch the devastation that is going on because of a shortage of insecticides which will be at its worst early next month. Would it be possible to import insecticides and to do some more spraying or anything else which can control these plagues?
-I indicated, when the honourable senator asked her question, that this was mainly a matter for co-operation between
State authorities, the farmers and the local authorities. The Australian Government did make available $500,000 and certain military equipment for the spraying of these chemicals. I am not aware of the current position regarding the supply of chemicals. I know that two or 3 months ago there was a possibility of a shortage of supply. All I can do is find out what is the current position and advise the honourable senator as soon as I can get the information.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that there are severe shortages in the supply of spare parts for the 1973 model of the Australians’ alleged own car, the Holden? Is he aware that these shortages are affecting in addition to owners of Holdens used for private purposes business sections of the community who use a Holden vehicle to deliver their products, such as bread and milk? Is he aware that items such as fan belts and caps for petrol tanks are unprocurable in Brisbane and that attempts to procure them from Sydney and Melbourne have been unsuccessful? What has caused this disruption in the supply of Holden spare parts? Has the Minister any idea when the shortages will be remedied?
-The Minister for Transport has had some notification of shortages of parts. We think that it is essentially a matter for the manufacturing company as a commercial undertaking to supply spares for its vehicles. There is not only a shortage of motor vehicle parts, for as a result of the present prosperity there is a shortage of many commodities on the market today. This is of continual concern to the Government. I will take it up with the Minister for Transport to see whether he can pay particular attention to the shortage of Holden spare parts to try to find out the reason for the shortage and whether some remedial action can be taken.
– I wish to direct a question to the Attorney-General because of his concern with human rights. Does he recall that this year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by members of the United Nations? Is he aware that one of the signatories, the Soviet Union, celebrated its ratification, in October of this year, with hundreds of new arrests and closed trials within its own borders and within the captive nations which the Soviet Union occupies? While this Senate has already expressed its view on the treatment of the Soviet Union’s own dissidents, I ask the Minister whether he is aware that a particularly brutal and repressive persecution by the Soviet Union is now taking place in the Ukraine. Will the Government sponsor a resolution at the United Nations requiring the Soviet Union to live up to its membership obligations by releasing all prisoners of conscience in the Ukraine and in other captive nations? Whilst I regard it as unreasonable to expect this Government to act as the moral policeman of the world at the United Nations, I ask: Will the Minister and his Government show at least as much interest in the welfare of the Ukrainian and other captive nations of whose people we have hundreds of thousands here as it does in the welfare of Rhodesian Africans of whom we have none?
– It is true that the Soviet Union was a signatory to the famous Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am not aware of the specific matters to which the honourable senator is referring. I know that there have been general allegations about such matters. It is not within my province to investigate them or, indeed, to comment on matters which are really matters of foreign affairs. I suggest, though, to the honourable senator that it might be appropriate for Australia to put its own house in order and for him to address his attention to some of the infringements of human rights that occur in Australia. The honourable senator referred to prisoners of conscience. Was he not a member of the previous Government which kept many young Australians in prison as prisoners of conscience, that is, those who refused to have anything to do with the disgraceful war in Vietnam?
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to a report at the weekend that the Minister for Overseas Trade stated that Australia might provide low interest loans for North Vietnam. I ask the Minister whether he has any information on this report. If it is correct, can he say whether there are any plans for such low interest loans. If so, what would their relationship be to other loans for rehabilitation, and redevelopment in South East Asian countries? If such loans are made will they be made at the expense of loans to other countries?
-Almost but not quite all Australian aid is given in the form of grants. We do not make loans. We give it and that is the end of it. So if the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, is talking about loans I take it that the matter has been raised with him in some special form. That would be not a complete departure but largely a departure from what we do. In relation to this question of aid to North Vietnam, if anything specific has been raised I am not really in a position to give any information until I talk to Dr Cairns about it. As the honourable senator knows our approach to the whole IndoChina situation is to give aid, irrespective of countries, when the war is at such a stage that we can give aid to them. As the honourable senator knows we are already giving aid to both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. In fact, we are giving aid to 4 countries to what extent we can. The only North Vietnamese aid that has gone forward so far is the aid I referred to yesterdaythat is, wool and roofing iron to the tune of $660,000. The budgeted amount for South Vietnam this year- we are rolling much better there because of our history- is about $4.5m. Historically we have been giving aid to this area for a long time. As for the question of loans, that would be a bit outside what we are doing. I really cannot tell the honourable senator very much until I talk specifically with Dr Cairns.
– I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to a report that the Vietcong has warned the Government of South Vietnam to pull its troops out of the border province of Quong Duc or face the consequences. The report continued by stating that the Vietcong had said that ‘all our military acts are aimed at punishing the Saigon administration for its acts on territory belonging to the People’s Revolutionary Council’. Does the Government accept this arrogant assumption by the Vietcong that it has rights over South Vietnamese territory?
-I have not seen the report to which Senator Sim alludes. I think that I have said before that it is tremendously difficult to prove any of these allegations in the situation in Vietnam. Both sides make allegations about breaking the ceasefire and so on. That happens not only in that area but throughout the world wherever there is conflict. We can only do what we can to insist that the Vietnamese go back to the Paris agreements and try to maintain them. There is a flimsy peace in that area at the moment and if it is broken the consequences will spread far beyond the 2 Vietnams. It undoubtedly will affect the Laotian situation and will make the peace position in Cambodia all the more dangerous. I am afraid it is not of very much good to take one side or the other, or to try to analyse every allegation that is made because the number runs into several thousands.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General and I refer to the case of Mr Leith Ratten who was convicted in August 1970 of the murder of his wife and sentenced to death. I might add that the sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of the circumstantial nature of the evidence which convicted Mr Ratten? Is he aware that 3 appeals were subsequently dismissed, one to the Victorian Full Court, one to the Privy Council, and one to a special sitting of the Victorian Full Court? Is he aware that there is still a widespread belief among some people in the innocence of Mr Ratten? Could the AttorneyGeneral have his Department look at Mr Ratten ‘s case and, if there seems to be any reasonable doubt existing after an extensive examination, is there any way in which the AttorneyGeneral could facilitate an appeal to the High Court? The Attorney will appreciate that I am not familiar with all the legal problems involved and I would appreciate his guidance on such a non-party-political matter.
-Certainly I will have the matter looked into. The honourable senator indicated that there had been a number of appeals. If there are some questions to be examined in relation to this case and if there may have been some miscarriage of justice-
– It is not within the federal sphere.
– If there may have been some miscarriage of justice with which my portfolio is concerned, I certainly will do what I can to assist. I am not sure of the circumstances as to whether there is any federal element involved in the case- I say that in answer to the interjection by Senator Wright- but Senator Kane having raised the matter I will look at it. I should say to the honourable senator that I had personal experience of a very famous case heard in our courts some time ago. Appeals in regard to it had been dismissed yet on a thorough investigation afterwards it was quite clear that the person should not have been convicted. It is extraordinary how circumstances sometimes are overlooked, even in the appeals which are held.
-I refer the AttorneyGeneral to advertisements appearing in the daily Press for legal officers to join legal service bureaus which are apparently intended by the Attorney-General to be set up to give advice and assistance to people in need and which are commonly known nowadays as storefront lawyer offices. Is this scheme provided for in the present Budget? What is the criterion of need? What form of assistance is to be given, in addition to advice? How does this policy fit in with the legal aid schemes which are already in existence in the various States and which are being funded by this Government under the present Budget to the extent of $2m?
-The legal service bureaus are being absorbed into an Australian legal aid office. It is intended that the Australian legal aid office give free legal advice on matters of Federal law to everyone in need and on matters of both Federal and State law to persons to whom the Australian Government has a special responsibility; for example, pensioners, exservicemen and newcomers to Australia. The scheme is additional to the assistance which is being given to the States, that is, to the legal aid services. They vary somewhat from State to State. That assistance was announced early this year. It is not quite clear how the precise demarcation between the legal aid bodies of the States, whether they are government ones or private ones, should be defined, because the system differs from State to State. An expert committee has been set up of which Mr Turner, a member of the Council of the Law Society of New South Wales and the Vice-President of the Law Council of Australia, is chairman. Other distinguished members include Professor, now Justice Wootten, Mr Heffernan, the Secretary of the Victorian Legal Aid Committee, and a number of others. The committee is examining the areas of need for the provision of legal assistance and advice, in particular the areas of need not covered by existing schemes; the means by which legal assistance and advice should be provided and in what areas that should be provided by a salaried legal service; and the means by which the finance for these schemes should be provided. It might be helpful to the Senate if I were to make a comprehensive statement on this matter, and I will endeavour to do that tomorrow.
One thing is clear. This matter is of great public importance. There is a deficiency in the provision of legal aid. Endeavours have been made by the States and by private individuals- by the storefront operations which I firmly support- but there are still great areas of need. While some money needs to be put into the system, while urgent help should be given and while some endeavours should be made to rationalise what is happening- that ought to be done forthwith- we ought to evolve a rational scheme in which there will be co-operation between the legal profession and a legal aid office. That is what I am hoping to do. The honourable senator’s advice and assistance would be welcome. Advice and assistance are being sought generally because the problem is a very difficult one. It has proved to be so in the United Kingdom, the United States, and no less so in Australia.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of the rumour which is current among residents who live in the vicinity of the Adelaide Airport that the South Australian Government has approached the Federal Minister seeking to have the Adelaide Airport declared an international airport? Is this a fact? Has this request been made? If it has, can the Minister say whether the Government is likely to agree?
-I know nothing about the rumour. I think it would be unprecedented if I tried to answer whether a rumour was correct. I know nothing at all about the matter.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the IATA group of international airlines have asked for a 6 per cent rise in fares, will the Government investigate the lavishness of these international airlines in the great reductions in fares which they give to members of domestic airlines staff, many of whom have nothing whatsoever to do with selling air travel, and their families and relatives? Does he not consider that this can be a lavishness in which seats are not being availed of by people who can pay for them, that is, the ordinary travellers? Also, will the Minister have the Government look into the generosity of these airlines in giving members of the Press and other members of the media free trips? The Minister might take into consideration the tightness of these airlines against people of the travel trade who have to go through a very fine sieve before they can obtain any concession at all.
-I think the question is really appropriate for the Minister for Transport or the Minister for Tourism and Recreation to answer. I will refer the matters to them for an answer to be given to the honourable senator.
-Does the Leader of the Government accept as a fundamental constitutional principle that there is in a government of our type a unity whereby the actions and speeches of any one member are speeches and actions on behalf of the Government? Do the actions of Dr Cairns in apologising to North Vietnam and in accepting hospitality from the subversionists of South Vietnam receive the approval of the Government or are they considered as personal predilections of Dr Cairns himself?
-I think that governments generally accept responsibility for the statements which have been made by members of the Ministry when speaking on behalf of the Government. Otherwise we would get the kind of dreadful disunity which characterised the previous Government when its members were all at odds and evens and fought with one another. One can think of the dreadful business between the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister in the previous Government, and all the other matters. Month in and month out all the members of the previous Government were doing was attacking one another and undermining one another and doing the most dreadful things. I agree that no government could survive under those conditions, and that attitude helped to bring down the previous Government.
-May I for the first time in my experience ask a supplementary question?
– I will allow a supplementary question if it is to elucidate a matter which arose from your primary question.
-Yes. No doubt it is not intentional but purely by inadvertence that the Leader of the Government overlooked answering the question as to whether Dr Cairns’ apology to North Vietnam and the acceptance of hospitality from the subversionists of South Vietnam were accepted by the Government as actions on behalf of the Government or whether they were personal predilections of Dr Cairns?
-I have not read of what Dr Cairns has said. The honourable senator no doubt has read something and may be in a better position than I am to make his own views. Dr Cairns is overseas as a Minister representing the Government. I think, in answer to a question yesterday, I indicated that when a Minister speaks in the course of his office he is speaking on behalf of the Government. There may be indications sometimes, from what a Minister says or from the context of his statement, that a Minister is speaking in some personal capacity. I am not aware of the particular circumstances. If the Government has anything further to add on the matter, I will have it brought to the attention of the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I refer with concern to the expressed intention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide post office services at Outer Harbour in Adelaide only at such times as passenger ships are berthed there. As Outer Harbour is South Australia’s front door for shipping, will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General to reconsider his decision and maintain at least those services currently provided, in keeping with the State’s provision of a world-class terminal?
– I am not immediately aware of the matter to which Senator Laucke refers in his question, but I know that whilst he was a member of one of the Senate Estimates Committees he received information through me from the Postmaster-General as to the reasons why certain post offices were being changed from official to non-official status or, in the case of non-official post offices, were being phased out completely. The matter generally relates to the economic viability of providing post office services, and I assume that the decision arrived at in relation to providing post office services at Outer Harbour in Adelaide involved the question of the frequency of services. However, I will take up the matter with my colleague the Postmaster-General and provide a more detailed reply for the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister for the Media: What is the present position of the recently announced Cabinet decision to set up an Australian Film Commission with various functions, including those carried out so successfully so far by the Australian Film Development Corporation. While this may possibly be a good overall decision, I ask the Minister to give an assurance that the functions of the Australian Film Development Corporation will be adequately carried out by the new body and that the highly skilled and experienced personnel of the Corporation will not be prejudiced in regard to employment, salary or status by the change.
Following the report of the Tariff Board, which was commissioned by the McMahon Government, as to what the Tariff Board considered should be done to place the Australian film and television programming industry on a more viable economic basis, the Australian Government has now decided, having considered the Tariff Board’s report, to establish an Australian Film Commission, and in so doing it will propose to the Parliament legislation which will repeal the Australian Film Development Corporation Act of 1970. Under the proposed legislation it is intended that the Australian Film Commission will have a much wider ambit than the restrictive ambit afforded to the Australian Film Development Corporation under the Gorton Government’s legislation of 1970. The staffing arrangements of the new Commission are a matter for further discussion between me as the Minister for the Media, my colleague the Treasurer and the Public Service Board. Staffing matters also will become part and parcel of the legislation. I assume that most, if not all, of the officers of the Australian Film Development Corporation are employed under the terms of the Public Service Act, and they will therefore be entitled to the general protection provisions of that Act.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is correct that the extra leave granted by the Government to Commonwealth public servants will cost $27m this year. If this is so, why is the Government prepared to give an extra $2 7m for holidays to its public servants when it is not prepared to give an extra $5m for the education of children in this country?
-I understand that the figure of $27m is not the correct figure for this year, but rather that it is the figure for a full year. I suppose that the amount involved would be approximately half of that figure. I do not know; I may be in error. I suppose it depends when the leave is taken. The honourable senator asks why this practice is being followed. The information that I have been given by the Minister for Repatriation who represents the Minister for Labour is that this practice has been followed by South Australia and Queensland and it has been promised by the Premier of New South Wales. It is one of those terms and conditions of service which have become accepted as normal. I do not think there is any reason to drag into a question on this matter the red herring of the payment of extra amounts of money to those schools which the Karmel Committee report dealt with and in relation to which it said such payments were not justified.
-Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs think it a viable economic proposition to lend money to a country on a long term basis and at low interest rates in order to facilitate that country’s purchase of goods from the lender? Is the policy so enunciated by Dr J. F. Cairns in North Vietnam in that regard the policy of the Government? If this policy is put into operation, does it mean that the Government condones the continuous and repeated aggression by North Vietnam against its neighbours?
– In answering a question earlier today I said that I was not sure what Dr Cairns had said about this matter. I said also that our general approach to the question of aid is to give it in grant form and not in loan form. We are probably one of the leading countries in following this practice. We think that overall it is the best course. I think both the previous Government and this Government have found that it works out better when aid is given in that form. The honourable senator asks whether what is suggested is sound economics. I do not know; it is a fairly hypothetical question. If the North Vietnamese mentioned the question of loans in their discussions on aid with Dr Cairns- I am sure that the question of aid would have come up because it has come up before; I have talked to them about it- this is a matter about which I would have to talk to Dr Cairns. The honourable senator said something about aggression in his question. As I have said, the matter of aid is not being related at all to what is going on in the area or to the type of government with which we are dealing. If the peace breaks down altogether then the giving of aid will become impossible and the North Vietnamese will be the worse off for it. But aid will not be used as a political weapon at any time while this Government is in office.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware of a suggestion made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Norman Kirk, that the Australian Government and other countries in the area, together with New Zealand, should combine to form a South Pacific Parliamentary
Council in order to assist underdeveloped countries in the South Pacific. Has the matter been considered by the Australian Government? If so, what is the attitude of the Australian Government to such a suggestion?
-Undoubtedly any suggestion made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand would be given great consideration by the Australian Government. The matter has not yet been formally considered by the Government.
– This question is supplementary to the question I asked previously of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, which I claim was not answered. The substantive part of my question asked whether it is a fact that the South Australian Government has approached the Minister for Transport with a request that the new Adelaide Airport be declared an international airport and, if so, whether the Government intends to agree with that request.
– I must have misunderstood the previous question asked by the honourable senator. I thought he asked whether I could verify a rumour that was going around, and I said that I could not. Perhaps I mistook the main part of the question. There have been negotiations over a period of some years on the question of the Adelaide Airport. I do not know what stage they have reached or whether there has been any recent approach by the South Australian Government. I will make inquiries and let the honourable senator know.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I refer to a question which I asked him, I think last week, concerning advertisements in the daily Press outlining the new citizenship laws. I would now like to know whether the Minister has obtained the information that I then requested.
– On 4 December Senator Durack asked me a question concerning the new Australian citizenship laws. My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, has now provided me with some details in reply to the honourable senator.
- Senator Douglas McClelland, the reply to that question can be incorporated in Hansard with answers to questions upon notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that the regulations in relation to the use of 2-way radios on small craft will require that as from the end of this year only single sideband radios may be installed but that at the moment there is a shortage of those radios, the cost of them being 4 times as great as the cost of the double sideband radios? Is the Minister aware that the almost inevitable consequence of the enforcement of the present proposition will be a reduction in the usage of radios in small craft with a consequent reduction in the possible safety provided by the use of these radios? Will the Government reconsider the decision?
– I understand that the arrangement to convert from double sideband to single sideband radios was made by the previous Government some considerable time ago. It was made as a result of an arrangement that was entered into by the previous Government on an international basis. Therefore, the present Government is, as it were, reaping the harvest of seeds sown by the previous administration. I understand that there is a phasing out operation. I am speaking just from recollection on the matter.
– It is 1978.
– I understand that there is to be a phasing out operation. The President says that it is 1978. 1 thought that it was 1977. Therefore, over that period of time I will ask my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, to have a look at this matter.
– I draw the attention of the Attorney-General to the fact that there are a number of questions on the notice paper directed to him that have been there since April of this year. In particular, I draw his attention to one asked by myself on 1 1 April 1 973 which asks:
What is the official procedure for the declassification of official matters?
What is the difficulty in answering that question?
-I will look into the matter of whether the question should be answered. The question is a very wide one.
– No, it is not.
– It is a very wide one. If the honourable senator simply wants the question answered in the same wide terms, it would be easy enough to do that.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Customs Bill 1973. Pay-Roil Tax Assessment Bill 1973. Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 4) 1973. Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1973. Income Tax Bill 1973.
Income Tax (Non-Resident Dividends and Interest) Bill 1973.
States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) 1 973.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report entitled ‘Recommendations for an Australian Response to Drug Use Problems’.
-For the information of honourable senators I present a report from the Interim Committee of the National Hospitals and health services commission entitled ‘A Medical Rehabilitation Program for Australia’.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Citizenship Act 1948-1969, I present the annual return of persons granted certificates of Australian Citizenship for the year ended 30 June 1 973.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the States Grants (Preschool Teachers Colleges) Act 1968-1972, 1 present a statement of payments authorised under the Act during the financial year 1972-73 and projects in relation to which the payments have been authorised.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the States Grants (Teachers Colleges) Act 1970, 1 present a statement setting out the payments that have been authorised under this Act during the financial year 1972-73 and specifying the projects in relation to which the payments have been so authorised.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Tariff Board on brandy. The Government has accepted the Board ‘s recommendations.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the pleadings, oral arguments and orders relating to the first phase of the nuclear tests case in the proceedings brought by Australia in the International Court of Justice. The papers appear in 3 volumes. Volume 1 sets forth the application by which the proceedings were instituted. Volume 2 sets forth the pleadings and oral arguments seeking interim measures of protection against further atmospheric testing in the South Pacific area, and the Court’s order of 22 June 1973 granting interim measures of protection. Volume 3 deals with the application by Fiji to intervene in the proceedings,
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1969,I present a statement containing particulars of the guarantees that have been given under this Act during the year ended 30 June 1973 and payments made under any guarantee given under this Act.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act 1971,I present a statement of schools assisted under the Act for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– I present for the information of honourable senators a report entitled ‘Report On Roads In Australia- 1973’ prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in compliance with section 14 (a) of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1 964.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the interim report of the River Murray Working Party, dated September 1973.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963-1970, I present the forty-seventh annual report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board for the year ended 31 December 1972, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
Motion (by Senator McManus) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator McManus moving a motion relating to the order of business on the notice paper.
Motion (by Senator McManus) agreed to:
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of general business, order of the day No. 16, for the second reading of the National Health Bill (No. 3) 1973.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leaveagreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to establish a legislative drafting institute.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish in Australia a Legislative Drafting Institute. The problem of ensuring the availability of an adequate number of experienced and capable legislative draftsmen has been one that has troubled this country, along with most other countries, for a long time. The growing complexity of society exacerbates this problem. That this Parliament has been able to enact so many laws has been due in the main to the dedication of a small number of able men. There is no need for me to impress on honourable senators that good Government requires good laws and that good laws are dependent on the availability of legal draftsmen with sufficient skills and experience to enable the Government of the day to express its policies in appropriate legislation.
A step towards meeting the Australian Parliament’s problems was taken in 1970 when the Parliament enacted the Parliamentary Counsel Act 1970. This legislation established a separate Office of Parliamentary Counsel and provided for the top 3 positions in the Office to be statutory offices. A further step was taken by myself earlier this year when I separated the function of drafting Bills for the Parliament from the function of drafting ordinances, regulations and subordinate instruments, and transferred the latter function from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to the Attorney-General’s Department. The separation has proved in practice a great success and Parliament has had presented to it during 1973 more Bills than in any other year in its history. At the same time, the drafting of the ordinances and regulations has proceeded with great efficiency.
Nevertheless, there are insufficient trained draftsmen available to handle all the demandsindeed, the ever-increasing demands- that are made upon the resources. More needs to be done to ensure that there will be a continuing flow of draftsmen to meet the requirements both of the Parliament and in respect of subordinate legislation. To this end, the Government proposes by this Bill to establish a Legislative Drafting Institute that will be the instrument of meeting this need. The need for providing a flow of draftsmen capable of adequately dealing with the demands is not by any means confined to the Australian Government and Parliament. The States have similar problems. It is proposed that the Legislative Drafting Institute will assist the States, as well as the Australian Government and Parliament, to meet their needs.
There is, however, a further vital purpose that the institute will serve. This is assistance to other countries, particularly the less developed countries, in meeting the difficulties they have had for many years. During the conference of Commonwealth Law Ministers in New Delhi in January 1971 the urgent need for action in the legislative drafting field was stressed by representatives of a number of countries. But no practical solution was seen to the problem. When the Law Ministers met in London in January of this year, the question was again raised and the Ministers of several countries pointed to the acute situation in their own cases and appealed for help. The difficulty was not whether the more developed countries were prepared to help, but how they could help, in a context where they were themselves experiencing considerable difficulty in keeping pace with the legislative work of thenown parliaments and governments.
During the London discussions, impressed by the need for action to be taken to ensure an adequate supply of legislative draftsmen for Australia and to provide assistance to other countries, I announced that Australia would establish a legislative drafting institute to provide training courses. There was already in existence one small institute established for this purpose- that in Ottawa under the leadership of a very distinguished former Parliamentary Counsel of Canada, Dr Elmer Driedger, Q.C. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know that Dr Driedger is at present in the gallery of this chamber. Dr Driedger’s Institute could accommodate only some 8 persons at a given time and was consequently able to offer only very limited assistance to other countries. The institute that is to be established by the Bill will provide assistance to other countries, as well as to the States and ourselves. Of course, the number of persons who can be included in the courses at a given time will necessarily be limited because of the need for intense personal training. Legislative drafting is a practical vocation which cannot be developed simply by lecturing or mass production.
From what I have said, honourable senators will see that the establishment of the institute will help ourselves, the States and other countries in need of assistance. The Institute will do this by providing instruction and training in legislative drafting as provided in paragraph (a) of clause 5 of the Bill. It will essentially be a body providing post-graduate instruction. Legislative drafting is a skill which experience has shown is best acquired by persons already qualified as legal practitioners, especially those who have had some practical experience in legal work subsequent to attaining their qualifications. In the case of persons from other countries, a good command of the English language will be essential if benefit is to be obtained from the available courses.
Another vital function of the Institute will be to foster interest in and encourage suitably qualified persons to enter the profession of legislative drafting. This is vital to ensure a continuous flow of persons to legislative drafting. The profession must be seen to be- as indeed it is- a challenging vocation that offers satisfying rewards in participation in the vital activities of government. An ancillary function that the Institute will engage in is the undertaking of research into methods and techniques used in legislative drafting with a view to the improvement of those methods and techniques and the development of new techniques. I am hopeful that the participation of State lawyers in the Institute will ultimately result in more uniform drafting practices between the States and the Commonwealth.
The Institute will be under the control of a Director appointed by the Governor-General. The Director will be a statutory officer whose appointment will be for a term not exceeding 7 years. The Bill makes other usual provisions in Part III in relation to the terms and conditions of office of the Director and of an Acting Director.
It is proposed that the staff required for the purpose of the Institute will be appointed by the Director, with the approval of the AttorneyGeneral. The terms and conditions of employment of members of the staff will be as determined from time to time by the Director with the approval of the Attorney-General, but in determining the conditions of members performing duties comparable with a class of Public Service officers, the Director is to have regard to the conditions applicable to those officers. In addition to the ordinary full time staff required for the Institute, clause 27 of the Bill confers on the Director, with the approval of the Attorney-General, power to arrange for persons with knowledge or experience in legislative drafting or other relevant matters to assist in the performance of the functions of the Institute. What is in mind, of course, is assistance on a part time or casual basis from such persons as Parliamentary Counsel or former Parliamentary Counsel of the Commonwealth or a State, eminent members of the legal profession, university lecturers and distinguished experts from other countries who may be visiting Australia.
The Bill makes provision in Part IV for the finances of the Institute. Moneys for the purposes of the Institute will be appropriated by the Parliament from time to time. The Part includes usual provisions to ensure proper control of expenditure and requires accounts to be kept, and for them to be audited by the AuditorGeneral.
I believe we can achieve both for ourselves and, at least on a limited scale, for our friends overseas a great stimulation of interest in the profession of legislative drafting and valuable training of lawyers in the art of legislative drafting so that they can return to, or embark upon, their careers in legislative drafting with an awareness of the problems they will face, of the means of solving those problems and of the policy and objects to follow in shaping the legislation they are called upon to draft. To this, of course, must be added practical experience in the field, for it is only by experience that the draftsman can become fully equipped to meet the demands made upon him. The Institute will play a part, in this significant experiment in Australian l egal history, in training Australian and other lawyers in the vital role of legislative draftsmen. Apart from training, the Institute will serve to improve standards of legislative expression, to simplify the statement of the law and thereby to make the law more certain and more understandable to the persons affected by it.
I am sure that honourable senators on both sides of the Senate will join with me in their approval of this measure. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill will establish a Hospitals and Health Services Commission. The Commission will study Australian health care needs and make recommendations to the Government on the allocation of capital and operating funds for the development and maintenance of health care delivery systems in Australia. The need to set up this Commission is based on the recognition that a high standard of health care is one of the fundamental rights of every Australian, and that the Australian Government must accept its full responsibility in this regard. It is our belief that health is a family affair and a community affair and that communities must look beyond the person who is sick in bed or who is in need of medical attention. The need for health services begins at birth and continues throughout our lives. In the past the emphasis in the delivery of health care has been on the provision of curative rather than preventive health and rehabilitation services. As an initial step it is the aim of this Government to correct this imbalance by encouraging the rapid expansion and co-ordination of community health services.
The Government has committed itself to a policy of promoting the regionalisation and modernisation of hospitals, linked with the development of community based health services and preventive health programs. It is interested in the full range of services, facilities and funding arrangements required to promote a high standard of health. To make an immediate start on the work envisaged for the Commission, an Interim Committee on Hospitals and Health Services was appointed within the Department of Health soon after this Government took office. This Committee has already undertaken studies and made recommendations to the Government. As a result of those recommendations positive action has been taken to improve the health services of this country.
It will be a feature of the Commission’s examination of health needs for Australia to consult with the many authorities and organisations in Australia with deep interests in health care. And, of course, the Commission will have to rely heavily on the support that these bodies can give the Commission m ascertaining the existence and state of health services throughout the nation. As a practical example of this type of consultation and co-operation, the Commission is presently examining the hospital facilities position in Australia and is being actively assisted by such bodies as the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, the Australian College of Medical Administrators, the Australian Hospitals Association, the Australian Institute of Hospital Administrators, the Australian Department of Health, the Bureau of Census and Statistics and the Health authorities in participating States.
I would mention that earlier this year the Interim Committee invited, by advertisements in the Press, submissions and comments from bodies and persons. Over 600 submissions have already been received. This is a firm basis for commencement of the Commission’s work and I believe that many more submissions are yet to be lodged. The Interim Committee’s first report ‘A Community Health Program for Australia’ was tabled in the Senate on 31 May last. This report has been exceptionally well received by health administrators in this country. That program has been endorsed by the Government and a sum of $10m was allocated in this year’s Budget to meet capital and net operating costs of approved community health projects in 1973-74. The program should provide the required impetus for the establishment of much needed, but often overlooked, community based health services and should encourage communities and regions to examine their own needs and priorities and to express them to the relevant health authorities.
To date, assistance totalling $9m has already been approved under the community health program. This program is an indication of the enthusiasm and earnestness of the Interim Committee in tackling its responsibilities, and indicates the wholehearted approach and the concern for the health care of the Australian people that the Commission will bring to bear on its tasks. The sum of $ 10m has been appropriated this year within the Department of Health appropriations. It is intended that the Department of Health will be implementing the program of approved projects and be expending the moneys on Australia’s behalf. Following the passage of this legislation through the Australian Parliament I expect that payments to States and organisations can be speedily arranged and the full allocation of $ 10m spent by 30 June 1974.
The Interim Committee has also been busy on other fronts. It recognised quickly that its own efforts were not enough but that it was necessary to encourage all administrations within the health services community, to plan, research and evaluate their activities. The Government has provided funds of Sim a year and has given to the Interim Committee the overall co-ordinating role for an initial 3-year program for health services planning and research.
Australia will continue to suffer from periodic shortages of various health professionals until a systematic approach is developed which anticipates requirements in the various skills to enable training facilities to adjust accordingly, which studies imbalances in the distribution of personnel and which generally ensures that they are being both trained and used effectively. A special committee, which it is intended will report directly to the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, is already starting to examine some of these problems. As a first step in ensuring a high quality regionalised and rationalised hospital system across the nation, the survey of the Australian hospital system will focus on areas in which there are shortfalls of facilities and equipment. In the even shorter term, there is a need to remedy acute hospital shortages which exist in a number of areas throughout Australia, and the Government has already provided funds for an immediate start in developing additional hospital facilities in hospital-deprived suburban areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Meanwhile, the Interim Committee has involved itself with plans for accreditation of health facilities and services, and it has recommended that funds be provided to the Australian Hospitals Standards Committee for a draft plan for a scheme for accreditation of Australian hospitals for consideration by the Commission. The Interim Committee is co-operating on this Australian Hospitals Standards Committee with the Australian Hospital Association and the Australian Medical Association.
