28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 19 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existing National Health Scheme involves a vast amount of public money distributed by private Benefit Societies and that it is necessary to join one of these to qualify for the full Government Health subsidy.
That it is far too expensive and discriminates against lower income groups a lot of whom cannot afford the cost of membership or private medical treatment.
That it is inequitable, inefficient and does not satisfy the needs of the community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will urgently legislate for a Comprehensive National Health Insurance Scheme financed from taxation, and covering everybody instead of only those who can now afford it.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Petitions in identical terms were presented by Senators Brown, Poyser and Primmer.
– I present the following petition from 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
that for religion to be spiritual, and government to be liberal and egalitarian, religion and government need to be kept separate.
that this principle is fully recognised in section 1 16 of the Australian Constitution.
that the taxing of any citizen to propagate or support any religion is contrary to this principle, and a violation of human right.
Your petitioners humbly pray that part II, section 3 of the proposed Bill of Human Rights which now reads:
No one shall be subject to coercion which will impair his freedom to have or to adopt a belief or religion of his choice, bc amended by adding to it the words: and no revenue derived in any way from any Australian citizen shall be appropriated by the Australian Government, or by a State Government, or by a Municipal Government, for the propagation or support of any religion.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Petitions in identical terms were presented by Senators Guilfoyle and Primmer.
– I present the following petition from 299 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:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted
– I refer to a story which appeared in this morning’s Melbourne newspaper ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ under the name of one Laurie Oakes. I understand, although I have not seen the paper, that the story also appears in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail ‘. This story refers to an alleged plan for me to replace Senator Murphy as Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate after the forthcoming election. The story is a complete fabrication and one which I consider defamatory of me in that it imputes gross disloyalty on my part towards a personal friend. The story was written without any prior discussion with me by its author or by anyone else. I do not aspire to the leadership of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate, and under no circumstances would I oppose Senator Murphy for that or any other position.
-Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister noted that last night the Professor of Economics at La Trobe University, Professor Whitehead, in a significant address, stated that the dominant factors in the present worrying situation affecting the economy, namely encouragement of the wages explosion and the heavy increase in government spending, have combined to accelerate inflation? Will the Minister confirm that this is the view of Treasury offered to Government since it has been in power but not been accepted by it? In any event, is the Government prepared to accept that changes in its approach to wages claims and government spending will do something to ease the inflationary momentum?
-I have not read the address, but it is typical of the Opposition that it makes these kinds of statements in the Senate now. How did the Conservative Government in England get on with the wages explosion? It put the country into a turmoil. Here the Opposition’s only solution for the world wide problem of inflation is to have a credit squeeze and a pool of unemployment. That is what it has advocated, that is what it wants. In this chamber the Opposition has a perfect opportunity to do something worth while to contain inflation, and that is to pass the Trade Practices Bill which it has stalled for the better part of a year. It is not prepared to pass the legislation to protect consumers. It is not prepared to do anything about the racketeers who are putting up prices. Yet it has the impudence to talk about the Government’s actions to control inflation and to keep down prices.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Yesterday in another place the Prime Minister said that rural producers’ incomes were estimated to be rising by $ 1 billion a year. Does the Minister expect this growth to continue, in view of the fact that wool prices have slipped tragically in recent weeks, cattle prices have fallen and the indications are that the price trough shows no sign of bottoming out? Does the Minister support the Prime Minister’s statement that the meat industry, like the rest of rural industry, has never had it so good and that this Government has signed more trade agreements with China than had been signed previously? If that latter statement is true, what agreements have been signed with China, and what have been the positive aspects of trade deals with China in dairy produce and meat?
-Mr President, if I need an extension of time to answer the question, I hope that I will be able to obtain it.
– There are precedents for Ministers taking an hour to answer questions.
-The earlier part of Senator Drake-Brockman’s question centred on the statement made yesterday by the Prime Minister concerning the increase in rural incomes. The figures to which he referred are, as the honourable senator would be well aware, figures prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The latest figures available to us from the BAE support the contention- I think they do so without any question-that rural income this year will be far and away greater than it has been before. Whether or not the Bureau has produced any later figures which contradict that point of view, I am not aware, but if it has produced later figures they have not been brought to my attention. It is quite true, as we all recognise, that the incomes of those engaged in primary industry cannot be stable and they do fluctuate. The Prime Minister and this Government are fully aware of that fact. Simply to nominate one or two areas, such as meat and wool, is not to take the long term view. It is true that the prices of wool have fallen in the last few months, and I am sure that not one wool grower in Australia expected the previous price levels to be maintained. The same situation applied to meat. The recession in prices that has occurred in those 2 areas of primary industry should not be taken as a long term trend to indicate that the markets for those products have suddenly become disastrous for primary producers in this country.
The honourable senator is quite right when he says that this Government has negotiated long term agreements with countries such as China. We have done that because we know that it will be to the long term benefit of primary producers. Had our predecessors thought along much the same lines as we do, many of the sections of primary industry which suffered from the effects of recession during the course of the previous Government would not have been in the parlous condition in which they found themselves 3 or 4 years ago. Referring specifically to agreements with China- this matter really falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Overseas Trade and not mine- the only agreements that have been reached with the Chinese authorities of which I am aware are in the areas of wheat and sugar. I am not in the least doubtful of the benefits that will flow to Australian primary producers as a result of those decisions. I am not aware of any decisions that have been made in relation to the dairy industry but I do believe that informal discussions have taken place to see what prospects there are for dairy products in China. It is indeed a strange situation that the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate should criticise the steps which have been taken by this Government and which, I can assure him, are becoming increasingly recognised around this country by primary producers as being the best possible course that any government could have followed.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the President of the United States of America has initiated measures to pay $2 an hour to all workers who are on the minimum wage in the United States? As this will amount to an increase to $80 a week in workers’ wages in the United States and will be paid, amongst others, by the Shell oil company, does this not show up in true perspective how the Shell oil company would hold the people of Australia to ransom because of its politically biased attitude to just wages for its employees?
-Senator O ‘Byrne refers to the operations of a well known multi-national corporation. It is true that that oil company and others have figured in a number of very bitter industrial disputes. It has been said- and I think truly said- that often they have not really endeavoured to solve those disputes but preferred to get what advantage could be gained from them, not only industrially but also politically. I would hope that the international companies, and particularly the Shell oil company in view of its long history of interference in our internal political affairs, would not choose in the present climate to continue to interfere. The attitude has been taken in other parts of the world, especially in the United States, that the great corporations ought not to be permitted to interfere in political affairs and especially to use industrial disputes as a means of intervening in politics.
I would hope that these industrial matters and wage claims would be solved in a sensible manner. It is clear that where there is an increasing cost of living there ought to be wage adjustments. This ought to be done with the minimum of disputation. One would hope that there would be some conciliation, even on the part of the great corporations.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that the Stuart Highway is again impassable due to heavy rains in the northern part of South Australia, and the Northern
Territory? As the Stuart Highway, according to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads report, meets the national objectives of the Government and as such is classified as a national highway, can the Minister say whether the Government intends to proceed with the construction of this road which can be described only as the worst horror stretch in Australia?
– I noticed the report today that there is some interruption of traffic on this highway as a result of recent flooding and that transport cannot get through. From time to time the Government has considered this matter, including that section of the highway extending to the South Australian border. There is a continuing extension of the sealed areas. As the former Minister for Works, I can state that one of the last contracts let was for the sealing of another 53 miles of highway. Under the State roads grants, which will come into operation in June next year, there will be a complete revision of the whole road construction program. Together with the Bureau of Roads, we will take this matter into consideration. I will pass on the matter to the Minister to see whether some higher priority could be given to this area in view of its isolation and the state of the road at the present time.
-Has the Minister for Primary Industry seen the report in today’s ‘Australian’ that the Government is to spend $2 7 m to buy votes in the country? Can he say whether yesterday’s announcement on dairy restructuring was purely a vote-catching gimmick or whether these adjustment proposals had been thoroughly thought out?
– I saw the report in today’s Australian’ which I do not hesitate to say was a gross misrepresentation of the decision by the Government to assist the dairy industry. I will take this opportunity to place on record statements which I made to indicate that the decision that was announced yesterday was in conformity with the Government’s plans from the time that it announced the dairy phase-out last year. At that time, on 23 July 1973, 1 said:
Additional funds would be provided beyond June 1974 for re-adjustment measures including improvements flowing from liberalisation of the Marginal Dairy Farms Reconstruction Scheme.
Then, in a speech delivered in Brisbane in September last year I made this comment:
The Labor Government, rather than continue the bounty, would rather spend more money on industry adjustment. We will spend fairly generously on adjustment programs and officers of my Department have for several weeks been engaged in consultations with State officials to discover where the problem areas are and what measures are required.
I also draw to the attention of the honourable senator a question asked by Senator Durack in the Senate on 5 March 1974 in which he asked me the same question. I said in reply to the honourable senator
I hope that within the next month 1 shall be able to make an announcement on this matter and give some quite definite plans as to how the Government proposes to accelerate the restructuring of the dairy industry.
To suggest that this statement was made simply because of a thought of an impending double dissolution just does not stand up to investigation. I might say, as Senator James McClelland had good reason to complain this morning, that it surprises me that the ‘Australian’ newspaper ought to be prepared at least to try to report the statements which I make, anyway, in a fair and factual manner.
– I ask a question of the Attorney-General, ls it correct to say that because of his handling of the Attorney-General’s portfolio, particularly in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation raid, legislation brought before this House by him and his part in the covert approach to Senator Gair, the Attorney-General has been dropped from No. 1 position on the New South Wales Australian Labor Party Senate ticket and that his fellow supporter in Caucus, Senator James McClelland, has been dropped to No. 6 position? Does this reflect a lack of confidence by the Attorney-General ‘s colleagues in himself, or is it just symptomatic of the drift in the falling fortunes of the Australian Labor Party?
-I think that it would probably be a good thing if the honourable senator stuck to the affairs of Western Australia, because he knows as little about what happens in Western Australia as he knows what happens in New South Wales. He will not have to concern himself about the affairs of his own State for very long. Firstly, I think that honourable senators and certainly the public have a great regard for the things which have been done by this Government in the legal field in the last 18 months. There are no longer bombs going off in the streets of Sydney. There has been a period of law and order; one cannot be certain that this will continue. But there has been a period of comparative quietness to replace what was happening under the previous regime. However, I do not need to dwell on that.
A great deal of worthy legislation has been brought into this chamber, and some of it has even received the commendation of honourable senators opposite. A great deal more legislation has not been able to be passed. In the last 12 months we have established a National Law Reform Commission. We have passed legislation to set up an Institute of Legislative Drafting. We have abolished capital punishment in the Territories. We have reformed the areas concerned with administration in the Attorney-General’s province. We have started a legal aid scheme. We have put together a Family Law Bill, and even that, I think, received some favourable comments not only throughout Australia but also inside this chamber. There are other measures relating to racial discrimination before the Senate. There is the magnificent Trade Practices Bill about which honourable senators opposite cannot complain, but they are not prepared to debate it.
All of this has meant that what Senator Lawrie thinks is to happen in New South Wales is just nonsense. It will not happen. I think Senator Lawrie will find that what will happen in New South Wales is that the sitting senators will be endorsed in the order in which they should be endorsed and in which they all agree they should be endorsed. All this nonsense is written in the newspapers, and I would have thought that Senator Lawrie, because of the time that he has been a member of this chamber, would know that what he reads in the newspaper is more likely to be nonsense than fact, and we have seen more of this in the last few days than we have seen for a long time.
-Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall that while his Party was in opposition I introduced a hardship clause during a debate on the Estate Duty Bill? Does he recall that every member of his Party in the Senate supported this clause then, but that it was beaten by one vote because the then Government, to the last man, voted against my proposal? Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate also recall that after continuous approaches from me on behalf of the people the Government has indicated that it would reintroduce this hardship clause during its term of office? Will he ensure that this is done before having a double dissolution, so that relief will be given to cases of true hardship where it is related to death duties?
-I think that the honourable senator’s recital of the facts is correct. I recall that we voted for the proposal and I recall that this undertaking was given. I should tell the honourable senator that even in the last few days before this question of the double dissolution arose there was some discussion of that subject. In fact I spoke about it myself to the Prime Minister as well as to the Treasurer with the intention of proceeding with what had been stated before. It was my intention to do so. I do not know whether there will be time now.. Certainly this would have been done had the Government’s time not been cut short. If it is possible for something to be done about it, it will be done but do not ask for it in the present exigencies. We have an Opposition here which is prepared to chop a Government off without allowing it to carry out the program that was put to the people. I cannot guarantee anything for the honourable senator. This Government has been frustrated in other important matters as well as in this matter that he raises. All I can tell the honourable senator is that that was what the Government undertook then and, given the opportunity, it would have performed that task. I shall see what I can do about the matter.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Media, arises from observations I made recently when I was overseas. What measures are being taken to expand the Government Information Service overseas? Have any moves been taken already to extend the projection of Australia in countries where there already are information officers?
-As a first step taken by the Australian Information Service, which was renamed by the Labor Government upon assuming office from the previously known name of the Australian News and Information Bureau, new overseas posts for Australian information officers were established last year in Wellington, New Zealand and Osaka, Japan. Additionally, immigration information offices were transferred from the Department of Immigration to the Australian Information Service and this has meant that we have been able to establish additional offices in Rome and Vienna. As well, a French-speaking Australian journalist with a good economic background has now been seconded to our office in Brussels which, as the honourable senator would know, is the key city in the European Economic Community. Additionally, acting on my recommendation and subject, of course, to the approval of the Public Service Board, we hope shortly to be placing a Spanish-speaking Australian officer in Mexico City in Central America which previously has been denuded as far as information services from Australia are concerned. We also are producing a quarterly publication called ‘Australia’ for circulation throughout Asia, and 1 30,000 copies are being produced annually. Also being produced is a geography textbook but this is being held up now because of art work problems. It is being produced by my Department for circulation as a prime geography textbook for Asian students throughout the Asian sphere. I can assure the honourable senator that as a result of initiatives taken by the Labor Government the activities of the Australian Information Service abroad have been upgraded substantially.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr President, and to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is Vincent Clair Gair a senator? I further ask the Leader of the Government: Has the Government notified the President of an appointment of Senator Gair and the date? If it has not notified the President, why not?
- Mr President, the answer to the honourable senator’s question about the position of Senator Gair is quite clear. The Government has stated it here previously and has produced the documents. The Government, acting on its advice, says that the answer is no. Because the President put the matter before the Senate and the Government having put the documents before the Senate, the Government asked the Senate to refer the question to the High Court and it declined to do so. There is a proceeding before the High Court, brought by a citizen of Queensland, to have a resolution of this matter by the High Court. I cannot tell the honourable senator any more than that that is the Government’s view. The matter may be litigated in the High Court, although it is possible that the events which we are assuming will happen will make that no longer an issue.
– Have you officially notified the President of Senator Gair’s position?
-The President, along with the whole Senate, has had the documents tabled in here and also the advice given to the Government on which it has relied. I would think that no more formal notification can be given than that the Senate and the President, presiding over the whole Senate, have been informed of the position.
– I had not intended to respond to Senator McManus’s question until I heard the last sentence in the reply by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The situation now is that as a result of Senator McManus’s question we are involved in a sort of steel and flint operation, but where the powder lies I do not know.
– It lies in the Senate.
– Yes. I go on to repeat to honourable senators that at approximately 9 p.m. on 3 April I put a statement before the Senate, the operative phrases of which were:
Before taking any such action, I must satisfy myself that a vacancy has happened and when.
I concluded by saying:
In all the circumstances, I think this is a matter which should be determined by the Senate and, accordingly, I refer to the judgment of the Senate the question of whether a vacancy has happened in the Senate and when such vacancy happened.
-Is the Leader of the Government aware that reports say that the Opposition parties have not yet selected candidates for a number of electorates in the event of a double dissolution? Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding this state of unpreparedness, a number of statements made by the leaders of the Liberal and Country parties claim that they have large sums of money available to fight an election? Is the Minister able to say how it is that these parties which have fought the Government’s endeavours to control Australia’s national resources in the public interest have access to donations from big business and multinational corporations?
– I rise to a point of order. This is not a matter which in any of its segments is related to ministerial responsibility. It is related entirely to matters affecting the Opposition parties, and whilst the members of those parties will shortly have ministerial responsibilities there is nothing in regard to Senator Murphy’s ministerial responsibility to which the question relates.
– I -
– Are you responding to the point of order?
– Yes. Surely it relate? to the affairs of the Government and to the Constitution, which provides for an election by the people, and surely matters which would affect an election by the people are proper matters for the Government to respond to. The question here in substance is that there is an interference in an election by the people by great corporations with interests to be pursued by the Opposition members. The Opposition members are being supplied and financed by those great interests who -
– I rise on a point of order.
– I am answering the point of order.
- Senator Withers should sit down.
– You, too, should sit down when I take a point of order. Do not try to override me.
– Order! Both honourable senators will resume their seats. A point of order may not be used as a vehicle for debate. Senator Murphy, you will confine yourself to a reply or to trying to uphold the propriety of the question asked by Senator Gietzelt in Senate terms and not in political terms.
– On the point of order my submission to you, Mr President, is that it is a matter for the Government if it wants to point out that the electoral processes are being distorted. That is the substance of the question and the Government is entitled to say that this is happening and that it is wrong. In fact, it is a matter for government in other countries: Legislation has been introduced in other countries to prevent it. I would say that it is our intention to introduce legislation to curb this kind of activity.
– That is the answer. I allow the question but it has already been answered so I call Senator Durack.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to a statement which he made in the Senate some time ago concerning the establishment of an Australian Legal Aid Office and also refers to some advertisements which are appearing in the Press seeking applications from legal practitioners for those positions. The advertisements set out the type of work that the Office will conduct. There is a reference to giving advice and assistance to people in need. At another stage of both the Attorney-General’s statement and the advertisements there is reference to conducting legal work in certain areas of particular Commonwealth responsibility such as matrimonial causes. I ask: Is there to be some criterion of need in relation to work performed by this Office under the Matrimonial Causes Act? 1 refer in particular to undefended divorces. If there is to be a criterion of need, what will the criterion be?