This Bill establishes the Hospitals and Health Services Commission on a permanent and sound legal basis, enumerates its functions and gives it all the powers necessary to enable it to operate effectively. The Commission will consist of 3 full time commissioners, including the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, and between 4 and 9 part time commissioners. The period of appointment of full time Commissioners is up to 7 years, part time Commissioners up to 3 years. Its staff will be employed under the Public Service Act. The functions of the Commission in general terms are: (a) to make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the provision of health services by the Department of Health; (b) to ascertain the health care needs of the Australian community and to make recommendations to the Minister in respect of those needs; (c) with the approval of the Minister, to make grants, including conditional grants, to government bodies, persons or organisations engaged in health care or research into health care; (d) to investigate means of securing and, with the approval of the Minister, arrange for, representation of Australia or the Commission on governmental bodies involved in health care; (e) to promote and take part in planning in relation to health services; (f) to promote the provision of adequate health services; (g) to review health care delivery systems and recommend changes to States, organisations or persons concerned with those systems; (h) to undertake such other functions in relation to health care as the Minister approves. The Commission is given adequate powers to allow it to perform its functions, including the power to hold private and public inquiries, and to engage outside consultants.
Honourable senators will note that the Bill contains provisions to ensure the confidentiality of information on the affairs of individuals which may be acquired in the course of the Commission’s operations. Establishment of the Commission is yet another step in the Government’s progress toward a total approach to the nation’s health care needs. The Interim Committee has already more than demonstrated its capacity for hard work and sound responsible judgment and recommended the means of tackling some of the inadequacies in our health care system. However, what has been achieved has also served to illustrate how much remains to be done. High quality health services do not just happen. Health care needs must be identified and services must be planned and financed in a co-ordinated manner. The establishment of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission by this Bill will ensure the continuation of the identification of those needs and provide the apparatus for planning and co-ordinating the resources necessary for their fulfilment. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– I move:
I mention that there has been some discussion with the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) about this Bill. Other health matters are to be debated later today. I understand that the Minister will move that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I indicate that I have had a discussion with Senator Rae about the matter. The resumption of the debate is being made an order of the day for a later hour of the day subject to the Senate being able to transact the business which it has on the notice paper. Therefore I have moved that the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2 p.m.
– I move:
Copies of the second reading speech are being distributed to honourable senators. I do not propose to wait for the copies to be distributed as I have no doubt that honourable senators will be able to follow what I am saying. The purpose of this Bill, expressed in its simplest terms, is to remove all barriers to the provision of a first-class health care cover to every Australian regardless of means. It also aims to preserve the dignity of the Australian people, their total freedom of choice in medical and hospital care, their personal privacy and to maintain the present quality of Australian health care which is recognised as being as high as any existing in the world. The decision to submit these amendments to the present National Health Act was made to solve the crisis that emanates from the proposals to dismantle the accepted scheme and replace it with one arousing hostility and causing predictably much higher costs to many subscribers.
The present Act has operated with general cooperation by all sections of the medical and health professions but has revealed serious deficiencies in its cover and operation. The present scheme disadvantages some people in the community, mainly low income earners, especially those with large families and pensioners, who presently receive what can only be regarded as a second-class health service. On the other hand there is Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, the architect of the Government’s proposed health scheme. The Minister sees no virtues at all in the present Act. Indeed, his principle accusation against it is: ‘A million people are not covered and they are the poor people’. In the Minister’s view, therefore, the current Act must be destroyed. In its place there is to be an entirely new, compulsory, tax-based health scheme, under a new nationalised health care bureaucracy.
For 12 months, the Minister has engaged in a massive propaganda attempt to bludgeon all sections of the medical and hospital professions into accepting his scheme. This he has signally failed to achieve. The past year has been notable for the continual divisiveness and rancour of the Minister’s attacks on the medical and hospital professions for their failure to become willing slaves. For their part, the very people, whose professional expertise is essential to the success of any national health scheme, have expressed their continued resentment and fears of the Minister’s health proposals. How on earth can the Minister expect his scheme to succeed, when he has deliberately provoked dissension with all the highly skilled groups that are required to make it work?
The average Australian is confused and apprehensive; he suffers the weaknesses of the existing National Health Act but seriously wonders whether the Minister’s plan, in the face of bitter medical and hospital opposition, will not create greater problems and, indeed, lead to a chaos that could destroy him completely. This Bill is presented as a positive solution to the crisis. We seek to amend extensively the present National Health Act in order to eliminate the weaknesses in the voluntary scheme and to extend its coverage to the low-income single earner, to those with larger families, to pensioners, to newly arrived migrants and to aborigines.
This Bill clearly opts for a voluntary health insurance scheme, as against a compulsory, taxbased one. The Austraiian Democratic Labor Party believes that the present voluntary scheme, whatever its weaknesses, enjoys several substantial advantages. It is a unique 3-way partnership of patient, voluntary non-profit funds and the Government. Its costs are restrained and personal responsibility is retained, because the financial burden is partly borne by the patients themselves; cases of hardship attract Government subsidy; real freedom of choice exists in the selection of one’s doctor and private hospitalsboth religious and charitable- retain their freedom to contribute substantially to a dual system of hospital care. In other words, the DLP believes that, given support by the Government and the other Opposition Parties, this Bill will provide fully adequate medical and hospital care, in which the patient is guaranteed his personal freedom and the maintenance of the present high standard of health in Australia.
We believe that the Government’s divisive, unnecessary and very costly health proposals are too high a price to pay for a controversial new scheme of health cover for the 90-odd per cent of the community who are adequately covered already. It is interesting to note that, if one takes account of the free medical and hospital attention given to repatriation patients and service personnel, together with the free outpatient treatment and public ward accommodation provided in Queensland’s public hospitals, or as outpatients, some 96 per cent of the Australian population has medical coverage and 97 per cent has hospital coverage.
The Minister’s constant references to ‘the million not covered at present’ take no account of the number of people in Queensland who, because they have a free hospital system available to them, see no need to take out private insurance. For this reason, 596,000 Queenslanders have taken out no hospital cover and 550,000 have no medical insurance. In fact, if we include the 10.3 per cent of people covered by the pensioner medical service, the subsidised health benefits, the 2 per cent covered by repatriation benefits and the 0.6 per cent covered by the Australian defence forces medical care, there are at present 1,700,800 people- representing 12.9 per cent of the population- who have cover outside the non-profit medical funds. As only less than 3 per cent of the total population is uncovered at all for hospital treatment and less than 4 per cent for medical care, the logical step is surely to extend the coverage of the present scheme to 100 per cent, instead of scrapping it entirely, in favour of a huge tax-based controversial national compulsory scheme.
This Bill will eliminate the need for drastic, disruptive legislation. It seeks to strengthen 2 areas of weakness in the present scheme. The subsidised health benefits scheme was originally introduced to provide cover without cost to people in the very low income groups, arriving migrants and the unemployed. Unfortunately too little effort has been made to ensure that the provisions of the subsidised health benefits scheme are kept in line with the needs of those sections of the community this scheme is designed to serve. For example, the income level at which low income earners become eligible for subsidised health benefits is below what is just in the present high inflation situation. But the subsidised health benefits scheme has further gross inadequacies. It does not, for example, cover single low income earners. It disregards the special problems of large families on low incomes, because assistance is pegged to family units of 2 persons. It makes no provision for automatic adjustment to meet the problems of inflation. It is unnecessarily cumbersome and costly in its administration. Under clause 16 of the DLP Bill the subsidised health benefits scheme would be widened to include single people on low incomes. The tapered assistance to low-income beneficiaries would be discontinued and full assistance provided to all eligible persons, whose eligibility would be determined by the number of dependants in the family, as recommended by the Nimmo Committee. Our Bill would also streamline the present complex administrative arrangements for the subsidised health benefits scheme by replacing the Commonwealth reimbursement of benefits and substituting the payment of contributions to the fund of the subsidised health benefits scheme beneficiary’s choice. Clause 13 provides that waiting periods for all subsidised health benefits scheme beneficiaries would be waived in respect of medical and public ward benefits, and the beneficiaries would continue, should they wish, to insure themselves for hospital benefits, in excess of the public ward level, at their own expense.
Finally, under this Bill, the Commonwealth would enter into negotiations with the State governments for an alternative arrangement to the subsidised health benefits scheme which would be more suitable to the special needs of tribal Aborigines. The DLP believes that pensioners should enjoy the same type of medical care as is enjoyed by the rest of the community. At present, the pensioner medical service is limited to general practitioner services and provides no cover for the full range of services which insured patients and subsidised health benefits scheme beneficiaries enjoy. It is, in fact, a restricted and second-class medical service. Any pensioner who seeks a surgeon of his or her own choice, by electing to go into private or intermediate hospital accommodation, is automatically excluded from all benefits and has to carry the whole cost of the hospital and medical bills. On the other hand, any other low-income person receiving subsidised health benefits may go into private or intermediate hospital accommodation and incur only the difference in cost between his public ward entitlement and the hospital charges. He is also covered for medical benefits. This is a gross injustice that should be remedied.
A major objective of this Bill, which is contained in clause 6, is to end this situation by phasing out the pensioner medical service and bringing those pensioners who desire it under the extended provisions of the subsidised health benefits scheme. Despite the Minister’s claim that this move would disadvantage pensioners, our Bill would provide low-income pensioners with the opportunity of upgrading their health care to the level of that enjoyed by all other members of the community. Under the present pensioner medical service the Government is bulk billed’ by participating doctors. By replacing this system with the ‘reimbursement system’, over-servicing and over-utilisation would be effectively contained, with consequent savings to the Government. State hospitals would also be assisted by the inclusion of pensioners in the subsidised health benefits as they would receive the normal daily bed charges for pensioner patients in heu of the current $5 per day.
One problem unresolved by the present and previous governments has been the unpredictability of medical fees. The resulting openended commitments have created great problems in the financial management of national health schemes. Medical fees and charges are not simply of concern only to the medical profession. Medical benefits and the accountability of governments are also involved. This Bill, in clause 24, provides for the establishment by the Minister of a Medical Fees and Benefits Advisory Committee, which at its establishment and, at intervals of not more than 3 years, shall inquire into and make recommendations to the Minister concerning the basic Commonwealth medical benefit, and, in respect of each State, the fund benefit and the specified excess that in the opinion of the Committee are reasonable, in respect of the professional services, to which the items in the Schedule relate.
The Committee’s Chairman shall be a Presidential member of the Arbitration Commission and, of its two other members, one shall be appointed by the Minister from a panel of three submitted by the Australian Medical Association and the other from a similar panel submitted by the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia. For inquiry purposes, this Committee may seek the assistance of 2 doctors as assessors, nominated similarly by the AMA and the VHIAA. The Government’s interest would be preserved by the fact that it would have the last word on whether Commonwealth or fund benefits would be increased, and the people would be represented by the Chairman. Existing machinery already provides for a registration committee to approve benefits, and the Commonwealth itself has the right to decide what the matching benefits shall be.
I stress that the DLP is prepared to be quite flexible as regards the Committee. We would consider, and indeed welcome, suggestions from the Government and its health experts on ways to improve the Committee’s functions and composition. The Bill does not attempt to deal in great detail with the areas of paramedical services and health provisions for the elderly, invalids and semi-invalids. We offer this Bill as a practical solution of the present health impasse. We invite both the support and constructive criticisms of the Government and the Opposition parties. We hope that the Government, through its professional advisers, would offer suggestions on how best to extend its cover to the specialist fields I have mentioned.
I have not attempted at this stage to discuss the costs involved in the DLP’s scheme. Obviously, any attempt to ensure that all Australians receive adequate medical and hospital cover must cost more than the present system. But our Bill has been carefully costed. This reveals, as I shall discuss at a later stage of the debate, that its financial implementations would be significantly lower than the Minister’s own scheme. At this stage, I wish merely to explain the Bill ‘s principal features and to stress its purpose, which is to provide adequate health cover to all Australians, especially the elderly, the under-privileged and the disadvantaged. I invite the support of all parties in the Senate to enable this BUI to go forward as the real solution to the on-going health debate and the health crisis which faces Australia today. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Consideration of House of Representatives message.
– I move:
That the Committee does not insist on the amendments of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has insisted on disagreeing and makes further amendments to the Bill consequent upon the rejection of its amendments as follows:
In clause 13, before sub-clause (1), insert the following sub-clause- ( 1A) In the performance of its functions, the Commission shall consult and co-operate with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting non-government schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary.’.
In clause 13, after ‘Australia’ insert- and the need for ensuring that the facilities provided in all schools in Australia, whether government or nongovernment, are of the highest standard ‘.
In clause 13, after paragraph 3 (a), insert the following paragraph- (aa) the prior right of parents to choose whether their children are educated at a government school or at a nongovernment school; ‘.
In clause 13, leave out sub-clause (4), insert the following sub-clause-
For the purpose of the performance of its functions, the Commission may undertake, or cause to be undertaken, such research as it thinks necessary into matters that relate to the functions of the Commission. ‘.
In clause 16, leave out sub-clause (2), insert the following sub-clause-
A Board shall consist of such persons, whether members of the Commission or not, as, subject to and in accordance with the regulations, the Minister appoints. ‘.
In clause 16, leave out ‘as are from time to time determined by the Minister’, insert ‘ as are prescribed ‘.
It is not my intention to speak at length on these amendments. I suggest, if it is the wish of the Opposition, that all of the amendments be taken in toto.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that all of the amendments be taken in toto?
– No. I suggest that amendments No. 1 and 2 be taken together, that amendment No. 3 be taken separately, and that amendments No. 4, 5 and 6 be taken together.
– Is there any objection? There being no objection, that course will be followed. The immediate question is: That the amendments No. 1 and 2 be agreed to.
-The Liberal Party in Opposition will not support the motion moved by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) that this chamber does not pursue the amendments which the Senate has made. As is well known, there has been a very full debate in relation to this matter. The reasons why our amendments should be made in the interests of the development of a successful Schools Commission have been put, and I do not think it is of advantage for us to repeat them in detail. However, I do make these points: We see the Schools Commission as having a function in relation to the education of every child in Australia. We see it as having a function in relation to children attending single schools or who are within systems which are conducted by the Commonwealth Government, by State governments and by independent authorities.
We regard it as of fundamental importance that there be an involvement in the Schools Commission by the people who are concerned with those systems. We see it as of vital importance that there is an involvement in the Commission at the community level of parents, teachers, and people in some of the special areas of education. We wish to see that it is not left to the total discretion of the Minister, whoever he may be from time to time, to say: ‘I shall appoint so and so to the Commission’, without regard to these basic principles which we believe will make for a more successful Schools Commission and a better development of education in Australia.
Having said that, I want to refer also to one or two of the specific points. We wish to see that the Schools Commission, which we believe has been unfortunately titled, has regard primarily to the interests of students, of pupils, and not of schools as institutions. The whole tendency in this Government’s approach to the question of education has been to look at it from the point of view of the creation of and the interests of the institution which children attend. We believe that it is the children in education who are important, and not the institutions. We believe that it is important that adequate funds should be made available in the interests of those students.
To categorise education on the basis of the interests of the school as an institution rather than the pupil gives, I think, an interesting indication of the basic approach and attitude of the Government. It is not interested in giving each child in Australia an opportunity as an individual member of a free society to be able to obtain an education as an individual. What the Government wants to build up, as it has done in so many other areas of government, is a system in which you can have peas out of a pod. This is what the argument has been all about. This is why the Liberal Party stands by the principle that there should be within the Schools Commission and other areas of education a basic attention to the rights of the individual member of the Australian society, that the whole of the legislation should be drawn with that in mind, and that the interests of individuals rather than institutions and political parties should be looked to.
We find at various times great emphasis both in these amendments and in other places on the Government’s needs policy. We have had it suggested that the Opposition has not been mindful of the Government’s needs policy. The Government has never even defined its needs policy. How could we be mindful of it? This expression is used in a sloppy way by people who do not think about what is involved in real needs in education but who like a jazzy slogan which is a good shorthand way of saying something that might sound good to people who do not think about it. What are the needs of education in Australia? The Karmel Committee drew attention to the fact that it had no definition of the Government’s needs policy, but it used need as one of the criteria for the purpose of the 2-year recommendations which it made, and this criterion obviously should not be used in the long term.
We find that the Government is not prepared even to have regard to amendments which were made in this chamber to the Schools Commission Bill, such as the one requiring a report. How extraordinary that the Government when in Opposition used this chamber to insist and to assert that the Parliament should have the right- I totally agreed with it- to receive reports and to have information from the statutory bodies which it creates. We are being asked to vote for legislation which creates a Schools Commission, which will be one of the most important statutory bodies to exist in this country, but the legislation provides that the Commission should not be obliged to report to the Parliament. The Government refused even to accept our amendment No. 13 which stated:
The Commission shall, as soon as possible, but not later than six months after the expiration of each financial year, prepare and forward to the Minister a report on the operations of the Commission during that year for presentation to both Houses ofParliament.
The Government will not even accept that. Why? Does it have something to hide? Is it intending that this Schools Commission will operate in a way which would perhaps make it unfortunate if there were a requirement for annual reports of that nature? Why should it not report? No good reason was given during the previous debate. No good reason has been given to this stage. These are the sorts of things that one would have expected from a government which loudly proclaimed over the years when it was in opposition that it was interested in having the parliamentary institution informed and in having reasonable opportunity for the Parliament to know what statutory commissions it creates are doing. We would have thought that the Government would have seriously considered that amendment. But the indication is that it was not interested. It was not interested in a large number of other amendments which we moved. But one does not need to re-hash old ground.
So far as we are concerned, there will be an opposition to the proposition put forward by the Minister. But if we are not successful in this move, as very much a second best one cannot complain about the amendments which the Government now proposes and which it appears may have been forced upon it. But there are still some aspects that we would still assert are important. One of them is the amendment moved in relation to clause 13 (3) (a). We would wish to have that amendment dealt with specifically. That is the Government amendment which -
- Senator Rae, are you dealing with the Government’s amendment No.3?
– I am just indicating at this stage that I will be coming on to it.
– We are dealing with amendments No. 1 and No. 2 now.
– Yes, I will specifically come to outline amendment No. 3. An amendment has been proposed to insert a new paragraph 3 (aa) in clause 13. We will be drawing some attention to paragraph 3 (a). I just indicate that at this stage, because when we have dealt with the
Government’s proposals contained in amendments Nos 1 and 2, in chronological order the next amendment to which we would wish to draw attention would be in relation to clause 13 (3) (a).
-The Australian Country Party is concerned with the structure of the Schools Commission as proposed by the Government. We are concerned because in our opinion the Commission will not always be representative of all the interested bodies and groups associated with education. I recall to the attention of the Senate what I said this time last week when we were dealing with this matter. I make it quite clear again that my Party supports the Karmel Committee report and most of its recommendations. At no time has the Country Party sought to destroy the concept of the Schools Commission. But having debated the matter- I think it is before the Senate for the third time- in view of the importance of getting the new education program under way and for the education authorities, the States and the parents to understand and know where they are going in February of next year, my Party will not persist with its objection to this aspect of the Government’s Bill.
I believe that every Australian has an interest in education and hopes that the Government will honour the undertakings given in its pre-election promises and in this legislation. Whilst not all the undertakings of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), especially in relation to independent schools, have been honoured the new provisions in the Bill at least respect the rights of the State Departments of Education and the independent school authorities. For those reasons we support the recommendation of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). In regard to clause 13 (3) (a) -
- Senator Drake-Brockman, the Committee is dealing with amendments No. 1 and No. 2. Amendment No. 1 deals with clause 13 and seeks to add a new sub-clause ( 1 a) and amendment No. 2 seeks to add certain words in line 12 of clause 13.
– Amendment No. 1 is the one relating to consultation.
– Yes. I believe that this proposed amendment meets our request that the State Departments of Education and authorities connected with and responsible for non-government schools should be brought into consultation and co-operation. We believe that this is the only way in which the Schools Commission will make an acceptable and meaningful contribution to education. My Party believes that such an amendment to this clause is necessary to ensure that the Commission does not grow to a monolithic socialist bureaucracy. The Commission needs the flexibility of wide consultation and co-operation to give it a chance to succeed. We all hope that it will do that. For those reasons the Country Party supports the amendments.
– This is a proposal for an armistice. It is nothing more. For some weeks there has been a continuing struggle between the Government and Opposition, the background or the basis of which has been the attitude of the Government that education grants should be determined almost solely on a needs basis, and the attitude of the Opposition which could be summed up in the words that there should be equal treatment for every Australian child. As I said, the present proposal is for an armistice. We are close to the new year. The schools have to make their arrangements. If we do not do something now we will have killed Father Christmas, and nobody wants to kill Father Christmas. In those circumstances the Democratic Labor Party will go along with the wishes of the Government except in one respect. There is a provision in clause 13 which refers to the primary obligation of the Government to maintain government school systems. If an amendment is moved to provide that it merely be an obligation rather than a primary obligation, we will support such an amendment. I understand that we will not be successful in this regard because the Country Party will vote with the Government on this matter.
On all the other issues we will go along with what we regard as an armistice because the DLP will continue to campaign at all times for equality of treatment for every child in Australian schools. We do not recognise any system of apartheid under which some children will have prior treatment over other children according to the schools that they attend. Therefore, the attitude of our Party will be consistent. We will continue to fight for that ideal. In the present case we are all aware of the circumstances. There was a deadlock between the 2 Houses of Parliament. Last week the Country Party determined to take action to resolve the deadlock. As a matter of courtesy, the Leader of the Australian Country Party informed me on Monday- I appreciate his action- that the members of his
Party had undertaken this initiative. He did not inform me of the terms. He simply informed me of certain principles which they bore in mind and in particular that they thought that something better should be done than implementing the Karmel Committee report. They have succeeded in obtaining something better than the terms of the Karmel Committee report. My Party was not engaged in the negotiations, but yesterday afternoon I met Mr Anthony, Mr Nixon and Senator Drake-Brockman and they explained to me the terms of a possible compromise agreement which had been decided upon. I took it to the members of my Party and they determined that they will go along with the amendments proposed by the Government, although, as I have said, they stood firm by their principles and they will fight for those principles in the future.
In regard to the composition of the Commission, we have made a strong plea for different organisations to be represented by their own chosen nominees. I have always believed in that principle. I was a teacher for 19.5 years. At that time I and my fellow unionists fought for the right to appoint our own nominees to Government bodies. The Government used to say: ‘Let us appoint them. They will be all right’. We teachers always fought for the right to have our own nominees, just as trade unions fight for the right to have their own nominees. In my day as a unionist the teachers succeeded to a large extent in having the right to appoint their own nominees. I thought that would still be the policy of teacher organisations, but apparently the wheel has turned a full circle. I have had representations from teacher organisations that they do not want to be represented by their own people but that they are prepared to be represented by Government nominees. They have said that that would make for an independent Commission. T have asked before and I ask again: How can a Commission be independent when every member of it is appointed by the Government and is dependent upon the Government for a job? I should have thought that that would have ensured that a Commission would not be independent. However, when it comes to this agreement between the 2 sides one has to have regard to the fact that if the Government does not get its own way and appoint the Commission it has the power and it has always had the power, as it did in the case of the Karmel Committee, to appoint a committee of its own to do a Karmel type job. So, strictly speaking, the Opposition will sacrifice nothing by agreeing on this point because the Government had the power to appoint such a committee without legislation if it wanted to do so.
There are certain things in the proposed amendments which I think are very valuable. As I have said before, the only thing on which I disagree with the Government- I understand that the Country Party will join with the Government on it so that the Government will win on it- is the inclusion of the provision that the primary obligation upon the Commission is to be in regard to education in government schools. I think there should be an obligation on it to look after every child and not just those in government schools. But I realise, as far as the Government is concerned, that there are provisions in the Bill which look in the direction of equality. I have noticed that clause 13(3) states that in the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary education in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools. That is very valuable. I appreciate the point that it could be argued that any statement by the Government that it has a primary obligation to government schools is qualified by the fact that it has said that its aim is equal treatment and equal improvements in education for all schools.
– I think those words have been there ever since the Bill first came before the chamber.
– That is true. There is, furthermore, a very valuable statement by the Government in the revised amendments, which refer to the need for ensuring that the facilities provided in all schools in Australia, whether government or non-government, are of the highest standard. There is also the very valuable statement by the Government that it seeks to add to the matters which the Commission is to take into account the prior right of parents- I understand that originally the provision read ‘the right of parents’- to choose whether their children are educated at a government school or at a nongovernment school. Those are all qualifications in the direction of what my Party stands for, that is, the equality of Australian children in education. But I still feel that the situation would be improved if the word ‘primary’ were removed from the expression ‘primary obligation in regard to providing for government schools ‘.
The position adopted by my Party is that under protest and only as an armistice- not because it is what we believe; we are going to make a continuing fight for educational justice- we will accept what has been proposed and will not oppose any of the amendments, but if an amendment is moved which is based on the use of the word ‘primary’ we will support it. The only other comment I want to make is that I have received some correspondence from people who say that this will mean that the category A independent schools will receive assistance for only 2 years. It does not mean anything of the sort. There will be an election within the next 2 years. I believe that there will be a change of government. I also believe that under the new Government the propositions and principles which the Opposition has fought for will be put into effect.
-The debate by the Committee on the Schools Commission Bill has been so wide-ranging that it has really incorporated the subject of aid to schools. I want to make my position clear. I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition to this matter. Certain stands have been taken in this regard and then, like a warm summer, the snow has melted and there has been a change in attitude. I want it to be known that I have been honest enough in the past to say that I have never been in favour of state aid, but now that it has been instituted I believe that it should be for everyone and not for particular sections of the community. Insofar as that is concerned, the argument that was originally raised was that people who had children in independent schools had to contribute to the taxation which established the state school system and which is directed towards the state school system and also had to pay the fees of their own children in independent schools. We have now arrived at another situation in which people who have children attending certain schools that are designated to be wealthy schools -in a number of cases they are not- are worse off than ever before. They not only subscribe, through the taxation they pay, to the government schools and to the aid provided to other independent schools but also have to pay for the education of their own children at schools which receive no assistance. As one who, as I have said, is not in favour of state aid, I believe that if we are going to provide it -
– The Australian Labor Party is opposed to state aid and has been since 1957.
-That is right. The point about it is this: Why make a distinction between Australian school children? Why is assistance given to those whose parents are said to be in a particular income group and not to others?
– You make a distinction between the States.
-Senator McAuliffe kindly interjected and said that I make a distinction between the States. Let me say that it is rather unusual for the Australian Labor Party to make a distinction. It speaks of a one-class community and so on. The Budget provides for the wiping out of the means test eligibility for the age pension so that everybody over 75, irrespective of income, qualifies for the pension. Lately we have had the spectacle of Sir Robert Menzies going onto the old age pension. Do honourable senators opposite reckon he is on the rocks? Now Dame Mabel Brookes says that she will go on the pension. Would you say that she is on the rocks? This is an example of the Labor Party’s determination that there must be no distinction or discrimination between people. Yet it makes a distinction between the children of the nation. That shows the inconsistency of the Labor Party. To say that one school is wealthy and the other is not and so on is just a lot of nonsense. I say to Government senators: If you are to cater for the school children of the nation in this way, cater for all of them and do not discriminate between them. It is a disgraceful attitude. As has been mentioned, many of these schools belong to certain denominations, and the point is that the Labor Government is discriminating against the people of those denominations. It is to the credit of the Roman Catholic people that they have had meetings on the subject and have said that they do not want discrimination that is occuring. Their bishops have said this. Protestant and Jewish schools are being discriminated against. Is this the right attitude to adopt? Either the Government is in favour of aid or it is not. Surely in this case the Labor Government should have been consistent and treated all Australian children as Australians. I think that the Labor Government should be strongly criticised for the attitude that it has adopted in this legislation which indicates that it discriminates in areas where it wants to discriminate but not in others where it thinks it can play up to the votes of certain people.
– It is not my intention to cover old ground because, as the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) has said, this is the third occasion within a fortnight on which a debate on the Schools Commission Bill has taken place in this Senate. I think that all honourable senators who have taken part in the debates probably now know the Bill clause by clause if not word by word. Senator Rae has objected to the title of the Bill- the Schools Commission Bill 1973-but the simple fact is- and I repeat this for what it is worth- that there is no doubt that we, the Labor movement, received a mandate from the people to establish a Schools Commission. The establishment of a Schools Commission was probably the paramount point of the policy on which we went to the people. It is in the expectation of that policy and to establish this Schools Commission that we have proposed these amendments, not so much as a proposal for an armistice- using Senator McManus ‘s term- as to get the education forces regrouped and moving on a forward and constructive basis. Our objective, despite what Senator Wood has said, is to obtain some equality of opportunity for all Australian children in the educational scheme of this country. Until educational assistance is put on an effective needs basis equality of opportunity cannot be implemented. I am pleased to note that the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party will support the 2 amendments which are now the subject of discussion. They are the proposed amendment to page 6 of the Bill, to clause 13, before subclause ( 1 ), relating to cooperation with the States and the educational system representatives generally; and the other at page 7 of the Bill, to clause 13, whereby we would insert the words: and the need for ensuring that the facilities provided in all schools in Australia, whether government or non-government, are of the highest standard.
In previous debates on this Bill I have emphasised the great significance that the Government attaches to the role which the Schools Commission can play in developing programs of assistance for all Australian schools and school children. By these proposed amendments, and in a spirit of compromise, the Government has indicated that it is prepared to offer these amendments to the Schools Commission Bill in the hope and expectation that the Senate will endorse them. In particular we will by our proposed amendments give prominence at the beginning of clause 13, which deals with the functions of the Commission, to the obligations of the Commission to consult and co-operate with education authorities in the States and the 2 Territories including those conducting nonGovernment schools. I point out at this stage that there is a consequential proposed amendment to subclause (4) of clause 13; that is proposed amendment No. 4. We are indicating also by these proposed amendments that we are prepared to include in the list of matters to be taken into consideration by the Commission in the exercise of its function a reference to the need for the provision of facilities of the highest standard in all schools, whether Government or nonGovernment. I offer that at this stage merely in reply to some remarks that have fallen from the lips of Senator McManus.
Having outlined the case for the Government, having listened to the arguments proposed and having heard with pleasure the remarks that have come from the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate and the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator McManus) on this subject I now suggest that the Committee determine its attitude to these first 2 proposed amendments.
– The course which I suggest should be followed by the Committee is that the motion proposed by Senator Douglas McClelland be moved, that is, that the Committee does not pursue the amendments already made. Once that is out of the way, the vote on that can be taken, and the individual amendments which Senator Douglas McClelland now proposes can be dealt with.
– Thank you, Senator Rae. We are dealing with amendments No. 1 and No. 2 moved by Senator Douglas McClelland. Do you want to take amendments No. 1 and No. 2 together?
-No. I suggest that we take the motion, which is “That the senate does not insist on the amendments of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has insisted on disagreeing’.
– That is all the amendments?
– Those amendments which have already been through this chamber. That motion is to be taken first, then we shall deal with the rest of Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s motion for the amendments outlined by him.
- Mr Chairman, at the outset I moved:
That the Committee does not insist on the amendments of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has insisted on disagreeing and makes further amendments to the Bill consequent on the rejection of the amendments as follows:
These were the amendments which I then read out. Therefore the matter was put to the Committee as one motion. As it is the wish of Senator Rae- and I have no objection to the course of action that he now proposes- I would suggest that my first proposition be split in two and we put to the Committee ‘That the Committee does not insist on the amendments of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has insisted on disagreeing’ on the understanding that I will propose further amendments to the Bill.
– Yes, I support that.
That the Committee does not insist on the amendments of the Senate to which the House of Representatives has insisted upon disagreeing to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The debate has formally taken place on these amendments. The amendments have been read before so I shall not read them again.
-On behalf of the Liberal Party I indicate that while we regard these amendments as being second best we are delighted to support their inclusion in the Schools Commission Bill as an improvement on the Bill as it stands. There are ways in which we would have preferred to have seen the Bill improved, but at least this is better than nothing at all. Therefore we will not be opposing these amendments
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In the sequence of events, and if the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) agrees, this would be an appropriate time for me to raise the amendment which deletes the word ‘primary’. I referred to this earlier when we were debating this matter. I seek the Minister’s concurrence in my moving the amendment at this stage rather than after his further amendments have been dealt with. I move:
That in clause 13 (3) (a)leaveout’primary’.
– Having regard to the debate which has already ensued all I have to say at this stage is that the Government does not accept the amendment. We have clearly indicated that our proposal is to provide equality of opportunity for all children. We say that that is implicit in the legislation.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the amendment moved by Senator Rae in relation to this matter. We realise and we freely admit that the Government is including in the Schools Commission Bill a number of statements which give the impression that it is standing for equality. But to make absolutely sure we support the deletion of the word ‘primary’. This means that the Government simply has an obligation to attend to the needs of government schools.
-The Australian Country Party believes that the amendments previously moved will be acceptable in this case. We will be supporting the Government.
That the amendment (Senator Rae’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The amendments have been formally moved and circulated. They have already been read into the record. I have said already that it is the aim of the Government to obtain equality of opportunity in the education system of Australia. These amendments merely refer to the right of parents to decide whether to send their children to a government or a non-government school. Amendments Nos 3 and 4 are additions to the matters listed already in clause 13 (3) of the Bill presented by the Government. Suffice it for me to say that the Government also accepts the need for some parliamentary oversight of the composition and functions of the State and Territory Schools Commission Advisory Boards. Therefore we have proposed amendments, as circulated, which will make these factors subject to parliamentary regulations.
– I indicate on behalf of the Liberal Party that our attitude to these amendments is the same as our attitude was to amendments Nos 1 and 2. Whilst we believe that other amendments were necessary we see these as being desirable improvements to the Bill and will support them as second best. I take this opportunity to indicate that we regard as of fundamental importance the acceptance of the principle that there is in a free society a prior right on the part of parents to choose whether their children should be educated at one school or another. That, of course, is the significant concession made by the Government in moving these amendments. I wish to acknowledge that we are delighted to see that the Government has been prepared to make that concession. We believe it is fundamental to the preservation of a free society that that sort of choice should be available. It was thought by the drafters of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights to be a matter of sufficient significance to be included in that Declaration. We regard it as of fundamental importance that the Schools Commission will have regard to this principle.
Amendment No. 4 is a consequential one and makes no change in regard to the aspect of research. There seems to be something of a downgrading of the role of research by the Commonwealth Government in its plans. I take this opportunity to indicate on behalf of the Liberal Party that it is our view that the role of research is a national function which should be coordinated by whatever is the major body under the Commonwealth Government. Research should have a far more significant role than it appears that it will have under the proposals of this Government. We regard research in relation to education as one of the most important developments which can occur to maximise the advantages which can come to the children of Australia from developments in our education system. For instance, we see the necessity for a combination of social research with educational research. The two should be combined. We think there would be very desirable benefits .from the creation of a national research institute. We think it is desirable that there be a co-ordination and dissemination of the material available in relation to research on education carried out in various States of Australia by various institutions and universities and individual persons. I make those comments in passing. It does appear that the Government does not place the same emphasis on the importance of research that the Liberal Party does. The general comments I have made apply to the other amendments. Whilst we think there are other amendments which should have been carried, we accept these as second best.
-The Australian Country Party is very pleased to see these additional amendments being made. We believe they are very necessary. We believe that the Government was remiss in not trying to explain how it intended to construct the advisory boards and how they were to function. This now is being spelt out. We also would like to insist that the composition and functions of the boards be prescribed by regulation so that if we should be unhappy about either we could have the right to object at a latter stage. We support the amendments.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the amendments. Everybody knows that they are part of the package. Therefore, we are in agreement with them.
– You are in agreement when you cannot win.
-No. My attitude is that I do not intend to kill Father Christmas. There has been talk about winning and losing. The Government proposed to give certain schools nothing and to give other schools something. The Karmel report suggested that all schools should get something, but the suggestion was not nearly as good as people would have liked. Under the arrangement category A schools will get much more than the Karmel report suggested, and certain other schools will get more than the Government proposed. I will not say who has won and who has lost. All I say is that a lot of the schools will realise that they could have got nothing or that they could have got small amounts as a result of the Karmel report, but now they will do a lot better.
I have been a senator for 14 years. Some people ask whether this scheme means the phasing out of aid to certain schools in 2 years. I tell them that my experience is that if the schools get payments for 2 years they will continue to get payments after 2 years because the facts of political life are that once a government gives this kind of aid other governments will not be able to alter the situation. The schools will still be getting payments after 2 years. One fact which will assure the retention of the aid is that there will be a different government in power.
– All I, as the representative of the Government, need to say is that my colleagues join me in appreciating that the Australian people will now not be deprived of the Australian Schools Commission which, prior to the last Federal election, the Labor movement undertook to establish if and when we were elected to office. I am delighted to know that at long last common sense seems to have prevailed in this chamber on a matter of such an important nature.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 11 December (vide page 2688), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– in reply- I take it that everyone who wishes to debate these Bills has had an opportunity to do so, as I am closing the second reading debate. Four Bills are being debated cognately. The question which will be put is that the Bills be now read a second time, rather than that the Bill be now read a second time. I think that there is an agreement that the 4 Bills will be taken together in the Committee stage. Possibly, with the controversial points which were raised today, everyone has forgotten the points which were raised yesterday. The early contributors to the debate raised various points about which they were concerned. They were relying on my reply to clear up the points. Those speakers were followed by certain speakers who feel the urge to speak on every matter and who do not contribute anything to the debate. Lake Pedder, Galston, socialist attitudes and rents of $40 and $50 a week were brought into the debate.
I think that the interesting contribution to the debate was the contribution made by Senator Kane. He pointed out the need for decentralisationto get people out of the cities. He had a solution. He suggested that some method of taxation allowance for people in certain areas would shift people from one area to another. Whether this suggestion is right does not have much to do with the legislation, but it shows an appreciation of what is required to assist in decentralisation. I do not know whether it is the method by which we can get people to shift from one area to another, but the Bills propose to make the residences and the community services available to people who transfer from one area to another. If I did not know Senator Wright better, I would have been surprised at his completely overlooking the purpose of the Bills and at his wanting to give priority to matters such as airports, shipping, the Adelaide to Darwin road and the protection of Ayers Rock rather than to the settling of communities in localities other than large cities.
One of the things which we have to remember is that the Australian Labor Party promised that it would do something about overcrowded cities, and the election was won in the outer areas of Sydney and Melbourne, where people were quite concerned about the position and voted accordingly so that they could get something done about the matter. The Government quickly set up the Department of Urban and Regional Development and commenced a program which would put into operation its policy on decentralisation or the formation of new cities. The problem which arises is that the Commonwealth has no power other than the power it has in respect of people whom it has a constitutional right to look after. It cannot buy land in one of the States and establish a city. Therefore, we required complete agreement with the States before any city could be established. Fortunately, we have this agreement. Both New South Wales and Victoria are in complete agreement about Albury-Wodonga. The State governments have utilised their powers to acquire the land, to fix prices and to deal with other questions associated with the acquisition of the land. All this will be done by State legislation. The Commonwealth finances the project under the agreement which it has made for the development of cities. There has been approval by the States to the establishment of growth centres. Whether they are at AlburyWodonga, Bathurst-Orange or Monarto, there is agreement with the States, and State power is used to do everything necessary to establish the project.
I think that the questions which were raised were: Is there enough protection of the water for South Australia? Are we neglecting local government in this question? Are we eliminating private enterprise? Are we giving a fair price for land that is to be acquired? This legislation is not only in accordance with the views of my Party. The principle of this legislation was accepted by the previous Government. On 19 September 1972 the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, stated in the other place when making a ministerial statement on urban and regional development: it will be to guard against the cost of development of the selected centres being inflated by increases in land values directly attributable to the policy initiatives of the States and the Commonwealth.
In keeping with this principle, the 3 Governments agreed on 25 January this year that land acquired for the Albury-Wodonga growth complex will be acquired under the terms of the appropriate State land price stabilisation legislation based on the market level of prices at 3 October 1972. It is provided in the New South Wales legislation that compensation to those whose land is acquired shall be prescribed as being the value as at 3 October 1972 adjusted by a calculated percentage variation. Such percentage would be calculated by the Valuer-General as the average variation up to the date of the acquisition of the value of lands similarly zoned and similarly situated in other parts of the State exclusive of areas announced as growth centres. Such compensation principle is to be based upon the respective announcement dates of each growth centre, being 3 October 1972 for Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange, Campbelltown-Appin and Gosford-Wyong.
The compensation in the Victorian legislation is similar in principle but the variation since 3 October 1 972 is arrived at by the Valuer-General from an index calculated on prices for similar types of land in other parts of that State. Any increase in the value of land since 3 October, except that which is attributable to the announcement of intention to acquire for a growth centre, will be taken into account. Land to be acquired for the purpose of the growth complex is to be designated not later than 30 June 1974. The purpose of this is to give a fair price for the land. The price of the land will be based on present use- generally non-urban- and will not include the extra value which will accrue only because of the decision to go ahead with the growth centre. On 7 October 1972 Sir Robert Askin announced his Government’s intention to introduce such legislation covering the acquisition of land in growth centres.
Having acquired the land at a fair price and fair compensation being paid we then turn to the role of the private developers. I will take the Albury-Wodonga growth centre as an illustration. Within the existing urban areas of AlburyWodonga that is the area not subject to probable acquisition- private developers will continue as at present except that the States have agreed that major development will be referred through the State planning authorities to the Development Corporation to ensure that these major developments are compatible with overall plans for the growth complex. Outside the existing urban areas private developers will also have a major role to play, but they will be working directly with the Development Corporation in much the same way as private developers work with the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra. In other words, a substantial proportion of development will be carried out by the private sector working within plans and conditions laid down by the Development Corporation.
I turn now to the protection of the water in the River Murray. Coming from South Australia one realises it is a serious question. We in South Australia get only the water which everyone has polluted en route. Every extension of the use of the water in the River Murray deteriorates the quality of the water which we get for drinking in Adelaide. For the first time a department, the Department of the Environment and Conservation, has been appointed to look into such questions. The relationship between the development organisations for Albury-Wodonga and the River Murray Commission, as with other Australian and State authorities, is taken into account in both the Bill and the scheduled Agreement. Provision for agencies performing the normal functions and role in relation to the development of the growth centre is made in clause 8 (8) of the Bill and clauses 5 (12) (b), (13), (14) and ( 15) of the Agreement. In view of the special responsibilities of the Commission in regard to the River Murray there will be close and continuing consultation between the Commission and the development organisation to ensure that development programs are compatible with the River Murray environment.
The Cities Commission already has commissioned a major study on the River Murray in relation to Albury-Wodonga and there was close consultation between the Cities Commission and officers of the River Murray Commission in the preparation of the study brief, and close liaison will continue as the study progresses. The only other point left is the role of the local government authorities. There is no basis to the newspaper report that local government will not play a major role in the development of AlburyWodonga. Within the existing urban areas of Albury and Wodonga the local government bodies will retain responsibility for planning and development except in cases where major development proposals are of such nature to warrant consideration within the context of the overall project. In the case of Albury, the State Government recently gazetted an Interim Development Order clearly defining the role of local government within the boundaries of the Order and the matters on which it will be required to seek the views of the State Planning Authority and the Development Corporation. A similar arrangement is expected in respect of Wodonga in the near future.
In addition to these arrangements provision has been made for the 2 part-time members of the Development Corporation to be appointed from a panel of names nominated by local government authorities in the area. This will not be the only avenue for local government participation in that 7 members of the Consultative Council to be set up in support of the Development Corporation will be drawn also from local government bodies in that area. Honourable senators will see that a plan has been worked out for the development of the area which, I think, answers all the points that have been raised. The Government feels confident of the plan put forward and believes that it will set the pace for other areas where there are to be growth centres. I thank the Opposition for its support of the legislation and for the assistance it has given.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
-(Senator Lawrie)-Is it the wish of the Committee that the Bills be taken as a whole?
-The whole four of them?
– Yes. It is a cognate debate.
– Does that mean we can discuss any clause in any of them?
– I seek from the Minister some details in relation to clause 8 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill, which establishes the functions and powers of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. As the Minister will know, there are several sub-clauses in clause 8 which list the functions of the Corporation under this Bill. Those sub-clauses refer to engineering, architectural, planning and building facilities and to places of business for trade and commerce. There is reference to financial corporations including, be it noted, foreign corporations. Another paragraph refers to providing accommodation facilities for departments. But paragraph (d) indicates that the functions of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation include the facilitation of the settlement in the area of immigrants to Australia. The list of functions of the Corporation is impressive and comprehensive. It reads very firmly as though the functions of the Corporation are to provide and facilitate the establishment of certain things. Indeed there is a comprehensive list of certain things. I am interested in why it is necessary to spell out a list as long as that contained in clause
I have no intention of commenting on the things not listed, because they could be extensive. There is, for example, as I read the clause, no specific reference to educational institutions or community agencies or religious organisations, all of which I submit are as important a part of a developing community as those which are listed, and they could well in one form or another come within the description of the functions of the Corporation under the Bill. If it is necessary to list the number of things set out in this clause and not to list certain others, the fact that certain things are listed gives me the impression that the functions of the Corporation, if implemented, will give the Corporation very strong advocacy and persuasion. Why is it necessary to list in a list of functions which deals specifically with business, engineering, architecture, trade and accommodation, only one item which refers to personnel- in this case migrants?
The Minister will know very well of the situation that developed some years ago in South Australia with the establishment of the city of Elizabeth. A great number of migrants went to that city over a period. I acknowledge that the 2 sets of circumstances do not necessarily equate, but I am interested in the fact that the Bill spells out that one of the functions of the Corporation is to facilitate the settlement in the area of immigrants to Australia. Is it proposed that, with the establishment of the other functions listed in this clause, migrants coming to Australia will be directed to the Albury-Wodonga area? Will the Corporation, in conjunction with the Department of Immigration, direct migrants to move into this area? If this is so, does it indicate that there is likely to be a stepping-up of the immigration program? If it is suggested that migrants should be settled in the area, surely there ought to be some reference to the emphasis to be placed on particular education programs for these people and on their social integration into the total community. Up to now in all these kinds of areas community organisations have worked in this general field. By the time that the AlburyWodonga area is established there could be new matters to be considered, but there does not seem to be any reference to them or any inference which leads me to understand that the migrant community, which is specifically mentioned in the Bill, will be cared for or have particular facilities available to it. I indicate my interest in this question, and I would be pleased if in due course I could receive some advice from the Minister.
– I wish to make a brief reference to clause 8. I do not intend to vote against the clause. Senator Davidson has referred to some significant omissions in the facilities that are to be provided. He has also drawn attention to the significant part which the Albury-Wodonga area has played in the absorption of migrants into the Australian community. I had the privilege of being brought up in the Albury-Wodonga area, and I know the very great role which the migrants are now playing in the city of Albury. A very significant proportion of the population of Albury is migrant or of migrant extraction. Like Senator Davidson, I should like to know whether it is intended to direct- and, of course, the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to direct is somewhat hedged around in matters of this nature- incoming migrants to this Albury-Wodonga area.
Another matter which is only obliquely related to that question concerns the oft-expressed view of this Government in relation to what it calls the quality of life and, the new in-terms of ecology, conservation and many other abstract nouns, the validity of some of which may well be open to question. It may be a little late to raise this matter, but I ask the Minister, in replying, to say whether any inquiries were made about the wishes of the people of Albury. I speak about Albury specifically, although it is just across the border from my own State of Victoria. Have any inquires been made in respect of the wishes of the people of Albury, as to whether they wanted to be part of an enormous complex.
- Mr Hamer said it was all right.
- Mr Hamer is the Premier of Victoria. I am talking about Albury, which happens to be in New South Wales. I raise this question not on a political basis but merely as a matter of simple interest. I did my own little gallup poll when in Albury a few months ago and I could not find one local resident who was in favour of turning Albury into this gigantic complex. I realise, of course, that under a socialist administration the wishes of the individual do not count for very much, but I should like the Minister, when replying, to tell us what inquiries were made of the local people- and I do not mean only the local councils. It may be difficult to ascertain the wishes of such a complex community, but it would be a matter of interest to me to know what inquiries were made of the people who live in Albury, as to whether they wanted to become part of this complex.
– I should like quickly to follow up the matter raised by Senator Hannan. I mention my concern about the lack of consultation with local government authorities in the Albury-Wodonga area, but I want to go a little further. I am anxious to hear the Minister’s reply to Senator Hannan, but I ask whether, if sufficient consultation has not been carried out with local government authorities in the area, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) will send senior officers of his Department to that area in order to give the people an opportunity to make complete and thorough explanations regarding their concern particularly about local government functions.
– Three questions have been raised. Senator Hannan inquired whether the local people had been consulted in relation to the Albury-Wodonga development and Senator Jessop repeated the inquiry, so it must be an established fact that this consultation did not take place.
– I gathered that.
-Perhaps the honourable senator should wait for the reply, because such consultation has taken place and it is continuing to take place. The question was also raised as to whether there was consultation prior to the conference on 25 January. Discussions were held with all local industries in both Albury and Wodonga and they supported the proposal. There is continual consultation, through the Interim Consultative Committee, with the local authorities.
– Do you mean the local council?
-Among the other authorities, the local council is being consulted. Business interests and others in the area also have been consulted. Therefore continual consultation is going on in the area. It was suggested that the proposal does not have the support of those responsible elected sections of the area.
– I doubt whether that is correct. Do you mean local councils?
-(Senator Lawrie)- Order! The Minister is replying to the points raised.
-At the present time continual consultation is taking place, with the approval of those being consulted. The other matter raised concerned clause 8 of the AlburyWodonga Development BUI. As this is Australian Government legislation, clause 8 gives the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation every power which the Constitution allows the Australian Government to confer. The many other aspects which go to make up a city, such as the provision of education and religious worship, will be covered by State legislation. Those things cannot be covered in this Act. Of course, one area over which the Commonwealth has a special responsibility is that of migrants who come to Australia. Because we have power in that regard, we have included this in the Bill as one of the functions of the Corporation. Before the end of the last session of this Parliament I tabled in the Senate on behalf of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) a document which set out the distribution of population in Australia. The document showed that in the 4- year period between censuses some 6 or 7 per cent of those who lived in the capital cities had moved to country areas. Of the new arrivals in Australia, 60 per cent or 70 per cent went to the cities. If we placed some emphasis on trying to get migrants away from the city areas, it would help the situation. But the main reason why the Corporation is given power over migrants is that the Commonwealth has power to confer on the Corporation in this area but it does not have power in other areas.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether he can tell me what feasibility cost study or planning study has been done, for what period, and what cost aggregate has been mentioned. What is the ultimate population for which this settlement is planned?
– I would like to know from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether it is intended that the work of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation will supersede that of local government authorities and whether in actual fact the local government authorities will be out of business as from the date of the establishment of this Corporation.
– I am told that a feasibility study was conducted and was completed at the end of March this year.
– Has a report on it been tabled?
-No, it has not been tabled. I am informed that it is included in the 5- year report of the Cities Commission, which has been tabled. The planned population for the area is 300,000. In closing the second reading debate I outlined the role of the local government authorities in this new concept. There is to be no overriding of local government authorities; they will play an active part in the whole development of the scheme.
– I know that there is a great impatience with regard to this matter, and I speak not so much to the Government as to the Opposition in regard to the next matter that I wish to raise. It refers specifically to the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973. Since the introduction of the Bill I think we have had tabled in the Parliament a report on the inquiry into land tenure which was chaired by Mr Justice Else-Mitchell. His letter is dated 29 November. The Senate only has to read a summary of his recommendations to see the wide-ranging revolutionary proposals for modification of land use, which are being caught up first in this area of development. I only wish to say that I would have thought that that report would demand a good deal of study to realise its full implications. But it seems to me as though that report has borrowed very heavily from a report that was submitted to the Labor Government in 1944 by the War Damage Commission, one pregnant passage of which said that the whole of the landin Australia should revert to the Crown and be let out on leasehold tenure and that the immensity of the money values involved should not deter us after our becoming used to the mammoth sums of money involved in the war.
I do not wish to discuss that matter at this stage. I simply make those preliminary remarks because in his second reading speech on the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973 the Minister said, after talking about the process of development:
The question then to be answered is what form of tenure should be adopted for this disposal. There have been discussions with the States on this question and the Government is awaiting the report of the royal commission inquiry into land tenures.
I ask the Minister whether he can tell me what opportunity the Parliament will have to approve any decision that is made as to proposals for land tenure contained in the report of Mr Justice ElseMitchell and which may be applied to this Albury-Wodonga centre. I want to know what opportunity the Parliament will have either to approve or to reject any decisions that are made to apply the propositions of Mr Justice ElseMitchell to Albury-Wodonga.
– As Senator Wright has stated, Mr Justice ElseMitchell came down on the side of a report of a previous inquiry into this matter, and it would seem to be the one adopted by those who have been looking for a solution to this question of land prices.
– To what previous report do you refer, Mr Minister?
– I refer to the War Damage Commission report presented to the Chifley Government in 1944, to which the honourable senator referred. I think that on this occasion Mr Justice Else-Mitchell came down with the same conclusion, which would appear to confirm that this is the way to solve the problem. However, it may not be. Of course, an opportunity was given to discuss the proposals of the Else-Mitchell report at the time the report was tabled. I have been trying to ascertain whether someone moved that the Senate take note of the paper or the document. However, that can always be done. The Committee has met once to consider the method of land tenure in the Albury-Wodonga area, but it has not reached a decision.
– Which Committee?
– The Department has looked at the question and the land tenure will be dependent upon consideration of the ElseMitchell inquiry and Government decision after consideration of the report of that inquiry. The Government’s decision will be announced to the Parliament and there shall be an opportunity then to debate that decision.
– It will be referred to the Parliament?
– After a decision has been made by the Government the matter will be referred to the Parliament.
– I want to express concern about the quality of water which flows down the River Murray bearing in mind that a city with a population of 300,000 people will be established along what is now to us in South Australia our major water supply and our lifeline for water supply. Will the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) indicate just what measures are being taken to ensure a good quality of water flowing down the River Murray below this complex is maintained when it is so vitally important to South Australia? We have behind us now the expectation of the Dartmouth dam. But the quality of water itself has become of paramount importance even now. The supply of water is taken 8,000 miles by reticulated mains from the River Murray in South Australia and must be in such a condition that it can be used with confidence in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, and by people throughout the State. This matter of water quality is of vital importance to us. What is being done to ensure that water quality will not be adversely affected by the building of this complex?
– I say in reply to Senator Laucke that his Liberal Party colleagues from South Australia looked after that question well during the debate at the second reading stage. The reply was given in my speech closing the second reading debate which apparently the honourable senator did not hear. There has been close consultation between the authorities and the River Murray Commission. They have consulted and looked after that matter. A full statement on this is contained in my closing speech in the second reading debate.
I think that I may have been vague in the information that I gave to Senator Wright in regard to land tenure. Arising out of the ElseMitchell report, the responsible ministers, both State and Federal, have given consideration to the matter and have come to no firm decision on land tenure in this area. When a decision is finally made it will be submitted to each government and an announcement will be made in the Parliament. An opportunity will be given in the Parliament to debate that announcement.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a third time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Superior Court of Australia. The proposal to establish this Court has now had a long history. The project was approved by the Menzies government 10 years ago. It was brought by Mr Justice Bowen, when he was Attorney-General, to the stage of a Bill being introduced. That Bill was allowed to lapse, and last year Senator Greenwood as Attorney-General announced that the project was being abandoned by the
McMahon Government. The policy of the Labor Party on this matter has been one of consistent support for the establishment of the Superior Court. The policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) last year contained a firm commitment to establish the Court. The Government believes that the areas of major federal law should be administered by a federal court established under legislation enacted by this Parliament, and should not be left to be administered in State courts.
The Constitution established the High Court of Australia, and it empowered Parliament both to create other federal courts and to invest the courts of the States with federal jurisdiction. Extensive use has been made of the powers to invest State courts with federal jurisdiction. In the 73 years since federation, federal courts have been established to deal only with matters of bankruptcy and industrial law. Indeed, even in the bankruptcy field, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy sits only in Sydney and Melbourne, and bankruptcy matters are dealt with by State courts in the other States.
The Australian Industrial Court has come to be invested with a miscellany of jurisdiction in other matters in recent years. It has been given jurisdiction in certain matters under the Broadcasting and Television Act. It exercises jurisdiction under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. There are other matters. But with these exceptions, the laws made by this Parliament have been administered in State courts staffed by judges appointed by State governments. There has not been, as I reminded the Senate last year in speaking to the announcement that the then Government would not proceed with the Superior Court, any real opportunity for this Parliament to examine, so far as it may be proper for the Parliament to do so, the manner in which these laws have been so administered. Of course the courts have not distinguished between Federal and State law, and litigants in federal actions have not suffered any disadvantage or enjoyed any advantage over litigants in State actions. It has been put forward as one of the virtues of the present system, that a State court does not generally need to inquire whether the matter before it is a Federal or State action. Problems of limits of jurisdictions and of power to deal with a particular matter have thus been avoided.
There are large areas of jurisdiction where there are undoubtedly many matters of a specialised nature falling within federal jurisdiction. Bankruptcy is a case in point; so too are taxation, trade practices, family law, industrial property and a wide range of matters arising out of laws made by this Parliament. It is proper that the Australian Government should be able to be sued and to sue in its own courts. More important still, the decisions of Australian Ministers and officials should be subject to review, so far as it is proper for courts to do so, and to judicial supervision by a court able to build up expertise in the field of administrative law. Judicial review of administrative section will become a very significant part of the jurisdiction of the new court as the Government proceeds with other plans to establish administrative appeal tribunals and to simplify and extend the procedures for judicial review.
One significant consequence of federal law being administered in State courts is that this Parliament is thereby excluded in practice from considering reforms in an important area of the law, that of practice and procedure. The practice and procedure of the courts have a substantial effect on the rights of individuals. That effect may result from the delays caused by archaic procedures, from the costs involved, or from the manner in which judgments of the courts are executed. The present system also allows the rights of a person under federal law to vary from one State to another. For example, whether he has a right of appeal and what form that appeal may take, or whether there is a right to a jury in a civil matter, may depend on the State in which the action is brought.
I have carefully examined all of the arguments advanced against proceeding with the Superior Court following the introduction of the 1 968 Bill. Those arguments rested mainly on the proposition that there would be cases in which it was doubtful whether, the matter before the Superior Court was or was not one of federal jurisdiction. It was argued that this would lead to litigation to decide whether the Superior Court had jurisdiction or not. I believe far too much was made of that argument. I accept that there is some doubt about the fringe areas, but believe there is less doubt than has been claimed by the opponents of the establishment of the Superior Court. Those doubts do not, in my view, constitute an adequate reason for not entering those areas where there is undoubted federal jurisdiction. But that argument, if accepted, would equally be a reason for this Parliament not entering the area of reform in practice and procedure. Once a different procedure is adopted for dealing with federal matters, then a court hearing a matter must decide whether or not it is dealing with a federal matter. That is so whether that court be a State court exercising federal jurisdiction or a federal court. The argument becomes one for this
Parliament doing nothing in this important area of the law, which has a considerable bearing, as I have said, on the rights of individuals under laws made by this Parliament. The setting up of its own court will give an opportunity for the Parliament to introduce badly needed reforms in this area of the law.
The proposal for the Superior Court was originally put forward by the present Chief Justice of Australia when he was Attorney-General and the justification for setting up the Court rested largely on the need to relieve the High Court of most of its single justice original jurisdiction. The High Court would thus concentrate on its task of interpreting the Constitution and acting as the ultimate Court of Appeal within Australia. There were then substantial arrears of work in the High Court, but this has been remedied.
I have already indicated my own view that the justification for establishing the Superior Court does not rest entirely on the circumstantial foundation of the work load on the High Court at any particular time. Nevertheless, the original justification remains valid, notwithstanding that there may now be no particular burden of original jurisdiction, other than in constitutional matters. The High Court will be left free to continue its great work as a constitutional and appeals court. In much the same way, the Superior Court can become a great trials court in federal matters.
I turn now to a general description of the Superior Court Bill. The Superior Court would absorb the jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and the Australian Industrial Court. The Bill would not abolish those courts. They would, except in respect of pending matters, continue but without jurisdiction until such time as there are by resignation, retirement or otherwise, no longer any judges of those courts. To continue those courts avoids any constitutional problem that might attend upon the abolition of a court created by the Parliament.
It should be made clear that the Superior Court would continue to exercise the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the same way as the Industrial Court. In those cases in which the Conciliation and Arbitration Act requires a matter to be heard before a bench of 3 judges, the Superior Court would be constituted by a bench of 3 judges. There would be no appeal to the High Court from the decisions of the Superior Court in those matters in which there is now no appeal to the High Court from the Industrial Court. If I may depart slightly from the text: There may be some further amendment in the Committee stage restricting, in one area, the right of appeal where there had been such an appeal.
The Bill will give the Superior Court jurisdiction in those matters which, under the Constitution, are matters of federal jurisdiction. This means that the Court would have jurisdiction in matters in which the Constitution itself confers jurisdiction on the High Court, or provides that jurisdiction may be conferred on the High Court by laws made by this Parliament. Generally the courts of the States have had federal jurisdiction conferred on them in all of these matters. This jurisdiction, which may be described as the general federal jurisdiction of the new Court, would be exercisable concurrently with State courts. Where jurisdiction is conferred on State courts by a provision of a particular Act, and matters arising under that provision are clearly matters of federal jurisdiction, then the Bill would confer jurisdiction on the Superior Court exclusive of the jurisdiction of State Supreme Courts. Except in those cases, the Bill would not take away any jurisdiction now exercised by State courts. In any case where it may be doubtful whether the matter is one of federal jurisdiction or not, it would be open to the parties concerned to commence proceedings in a State court rather than in the Superior Court, and so avoid the problems of jurisdiction.
It is proposed that the new Court would take over the original jurisdiction now exercised by the High Court under laws made by the Parliament, except for some few cases where, in the nature of the jurisdiction, it seems appropriate to continue to be exercised by the High Court. For example, it is not proposed that the jurisdiction of the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns under the Electoral Act should be transferred to the Superior Court. It is not, of course, constitutionally possible to divest the High Court of the jurisdiction conferred on it directly by the Constitution. In such matters, the Superior Court would exercise a jurisdiction concurrent with that of the High Court, but it may be expected that, for the greater part, actions would be instituted in the Superior Court rather than in the High Court. With the proposal that the High Court should sit only in Canberra, its exercise of original jurisdiction in all but the most important matters will become relatively inaccessible to litigants residing in the States. The Superior Court, with judges located in each State, would be readily accessible throughout Australia. As facilities become available, it is contemplated that the Court might sit in major provincial centres in each State.
The matters to which I have so far referred follow broadly what was proposed in 1968 by the then Attorney-General. The present Bill departs from what was then proposed in a number of important respects. In the first place, this Bill departs from the 1968 Bill in that it sets out the whole of the jurisdiction that is intended to be conferred on the Superior Court under the existing law. The 1968 Bill would have conferred on the Superior Court only that jurisdiction which I have already described as general federal jurisdiction. Jurisdiction under specific Acts, such as the Bankruptcy Act, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and other Acts, would have been conferred on the Superior Court by amendments of those Acts. The relationship between the Superior Court and the High Court would have been dealt with by amending the Judiciary Act. The result was that it was not possible to tell from a reading of the 1968 Bill the extent of jurisdiction of the Superior Court.
By way of contrast, the present Bill sets out the whole jurisdiction of the Superior Court and provides for the transfer to that Court of jurisdiction now conferred on the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and the Australian Industrial Court. Questions of appeals from the Superior Court to the High Court and to the High Court from State Courts in cases where an appeal would he to the Superior Court are also dealt with in the Bill. It is thus intended that the Bill should give a complete picture of the jurisdiction intended to be exercised by the Superior Court under existing legislation. This does not mean, of course, that additional jurisdiction may not be conferred on the Superior Court by future Acts of the Parliament.
Secondly, the present Bill would constitute a Full Court of the Superior Court as a court of appeal from decisions given by single judges of the Superior Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction. Under the 1968 Bill an appeal would have lain directly from a single judge of the Superior Court to the High Court. Only in personal injury cases would there have been an internal appeal to a Full Court of the Superior Court under that Bill. The present Bill also provides for an appeal from the Full Court of the Superior Court to the High Court, but only by leave of the High Court or of the Full Court of the Superior Court. As already indicated, an exception to this system of appeals is to be found in matters now within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Thirdly, the present Bill avoids the historical excursions that would have been necessary to determine the powers of the Superior Court under the 1968 Bill. That Bill conferred certain powers on the Superior Court by reference to the state of affairs in England immediately before the commencement of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873. That was done to ensure that the Court would have the powers formerly possessed by a Court of Equity. It seems unnecessary to import historical references of this kind into the Bill as it is sufficient for the Court to be given a general jurisdiction to enable it to exercise whatever powers are available to a Superior Court of Record.