-I will endeavour to obtain a precise answer for the honourable senator on the question of need. As the honourable senator may be aware the scheme, to a large extent, is in its experimental stages. Discussions are taking place with the private profession and with the law societies which represent members of the profession. It is intended that the aid will be fairly generous in the areas of Commonwealth law such as the Matrimonial Causes Act. Together with other steps that are being taken, it may mean that there need be no strict criterion of need in that area but in other areas there may need to be. If the honourable senator will bear with me I would like to say that a report has been made by the Legal Aid Committee which has been set up. It is only an initial report. Other reports will be made which no doubt will deal with these aspects.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral examine the extent of Australian Government powers with a view towards overriding the action of the Askin Government in New South Wales in permitting massive coal waste dumps on the Illawarra escarpment and so allay the fears of the residents who visualise another Aberfan coal disaster similar to that which happened in Wales?
– I had a look at this matter previously in regard to the reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment in connection with a previous proposal on the South Coast of New South Wales. The name slips my mind at the moment but it was a very controversial proposal. At the time it was considered that the Commonwealth had a clear interest in the matter in that Commonwealth legislative powers were available in regard to the corporations power because the activities were being conducted by a trading corporation. The export powers concerning trade and commerce with other countries were involved because this was incidental to the export of coal. Also involved, because of the jetties and so forth, was the question of Commonwealth territory. I think some other aspect also entered into it. I have no doubt that in relation to this particular activity there may well be a foundation for Commonwealth interest in what is being done but I am not able to tell the honourable senator that I have explored this matter. If the Committee which is interested in these questions desires I shall obtain an opinion for it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media and relates to the statement made yesterday by the Minister on the introduction of frequency modulation radio broadcasting and to the Minister’s stated intention to establish a permanent advisory committee to advise on the introduction of frequencies within the frequency table, such committee to be responsible to and to be appointed by the Minister. I ask: Would the appointment of such a committee remove from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board the duties and responsibilities determining the allocation of frequencies? Would this include all frequencies in both amplitude modulation and frequency modulation, as the Minister’s statement implies? Does this not mean that the Government intends to assume direct political control over the allocation of broadcasting frequencies with the inevitability of a nationwide Labor propaganda machine and total political manipulation of the media?
-The question asked by the honourable senator is quite unreal. For a start, it is based on a completely wrong hypothesis. He begins by asking whether it was announced yesterday that it was the Government’s intention to establish a permanent advisory committee to advise on matters of the type suggested by the honourable senator. My answer to that portion of his question is yes. It is intended to establish a permanent advisory committee but the honourable senator will be well aware that it is an advisory committee -
– Responsible to the Minister?
– It will be responsible to me and will give me advice, but certainly under the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act the allocation of frequencies, that is, after the broadcasting spectrum has been initially allocated by the Australian Post Office to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, is the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to recommend to me. If the honourable senator looks at the Broadcasting and Television Act he will see that section 16(3.) states that subject to any direction of the Minister the Board shall determine the allocation of frequencies and matters of that nature. And if the honourable senator looks at the McLean Committee report on frequency modulation he will see also that the McLean Committee recommended the establishment of a permanent consultative advisory committee- I emphasise the use of the word ‘advisory’- and the Government has agreed to that recommendation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Will the Government’s proposed travel agents Bill cover coach operators, such as Centralian Tours, which recently collapsed causing financial loss to some travellers?
– In the draft travel agents Bill the definition of a travel agent covers tour operators who, apart from providing transport, arrange for the provision of meals and accommodation using facilities not owned by them. I understand that the operations of Centralian Tours, the company to which the honourable senator makes mention, were such as would be covered by the impending legislation to be brought down by my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. I am given to understand by him that the legislation also provides that travellers sustaining a financial loss as a result of the failure of a travel agency will be able to claim compensation from a fidelity fund to be established in accordance with the terms of the legislation.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour Is it a fact that some trade union officials are paid wages and overtime by trade unions when those unions are involved in strike action? Does this also apply to shop stewards? If this is so, how does this practice align itself with that of workers and members of those unions who receive no pay while on strike?
– I was in the trade union movement for something like 20 years and I have never known a case where a trade union official has been paid overtime at any time, including during stoppages.
– Or any time.
– He is paid.
– I am saying that in my years the reverse was always the fact. Every time there was a strike the general policy was that the person or official concerned also lost payment for the time involved in the stoppage. I am not aware of any such circumstance as that to which the honourable senator has referred. I shall make inquiries from the Minister for Labour and let the honourable senator know if there has been a change.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation indicate to the Senate when the Australian Sports Council will be formed? What will be the functions of this Council?
– I am given to understand by my colleague, Mr Stewart, that he expects to be able to announce the formation and membership of the Australian Sports Council some time later this month. As to the second part of the question, I understand the Council will be an active assembly of some of the best and most forward looking sportsmen and sporting administrators in Australia. It is expected that the Council will meet several times a year in order to advise the Minister on various aspects of sports development in Australia. Some of the tasks which it is intended by the Minister the Council should undertake are an in-depth study of the implications of the Bloomfield report on the Role, Scope and Development of Recreation in Australia. I tendered that report late last year to the Senate. It is also intended that the Council should give advice on ways in which we might lighten the burden on top level competitors and sporting administrators so that they can involve themselves in co-ordinating training and coaching courses which might be developed by Mr Stewart’s Department, and generally see which organisations are most effective in spreading sport and developing sporting activities at the grass roots level and, I suppose in the generality, to encourage a greater participation in sport by all sections of the Australian community.
– My question, regarding the Australian Wool Corporation, is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the Minister recall my question of 3 April seeking clarification of the Government’s policy in regard to increased buying by the Wool Corporation? In reply the Minister stated:
The Government does not issue any instructions as to when and in what manner it will buy.
Is the Minister aware that section 41 (3.) of the Wool Industry Act states:
The Minister shall, from time to time, after consultation with the Treasurer, inform the Corporation in writing of the policies and principles that the Government of the Commonwealth considers should be followed and applied by the Corporation in the operation of its reserve price scheme. 1 therefore ask again: Has the Minister, in compliance with the Act, given the Corporation a written policy instruction on the reserve price scheme? If so, what is that policy? Has not the Minister, again in accordance with the Act, received fortnightly reports on the level of reserve prices together with the amounts of wool bought and sold by the Corporation?
– I am aware of the section in the Act referred to by the honourable senator. As I indicated to him in my answer last time he raised this question, the Government sets guidelines but it will not interfere in the day to day running and the commercial judgment of the Australian Wool Corporation. If, at some stage, I believe that the price of wool gets to a point where it will be necessary for me to contact the Chairman of the Wool Corporation for further discussions, I shall do so. But the question suggests that this Government and, for that matter, any government should set itself up as a better commercial judge of the market than the Corporation. Our predecessors fortunately did not do this, and we do not intend to do so either.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. What has been done to encourage the composition of Australian music? Does the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s requirement that 10 per cent of music played on local radio stations be performed by Australians have any effect on increasing the number of popular locally composed songs?
– In addition to the last requirement referred to by the honourable senator in his question which, incidentally, was a condition imposed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board last year on commercial broadcasting stations following the election of a Labor Government, there is also a statutory requirement in the Broadcasting and Television Act for all stations to devote 5 per cent of the total time of music broadcast by those stations to Australian compositions. As a result of the initiatives taken by this Government, an increasing number of Australian composed hits are now being performed on air by Australian musicians and performers. Most Australian feature films use music specially written for them, and some of them have become very popular records. One of them, the sound track of ‘Morning of the Earth’, recently won a gold award from Warner Bros. The sound tracks from the Australian film ‘Alvin Purple’ and of course Grahame Bond’s production ‘Aunty Jack’ on the
Australian Broadcasting Commission have become popular and some of the best selling singles on air. I can assure the honourable senator that in addition to the requirement imposed by the Board last year for the 10 per cent performance by Australians I have recently asked the Control Board to review that quota with a view to increasing further the opportunities for Australian musicians and performers in the broadcasting area.
– I ask a question of the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact, as reported in the Press, that the Government is considering the purchase of the American M60 tank or the German Leopard tank? If so, why is the American M60 tank being considered when I understand that military movements control has reported against such purchase? Is the Government not aware that the M60 is so large and so heavy that it is not transportable in Australia by road or by railway, excepting the trans-continental section, and that Australian bridges are not strong enough to carry such a tank? Does the Government not remember that the Centurion tank was too large and untransportable? Is not the M60 both larger and heavier than the Centurion?
-Shortly, in reply to the honourable senator, I inform him that I shall be making, on behalf of the Minister for Defence, a statement about the options relating to the M60 and the Leopard. The 2 tanks are currently under consideration. I think that Senator Wood should wait until I have made the statement. If he wants to raise with me some questions arising from the statement, I will get the answers for him.
-Is the Attorney-General aware that the multi-national monopoly ITT has seriously interfered in the international political affairs of many countries, even to the extent that this organisation has incited and actively supported the overthrow of elected governments? Has that organisation any foothold in this country? If so, what actions can the Australian Government take if it is established that this organisation and other similar multi-national organisations interfere in the forthcoming election?
-I think that the actions of ITT are a matter of history. It has been the subject matter of discussion and inquiry in the United States. There were protests in this Parliament, I think in the Senate, about the actions of
ITT in Chile. I think protests were made by all political parties. I seem to remember even the Australian Democratic Labor Party protesting against the actions of ITT in Chile. Senator Poyser asked whether it has interests in Australia. The answer is yes. It operates through a number of subsidiaries and affiliates in Australia, in various industries including the electronics industry.
The honourable senator asked what could be done if it interfered in our internal elections. I suppose it is open to the Parliament, certainly to the Senate, to inquire into these matters through its appropriate committee machinery and to bring to light the actions by corporations in this area. The same course has been taken in the United States. As everyone knows, what started originally as a Watergate breaking in has spread across those bounds and has developed into an inquiry into the whole of the undermining of the democratic process by the operations of great corporations. It is possible for governments to legislate to protect the integrity of the electoral process against manipulation by corporations, and particularly outside corporations. That is being done in other countries and no doubt it will be done in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the Government let a contract for the supply of concrete sleepers to the Commonwealth Railways? Was the Western Australian timber industry invited to submit a tender? Is the report correct that a concrete plant to supply concrete sleepers to the Commonwealth Railways is being established at Kalgoorlie?
– When it was in office the previous Government had settled upon timber sleepers to be used in the construction of the east-west railway. As is well known, the present Government called again for tenders to supply concrete sleepers and also timber sleepers.
– The previous Government did too.
– I do not think so. Before the last general election was held the previous Government announced that timber sleepers would be used, as their use had some political implications in New South Wales. The previous Government then asked the Bureau of Transport Economics for an evaluation of the cost, the expected life and so on of the 2 types of sleepers, and the Bureau, as I understand it, came down on the side of concrete sleepers. In my discussions about the matter I was informed that a yard had to be established at the Port Augusta end. Whether it is proposed to establish a factory at Kalgoorlie, I do not know, but I will try to find out from the Minister. I will also ascertain what responsibility the Government will have if such a factory is established.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In replying to a question asked earlier this morning by Senator Jessop concerning the Stuart Highway and the recurrent isolation of Alice Springs arising from flooding of the Highway, the Minister stated that there would be a complete revision of highway planning in the next Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement period. Does the Minister’s reference to this revision mean that recommendations made by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in respect of South Australian grants have not been accepted by the Government? Is it not a fact that, whereas for the period 1969-74 South Australia received $129m, the Bureau has now proposed a grant of $205 m for the 1974-79 period, an increase of 59 per cent compared with the national increase of 108 per cent? As the Minister has raised a sense of hope that we will have urgent attention given to the Alice Springs road, how does he reconcile that statement with this huge reduction of the proposed allocations to South Australia?
-Obviously the honourable senator has the figures put out by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, whose purpose it is to assist the Government. I do not know how accurate is the honourable senator’s statement as to what the Department of Transport intends to do as a result of the collation of those figures. What I said earlier was that the Government at all times is looking at and is most interested in matters concerned with highways and roads and the formation of a new system of making grants to the States, which I understand will come into operation in June of this year. Since the question asked by the honourable senator contains so many figures I suggest that he put it on the notice paper and I will obtain a more complete reply for him. An accusation was made by Senator Rae that he could not get from me a reply to a question in under 4 months. I can assure Senator Rae that the question that he placed on the notice paper yesterday will be replied to tomorrow.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement’ in another place that the President of the Senate should have advised the Governor of Queensland that Senator Gair’s seat had become vacant, what action does he, as Leader of the Government in this place intend to take?
-I think that we have had enough of all this. It has been going on and statements have been put down.
– The honourable senator had a prawn party.
- Senator Cavanagh interjects and reminds me that the honourable senator made a contribution in this matter the other night. He ought to be content with his prawn party and should not stir up this matter any more. I do not propose to enter any further into what has been said quite definitely by the Government this morning. Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present statements by the Honourable Kim Beazley, Minister for Education, entitled ‘Interim Program for Pre-school and Child-care Services and Progress under the Child Care Act’.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
In doing so, I draw attention to the contents of the statement which has just been presented. It refers to both the pre-school and the child-care programs of the present Government. I think it appropriate that we should have regard to this statement to see whether it is not another case of unfulfilled promises. The policy speech delivered by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in November of 1972, during the election campaign, referred to pre-schools. It referred to the fact that the area of greatest inequality in education is that of pre-schools. He went on to say:
For an annual cost of $40m, which would take about six years to attain, we could provide every Australian child with the opportunity- a means of equalising and enriching every child’s life for the rest of his life- now enjoyed fully only by children in Canberra. To administer this program of national enrichment and national equality we will establish a Pre- school Commission.
The issue involves not only education; it is part of the fundamental issue of equality. The Prime Minister went on to refer to child care in the following terms:
The Pre-School Commission will be responsible for developing these facilities in conjunction with pre-school centres, beginning in areas where the need is most acute. So long as public child-care facilities remain inadequate, we will allow fees paid to recognised private centres to be tax deductions to a maximum of $260 a year.
As the statement makes quite clear, the Government has not done anything that could be called approaching the achievement of those policy promises. In relation to the last-mentioned promise, that of allowing fees paid to recognised private centres to be claimed as tax deductions to a maximum of $260 a year, I state that the Government has not done this. It has done it in relation to some children but not in relation to all children. I think that the story is well known in relation to pre-schools. We know of all the dreadful internal strife that is going on within the Labor Party in relation to this matter. Is it social welfare or is it education? What is the Government going to do? Will it develop a child care program or will it develop a pre-school program? I compare the unfulfilled promises and the unfulfilled expectations with the promise that was made by the Liberal Party as part of the same election campaign. The then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, said in November 1972:
We will provide $2Sm a year over the next three financial years for capita] and recurrent expenditure to assist the States in their efforts to expand pre-school education.
So far it appears from the Minister’s statement which was tabled in this chamber today that that position is not being achieved by the present Government whose plans provided for the expenditure of about that amount of money in the period since it has been in office. The present Government has continued the child care program which we introduced when we were in government. It has continued the program under the Child Care Act of November 1972, which was an Act which the former Liberal-Country Party coalition Government introduced. So I do not think that the present Government can take much credit for anything that has been done in relation to child care.
The simple position is that the Government, which is unable to reconcile its own internal differences, stands by and allows the Australian children to suffer. The policy of the Liberal and County Parties, so far as their education committee is concerned, will be to ensure that there is adequate available space for both pre-school and child care programs. We will ensure that this area of need is met in an adequate way, not in the totally inadequate way set out in the statements which have just been tabled by the Minister. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
In moving that motion I feel that I am bound to respond to some of the remarks made by Senator Rae.
– Ask for leave to respond.
– I seek leave to respond to one or two remarks in that regard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Mr President, with great respect to Senator Rae, I suggest that he is the last senator in this chamber who should talk about anyone not having carried out a series of undertakings or promises, because Senator Rae is the Chairman of a very important Senate select committee which was set up by the Senate to consider the question of securities and exchange. I think it was established in 1968.
– That is typical of the exaggeration engaged in by Senator Douglas McClelland.
– Tell me when it was? I said that I think it was established in 1968.
– Get your facts right before you start hurling accusations. It was established in March 1970.
– All right, I will correct my statement, it was established in March 1 970- over 4 years ago- and still this Senate awaits the report of the committee. Senator Rae, as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, secured a lot of publicity during the course of the Committee’s deliberations.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. Senator Douglas McClelland asked for leave to reply to one or two of the things said by Senator Rae. Senator Rae spoke about matters of education; he addressed himself to those matters. My submission is that it is not relevant to embark upon a criticism of the work of a committee under the guise of replying to the remarks of one member of that committee.
– As I heard both proponents, I think that the Minister is talking about broken promises, or something to that effect. So he uses the rhetorical debating device of replying in not a like manner. I think that you have carried that far enough, Senator Douglas McClelland.
-Mr President, I am satisfied that so far I have made the point that I wanted to make in that regard. As regards Senator Rae’s remarks about the paper that I have presented on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), I remind the Senate that the previous Government had some 23 years in which to do a lot about child care, but it did very little other than to express some concern about the problem that was manifesting itself as a result of the inadequacies of the undertakings and policies pursued by the previous Government. Certainly in the 16 months in which the present Government has been in office we have carried out a number of undertakings. Frankly, we would have liked to have seen them carried out at a much more rapid pace but everyone remembers the fiasco on education that went on in this chamber for 4 or 5 months last year when the Government’s efforts to get its educational proposals accepted by the Australian Parliament were being thwarted.