Fourthly, it is now proposed that the Superior Court should take over the jurisdiction presently exercised by the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Under the 1968 Bill those courts would have been left intact and the Superior Court would have been a court of appeal from those courts. A significant part of the jurisdiction now exercised by the Supreme Courts of those 2 Territories would be exercised by the Superior Court when established. For example, divorce proceedings, bankruptcy proceedings in the case of the Northern Territory Supreme Court, and actions by and against the Australian Government or its officers in the Territories would be instituted in the Superior Court instead of the Supreme Courts.
With the development of national legislation in new fields such as consumer protection and companies in which jurisdiction would be exercised by the Superior Court, there will be further erosion of the jurisdiction of the Territory Supreme Courts. They will be left with the major part of their jurisdiction at a level which is vested in district or county courts in the States. The logical development in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory would, therefore, be to invest the Superior Court with a general Territory jurisdiction and to establish an Intermediate Court to exercise jurisdiction in the Territories in most criminal and lower level civil matters. Ultimately, the Supreme Court would disappear, leaving 3 levels of original jurisdiction in each Territory, namely, Court of Petty Sessions, Intermediate Court and Superior Court.
The organisation and control of the legal profession in each Territory is affected by these proposals. At present, there is provision in each of the 2 Territories for practitioners to be admitted to the Supreme Court of the particular Territory and for that Court to exercise disciplinary powers over the conduct of legal practitioners so admitted. The Superior Court would, of course, be a federal court for the purposes of section SSB of the Judiciary Act, and a person admitted to practise before the Supreme Court of any State or Territory would be entitled to practise before the Superior Court in its Territory jurisdiction. It is therefore necessary to review the present arrangements regulating the legal profession in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Until that review has been completed, it is proposed that jurisdiction in matters relating to legal practitioners will be left in the Supreme Courts of the 2 Territories. Those courts will therefore remain in existence for the time being although stripped of all jurisdiction except that relating to legal practitioners.
Fifthly, the Bill provides for the Superior Court to be organised on a district basis for administrative purposes. It provides for the appointment of Chief Judges in charge of a district or districts of the Court. The Bill would create the districts of the Australian Capital Territory and of the Northern Territory, for the purpose of the court exercising on a geographical basis the jurisdiction now exercised in the 2 Territories by the respective Supreme Courts. The Bill also provides for other districts to be created by regulation. For the purpose of exercising its jurisdiction, there are to be 6 Divisions of the Court, instead of 2 Divisions as in the 1968 Bill. These 6 Divisions, which are specified in clause 13 of the Bill, correspond to the principal aspects of jurisdiction to be exercised by the Court. Jurisdiction in a Division will be exercised by judges assigned to that Division. There will be a Chief Judge of the Industrial Division, who will administer matters relating to the exercise of the industrial jurisdiction of the Court. This provision is made having regard to the special nature of that jurisdiction, and to the fact that the Court would be, as already prescribed, constituted in the same way as the Industrial Court for the exercise of that jurisdiction. Provision is made for the appointment of Senior Judges in the other Divisions of the Court.
Sixthly, the Bill provides for the practice and procedure of the Court to be prescribed by regulations, but the regulations so made may not remain in force beyond 30 June 1975. Except where regulations otherwise provide, the practice and procedure of the Court would continue to be regulated by existing provisions applicable to the particular jurisdiction being exercised. For example, until regulations made under the Bill otherwise provide, the practice and procedure in bankruptcy matters would be that now applicable to the Federal Court of Bankruptcy. It has been common practice for rules relating to the practice and procedure of a court to be made by the judges of that court. Exceptions to this are found in the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and the Australian Industrial Court, and in the practice and procedure under the Matrimonial Causes Act. In each case, the practice and procedure are dealt with by regulation and not by rules made by the judges. A good deal.of what is covered by practice and procedure affects substantive rights, so that the judges, in making rules relating to these matters, are in effect legislating. To leave practice and procedure to be prescribed by regulation may be thought to run counter to the principle that the courts should be independent of the Executive Government of the day, especially in a court such as this where the Australian Government would be a frequent litigant. Accordingly, it is intended that practice and procedure should ultimately be dealt with by Act of Parliament. The provision for regulations to deal with practice and procedure until 30 June 1975 is to enable legislation embodying a code of practice and procedure to be drawn up and submitted to the Parliament.
Clause 2 of the Bill provides for the Act to come into operation on the day on which it is assented to. The Superior Court would not, however, commence to exercise jurisdiction until a date to be proclaimed. This will enable judges and officers of the Court to be appointed, regulations dealing with the practice and procedure of the Court to be drawn up, accommodation to be provided and other necessary administrative matters to be dealt with before the Court commences to exercise jurisdiction. Obviously the most important appointment will be that of Chief Justice. It is contemplated that, if the Bill is passed by Parliament, an early appointment of Chief Justice will be made to enable the first Chief Justice to participate in the considerable task of organising the necessary administrative arrangements. The Bill has been so drafted that the various aspects of the jurisdiction of the Court may be commenced on different dates. The general original federal jurisdiction and the general appellate jurisdiction of the Court, which would be conferred by clauses 19 and 21 of the Bill, would commence on the date fixed by proclamation as the date on which the Court commences to exercise its jurisdiction.
Different dates may be set for the transfer of jurisdiction from the existing courts, and for the Superior Court to commence to exercise jurisdiction in matrimonial causes matters and taxation appeals. It is intended that ultimately the matrimonial causes jurisdiction of the Superior Court would be exclusive to that Court and State courts apart from summary courts, would not exercise jurisdiction under that Act. Sub-clause (5) of clause 20 provides for a gradual phasing-in of the exclusive matrimonial causes jurisdiction of the Superior Court. Different dates may be fixed in respect of different States, or even of different parts of the same State. These provisions have been designed to permit flexibility in the transfer of jurisdiction to the new Court. It may be possible to transfer the jurisdiction of the existing Federal Courts and the Supreme Courts of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory at the same time and on the date on which the Court is empowered to begin the exercise of its general original and appellate jurisdiction. I would hope that this would be so and that it will prove to be administratively possible for the Court to commence to exercise its full range of jurisdiction at the earliest possible date.
The Bill would not abolish forthwith any of the Courts from which jurisdiction is to be transferred. I have already explained that the Territory Supreme Courts would continue to exercise jurisdiction in relation to legal practitioners until the laws relating to the legal profession in the 2 Territories have been reviewed. The Federal Court of Bankruptcy and the Australian Industrial Court would be left only with jurisdiction in pending matters. The courts would not be abolished while any of the present judges of those Courts continue to hold office in those courts. The Bill provides that each of the 4 Courts concerned may be abolished on a date to be fixed by proclamation, but not while there are judges who continue to hold appointments to those Courts.
With the inevitable expansion of the legislation of this Parliament, the Superior Court will play an important part in the judical life of Australia. It will have a significant jurisdiction in defining civil liberties under the Human Rights and Racial Discrimination Bills which are already before the Senate. With the implementation of the policies of the present Government and the establishment of more effective procedures for judicial review, the Superior Court will have an important part to play in the relationship between the individual citizen and the Executive Government. I am confident that the Court will achieve considerable stature, and will be second only to the High Court as the interpreter of federal law in Australia. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
The Bill comes in at a late stage of the sittings because it was indicated to me that for reasons already advanced it would not be possible for it to be passed through the Senate in these sittings. I simply wish to indicate that that being so, I would welcome any constructive suggestions that are made for the improvement of this Bill from either House of the Parliament, from the other parties and from those outside who might be interested in it. If during the vacation any honourable senators have any suggestions to make or any queries to raise about the Bill I would welcome them. The suggestions could be sent to me and I would endeavour to explain, justify or accept them. It is a very technical Bill. Of necessity it is so. A great deal of work has been done on it, not only within the Department and my office but also outside assistance has been sought from a great number of quarters. That does not mean that the Bill is by any means perfect. I would invite and would welcome the assistance of those- especially in this chamberwho could contribute to the improvement of the Bill. (Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this measure is to place beyond legal doubt the arrangements for taxation screening of applications to the exchange control authorities in relation to transactions involving tax havens. Screening arrangements of this kind were first approved by the previous Government when last year it relaxed the conditions for portfolio investment overseas by Australian residents. Although the fact was not publicised at the time, the relaxation was on terms that approval to a proposed investment would be withheld if it involved tax avoidance or evasion. More recently, and as announced in a statement made on 25 October 1973 by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) the screening arrangements have been applied at his direction to the whole range of transactions with persons in the New Hebrides. The consequence is that requisite exchange control approval may be withheld if the Reserve Bank does not sight evidence that, in effect, the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied that the transaction does not in any way involve or assist or would be associated with avoidance or evasion of Australian tax, whether by the applicant or anybody else.
The view has now been expressed in some quarters that there is not adequate legal backing for these arrangements. It is not conceded that there is an absence of legal authority, but the Government feels that in a matter as important as this there ought not be any avoidable uncertainty as to the legal efficacy of the screening procedures. While that is our direct objective in this measure, its introduction also serves as another expression of our determination to stamp out tax avoidance practices whenever we are able to do so. Accordingly, this Bill proposes to insert in section 39 of the Banking Act provisions that will be effective from the date on which the Treasurer announced the taxation screening procedures. The Bill declares that the power of the Reserve Bank over exchange control applications is to be taken as including authority to decline approval if the transaction involves avoidance or evasion of Australian tax. The Bank will not refuse approval on these grounds once a person has obtained the clearance of the Taxation Office.
Honourable senators, will know from comments that have been made on more than one occasion how the Government feels about tax havens and the resort that people and companies make to them. I think it is reprehensible that this kind of activity, which strikes at the foundations of organised society, should go on. In the knowledge that all honourable senators share a desire to counter tax haven activity I confidently ask for a speedy passage for this Bill. I mention that work is proceeding on amendments to the taxation law also, designed to curb resort to tax haven arrangements. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I think that the Government and the Opposition could pass this Banking Bill (No. 2) 1973 without very much argument, although other honourable senators may wish to involve themselves in the debate. The Opposition has had the opportunity of studying the Bill and feels that it can accede to it. What the Bill really does is pick up and continue some of the acts which the previous Government felt were necessary. Investments should not be allowed if, obviously, they are associated with some method or device of avoiding or perhaps defrauding the revenue. Nobody in a Government scene or in an Opposition scene wants this sort of thing. The Bill is quite a clear expression of intent. We believe that its provisions are wise and necessary. Accordingly the Opposition supports the measure.
A number of observations are made in the second reading speech to which I do not need to advert again. I understand clearly the reference in the Minister’s second reading speech to the fact that the Reserve Bank will not refuse approval once a person has obtained clearance from the Taxation Office. That seems to me to establish quite clearly that when a bona fide investor, in this sense, is able to establish his bona fides there will be no let or hindrance against him. I think it is clear to us all that we would want to do everything that we could to safeguard the revenue. In these days when tax havens are being established in various places we want to do what we could to assist. I believe that this will not be the last of such Bills and that later we will see other attempts which may be necessary to cover the situation in other Territories. But those who have studied this matter have known for some time that the New Hebrides was arising as a place where people were seeking to avoid their obligations by transferring their ownership and possessions to that condominium. Accordingly, as I said when I began, we support the measure. We see no reason why it should not pass through the Senate immediately if that is the wish of the Government.
-The Austraiian Country Party supports the passage of the Banking Bill (No. 2) 1973 and we seek to assist the Government in dealing with it immediately. The general principles outlined in the second reading speech are acknowledged by us. The fact is that this is stated to be a Bill which, in some way, will control the development of investment overseas by Australian residents in the hope that they may be able to avoid the incidence of taxation. The whole purpose of the Bill is to put beyond legal doubt the ability of the appropriate authority to control that investment.
The thought in my mind is that the Government may intend, in the wording which is used in the Bill but which is not referred to in any way in the second reading speech, to control financial investment beyond this country in a manner which a true socialist government may wish. The concern which I have is in relation to page 2 of the Bill. If Senator Cotton’s pronouncement is correct the Bill provides that the Commissioner of Taxation will give a person a clearance which will be prima facia evidence to the Reserve Bank that it should also give him a clearance. The wording is found in clause 3, sub-clause (3), of the Bill which amends section 39 of the Principal Act. Sub-clause 3 states:
Where regulations in force under this section contain a provision prohibiting the doing of any act or thing except with the authority of the Reserve Bank-
As I understand it the Reserve Bank at any stage is under the direct control of the Federal Government which is in power at the time, whatever its political complexion may be. The sub-section continues: the Bank may, subject to sub-section (4), refuse to grant that authority on the ground that the act or thing involves or would involve, assists in or would assist in, or is or would be associated with, the avoidance or evasion of tax imposed by a law of Australia or of a Territory-
I interrupt my reading of the sub-section again to point out that the next feature that appears to me to be prominent is the following: but the foregoing shall not be taken as limiting the discretion of the Bank to refuse to grant any such authority on any other ground.
To me that is quite an important matter in this Bill and I draw the attention of the Senate to it. Whilst my party supports the Bill in general, I have some concern about that wording and its significance was not referred to, so far as I know, in the second reading speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee).
– in reply- I thank the 2 spokesmen, Senator Cotton and Senator Webster for their comments, and the Senate for putting this Bill through as speedily as possible. It was introduced very late in the session and I appreciate what honourable senators have done. The Bill does not alter greatly the little worries that Senator Webster has. Exchange control has been used for many years in connection with investments abroad. This Bill has been brought in to do exactly what has been said. We are trying to tighten up the haemorrhage of the capital flowing out of Australia. Everybody agrees that there is a gap and that it ought to be plugged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) to say what particular taxation laws he has in mind. Is it gift duty or is it income tax? I suppose it is income tax. Does he also have death duties in mind or such things as the customs laws? I would like an indication of the areas in which it is apprehended that evasion may be taking place. Secondly, I notice that the words avoidance or evasion’ are used in the Bill. I would have thought that it was old doctrine that anybody is entitled to arrange their affairs so as to avoid taxation so long as this is done with propriety and business affairs are rearranged on a proper basis. Thirdly, I ask the Minister to give me an indication that transactions will not be held up by a wide ranging investigation on the part of the Taxation Office, because a certificate of that Office will become a condition precedent to the Reserve Bank decision. I wish to add that I have not the slightest idea of any one of these transactions in the New Hebrides. I have had some indication of one or two transactions in other islands. Anything I have said must not be taken to refer to anything but an impersonal and completely objective inquiry on behalf of the public.
- Senator Wright asked about the type of taxes. The Bill refers to ‘the avoidance or evasion of tax imposed by a law of Australia’. Primarily, as Senator Wright forecast, this would relate to income tax but it covers taxation imposed by any law of Australia. Primarily, according to my advice, income tax is what is in mind. As for his question about avoidance of tax, people can legally do this now under the taxation legislation but that is not the point. As for his question about the wide ranging inquiry, I do not know what sort of delays are experienced in this sort of thing. I can certainly give an assurance that if there are any delays they will be kept to a minimum. I said in the second reading speech that this Bill was not aimed at interfering in any way with the genuine export of capital or the investment of capital in these islands. I thank Senator Wright for mentioning his impersonality in not referring necessarily to the New Hebrides or wherever else this might apply.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 December (vide Sage 2684), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I think that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas
McClelland) wishes to inquire whether we are going to have a cognate debate on the Health Insurance Bill and the Health Insurance Commission Bill.
– I suggest that for the sake of convenience, because orders of the day Nos. 6 and 7 are inter-related, the 2 matters be debated in a cognate fashion and, if it is the wish of the Opposition, that separate votes be taken on the 2 Bills.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This means that we will have a cognate debate on the Health Insurance Bill and the Health Insurance Commission Bill. These Bills are part of an overall scheme put forward by the Government as its health scheme. There are at least 4 more Bills which are not before the Senate at the moment but which are to be introduced, according to the Government, in the next session to complement these Bills as part of the entire scheme. Therefore one of the problems that we have in dealing with these Bills is that we do not know even at this stage- undoubtedly the Government does not even know at this stagewhat the total scheme involves. We do not know what is involved in the passing of this legislation because there are other Bills to come with which we are as yet unfamiliar.
With the full agreement of the Opposition I announce that we are opposing the passage of these 2 Bills. I state at the outset that we realise the consequences of this action. As the Liberal Party spokesman on health, the honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp, said in the debate in the House of Representatives, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) have threatened a double dissolution if we oppose this legislation, we believe that it is our duty to act in the interests of the people of Australia. The real question is how best to improve the standard of health care in this country. That is the question we face- not threats by the Government, not what may be regarded as the antics of a paper tiger, or not regarded in that way depending upon one’s view of the credibility of the Government at the moment. Probably the Government’s credibility is at an all-time low but I leave that matter aside. If we approach the question as I have suggested, and that is how best to improve the standard of health care in Australia, I think we can look to the average Austraiian. I think that we can look at the way in which he has expressed his view.
There has been a wave of revulsion in this country against the proposed health scheme. Seldom has there been such a wave of feeling manifested in a community as there has been at the attempt by this Government to nationalise, to take away the right of choice, to take away a good, satisfactory scheme and to impose against the will of the people something which will be not as good but which will cost a lot more. How indicative of the extent of the reaction of the people of Australia is the fact that I have received from Tasmania, for presentation in the House of Representatives, certain petitions. Because of the importance of the matter I sought -
– You would be joking, senator.
– Have you been talking to a state school committee?
- Mr Deputy President, I do not intend to respond to interjections. I just take the opportunity to mention that. There are burblings coming from the opposite side of the chamber. I intend to continue my speech. I was saying that this wave of revulsion in the community is demonstrated by the fact that I have had forwarded to me from Tasmania petitions signed by 23,500 electors in Tasmania alone. Over 10 per cent of the total number of voters in the State have been prepared to sign petitions which were forwarded to me so that I could arrange for the presentation of those petitions in the House of Representatives. Therefore, I asked the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, to present those petitions. Petitions containing 21,000 signatures have been presented. He will present petitions containing a further 2,500 tomorrow, as I understand the position.
Let us look at another indication of the attitude of the people of Australia. Perhaps it represents a small area only, but I think it is quite significant. It was handed to me by Senator Bonner with a request that I simply mention it. A poll was taken at the instance of the Darling Downs Electors Association in the area serviced by the Toowoomba ‘Chronicle’. It ran a vote on the national health scheme. That vote sought an indication of whether people favoured the compulsory national health insurance scheme proposed by the Government or whether they favoured the existing voluntary health insurance scheme with minor improvements. The result was that 8 people voted for the Government’s health scheme, and 185 people voted against it. Maybe that is not indicative of the full strength of the opposition to the Government’s health scheme because it comes only from the Darling
Downs area. Let us look at the other petitions which have been presented to this Parliament. Throughout the session it has been rare for a day to pass without petitions being presented in this chamber on behalf of Australians who are concerned at the Government’s proposal, who are concerned to see that the Parliament is aware of their feelings and that the Parliament will be responsive to their feelings. The assurance which I give on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia is that we are responsive to the feelings of the vast majority of Australians who are revolted by this attempt to reduce the standards of health care in Australia.
Before talking about the Bills in great detail, let me remind honourable senators of something which is proposed to be taken away. The Bills will take away the existing health scheme and will replace it with something which I will discuss shortly. Our scheme, the scheme which exists at the moment, is a scheme which, in the interests of the preservation of a free society and of the right of choice and the freedom of choice of doctors, hospitals and health insurance, allows every Australian the opportunity to exercise that choice. How important that right is to so many of us. What more important time in our lives do we want to be able to exercise our choice to be treated by the person in whom we have faith than when we have an illness of when we have an accident? How important that right is to the average Australian has been shown by the reactions to this proposal which would take away that right of choice.
We see the importance of the preservation of flexibility in administration and the importance of a degree of competition which the Government in one breath pretends to support but which it does everything it can to reduce. We think that there should be a degree of competition between doctors, hospitals and health insurance schemes, all of which are conducive to development, improvement and provision of the best possible services at the lowest possible cost. We believe that health care must be reasonably available as a right. We believe that it is a government’s duty to ensure that there is adequate health care available and that the right may be exercised by each Australian. So we have as our aims that the present Liberal scheme be improved where necessary. There have been improvements from time to time in the past. No scheme is perfect. No one is able to perfect something which does not, at any stage in its use, require a little maintenance. We agree that there are some areas of the health scheme which require maintenance. But we do not see them as justifying the throwing out of the whole of the scheme which has worked well, which has worked satisfactorily in the mind of the average Australian and which, we believe, will ensure that adequate health care is available as a right to all Australians, with an exercise of their right of choice and with a reasonable degree of flexibility.
We see it as necessary to consider the pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefits and for them to be incorporated into the present national insurance arrangements to ensure that all benefits accruing to pensioners and low income earners are available under the scheme. We see it as desirable that there should be basic health care insurance coverage of the maximum number of people in this country and that it should be readily available for those people. We see as essential the survival of the independent health insurance funds for all health services, including paramedical services. We see it as desirable that there should be appropriate deterrents to the abuse of the health scheme. Human nature being what it is, there is always the possibility that a scheme will be abused. We see it as desirable that steps should be taken to prevent from taking place abuses which come to light. We see it as desirable that neither doctors nor patients should be in a position to abuse the scheme. If there have been abuses in the past, if there may be abuses in future, that is not justification for scrapping the whole of a substantially successful and acceptable health scheme. We see it as desirable that there should be an annual determination of medical fees which is not binding on all medical practitioners but, as in the past, it is desirable that all should endeavour to comply. If doctors wish to see a situation in which there is a freedom of choice and in which there is an opportunity for competition, it is their duty to ensure that they comply with the annual determination which would be fixed by an independent tribunal comprising representatives of government, consumers and the medical profession, under the chairmanship of an independent person. That tribunal would fix annually the fees payable in respect of the services provided by the medical profession.
We see it as essential that there should be a retention of private hospitals, although we recognise that in areas there are needs for upgrading some of the standards in some of the hospitals. We hope that the Government is paying attention to ways in which that can be achieved rather than taking steps to prevent the continuation of private hospitals. As I shall outline in a few moments, that is one of the effects of the Bills. We see it is desirable that there should be a continuance of private nursing homes, including those which are conducted for profit and those which are conducted by charitable institutions on a non-profit basis. In this area there is some necessity for improvement of the control of admissions, the control of discharges and the rehabilitation of persons who are in those homes. But to endeavour to limit them and take them away is something which I believe the Austraiian people do not want.
We see it as desirable that the decentralised domiciliary care services should be extended, as should the services of day hospitals. I think it is important for us to remember that where there is variety and opportunity we have a much greater chance of being able to serve the interests of the people, because people are all different. We cannot have the approach of peas in a pod, the approach of saying that everybody must do this or do that without finding out whether a large number of people will be unhappy. That course does not suit everybody and if aged people are unhappy the tendency is that they die. What will is there for people to get better? What will is there for elderly people to live in circumstances into which they are being forced to go when they would not choose such circumstances for themselves. Naturally we see that it is desirable that people should, so far as possible, be kept in their own homes and that domiciliary services or day hospitals should be provided for their treatment. We believe they should be able to live in the surroundings in which they have resided by choice during their lifetime.
We see a large number of grounds upon which the Bill should be opposed. It is clear and beyond doubt that the scheme will lower the quality of medical care in Australia. We see public hospital wards, which are already full, being unable to cope with the extra burden of all the people who are eligible for admittance without any means test and who wish to avail themselves of that opportunity. If people are required to pay by taxation extraction for the services of a hospital and for a bed in a public hospital ward, are they likely to say, ‘I want to pay again over and above’, or are they likely to say, ‘I have paid for this and I wish to exercise my own right ‘?
-They will be paying for something that they are already getting for nothing.
-Senator Gair interjects and says that the people will be paying again for something that they are already getting for nothing, which no doubt is a matter of considerable importance to the people of Queensland. I can point out that the likely effect on public hospital wards is that there will be a greater demand on already limited accommodation. The net result will be longer waiting time. The net result will be the lowering of the standard of services provided. The net result will be that more people will be dissatisfied and more people will be dead. What will happen? We will find that the people with a lower income and seriously ill people will have to compete for beds where they now have them by right. At the moment the wealthier people in the community tend to pay for the private or intermediate wards because they can obtain insurance. But when we find that they have already paid a situation will arise in which people whom the Government pretends it is trying to help, the disadvantaged and lower income group within the community, will be having to compete with others against whom by and large they did not in the past have to compete.
As has happened in so many other countries that have introduced this type of scheme, the waiting time will become longer. We will find that for non-urgent cases an appointment can be made for several years hence if one wishes to go on with whatever operation was recommended. Otherwise, vastly increased rates will have to be paid for the services to be made available. In relation to the private hospitals, the Minister has the discretion to decide how many beds will be declared public so that these private hospitals are at the discretion and mercy of the Minister. We find that the Minister under clause 34 can provide for a supplementary daily bed payment at a rate fixed by him. The net effect, as was explained in detail in the debate in the other chamber, almost invevitably will be a reduction in the number of private beds available and an increase in the number of public beds available in what used to be known or are presently known as private hospitals. These private hospitals will be forced to hand over beds because of the effects of the introduction of this scheme.
The effects of the introduction of the scheme will include the fact that fewer people will want private beds and more people will want public beds. There will be partly empty private hospitals which will be forced in fact to make some of their beds available to the Government’s scheme as beds in public wards. Once the private hospitals are forced to do that, the Minister has the absolute discretion as to how many of the beds will be made public. We will find that the private hospitals will have a very short life. The private hospital system has served the interests of the community and the interests of the provision of a degree of choice to those in the community who wish to exercise it. We will also find that in public beds in private hospitals patients will not be able to exercise a choice in relation to their doctor. They will not be able to say that they have a particular preference for a doctor and that doctor is the one from whom they would like to have treatment. We will find also that if the number of private beds declines so will the ability of medical specialists who now provide many honorary services on top of their own private practice. There will be a decline in the number of specialists. Specialists will either have to become salaried doctors at public hospitals or work on a sessional basis in public hospitals.
There are other undesirable developments in medical care in Australia. I have outlined some of the effects if this Bill is passed. There will be clearly a reduction in choice. There will be clearly a reduction in the standard of care available to the Australian people. One of the side effects of this Bill is clear. It is a manifest first step towards the nationalisation of health care in Australia. Let us have a look at some of the other aspects. I turn firstly to costs. We have had many somewhat curious estimates as to costs. We have found that the Minister and his advisers have had to review the costs on a number of occasions. It is now said that there will be a 1.35 per cent supertax on all taxpayers. I wish to make it quite clear so that there is no misunderstanding that this is not just a matter of there being payment for medical care in Australia out of the taxpayers’ funds to already existing funds. It is a matter of the provision of a new imposition on each and every taxpayer in Australia.
Every person who pays tax will be required to pay a 1.35 per cent supertax subject to certain limits. The taxpayers will have to recognise that large amounts of their already paid tax funds will also be going to the provision of medical and hospital care. The effect of all this will be the payment of an extra $80 to $125 for a family man in Australia if he wishes to have the coverage which is at present available to him for private wards. The outcome will be that members of the average family in Australia who would like to exercise a right of choice and be able to go, if they wished for one reason or another, to a private ward will receive that service only upon the payment of virtually double the present costs. It is also interesting to note that for each $1 raised by the tax, $1.28 will have to be paid out of Consolidated Revenue during the first year, which is estimated to increase to $1.50 in the second year, and I remind honourable senators that that is in addition to the 1.35 per cent super tax. So we will find that the total cost will be quite astronomical. Although the Government has claimed that the new scheme will be no more expensive, it is a little hard to accept this when one looks at the history of gross costing errors made by the Minister and his staff in the past. I am sure honourable senators will remember the embarrassing confessions before the recent medical fees tribunal about the rather huge error of many millions of dollars which was made in calculating costs.
Faced with that situation, let us see just what the Government can say to confirm its calculation of the cost of its scheme. So that the Government can give some thought to that, I refer to an interesting study that was conducted by an economic and market research firm, Phillip Shrapnel and Co., which recently carried out a detailed costing of the present and the proposed health insurance schemes. The conclusion which that company reached was that the Minister had underestimated the cost of the Government scheme by nearly $300m in the first year. It estimated that the Hayden scheme would cost $380m more than the existing scheme in the first year, and that the cost will escalate sharply. I am quite confident that the average Australian finds costs escalating quite sharply enough as a result of the other actions of this Government without having forced on to him a huge escalation in total costs of a health scheme which has been partially worked out and many times altered; a scheme which can be described only as unsatisfactory to the Australian people and which will reduce the standard of health care whilst increasing the costs of health care.
The present health insurance scheme covers about 90 per cent or 92 per cent of the population. Mr Hayden ‘s estimate is that 87 per cent of the Australian people are now covered by health insurance, but I think if we consider what I will say we will see that that is not a correct estimate. At present, 79 per cent of the Australian people are covered by private health insurance, 10 per cent are covered by pensioner medical services, and approximately 3 per cent are covered by subsidised health benefits. There is nothing to confirm the view that it would be possible to get 100 per cent coverage. The figures in relation to the English experience show that the percentage there is about 94 per cent or 96 per cent. So perhaps the difference between those who are covered under the present scheme and those who would be covered under the Government’s compulsory scheme is somewhere between 2 per cent and 4 per cent. But is it necessary that the present scheme should cover only 92 per cent of the Australian population? That is not so. We believe that alterations can be made to the present scheme which will increase the percentage of people covered by it. The Government’s proposal is to take away the freedom of up to 92 per cent of Australians, who now voluntarily insure with the fund of their own choice or who are covered by other aspects of health care, and to compel them, by a taxation mechanism, to insure, up to standard hospital ward care level in what can be described only in the terms which were used in many of the debates on this scheme as a monolithic Government insurance fund.
In other words, to cover for insurance purposes between 2 per cent and 4 per of Australians, the Government will destroy the right to free choice of 92 per cent of Australians. The Liberal Party, as I have already indicated, does not in any way attack or oppose the concept of maximum insurance cover. If Mr Hayden wishes to direct attention towards covering the uncovered, he would have our full support, but instead he is attacking the freedom of choice of Australians and upsetting the arrangements made and approved by an overwhelming majority of the Australian people.
Another aspect, I think, deserves attention. The new scheme will mean that Government departments- Government bureaucrats- will have to handle about 90,000 claims a day. Presumably this will involve a massive increase in the total number of public servants. It will mean that this matter is conducted on the same basis as the public service in other areas is conducted. Who, looking at that, can claim and establish that health insurance can be provided more efficiently and at lower cost than it is provided by private funds, by private enterprise? The experience all over the world is that where government takes over the provision of a service the cost of the provision of that service tends to rise. It is clear that there will be less efficiency, less competition, and less service if there is only one government national fund into which people are required to contribute by a compulsory tax extraction. That is hardly in the interests of the preservation of a free society, in the interests of economy or in the interests of providing the maximum standard of health care to Australians. But as well as that we see things such as the threat to privacy. We will have a vast nationwide computer data bank storing medical information on all Australian people. Whilst we do not allege that the Minister will knowingly divulge information, it is clear -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to move for a short extension of time to enable the honourable senator to complete his speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
What does the honourable senator call a short extension?
– Less than 5 minutes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
– On the understanding that it is no longer than5 minutes, yes. (Extension of time granted.)
– I thank honourable senators. I was just referring to the threat to privacy by the introduction of a vast computer bank containing the medical history of and information on all Australian people. Whether or not this is the intention of the Minister or the Government, the idea of the medical records of the entire community being stored in one vast governmentowned and controlled data bank is abhorrent to most Australians. There is in the Labor proposal a number of things which the Opposition would support. These include increased financial assistance to public hospitals, the enabling of visitors to Australia to participate in the scheme by payment of a premium, special medical benefits for unusual or complex medical procedures, the right of doctors to appeal against decisions of committees of inquiry, increased payments to private hospitals, the integration of pensioners into the scheme, and the entitlement of pensioners to the same benefits. I indicate to the Government and to the people that, if the Government were prepared to introduce these provisions as amendments to the present health scheme, the Opposition would support them.
But this Bill in its present form and with its associated proposals will clearly do the following: It will lower the quality of medical care for Australian families; it will increase the total costs for the Government and thus for taxpayers; it will increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers, because they could only maintain the present quality of their health care by additional heavy commitments for private insurance; it will reduce freedom of choice; it will jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals; and by design and intent it will be the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia.
I believe that we speak on behalf of the vast majority of Australians. No attitude has been made more clear in recent times than that of the Australian people in relation to the health scheme. We propose to act on behalf of that vast majority of the Australian people who object to the Government’s proposals. Accordingly I move:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert- the Senate is of the opinion that the existing health scheme is one of the best and most efficient in the world and that therefore this Bill and associated Bills should be withdrawn, because the Government’s alternative proposals to the existing health scheme will-
lower the quality of medical care for Australian families,
increase total costs for the Government and thus for taxpayers,
increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers, because they could only maintain the present quality of their health care by additional heavy commitments for private insurance,
reduce freedom of choice,
jeopardize the future of religious, private and country hospitals, and (0 by design and intent be the first stage of nationalis ation of health and medical care in Australia. ‘
-The Health Insurance Bill 1973 which is before us is one of the most important measures that have been introduced by this Government. The Government was given a mandate to introduce this legislation because of the great need that exists throughout Australia for such a scheme. The figures quoted by Senator Rae mean that at least one million people throughout Australia are not covered under the existing so-called health scheme. Senator Rae said that the Government proposes to do away with the private health insurance scheme. However, I would like to remind Senator Rae and other honourable senators opposite, as well as members of the Australian Medical Association and other medical people, particularly those associated with the current health scheme, that the Commonwealth Government has to pay more than $300m a year to keep the private scheme going.
I have here some of the propaganda that is being pushed out by the organisations that have a vested interest in the perpetuation of the current scheme. It shows the great hypocrisy of so many of these so-called ethical people who are barraging private patients with propaganda in their surgeries. The purpose of this piece of propaganda is to give 13 reasons why the women of this community should say no to the Government’s proposed health scheme. It contains a whole pack of half truths which verge on lies. Medical practitioners have been trying to push this propaganda, spreading fear and scare amongst the people. They say that the Government’s scheme will cost more. They know very well that for the greatest proportion of people in the community it will cost less and, as I mentioned, the community has been paying $300m to the present scheme over a long period of time- since the scheme was introduced. But that has never been mentioned in the propaganda. Someone has to finance the present scheme, and if the Commonwealth were to withdraw the assistance that it has been giving the present scheme would be impossible to administer and to finance. I would like the people of Australia to know this quite clearly.
The first point that is made in this propaganda which gives 13 reasons why you should say no to the scheme is as follows:
The Federal Government’s scheme to replace voluntary health insurance with a compulsory, tax-financed scheme is a creation of men- not doctors, mind you, but male academics and economists.
This document was published by the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia. I would like to know whether the doctors themselves might have a vested interest and a financial interest in this scheme. But the point is that they are exhibiting themselves- I do not know whether they are discriminating against themselves as being males- as chauvinists and probably prigs. But I do not see how they can differentiate before themselves and male academics and economists. The publication says that the Government’s health scheme will cost the family more. But most Australians will pay less. That is the fact of the matter, despite all the propaganda put out by the doctors. Most Australians will pay ess for health insurance under the new scheme. I want to stress the untruths that have been pushed out to the public of Australia. Of course, the doctors are in a very privileged position because they have had university training. Many of them in the earlier day of this campaign were saying: Look at the money we have spent on our training’. But they were trained at universities which are financed by the taxpayers. Many of the privileges that they get in the community are subsidised.
– You are making it free today.
– Of course. If we look at those who received scholarships that are financed by the taxpayers, many of whom are humble working people paying a proportion of their incomes towards these scholarships- possibly they pay a higher proportion than the fat cats and the tall poppies- we will probably find that many people in the medical profession have been subsidised by them. I would like to mention in passing also that in my view a section of the medical profession has been most unethical, because 40 per cent of the doctors of Australia are working for government instrumentalities; they are working for the Australian Government, for State governments and for local government authorities. Yet the pressure and the emphasis has been on this grim hand of socialism that will be placed on the doctors if they become involved in a scheme such as this.
I am being quite candid when I say that many of the agitators are those people who have left the national health scheme in England. A propagandist usually has some sort of an ersatz Oxford accent or a primed up Yorkshire accent. Such a person has come out to Australia because he realises that there is a wonderful harvest to reap here, with the wide spectrum in which they can work. Of course, we have in Australia also this very substantial subsidy which is paid by the Commonwealth Government to the private scheme. But the levy to be imposed under the new scheme is based on capacity to pay, which means that it is based on one’s taxable income after allowance has been made for children and educational medical and other expenses. This will mean that the new scheme will be cheaper for three out of four families. These are the facts. Yet all the propaganda that has been pushed out is a broad generalisation.
– Three out of four families is not a fact, on your own figures.
– Three out of four families will be better off under our scheme, including families in which there is a working wife. The scheme will be cheaper for seven out of ten single people. The Government applies the same principle to such a basic thing as health as it applies to education. We have been trying to tell the people of Australia, particularly honourable senators opposite, that we look on education as being the right of every Australian citizen, of every Australian child, from the kindergarten right through to university. What is more noble an ambition than to see one’s children properly educated. One does not have to use much imagination to apply our policy in relation to education to health. What is more important than having an Australia-wide health scheme which is available to everyone. The scheme is being opposed but on the basis of Senator Rae’s figures one million people or more- possibly many more- are not covered by the present scheme. He reduced the proportion to 87 per cent. This propaganda put out by the Voluntary Health Insurance Association uses the words: ‘If you are a working wife’, in an effort to scare the housewives in the home. There is no doubt that a tremendously delicate relationship exists between a doctor and his patient. This is particularly so in the case of the housewife. But how can a doctor maintain that trust which a woman patient has in him when out of the doctor’s own sponsorship comes these half truths and this scare campaign that has been spread around the country over the last two or three months?
The propaganda sheet states that it will be harder to obtain a hospital bed. I would like to remind honourable senators opposite, particularly some of those who have been very vocal in advancing this scare campaign, that of all the Opposition to the Government’s proposal that relating to hospital care reveals the greatest hypocrisy and the most naked protection of privilege and vested interest. The Government’s proposals are clear and unequivocal. They ensure that every Australian will be free to choose treatment without charge in a public hospital, including all necessary medical treatment by doctors appointed to the hospital staff. Can anyone contradict that? No one can contradict it because honourable senators opposite and those who have been briefing them know very well that that is the truth. The Government is confident that doctors of the highest reputation and competence will seek appointment to both the full time staffs and the visiting staffs of hospitals and that the treatment of patients who choose this care will be of the highest quality. The anachronistic honorary system will be replaced by salaries, sessional fees or contract payments at rates ranging over $30,000 a year for senior specialists. At the same time the Government’s program allows any patient to choose between being a private patient in either a public hospital or a private hospital and to be provided with full medical benefits against the fees of doctors treating him as a private patient. Can anyone contradict that? Yet the tenor of the propaganda has been to try to contradict that.
In public hospitals, private patients will be liable for fees of $ 1 5 a day in intermediate wards and $22 a day in single rooms. To those who immediately raise to cry of ‘discrimination’, let me point out that similar differentials now exist in public hospital charges and that these will grow even larger in the future. In Victoria present charges are $20 a day in public wards, $30 a day in intermediate wards and $40 a day in private wards, giving an overall differential of $20 a day. For patients in private hospitals, the Health Insurance Commission will pay $16 a bed-day direct to the hospital, leaving patients to meet amounts equivalent on average to those charged for similar accommodation in public hospitals. Private insurance will be available and the Government will ensure that favourable rates are offered to people who maintain a continuity of cover. The Government will meet the full cost of the treatment of patients without charge in those charitable and religious hospitals which wish to accept such patients, and will do so without any infringement of the autonomy and independence of these hospitals. Can anyone on the Opposition side contradict that? That is implicit and explicit in the proposal.
The program will provide security and a high standard of care for patients, offer substantial financial relief to the State governments, establish for the first time a direct Australian Government responsibility for hospitals, and greatly simplify both the collection and distribution of funds for their support. What has the Opposition to say against this program? Nothing, except to defend the vested interests of certain doctors and private hospital proprietors and to appeal to privilege in the advocacy of private hospital care. Senator Rae seemed to be more concerned with the well being of a few affluent private hospitals as he was with the private schools. He was very concerned about the private schools. He was conspicuous by his absence from any of the state schools in Tasmania. His time is always spent looking after the more prosperous schools. No wonder he was so well briefed. The honourable senator seems far more concerned with the well being of a few affluent private., hospitals than with the great public hospitals which provide over 80 per cent of all the hospital treatment in this country. Where does Senator Rae think that the most skilled medical work is performed, the most complex equipment provided, and the medical and nursing staff of the future trained? Certainly it is not in the private hospitals where, despite their comfortable if not luxurious accommodation and high fees, there are not even resident medical staff to care for patients in an emergency.
Which group of patients does the honourable senator consider to be in the greatest need? Is it that group in the single rooms of private hospitals or that group in the wards and the outpatient departments of the public hospitals which the last Government ignored and neglected for 23 years? The Opposition’s affection for private hospitals and its neglect of public hospitals are in exact parallel to its attitude to schools. In both cases, it is an elite and not the overwhelming majority of the Australian population which is favoured. But Senator Rae says that the great majority of Australians want the old scheme.
– You take us to a double dissolution on it and see whether I am right.
– The honourable senator will be double disillusioned when he sees the electors next time as he put up such a poor show in running to water in regard to the Schools Commission Bill. The truth of the matter is that the Opposition has no desire to allow the members of the Australian community any real freedom to choose the type of hospital and medical care they want. What it wishes to preserve is a system in which everyone is liable for hospital fees and under which means tests are used to compel all but pensioners and the very poor to take insurance sufficient to cover treatment and accommodation as private patients. What is voluntary about a system which imposes charges on everyone and will pursue even those who qualify for public ward treatment for the debts which they incur in preserving their health? It is certainly private, with all the concealment of information which this implies, and it certainly supports the incomes of the medical profession admirably, including the Pitt Street farmers. But as a so-called voluntary system it is an expensive farce.
The Government’s program is, on the other hand, both equitable and liberal in every sense. Through agreements with the States any person admitted to a public hospital will be free to choose to be treated as a hospital patient or as a private patient. The Australian Government will meet 50 per cent of the net cost of operating public hospitals, including the cost of paying doctors for the care of hospital patients. The State governments and hospital authorities will continue to be responsible for operating public hospitals within a system which must surely meet all of the Opposition’s desires for co-operative federalism. Without this assistance, the States could not for long avoid savage increases in hospital fees and even with much higher charges their budgets could not alone bear the cost of the increasing complexity of modern hospital treatment. The free hospital system in Queensland must, for example, be seriously threatened if costs continue to increase at the current rate of nearly 20 per cent per annum. We have never heard anything of the inflationary possibilities that are confronting these private schemes. Of course, all that honourable senators opposite want to do is to beat the Labor Government at any cost. The opportunists in our community have had their wings seriously clipped since the Labor Government has been in power.
The previous measure before the Senate was a tax avoidance legislation. Many people who have been hovering around the perimeter of this country and using Noumea, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island and the New Hebrides are tax dodgers finding loopholes. The same principles apply in regard to a policy like this. We are closing the loopholes. We hope that the Austraiian public will be given a fair deal and that this will mean all Australians and not a selected few. The Government recognises valuable the contribution which private hospitals, particularly the religious and charitable hospitals, make to the health care system. They offer both a range of choice to patients and a vocational satisfaction to those who work in them. The $16 a day which the Government will pay for each patient in a private hospital will leave the patient to bear no more, on average, than for the equivalent accommodation in public hospitals. Private insurance against these fees will be much less expensive than opponents of the scheme suggest. The Government will see that insurers offer insurance to all present members on the same terms, without discrimination according to age and health status and without limits to the period of coverage. It will require, as a condition of registration, that the health insurance funds use their already excess reserves to underwrite this commitmentthe only way in which they will ever be used for the benefit of their members. The resulting rates will be such that it will be cheaper for a family receiving the average income and below to enter a private hospital than it is at present. Those who attack the Government’s proposals on the ground that they will make private hospitals the preserve of the rich had better think again in the light of the facts. Compared with the present system, they will be much more accessible to low income people. It will cost a single pensioner, for example, only about half of the amount which it now costs him to insure for private hospital care. In the limited time available, let me deal with two other aspects of the Government’s proposals. The first involves the staffing of public hospitals and the so-called choice of doctor issue. I want to nail one lie that has been disseminated throughout the community by various people who have their own interests at heart; that is, the statement that a patient will not have the right to choose his own doctor. There will be absolutely no change. A person will be able to go to his local doctor or, if he needs to do so, to his local clinic, at which he does not always have the choice at present as to which doctor attends him. Pensioners will have a wider choice of doctors from whom to choose. They will not have to go to the doctor allocated to them, as was the case under the previous Government’s scheme. One will have the choice of selecting one ‘s own private doctor, as has been the case in the past. There has been a very concentrated attack on this aspect of the Labor Government’s scheme. But every doctor and every health insurance contributor knows that there has never been any threat to the right of people to choose their own medical advisers.
It has been highly offensive to me on going to my local doctor to find the wall of his surgery plastered with propaganda that I knew was untrue and to see him collecting petitions, the wording of which I knew to be untrue, to send to this Parliament day by day and then to have my letter-box and my private account assailed with propaganda that I knew to be untrue. People who traditionally have been the most ethical and looked up to group in the community have been virtually degrading themselves because they have been caught up in the political pressure that has been brought to bear to try to get revenge for the fact that there was a change of Government on 2 December of last year.
I have dismissed the outrageous untruths that have been circulated by opponents of the scheme about patients being forced to attend certain nominated doctors or being restricted in their right to be referred to specialists in private practice. They are lies and always have been lies. The new medical benefits program follows the same principle as the present scheme, namely, that every patient has a free choice of doctor, both general practitioner and specialist. But a principle of both schemes is that full specialist benefits are not payable unless the patient has been referred. Both recognise that the patient is in no position to judge the merits of different specialists and choose the one most expert in his ailment. I pause there to say that any person who is in his right mind would take the advice of his medical adviser and go to the specialist to whom he was recommended. Who would go to someone different from the specialist to whom his medical adviser advised him to go?
The choice is in fact exercised by the referring doctor. This is precisely what the Government proposes. It intends, in discussion with the States, to extend as far as possible the number of doctors appointed to the staffs of public hospitals for the treatment of patients who choose free treatment and to make arrangements for those patients to be referred directly to staff doctors where appropriate. In midwifery, the Government will encourage hospitals to appoint general practitioners to their staff and will treat their patients as hospital patients without charge. The suggestion by a section of the medical profession that the quality of care will decline if doctors are not free to charge fees to hospital patients is unworthy of the profession and a slur on both the professional competence and the dedication of the 40 per cent of doctors who work for salaries at present. What is more important is whether doctors are to take a real role in the public hospitals and follow their Hippocratic oath by being collectively responsible for the quality of patient care for all, or whether these great institutions are to be simply workshops in which public capital and public operating funds are used to underwrite the doctors’ private practice incomes.
Finally, there is the so-called bed shortage about which the Opposition expresses such hypocritical concern. In total there is, of course, no bed shortage. The most recent World Health Organisation statistics show that Australia has the third highest ratio of hospital beds to population of all the developed countries. Australia has 20 per cent more beds relative to population than Canada and 27 per cent more than the United Kingdom. But there is a surplus in the country, as a result of the pork-barrel politics of the Australian Country Party over many years, and a shortage in the cities reaching scandal proportions in the medically deprived western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. It is, of course, only the public ward beds which are in short supply, not the private beds or those in private hospitals.
– Are you quoting from a document, Senator O ‘Byrne?
– I am quoting from copious notes, as most of my colleagues do.
– That is some other President’s ruling, one with which I do not go along.
– Would you like to make a ruling on it, Mr President?
– Yes. I suggest that you make a speech in accordance with the Standing Orders.
-I am making a speech in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– It is not in accordance with the Standing Orders.
-I will just continue from my notes and conclude by saying what magnificent hypocrisy there is in the statement by doctors that whereas patients eligible to be treated publicly may wait for weeks for admission they can be treated in private beds the next day. What sort of social attitudes produce a system in which all of the delays and all of the inefficiencies are borne by those who are unable to buy themselves out of it?
– Who wrote this for you?
– The blame for this situation lies squarely with the governments, Federal and State, which the Opposition now represents. I do not have to have anyone to write that for me. That is a fact. For 23 years this country has been lumbering away under the burden of governments that have had no thought for the ordinary person and that have been assisting those who have been taking the cream and leaving the skimmed milk for the general population.
– You are going to tax the kids.
-I will speak to Senator Little about the position in Victoria. For example, the population of Victoria increased by 2 1 per cent between 1965 and 1972. May I quote these figures, Mr President?
-I repeat that the population increased by 21 per cent between 1965 and 1972. During this period the number of public hospital beds increased by only 8 per cent, whereas the number of beds in private hospitals increased by no less than 27 per cent. Even worse, all of the increase in the public hospitals was in intermediate and private accommodation, the number of public ward beds having actually declined. That is the fellow feeling that Senator Little and his colleagues in the Australian Democratic Labor Party have for the ordinary working man. This occurred at a time when the number of pensioners eligible for public ward treatment rose by 48 per cent to 325,000.
The Australian Government has positive proposals to remedy this scandalous situation. Under the new insurance program the Government will meet the full cost of the treatment of hospital patients without charge in religious and charitable hospitals which wish to participate in the program. They will be free to maintain their own admission policies and to retain the right to appoint their own boards of management and their own medical staffs. The Government is prepared to make substantial sums available to the States for the construction of public hospitals in a way which will correct the blatant distortions which now afflict the public hospital system. In the meantime the Government’s offer to nonprofit hospitals is both generous and equitable. I challenge any member of the Opposition to say that this is not what the Austraiian community wants and needs and will get.
- Senator O ‘Byrne, you are the father of the Senate. I have served with you in this Senate for many years and I have never found you to have to rely on such copious notes in the past, and I hope that you will not do so in the future.
-Mr President, I am pleased that you have noted that Senator O ‘Byrne read most of his speech this evening and that it was necessary for you to draw his attention to the fact. We would be most interested to know who wrote that speech for the honourable senator.
The Senate is dealing with two particularly important pieces of legislation- the Health Insurance Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973- and it is incumbent on the Senate to give them the closest attention. I think it is worth noting that these 2 measures were introduced into this House on 1 1 Decemberyesterday. As important as health is to this community, the Labor Party in its wisdom has decided after 12 months in office- and it has celebrated that 12-month period- that it is appropriate to bring in 2 health Bills at the very end of this session. It is the Government’s decision that they should be debated this day. They are of sufficient importance that greater attention should be given to the length of time spent in debate on these Bills in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. But the unique situation that we are in is that several other pieces of legislation- the exact number of which we know not- which apparently are of great import to the health of this community are to be brought in some time in 1974.
We note that in his second reading speech on the Health Insurance Bill, the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) said:
Further legislation relating to the scope and operation of private health insurance organisations and the introduction of levies on taxable income and on motor vehicle third party and workers’ compensation insurers and the protection of individual privacy will be introduced in the autumn sittings of 1974.
– He does not tell us whether it is the companies which accept the premiums or the people who pay them.
– I note your point, Senator Little. It is most important that the Senate should be aware that we are having presented to us a piecemeal approach to most important legislation concerning the Australian public. Particularly significant changes in health services to the community are proposed in these Bills by the Australian Labor Party. The Opposition opposes the legislation and will vote against it because we believe that it will lower the quality of medical care for Australian families; that it will increase the total costs for the Government and thus the taxpayers; that it will increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers because they can maintain the present quality of their health care only by additional heavy commitments for private insurance; that it will reduce the freedom of choice; that it will jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals; and by design and intent it will be the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later hour today.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Honourable senators, I have sought the courtesy of Senator Webster and Senator Douglas McClelland, the Minister in charge of the Senate at the moment, to provide me with an opportunity to deal with a matter that was raised last night by Senator Webster. Honourable senators who were present at the adjournment will recall the matter. Secondly, Senator McLaren has been to see me and we have discussed this matter and he is well aware of what I am now about to read out. I think it is quite clear- I am quite clear about it- that the matter arose from a series of errors which will become clear as I read out this statement.
Last evening Senator Webster spoke briefly on the adjournment and asked me to authorise the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, by the appropriate use of an asterisk, to refer the reader back to pages of Hansard where debates occurred on the matter that he was then raising. The circumstances surrounding his request are these: On page 1168 of the daily Hansard Senator McLaren is reported as saying: ‘I know Mr Albert Albany’, and Senator Webster read these words reproduced in a letter from Mr Albany. Senator McLaren then directed attention to the corrected passage appearing in the weekly Hansard and reading: ‘I know of Mr Albany’. Senator Webster then apologised to Senator McLaren, if he had misquoted him. The- Principal Parliamentary Reporter assures me that the words appearing in the daily Hansard: ‘I know Mr Albert Albany’ were the accurate record of
Senator McLaren’s statement and that the correction, being an alteration of substance, should not have been accepted by the Hansard office.
I interpolate here that Senator McLaren of course has not been in the Senate as long as many of us have and perhaps does not know the intricacies of these matters as clearly as do some of us who have been here for a longer period. If he had wanted to correct his statement, the forms of the Senate were open for him to do so.
The problem now, as I have it, is to put the record straight. The asterisk is used in Hansard as a convenient way of drawing a reader’s attention to a page containing the original matter on which an important personal explanation is founded; a subsequent incorporation of unread matter; or circumstances of the kind to which Senator Webster has drawn attention. The asterisk was last used, honourable senators will recall, as recently as 4 April 1973, at page 852, to direct attention to the incorporation of matter 79 pages after the passage of which it formed part. Honourable senators will recall that Senator Brown appealed to me at that time and that I directed that this was to be done. I feel that the employment of this device is justified on this occasion.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
-The Senate resumes the debate on the health Bills which were brought into the Senate yesterday. Basically these are the Labor Party’s proposals for a health scheme for Australia. To understand this one has only to read the speech in relation to this legislation which was written by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and one has only to hear the speech by Senator 0 ‘Byrne-
– Read by him.
-Read by Senator O ‘Byrne- you are quite right, Senator Rae. It was a highly hysterical speech, if I may say so. It contained words of spite, as Senator O ‘Byrne must agree, against the medical profession and private hospitals. I doubt whether anyone would take Senator O ‘Byrne, as a Labor spokesman, seriously on this matter after having heard the speech which he read to the Senate. But the Opposition must take this matter seriously. If that Labor Party speaker is indicative of the attitude of the Labor Party to those who are involved in medical services at this time I believe that the public generally will support the Opposition’s move which is for the defeat of this legislation. The view of the Opposition has been stated. Previously I read all the points of our opposition to the legislation. In short they were the lower quality of medical care which is envisaged under Labor’s proposals, the greatly increased cost to the majority of the taxpayers, the loss of freedom of choice so far as the individual is concerned, the jeopardy to the whole future of religious, private and country hospitals and, what is more important to many of us, the first stage of Labor’s proposals for the nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia.
Labor has proposed a significant change to the method of delivery of health services to the Australian public. This is not inconsistent with Labor’s attitude because it proposed that when it came to office it intended to change many things which previously existed in Australia. Labor, and the previous speaker Senator O ‘Byrne, said that the Government had a mandate to do what it intends to do. During the suspension of the sitting for dinner I took the interest to look up the promises which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made. Mr President, I will not bore you with what they were but I refer to one matter from his speech. I challenge the Minister for the Media who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Security and ask him, when he has an opportunity to reply, to please say whether Labor is keeping this promise which Mr Whitlam gave during his speech on the Australian Labor Party policy. Among other things page 10 of ‘It’s time for leadership’ states:
Hospital care will be paid for completely by the Fund in whatever ward the patient ‘s doctor advises.
That has been completely reneged on by this Government. The Labor Party says it has a mandate for what it proposes to bring in under this health scheme. But this is something which the Prime Minister promised. Honourable senators on the Government side certainly cannot claim that Labor will provide free medical and hospital care in whatever ward the patient’s doctor advises. There is the situation. Undoubtedly the Minister may attempt to answer it. I hope that he will. But I think he will be honest and say: ‘Well, that is one matter which we perhaps have had to overlook in our endeavour to get a health scheme, such as Labor wishes, under way at this time. ‘ But it was a promise by the Prime Minister. It is something for which the Labor Party can claim it was given a mandate. But it is not doing that. Labor must stand condemned, if it wishes to say it has a mandate to do that and it does not do it.
The scheme in Australia as it exists at the present time and as it has existed over the past few years has been an excellent scheme. I am attracted to the general Bill which has been put forward by Senator Little of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. This was an attempt by a political party to correct the faults which exist in the present medical scheme and to see whether it could upgrade the service in any way. The upgrading and the modernisation of the present health scheme is required. I do not think that any member of the Parliament will say that there are not progressive measures that need to be taken. But I think that in a gradually improving society where more funds are becoming available obviously these benefits will be brought to the public. Of course the present medical scheme, as we know it is based on the attraction to the public of various important factors. The present scheme leaves some respectability with the citizen. It leaves to the citizen a freedom of selection of the type of hospitalisation he will have, the doctor of his choice and the method by which he will insure himself. An obligation is left to the citizen to do that.
Privacy is retained in the present scheme which, under Labor’s proposal, will not exist. At the present time there is pride left in the medical profession which I am quite certain will disappear under Labor’s proposals. There is a competitive nature in the research which one finds in various areas of hospitals these days, whether it be private, public, specialised or country hospitals. There is a different area of interest in each type of hospital. We find that various areas of research lead to benefits in our health services in this country. There is a dual development of private and public hospitals. One can see that under Labor’s proposals this will be eliminated if Labor has its wish. I notice that Senator O ‘Byrne is quiet when it comes to stating whether Labor wishes to see the abolition of private hospitals in the community.
– Of course we do not and the honourable senator knows it.
-The honourable senator shakes his head but indeed he does. The present Minister, Mr Hayden, approximately 12 months ago when speaking of Labor’s proposals for a socialist philosophy in relation to hospitals said:
Labor is a socialist Party and its aim, as far as medical care is concerned, is for the establishment of public enterprise.
-We hear ‘hear, hear’ from the great left wing socialist Senator
Gietzelt. He certainly wishes to see the elimination of private hospitals. The honourable senator with his ‘ hear, hear ‘ shows he agrees. He does it very appropriately. But Labor in its proposals casts aside many of its principles in its headlong drive for complete Government control of medical services in this country. Labor’s proposals have effected the States, hospitals which exist at this time, various medical professions and the insurers. For one who has some pride in the achievement of the present system there is reason to believe that these philosophies of Labor are not for the good of our society. The introduction of similar schemes can be seen in overseas countries. My voice is going a little hoarse and I would be quite pleased if the Senate would be quiet for a moment or two. After the introduction of schemes in Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand we heard news from those great countries indicating that their medical schemes were a failure. Yet we find that the Labor Party, in the goodness of its heart, thinks that a scheme similar to those operating in those countries should be adapted to the Australian situation. I recall a report on ‘This Day Tonight’ on the New Zealand medical scheme. The reporter said to Dr Geiringer who I understand is the Minister in that country:
Another measure of the decline in the New Zealand scheme is the over-strained public hospital system. The vast base hospitals which dominate the city-scapes simply cost too much to be extended to meet demands. The result: for non-urgent surgery, the waiting list in some cases is up to three or four years- gall bladders, hernias, cartilages, varicose veins- anything troublesome but not vital has low priority. . . . The chronic bed shortage has meant a massive swing to private health insurance. Ten years ago, it was virtually unheard of in New Zealand. Now perhaps 1 5 per cent of the population has opted for medical insurance- the only way of guaranteeing elective hospitalisation.
One could quote from other statements that have come from the several countries I mentioned. I have a copy of what was written by one British general practitioner to a medical friend in Queensland. The British doctor said: 1 have long since given in to the system. If the National
Health Service wants me to be a sorter and form-filler, if it’s what my patients want and the Hospitals expect, why should I fight them all? I no longer seek adventure and interesting cases but an easy time. In assessing a case for admission I don ‘t think (as I used to), ‘Is it essential?’ but, provided the hospital would happily accept it, ‘why not?’ The patient and relatives will prefer it and will save me ‘ X ‘ number of visits and possible worry. I am thinking of pneumonia, cardiac failure, threatening miss, etc I adopt the same attitude to OP referrals. I do no maternity. No casualty work or minor surgery. No family planning. (This could be a mistake- it is paid per item of service as regards smear tests.) I have reduced home visiting to a minimum. I do no night work after bedtime. I do no weekend work . . .
One can gather from that statement what is taking place in relation to nationalised health schemes. I was speaking to a visitor to Canberra last week who told me about taking the opportunity to visit the . medical centres m Canberra which this Government has set up. One is under the control of four private doctors and the other is operated by salaried doctors. I do not wish to criticise salaried doctors but that individual was able to say to me: ‘You can see externally and from a quick visit internally which is the Government run operation. ‘ I suggest it may do honourable senators good if we go out and see how these Government operations are being run. Labor’s scheme introduces the philosophy of socialists. Prior to Labor coming to office it was said that there would be complete central control by the Government. I hold the view, Mr Presi-dent, that at the present time the Australian public is becoming alert to Labor’s true aims. The uneconomic, the inefficient, the expensive and the labour-intensive use of Government ownership and direction are typical of what Labor is introducing in every area where it wishes to see central government domination. Labor is using public funds in my opinion to surround itself with a publicity force and physical assistance in the form of its personal friends to assist it in putting its own cause to the public. It is rather regrettable that that should be brought about but it is quite obvious what Labor is intending to do in relation to many areas. We see it in the structure of our industries, we see it in our mineral industries, and we see it in our manufacturing industries. Nowhere is it more evident than in the Bill before the Senate relating to the health of the community.
In my view there are three particularly important areas where this legislation will have a great effect on the Australian public. One relates to the type of health service that will be delivered to the public. There are to be free public wards. That sounds wonderful. However, Mr President, you and I know that nothing is actually free. Somebody will be paying for it. When the Labor Government says that it is going to give it to us free you can bet your life that somebody will be paying the bill. All residents of Australia, according to the Minister’s second reading speech, are supposed to be covered automatically. Pensioners are to receive a specialist service. In fact at least 85 per cent of the doctor’s bill is to be paid by the Government operation and each visit or each attendance by a medical practitioner will cost no more than $5.
It is supposedly a free health scheme but one only needs to look into various areas to realise that it will not be a free health scheme for those who choose to have something a little better than public ward attention as they have been able to choose for many years in the past. Again I realise that it is Labor ‘s philosophy for everyone to have public ward attention so that there will be no choice by the individual of an upgrading or otherwise. The Government will lose the initative, as I see it, of the medical profession. It aims at having a totally employed community. There will be a great extra cost if an individual wishes to have intermediate or private ward treatment. The Minister has said that this is to be a complete medical service paid for by the Government. He knows that that is far from true. There is another point which I regard as being of concern. Perhaps I can refer to my friend Senator Little of the Democratic Labor Party, although I do not wish to refer to the DLP regularly. Senator Little has been attempting to get the Minister to say what will be the actual cost of this scheme.
– I am going to tell the Government later.
-Senator Little has been attempting in the last week to get the Minister to answer some questions. Under the present scheme, an individual may pay $60, $70 or $80 into an insurance fund. I pay $90 for my family. The point is that under the present scheme a member of the public is able to deduct that contribution from his taxable income. The lowliest worker is able to deduct that amount from his income. If he pays X cents in the dollar in tax he gets an immediate refund for his medical and hospital cover. What is the truth about this Government’s scheme? We heard no word from the Minister. He tried for three or four days to avoid Senator Little’s questions. The fact is that there will be no such deduction under this scheme. Not once has the Labor Party said that it is going to save $200m- or is it $300m- on tax rebates to the public. Such rebates will be eliminated under this scheme. Does the public know that? The Labor Party has never told u;. As late as last week in this Senate ‘here wen honourable senators who were still attempting to find out the truth about the Labor Party’s scheme. Most people in the community will be paying a higher amount for the type of health service which they want than they pay under the present scheme.
– That is untrue.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, I will remind you of an old proverb. You are being snared by the words of your own mouth. I call Senator Webster.
-Mr President, you were referring to Senator O’Byrne. I hope that the statement goes on record. The average citizen will now pay 1.35 per cent of his taxable income.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr President, earlier today you drew attention to my referring to copious notes.