The Minister for Education set out in his statement on this interim program for pre-school and child care centres the assistance approved for each State as well as comments on aspects of the assistance. Attached are lists of capital projects included in the interim program. Grants approved under the interim program are as follows: New South Wales, $1,300,000; Victoria, $1,450,000; Queensland, $477,000; South Australia, $656,000; Western Australia, $460,000; and Tasmania, $127,200. Then the Minister set out other aspects to which current assistance has been made available in the interim program. On the second page of his statement we find that the nature and extent of continuing support for existing pre-schools and those admitted as new capital projects under the interim program will be determined as part of the development of the new policies and programs. Details of the capital projects are as follows: In New South Wales there are 72 projects involved and the estimated total Australian Government grant is $2,993,950. In Victoria there are 50 projects totalling $3,155,000. In Queensland the number of projects is 28 and the estimated total Australian Government grant is $2,233,300. In
South Australia the number of projects is 40 and the estimated grant is $1,870,500. In Western Australia the number of projects is 35 representing a total grant of $672,500. In Tasmania, Senator Rae’s own State, the number of projects is 37 and the estimated grant is $1,085,000. The total number of projects is 252 representing a total estimated grant by the Australian Government of $12,010,250. Mr President, I submit that that is not a bad record for 16 months of a Labor Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a very brief statement in relation to a matter on which I claim to have been misrepresented.
- Senator Rae claims to have been misrepresented. I think that without exception the Senate should accord leave in these circumstances. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate. The matter I wish to refer to is this: Successive chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange have presented, during the term of the Committee’s operation, several- three or maybe four- fairly full statements to the Senate reporting on its findings and its basic recommendation as well as a number of other areas of use and of interest, I would have thought, to the Senate. The most recent of those was December last year. I wished to refer to this to gainsay the suggestion that nothing has happened as a result of the activities of that Committee.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report to the Department of Urban and Regional Development on the Church of England Lands in Glebe, New South Wales. Because only a limited number of copies of the report are available, a copy has been placed in the Parliamentary Library for use by honourable senators.
-I present the second progress report from the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment on the reference relating to the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
In presenting this second progress report, I wish to refer only briefly to the activities of the Senate Standing Committees on Social Environment in its examination of the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites. Since the presentation of the first progress report, the Committee has concluded the field work that it deems to be necessary for the time being in the Northern Territory and Western Australia and is now well advanced in its field program in Queensland, with field trips to the remaining States to follow in due course. Many witnesses have been heard in the interim, and a good deal of important evidence is still to be taken.
As I am sure honourable senators will realise, the need to take account of developments arising from new initiatives, which have been many in recent times, has tended to slow rather than speed the progress of the inquiry. Nevertheless, we believe that, as our attention turns to States where areas are smaller, the numbers of Aboriginal communities are fewer and their territorial dispersion is more limited, our progress should be quicker. We shall do our utmost to realise this hope without in any way prejudicing the full and effective discharge of the responsibilities given to us by the Senate by the reference of this important subject. It may be that there are some persons who wonder why this Committee is pursuing an inquiry of this nature when a Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs has been appointed in another place. In this reference, the Senate has given this Committee a major task which we believe must be carried through by a co-ordinated and thorough inquiry on our part. We see no difficulty in the two Committees continuing to work in a rational way in a field in which so much needs to be done.
The first thing that I wish to say directly about the report is that it has the general and unanimous agreement of the members of the Committee. A number of specific and important matters are considered only in relation to the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Though, in some particulars, they may have wider relevance, the Committee has taken the view that its comments on those matters should be related directly to the areas where its field work has been completed. It will be noted, however, that a number of aspects have been discussed in broad terms as having application nation-wide. These primarily involve relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. They raise vital humanitarian and social questions fundamental to all phases of Aboriginal affairs. Our thinking on these matters of principle, as expressed in the report, has been crystallised by our consideration of the evidence and other material available to us, and not least by our direct experience among Aborigines whom we have met and seen in their own communities during our field work.
Some primary conclusions reached by us are emphasised at the close of the report. The Committee has come to the conclusion that over the years there has been a deficient understanding of Aboriginal culture and the specific nature and strength of its influence on the responses of Aborigines to the technological economy and life style of Europeans. It is our view that, because of this, too many of the failures of the past have been wrongly attributed to alleged shortcomings of the Aborigines. The Committee believes that there has also been a problem of communication between Aboriginal authority structures and European authority which must be overcome by better understanding of the authority structures and consultation processes of the Aboriginal people. Above and beyond this, in our view, there has been too little recognition of the right of Aborigines to be consulted in a meaningful way in respect of programs for the advancement and welfare of Aboriginal communities. The Committee has stated also its firm conclusion that money alone does not provide the solution to the problems, important though it is. As a reading of the report will reveal, in the Committee’s opinion the key factors are other than financial, though we believe that expenditure on Aboriginal affairs will have to remain high for years to come.
The Committee has made more than 40 recommendations which appear throughout the report. For convenience they have been grouped at the beginning with references to the appropriate sections where they can be found and considered in their context. We have not dealt with some matters that we consider ought to await a later report based on more complete inquiry.
On behalf of the Committee, I commend to the attention of the Senate, and of the responsible authorities in all fields, those recommendations which we have made and which have seemed appropriate within the scope of this report.
I take this opportunity of publicly thanking the members of the Committee for their cooperation, particularly the Committee staff members for their dedication and the thorough manner in which they have carried out research and assisted the Committee in every way. Generally I think that honourable senators will be satisfied with the report that has resulted from this intensive investigation.
– The second progress report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment relating to its reference to investigate the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islands and the preservation of their sacred sites has been brought forward by its Chairman, Senate Keeffe. In response to the reference which he has made to members of the Committee I, as a Committee member, reciprocate by acknowledging not only his very good leadership as a chairman but also the great amount of time, energy and effort which he put into the total assignment and into the workings of the Committee. The report has been tabled in the Senate today against a wide variety of activities and an environment of changing events. The Chairman of the Committee referred to this aspect in his remarks whem he said that there was a need during the hearings to take account of new initiatives and new developments. These developments and events have involved a wide range of political and administrative areas and the Committee, while acknowledging this background, has kept its attention on the particular reference which was assigned to it.
Early in the inquiry the Committee noted a strong feeling in the witnesses making submissions on behalf of Aborigines that there were great problems of ignorance and disorientation. As we made our inquiries we understood this to mean that the Aboriginal people tended, in the view of so many people, to stand between 2 worlds. This observation was repeated on a sufficient number of occasions for us to become very much aware of it and as we moved on through our hearing we became aware that this very difficult situation was in fact a reality. As the inquiry progressed we came to accept this statement as a useful summing up of the position of members of traditional Aboriginal groups who had been influenced increasingly by European society. This produced a state of dependence in people who were in their own way quite unused to the European style of life. This paints the background from which so many of the issues relating to the wellbeing of the Aborigines are concerned and into which the Committee inquired.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the report also recognises that within this situation there is a wide diversity of Aboriginal communities. Some of these are adjacent to urban areas, other in rural situations, some in isolated areas and others in tribal communities. Every one of them produces differing circumstances, differing problems and of course differing opportunities. Because of this it becomes very difficult to provide patterns of thought which will assist in forming the best answers to all the many questions which arise. It suggests to me that emphasis must therefore be placed on human factors rather than situational factors. Any response to the needs of this section of the Australian community must be initiated at the human level. That is why so many of the recommendations in this report place emphasis on the human factors. They deal with training opportunities, health, education, employment, housing and the law as well as other matters.
One of the submissions put to us in various ways was that within the Australian European community there is a lack of appreciation of the traditions, cultural factors and even behaviour patterns of Aborigines. Any program which might promote an interest or appreciation of this area is not easy to define. Like so many matters relating to the environment of Aborigines the processes tend to be slower than some would like to see them. What progress is made and what processes are established must be done soundly and surely and with conviction. There must be a greater appreciation of the influence of the cultural factors on the Aboriginal life style. I would like also to underline what the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Keeffe, has said in relation to our appreciation of the work done by the Secretary and the members and staff of the Committee. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the report and transcript of evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on the petition relating to ultrasonic aids for the blind and move:
That the report be printed.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator BROWN (Victoria)-by leave-I move:
The report sets out the terms of the petition and states that the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare invited submissions from the Australian Government departments and from organisations for the blind, including those who initiated the petition. Supplementary oral evidence was taken at a one-day public hearing when the Committee also had an opportunity to examine the various aids. The Committee considered, in view of the number of aids available to the blind, particularly in the field of mobility techniques, and the fact that ultrasonic aids are still in the developmental or evaluative stage, that the Australian Government should not implement a program for the general issue of ultrasonic devices to blind persons at this stage. The Government should, however, recognise the need for research into new aids and should support suitable research by subsidy. The voluntaryorganisations working in the field of welfare of the blind should be encouraged also to continue to expand their work. The Committee believes that a government department or independent authority should watch and monitor developments in the field of aids to the blind. I wish to place on record my appreciation of the work of the staff in assisting the Committee in expediting the inquiry and preparation of the report. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present an interim report from the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations relating to this inquiry into Aboriginal enterprises and move:
That the report be printed.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator GIETZELT (New South Wales)-by leave- I move:
The matters within this interim report were referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in December 1973. At that time there was considerable publicity centring on Aboriginal affairs. When the Committee began to make preliminary inquiries it found that there were problems associated with Aboriginal enterprises of a long standing nature which went as far back as early 1970. It was therefore not surprising that even before it was given these references there were several inquiries also being conducted into these matters. 1 would like to enumerate for the benefit of honourable senators these other inquiries: Firstly, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation into the question of farming turtles in the Torres Strait Islands; secondly, the Special Minister of State’s inquiries comprising a report by a Melbourne accountant, Mr L. P. Smart, into the organisation and management of the turtle farming project and a joint report by 2 scientists, Dr A. F. Carr and Professor A. E. Main, into the ecological implications of a turtle farming project; thirdly, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts investigation into Aboriginal housing in the Northern Territory; fourthly, the Auditor-General ‘s inquiry into the financial and managerial aspects of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs; fifthly, the Public Service Board inquiry into administrative procedures of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Four of these reports have already been tabled in Parliament and I understand that the report by the Public Accounts Committee into Aboriginal housing is to be tabled later in this session. I have also been informed that considerable progress has been made in the Public Service Board examination. Honourable senators will recall that when the Auditor-General recently tabled his report on the financial and managerial aspects of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts immediately announced that his Committee would be setting up a public inquiry into the financial administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and, in fact, this inquiry is now under way. In addition, the AuditorGeneral has indicated that he will be taking follow-up action as a result of his initial findings.
We believe that collectively all of these inquiries which have been completed and those which are currently under way will cover almost every part of both references which are before us. To proceed with a full-scale public inquiry of our own at this stage would not only lead to unnecessary duplication of effort but would also compete for the already over-taxed resources servicing these investigations. This would, in our opinion, be counter productive. Consequently we propose to postpone any active investigations into these references until we have been able to examine all reports that will emerge from these current inquiries. If on examination of these reports we feel there are any areas which have not been adequately explored we would consider conducting further inquiries of our own. Mr President, I wish to express my appreciation to the staff and commend its diligence and work during the preliminary stages of the Committee ‘s work. I commend the interim report to the Senate.
– I wish to support the remarks of Senator Gietzelt about the work of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations and the reference which it has as its work at the present time. As a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which is at the present time conducting an inquiry following the report and the special report of the AuditorGeneral upon the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, I refer to the remarks in the Committee’s report with regard to the Public Accounts Committee. Conclusion 34 of the Standing Committee ‘s report states:
We also believe that a comprehensive inquiry on our part would lead to an unnecessary duplication of effort. In fact there is evidence that this could occur in any event in the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee and the follow-up action foreshadowed in the Auditor-General ‘s Report.
I merely state that the wording of that conclusion should not be misunderstood. The work of the Public Accounts Committee and its relationship with the Auditor-General has some statutory requirements attached to it. It is not necessary to assume that there will be duplication of work simply because the Public Accounts Committee is working following a report by the AuditorGeneral. In fact, the present work of the Public Accounts Committee is because of its special relationship with the work of the AuditorGeneral. This Committee is proceeding with its inquiry following the report of the AuditorGeneral. As a statutory committee of the Australian Parliament it is developing a ground of work which is important. I support the remarks with regard to the wealth of information which will be available to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations if it should decide to pursue the reference in relation to Aboriginal enterprises. In common with Senator Gietzelt, the Chairman of the Committee, I commend the work and co-operation of the staff which has assisted the Senate Standing Committee during the past months.
– I think the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, Senator Gietzelt, has already explained that several inquiries are under way. Some have been completed. There is an important one in relation to the Auditor-General’s report. As has been explained already, we felt that it would be unnecessary duplication if we carried out an indepth investigation at this stage. When the other inquiries are finished, when the reports are presented, we will have another look at the matter. If we believe that there are blank spots in our report to the Senate, we can look at them. We can co-ordinate all the reports of the different investigators, and in those circumstances I think that we can come up with a much more comprehensive report to the Senate. For that reason I support the report which has been presented by the Chairman. We ask the Senate to bear with us until more information is available so that we can table a comprehensive and complete report on all aspects of the references to us.
Debate (on motion by Senator Lawrie) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8 April (vide page 753), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That i lie Bill bc now read a second time.
– I indicate that the Opposition is not opposed to this Bill. Last year the Government introduced a Bill to allow electors in the Australian Capital Territory to elect 2 members of Parliament. It is quite clear, from both the Bill and the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), the reason why this Bill has been introduced. It is simply that as it is no longer if but when a double dissolution is to take placethere is to be an election for both Houses of Parliament on 18 May- it is not possible, as the Act at present stands, for 2 members to be elected from the Australian Capital Territory. In fact, it is more than possible that no member could be elected for the Australian Capital Territory. That certainly was not the intention of the Parliament last year. Because it was the intention of Parliament last year, which we on this side supported, that there ought to be 2 members from the Australian Capital Territory and because I cannot conceive of anybody being able to quarrel with the method of distributing the electoratenamely, by drawing a line along the Molonglo River and the northern side of Lake Burley Griffin- we support the Bill. There is just one clause of the Bill to which I would draw attention, and I would not want to do so at the Committee stage. I have already alerted honourable senators about this point. Clause 4 (2) reads: the Governor-General shall, by Proclamation, declare the names or the Electoral Divisions established by this Act.
I know that that provision is always there and can be used by the Governor-General to declare the names of electoral divisions. I am also aware that it has been the custom in the past for the Parliament, in effect, to suggest the names of divisions. Although it is none of my business, I only hope that when the divisions are being named one of the divisions will be named after the late James Fraser who was the Labor member for the Australian Capital Territory for so long. My association with Jim Fraser was mainly as a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory which in those days was under the very distinguished chairmanship of my colleague, Senator Marriott. All of us who worked with the late Jim Fraser knew how much -
– The divisions could be caller ‘ Withers ‘ and ‘ Murphy ‘.
-They could be called Laurel’ and ‘Hardy’; they could be called Marx’ and ‘Engels’.
– Perhaps ‘Karl’ and Harpo’.
-Yes, but I would hope that one of the divisions is named after the late Jim Fraser. I think that that proposition will be supported all around the Parliament. I have no suggestions in relation to the other division other than to say, if one is allowed to throw names around, that as I understand it every capital city in Australia has an electorate named after it. I understand there is a member for Perth, a member for Adelaide, a member for Brisbane and so on. I hope there will also be a member for Canberra, the national Capital. Having made those comments, we wish the Bill a speedy passage and look forward on 1 8 May to the election of 2 Liberal members for the Australian Capital Territory.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting the Senate was dealing with the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill 1974. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) had indicated that the Liberal Party was not opposed to the Bill. I indicate that my Party is not opposed to the Bill, but we have some concern about the procedures that are being adopted in this case. The Bill came before the House of Representatives and then was presented to the Senate with the full statutory time for the lodging of objections not having run out. I am very concerned that this situation has developed. I think that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) will recognise as I do the procedures that have been followed. The Government has got the redistribution up to a certain stage. The Commissioners have drawn a line for the division of the electorates along the Molonglo River and I do not think that anyone has objection to that. Nor do I think that anyone has objection to the way in which the redistribution has been carried out. But I want to remind the Senate that there are specific steps to be taken in a redistributionabout fourteen of them- and that a period of 30 days must be allowed for the lodging of objections. This period has not elapsed. Yet the Government has seen fit to bring this measure before the Houses of Parliament and ask for it to be passed. We may be in agreement with it, but my concern is that this is becoming a practice with this Government. It believes that it can override all the constitutional procedures and the Standing Orders of the Senate. Now, it is trying to override the redistribution procedures as laid down in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973.
Who can say whether, in some 2 or 3 years time, someone will not be looking for a precedent and that this situation will not be held up to the Senate and to the House of Representatives as that precedent? It could be said that the Parliament did this in 1974 in relation to the redistribution in the Australian Capital Territory; it could be said that the Opposition accepted it then; why will not it be accepted now? This is my concern and the concern of my Party. Sufficient time has not been given for the lodging of objections and the Government has seen fit to present a Bill to the Parliament before the period laid down has elapsed. I am not saying that anyone will object, but I am concerned that this case could be used as a precedent in days to come. That is where my concern lies. But for all that, the Australian Country Party supports this measure.
– In replyFirstly, let me thank honourable senators of all parties who have agreed to pass the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill 1974. 1 appreciate this because of the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed. Senator Withers has raised the question of the names of the divisions. I regret that because of the circumstances we are unable to make recommendations to the GovernorGeneral. What I do promise Senator Withers is that the name of Fraser which he mentioned certainly will be put forward. I do not think that he will be the only person thinking of this name but I appreciate his mentioning it. It will be put forward to the appropriate Minister for consideration when we get to that point.
I have taken note of Senator DrakeBrockman’s comments. It is true that anything that is done can be taken as a precedent, but if such a situation did arise I think a fairly good argument could be advanced because of the circumstances that surround the introduction of the Bill at this time. I am glad that we all agree that the Australian Capital Territory has come of age to the point that we are treating it in a somewhat similar way to that applicable to the States and giving the people in the Territory 2 elected members of the House of Representatives after the next election. I agreed with everything said by Senator Withers except for his last sentence. I do not agree with his forecast that after the election there will be 2 Liberal Party members for the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-It will be understood from the debate on this Bill today that the Bill has come rather precipitately into the Senate. It has been developed and introduced because of the imminence of a double dissolution. That effects the arrangements with regard to the nomination of possible candidates for the Party with which I am concerned for the 2 divisions in the Australian Capital Territory. I take the opportunity to invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), having regard to the circumstances surrounding this Bill, to state whether he is prepared to tell us the program for writs, nominations and so forth in the event of a request for a double dissolution being granted this week.