– That was your phrase, not mine.
– Would you do the same thing and be even handed in this matter- Israelis and Arabs?
– Order! I am always even handed. I have been watching Senator Webster. He has an advantage over most honourable senators in that he has long sight.
– And long wind.
– Order! I know perfectly well that he is not speaking from copious notes. He has been quoting from documents. There is no substance in the point of order.
-Mr President, I am delighted to have your support in this matter. Thank you very much. I was saying that the average citizen will pay 1.35 per cent of his taxable income to produce this great scheme which Labor has in mind. My understanding is that that will mean that the average citizen whose income is in excess of about $7,000 a year will pay more than he is paying at present. We know how many members of the Government and how many Ministers are receiving far in excess of that amount. The great body of people in the Australian community will be paying in excess of the normal figure which they are paying at present. The new amount is not tax deductible. It will not be just 1 . 35 per cent. Anyone who suggests that is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. It is completely incorrect to say that this scheme will cost 1.35 per cent of a person’s income. In actual fact, that statement deceives the public. The higher cost, the loss of freedom and the service which the Labor Party has not promised will be upgraded give one great concern.
The other 2 areas of concern which I indicated were in those areas of State agreement. We know that unless a State agrees with what the Commonwealth wants, by its great operation of telling a State what it will do or it will get nothing, the private hospitals will not get the $16 refund which the Government has said will be a contribution to the private hospitals or to the individuals. It is the individual’s right. He has paid his tax, supposedly, under Labor’s scheme, yet Labor suggests that it will be granting that amount to private hospitals or to individuals.
The problems faced by private hospitals are perhaps of greatest concern to me because I realise what the private hospitals have done in past years. By a body of individuals working in the community, wonderful edifices have been built in my home city of Melbourne. The Mercy hospital, the Freemasons hospital and many others have been built by devoted people who are contributing to uphold a standard which is more than comparable with the standard in most public hospitals. These beds represent over 20 per cent of the beds in Australian hospitals. The Labor Party wishes to see private hospitals out of business. It has directed its arrows to that target. If Labor has its way, it will not be very long before individuals who have been the supporters and the innovators of the great private hospitals in this country will find that if the Labor Government takes over the role of control of hospitalisation they must divert their interests into other areas of social interest. That will be a disaster for the medical profession and for community health in future. There are great religious implications in this matter. There are matters concerning the human rights of individuals who will be forced to transfer from the type of hospital in which they desire to stay.
There are many important matters to be discussed in these Bills but I again refer to the Opposition’s objections to these Bills. If Labor has its way, there will be a lower quality of medical care in Australia, increased costs for the Government, increased total costs for the majority of taxpayers, rejection of the freedom of choice which exists at present, the jeopardy of the future of religious, private and country hospitals and the nationalisation and socialisation of medical health care in this community.
- Mr President, in accordance with standing order 364,I ask that Senator Webster table the document to which he referred. He read from correspondence to a Queensland doctor. The correspondence was alleged to have been forwarded to a Queensland doctor.
– I am aware of standing order 364.
– I ask that the document be tabled.
– The standing order states:
A document quoted from by a senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table;
Therefore a motion is required.
– I move:
Unless Senator Webster agrees to table the document, I press the motion.
– I wish to speak to the point of order or to the motion, whichever may be the appropriate course. I do not wish to table the document from which I quoted.
– I moved the motion. I did not raise a point of order. I moved the motion.
- Senator Webster is entitled to speak to the motion.
– Some would prohibit us speaking, if they could. In this matter I quoted from the text of a letter which had been sent to a Queensland doctor. I did not name the doctor who sent the letter. I said that he was a British general practitioner. I did not name the Queensland doctor. I am quite prepared to table the notes from which I made my speech. They include the statement which I made.
– Order! The motion is that Senator Webster table the document from which he quoted. Does any honourable senator wish to address himself to the motion?
– The circumstances in which Senator Webster quoted from the document were perhaps different from what might be regarded as the circumstances to which standing order 364 would apply. If there was a direct quotation from a document and if the document was relevant to the debate, standing order 364 could apply. Senator Webster has used the sort of quote which is not attributed and which is not used as anything other than an example. He has referred to the document in the same way that some honourable senators quote from a newspaper or quote from various unattributed sources to make a point, to explain a point or to adopt somebody else’s words. Obviously standing order 364 does not apply. In those circumstances, it would appear to me that the document was not being relied upon as a document but rather that Senator Webster was adopting the words as part of his argument and part of his address to the Senate. In those circumstances, it does not seem appropriate to apply standing order 364. Senator Webster has indicated that he is quite happy to table the notes from which he made his speech, which, presumably, include a quote to which he referred. They are the documents to which standing order 364 could conceivably, by a great stretch of the imagination, apply. Certainly there was no situation such as there was when Senator O’Byrne read from start to finish a speech which was obviously written by somebody else.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Clearly on the events which have taken place this evening -
– Order! Senator Douglas McClelland, you are not speaking to a point of order. You are speaking to the motion moved by Senator Milliner.
– I am speaking to the point of order, with respect, and to the motion because I submit that it was not necessary for my colleague Senator Milliner to move a motion for the tabling of the document. Standing order 364 states:
A document quoted from by a senator -
Certainly Senator Webster alleged that he cited a document- not a Minister of the Crown -
Senator Webster is not a Minister of the Crown- may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such order may be made without notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the senator who has quoted therefrom.
I submit that the standing order is quite clear. The simple fact of the matter is that Senator Webster, during the course of his remarks, alleged that he was quoting from a document that he had received from a Queensland doctor.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. If the Minister wishes to speak the truth he may do so, but he knows that that is not the truth.
– That is not a point of order.
– Well, the Minister -
– The substantive motion before the Chair is the motion moved by Senator Milliner. Senator Douglas McClelland is addressing himself to the motion.
– If my recollection is correct, Senator Webster said ‘and I have here a document from a Queensland doctor’ which document he allegedly cited. Quite clearly my colleague, Senator Milliner, under standing order 364 is quite entitled to ask that the document from which Senator Webster quoted be laid on the table. I submit that Senator Milliner, in accordance with the standing order and in accordance with the custom and practice of the Senate, is quite in order in asking that the document be tabled, let alone having to move a motion.
– I wish to address myself to the motion moved by Senator Milliner. I clearly recollect what Senator Webster had to say. He quoted from a document or a letter sent to someone in Queensland by a British doctor and used it as an argument in defamation of a national health scheme.
-But he did not produce the document here.
– He quoted it as being from a doctor. The first question I wish to ask Senator Webster is whether the writer of the letter was a doctor of medicine. When I look at the plates outside the medical surgeries of the medical profession in Australia I find that the great majority of them are marked ‘M.B. B.S.’. They are Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery and they pose themselves as doctors of medicine, which they are not. I quite assume that the person who wrote to the person in Queensland is also in that position. They are all disillusioning the public in presenting themselves as doctors of medicine. They are not doctors of medicine. I have tested this position in the courts and my case has been upheld.
-Order! Senator Cant, you should address yourself to the motion.
– If Senator Webster wants to bring information in here and quote it as the opinion of a doctor in England let him stand up and substantiate that the person who wrote the letter was a doctor. He wrote to a person in Queensland. Senator Webster said it was a letter written by a doctor in England. Let him prove that the writer was a doctor. Let Senator Webster stand up and say so because I deny members of the medical profession the right to call themselves doctors without processing themselves through the proper examination. There are doctors in this gallery today and I say straight to them that they are misrepresenting their position to the public of Australia.
– On a point of order, Mr President. The relevance of this entirely escapes me.
– Order! I am the judge of the relevance. I call Senator Cant.
-I wish to take a point of order.
-Order! I call Senator Cant and ask him to address himself to the substantive motion.
- Mr President, I submit to you -
– On a point of order, I should like to know whether there is a motion before the Chair.
– There is a motion before the Chair.
– Has the motion been seconded?
– There is a motion before the Chair and it is the custom of the Senate to see that the motion is seconded. I will have it seconded.
– I second the motion.
– I submit that that whole debate is out of order.
– It is not out of order. Senator Jessop, resume your seat. Senator Cant, address yourself to the motion.
-I submit that Senator Webster has spoken from a letter, allegedly received from an alleged doctor in the United Kingdom, in support of the argument that he presented against the Bill that is presently before the House. Senator Milliner has asked for the tabling of the document from which Senator Webster quoted. From the quotations of Senator Webster I submit that standing order 364 is applicable and that the document quoted, used to support a particular line of argument, should be tabled in the Senate so that the Senate can judge for itself whether it is an authentic document, whether it is written by a doctor, whether it is received by a doctor and from whom it was received. I say to you, Mr President, that the document should be tabled. If the Senator does not wish to table it then I say he has addressed this chamber under false pretences.
-Order! I think the matter has been debated enough. The standing order is perfectly clear. The Chair is the servant of the Standing Orders and cannot do anything else but apply the standing order. The standing order is rigid. The motion nas been moved for the tabling of a document. The motion has been seconded. That will satisfy Senator Jessop. I suggest that the matter be put to the test, because it is the Senate that resolves it and not the Chair.
– I wish to speak to the motion. I ask whether Senator Webster is prepared to table the document before I proceed. If he is not, I will proceed to speak to the motion. I have asked Senator Webster to table the document and he has shown no indication of doing so. When the Senate is dealing with unscrupulous, subtle, pernicious, untruthful, political propaganda- a campaign of untruths- it must have the right to nail these lies. Senator Webster has been requested to table the document. He has been asked not only to prove that the source of the document who he claimed was a doctor was really a doctor, but also to supply the Senate with documented proof of the claims that he has made. If Senator Webster has any principles at all he will table this document so that it will bear the scrutiny of the Senate and of the whole public at large. The public is looking for the truth now. This is the forum in which the truth will out. We have had a sustained and very expensive propaganda campaign by a very small proportion of self-interested doctors. Many of their colleagues are ashamed at the nature of this campaign because they know it is encased in untruths and conceived in deceit. I ask that Senator Webster table the document. I believe that he is bound by his conscience to put that document on the table.
Motion (by Senator Little) proposed:
That the question be now put.
- Mr President-
– Order! There is no debate once the motion has been moved:’That the question be now put’.
-Have I no right to reply?
– No. Senator Milliner, resume your seat. The Standing Orders are perfectly clear that once the motion has been moved That the question be now put’, it must be put forthwith by the Chair without debate.
– May I seek your indulgence to point out-
– No, you cannot. I have no discretion.
-There is no document. It is a reference to a document.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Milliner’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I rise to support the proposals that have been enunciated by my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland. In view of past events, I can do no better than give a quotation from a great American President, who said that the greatest threat to our institution came from those who feared to face up to changes. I think that has been exemplified tonight by Senator Webster. Although the Government makes no apologies in relation to the reforms it suggests, it does not claim to be the sole author of this reform movement. I wish to quote from the report of the Nimmo Committee. This report was prepared by Mr Justice Nimmo, who was the Chairman of the Committee and who has been seconded to a judicial position in Fiji, Sir Leslie Melville and Sir Norman Mcintosh. These people were empowered in 1968 to conduct an inquiry into the shortcomings of what is known as our national health system. This is very significant because, as I have been reminded by Senator Wriedt, this assignment was suggested by the then Liberal Minister for Health, the Honourable Dr Forbes.
Following that, there was an election in 1969 when the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), campaigned throughout this country that the socalled national health scheme was not good enough. He said that in 1969. He gained a tremendous number of seats in that election, and in December of last year he attained the Prime Ministership. But that is by the way, because this trio of people who comprised the Nimmo Committee and who do not have Australian Labor Party membership came up with recommendations. This is what they said:
I pause there, because some honourable senators would well recall that in the middle 1950s, when Dr Page introduced the scheme, the clarion call was: ‘You are going to get back 90 per cent of your medical and hospital costs’. That was, of course, compeletely mythical. The findings and recommendations of the Nimmo Committee continued:
Another finding was as follows:
The Committee made another very important recommendation regarding the administration of health insurance. It listed the 5 people who would constitute the National Insurance Commission, and among those listed was a person representing the interests of contributors and patients. Much has been said tonight on this subject and much more will be said, but one thing stands out. I have been very fortunate in that I have not had very much need for the assistance of members of the medical profession personally so I have no quarrel with them, but I have a quarrel on behalf of many people in this country about the various manoeuvres and inadequacies of the private hospital contribution funds. This is the point that I make since, in essence, the private fund members have no say in the making of fund policy.
I have listened to Opposition speakers repeatedly talking about rank and file control in the trade unions. With all deference to the speeches made by Senator Little and Senator Rae this afternoon, nobody has admitted, despite what Mr Justice Nimmo said, that there is a flaw in the existing structure of the funds, because after all this inquiry by Mr Justice Nimmo commenced in 1968 and Senator Greenwood was Minister for Health for a brief period between 1969 and 1972. Later, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson held that portfolio. Speaking in the New South Wales context, I know that we had a massive dispute about how much of the increased cost of the health scheme would be met by the funds. I can remember Senator Greenwood having consultations with the forgetful Hon. Mr Jago in New South Wales. I refer, in the New South Wales context, to how much of the increased costs the funds would meet. Each State had acquired massive reserves. I am realistic enough to know that rising costs cannot be controlled completely, but what I do say is that if it is good enough for a trade union to have to call meetings of its rank and file to ratify an industrial agreement it is good enough for the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited to call their members together in the capital cities and ask them how the reserves should be used.
– They have no rights.
– Exactly. But do honourable senators remember that famous occasion on which Senator Greenwood and Mr Jago were trying to evolve a formula, and they met those fat cat private enterprise bureaucrats, Mr Cade and Mr Turner? They did not go to their rank and file; they never consulted anybody. Of course, it is now history. They fed in X million dollars over a set time in order to absorb the reserves. I throw back in the teeth of Senator Rae and, to a lesser degree, Senator Little that we are not on trial but the private enterprise health schemes and medical schemes are. As a matter of fact, a lot of twaddle was talked about what is going on in Britain, Canada or the European countries. These countries have accepted the fact that the government has to play a major role in this matter. I do not necessarily say that in a socialist concept. There has been talk about the right of the individual. The position in Australia today is that if a person does not join a private enterprise medical fund he will get nothing, despite the fact that he is a taxpayer and that he puts in his tax return every June, July or August. So I throw that right into the teeth of honourable senators opposite when they talk about freedom of choice. If a person does not join a fund he gets nothing. I make that point for a start.
As far as fund democracy is concerned, I have waited in vain for some injection of democracy in relation to funds consulting their members. I went overseas 2.5 years ago with members of the Opposition, including Senator Byrne and Senator Davidson. When I returned I submitted to the then Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, a proposal which was related to the Belgian system, and I am still waiting for an answer in relation to that proposal. The system operating in Belgium provided for a 5-man tribunal that assessed the wants of the contributors. I am not indulging in any rampage or any attack on the Australian Medical Association; I am simply making a plea for participation on behalf of fund contributors. Why should they have to genuflect and bow before the directors of these so-called super private enterprise funds? Senator Jessop is trying to interject; the dogs bark but the caravan goes on. I make this point in relation to fund democracy, and Senator Douglas McClelland in his own effective way will deal with much of the structure of this Bill. But I am throwing this challenge to honourable senators opposite: What is wrong with the so-called system that they are defending?
I want to deal with lack of health insurance coverage by these funds. We all know that today many Australians travel overseas. My challenge is related to case histories. If Mr Cade and Mr Turner from the HCF and MBF are not listening, at least they will read my speech, if their stooges are not in the gallery at the present time. I can see a smile there, so I have hit home. I am not running away from this problem, but I am giving them a little information. I want to refer to the case history of a gentleman I will call Mr B who lives in Carlingford. His wife had the misfortune to be involved in an automobile accident in the United States. She was a member of a private enterprise fund. Mr Hayden, the present Minister for Health, and I leaned on the fund concerned and it condescended to meet her expenses as a result of the automobile accident in the United States. I anticipate that Senator Gair might interject and say: ‘What about third party insurance in the United States?’ My illustrious legal comrade, Senator Wheeldon, will know all about this. This woman will suffer financial difficulties until that case is settled. Only because Mr Hayden leaned on the so-called and much vaunted private enterprise scheme is she getting some justice. There are other similar cases to which I could refer.
Let me deal now with this iniquitous referral system. In order to do so I will refer to my own experience, and these remarks will apply to a few other people also. The same thing could have happened to a rubber worker, a railway man or some junior or elderly executive. I had a couple of minor sun spots on my face. I do not go to any general practitioner in particular but when I had a Friday free in the last 3 weeks I went to a doctor. I give him full marks for using dry ice and all that sort of sophisticated treatment. I was charged $27. The service was good. I was in a medical benefits fund in 1953 because I was compelled to do so. There is something wrong with this stupid referral system because I could not get a refund. I had no time to spend another night going to a general practitioner but it could have been a railway shunter on 13 shifts out of 14 and in a similar position- no time to go to 2 doctors.
– It is doctor helping doctor.
– Exactly. Senator Gietzelt has provided the answer. If we are talking about reforms in the present system, I could say that I have been a gilt edged investment to these funds. I do not cavil at it. Providence has probably been good to me. I ask again whether honourable senators opposite suggest- this is what the present private enterprise people suggestthat we are all hypochondriacs and we want to be always running around to the specialist and therefore we are forced to go to a general practitioner first. I can assure these people that I did not want to go to a doctor unnecessarily. I do not cavil at the service. But would anyone tell me that after being a member of a fund for 23 years I was not entitled to some refund by the service mentioned? The doctor is on my side. He is a good bloke. But the HCF and the MBF are our enemies. They are my enemies. I say to the AMA that instead of defending these free riders it should work with Bill Hayden and get some commonsense agreement.
I now refer to this 1.35 per cent of our taxable income as being the suggested contribution to the Government’s scheme by the taxpayer. As a senator I have had people come to me with their problems. Let me quote a classic case. A little child of perhaps 2 years may initially have had some form of appendicitis, but then it was discovered that there was an additional complication. She did not have a hernia but she had something which was midway between the two. Some medical man or representative of a hospital fund, speaking in a very highfalutin voice, said: ‘It is not on the chart; you have to pick up the tab for the difference.’ If the person involved was a rubber worker on $80 a week and he had to find another $25 or much more, he would be in economic straits.
– On $80 a week you would have to find $40.
– Both Senator Little, who is interjecting, and Senator Rae said that the present system is the greatest system in the world. I would ask those honourable senators and other honourable senators opposite to cast their minds back to their criticims of us in relation to immigration. They wanted to know why we had not taken more migrants. We then ascertained why more migrants were not corning to Australia. It was said in a departmental reportthe report was prepared not by the Labor Government but by the Government of honourable senators opposite- that our present system is completely inferior to that operating in Western Europe and to that operating in Britain, because we do not have a comprehensive system of health insurance. I repeat that I have no quarrel with the AMA. I know that the doctors are on call for long hours. However, I think that they backed a loser when they deliberately allowed one of their number to be conned into defending these funds because we all know the way in which the premiums are assessed. The members of such funds are never consulted. When a person writes to a fund for redress in relation to a claim which might be on the border line, unless he goes to a member of Parliament with his case the fund will tell him that the item for which he is claiming is not on the schedule. As Senator Carrick would know, during the sittings of Estimates Committee C I asked the officers of the Department of Health how many complaints they had received in relation to the inadequacies of the various health schemes and medical schemes. I asked this question because I have found that far too many people do not want to be involved in a dispute. Everyone here knows that it is a hazard which has to be faced, just as when one is on the football field one expects to be knocked over occasionally. I do not think there is one honourable senator here who has any inhibitions about taking on funds or taking on the Minister for Health. The whole point that I make today is that under the Hayden scheme the people will get a comprehensive health insurance cover.
I ask those people who talk about what will happen to private hospitals to be honest in what they say. Nobody has given any credit- I include in this some of the people in the AMA who saw me- to the Minister for Health for making available $1.5m to finance a sort of crash program to increase the number of our general practitioners. That has been done. No representative of the Australian Medical Association has dealt with it. I want to deal particularly with the incessant interjections from Senator Gair. When he came to the Commonwealth Parliament he and all other honourable senators had to think on a national plane. I am prepared to say this to the honourable senator: Queensland under a Labor Government- I use the term in the collective sense- did give a certain lead to the other States in regard to health care. But I remind the honourable senator that even with what he did in regard to health- I do not reflect any discredit on him or a Labor government in Queensland- the other States had to economise in regard to health matters. That was in 1953. We are dealing with the situation that exists in 1973. 1 accept that the honourable senator introduced a concept of free coverage for public health. I ask him and his colleagues now to join with us in the Labor Party and when the vote is taken on this matter let us introduce a modern system.
The Labor Party and Mr Hayden have never attempted to quarrel with the doctors. Senator
Webster made a very insulting reference to medical centres. I cannot speak in regard to Victoria. I know that some of my Victorian colleagues will do so. But some four or five weeks ago the Monday edition of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ carried a major indictment of the lack or hospital facilities in Sydney. The remarks were related to the usual weekend automobile accident carnage. The fact that there were inadequate hospital facilities stood right out. If honourable senators study the proposals that we are advancing, they will see that in addition to injecting money into a massive national health coverage to provide public beds and displaying a magnanimous attitude to private hospitals, over and above that injection of public funds, there will be a surplus of funds, despite the phoney accountancy attitude of Senator Webster. That surplus will be injected into the construction of more hospitals. The whole tenor of the remarks of both Senator Webster and Senator Rae was that they were defending what exists at the moment. They know in their hearts that it is not good enough. We have had excessive delay. Senator Webster talked about the backlog of people waiting to have operations.
I noticed in the Melbourne ‘Age’ newspaper issued as late as a few hours ago that there was an indictment of a private hospital for refusing to take a patient. We are proposing an extensive coverage for the average person so that when he receives a hospital bill he is covered entirely. There will not be any technicalities to deny him hospital coverage. Also, our scheme will involve the administration of the hospital funds. The position will not be as it is in Sydney. The Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia had so much money held in reserve that they decided to purchase a private aircraft to fly all over New South Wales. Honourable senators opposite know and I know that when the aircraft crashed they did not have the guts to buy another one. I throw out this challenge to the Senate tonight: My office in Sydney has been open to representatives of the Australian Medical Association and to people who have been filched and denied justice by the HCF and MBF. I can assure honourable senators that in regard to at least 10 cases when I wrote to Bill Hayden the people concerned received justice. It is not because the hospital funds liked the colour of my blue eyes. The people concerned received justice because Mr Turner and Mr Cade of the hospital benefit funds knew that I would expose the funds in the Senate. I say that particularly to the gentleman sitting in the gallery because I know that notes will be taken and that they will be given to Mr Cade and to Mr Turner. I make the point without any apology. I refer to the Carlingford case involving a woman who was denied justice because of an accident that took place in the United States of America. She would not have received justice but for the threat of exposure of the funds in the Senate. I have been fair enough. I did not name the people concerned, not out of deference to Mr Cade or Mr Turner but in justice. I know that many of my colleagues here will be able to document the inadequacies of the present system. I am grievously disappointed,’ I waited for Senator Rae and for Senator Little- I know that he will reply in the debate- to answer the points made in this document prepared by Mr Justice Nimmo. I quoted from this document. The report does not represent a decision of a Labor Party federal conference. It is the decision of an eminent jurist. He stated what was wrong with the present health care system.
What do we find tonight? We find Senator Rae fighting a rearguard action- I would say that he had a Maginot Line complex- and saying what a wonderful system we have. If I was not speaking in the Senate I could speak in a much more earthy way on what is wrong with the present system. If I went to the waterfront or into industry tomorrow and put the position to the workers, they would all agree with me. I make this appeal to the honourable senators tonight: I do not know what will happen in regard to the numbers in the Senate, but I can assure honourable senators that in 1969 and 1972 we talked about the ingredients of a Labor Party gaining electoral seats. Everywhere that Gough Whitlam went he received cheers when he exposed what was wrong. I am amazed that honourable senators opposite can say in the debate tonight that we have a wonderful system at present. They know in their hearts there is a basis for reform. But because there has been a little high pressure activity and some of these situations have arisen they have gone to water. It was good enough for Mr Justice Nimmo to prepare the constructive proposals that he produced in 1969. Three years have passed since then. We have had 2 eminent Opposition senators, Senator Greenwood and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who have acted as Minister for Health but who did not lift a finger to change the position. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson admitted to me the amount of correspondence that he was receiving from dissatisfied clients in our private enterprise health fund system.
If the Treasury were to hand out money to people who refused on conscience to join a private enterprise health system it could be said that there was freedom of choice. But let us nail this lie. We all pay taxes but unless a person joins a private enterprise health fund, he receives nothing by way of medical benefits. What Mr Hayden is suggesting is that there should be an all embracing system. I can assure honourable senators that I do not run away from the idea, as I have told my colleagues, that for the first 12 months people will pay higher income tax. But what will be the final outcome? When a man, his wife or children suffer from some illness they will know that they are covered for the expenses incurred. There will not be this solar plexus punch that exists at the present time when a person who incurs medical expenses finds that there is a gap of $50, $70 or $ 100 between what he has to pay and what he received from the hospital fund. This is the situation that arises at the moment. I do not say that with any venom because if I did it would be directed at Mr Cade and Mr Turner. I make no apology for that because of the illustrations I gave in regard to myself and the way that many other people have been gypped. However, I want to rise above that. I say quite unreservedly that as the Senate is now expending its time on a debate to introduce a better health deal I am amazed that Opposition senators are defending the evils of the past. I throw out this challenge to Senator Wright who I see is glaring at me over there: It was his Government that commissioned the Nimmo report. The report exposed what is wrong. Why does not he come forward with a middle course?
-Following Senator Mulvihill in this debate as I do, I feel that I have to come back to the facts. It is not an argument as to whether one person had difficulty in obtaining a positive program under the old system, as we can regard it now. Really, it is the present system. I am wondering whether the lone woman to whom Senator Mulvihill referred, or even the honourable senator himself, would have done any better if they had had to argue with a government. Of course, there are always borderlines cases in regard to any Act of Parliament because it is not possible to pass a law that will cover every individual case. I noticed that in the honourable senator’s heartrending example of a child of 2 years who was ill, he said that it was the terrible members of the Australian Medical Association who had the skill and the knowledge to diagnose the Child’s illness. Without them she was lost entirely. This is one of the fundamentals of this program that we should keep in mind. Without the doctors no health program can function. I wish to develop my speech with that position as the basis.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party has not talked about who is right or who is wrong. We have tried to examine the Government ‘s program without predjudice. We have tried to ask questions in the Senate. Indeed, I have asked 5 questions on one aspect and I am still waiting for an answer. I had to put the question on the notice paper. I do not think that is a very good way for a government to explain its proposition to the people of this country. It is my charge against the Government today that it has not explained its program not only to the people of the country b ut also, from the statements made tonight, to members of its own Party. I received an answer to a question I asked a fortnight ago of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), who represents the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in the Senate. In it he said that a working wife on $60 a week would pay nothing at all. I can read the actual extract from Hansard of the Minister’s words to show not that he is a liar- I know the Minister, and I would not charge him with being a liar- but that he told me something that was not true. In answer to a question I asked of him the Minister, as reported in Hansard of 28 November 1973 and as has been reiterated in this chamber tonight by 2 supporters of the Government, said:
My friends opposite cited an example of a husband earning $5,000 and the spouse earning, I think he said,$60 a week or an annual sum of $3,000. If the honourable senator turns to page 65 of the White Paper he will see in paragraph 7.4 that the application of the formula to the current minimum weekly wage of $60.10 would result in an exemption limit So under those circumstances the wife would not be expected to pay anything at all.
That is what the Minister for the Media said. Let us turn to the White Paper prepared by the Government and in particular to the paragraph quoted by the Minister, that is, paragraph 7.4.I do not wish to quote the whole of it because I have only 30 minutes in which to speak. It reads in part:
The application of the formula to the current minimum weekly wage of $60.10 would result in an exemption limit of $2,210 -
Not $3,000 but $2,2 10- of taxable income for taxpayers claiming $100or more in deductions for dependants in 1974-75. A ‘shading-in’ arrangement based on the principles proposed by the Planning Committee will be made. Persons with taxable income marginally in excess of the exemption limit of $2,210 -
For the benefit of the Minister, who may not have been informed by bis colleague, I point out that is the exemption limit- will not have to pay the full 1.35 per cent levy; their contributions will be calculated on the basis of 50c in each $1 . . .
That is vastly different from the Minister’s statement to me and the reply to interjections tonight that no one on $3,000 a year would be paying anything into any fund and that in those circumstances the wife on $60 a week would not be expected to pay anything Let us look at the White Paper that is supposed to explain to the people of this nation the facts of this nefarious scheme that is based on deceit. The only table that has been produced starts at an annual taxable income of $1,200. Does any honourable senator know anybody who is getting an annual salary of $1,200?
– That is all you are worth.
– It may be. I appreciate that, as a fellow senator, Senator Poyser would know what a senator is worth. Whatever we may get, the honourable senator studiously avoided answering the quesiton. Does the honourable senator know anybody whose salary is the amount at which the Government’s table starts, that is, $1,200 a year? Where does the table that is supposed to explain everything to the people who are going to pay finish? It finishes at $2,272, which is $40 a week. It explains what the people will have to pay from their wages in those circumstances. For example a person earning $2,272 a year or $40 week and who claimed $100 for his dependants would still have to pay $30.67 a year into this allegedly free medical service. I am not kidding. I point out to Senator people who is trying to interject, that it is his Government’s White Paper that is kidding. It is the Government’s explanation of the true situation. Senator O ‘Byrne talked earlier about people telling lies. Fancy Senator O ‘Byrne, who was one of the sponsors of this allegedly honest White Paper, talking about people telling lies.
Even if a person earning $2,272 a year had dependants for which he could claim $100 he would still have to pay a levy of $30.67 a year, which is vastly different from the answer given by the Minister for the Media that a housewife on $3,000 a year would pay nothing. That has been reiterated tonight by supporters of the Government, which shows that they have not had fully explained to them the provisions of the legislation which they are suggesting should be passed by the Parliament. I have asked a question as to whether the levy would be taxed deductible. I will argue that point fully if I can overcome the interjections. That has been a basic principle of medical costs in this nation. Let us examine why. The principle has been adopted in Australia of medical charges being considered to be an item deductible from one’s taxable income. We all know that anyone who operates a truck or runs a wholesale or retail business -
– Even if you are selling pornographic literature.
– Yes, even pornographic literature, if Senator Poyser is desirous of buying it.
– You are the best customer he has.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Byrne)- Order!
– Anyone who runs a business is entitled to claim for the depreciation of his equipment.
– You are giving us the bare facts.
– Yes, the bare facte.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There are too many exchanges across the chamber. I ask honourable senators to desist.
– The principle has been adopted that a taxpayer should be allowed to claim for his medical expenses. We have carried that principle into the lives of every individual. We have recognised that to earn an annual income an individual needs bodily health, that whatever he spends on maintaining the health of his body is spent on maintaining the health of the tax producing agent, that without his health he cannot produce the income on which he has to pay taxes and that without his health he cannot rear the family that will pay the future taxes of this nation.
– Elementary, my dear Watson.
-Senator O’Byrne said that it is elementary. But the Government of which he is a supporter is the first Government to cut out the principle of tax deductibility for health costs. The 1.35 per cent levy, which I will analyse a little more in a moment for Senator O ‘Byrne’s edification, will not be tax deductible, as medical costs have been in the past. He knows that the Government has been trying to hide this from the people of the nation and that it has been doing so to try to give some truth to the lie that three out of four families will be better off financially under this scheme. The honourable senator knows very well that they will not. Half the population of Queensland pays nothing at all at the moment; yet it will have to pay the 1.35 per cent. Despite that the Government says that three out of four families will be better off. The example of that State alone condemns the truth or the accuracy of what the Government is trying to put forward and the methods that it has adopted. Is it not a strange coincidence that the figures to which I have referred have been reproduced elsewhere? We have had presented to us what is known as the Green Paper, which is a booklet entitled ‘Health Insurance Planning Committee Report’. It includes a table entitled Levy payable at selected levels of taxable incomes and deductions for dependents ‘.
– Quote from the final document.
– I have the White Paper in front of me. It is the last paper the Government issued. But let us take the documents in their proper sequence. I hope Senator McAuliffe and I are both searching for the truth. This document starts at a taxable income of $ 1 ,200. The children who run bazaars at schools earn nearly that much now. University students earn nearly $1,200 doing part time work at Christmas. The table in this document, which must have cost thousands of dollars to produce and which has been prepared to explain to the people what they will pay, terminates at $1,951. Who ever heard of people getting those sorts of salaries today? Who is it supposed to fool? Who would believe that this is what people will pay? It says: ‘A taxpayer with no deductions for dependents on $1,951 will pay $26.33’. But nobody is working for that salary today. This is supposed to be explaining the scheme to the people of this nation. What a lot of hypocrisy that is. But that is only the first document. I have been challenged and told we should come up to date. I quoted before from the White Paper. That went one step further; it went right up to $2,272.
– You did not understand it until Don Chipp explained it to you.
– I got no explanation from Don Chipp.
– You got a 2-hour briefing from him in Kings Hall.
-A briefing? We talked about another Bill, and you will hear about that later. It was not Don Chipp who advised me 4 weeks ago not to put any questions on notice to your Ministers who were so imbecillic they could not even answer them. Yet a Press Secretary for one of them was able to give a simple yes or no to a radio report. You were trying to camouflage the cost of this system and you know it. I want to come up to date with the cost because it is very necessary that people should get a practical scale. If the Government will not tell them what it is, the Democratic Labor Party is always there with the truth to explain it to the people. The average weekly wage today is $ 1 1 1 .
– Who does it take in to strike that average?
-That was published in the newspapers the other day. If you want to know, go and find out. That is what your Minister told me when I asked a question. I have 10 minutes to go and I am going to tell my story, not yours. That average weekly wage gives an annual salary of $5,772. We could allow some $200 to get an even figure as an approximation. I do not propose to be accurate right up to $2,000 like the Government’s paper was. I am prepared to be a little more loose about it. Let us accept the annual taxable income as $5,500. A man earning that salary will pay tax of $1,080. I notice the Minister reach for his pen. I hope he writes down these figures. I have worked them out and I hope he gets his skilled assistants, who to date have failed, to check my figures. That man will pay to the Government’s scheme, if his wife is not working, $74.25. He will get no tax deduction on that- although under the old scheme he would have got $24 of that as a tax deduction- and he will finish up paying $74.25. But let us suppose he wants a private ward or treatment by his own doctor. He cannot have his own doctor unless he insures for private hospital treatment and it is estimated, by the Government spokesman, I understand, that it will cost him another $100 a year. So if his wife is not working he is up for $174 to keep his own doctor. The Government is making much of the fact that a patient can keep his own doctor, so we ought to work out the figures on that basis.
Of course, if the man’s wife is working for a salary of only $50 a week, she will pay something, although the Minister told me here that she will pay nothing at all. We are on the verge of equal pay for the sexes and not many women will be working for $50 a week. But let us imagine that this wife is working for $50 a week. She will pay on that $50 a week $35.10 into the Government’s scheme and it will not be tax deductible. If she too wants her own doctor, she will have to pay another $100. So the poor people on the average wage for whom this is supposed to be free medicine have to pay $174.25, if the wife does not work. If the wife does work, the couple must add $135.10 to that sum to know precisely what it will cost them if one has to undergo a major operation in a private hospital. Yet the Government senators say that they are for the little man. The Labor Party is for the little man? These are the facts.
– Come off it.
– All right. Sit there in silence, but do not bleat, because these are the facts from your own White Paper. These are the amounts that you have told us it will cost.
– You are misrepresenting the whole thing.
– You tell me where I am misrepresenting it. You know you cannot. These are the facts. These are the figures that confound you. Someone mentioned tonight the figure that somebody on $8,000 a year would pay. Senator McAuliffe from Queensland who mentioned the man on $8,000 a year will sit in silence and listen to what he will pay. Such a person would earn more than $8,000 because he will get other deductions. I say this in case the Minister wants to mislead us as he tried to do the other night. Let us presume that the taxpayers taxable income is $8,000 a year. He will pay, first of all, $2,025 in income tax; he will pay $108 for the privilege of having the free medical service provided by Mr Hayden; and he will pay another $100 for his own doctor if he wants him, and the Government says that he ought to have him and that it wants him to have him. That is a total of $208 that he will pay besides $2,025 income tax. Let us hope that his wife does not work; let us hope that she too is not a recipient of $8,000 a year, otherwise they will be up for about $500 before they are finished to get free medicine for the family.
– You are wrong. There is a limit of $ 1 50 on the levy.
– It is $416. Do you want more detail? I will give it to you. I was prepared to be broad. It will be $416 if both earn the same amount because of equal pay for the sexes. Added to that cost will be $5 for a major operation performed by the doctor and another $5 for the anaesthetist. Do you want me to go any further or are you satisfied with your free medicine? Of course you are satisfied; you know that you are. This gives the lie to the claim that this Government has been trying honestly to outline to the people what the system really means. But what we in the Democratic Labor Party object to more than anything else is this philosophy that a doctor is interested only in money. This is the approach of the Minister who introduced this legislation and who condemned himself and his proposition before he started. I will table this document if there is any challenge to it, because this is the Government’s document. It is portion of an address delivered by Bill Hayden in the Melbourne Town Hall on 28 November.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Byrne)- Order! Senator Little, are you going to table that document at the end of your speech?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You are entitled to do that only by leave of the Senate. At that point you can ask for leave.
– I will ask for leave at that point. It is a document presented by Mr Hayden, Minister for Social Security, to a meeting organised by the Trade Union Council. On the opening page he has this gem of wisdom designed to get the co-operation of everybody. In view of what I have said about the White Paper, I hope that honourable senators will not go into hysterics. He said:
Because we have been so open about our Program- because we have not chosen to formulate our policies and our legislation within cosy establishment circles- . . . That is simply the price of open government.
– And he would not answer a question.
– He would not answer a simple question to enable us to evaluate his scheme. But that perhaps is personal. At page 3 he goes on to say:
It’s a kind of fire in the belly of our whole legislative program . . .
That is not language that I would normally use, but I am quoting from the Minister’s speech. He wenton:
Then we turn over to find out who are the people and also how the Government is helping the low and middle income earners. He said:
Indeed they are because on pages 6, 7 and 8 we get the real gem as to why the Government’s scheme has failed and why it is being rejected now by the whole of the Australian community which does not want to be divorced from its medical services and the expertise of the people necessary to carry them out. The Minister used this conciliatory statement to the people without whom no medical service can function successfully. He said this:
AMA and General Practitioners’ Society spokesmen have, with their hands on their hearts and oozing righteousness, stated that it is not money they are interested in.
Yet, beneath that sanctimonious facade, every counterproposal they make somehow is based on money.
That is the opinion of the Minister- who is trying to implement this scheme- of the medical profession which has to carry it out. This is so whether he likes it or not. He could not treat a billy-goat. Does he know the philosophy of young people who become doctors? They do not earn a penny until the are 25 or 26 years of age. With the present taxation structure it takes them years to get into the swim of things. Many people go into commerce, industry and law. Some of the doctors main critics in this Parliament are making fortunes long before doctors get a tolerably decent income. The Minister on page 8 of this document, which I shall seek leave to table, says:
Again, a group of people interested in private hospitals- and I don’t mean Catholic hospitals or private hospitals as a whole . . .
He gets a little sectarian here. I do not know why Catholic hospitals are any different from Church of England hospitals, Methodist hospitals or other hospitals. I want to know why the Minister selected a particular religion.
– We know the honourable senator’s background in the bootmaking union.
-You might think you know, my friend, but like many others you think wrong. The Minister goes on: . . I don’t mean Catholic hospitals or private hospitals as a whole because the group I refer to is not, I believe, truly representative of private hospitals- seems to think that by applying pressure tactics they can screw more money out of the Government.
So here is a Minister who in relation to the medical profession and hospitals of this country thinks that all they are interested in is screwing money out of the people. In all professions, even politics, there are people who have no intention but to screw money out of the people. I have never believed that they represent the majority of honourable senators in this chamber. I am not prepared to say about any other profession the sorts of things that the Minister is saying of this profession which he wants to co-operate in the implementation of one of the most important programs which face this nation- our medical health service. That is the standard which the Minister adopts in this speech when he describes in such a manner the vital factors of the health industry of this country. I seek leave at this stage to table the statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- You may seek leave of the Senate at the conclusion of your speech.
– I shall do that. In summing up the whole program I say to the Senate that I believe that there is a lot of deceit in this matter. I believe that we face a very important decision in relation to this Bill. I believe that the Government should have explained to every rank of income-earner in this country precisely what he is faced with when he compulsorily goes into this scheme. I believe the Government is obliged to compare the cost with what he has paid in the past. The Government has not done that. It has camouflaged the situation. It has not told the journalists. It has not told the bootmaker. It has not told the ironworker. It has told a mythical few people who work part-time for $40 to $50 a week what the scheme will mean to them. In 2 big documents the Government has not been honest enough to carry the matter the necessary step further. Let us face up to the fact of the basis of the philosophy. Should people who earn higher incomes, who are taxed under a system of graduated taxation to level off incomes to some comparable basis, time and again in every activity be penalised because they work harder and because they are more highly skilled? The trade union movement has been in favour of margins for skill for years.
Let us look at the person who gets a sumptuous salary- like the journalist who reports this Parliament-of, say, $1 1,000 a year. He will pay $150 which, for the first year, the Government says is the maximum. A person pays $3,368 of his $11,000 in taxation. That brings his total income, of course, to a mere $7,482. Out of that we have to take $150 for medical benefits and another $100 to insure him for private hospital treatment. Let us hope his wife is not working too because he will have to have a major operation every 6 months to keep square. Yet the Minister, with this sort of proof, has the audacity to try to tell this nation that three out of four people will be better off. I give him the lie. Nothing like three or four people will be better off. On his own figures in the White Paper he has little children on $20-odd a week paying $16.20 into the new scheme. But the Minister goes to great pains to say that if that person has dependants that gives him an exemption of $ 1.I have never seen on the taxation form that one can get an exemption of $1.I do not know why the Minister has included $1, $2, $3 and why he has then jumped to $25. This is supposed to be a valid table. He finishes up with $ 1 00 or more.
Have honourable senators heard of anyone at the moment who is working for $20-odd a week with deductions of $ 100 for taxation purposes? A person would have to be about 15 years of age with a couple of children to receive that deduction. But the Minister would say: ‘Well, if you do not have any children on $20 a week you have to pay $ 1 6.20. But if you have a child we will let you in for nothing. But do not be too enthusiastic because that will cut out when you get up to about $2,2 10 a year. ‘ This is all in the White Paper for everybody to read. The hypocrisy of this Government! We ought to reject the Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I ask for leave to table this document which is a Ministerial Press statement issued by the Australian Government Publishing Office.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Senator Little who has resumed his seat has charged this Government with deceit, misrepresentation, and telling lies. In no mean manner he has challenged this Government’s credibility in its attitude towards this Health Insurance Bill. But let me recall what happened earlier this evening in this chamber when Senator Webster was speaking. He used his office allegedly to quote from a document which he said was written by a member of the British Medical Association. He used that document to defame in no uncertain manner the legislative measures which are before this Parliament When challenged to produce that document he refused to do so. He had no defence to support the opinions which he said were contained in that document. Yet Senator Little, who has charged this Government with deceit and misrepresentation and has challenged its credibility, was one of those who voted in favour of not requesting Senator Webster to table that document. I did not think I would live to see the day when among the elected representatives of the people, one of those charged with implementing democracy in this country, let alone a man in the highest office of the land, the Senate of this Parliament-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator must not reflect on the vote of the Senate.
– Well with respect, I did not think I would live to see the day that a senator would not voluntarily table a document to support his argument. But of course this is in keeping with what has been happening for a long period of time. The national health of any country has never been dealt with in such a shameless, cavalier or callous manner as the national health of this country has been handled by the Opposition. I know that that is a serious charge to make. I have considered the statement and think that I am completely justified in making it.
These Bills stem from a belief on the part of the Government that the health of the people is the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a nation will be built. The handling of these Bills by the Opposition, its strategy, its campaign, its indulgence in deceit and misrepresentation regarding the Government’s purposes in connection with them have been in my opinion, and I am aware of the seriousness of what I am going to say, the most shameful procedures in the history of the Parliament of this country. As far as the Government is concerned, these Bills mark the beginning of a period in which the resources of this nation can and will be directed to the prevention of disease, the promotion of positive health and the treatment and cure of disease and disability. It is in effect the source of a charter for a national health program for the future. I believe that this program and our policy on education are two of the most progressive and humanitarian legislative measures ever introduced into this Parliament. The Government is entering a field that has a long history of obstruction and frustration. This is known to us and is equally known to honourable senators opposite. In fact nothing or little has been done by Federal Parliaments so that medical services can be available to all the people and not just to those who are rich enough to be able to afford them. We know that this set of circumstances has existed for a long time.
The steps proposed to be undertaken under these Bills will form part of a national pattern of health as seen by the Government and will be directed towards the promotion of happy and healthy living for all in the community, not just those whose reach it is within because they have the money to be able to afford it. Enlightened thought throughout the world, representing all aspects of opinion, has stressed the importance and the need for governments to interest themselves directly in national health services. Even the medical profession is on record as saying that change in medicine itself has tended to increase the cost of medical treatment so that most people no longer can afford to be ill. There can be no doubt that with the advance of science and the increase in the degree of specialisation the cost of illness is beyond the purse of the average citizen. That is what these Bills propose to correct. The economic factor has been the most powerful argument in hastening the inevitability of a universal health insurance scheme. These Bills are designed to bring medical care within the range of those who at the moment cannot afford it.
Despite the conglomeration of figures cited tonight by a would-be accountant, Senator Little, the true essence of the Government case is that 3 out of every 4 people will be better off under this scheme. I will look with interest at the Hansard report tomorrow when I can carefully examine the figures given to this chamber tonight by Senator Little. Ringing clearly in my ears are the thoughts of a former Labor Premier of Queensland who said that economists should be on tap but never on top. I am sorry to say that in your case, Senator Little, you are completely influenced by outside economists.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! Please address the Chair.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, these Bills are neither revolutionary in character nor before their time. I believe that they are long overdue. Possibly one of the reasons why they are long overdue is that no government, particularly no government in the last 23 years, has had the courage to attack the vast number of problems associated with the medical service. The history of the scheme goes a long way back. Fifty years ago Federal Government had no legislative right to introduce laws governing health. The only health matters over which they had any control were quarantine and infectious diseases. It was the prerogative of the medical profession to care for the people. That was the system 50 years ago. I do not need to remind the Senate that over the years governments have been compelled by sheer necessity and in the interests of the people to take over more and more of the medical work.
Let us examine the facts. This record will be available in Hansard for anyone to see. In 1936 the chaotic conditions of health services in Australia became so evident that the Government of the day, comprised of men who gave allegiance to the present Opposition parties- they were men with the self-same political persuasions of those who sit opposite- determined that there should be better co-operation throughout Australia in relation to public health. Therefore it established the National Health and Medical Research Council which consisted of representatives of the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians, and officers of the Commonwealth and State Departments of Health. It was a very capable organisation. At the same time that this Council was formed and concern was being expressed by the Government,, there had been introduced in Great Britain a form of national control over medical services. The Australian Government invited experts from the United Kingdom to come to Australia to advise it on health matters. Those experts were brought here from Great Britain at great expense by the Government and history shows that they submitted very valuable reports.
However, Mr Acting Deputy President, history records also that the conservative Government of the day was so niggardly that when it eventually produced a Bill to cover these health services, the scheme it proposed to introduce aroused such resentment among the people that despite the fact that the Bill went through the Parliament, hostility from the public was so strong that the Acts were never proclaimed. That is the history of people in 1936 of the same political persuasion as honourable senators opposite. Yet we find that honourable senators opposite now have the audacity to try to tell a Labor Government what it should do regarding health matters for the people of Australia.
I come forward now to 1941 when the newly constituted National Health and Medical Research Council recognised the urgency of the need for a health service in Australia and gave a lead to the medical profession, to Parliament and to the people of Australia. It provided a scheme for discussion which it hoped would be taken up by the medical profession, the officers of the various Health Departments and the people. I want Opposition senators to listen carefully to this. The plan submitted by the Council for discussion provided for a salaried medical service. The Council was the brain child of the United Australian Party Government- the confederate of the Liberal-Country Party Opposition today.
Unfortunately, the scheme became the plaything of the medical profession. The doctors were suspicious of the Government’s attitudes. They claimed that it would destroy the existing service. The plan was never used by the doctors, or by any part of the medical profession, as it was intended to be used. In short, it was never given a fair go. How reminiscent those words are of what we are hearing today. The same arguments which were used against the schemes advanced in the 1940s are being repeated almost verbatim in the 2 chambers of the Parliament today. Recently I had the pleasure of having lunch with a former member of the Curtin Ministry. We spoke about the national health scheme. He said: ‘The very same things that I am hearing today were heard in opposition to our scheme in 1948. 1 suggest to senators today that if they thumb through the pages of Hansard for the period they will see recorded in speeches the same arguments which are being repeated by the Senator Littles and the Senator Websters today’.
In 1948 the National Health Service Bill was introduced into this chamber by the then Minister for Health, Senator McKenna. Although a lot of work and preparation had gone into that scheme and although it provided some sort of formula by which, the health services of this country could be improved, it suffered the same fate that the schemes before it suffered. It is interesting to read the Hansard account of speeches made at that time, because for months Senator McKenna, in his negotiations with the Australian Medical Association, was firmly convinced that due to his conciliatory manner and his diplomacy he was making headway with the profession, and the prospects of introducing a health scheme into this country appeared very bright until the time when the legislation was drafted and was about to be introduced into the Senate. To use the plain Australian vernacular, the medical profession dumped him. This scheme was pigeonholed, as all the other schemes before it were pigeonholed.
Shortly after, when the Menzies Government came into power, it introduced a scheme. Its philosophy was that the scheme should be on a contributory basis. It thought that if people had to pay something towards the scheme it would stop people abusing the scheme by running backwards and forwards to the doctors if they had a score thumb or a toothache. We know that this scheme has not been a success and that today the cost of medical treatment to people who are sick is beyond the average person. I will not ask the Senate to take my word for that statement this evening. My colleague Senator Mulvihill dealt very adquately with this phase of the scheme when he quoted from the Nimmo report. The Nimmo Committee was established by members who occupy the Opposition benches today. I think it was established in 1968. It proved quite conclusively that the health services were inadequate in that they were not available to all Australians.
I have the highest regard for the medical profession. My only complaint about its members is that they will not co-operate with this Government in its earnest endeavour to introduce a health scheme which will benefit and improve the lot of three out of four in the community. I would have liked to be able to associate them with the remarks of the British Medical Association. Sir Lionel Whitby, in an editorial in the Medical Journal’ of 3 July 1948, on the eve of the introduction of the national health scheme in the United Kingdom, summed up the position very well. His statement then is applicable today, on the eve of the introduction of this Government’s health scheme. Sir Lionel Whitby, the President of that august body, the British Medical Association, said:
The cost of ill health is a burden on the family, and the startling advances made by medicine in the past 25 years have steeply increased the cost There is, therefore, a logical case of spreading it over the whole of the community so that those that are fortunate to remain in good health may help those who temporarily fall out of the ranks.
They are the thoughts which I would have liked to be able to say were the expressions of the Australian Medical Association and an indication of the co-operation of its members with this Government in attempting something worthwhile and something, which no government has had the courage to attempt in the past 23 years. I believe that Sir Lionel Whitby’s statement applies today, on the eve of the introduction of our national health scheme.
We have heard a lot tonight from Senator Webster and Senator Little. I think that I am drawing a fair conclusion from what they said. They said to beware of the Labor Government because it is our intention to nationalise the medical profession and associated services. They have put this campaign of fear to the community to endeavour to have Labor’s measures defeated. It is true that in 1 946 the alterations to the Constitution gave authority to the Federal Parliament to make laws regarding health. The power enables the Government to proceed with the services set out in this Bill. There is no breach of the Constitution, there is nothing underhand or secretive about the Government’s intentions. It is acting well within the framework of the Constitution and under the legislative powers available to it. It has had the courage, the foresight and the humanitarian outlook to introduce this Bill. As a member of this Government I say now- I am sure that this feeling is shared by my colleagues- this Government does not contemplate, nor does the Constitution permit, any nationalisation of doctors, dentists or members of allied professions or occupations. This is not our intention. It cannot be shown in any document that it is the opinion, the principle or the policy of the Austraiian Labor Party. All that the Government seeks, all that it sought in 1948 and 1943 when it endeavoured to introduce health measures into this Parliament and all that it is concerned about is the hope that it will get the co-operation of the medical profession to develop the national health of the people of Australia. I firmly believe that it is entitled to get that co-operation.
It is not the Labor Party that the medical profession has to fear. I have shown earlier that in 1936 the National Health and Medical Research Council, which was established by the United Australia Party Government, recommended a salaried medical service. The members of the Council included doctors and officers of the various Commonwealth and State Health Departments. On 1 July 1943 the 6th report of the Joint Committee on Social Security was tabled in the Parliament of this land. On tins Committee were 3 members whom even any of us in our wildest dreams would not class as radicals. They were so representative of the hoi polloi of the Opposition parties that if they were around today the present members of the Opposition parties would genuflect in front of them. I refer to Senator Sir Walter Jackson Cooper, the Honourable John Arthur Perkins and Rupert Sumner Ryan C.M.G., D.S.O. In the unanimous findings of this report of the Joint Committee on Social Security on 1 July 1943 these 3 men came strongly down on the side of a salaried medical service in this land and that health centres should be established at various areas in it.
Honourable senators opposite have thrown out the challenge that, through our socialist and doctrinaire policies, and all the other accusations that are made, the people of Australia and the medical profession have a lot to fear from the Australian Labor Party. Nowhere in the record of this Parliament is there anything that says that anyone on this side of the House has ever said that the Australian Labor Party will nationalise the medical profession or any of its associated professions. I feel that I have shown quite conclusively, and have quoted from the records of 1936, 1943 and 1948-not as Senator Webster did as a figment of his imagination earlier this afternoon- and the Nimmo report of 1968, that the health services of this country are unsatisfactory and that the Government, irrespective of its political persuasion, should be directing urgently its attention towards bringing about some national control of the health services in this land. Let the Opposition senators cease this charge that the senators on this side of the House want to socialise and nationalise everything. That attitude must be forgotten for all time. The Joint Committee on Social Security, 3 members of which represented the most conservative thinking in this Parliament- one would never have called them radicals- agreed that there should be a salaried medical profession in this land and that there should be a national health service introduced as urgently as possible. I submit that report to honourable senators opposite to read and think about before we reach the Committee stage of this Bill.
-We are of course discussing the Bill to introduce an Australian health insurance program. It is a very important piece of legislation of some 130 clauses. It has been introduced late in a busy session but it is a piece of legislation that deserves full consideration and discussion and one about which I should like to make several observations. First of all I will say what I feel will happen to the private hospitals under the scheme. Secondly, I will look at where the money will come from and thirdly I should like to say what I feel should be done.
I refer firstly to private hospitals. Many of the points about private hospitals have been already discussed by previous speakers and I shall try to be brief because other honourable senators wish to speak. It is my firm belief that the introduction of this scheme will see the end of the charitable, religious, community and privately owned hospitals. With the introduction of the scheme we will see the gradual destruction of the benevolent and philanthropic instincts of the thousands of people who work to keep private hospitals operating. Once the drive, initiative and enthusiasm of these people is destroyed it will be very difficult to restart. Once the Government interferes it will be nigh on imposible ever again to build up the organisations which we now have. Once we have bureaucratic control of our health scheme we will, in the not too distant future, have complete nationalisation of the scheme. Not many members of the public will be able to afford the 1.35 per cent levy and the additional health insurance that will be required if they, as many do now, want to go to a private hospital. One feature of this scheme that I dislike a great deal is that it will destroy our private hospital system for no real benefit. In fact it will cost us some hundreds of millions of dollars to build public hospitals to replace the private hospital system.
Let us come to the cost of the scheme. The levy is to start at 1.35 per cent, which is to be nondeductible. I say the levy will start at 1.35 per cent because I do not trust this Government or the next to keep the levy at 1.35 per cent. I heard on the grapevine- and we all know how accurate grapevines can be around this place- that the extra tax that was originally thought to be required to finance the scheme was about 5 per cent. That is what our university experts came and told the Government. That is what Deeble and company suggested. But the Government knew that would not wash with the public so it told these gentlemen to go away and fix their figures. They did that and came back and the Government was still not satisfied. The gentlemen were told to go away again. Eventually the levy of 1.35 per cent was seemingly plucked out of the air as one the public just might swallow.
At the moment we have a scheme which covers all but 10 per cent of the public and yet all of us will have to be taxed. Man and wife will be taxed, if both of them work, to finance a scheme that I feel could well get out of control. To me it appears as if this Government is a bit tax crazy and I think the people of Australia have just about had it. They want the Government to reappraise its free spending attitudes. One of the major complaints that I hear time and time again as I travel around Tasmania- which I have been doing a lot of lately- from the ordinary man in the street is that the Government is overspending. The Government is allowing taxation to creep up and up like a consuming cancer, which has already eaten the drive and enthusiasm out of many of our best workers. As I said with regard to those who help keep the private hospitals going, once a person’s enthusiasm is killed, once it is burnt out, it is extremely hard to rekindle.
I think the Government can take it from me that the people of Tasmania anyway are fed up with some of the extravagances of this Government. Perhaps the Government should learn from recent occurrences in Denmark, where a party which advocates a general reduction of taxation has become very powerful almost overnight. Perhaps we in Australia should aim at the same sort of thing and hold the Public Service at its present level. The taxation moneys that we would save if this were done could then be returned to the people to whom they rightly belongthe people that have contributed the taxation to the Government. There is no such thing as Government money. It is the people’s money and if ever there is any money over they should get it back rather than see it thrown around in ways that I would call almost dishonest, as we have seen lately.
Whenever I see extra Government spending I ask: Where will the money come from? Even the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, cannot yet pull money out of a hat. He is not that clever. Anyway it is rabbits which come out of a magician’s hat and surely there are enough of them around here already. The taxpayer is becoming a sucker for this blood sucking Government. The vultures will stick their claws in a little deeper every chance they get. This health scheme is attempting to get the taxation claws into us even deeper. I am scared that once the Government gets a grip it will go gradually deeper and deeper. Certainly the 1.35 per cent will not last. It will be like payroll tax. I think that payroll tax was levied at the rate of 2.5 per cent one or two years ago, and now it is 4 per cent or 4.5 per cent. This is what I expect will happen with the health scheme. Once we have a huge government department, I doubt that the position in Australia will be any different from that in many other countries, such as Great Britain and Canada and some of the European countries, where common sense has forced the governments to reconsider their health schemes. Taxation and economics are not well understood by our Prime Minister. That is really an understatementhe really has not a clue about them. He is also out of touch with what the people want, regarding health matters.
We have seen the results of the referendum which was held last week. A great number of people in Tasmania said: ‘Not on your life’ to Canberra. They are sick of Government spending, Government interference and our high rates of taxation. I will not be a part of any scheme that allows the setting up of a bureaucratic department to run a health scheme that will make the people more sick of all these things. If a referendum had been held on the health scheme, I estimate that the result for the Government would have been even worse than that achieved in last Saturday’s referendum. I estimate that the people of Australia want gradual change and not radical alteration. That brings me to the third reason why I will oppose this Bill and support the amendment. There is not much wrong with the present health scheme; it has evolved gradually. The people of Australia want gradual improvement in the present scheme rather than this first giant step towards nationalisation.
What Australia needs, I believe, is an independent inquiry to examine all aspects of both schemes, to pick out the good bits and to recommend the most economical ways to overcome our present areas of difficulty. I feel that would be infinitely better and cheaper than, as one of my colleagues said recently, starting a money munching white elephant that we cannot afford to feed. I oppose the Bill and support the amendment.
-The 2 Bills that we are debating tonight are probably the most significant Bills we have dealt with since the Australian Labor Party came into power. The Government’s proposal really amounts to throwing out a health scheme that has been shown to be one of the most effective health schemes in the world. It has been the envy of many countries. These countries would very much like to get rid of the nationalised scheme they have introduced and opt for the scheme we have in Australia. I think this was made abundantly clear when Mr Detwiller came to Australia last year to look at our scheme. He was one of the experts in health care in Canada. Of course, the scheme we are discussing tonight is based on the Canadian health scheme. Mr Detwiller, who is a very well qualified man, said that the Australian health scheme had a lot going for it.
I recall reading a statement by Mr Potter, who is the Health Minister in Ontario, Canada, that the Government had created a monster which was in effect devouring the economy and that people would be well advised to stop this monster before it consumed the resources of the country. In Ontario, the health scheme expenses appear to be growing at the rate of 13 per cent per annum, whereas the gross national product is increasing by about 9 per cent per annum. So, it is quite clear that countries that have already established the scheme that the Labor Party contemplates introducing in Australia have regretted it and in fact envy our scheme which I believe caters for 100 per cent of the population. I venture to suggest that no one in Australia is denied medical or hospital treatment today.
The Minister in another place has tried to suggest that only 87 per cent of the population is covered by health insurance. Previous speakers tonight have said and proved that 92 per cent of the people are covered by health insurance in one way or another. I know for a fact that the medical profession still has the Hippocratic tendency to provide health care for people whether they can afford to pay for it or not. So I believe I am right in saying that the people of Australia have a 100 per cent health cover. We have decided to oppose this Bill, and I believe that we are acting in the best interests of the Australian people. The Liberal Party and the Opposition generally recognise that the existing scheme needs some attention. We recognise the fact that changing needs demand a revision of our present health scheme. I know that in certain areas the existing scheme needs a complete review, and I will say a little more about this later.
Because we believe that the proposal of the socialist Minister will mean a downgrading of the medical service and a consequent lowering of the standards of health care to Australian families, because it will destroy the existing scheme, increase the total cost to the Government and for the majority of taxpayers, because it will mean the end of private and religious hospitals, and, above all because it will mean the end of the freedom of choice of patients with respect to their doctor or hospital, we totally reject the Bill. It seems quite incredible to me in the face of this that the Government has pre-empted a decision of this Parliament and has set aside some millions of dollars to purchase a computer which will be installed to administer this scheme. I think it would be reasonable to suggest that if a referendum were held on the question whether the Government should have centralised control over the national health of the people of Australia, and ultimately control over doctors, the Government would receive an even more convincing defeat than it suffered last Saturday, when it attempted to take over control of the prices and incomes of the people of Australia.
I repeat what Senator Webster said when he referred to the utterances of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). He said that the Labor Party was a socialist party and that its aim regarding medical care was the establishment of public enterprise. I was most interested to read in a recent issue of the ‘ Bulletin ‘ a comment made by the Commonwealth Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). The article states.
Commonwealth Health Minister Doug Everingham in an exclusive interview told the ‘Bulletin’ last week that he saw community health centres eventually catering for between 80 and 90 per cent of general practitioners services in Australia, leaving private practice fee-for-service doctors only 10 to 20 per cent of business. Everingham said that he saw Australia moving toward the pattern in England and the Soviet Union, where only a well-off few use private doctors.
That in itself is quite clear. In my view it is indisputable that in the long term the Labor Party intends to socialise the medical profession and the hospital system of Australia. If the proposals of the Government were adopted, most people would certainly pay more. Senator O’Byrne and other honourable senators on the Government side have maintained that it will be cheaper for three out of four people in Australia. I heard Senator Little demonstrate quite forcefully and quite conclusively that this is not the case. He demonstrated that the Deeble report on health insurance differed quite significantly from the White Paper that has been brought down by the Government in recent days.
I have done a little research into this matter as well. I was interested to find that 37 per cent of all taxpayers comprise husband and wife combinations, both of whom are contributing to the family income. Almost all of the people who fall into this category would be worse off financially under the Labor scheme by paying the compulsory 1.35 per cent of taxable income. I think Senator Little spelled this out quite clearly, chapter and verse. Thirty-two per cent of the taxpayers of Australia are single, and the vast majority of these people would be penalised under the proposed scheme, because under the present scheme they pay less to a private insurance fund than their married counterparts. Of the 3 1 per cent in the latter group in which only one person in the family contributes to the family income, about half will be better off and half worse off. Therefore I think it would be fair to suggest that the number of taxpayers in Australia who will be paying more will more likely be four out of five.