– I made some inquiries about this matter and I am afraid that I am unable to help the honourable senator. Firstly, we do not know the date of the double dissolution. We are confident that there will be a double dissolution, but whether that comes today, tomorrow or in a week’s time, nobody knows. As I understand the technical situation, I am unable to give the information that Senator
Wright wants. I think that he has made a legitimate inquiry and the best that I can do is to tell the honourable senator that I will convey to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) the fact that there is some anxiety about this point, and when he is in a position to make that announcement I will urge him to make it as soon as is practicable.
– I am obliged to the Minister for that reply, but I ask him to bear in mind fairness in regard to representation of the Liberal Party by possible candidates to whom distance is a matter of concern. I also ask him to bear in mind the attitude of the Opposition in accepting this Bill so precipitately. I think that fairness would dictate that we should be advised of this position, if possible today, in the event of a double dissolution this week. The significance of Senator Willesee ‘s statement that he is confident there will be a double dissolution is that this morning it was headline news that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had expressed himself in an aside that he thought a double dissolution would occur. I suggest that the timing of the events which warrant a double dissolution are in the hands of the Government. For instance, the time at which the Government will proceed with the passage of the Appropriation Bills through the House of Representatives is entirely within its control. The time at which the Government will commence the debate on those Bills in this chamber would not be, I think, a matter of doubt to the Government. Although no double dissolution has occurred yet, the processes to put it into operation are within the Government’s timing. Therefore, I ask the Minister, in fairness and having regard to our attitude to this Bill, not to leave us in suspense as to the program for candidature for the seat for the northern section of Canberra- Dr Hughes having been endorsed as the Liberal candidate for the seat for the southern section. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind and, if possible, to indicate today the electoral program regarding writs, nominations and so on.
– I do not have the information that Senator Wright seeks, the matter not being handled by me. But I remind Senator Wright that whatever decision we make here, the final act in effecting a double dissolution rests at Yarralumla with the GovernorGeneral. Therefore, whatever we might say could still be rejected. That decision rests with the Governor-General. I think that we are completely at one when we say that the first steps for a double dissolution will be taken in this chamber, but the final decision has to be made by the Governor-General. Therefore, the date of a double dissolution is not really in our hands.
Although we are very confident that there will be a double dissolution, who knows what will happen? I have long ago given up trying to forecast what will happen in the field of politics. Much as we are confident that a double dissolution will occur, one can never be completely certain that it will occur. That will depend on the Governor-General’s decision. I know that the last person who forgot to nominate as a candidate for an election was not a member of our Party, but we are not infallible and some members of our Party may follow in those footsteps. I am as anxious as Senator Wright to ensure that the decision is made public as quickly as possible. I agree with Senator Wright regarding the question of fairness. I think that this would apply to everybody, but it would have some bearing on the specific case that he has mentioned. I think that fairness should be shown to everybody. I inform Senator Wright that this matter will be carefully noted and that I will convey it to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a third time.
- Senator Byrne indicated to me that he wished to raise a matter.
-Mr President, as a matter of privilege, I wish to move a motion. As you know, Mr President, a matter of privilege can be raised at any time as an intervention in the business of the chamber. Standing order 1 18 states:
Whenever a Matter or Question directly concerning the Privileges of the Senate, or of any Committee or Member thereof has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, a Motion calling upon the Senate to take action thereon may be moved, without Notice, and shall, until decided, unless the Debate be adjourned, suspend the consideration of other Motions as well as Orders of the Day:
Provided that precedence over other business shall not be given to any Motion concerning Privilege if, in the opinion of the President, a prima facie case of breach of Privilege has not been made out or the matter has not been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The matter that I wish to raise concerns the vacancy which occurs in the Senate.
– Your motion being?
– I want to establish my right to move a motion. I move:
-Is there a seconder?
– I second the motion.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. This matter is raised under the heading of ‘privilege’. It is exactly the same subject matter as that which has been debated upon a motion in the Senate this week. Obviously it is a case which comes within the wording contained in the last sentence that Senator Byrne read out, that is, the matter has not been raised at the earliest opportunity. Nor is it a matter of privilege, nor can a matter of this sort be raised as supplementary to or contradictory of a resolution of the Senate, such as the one we made last night. Mr President, I invite you to recall the terms of that resolution, which were to the effect that at the date when you made a certain statement, which I think was 3 April 1974, no resignation had taken effect. You referred the question of vacancy to the Senate. The Senate has dealt with that by declaring that at the time of that statement there was no resignation. It cannot be suggested that in the interval there has been any resignation. Therefore, the question is whether anything new has occurred between 3 April and the present time which affects vacancy.
So when we consider all these matters as to privilege, I suggest that it is highly improper for this chamber to enter upon a renewal of the previous debate, as if it were a matter of privilege which comes within the scope of standing order 1 18, which would continue possibly for a day in this vital week of the Senate’s sittings. Already we have devoted more than a day and a half to this general question. I submit that within the terms of the standing order precedence over other business should not be given on the ground that the matter has not been raised at the earliest opportunity. I fortify that submission by referring to the fact that the Senate has deliberately dealt with the question under another headingnot privilege- as late as last night. No new matter can be suggested which is relevant either to the question of resignation or to the question of forfeiture. I suggest that the practical dispatch of business, and prudence in the regulation of our affairs, should dictate that in this week when we expect to have to deal with most vital matters concerning the whole Parliament and therefore the Government of this country, we should not devote another day to a discussion of the matter raised by Senator Byrne. I suggest that within the terms of standing order 118 it is for you, Mr President, to decide the precedence that should be given to this motion. The motion having been announced, I submit it should be ruled that it should be regarded as a notice of motion to be brought on for debate if and when time is available to us after the dispatch of other most urgent business this week.
- Mr President, this matter has taken me by surprise. However, I draw your attention to standing order 426 which, I think, is in furtherance of the points raised by Senator Wright. It reads:
All Questions of Order and matters of Privilege which have arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other Question.
Senator Wright made a point about the effect this motion would have on the deliberations with which we have to deal. As Senator Wright aptly put it, we have to deal with matters of extreme importance. Nothing would be of greater importance than the matter of referring the Parliament to the people. I know of nothing else that could be of greater importance. The other point I put forward for your consideration, Mr President, is this: Is this a new matter which has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate yesterday? Whatever we might have thought about one another in the debate yesterday, neither side could have criticised the other side for not debating very fully the whole question of an officer of my Department.
– Do any other honourable senators wish to address themselves to the point of order?
– I wish to speak to the point of order. In the first place, in an examination of the Standing Orders, the question is: Is this matter the same as that raised and determined yesterday? My recollection of this matter is that you, Mr President, sought the guidance of this chamber, you being in very grave doubt as to what was the position regarding a vacancy in the chamber. You asked the Senate to resolve that matter for you. The Senate considered the matter and the resolution finally did nothing whatever to assist you. Your question was: ‘Is there a vacancy and, if so, when did it arise?’ The resolution that the Senate carried merely said that Senator Gair was a senator as at a certain date. The resolution did not answer either of the points which you specifically put to the Senate for determination. There I consider that the resolution of the Senate said only that Senator Gair was a member of this place at a certain date. But whether he still remains a member today is the matter that is the subject of the motion I have proposed. Therefore it is totally different from the proposition discussed and resolved by the Senate. On the question of privilege -
– I am just dealing with the objections raised under the Standing Orders at the moment. You must address yourself to that point and no other substantive matter.
– With respect I am addressing myself to one of the propositions presented by Senator Wright. I know, as we all know, that there is an extraordinarily important matter of business before this Parliament but the point of my motion is that the Senate has an obligation to ensure that its composition, its constitution, is adequately and properly determined, and always determined, and secondly, as the House representing the States, that all the States have their equality of representation. The Senate is operating at the moment and the State of Queensland is in doubt as to whether in fact at the present time it is represented by 9 senators or 10 senators. Therefore to dismiss this matter as of no consequence in my opinion is quite improper. This is a matter of very great consequence and it should be resolved. I know, as Senator Willesee said, that nobody can predict what will happen. If there is a double dissolution of this Parliament I suppose that the question becomes academic but as Senator Willesee said, no one can predict -
– You must address yourself to the point of order raised by Senator Wright.
– That is right. I was attempting to do that. This is a matter of consequence. Senator Wright’s argument was that it is a matter of no consequence against the background of the important questions that are being presented to the Parliament in these few days. Senator Wright suggested, therefore, that this matter might be the subject of a notice of motion. Mr President, you are looking to this chamber for guidance. You are in a particularly difficult position yourself. Also, in fairness, the person concerned, Senator Gair, is in very grave doubt and wants the question to be resolved.
– He has written a letter.
– He is in very grave doubt as to his actual position. Senator Gair regards himself as no longer being a member of the Senate. He presented a letter here which was subject to interpretation. He regards himself no longer as being a member of the Senate but the President is not able to determine whether that is the fact.
In fairness to Senator Gair, who wants to know his position, in fairness to this Senate, in fairness to the State of Queensland and in fairness to the -
– Order! Address yourself to the Chair, not to Senator McLaren.
– He is entitled to know. We are entitled to know and the honourable senator who interjected is entitled to know.
– I do know.
– You do not know. If Senator McLaren knows and can dogmatise on it I suggest that he tender his advice to you, Mr President, because you are looking for guidance on this matter. In those circumstances I think that there is a duty on the Senate to determine as early as possible the composition of this chamber and the status of Senator Gair. I can see no reason why, as there is a consensus that Senator Gair is not a member of this chamber and it is only a technical disposition to determine the matter by resolution, everybody in the Senate should not be anxious to find that Senator Gair is no longer a member of this chamber and resolve the matter. In other words, we have to cut the Gordian knot and I see no reason why this motion should not be supported.
– I shall deal with the point of order first raised by Senator Wright, replied to by Senator Willesee and, as of right, by Senator Byrne. The facts are these: In the terms of the whole long history of Parliament, problems of privilege take paramountcy over any other business. Therefore if a question of privilege arises any honourable senator is entitled to raise it. Under the Westminster system the Speaker of the House of Commons can listen to argument, then make his own determination as to whether a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made and then refer it to the Committee of Privileges. Under the Standing Orders of the Senate the problem of whether there is a prima facie case of breach of privilege must be decided by the Senate itself. I rule therefore that until such time as Senator Byrne has made out a prima facie case of breach of privilege he is entitled to be heard and then the Senate will resolve whether a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made.
– I take a point of order, Mr President. With very great respect I invite your attention to standing order 118 in order to advance another ground for a point of order. That standing order goes on to state:
Provided that precedence over other business shall not be given to any Motion concerning Privilege if, in the opinion of the President, a prima facie case of breach of Privilege has not been made out or the matter has not been raised at the earliest opportunity.
Do not let it be supposed that in any way I am canvassing your ruling, Sir, but I felt obliged to draw attention to this specific phrase in the standing order when you proceeded to deal with the matter on the first branch of that proviso- that is on the question of a prima facie case being made out. I suggest that our Standing Orders make your opinion determinative unless your reference of the vacancy question the other day relegated the matter to the Senate. The second branch of that proviso was my point of order, specifically the words ‘or the matter has not been raised at the earliest opportunity’.
– I cannot hear you.
– The second branch of that proviso was the basis of my point of order, and that is that the matter was not raised at the earliest opportunity. Having pointed out what that opportunity was and how another procedure had occupied a long intervening period of time, I would have thought it was scarcely open to question that this matter of privilege has not been raised at the earliest opportunity. I rose, Mr President, to call you attention to the phrase ‘in the opinion of the President’ and your reservation of the matter to the Senate on the first ground- that is to say, whether a prima facie case had been made out. However on the second ground I suggest that it is for you to give precedence if the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity and for you to deny precedence if it has not been raised at the earliest opportunity. I direct your mind to that second limb of the proviso.
– In addressing my remarks to the proposition which Senator Wright is now canvassing, the first question is whether or not the resolution of yesterday, carried by this Senate, determined a certain situation which was that Senator Gair was a member of this Senate as at 3 April. Therefore is not this the first opportunity to determine his present position since the determination of that question yesterday? In other words, the first opportunity is not one that stems back from the initiation of this matter but from the first determination by this Senate of something relating to his position and status in this chamber. This is the first opportunity thereafter to make a determination of this character. I am submitting therefore that this resolution is completely within the terms of the contemplation of the second paragraph of the standing order to which Senator Wright has referred and is therefore in order.
– If I may assist -
– I am feeling no sense of assistance, at the moment anyway.
– I am a little astonished to hear what Senator Byrne has said because surely the question which you, Mr President, put to the Senate enabled the Senate on the view that was taken by the majority to make some determination. It is idle for Senator Byrne to suggest that the first opportunity now arises since the last sitting. How can the honourable senator deny that it was open to him then and there to move an amendment to the motion which was put by me or to the amendment which was put by Senator Withers? Indeed, he said he had it in mind. How can the honourable senator possibly suggest that this has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate? Nothing has happened since the last sitting of the Senate. The occasion of privilege for which the honourable senator contends has not arisen. I would suggest with great respect that there could be no clearer case.
Whatever is the honourable senator’s positionhe may be able to give some notice to bring his matter on- he cannot bring himself within the precedence provisions to suggest that this has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate. How does the honourable senator dare suggest that he could not have moved it and had it dealt with then? He has said that it could be done and that he had it in his mind. There was a debate here on this issue. Nothing at all has happened to which the honourable senator has pointed; there is no new fact or circumstance since the last sitting of the Senate to which he can point. I submit with great respect that the point taken by Senator Wright on this occasion is correct.
– I direct my comment purely to the one point made by Senator Wright for determination, that is, whether the matter is raised at the earliest opportunity. It would appear to me that the determination of that point is made by the person who raises the question. The factors bringing about the earliest opportunity are surely in the mind of the honourable senator who raises the matter- that is, the preparation of the question, the decision that was made on another matter yesterday, and the connection which Senator Byrne must have in this matter. It is for him to decide what is the earliest opportunity on which this matter should be raised. If this matter were deferred for another day or so, or for a week of so, until the honourable senator had his facts in order and had in order, the points that he wished to lay before the
Senate, that could well be determined as the earliest opportunity for raising the matter.
– Does any other honourable senator wish to make some observations about this? I note that no honourable senator has risen in his place. 1 remarked recently that I was living in the isolation ward. I have come to the conclusion that I am now involved in a ward of contagious infection of one sort or another and that I am not in isolation. I do not make that observation in a humourous way but in an ironical way. The problem is that the President must be satisfied, as Senator Wright has addressed himself to me, that there must be a prima facie case. No prima facie case of a breach of privilege has been brought before me. I think it is unfairrather ‘unwise’ is the word 1 would use- that the President should be confronted with making a decision that a breach of privilege has occurred without the opportunity of having presented to him- he having to make this determination- information as to whether a prima facie case of a breach of privilege exists.
-1 was interrupted by a point of order when I was making my case.
– That is all right. I go on to say that I must have some reasonable notice of this. I am willing to entertain a proposition from Senator Byrne that he gives notice that he will tomorrow move a motion to direct the attention of the Senate to a possible breach of privilege. Therefore I will not sustain the motion at this moment.
– I can appreciate the difficulty which confronts you, Mr President, and the other honourable senators. I am prepared to accede to the suggestion that I should convert my resolution into a notice of motion that I shall move on the next day of sitting.
– I give the ruling that I will not entertain the motion at the present moment. The honourable senator must seek leave to give notice of motion that he will so move.
– I ask for leave to give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move accordingly.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this Senate, having considered the matter of Vincent Clair Gair’s appointment as Ambassador of the Australian Government to the Republic of Ireland, resolves that his place in the Senate be declared now vacant.
– I move:
The Government has now considered the report of the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Western Australia, together with the suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners in pursuance of sections 18 (A) and 2 1 respectively of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and has decided to recommend approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals, in the expectation that both Houses will ensure that the Governor-General may be enabled to proclaim this redistribution at an early date. Such an action will ensure that the people of Western Australia are able to elect the 10 members of the House of Representatives to which they are entitled.
The possibility that the people of Western Australia may be required to vote for the House of Representatives earlier that the Distribution Commissioners may have expected has, in the Government’s view, simply given additional urgency to the need for action in this matter. This will presumably be one matter upon which the Government and all Opposition parties in both Houses can agree.The Government has noted that the Distribution Commissioners’ final proposals are virtually unchanged as compared with those published in October 1973, despite the substantial body of criticism made by the various political parties, individual parliamentarians and other competent or interested citizens.
The Government wishes to voice what it considers to be 3 valid grounds for criticism, though these grounds, taken either singly or together, are not in the Government’s view sufficiently serious to warrant rejection of the overall proposals, particularly given the present requirements for equitable Western Australian representation in the House of Representatives. The Government’s reservations, all or some of which are shared by people outside the Labor Party, can be summarised as follows: Firstly, while it is pleasing to note that the previous and existing inequalities in voting power as between the electors in various Divisions have, on the whole, been reduced- this refers not just to inequalities between urban and rural electorates, but also among urban electorates themselvesthe position is still unsatisfactory.
The Commissioners have seen fit to vary the proposed Kalgoorlie Division by 15.57 per cent below quota and the proposed Swan Division by 14. 12 per cent over, although the variations from the quota have lessened in both cases since July 1973, and now stand at about 1 1 per cent under and 12 per cent over the quota respectively. Had the next House of Representatives election in Western Australia not been held until 1975, it is likely that the gap between enrolments in these 2 Divisions would have closed considerably. Both of them would have come under 10 per cent variation from the quota. However, it would have been preferable for the situation to have taken place immediately. Incidentally, this comment relating to the inequality of voting power between electors in Kalgoorlie and Swan is not based on party political considerations, but on the consideration of equal voting power, as nearly as is practicable, for all Australians, irrespective of their place of residence. These 2 divisions are represented in the House of Representatives by Australian Labor Party members.