I turn to the effect of the proposed health scheme on hospitals. It is fair to suggest that if the compulsory taxation levy of 1.35 per cent is applied to people in Australia, human nature being what it is, the average citizen will opt for a public bed because he will be required to pay extra to a private fund for intermediate or private ward accommodation. In fact, the additional estimated cost for 1974-75 for the average family for intermediate ward accommodation in a public hospital would be $1.25 a week; accommodation in a private ward would cost an additional $1.96 a week; and accommodation in a private hospital would cost an additional $2.50 a week. So it can be seen that this represents a considerable extra cost to those people concerned. If human nature prevails, it will mean that lower income groups and pensioners, who are now given means test protection with respect to public beds, will suffer. These are the people, of course, that the Labor Party purports to champion, but they would suffer because of the lack of hospital accommodation in the public wards. Public hospitals would quickly become overcrowded; private hospitals would become empty and would be forced to offer the Government a number of public beds in order to survive. I think it is interesting to note that the number of such beds and the rate of subsidy for such hospitals would be determined by the Minister. It is quite conceivable that a hospital with 150 beds would offer to the Government, say, 20 beds and the Minister could say: ‘We need 100 beds’. This is spelled out quite clearly in the Bill. Clause 34 of the Bill states, in part:
It is quite clear to me that ultimately this would mean the death of the private hospitals and their complete takeover by the Commonwealth so that public ward accommodation could be satisfied. This is particularly significant in relation to South Australia where at the present time in excess of 40 per cent of hospital beds are provided by private hospitals. The figure is approximately 44 per cent and this, of course, gives me great concern. I recall that Dr Moss Cass is reported to have said that private hospitals and private nursing homes are irrelevant to the Labor Party’s concept of a national health scheme and that the vast majority of people could easily be catered for in the public hospital sector. In view of that statement I find it quite incredible that the Labor Government should suggest that it does not want to nationalise or socialise medicine. We have clear evidence of Ministers of the present Government clearly indicating the Government’s intentions. I understand the socialist motive behind what they suggest.
Referring again to hospital accommodation, the statistics show that about 70 per cent of people insure for private or intermediate ward accommodation. One does not have to be a genius to work out the effect this will have on the waiting lists for operations. This effect has been clearly demonstrated in England and in Canada where over-utilisation of the scheme has meant that in relation to special types of surgery- in particular, non-urgent types of surgery- there is a waiting period of sometimes up to several years. During the last few months we have heard much about the shortcomings of the Labor Party ‘s proposals, and tonight we have heard quite a bit more about them. I think it is a pity that the Government has chosen to introduce these important Bills into the Parliament at such a late stage in the parliamentary session. They have been introduced virtually in the dying days of this parliamentary session. A Bill of the magnitude of the Health Insurance Bill deserves to be discussed for several days in order to give the members of the Parliament, including honourable senators, a full opportunity to express their points of view. But over the last few months the debate on this legislation has been conducted in the public area. As a result of this public discussion the Minister has changed ground considerably and has varied some aspects of the scheme. In spite of this, it is still unacceptable to the Liberal Party.
I do not intend to say anthing further about the proposed Labor scheme at the present time. I will do my best to conclude my remarks as quickly as I can. However, I want to refer to some of the areas in which the existing scheme should be improved in the light of present day needs.
The Liberal Party has devoted the whole year to reviewing its health policy as well as its policy in all other areas. We have come to some conclusions as to the amendments that are necessary to the existing national health scheme. I want to repeat some of the things that Senator Rae has already said for the benefit of the Senate and the people who might be listening in and who are anxious to know some of the improvements which we contemplate. I suggest that the people of Australia would agree with the Liberal Party in saying that the scheme is basically a good one. We wish to consider only those alterations which would result in significant improvements in the quality of health care or its coverage or its cost, or which would simplify the administration of the scheme. We wish to see maximum insurance coverage for basic health care. We desire the survival of independent health insurance funds for all areas of insurance, including paramedical services, so as to allow people a free choice of health insurance funds.
We want to see appropriate deterrents to the abuse of the health scheme, either by patients or medical practitioners, provided that the deterrent does not make the health scheme unduly complicated and that people needing health care are not unreasonably deterred from seeking it. We want to see the pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefits scheme integrated into the present national health scheme so that the benefits of the scheme accrue to pensioners and other people in low income sections of the community. We want to see a tribunal determine medical fees annually and that on this tribunal the government, the consumers and the medical profession should be represented, with an independent chairman. We have referred to many other areas. In the field of nursing homes, we want to see a co-ordinated decentralised delivery system of domiciliary care and day hospitals in order to keep people who do not want to be there out of nursing homes.
– Who wrote the copious notes?
-A11 the members of the Liberal Party Health Committee have contributed to the preparation of this document. I happen to be a member of that Committee. I wanted to mention those points. Senator Rae elaborated on them in greater detail, and I do not want to detain the Senate with needless repetition.
However, I want to refer in particular to the provision of insurance for other professions working in the field of health care. The Senate will forgive me if I mention for a few moments the profession of optometry. Nobody can deny that optometrists make an extremely valuable contribution to the community. It interested me to read only a week or so ago that the fall of the Danish Government was attributed to the fact that one of the members of the Parliament lost his spectacles, went home to pick them up, and his car ran out of petrol. As a result the Parliament was deadlocked 86 votes to 86 votes and this forced a general election. I am sure that honourable senators appreciate what it means to break a pair of spectacles and to do without them. Perhaps even Senator O’Byrne might be considered to be legally blind if he lost his glasses. It is a fact of life in Australia that many people depend on spectacles to improve their eyesight. Otherwise, they are considered to be legally blind. I think that patients of optometrists should be able to attract some sort of benefit from the Government and from a health fund on the same basis that a benefit is attracted in regard to the medical profession.
Whether this ought to be an open-ended arrangement seems to me to be the subject of argument. But I am convinced that this profession has been neglected for too long. The previous Government recognised the capacity of the profession to refer patients to opthalmologists for specialist attention and, in fact, allowed these patients to attract a specialist benefit from the health funds. I believe that this was clearly a recognition of the competence of the profession to deal with visual treatment in the field of health care. Irrespective of the fate of the Bills before the Senate- and it is quite clear what will happen to them- I suggest that the present Government could act to overcome discrimination that appears to occur at the moment with respect to certain funds. I refer to the discrimination against the patients of optometrists in favour of the patients of opthalmologists. Under the present Act, a benefit is not payable for a refractive examination or an optometric examination at which spectacles are prescribed. There are one or two loopholes whereby an opthalmologist can enable his patient to attract a benefit. He can do this under the guise of a medical examination.
Physiotherapists also have a strong case for the inclusion in the health program as they provide primary health care. Such treatment is most important, of course, in the rehabilitation of injuries caused by accidents in industry and in assisting elderly people who suffer from cerebral thrombosis and other illnesses. I believe that the inclusion of this profession in the health program needs to be looked at favourably. I understand that although at the Scullin Health Centre, which I have visited, private doctors and one private dentist practise it has been manned by salaried physiotherapists. I am of the opinion that the concept of fee for service medical centres is something that we will have to look at. It is something that the Liberal Party supports, particularly in under-doctored areas.
– Do you support that action by the present Government?
– I support the action where services are provided in medical centres on a fee for service basis in under-doctored areas.
– So we have achieved something.
– I am happy to concede that in that area the Labor Government has achieved something. I suggest that fee for service private physiotherapists, private optometrists and private members of the other professions working in the field of health care ought to be included in that sort of complex. I am opposed to the principle of salaried health centres. I could say a lot more about dentistry, chiropody and other professions. I am of the opinion that if any government wants to provide total health care for the members of the community, it cannot avoid including other professions that are working in this field. I am glad to say that the Liberal Party has recognised this principle in the broad acceptance of paramedical services in the insurance plan. I look forward to further progress in that area. We are studying the economics of all these things. I have no doubt that when we finally draft our health proposals, together with other proposals, we will be able to deal very well with the challenge that has been repeated by the Government on many occasions. I support the suggestion made by Mr Snedden, the Leader of the Liberal Party in the other House, who said that we would welcome a double dissolution and an election fought on this issue. I support the amendment moved by Senator Rae.
– in reply- This has been a long, and with very great respect to my friends opposite, quite a repetitious debate. Because it is the Government’s desire to secure a vote tonight on these measures I do not intend to reply at length to the many points that have been made during the evening’s discussion. I say, firstly, that in fulfilment of the Labor Party’s undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the last election this legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives, and was introduced into the Senate last night. It has been debated at length today in the Senate. At page 10 of the Australian Labor Party’s policy speech, as delivered by the Prime Minister at the last Federal election, Mr Whitlam had this to say:
A Federal Labor Government will introduce a universal health insurance scheme. It will be administered by a single health fund. Contributions will be paid according to taxable income.
He then went on to set out other details of the scheme. It is in fulfilment of a clear mandate given by the people to the Labor movement on 2 December 1972, after these issues had been hotly debated during the Federal election campaign, that this legislation, having been introduced by way of public discussion - (Opposition senators interjecting)-
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDHonourable senators had their go. I ask them to give me 10 minutes to wind up this debate so that we can take a vote on the Bills tonight. The Government presented the report of the Health Insurance Planning Committee. It brought down a White Paper and gave all members of the Australian community every opportunity to express their point of view on the matter. It is after that detailed and lengthy public discussion that this legislation has now come forward. One thing I must say for my friends opposite is that, if ever the anti-Labor forces in this country have been consistent, it has been in their attitude to health insurance. As long ago as 1938 the then Treasurer, Mr Casey, as he then was, introduced into the House of Representatives the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. At page 795 of Hansard of 4 May 1938 he has this to say: . . voluntary insurance has failed to cater for a substantial part of our population. The greater portion of those who stand in most need of insurance are uninsured. They are either unable to afford it without the assistance of the Government, or lack the initiative to become and to remain insured. The story of voluntary insurance is marred by a tragedy of the number of lapses from insurance due to sickness, unemployment and other misfortunes.
If my recollection is correct, that legislation was enacted but was never put to the GovernorGeneral for his signature. Indeed, a former Prime Minister of this country walked out of a government because this legislation was never enacted.
Then we come to 1953, when Sir Earle Page, the then Minister for Health, introduced the scheme as it exists today. What is the situation today? Some of the provisions that were brought into existence in 1953 are still in existence today. It is all very well for Senator Little, Senator Rae and other honourable senators opposite to speak about what the proposed scheme is going to cost the Australian taxpayer and the Australian worker. It is all very well to argue about whether two out of every three families are going to be better off under it or, if it is not going to be two out of every three families, whether three out of every four families are going to be better off under it. It is all very well to argue about what costs will be incurred by the Australian taxpayer.
But honourable senators opposite have refused to tell the Australian people- they have not told them tonight- about the benefits that will be reaped by way of refunds to the persons who contribute by way of a taxation levy. They have not told them, for instance, that the present hospital bed benefit of 80c a day is the same as the amount which was introduced by the Chifley Labor Government in 1 948 and that the present Labor Government has undertaken to increase it to $16 a day. They have not told them, for instance, that the hospital bed subsidy paid by the Commonwealth of $2 a day for insured patients is exactly the same as that which was introduced by a government of their political persuasion in 1958 or 1959 and that the Labor Government intends to increase it from $2 a day to $16 a day. They have not told them that the amount of subsidy payable for hospital bed accommodation for pensioners has been $5 a day since 1963 and that the Labor Government intends to increase it to $ 16 a day. Nor have they told them that the pensioners who now have to pay for their own specialist attention if they do not go to a public hospital will be able under the Labor Government’s scheme to go to any specialist of their own choosing and receive the same return as any other member of the Australian community. It is all hogwash and it is all eyewash to get up in this chamber and say that two out of every three families or three out of every four families are not going to be better off.
I could go on at considerable length, but all I think I need say is that the former Governmentthe present Opposition- established when it was in office a committee of inquiry into voluntary health insurance. It was presided over by His Honour Mr Justice Nimmo, who conducted an inquiry at great length. After having conducted that inquiry at great length, after, having- I say this for the benefit of Senator Jessop- visited Canada and inspected the Canadian scheme and after taking evidence Mr Justice Nimmo made the following findings:
The operation of the health insurance scheme -
That is the scheme which Senator Jessop, Senator Rae and Senator Little now say is one of the best in the world- is unnecessarily complex and beyond the comprehension of many.
The benefits received by contributors are frequently much less than the cost of hospital and medical treatment.
The contributions have increased to such an extent that they are beyond the capacity of some members of the community and involve considerable hardship for others.
The rules of many registered organisations including the socalled ‘special account’ rules permit disallowance or reduction of claims for particular conditions. The application of these rules has caused serious and widespread hardship. An unduly high proportion of the contributions received by some organisations is absorbed in operating expenses. The level of reserves held by some organisations is unnecessarily high.
The Nimmo Committee also had the following to say:
If the deficiencies in the scheme are to be eliminated it is the view of the Committee that a new approach to their responsibilities is required by all the interested parties. Their responsibilities need to be defined and discharged in a spirit of cooperation with particular attention to the interests of contributors. The Committee considers that this objective would be advanced by the transfer of the administration of the health insurance scheme from the Commonwealth Department of Health to a National Health Insurance Commission with as much independence as possible. The centering of administrative responsibility and policy advising in a Commonwealth Department has not been conducive to the development of a spirit of co-operation and sharing of responsibility by the other parties, who have felt little duty to help what they refer to as ‘the Commonwealth scheme’. Whilst the transfer of these functions to the Commission would not wholly remove the difficulties inherent in securing a co-operative approach, it would significantly reduce them.
Prior to a lot of tedious debate in this chamber in 1970 over a National Health Bill- a debate in which I took a prominent part on behalf of the then Opposition and which took place from about 9 May to 16 June- the then Minister for Health, Dr Forbes, had made a statement to the Parliament. That statement was made on 4 March 1970. Among other things he said:
The administration of health insurance received considerable attention by the Nimmo Committee and its recommendations on this subject have been thoroughly reviewed by the Government. It has been decided to adopt the Committee’s proposal that a National Health Insurance Commission be established. The Government is currently giving consideration to the composition and functions of the new Commission.
That was the view of the previous conservative Government in 1970. That is another example of something it undertook to do but never did. That is another example of something that was recommended to it by one of its own independent committees of inquiry’ should be done. It was an inquiry that was presided over by His Honour Mr Justice Nimmo. That is another example of something that it never implemented. The Australian Labor Party went to the people at the last election with the clear policy that it would, if elected to office, establish a National Health Insurance Commission. It is in fulfilment of that promise that this legislation has been presented to this Parliament.
There is just one other comment I wish to make and that is on the question of costs. During the course of the evening Senator O’Byrne mentioned that the Commonwealth pays, by way of subvention, some $300m to medical and hospital funds. He was taxed about it. The amount paid by the Commonwealth in 1972-73 by way of contributions to medical benefits was $ 1 9 1 m and by way of contribution to hospital benefits it was $ 106m, making a total of $297m.
In conclusion I want to say that, as Minister for the Media, I have the advantage from time to time of receiving up to date news bulletins. I am advised that on its latest news service tonight the Australian Broadcasting Commission reported as follows:
The AMA today recommended the introduction of a Universal Health Insurance Scheme, in a submission to the National Inquiry into Poverty.
The AMA said that the present subsidised health insurance scheme had proved ‘ unworkable ‘.
It said that a universal health scheme would eliminate anomalies in the present voluntary health insurance scheme and provide for pensioners and those considered to be on the poverty line.
– That is an inaccurate report.
– It is more accurate than the letter from which Senator Webster quoted. The news report continued:
The AMA told the inquiry that the inadequacies of the pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefit scheme should be eliminated. It said there was no need to disrupt the present system of primary health care, but suggested it should be updated and changed in a way which did not interfere with the patient-doctor relationship. It gave no indication, however, of who should operate the proposed universal health insurance scheme.
It said under a universal scheme, people who were intellectually and educationally incompetent to take advantage of the present scheme would be covered by health insurance.
The Government believes that it is in the interests of the Australian people that the motions I have moved for the second reading of these Bills should be agreed to by the Senate and the legislation enacted so that the Government can get down to the task of providing proper, decent, reasonable and just medical services to all sections of the community.
– The hour being late, with the consent of the Senate I can shorten proceedings. I ask leave to put the question in this way:
That Senator Rae’s amendment be agreed to.
There being no objection, leave is granted.
That the amendment (Senator Rae’s) be agreed to.
The Seriate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
The Senate-Land Acquisition in the Northern Territory
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer to a matter which was the cause of a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Wednesday, 5 December, between Senator Webster and myself. It was raised again by Senator Webster last evening. These matters arose because of a speech I made on 1 1 October. I was recorded in the daily Hansard of the day as stating:
I know Mr Albert Albany …
In fact, what I intended to say was that I knew of Mr Albert Albany. The very next day I requested Hansard to correct my speech to include the word ‘of. Surely that is proof that I had no intention of conveying to any person that I in fact knew Mr Albany. If I have caused embarrassment to any person because of that minor slip of the tongue and the subsequent correction in Hansard I express my sincere regrets to all concerned and, in particular, to the Hansard staff, which accepted my word when I sought to make the alteration. I accept full responsibility for that alteration. I return now to statements made by Senator Webster on 5 December on behalf of Mr Albany. Senator Webster was the one who first mentioned Mr Albany’s name in this Parliament. I think it is regrettable that Senator Webster had to use Mr Albany’s name in a debate which took place earlier this year. I shall refer to a telegram which Senator Webster quoted in the Senate during a debate on 1 1 October. Senator Webster stated:
But Mr Deputy President, you quite kindly handed me a telegram which you had received. It was addressed to you from one Albert Albany of Box 39 1 46, Winnellie. The telegram states:
Request you once again reject that Labor Parry’s Bill for the compulsory acquisition of freehold land in the Northern Territory it is unjust discriminatory to compulsory acquire freehold land from one citizen to be sold to another citizen - who can transact the land so acquired at unlimited profits discriminatory to freeze land value in the area to be acquired yet do nothing in respect to land value in Darwin and beyond the area to be acquired stop Mr Enderby callous public statement about freezing the land value in the area to be acquired only increased values outside this area stop The Government have refused to treat for this land although I have offered them my 4800 acres which represents a quarter of the land involved stop they are trying the use Gestapo and Fascist methods to implement their communist ideals of state ownership of land thank you for your consideration.
It was Senator Webster who, as I said, first introduced into this Parliament Mr Albany’s name in dealing with a matter which has now caused some heartburning for some people. Some statements have been made by Mr Albany. They were read into the Hansard last Wednesday night by Senator Webster and they have also caused some very grave heartburning for 2 people in the Northern Territory. That is the main reason why I have risen tonight to continue this debate. I want to refer to remarks made by Senator Webster on 5 December. I will quote his exact words as they appear in Hansard. He said:
I wish quickly to raise a matter of the abuse of privilege by 2 senators. I believe that they have admitted to what appear to be statements which are not based on truth. Indeed, they have been made in respect of citizens outside this Senate.
He went on to quote from a letter he had received from Mr Albany. He said:
Senator McLaren, in speaking to the debate on the acquisition of land in the Northern Territory- I quote from Hansard page 1 168 of 1 1 October 1973-said in short:
I know Mr Albert Albany and I know where his land is. I know people who have bought land from him in the past
I have already referred to the telegram from Mr Albany, which Senator Webster read, accusing this Labor Party of using gestapo and fascist methods to implement our communist ideals and which I think all responsible people would reject. That could have been one of the reasons why in a moment of excitement during my speech I omitted to say the word ‘of. Further on in the debate of S December Senator Webster read part of a letter from Mr Albany in these terms:
I wish to bring to your notice, certain comments made about myself by Senator McLaren during the Senate Debate on the Acquisition of Land in the Northern Territory on the 11th October 1973. These comments are recorded on pages 1168 and 1 169 of the Senate Hansard.
I feel that these comments are an injustice to my privilege as a free Australian Citizen, and, as lies, are detrimental to not only my personal character, but also to the welfare of my wife and family.
I have been in contact with my solicitors who have advised me there is very little I can do, because what was said, was under parliamentary privilege.
I now want to quote what I actually did say in that debate when I referred to Mr Albany. These are my exact words. I can find any reference that I made to Mr Albany only on page 1168. There is nothing about Mr Albany on page 1 169 of Hansard of 1 1 October. The only reference to Mr Albany is contained in these words:
During his remarks tonight Senator Webster quoted from a telegram sent to him by Mr Albert Albany.
This is where I had the Hansard corrected-
I know of Mr Albert Albany and I know where his land is.
I am now reading from the weekly Hansard-
I know people who have bought land from him in the past However, I want to refer Senator Webster to an advertisement which was placed in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of Monday, 23 July. There is quite a big advertisement in that newspaper which reads:
Required partner or partners with financial resources and development expertise to develop 8 square miles of freehold land adjacent to Darwin in the Northern Territory. This land is at present being zoned for satellite town development
That is the basis he is using to advertise that land. The advertisement is signed ‘Contact, write: Land Development. P.O. Box 39 146, Winnellie’. This is the person who is capitalising on what the Government is trying to do. It is trying to acquire and sell land to people and to settle people into homes at a reasonable rate. This is the 8 square miles to which Senator Webster referred.
I should like to read from a statutory declaration made by a person who was involved in that land dealing with Mr Albany, who was hawking around a petition opposing the acquisition, trying to get a few people to sign it. I might say that very few people signed that petition.
Mr President, that is the only reference to Mr Albany that I made in my remarks, although I did go on to quote from a statutory declaration. When Senator Webster spoke in the Senate last Wednesday night he quoted further from the letter from Mr Albany. Senator Webster went on to say:
The letter I have indicates that the statement which Senator McLaren made was inconsistent with what Mr Albany knew of the particular petition that had been taken around. The letter states:
Mr L. Edgar, who was the only person who refused to sign the petition and who admits to being a member of the Labor Party, advised me that a Mr Peter Denholm a leading light in the Labor Party in the Northern Territory advised him that if the land was compulsorily acquired he would see that Mr Edgar would be permitted to stop on his land, and that he would see that an all-weather road would be built to give Mr Edgar access to his property. Mr Edgar was acceptable to this, as the only legal physical access he has is inaccessible in the wet season. Since this man drank S cans of beer during our discussion, I very much doubt he could remember what he said in any case.
This is what I want to refer to tonight: Senator Webster came in to this chamber and read a letter from a man which is quite defamatory of these 2 gentlemen in the Northern Territory. When I read the Hansard report next day I sent a copy of the report to both these gentlemen and asked them for their comments. Before I read the comments that I received back from them, I want to refer again to what Mr Albany said. He said:
I feel that these comments are an injustice to my privilege as a free Australian citizen, and, as lies, are detrimental to not only my personal character, but also to the welfare of my wife and family.
Those are the words that Mr Albany used in reference to what I said. I have quoted what I said, and I cannot see anything defamatory in my statement. Yet Senator Webster went on to accuse these 2 gentlemen of doing certain things. I received telegrams today from both these gentlemen. I want to read them into Hansard. The dateline on the first telegram reads ‘Darwin, Northern Territory, 8.35 a.m.’, and today’s date appears. It states:
Senator Geoff McLaren
Parliament House, Canberra, ACT
Reference Senate Hansard page 2523 Albany letter-
That is the letter from which I quoted-
Insolent and erroneous plus affront to numerous land owners supporting acquisition as requisite future area development.
It is signed ‘P. Denholm’. The other telegram I received bears today’s date, and it is from Darwin. It states:
Senator Geoff McLaren Parliament House Canberra A.C.T.
References to myself Hansard 2523 false stop Others refused to sign Albany petition and no assurance given by A.L.P. Officials for access road stop Reference my sobriety malicious and false . . .
It is signed ‘L. Edgar’. That Mr L. Edgar is the man who signed the staturory declaration which I have twice read to this Parliament and have offered to table. I think that what Senator Webster has done tonight is far more malicious than what I did by omitting to mention the word ‘of in the heat of debate. I think that Senator Webster should now take some action to consult with Mr Albany and to try to make a public apology to these 2 gentlemen for quoting in this Parliament what I consider was a private letter written to Senator Webster. He should have kept it to himself and not used Mr Albany’s name. I have some sympathy for Mr Albany. No doubt he may have been upset because I understand that as a result of the acquisition he did lose quite a lot of money through the sale of land. He may have profited from the sale of that land if the aquisition had not taken place. I still say that Senator Webster should have been fair to this man and not used a letter which was written to him in privacy in order to try to bolster his argument in an attempt to down me in the Senate. 1 hope that Senator Webster, in his wisdom, will take the necessary action to exonerate these 2 men from this erroneous statement. I informed Senator Webster that I was going to mention this matter tonight and I am disappointed that he did not come into the chamber. I thank the Senate.
– I want to say a few words about this matter because certain things about it worry me. The point that Senator McLaren raised was whether he knew a certain individual or knew of a certain individual. That was justification for an apology from Senator Webster. From time to time we have altered the pink copies of our speeches in order to put into the Hansard record what we desired to express, although we may have not said it in the debate. While we recognise that Hansard has the responsibility of reporting accurately what was said, if someone makes the mistake possibly of not correctly placing a word it is a question of whether he should have the right of rectification.
Personally I think this matter should be taken up by the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders to see whether there should be a new examination of this question. I am mindful of this problem because when we were discussing turtle farming I said that there would be a replacement on the board of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd. I stated that 2 recommendations were before the Cabinet- one from the Carr-Maine-Smart report and one from a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives. I thought I said that if neither recommendation were adopted we could not carry on turtle farming as it was now being conducted. Hansard reported- and may have been correct- that I said that if one recommendation were adopted we could not carry on turtle farming as it is now conducted. This immediately brought on me the wrath of Dr Jenkins, who is the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. He interpreted this statement to mean that if his Committee’s report were adopted we could not carry on turtle farming. This is quite contrary to the effect of the recommendations of his Committee’s report. I have not listened to the tape recording of my speech. It could well have been that I said ‘if one recommendation were adopted’, which would suggest it was his report. Nothing was further from my mind. I meant that if neither were adopted we could not carry on with turtle farming as it is now being conducted. But the Hansard report brought the wrath of the Committee upon my shoulders. I can see that if I did inadvertently say that if one recommendation were adopted it would justify that wrath. But that was never my intention.
Such an alteration would be a substantial alteration to what I actually thought I said. As we have made corrections in the past, I do not know whether in the weekly Hansard reports we should not have the right to correct our speeches to the degree that makes plain what we intended to impress upon the audience we were addressing, even if it is not what was actually said in the heat and circumstances of the moment. I think that perhaps this matter should be considered by the Standing Orders Committee at some time.
– I shall take that into consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
Why was approval given to the Australian National Line to have two bulk carriers built overseas, in view of the fact that Australian shipyards are short of work.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The two bulk carriers to be built overseas by ANL are 12 1 , 250 metric tons d.w. Ships of at least this size are needed to give any teal prospect of viable operation in overseas bulk trading.
There is no Australian shipyard capable of building ships of this size.
Australian shipyards are not short of work. The order position is better at present than it has been for a number of years. As at 26 November there were 81 ships of various types and sizes on order or under construction and tenders had been called or had closed for a further 58 vessels. This compares with the situation as at 2 December 1 972 when there were 39 vessels on order or under construction and only 9 for which tenders had been called or had closed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Government funds for medical research are made through the National Health and Medical Research Council and are allocated to projects on the basis of merit within the financial resources available. Dr Brackenridge was informed in October 1971 that there was support for 1972 and a commitment for 1973 only for his work. This advice was confirmed subsequently in December 1972 and March 1973.
The National Health and Medical Research Council and the Government are aware of the personal problems and the cost to the community arising from mental disabilities. Substantial financial resources were specially allocated to research in this area in 1973 ($75,000) and it can be anticipated that this interest by the Government will continue. More research funds are available to the National Health and Medical Research Council than in former years.
Use of RAAF VIP Aircraft
-On 8 November 1973, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a question without notice regarding the tabling of manifests for Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft from the day details were last given until the end of October 1973. On 22 November 1973 I tabled details of VIP flights for the period 1 May 1973 to 4 September 1973 and indicated that details for the period 5 September 1973 to the end of October 1973 would be tabled as soon as possible. The documents I now table embrace all details of VIP travel in Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft in the period 5 September 1973 to 31 October 1973.
Overseas Investment in the Mining Industry
– On 14 November 1973, Senator Durack asked a question without notice, concerning statements made by the Prime Minister and other Ministers on the Australian Government’s policy in relation to overseas investment in the mining industry. The Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
My statement to the Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee was tabled in both Houses of the Parliament on 7 November. That statement set out the precise nature of the Australian Government’s policies on foregin investment and use and control of Australian resources.
Conservation of Kangaroos
-On 29 November 1973, Senator Durack asked the following question, without notice:
I direct my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise who might also be called the minister for kangaroos. I refer to the report of the ministerial working party on kangaroo conservation which he tabled recently, I think at my request, and to the accompanying statement by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, Dr Cass, which was also tabled. I refer to the following section of it which stated:
The Department of Fisheries and Fauna of Western Australia has submitted management programs for the species of kangaroos which are commercially harvested in that State. These programs are, in my view, deficient in terms of the requirement set out in the report.
In what respect are the Western Australian management programs deficient, as mentioned in the terms of the report? Has the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and Fauna been advised of the nature of the deficiencies?
The Minister for the Environment and Conservation, Dr Cass, has written to the Western Australian Minister for Fisheries and Fauna, the Honourable A. W. Bickerton, setting out the deficiencies in the Western Australian Kangaroo Management Programs as submitted by his Department. The Secretary of the Department of Environment and Conservation has also provided this information to the Director of the Department of Fisheries and Fauna. There are two major deficiencies in these programs:
There are four species of kangaroos which are declared to be vermin under the Western Australian Vermin Act. This Act imposes a duty on landholders to destroy all kangaroos of these species at all times. This is inconsistent with the report of the Ministerial Working Party on Kangaroo Conservation which recommends that ‘all species of kangaroos be protected under State wildlife legislation and in no case be classified as vermin under Vermin Acts (Western Australia abstaining). ‘
There has been a failure to incorporate most recent population assessments and analyses of past harvest data to determine the numbers of kangaroos which might be permitted to be harvested.
New Australian Citizenship Laws
– On 4 December 1973, Senator Durack directed a question to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration concerning new Australian citizenship laws and the advertisements appearing in newspapers throughout Australia concerning the application of those laws. The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The advertisements to which the honourable senator refers are advertisements designed to attract the enquiries of people who are eligible for Australian citizenship but who have not yet applied. It was suggested by the honourable senator that there should be a special reference to British subjects. It should be made clear that the term ‘British subject’ is a completely anachronistic one in as much as it does not reflect a single uniform set of laws either operating in this country for the last 25 years or in any other country. The situation is that migrants coming to Australia come from one or other of the 32 Commonwealth of Nations countries or the more than 30 countries which are outside the Commonwealth of Nations. In relation to every single one of these nearly 70 countries, whether they are within the Commonwealth or not, the laws of entry as applied by the previous Government were different In fact the laws for entry between people of different backgrounds within the same country, whether or not within the Commonwealth of Nations were also different. If the honourable senator is suggesting that each advertisement should have contained each and everyone of the racial and ethnic discriminations practised by the previous government touching on the people that he quaintly calls British subjects, then he would have had to take not a small advertisement but a full page advertisement in everyone of the papers concerned. The honourable senator is obviously not aware of the multitude of discriminations that were practised in the past. They were shameful and unacceptable and that is why both Houses of Parliament voted against them, and to replace those discriminations with the present law. As far as voting rights are concerned, this is a matter not for the Minister for Immigrati n but for the Minister for Services and Property and if the Senator is interested in retaining the preference for the 32 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, then he is free to make his representations known. The Minister for Services and Property has not indicated any attitude on these matters at all but it should be clearly understood that discriminations in the grant of Australian citizenship have been also as obnoxious, unjust and totally unacceptable to our country in 1973. If the honourable senator has any dissenting views in favour of discrimination then it should be recognisefVhe is out of step with our time and that the attitude of the House of Representatives and the Senate as expressed in their vote on these matters.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following tables list the number of Second Division officers, by department: at 2 December 1972; at 20 December 1972, when the changes in departments had been made; at 31 August 1973; and the increases by departments over the period 20 December 1 972 to 3 1 August 1 973.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 December 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731212_senate_28_s58/>.