At least the situation under the new boundaries will be more tolerable than at present, with nearly 80,000 electors in the existing Division of Stirling as against some 55,000 in the existing Division of Forrest, based on enrolments at the end of March 1974 for the existing 9 divisions. The Government regards as intolerable this present degree in inequality among Western Australian electors, even though it is not so brazen as in the State Parliament, where Legislative Assembly seat enrolments vary from about 2,000 to 21,000 and Legislative Council from 6,000 to 88,000.
Secondly, the Government also considers that Distribution Commissioners could well have exercised a little more imagination and flexibility with regard to the need to split up certain existing subdivisions, particularly one or two in the outer metropolitan area, such as the Subdivision of Pearce, which has gained an enrolment increase of over 30 per cent since July 1973. To a lesser degree, this criticism could also be applied to the Commissioners’ decision to reject suggestions relating to the possibility of splitting one or two inner metropolitan subdivisions, such as Mount Hawthorn and Joondanna, in order to satisfy more completely the ‘community of interest’ principle. However, in this respect, the Government acknowledges that such anomalies are less striking than in some previous redistributions. Thirdly, related to the points I have just raised, the Government also considers that, in particular, the Commissioners have proposed inappropriate boundaries between Moore and Stirling divisions, although some improvement as compared with the present situation has been made with regard to the boundaries between Perth and Moore and Swan and Moore divisions respectively, though even in the latter case, it should have been possible to include more of the northeast urban corridor areas in a metropolitan electorate. The Commissioners, unfortunately for the present honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), have failed to allow for the rapid rate of population growth in the southern portion of the Pearce Subdivision, not to mention substantial growth in the Kalamunda Subdivision. Hence, there is already the situation where the supposedly rural electorate of Moore contains mainly metropolitan electors, and has already outstripped the adjacent inner metropolitan electorate of Stirling in number of electors.
The new member will have a difficult task of serving the electorate covering both rural areas and many rapidly expanding outer metropolitan areas, while the member for Stirling will serve fewer electors, all of them in the metropolitan area. I merely note that this seems to be a rather odd interpretation of the obligations imposed on the Commissioners by the criteria contained in section 19 Sub-section 2, of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is also contrary to their views on the provisions of section 19 Sub-section 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in Curtin, Kalgoorlie and Swan Divisions.
In view of the constant criticism by Liberal and Country Party members of the electoral policy of the Australian Labor Party, it is interesting to note that the ‘West Australian’ on 19 October 1973 had this to say about the original proposals which remain practically unchanged:
At first assessment there appears little fault to find with redistribution proposals.
It went on to say:
The distribution proposals have still to run the gauntlet of objections before they reach Canberra. But there does not appear to be need for a major change. No Party has much to complain about.
Finally, as regards the naming of the new tenth division, the Government has given due consideration to the suggestions made by various people, including the Commissioners. The names of an eminent deceased engineer, Aboriginal tracker and Country Party Prime Minister have been among those mentioned. The Government is also aware that various explorers and pioneers, not to mention deceased colonial governors, have been honoured in this way. However, it has been decided on this occasion to honour a living person, who was indeed a pioneer in a very real sense. I refer to Dame Dorothy Tangney, who relinquished her teaching career in Western Australia to become the first woman member of the Commonwealth Senate in 1943, and serving West Australians, and Australia as a whole, with exemplary dedication for 25 years, during which time she held many responsible positions, including that of Temporary Chairman of Committees in the Senate. The Government is delighted to have this opportunity to honour a distinguished West Australian in this fitting manner.
– The Opposition will not oppose the motion moved by Senator Willesee. I would like to address myself to some comments in his speech and also to the redistribution proposals. As the Minister quite rightly says, the redistribution proposals appear on the face to be sensible, reasonable and fair. But of course there is one complete oddity in them. The member for the electorate of Swan will have no physical communication with one part of his electorate. He will have to pass through the electorate of Tangney to get to the other part of his electorate or else he will have to use a rowing boat. This is a crazy situation, to say the least. Why the electorates of Swan and Tangney should be singled out for this treatment I know not. I doubt that there is another electorate in Australia which is not a contiguous whole.
– I can show you one in Victoria.
– Is there one in Victoria?
– Yes, by the State Government.
-We are talking about federal electorates. I would say the proposed new electorate is the only federal electorate which does not have a contiguous boundary. I am not trying to score political points on this subject but it strikes me as more than strange that Distribution Commissioners took this course. To the best of one’s assessment the reason this was done is that if this section had been taken out of the electorate of Swan and put in the electorate of Tangney, Swan may have been made a safer seat for the Labor Party and it may have made the opportunity easier for the Liberal Party to win the seat of Tangney. In carrying out this redistribution the Commissioners perhaps have made 2 evenly balanced seats, depending on one’s judgment.
I doubt that it is altogether the duty of electoral commissioners to create as many swinging seats- if that is the right term- in the community as possible. The commissioners may feel that they do have the right to create swinging seats but I do not think it is a right in which they should indulge. They should rely on the criteria of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Commissioners did some interesting things. The Minister in his speech pointed out that they had to use variations of 15.57 per cent and 14.12 per cent. In the short period since the proposals were introduced they have changed to 1 1 per cent and 12 per cent. If anything proves that our argument for a 10 per cent variation is too little this is proof positive. If I understand the Minister’s figures correctly there has been a drop from 15.57 per cent to 1 1 per cent and from 14.12 per cent to 12 per cent in about 1 8 months.
This just shows that the Commissioners ought to have a discretion. The Minister, quite rightly, goes on to say that if the elections had been held at their normal time and we did not have an election until 1975 both of these seats would have come in under the 10 per cent arrangement. It just shows that if the Commissioners do have a capacity to vary the quota by up to 20 per cent they can bring about a fair amount of electoral justice.
I would like to refer to a rather unnecessary remark of the Minister in his statement when he talked about the inequality in Western Australia. There are a few comments I would like to make on that subject seeing that it has been opened up. My friend and colleague, Senator Durack, said to me the other day that he appeared on a television program in Western Australia on the night of the Western Australian State elections. It was at that stage that he pointed out to Mr Tonkin, the ex-Labor Premier of Western Australia, that the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia had agreed to the form of distribution which has brought about the situation in Western Australia. Quite frankly, whilst it may be said that the electorate in Western Australia, both in the Legislative Council and in the Legislative Assembly, is malapportioned, even that well-known psephologist, Mr Malcolm Mackerras, says that it is not a malapportionment in favour of one party or the other. The electorates may be malapportioned, but they are malapportioned equally on a political basis.
– They are unfair to everybody.
-They are unfair to everybody and fair to everybody. The other interesting historical feature about Western Australia is its very small seats. There were once 4 Legislative Assembly seats in what might be called the nothern part of Western Australia and I think about 6 Legislative Council seats from the same area. They were for some 30 or 40 years always held by the Australian Labor Party. I speak of the seats then known as Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne, the old Murchison seat and the northern provinces. Some distinguished Labour Ministers came out of those seats, even the former Labor Premier, the Honourable Frank Wise.
– Even my brother.
-As the Minister for Foreign Affairs said, even the Honourable Bill Willesee, who was lately a Minister in the Western Australian Government, was from this area. So the electorates were not malapportioned against the Labor Party. That point ought to be made. Luckily the people in that area have come to their senses and have now just about a total Liberal membership in the upper and lower Houses.
I refer now to the other point that was raised, that is, that the honourable member for Moore will suffer. Again this only shows that even if they have a capacity to vary the quota by 20 per cent, electoral commissioners can still be wrong. I think it is fair to say, without being critical of these 3 gentlemen, who I am quite certain did their best, and against whom I level no criticism in their personal capacity, that this shows the difficult problem any electoral commissioner will have in Australia when dealing with rapidly growing areas of population. I know that they sit down and attempt to take the projections of the town planning authorities and population authorities and everything else into account, but what is valid today may not be valid in a year or two. Senator Willesee said this morning that he did not try to project too far ahead in politics. Some say that the long term view in politics is about 4 hours. On some matters if the electoral commissioners could project 6 months in advance they would be doing well because we know that various planning decisions taken after electoral commissioners have met will cause populations to grow. We know also that planning decisions tend to be altered. I say that, because 1 appreciate the very great task that electoral commissioners have in attempting to do justice as between electorates. That is why I think they ought to be able to vary the numbers in electorates by 20 per cent. They should be able to do this because of the difficulties, especially in a country which has a very high population growth.
The final comment I would like to make is on the naming of an electorate after Dame Dorothy Tangney. We in the Opposition agree that it ought to be named after Dame Dorothy. C. Y. O’Connor does not need an electorate named after him to keep him known as one of the great persons of Western Australia. His place in history is assured, so that is not said in any sense of derogation of C. Y. O’Connor. He will be known as one of the greats of the 19th and early 20th centuries and his place is assured. Dame Dorothy Tangney was a well-liked colleague in this chamber. I suppose it points up the sensibility, or the proper idea that there is nothing wrong with an honour system. At least we are able to honour her in the way she should be honoured for her distinguished services in this Parliament.
– Now they have honoured her.
– And now the Government has honoured her and that is a fair enough indication of the regard she is held in by both sides of this chamber. As a matter of historical interest I would like to know whether Dame Dorothy Tangney is the first ex-senator to have a House of Representatives seat named after her. I know that many of the seats in the House of Representatives are named after very distinguished ex-members of this Parliament but I would guess that most of them are named after ex-members of the House of Representatives. Richard O’Connor, who was the first leader of the Senate and a High Court judge has a suburb named after him, but I do not think there is an electorate named after him. Somebody suggested to me the electorate of Cunningham, but I would guess that that is named after the explorer rather than the man who was President of this Senate at one time. I would suggest that the Clerk might discover from the Australian electoral officer as a matter of historical interest whether this is the first time that a House of Representatives seat has been named after an ex-senator. If that is so it is a matter of distinction for Dame Dorothy Tangney. It is indeed pleasing that this Government, which does not have over much regard for this better House of Parliament, has at least seen fit to name a seat in the other place after a very distinguished senator.
– We are dealing with a report by the Commissioners appointed under the Commonwealth Electoral Act to make a redistribution of the electoral divisions in the State of Western Australia in accordance with the Act. This is something that all of us accept.
The former Government took all possible steps in 1 972 to try to give Western Australia a tenth seat, but unfortunately by the time the final figures of the census came to hand on 27 September 1 972 there was not time to bring into operation a tenth seat in Western Australia. I recall the then Opposition ‘s criticism of this matter at the time. One has only to look at the records to see that the then Prime Minister on 28 September 1972 tabled the final census figures and at the time of tabling made a speech. He was followed by the then Minister for the Interior. I want to point out again that in a redistribution such as this there is a certain procedure to be followed and a certain time lapse must occur. In this case it takes about 28 to 30 weeks to carry out a redistribution. There are about 14 steps which have to be followed, and they are set out in the Constitution and in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The former Government was not able to do what is now proposed.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) in his statement talks about a requirement of urgency but I would not have thought that we would have reached that stage because the Labor Party said, through its leader, now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), that if elected, it would bring this legislation in as a matter of urgency. Yet eighteen months have passed before we are asked to deal with the redistribution in Western Australia. I believe that the criticism which was thrown up by the then Opposition is now rebounding on it as a Government. The other interesting matter which crops up in the statement is a point which the Minister for Foreign Affairs makes. It is that honourable senators of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party should agree to the motion. He said that the reason we should agree is the leading article in the ‘West Australian’ newspaper. It is rather interesting that the Government which has not exactly been in favour of the leading articles in the ‘West Australian’ in previous years has to use such an article as a bolster as to why Opposition senators should be favourable to the redistribution. It is interesting also to note in this redistribution the wide variations of percentages in the various divisions above and below the quota. In Kalgoorlie the number of electors is 15 per cent below the quota. Since the redistribution on 19 October last year in the electorate of Moore to which the Minister referred in his statement the number of persons on the electoral roll increased by well over 5 per cent.
As a fellow member of the Australian Country Party 1 agree with the present holder of the seat of Moore that it is very difficult for a rural division to have so much metropolitan area included in it. That situation also acts against decentralisation. Moreover I think this points up Labor’s policy of one vote one value. I find it very difficult to go along with that. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) pointed out, here is a division in regard to which the commissioners, in all good faith at the time of redistribution, could say that the quota shall be so and so, but because of a terrific increase in population in that area in 5 months the number is well above that quota. I think that this just points up the fallacy of this policy.
The naming of electoral divisions is not the responsibility of the commissioners. In this case the commissioners in their report suggested that the proposed division should be named after a famous man in Western Australia- the man who was responsible for the construction of the Fremantle wharf and making Fremantle a deep water port, and the man who was responsible for the ambitious and, I think, famous water scheme in Western Australia. The Government has not seen fit to do this. It has seen fit to name the division Tangney. I have no strong objection to that. Dame Dorothy Tangney was a very well liked honourable senator in this place. She did an excellent job for Western Australia and I am pleased that the Government has given her name to the new division. I know that this is a difficult choice because C. Y. O’Connor does deserve some recognition, but the choice of names is the prerogative of the Government. In this case the Government has accepted the responsibility of naming the electorate Tangney. I accept that. I am pleased that Dorothy Tangney has received that honour. My Party accepts the proposition that has been put before us.
– I wish to speak for only a moment to say how delighted I am that the Government has seen fit to name the new division Tangney after a former very distinguished honourable senator of this chamber. I have maintained a very close contact with Dame Dorothy since she left here. I was speaking to her only last Saturday when she expressed her great delight at this honour. I thought I should say to the Senate that she has been in rather poor health for some time. She has been very unwell but I am sure that this honour will do a lot to improve her health. She retains her tremendous sense of humour and great cheerfulness. She still takes a tremendous interest in what goes on in the Senate, and she does a tremendous amount of good for people who continually come to her for assistance. I think this is a well earned tribute to a very gracious lady and a very distinguished Western Australian.
- Senator Drake-Brockman raised the point why this motion was not put before the Senate some time ago in view of the fact that we had mentioned it prior to the election. The reason is that twice previously we put an electoral Bill before this Senate and it was rejected. Had that Bill been accepted on the first occasion this matter would have been before the Senate so much sooner.
– And so much different.
– It would have been different because a very democratic Bill which now has been rejected would have been passed. That is the reason for the timing. Obviously, as we had hoped to amend the Electoral Act, there was not much point in going on with a redistribution in Western Australia under the old Act. We hoped that there would be a new Act in accordance with the principles which we also laid down prior to the election. In passing Senator Withers asked whether this was the first time that an electorate had been named after a senator. As far as we can remember it is, but we will find out and certainly let the honourable senator know.
This raises the question of the policy and the principle behind the naming of seats. Is an electorate to be named after one type of person? It seems to me that this is a matter of somebody’s opinion. I asked for a report but I asked for it too late. It is my fault that I do not have it. I seem to remember that an all-party committee looked at this question some time ago. I do not remember its conclusions but, if I remember correctly, one conclusion which disappointed me- this is the point which Senator Withers also raised- related to geographic names. The committee was pretty heavily against that. Frankly, I am pretty heavily for that. For example, consider the seat of Leichhardt. What does that name mean to anybody who is not a very good historian and who knows the story of Leichhardt? It is hardly an Irish name. It seems to me that that seat would be better named Cairns. In fact, whenever I introduce my very good friend Bill Fulton to strangers I always introduce him as the member for Cairns because that immediately registers something with people. I am all for the use of geographic names because they denote areas and locations.
Senator Drake-Brockman seemed to tend towards the name C. Y. O’Connor. One can see his statue on the Fremantle wharf which he built.
That was his first major job in Western Australia. He was also responsible for what was considered by many people to be a completely impossible project in those days, namely, the pipeline to Kalgoorlie. Criticism of this project brought about his tragic end. These are monuments in themselves to this man. But I accept completely that this matter becomes one of opinion. We have decided on, and the Opposition has graciously accepted that we use, the name Tangney. It is a question of policy. Sometimes I wish that this were laid down a little more clearly as happens with some suburbs, streets and that type of thing. I thank Senator Sim for his comments and the recent report on our old friend Dorothy Tangney. I am sorry to hear that she is in illhealth. It has dogged her over many years. As Senator Sim rightly points out, it just does not seem to make any difference to her personality. I thank all honourable senators for their help in relation to this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek the leave of the Senate to make a ministerial statement concerning Australian defence. The statement is now being made in the other place by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). Copies are being circulated.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-When I speak in the first person I am referring to Mr Barnard. I wish this afternoon to say something about the strategic prospects and the conceptual thinking which underlie this Government’s approach to defence; to announce some particular equipment decisions which have been taken by the Government; and to touch on a number of other areas of defence activity and of developments in our defence relations with our neighbours and allies.
I shall begin by re-stating some of the fundamental factors which govern the allocation of national resources to defence and among various defence objectives. The start point is the current strategic forecast, and the implications we may draw from this for the kind of defence capability required in our Services and production facilities. Then we must take account of the rate of obsolescence of existing equipments and the time needed to bring new equipments and capabilities into being. The development of new technology and of Australia’s defence industry will have a bearing. In present circumstances, it is central to our thinking that we decide upon a size for the force and level of skills and equipment which give an assured basis for expansion if and when the threat situation deteriorates. Overall decisions must be taken within realistic resource limits which pay heed to other national objectives and Government policies.
Flowing from these considerations the Secretary of Defence, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff and the Chiefs of Staff of the 3 Services collectively prepare a draft five year defence plan for my consideration. This sets out, by years of expenditure, the levels for defence manpower, works, stores, maintenance, industrial support, research and development effort and new equipment acquisition which in their judgment should have first claim on the finance over the succeeding 5 years. On this basis I determine what specific projects I shall recommend to Cabinet for approval. Such a program has been drafted and presented to me for 1974-1979.
When I spoke to the Parliament last August about the strategic prospect, I said that our ‘situation (was) favourable and that various important factors and trends in the international situation (supported) Australian security into the longer term’. I said: ‘We can, at this stage, responsibly look to the future in reasonable confidence that no significant requirement is likely to arise for the operational commitment of our forces. We believe that any change (in our strategic situation) would take time and would allow us to develop the response necessary’. These statements were firmly based on the advice of the Defence Committee, which had recently reviewed long term prospects and policy. The Committee consists, I remind the Senate, of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the 3 Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Foreign Affairs and the Treasury. The Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation was also present at the Defence Committee’s considerations. The Defence Committee also emphasised that uncertainty increases over long term assessment, and that continuous monitoring and regular review of strategic developments and prospects are essential if the Government is to be apprised of any unfavourable developments in time for it to make any necessary adjustments to our defence posture.
Our defence policy is not geared simply to some specific threat or pressure against
Australia ‘s national security or immediate strategic interests. Obviously we could not accept such a risk of unpreparedness. However, threat does not arise readily or without warning. It is the product of a complex combination of capability, motivation and opportunity. Our approach is therefore one of response to developing circumstances from which we assess pressures or an actual threat which could later emerge and mature. By such response we would aim progressively to influence the circumstances which might lead to ultimate threat, to deter such threat should it nevertheless take shape, and to be ready in time to deal with it should our policy fail to avert it. Clearly, with this approach Australia needs to maintain reliable strategic associations with a number of countries, so as both to enlarge our influence over strategic developments and to provide for co-operation in any future contingency. In this connection the defence force in being should be adequate to indicate our resolution and our ability to defend Australian interests and to support others, should the need arise. In times of low threat probability, as at present, the basic concept is that of a viable core force capable of timely expansion.
As to the nature of this core force, our geographical position as an island continent, with a vast oceanic and archipelagic environment, suggests some fundamental defence requirements and skills to be developed and preserved in all 3 Services. Developing military technology and Australian technological strength also give guidance. The force will not be manpower intensive, and should continue to contain a core of sophisticated military components and skills. It should contain some offensive capability. Our continuing study of the concepts and problems of a continental defence, although an attack upon Australian territory is a remote contingency, will also provide useful guidance for the type of defence force we should hold in readiness against a later requirement for expansion.
I mentioned the increasing uncertainty in our strategic assessments the further ahead we try to look. Our defence policy and force structure must have regard to this. However I do not share the attitude, apparent in some public comment on our defence posture, that change in our strategic environment means that we shall necessarily be less secure, and that we must now act on the assumption that, when uncertainties resolve, things will be worse. We have external developments under continuous review, and I see no reasons at this time to modify the strategic prospect that I presented last year. I shall not be pushed into much larger demands on the taxpayer to satisfy those who are either unwilling or unable to state a case of defence expenditure that we may all examine and debate, but rely instead on vague assertions about future possibilities of threat and shaky analogies from the past.
The view of this Government and its advisers is clear, and is based on conclusions reached after close consideration of a wide range of complex factors. Let me state our perspective again in very summary form. Because of various factors, but above all the compelling restraints of the nuclear balance, the long term prospect for global stability and avoidance of general war and for the limitation of local conflicts remains favourable. In this situation, but also because of other factors, such as our relative remoteness and non-involvement, the prospect of direct strategic pressures against Australian interests by a major power, as distinct from possible political pressures, remains remote. No regional power has or is likely to acquire for many years the capability and motive that might require an Australian defence response. The possibility of low level situations on relatively short notice, for example in our maritime resources zone, continues; insofar as these were not susceptible to political handling, they must be met by our defence force in being.
All these factors could change. But there are substantial factors sustaining them that strongly suggest that radical change is unlikely, and that it would be unlikely to happen suddenly. Of course the strategic situation is not static. We can expect global and regional competition and tension to continue, and regional conflicts to break out. But new developments, and the degree to which they are likely to involve Australia, must be assessed. They are not sufficient reasons in themselves for us to place the Services on a higher level of armament, as some critics would have us do. A major feature of last October’s conflict in the Middle East from our strategic point of view was the manner in which the United States and the Soviet Union successfully managed the crisis in their relations and used their influence to limit the conflict.
This outlook does not mean that we can simply sit back and rely on the ANZUS treaty. This Government would not want to take that attitude. Our alliance and working defence relationship with the United States continue important of course- in terms of the global balance, of our regional standing, of the long-term contingency of serious deterioration in our strategic situation, and of the maintenance of the capability of our defence force in several important practical respects. But we are now required by strategic and international political developmentsand we ourselves wish- to deal on our own with any local situations that may arise, to assert an independent strategic influence, and to pursue political policies more independently of United States views and interests.
Therefore, we must keep in being a viable national defence force with manifest capability for expansion, and maintain its development at the modest rate now required by the assumption of larger national responsibility, by the current strategic guidance, and by longer term uncertainties. It is against this background that the 5-year defence plan is prepared and specific proposals are brought forward each year for approval. This planning process readily permits adjustments if any change in circumstances is indicated by our regular strategic reviews.
As I have previously stated in this House, the low threat probability at present requires some restructuring of the defence force and economies in some areas of defence. This I have been vigorously pursuing as I have made clear in the Parliament and elsewhere. It was essential that reductions be achieved in manpower, with all the savings which follow in pay and allowances and general running and administration costs. But even after the manpower economies I announced in August, defence Service manpower will still be 39 per cent above the 1 963 level. Again I am pruning back on the accumulation of excess stocks. We simply cannot go on wasting resources, first of all in new production and then in the storage of over-large stocks for which there is no prospective use in present circumstances. All this is being achieved without impairing in any significant way our real defence capability. The aim is by efficient and economical management to reduce expenditure on maintenance and current consumption so that resources may be freed for capital purposes, particularly for the acquisition of necessary new equipments which are the basis of our defence capability in the decades ahead.
The 5-year forward defence plan which has been prepared by the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chiefs of Staff- the Defence Force Development Committee- accords with the principles I have been outlining. The plan contemplates the allocation of very substantial resources to defence to ensure an adequate defence capability- approximately $8,000m in 1974 prices over the 5-year period 1974-79. The plan provides for a shift of resources from consumption and maintenance spending to spending on investment and durable capital items, namely new equipment and infrastructure of bases, training and education facilities, more efficient storeholding, and living and working accommodation that accords with community standards. Some 25 new major works proposals are included with costs ranging from Sim to $20m as well as very many lesser proposals with a substantial total cost.
The determination of a proper equipment program, with items that satisfy the strategic needs of the present and form a basis for projected future needs, is a complex matter. We need to identify the force capabilities relevant to Australia’s future strategic circumstances; to conduct analytical studies of the kinds of weapons and equipments which would best provide those capabilities; and to put these into a total equipment program which takes account of the long lead times and the long life times of major equipments and brings forward projects for decision at the right time.
Honourable senators will recall that last year I suspended action for the purchase of a number of major equipment items, particularly the new destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy. I was not satisfied that studies had been made in sufficient depth or that all the possible alternatives had been looked at. Following further detailed investigation of this and other projects, the Government has taken decisions in respect of 3 major equipment proposals recommended to me by the Defence Force Development Committee. The decisions are to acquire destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy, long range maritime patrol aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force, and armour for the Australian Army.
The Government did not agree last year to go ahead with the previous Government’s destroyer program- the so-called DDL- because it was too uncertain in risk and too high in cost. But the Government did endorse the need for a new destroyer program for the Royal Australian Navy and the investigation of alternatives. These investigations have now been completed. The capabilities of some 50 or 60 representative ships in all, ranging in size from about 500 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes have been studied. The Government has accepted the recommendation of the Defence Force Development Committee that we should, as the first step, acquire 2 destroyers of United States design, known as the patrol frigate, and the Government has agreed that negotiations should be opened with the United States Government for this purpose. Further proposals will later be necessary for the acquisition of additional destroyers of a type to be determined at the time.
The patrol frigate ship design has resulted from an extremely well researched development program. Assuming congressional authorisations, a production run of 50 ships in the United States is expected by the Administration. The main armament consists of a missile system which can launch either surface to air or surface to surface missiles. Each ship can also carry 2 helicopters for surveillance and attack roles. These capabilities are at present somewhat deficient in other units of the Australian fleet. The ship will also have a 76mm gun and antisubmarine torpedo tubes and provision for fitting at a later stage a close-in weapon system for point defence against aircraft or missiles. The selection of the patrol frigate will result in earlier introduction of new destroyers into service with the RAN than would have been the case with the DDL project.
It is proposed that the 2 patrol frigates be procured in the United States with considerable cost saving. This would also ease the problem of overload of work on Williamstown dockyard which would otherwise occur. Indeed the present program for the 3 dockyards doing naval workWilliamstown, Garden Island and Cockatoo- is by about 1976 expected to be very heavy. This is because of the normal program of ship and submarine refits, the modernisation of 4 River class destroyers recently approved, the update of guided missile destroyers, the construction of the oceanographic ship also recently approved, the planned extended refit to HMAS ‘Melbourne’; and other possible work. If the construction of 2 destroyers were added the resources of the 3 dockyards would be overtaxed. Without destroyer construction for Williamstown, and with re-scheduled work between the dockyards, a reasonably steady workload is achieved at Williamstown and Garden Island dockyards by early 1975 through to at least 1980. This workload would be equal to or more than the productive capability of the present work force, and at Williamstown in particular would require a build-up in production labour of about 25 per cent.
I turn now to our maritime aircraft needs. Given Australia’s ocean-archipelago environment, long range maritime patrol aircraft are a necessary part of Australia’s force structure at all times for both military and civil purposes. We at present have one squadron of 10 modern Lockheed Orion aircraft and one squadron of 12 obsolescent Neptune aircraft. The latter will reach the end of their life in 1 977. On the basis of advice from the Defence Force Development Committee, the Government has decided that the Neptune aircraft will be replaced by 8 modern long range maritime aircraft of a type to be decided. The competitors are the United States P3 type and the British Nimrod. Negotiations will commence immediately. The new aircraft will have a very substantial advantage in speed, endurance and other performance characteristics over the Neptunes, and one-for-one replacement is not justified. It is planned that the Australian BARRA sonobuoy system for detecting submarines and ships be fitted to the selected aircraft.
The utility of these aircraft for military purposes is well understood. Honourable senators may also be aware of the substantial contribution that long range maritime patrol aircraft make in the support of civil needs. I have recently instructed that no less than 800 hours per annum of maritime aircraft flying shall be available in support of civil surveillance needs. In addition, over 500 hours are usually flown each year on civil search and rescue missions, and maritime aircraft assist in scientific research. Detailed studies have shown that the maritime aircraft force decided on will be adequate for these purposes as well as for the military purposes of the aircraft.
Modern armour is essential for the Australian Army as part of an adequate ground force capability. The Army’s present Centurion tanks are almost at the end of their useful life. The Army’s fire support vehicles, of which it has only 1 5 of an interim type, likewise have operational and training deficiencies, and the numbers are inadequate. The desirable characteristics of various types of armoured vehicles have been the subject of detailed study in Army and in the Defence Department. It has been decided that there is a continuing need for both medium tanks and fire support vehicles, which would be complemented by armoured personnel carriers already in Army inventory in sufficient numbers. The Government has accordingly approved as a first step the acquisition of 53 modern medium tanks of a type yet to be decided. The competitors are the German ‘Leopard’ and the American M60 tanks, both of which have been evaluated in Australia. Contractual negotiation will be entered into immediately. It is contemplated that further tanks may be acquired at a later stage. The Government has also accepted a proposal for the acquisition of 45 modern fire support vehicles by mating the United Kingdom manufactured Scorpion turret to the armoured personnel carriers already in Army inventory; the Army has adequate armoured personnel carriers for this purpose.
This round of equipment decisions- and of course more will follow under the 1974-79 program that provides for some 40 equipment decisions spread over 5 years- accords with the total Defence Plan, the strategic prospect, the capabilities needed, the equipment going out of service, military doctrines and technology, and the resources available. The Defence Plan will call for later definite decisions on further equipments. These include, for example, a fast combat support ship for the Navy. It will be recalled that I directed study of a less complex and less costly ship, and the Navy is developing a proposal. There is low level anti-aircraft capability on which I expect the Government to take a decision in the coming year after analysis is complete. The replacement of the Mirage aircraft which make up our tactical fighter force will probably require decisions within 2 or 3 yearsbut not now. The future of naval aviation has been intensively studied. No decisions should be taken now, but a better estimate is needed of the possible life of HMAS ‘Melbourne’ and advantage will be taken of a forthcoming major refit to estimate how far the life of ‘ Melbourne ‘ could be extended, and to weigh other relevant factors.
The decisions which I have announced in respect of destroyers, long range maritine patrol aircraft, and armour, will commit the Government to new capital expenditure, presently estimated to be about $330m, which will be spent mainly over the next 8 years. There is of course substantial continuing expenditure on equipment projects previously approved and shortly coming into service such as Oberon submarines, medium lift helicopters for the Royal Australian Air Force and Sea King helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy. Except for the new Royal Australian Navy destroyers final selection of the new equipment has not been made. It is my intention to seek proposals in open competition from the 2 contending suppliers of the long range maritime patrol aircraft, and the 2 contending suppliers of the medium tanks. The Government’s bargaining position will be carefully preserved during the further development of the contractual aspects of these projects.
My aim is to see that the equipment finally selected provides the best possible overall result in terms of operational performance, cost, delivery timescale, product support, and Australian industry involvement. It will also be ensured that the contractual and financial terms and conditions are satisfactory, with adequate break clauses ensuring minimum cost penalty to
Australia should contractual conditions not be met. In the case of new destroyers, which have the United States Navy as the source, negotiations will be commenced with both the United States foreign military sales organisation and United States equipment suppliers. Final commitment would only be made when we have achieved satisfactory investment costs, acceptable performance capability, satisfactory industrial offset programs, and agreed financial and contractual terms and conditions.
Central to our consideration of the industrial aspects is the need to be selective in what we do. We must ensure that there are developed locally sufficient technological skills and resource capabilities to support the equipments throughout their service life. This must be done with due allowance for those support capabilities which for operational reasons must remain integral with the Services themselves. It is this policy of selectivity which will bring industry into contact with the advanced technology which is a feature of modern defence equipment.
Our defence industry is presently going through a period of major readjustment. As I said in August 1973 much of this readjustment is necessary because change was avoided for so long by our predecessors: Capacities in our factories and in industry have been based on concepts of production more in keeping with World War II philosophies than present day strategic assessments. To cope with present problems of adjustment, my colleague, the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply (Mr Enderby), has been most active in efforts to obtain alternative commercial work loads of a suitable type for defence factories. Longer term solutions more in line with the current strategic situation are being pursued with vigour.
The studies into rationalisation of the aircraft industry to which I referred last August are nearly completed. Action is also being taken to refer the question of the future of the aircraft industry to the Industries Assistance Commission. In the meantime the Government has continued to support the industry. The Nomad project approval was extended to 70 aircraft and sales are now in prospect in a number of areas. We have also continued to apply presssure to overseas suppliers of equipment in the further development of offset contracts for Australian industry. The total achievement to date in this field is some $45 m, of which some $20m has been won by our aircraft industry.
In the area of defence research and development, Australian defence scientists and engineers have a deservedly high reputation and it is our intention that the capability built up over many years should be retained and fostered. Our standing amongst our allies is such that we pool a great deal of research and development information with them to our common benefit. We cannot give complete coverage to all fields of scientific and technological endeavour but we must concentrate our own efforts on areas of particular significance to us. Surveillance is one such area of importance to Australia. I have recently announced the Government’s intention to complete at a cost of some $ 14m the development in Australia of the BARRA sonobuoy for detecting submarines and ships. This program, the largest research and development project ever undertaken in Australian defence establishments and industry, promises to provide our maritime forces with a sonobuoy without equal. Radar surveillance is also of considerable importance to us and we have been watching overseas developments closely. I expect to announce shortly a program of very advanced research on the application of new techniques in this field. Another project being carried out for use in the modernisation of the River class destroyers which I announced last year is the development of a much improved active sonar system known as Mulloka.
I turn now to the area of defence manpower in which the Government has done so much in the comparatively short time since it came to office. One of the very first things this Government did was to honour its promise to abolish conscription. Liability for the call-up ended on 5 December 1972. The National Service Act was subsequently amended to abolish the obligation to render national service. This Government is maintaining an adequate-sized Army by voluntary means. The size of the all volunteer Army is now about 31,000. This compares with an Army of only 23,500 in 1965, in the face of the various commitments which our predecessors then saw. Much of the success in maintaining an all volunteer Army is due directly to the improvements made by this Government to pay and conditions for servicemen.
Let me go through some of the main improvements made in the last year for personnel of the Navy, Army and Air Force. Most importantly there have been substantial pay increases that were long overdue. These were recommended by the Committee of Inquiry into Services’ Pay- the Kerr- Woodward Committeewhich worked out a new and simplified pay structure for the Services. We now have concepts and principles for the fixation of Service pay that are comparable with those applying for the community at large, and which ensure that servicemen will not be disadvantaged with their pay. We have set up a Committee of Reference for Defence Forces Pay. It has a judge of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as Chairman and a commissioner of that body and a senior retired serviceman as members.
This Government also adopted the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee of inquiry into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits legislation- the Jess Committee. Australian servicemen now have a retirement benefits scheme that has few- if any- equals in Australia or anywhere else. Benefits under the Defence Service Homes Act were extended to all permanent members of the defence forces, and the amount of the loan has been increased from $9,000 to $12,000. This Government has increased the range of re-settlement benefits available to serving members. It has also provided repatriation benefits for all members for disabilities arising from their service, not necessarily war service. This Government has provided a re-engagement bounty of $1,000 payable to eligible members who are prepared to undertake a further 3-year period of service. It has been decided to appoint a defence forces ombudsman. It has authorised progressive upgrading of Service housing, to ensure that the standards of domestic living are compatible with the quality of life in the Australian community at large. Standards for new barracks accommodation have also been greatly improved.
On 2 April 1974, this Government tabled in the Parliament a report and draft Bill on the Defence Force Disciplinary Code. This Bill eliminates obsolete offences, reduces general levels of punishment, and modernises such matters as sentencing, trial and review. It will ensure effective discipline in the defence force, but at the same time it will ensure that the rights of individual servicemen are preserved. Reengagement rates of servicemen finishing their contracts and signing on again have seldom been higher. Recruiting into the Services overall has been satisfactory, particularly in view of the abundance of jobs in the civilian community. The main shortfall- and this is not such a large one- is that we need 300 or 400 more fit young men for the Army’s Field Force. Much is being done to improve the training and the professional education of servicemen. The Government has recently approved- what our predecessors failed to do- the establishment of an Australian Defence Academy. It will provide, in the one establishment, education at a tertiary level for officer cadets of all 3 Services, for some cadets from overseas, and for selected serving officers. The Government has also approved proposals under which the orientation and initial military training of Army officers will be centralised, in the early 1980s, in one training establishment.
Turning to matters of Service organisation, I am pleased to be able to say that the Government’s decisions that I announced in May 1973 on the future size and shape of the Australian Regular Army are progressing smoothly. Essentially, the Government decided to maintain the divisional structure but reorganise the Regular Army Field Force on the basis of 6 battalions, each with appropriate combat and logistic support forces. Battalions are being manned to an effective operational training strength. In reorganising the Army, priority is being given to increasing the Army Field Force; that is where our front-line soldiers are. In 1973-74 the Field Force will increase by some 2,000. There will be offsetting reductions in the Army’s support area, by making better use of the nearly 20,000 personnel it employs. The new Army structure will provide an adequate deployable capacity in present circumstances. Last week I tabled the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces. I said then that there must be no doubt that this Government is determined to improve the CMF, that it will give this country an Army Reserve which is attractive to the young men and women who wish to serve in it, and which, with the Regular Army, will also provide a viable base for expansion should this be necessary in the future.
In previous statements I have referred to an inquiry in hand concerning the future disposition of bases and facilities within Australia for our defence forces. The first stage of that review has been completed and is under examination in the Defence Department. As to particular projects, we are continuing with the construction of the naval support facility at Cockburn Sound. This year also the modernisation of dockyard facilities at Williamstown has commenced. There are many other major and minor projects in hand. It is expected that expenditure on housing in 1973-74 will almost double that in 1972-73. In addition, and as a complementary measure to the housing construction program, dwellings are being purchased on the open market and consideration is being given to the development of a hirings scheme under which the Services will obtain houses and flats on medium term leases. Consideration is being given to acquiring a large training area in the northwest of Australia for joint service training, including combined exercises with forces of other countries.
To effect the integration of the staffs of the former Departments of Navy, Army and Air into a new Defence organisation under a Chief of Defence Force Staff and Secretary to the Department, establishment proposals have been made to the Public Service Board. Legislation and regulations to redistribute powers now resident in the separate boards of administration of the Services are in preparation. The organisational arrangements and establishment for defence procurement will be finally decided when the Government has received the report of a committee headed by Sir Walter Scott. In the meantime the Service boards are functioning with a representative of the Secretary replacing the former Permanent Heads. The fabric of ministerial directives and the system of control and communication to apply when the new organisation comes into existence are in preparation. They will be discussed in detail with the 3 Services. Already the interim steps taken by the Government towards the new defence organisation for the country have greatly increased consultation and a sense of common purpose among all the service and civilian advisers and administrators assisting the Minister in the control and support of the Navy, Army and Air Force.
Before I conclude I would wish to say a few words about Australia’s relations with neighbours and allies. Last week we received in Canberra distinguished guests from both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea- the New Zealand Minister for Defence and the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade. Defence co-operation with both these countries is basic to our long-term perspective. With New Zealand these relations are long standing, but the talks with Mr Faulkner and his team enabled us to consider what new directions may be desirable in the light of changing circumstances and to review a number of important questions of common interest. With Papua New Guinea, the talks last week with Mr Kiki provided valuable guidance for the defence relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea after Papua New Guinea becomes independent, and what contribution will be welcome and useful from us.
We are maintaining full support to the Five Power arrangements, and the 2 Royal Australian Air Force Mirage squadrons in Malaysia comprise the largest single contribution of the three external powers, Australia, Britain and New Zealand and they help Malaysia and Singapore in developing their air defence capability. We are to review the position next April, but I would expect the Mirages to stay on so long as they are welcome and relevant to the needs of our countries and the region. Our defence aid and cooperation programs with these 2 countries and with Indonesia, an associate of the greatest importance to Australia, continue. Progress is being made in developing a worthwhile joint exercising program over the years. We received a good deal of support in our efforts last year to prune the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. It is now a more realistic organisation, which we believe is capable of worthwhile work.
I mentioned earlier Australia’s relationship with the United States. When I was in the United States early last January, I was able to re-affirm publicly in New York and privately in Washington, to the Secretaries of State and Defence, Drs Kissinger and Schlesinger, and to other senior members of the United States Administration and the United. States Armed Services, the importance I and my colleagues in the Government continued to attach to Australia’s alliance and practical working defence relationship with the United States. I reaffirm this again to this House. The relationship with the United States requires management, of course. Our interests are not identical. Our views will sometimes differ. We entertain on our territory United States installations whose presence and functions required the Government to satisfy itself that adequate regard was paid to Australian sovereignty. The agreements under which the facilities are maintained are not necessarily agreements that, in present day circumstances, this Government would wish to conclude in present form. However, we have been able to effect adjustments that in our view serve to make the continued operation of these important facilities compatible with our sovereign status and consistent with our interests. We now see no grounds that would move us to depart from our firmly held policy not to renounce international treaties into which Australia has entered.
The record I have reported to you this afternoon represents solid achievement by this Government and by the Department of Defence and the 3 defence Services. Compared with a decade ago, our state of defence preparedness is relatively high and we are making prudent provision to allow timely expansion should this become necessary in the future. I believe this policy is right. With the greater responsibilities we now face, Australia cannot simply run down its defence effort because the present period is one of relative tranquillity. However, the present strategic prospect does allow us to control the defence burden on the nation, to favour capital investment over current consumption, to institute more efficient and economical management and give the taxpayer more value for his dollar. I have been determined that this opportunity should not be neglected.
What I am submitting to this House, therefore, is a record of achievement in regard to the nation’s defence capability; major improvements in conditions of service of our servicemen and women; greater efficiency and economy in defence organisation and spending; and a prudent and responsible defence posture for present circumstances and the future strategic prospect. I submit, Mr Deputy President, that my report is worthy of the full support of this House, as I am confident it will win the endorsement of the nation.
- Mr Deputy President, I ask for leave to move a motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
I hope that the Minister for Repatriation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Senator Bishop), who is sitting at the table will not take what I have to say about the paper as a personal reflection upon himself because we all know that he has but delivered the paper on behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) in another place. I suppose that the first thing that one could say about the paper is that it is really not a defence paper at all; it is but a part of the Government’s propaganda machine which is gearing up this week for the double dissolution which is to come. That is what it is all about. If a double dissolution had not been pending, there would have been no defence statement, just as there would have been no continuation of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty and of all sorts of other things. But suddenly the Government has found that it has an election on its hands and it has decided to start putting down its policy speech in the Parliament.
Therefore I say that this whole paper has been deliberately designed to mislead the Australian people into believing that this Government is concerned about Australia’s security. I say without any disrespect to my friend the Minister for Repatriation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, who is sitting at the table, that the whole of this thing is a sham. The Government is talking about the expenditure of all this money- $330m. But of course buried away in small print is the fact that it will take 8 years to spend this money. When one divides 8 into $330m one finds that there will be an expenditure of approximately $40m a year. With the way the dollar is depreciating that $40m will be worth what? In round terms it will be worth about $lm a year. That is what we are talking about. The inflation rate is running at 1 4 per cent per annum and the Government is talking about spending a miserable $40m a year over 8 years. The Government is doing nothing.
What does the Government say in this statement? The haste in which this statement was presented can be gauged from the fact that no firm decision has been made about the type of aircraft which the Government will buy. The Government does not even know what sort of tanks it will buy. It does not know anything. The Government talks about having 8 aircraft to do the work of 12 aircraft and having 53 tanks to do the work of 120 tanks. This is typical of the double standards of this Government. When it talks about defence, in fact all it is talking about is a no-defence-at-all policy. Rather than increasing the nation’s capacity to defend itself, the Government’s decisions will not even go half way to maintaining our present capacity. This is an election gimmick. Let us face it; in this place we are all practising politicians. The health Bills are to come before us and they are purely an election gimmick. We have heard this defence statement today and it is purely an election gimmick. The Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill is to come before us and it is an election gimmick. The Government is writing the script and is presenting the scenario. There it all is, window dressing for an election. Anybody who does not believe that ought not to be in the Parliament and any journalist who writes other than that is not fit to be a journalist. It is as simple as that and it stands out.
Let us take a simple proposition- the proposal to acquire the patrol frigate. Why has that decision been taken? It was taken because the Minister for Defence decided while in Opposition that the DDL was unsuitable. He wanted this patrol frigate. Now, irrespective of the advice he got from his Service chiefs, he has been pigheaded and has forced his own personal decision upon the Navy merely because he said something about having one while he was a member of the Opposition. Why are the patrol facilities not being built in Australia? I thought he gave an absolute commitment recently to one of his own supporters about such a vessel. In May of last year he said: ‘ I give a commitment that anything we build will be built at Williamstown’. Now, today, there are a million and one reasons why that cannot be done. This is nothing but a political gimmick. The Navy is not going to get the vehicle it wants; it will get something else.
The Government is giving a lot of money away to the Services and we do not quarrel with that, but there is no denying the fact that the resignation rate for the Services is the highest of the century. There is no denying the fact that the morale of the Services is low. The Government cannot get over that and a piece of election window dressing will not help.
I will give some simple and clear illustrations of how phoney this defence statement is and to show that it is merely a piece of window dressing for the election. I refer to Cockburn Sound in my own State of Western Australia. The Government introduced a new program and then pulled it back and is not going to do anything about it. The Government does not want Cockburn Sound. The Government has said nothing about supporting the Americans to build up Diego Garcia. It does not want the Americans there and it has said so. It has said that the Americans should keep out of Diego Garcia in spite of the fact that the Russians are going to build up their forces in the Indian Ocean. The Government is not interested in Western Australia and could not care less about it. The Government spoke about a base up around Derby. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, went up there just before the State election and tried to pull off that 3-card trick on the media and the people. The people who live up in that area voted almost Liberal to a man for the first time in the history of Western Australia. Why? Because the Deputy Prime Minister had been up there and they knew that his visit was phoney. They knew his visit there was nothing but an election gimmick. As for this latest arrangement about a Russian base in Australia, if the Government is interested in the defence of Australia why did it not reject such a suggestion out of hand? The Government knows that should it accept this suggestion, or even give the slightest indication that it might accept it, as far as the Americans are concerned ANZUS is at an end. We have this utter nonsense in the so-called defence statement about the Government’s concern over the United States of America but the Government’s Ministers only 12, 13 or 14 months ago were calling the President of the United States and his people war criminals, butchers and all the rest of it. The Government tries to kid the Australian people that it has a friendly and co-operative relationship with the United States.
I suppose, Mr Deputy President, that this is all good fun. It is no reflection on the Minister for Repatriation who sits in this place, as I said before, but for some 20 or 30 minutes this afternoon we heard him reading this statement. Words, words, words, words, and nothing of any substance. That is all it is. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) held a Press conference yesterday but he did not really want a Press conference; he wanted a forum in which he could lay down his opening policy speech for the coming double dissolution. Senator Douglas McClelland does not really want these health Bills, nor does Mr Hayden, but we are going to go into them. They know that the Government’s scheme has been discredited and that it is no good. They merely want a fresh instrument on which to get their double dissolution. If they want the bullet to put into the chamber we will give it to them, but do not pretend that this is what it is all about. The Government should not pretend that it really is dinkum about the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. These are just gimmicks. Why are they all coming up? They are merely being brought up to add to some phoney statistical record so that when the Prime Minister goes out upon the hustings he will be able to say that the Senate threw out 100 pieces of legislation. Of course he will not say that the Senate threw out the same 10 pieces of legislation 10 times; he would not be honest and decent enough to say that. The Gair affair has pointed up the cynicism and corruption of this Government.
We are going to sit down in this Senate until eventually, no doubt before 5 p.m. tomorrow, the Prime Minister will trot out to Government House, return and then say that we can go off to a double dissolution. We are going to sit around for another 24 hours, some of it spent here and some of it elsewhere. We are just sitting around. We on this side are quite content to sit back while the Government starts putting up its advertising signs and putting out its propaganda, which even it does not believe. If the Government was so keen and knew that its policies were so marvellous it would not want to wait to be dragged screaming from the tart shop. Government members and supporters would be rushing out as volunteers and saying: ‘We demand a double dissolution; we want to go to the people; we want to take those 60 senators out by the scruff of their necks and have them beaten by the electorate. ‘ But no, the Government and its supporters have to be dragged and pressurised. They do not want to go. There they are, those 26 lovely big black shiny motor cars all about to disappear. All those lollies are about to go. That is why honourable senators on the Government side are all being dragged screaming from the tart shop. So we are going to put up with this operation for the next 24 hours but it will not get the Government anywhere. If 18 May is the date for the election we will be back here early in June and we will be sitting on different sides again. No doubt we will put propositions in the inverse sense, as honourable senators opposite did for so long because they were in Opposition for 23 years. At the end of that time the Labor Party had almost become an Opposition. At the end of 1 5 months it shows absolutely no signs of becoming a government.
– I desire to disagree on one point, with my leader, Senator Withers, so far as defence is concerned. He said that it is all a lot of fun and we will be sitting here for 24 hours. I doubt that it will be longer than 24 hours but there is no fun in this defence statement presented in this chamber by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) as the representative of the Minister of Defence (Mr Barnard). I think it is a terribly alarming state of affairs that the defence of the country is the first ploy in a prepared political campaign. That ploy has been used to try to cover up what is a disgrace to the Government that is now in power. When this Government took office 18 months ago it is absolutely true to say- not one unbiased person would disagree- that the external and internal defences of this country, remembering that we were occupied, rightly or wrongly, in a war in Vietnam, were stronger than they had been in any period other than towards the end of the Second World War.
Let us consider the Royal Australian Navy first of all. There were plans on the drawing boards to construct in Australia 3 DDL destroyers. They were to be built by Australian firms using Australian materials as much as possible and were for Australia’s defences. This Government, not wanting to spend money on defence, instituted another inquiry. One of the great reasons it did not want to spend money on defence was that it realised that it was an inefficient government. In its attempts to court favour with the public it was going to waste a lot of money in other areas. It decided that the easiest thing was to cut down on heavy defence expenditure. I feel sorry for Senator Bishop who represents the Minister for Defence in this chamber and is his assistant. We recall when the Liberal and Country Party coalition was in government the very sincere approaches made by Senator Bishop for the
Australian Government to weave its defence policy, particularly the construction of aircraft and anything to do with the Royal Australian Air Force, into such a pattern that the Australian aircraft industry could be given new life, could be sustained and could be ready to be an integral part of our defence if we needed greater production in time of war. I believe that Senator Bishop, who is a sincere member of the present Government regrets in his heart of hearts that orders are going overseas to buy naval ships that could have been replaced by better ships- the DDLs. They are all to be built overseas while many of our dockyards are wavering and dockyard workers do not know where their future lies. Their future certainly does not lie in helping this Government to build up our defence services.
If one was to give a true description of the statement made by the Minister for Defence one could put it in a few words, namely, that at heavy expense some time somewhere this Government might buy something in the way of hardware for our defence services. There is nothing more definite than that. I recall that not long ago, after Mr Barnard had made another statement, we saw photographs of members of a RAAF squadron, their morale broken by this Government’s inactivity, standing in front of an aircraft with a sign ‘RAAF Squadron For Sale’. We know also that in the Navy under this Australian Government the saying is ‘Join the Navy and see the Wharves’- the wharves to which the naval ships are tied as a mothball fleet because this Government will not spend money so that they can be out training and exercising not only among themselves but with ships of other nations.
By its ineptitude this Government is doing great harm to industry which needs to be kept in motion and trained and prepared in materials and men in case we are called upon to defend ourselves or to help defend our treaty partners. This is one of the reasons why I see no fun or joy in the Minister’s statement. Our treaty partners, our friends of former years- particularly the Americans who helped save us from 1942-1945- must be saying: ‘What is to be our attitude to the new Australia under Labor which says on the eve of an election, having done nothing worth while for 18 months “We will spend $356m somewhere at some time on some type of hardware for the defence Services” ‘? This has been truly said by commentators who in recent months have not shown favour towards Opposition parties or to individual members of the Opposition. One commentator writing about our defence Services said that the Government was so ashamed but so impressed with its lack of policy regarding the defence services and so ashamed of what it was doing by whittling them down that the Minister or any other member of the Government would not be game to stand up and make or have prepared by their dozens of writers a statement setting out fully, unequivocably and truthfully what comprises the Services as fighting Services.
– Who said that?
– I am saying it.
– You do not count.
– I read it also. He said and 1 too say that to find the truth one will have to wheedle it out. One would have to get the war equipment or establishment tables of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and set out detailed questions like this saying: What are the units of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals which are now in operation? How many, if any, are up to fighting strength in personnel and modern equipment? So one would have to go all through the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the auxiliary forces of defence to find the truth. Time and time again we make inquiries as to what, say, the Army is doing and we are told: ‘Oh, that unit has been disbanded, that regiment is not now required, that force is doing something else’. The truth is that the Government of today is trying to put a great bluff over the public of Australia in what is one of the most important factors of its administrative responsibility.
I hope, but I know that it will not come true, that before election day there will be enough decency, enough sincerity and enough sense of responsibility on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- and God alone knows he talks enough- or the Minister for Defence to come out and say precisely: ‘This is the state of the defence Services of Australia as at this time, after 18 months of our government. This is the amount of money that we have wasted. This is what we think we are going to do’. I do. not believe that it will be done but I know from now until election day, in the weeks that lie ahead before we come back into government, that 1 will expose to the people of Australia the rottenness and the lack of policy of this Government, the lack of responsibility and the lack of ability to get up and say: Yes, Australia, in the matter of defence we think that we need no strength, we think that we need no equipment, we think that everything is safe and lovely- and we will just stay at home and waste money on the news media by advertising Parliament and such things.’ I believe that the statement of the Minister for Defence- not the statement of the Minister who represents him in this House, because I think that he is as sorrowful as I am over this matter- is a disgrace to the Australian Labor Government.
– The Senate is debating a document which purports to be a defence procurement statement. It is, in fact, on examination a document outlining a major deferral of defence procurement. It is on the face of it the spending of some $300m. The truth is that this is projected over 8 years and on a normal capitalisation of the defence forces this would represent a very serious reduction in the capital expenditure of the defence forces in the years ahead. It is, as my Leader has said, not in any way a particularisation of defence procurement. It itemises only one subject in which it identifies purchase. It says We will buy a particular kind of pilot frigate from America’- that being of course the hobby horse of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). Incidentally, it does this in the face of preelection promises of the Labor Party that it would build its naval vessels in Australia and provide employment for the skills of the people in our dockyards throughout Australia. This is a complete abdication of an election policy.
Let us have a little look at the specific document itself. In the middle of last year the Minister for Defence went overseas in a VIP jet along with his family and friends. He said he specifically went abroad to look for a replacement for the Mirage aircraft. This was the junket that took him through Singapore and Hong Kong on a shopping expedition, but not for military hardware. He knew that his Cabinet had decided beforehand that there would be no replacement for the Mirage, that they would be put in mothballs, which is to the eternal disgrace of this Government. The fact that one of the most gallant squadrons in the traditions of the RAAF- 77 Squadron at Williamtown- lies in mothballs is an eternal disgrace and a reflection upon the lack of defence policies of this Government. This Minister in June went abroad on a junket flight at the taxpayers’ expense, along with his family and friends, saying that he was going to get replacements for the Mirage aircraft. What does this ministerial statement tell us? It tells us that there will be no replacement for the Mirage for 2 or 3 years at least.
Let us have a look at the silences in this document. What are the important subjects? We need urgently a replacement for our Centurion tanks. Is there a specific statement in this document? This document leaves us where we were 1 year ago. One year ago we knew that the choice in the purchase and procurement of tanks lay between an American and a German tank. Today we know exactly the same except for one thing- instead of getting 120 tanks we are to get half that number. In truth the Government is cutting back heavily and we do not even know the type of tank we will have. A year ago we knew that there was an urgency for the replacement of our long range Neptune maritime aircraft. Today it is restated that we need the replacement. The document states, in effect: ‘Sorry, we do not know what we are going to buy to replace them but one of these days in the next 8 years we will get around to doing so’. Not only is the Government not going to replace the Mirage aircraft in the next 2 or 3 years but also it does not intend doing a number of other things. The decision not to replace the Mirage aircraft in the immediate future means a major blow to the Australian aircraft industry.
– The war is over, you know.
-Senator Justin O’Byrne should go to the Commonwealth aircraft factories and to the Hawker De Havilland factory and say the things he is saying now. He should tell them that there is no need to tool up and that no use can be made of their skills. It is no good his shaking his head now. The simple fact is that the Government stated prior to the elections that it would build aircraft in this country and would employ Australian craftsmen to do so. But now it says it is not going to do so. So another one of the hundreds of election promises has been broken. I ask the Minister for Repatriation, who is at the table, to say where the key replacement is for the medium artillery. One of the fundamental needs of the Australian Army is to have replacements for its medium artillery. Today its medium guns can be outranged and outshot by any possible opponent. This of course weighs heavily upon the Government. The Government has said that it will not replace the guns. It has said this by silence.
Where is the program for anti-aircraft guns? It is mentioned that Australia needs anti-aircraft guns but no mention is made in the document about buying them. Where is any mention made of the most important thing in a modern defence system? I refer to the surface-to-air missiles- the so-called SAMs. One lesson to be learnt from the Middle East war is that these weapons are imperative to small nations facing aggression. Australia should be tooling up with surfacetoair and surface-to-surface missiles for anti-tank warfare, so that we can resist air attack and armoured attack. Fundamentally there is absolute silence on this issue. No mention is made of the surface-to-air or surface-to-surface missiles. Yet, if Israel, which is a nation infinitely smaller than ours, and Egypt find it vital to have these missiles why do we not find it vital? Where are the close support aircraft to guard and to give fire support to our troops in action? This is a lesson that was of paramount importance in Vietnam. Where is provision made for them? The RAAF and the Army have said that such aircraft are of paramount importance but we have none. There is silence on this item.
One by one the defects are shown in the document. Where is any guarantee that Australia will have sufficient anti-aircraft guns? What provision has been made that the Carl Gustav antitank guns- the guided missile type guns- can be guaranteed both in the weapon itself and in its ammunition, as being in sufficient supply? The Government knows there are disabilities and has done nothing about them. I have made the point that on nothing except frigates has the situation been improved in one whole year. I repeat that this defence procurement document gives no indication of specific procurements except for frigates. It gives no timetable or indication of their purchase. Government supporters talked of the FI 1 1. They have said in many arguments in this House that to enter into defence procurement for something without having specific documentation of the costs is outrageous. It was interesting today to hear one Government senator deriding the FI 1 1. The Minister at the table, Senator Bishop, has been good enough to acknowledge that the FI 1 1 is second to none in the world.
– No, I did not say that, senator.
-I asked the other day whether the FI 1 1 was a first line aircraft in the world and the Minister said it was.
– You had better look at the answer to the question.
-Well, I ask: Does the Minister deny that the Fill aircraft is an outstanding aircraft?
– Yes, of course it is.
– Yes, it is an outstanding aircraft. Is it not therefore an important aircraft for Australia? I hope that the Minister acknowledges that it is an important aircraft for Australia.
– This is not the occasion for you to question me.
– This is getting a bit difficult now.
– No, it is not.
– The Minister does not want to be offside in case he is on the wrong ticket. It may have been one of the South Australian senators and this may, of course, get him into bother. The Minister is now becoming excited and because I like him I ask him to contain his blood pressure. The Minister has acknowledged the outstanding qualities of the FI 1 1. His colleagues are attacking us on our open ended approach. How much more open ended is this document? Where in this document is there any shopping list? Where is there any price? Where are all these grand words now which arose from the debate concerning the Fill? Where is there proof of fixed contracts and that there will not be escalating clauses? Where is there proof that $300m will not be spent on the frigates? There is nothing at all.
I turn now to the Minister’s brave words on the question of our armed forces uttered, of course, in the interests of another Minister. He said it is based on the Army’s having 6 battalions. He forgot to say that that was in the teeth of military advice that we should have 9 battalions. What kind of defence statement is it that fails to tell the people of Australia that the decision to reduce the regular Army from 9 battalions to 6 battalions was made in the face of strong arguments and strong resistance of the Chiefs of General Staff? The people of Australia should understand that the military advisers said to this Government that it was imperative to have 9 battalions, and that the Government has cut back to 6 battalions. This is not just a onethird cut back, because what the Minister did not say and what the statement did not say is that each of these battalions is not a whole battalion but an emasculated battalion. Instead of 4 infantry companies, one company in each battalion has been removed and the battalions are weakened in that way. Step by step every unit in the Australian Army is weakened so that today in spite of the general agreement by the military authorities that we need at least one mobile task force at immediacy of readiness in Australia- a task force of 3 battalions and the supporting groups ready for movement in Australia- the best we can hope to have is one battalion. If we happen to have an enemy that has any more than one battalion we had better not pick a fight at this moment. It is notorious that the field force in Australia is so small at this moment as not to constitute an effective defence in immediacy.
I want to talk now about the essentials of defence because the defence one has on a given day should be there for 2 main reasons. Firstly, it should be there in order to meet an immediate threat- maybe a small threat, but an immediate one and one that no one can predict- and be capable of undertaking an instant defence or mobile job, maybe in respect of help to the United Nations, our continental defence or some South East Asian role under some alliance. Secondly, it must have the capacity for very rapid expansion in the face of predicted peril. On neither of these bases do the defence forces of this country stand the test. We are incapable in immediacy of putting forward more than a one-battalion task force. Let us hope that we will then have 3 months so that we can get together the rest. We are incapable of rapid expansion because we have cut back on the elements that are necessary.
The Minister has sadly repeated what is the greatest fallacy that can ever be inflicted on the Australian people in a strategic defence appraisal. He obviously has not read the authoritative Millar Committee report which, incidentally, I understand the Minister for Defence has adopted, because the strategic assessment in that report confounds this defence statement. The Millar Committee is devastating in destroying the whole basis of this idea of a strategic appraisal. Let me make this quite clear.
I want first of all to look at the perils of strategic assessment. It is true that it is necessary from time to time to make the assessments that one can and to plan. We have to ask whether there are estimated perils, what is their nature, what is their escalation. But we do that against one certainty, and that is that peace and war are totally uncertain and that nowhere in history is there any proof at all that strategic assessments have ever been right. They were wrong before 1939. The late John Curtin, though it was probably not his fault, was incredibly wrong 8 months before the 1939 war. Lloyd George was wrong, William Pitt was wrong and throughout the whole of history people have been wrong. Was there anybody at all in Australia in 1 936 who believed that in 1 94 1, 5 years later, there could be Pearl Harbour? I put it at 5 years later, but was there anybody in 1938 who would have predicted Pearl Harbour? Everybody thought the capacity of the Japanese was completely impossible to do that, yet this Government now is depending on a strategic assessment that looks 10 to IS years ahead.
– But it has the advantage of the greatest Foreign Minister in our history.
– He has said so. In terms of the magnitude of his own egocentric defence, the defence capacity is enormous, but on other measurements it is vulnerable. Let me test this. Against the fact that the Millar Committee goes out of its way to warn that anything but the briefest forecasts are perilous this Government comes to us with a defence statement that talks in terms of 10 to 15 years of peace. That in itself would be nonsense and dangerous enough were it not for the fundamental error it has committed, because when one builds an army, apart from immediacy one must understand the problem of lead time. Lead time is the time it takes to put together the vital elements of a defence force, how long it takes to train an infantry lieutenant, an infantry captain, a major or a colonel, how long it takes to put together the skills of a divisional group. It takes 1 5 years to train a major or a colonel, longer than the view through this strategic telescope the Government is using.
So at this moment if we want to determine how many field officers, let alone general officers, we will need in 15 years time we must decide today. Since no one can predict 1 5 years ahead we must decide in an atmosphere where we are capable of rapid expansion. It takes 7 years to make a senior non-commissioned officer- a sergeantand 4 to 5 years to make a corporal. It takes one year to train an infantry soldier. How long does it take to procure tanks and aircraft and vessels? Decades! So it is fundamental that lead times required to put together in peace time even the most minimal force are longer than any strategic appraisal there could be. Therefore one should put aside the strategic appraisal and look to lead times. We must do so to determine whether we can have immediacy and the capacity for expansion. The fact is that even if it is true that we are living in an uneasy peace today and although Ministers at this table said to us during the Middle East war that we were in peril of world conflagration only a month or two agothat telescope was a short one- we should be preparing for the kind of minimal army we will need 1 5 to 20 years hence. To cut back now is to cut back our defences at that time.
I conclude by reminding the Senate that in the past 5 or 6 years those who have said the world would move into peace have been confounded. The Middle East war has twice taken us almost to the brink. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had to eat his words regarding the state of alert of the American forces in the Mediterranean. He had to confess that there was a critical situation that could have brought America and, therefore, Russia, into conflict. When was that? That was in October, some 6 months ago. That telescope view was incredibly short too, was it not? Did anyone say that we had 15 years during the
Bangladesh incident when it looked as though there would be a massive conflict between the Russians and Chinese and when it was rumoured throughout the world that the Russians might make a pre-emptive strike against the nuclear installations in China. Can anyone say, in the face of an energy crisis which is growing more and more difficult in the world, in the face of resources diplomacy which is the ugliest of all tactics, and which can starve nations, that nations will not be put in peril? In the Indian Ocean build-up in Diego Garcia, in Socotra and in Somalia where the Russians are building up their forces, and in Chittagong in the Indian subcontinent, can anyone say that there is no real threat?
Against that background let me say that with the threat of an acceptance of a Russian installation destroying ANZUS, all honourable senators should go back and reflect upon the words of Admiral Peek 2 or 3 years ago when he briefed all parliamentarians here upon the size and nature of the Russian Navy. The essential details of his speech are available to us all. What he said in essence was that today the Russian Navy is the largest, the most modern and the most rapidly growing navy in the world. It is an all-ocean navy and is capable of, and in fact is operating in every ocean in the world in both a surface and a submarine capacity. Its nuclear and conventional submarines are larger in number than those of America and the building rate is larger. The Russian Navy is backed up by an immense merchant navy, which is part of the defence forces of Russia, and an immense fishing fleet which also is part of the defence forces of Russia. In fact, the Russian Navy needs no real bases, needs no real place to go back to, because it has mother ships for refuelling and revictualling over all oceans. Those who suddenly said ‘This is nonsense- we have counted only 2 destroyers and one frigate or something going into the Indian Ocean’, of course were attempting massively to deceive. No one can say how many submarines, nuclearpowered or otherwise, lie on the ocean beds or on the thousands of square miles of the Indian Ocean as a potential pre-emptive threat to the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.
The other day for the first time a Russian ship was photographed going home through the Strait of Malacca or one of those straits- it was a massive nuclear missile submarine- the Australian Labor Party did not say: ‘We are sorry. We forget to count it going in. ‘ This is the kind of nonsense in this world. If there is a navy which has world capacity, it is essential that all the sea beds of the Indian Ocean, as with every other ocean, will be used as missile launching platforms. They are so being used. The multi-headed and multi-directional missiles have a range of up to 2,500 miles. In the face of this the Labor Party is toying with the idea of a Russian installation in Australia. It must be toying with this proposal because it has had more than sufficient time by now to have decided. In the face of this, the Labor Government has deliberately cut back the program for the building of Cockburn Sound as a naval installation. It is to disband one of the most efficient and effective Royal Australian Air Force units which we have had, and that is the air-field construction unit at Learmonth. Oddly enough, the Government seeks to use an army unit to pretend to build an airstrip at Lord Howe Island when we have one of the best airfield construction units that any country could have.
All round Australia there is the destruction of treaties and the cessation or the slowing down of installations such as that at Cockburn Sound. There is a reduction in the forces and in procurement. The statement which has been made is a statement outlining the indefinite deferral of defence equipment procurement. The people of Australia should understand that those items of equipment in regard to which the Government is silent or in regard to which it confesses it will take no action, in fact are vital to the defence of Australia. If we want young men to serve in our forces it is our primary duty to give them the best military hardware on earth. Their lives are precious, and they put their lives at stake for us. This defence statement is outrageous. (Quorum formed).
– The defence statement which has been read to us this afternoon is a fair indication of the panic of this Government now that it has come to the realisation that within a few weeks it will have to face the Australian people and account for its activities over the last 14 or 15 months. One of the weakest links in this Government is its defence policy and, in particular, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). Naturally, because of this panic, the Government feels that it has to do some window-dressing to try to persuade the Australian people that belatedly it has decided to do something about defence. I suppose if we read the headlines this morning and if we read the statements which will come from the Minister and the Government in the next few days, on the surface one would assume that the Government intended to do something about the defences of this country. But if we have a close look at the statement before us, at what has been put in train in regard to equipment for our Services over the years and what has been projected for the future it will be obvious, as Senator Carrick has said, that this means a downgrading of equipment for our armed Services, not increased expenditure on our defences.
We know that over the last 15 months the morale of our servicemen has been such that many of our very fine officers have decided to get out. I am certain that after they read this statement a lot more of them will become dissatisfied and will resign from the Services. How the devil are we to have a defence force in this country if our servicemen are completely dissatisfied? Senator Carrick mentioned 77 Squadron, that is my old squadron. I was with it for 1 8 months. It is a ridiculous state of affairs when the No. 1 fighter squadron in this country is sitting on its backside not knowing whether in 3 years or 5 years it will get replacement aircraft. Surely during the 15 months this Government has been is office, and in view of the steps which were taken before it came to office, it could have made a decision about aircraft. At least the Government could have kept that squadron going. It could have kept the Airfield Construction Squadron going. The ACS built airfields all over the world, all over South-East Asia and in Australia, at a cost far less than that at which any other organisation has’ been able to build them. The ACS has been a very important part of the defence structure of this country. Its members are prepared to go into remote areas where ordinary civilians are not prepared to work. Its members were quite happy to do so because they were proud of their squadron and of the performance of their squadron.
What is the statement all about? Why all this smoke-screen about our future equipment? We might have this, we might have that. Things are left in abeyance or in limbo. It is what we might expect from this Goverment with its isolationist policies. As I said last week when we were debating defence issues, the Australian Labor Party in government is consistent with the ALP in Opposition. It does not believe in strong defence in this country. It says: ‘We will not have any risk for 1 5 years. Why waste money on defence?’ Let us face facts. One Minister said that if there were a war it would be over so quickly that we should not worry about it anyway. I agree with those people and the experts- and history, as far as that goes- who say that no one can predict for more than 3 or 5 years whether there will be a risk to this nation. We can go back throughout history to Chamberlain returning from Munich and saying: ‘There will be peace in our time’. We know what happened after that. Similar things have happened on plenty of other occasions.
– He was one of your mob, was he not?
– It does not matter of whose mob he was. No one can predict what might happen. One thing which I do not want to see happen is our Air Force boys fighting Zeros in Wirraways, as they did in the last war. We want to ensure that this sort of thing does not occur again.
– That is why we got the Fill.
-That is why we got the Fill- to ensure that our boys had equipment at least as good as if not better than those who might be against them. Senator Carrick mentioned Cockburn Sound. It is an amazing thing that today members of this Parliament honoured Dame Dorothy Tangney by naming one Federal electorate after her. One only has to read Hansard to discover her very deep interest in Cockburn Sound. I wonder what she must be thinking today, when the development of Cockburn Sound has been put almost into limbo. Whilst I come from the eastern coast, not the western coast, I can understand the problems of Western Australians with the Russian build up in the Indian Ocean because we had a similar problem during the last war when the Japanese were coming down towards the Queensland coast. We were vulnerable on that occasion. Most Queenslanders realise that a lot of areas to our north could be used as stepping off places to invade this country. There is no doubt that the people of Queensland must be completely dissatisfied with the performance of this Government in relation to defence.
The Government is putting off the day when it will make a decision on exactly what equipment it will have. It has put off a decision on whether the Russians can have a base here. Whether it is a scientific base, or whatever name it might go under, once the equipment and the people are here it does not matter what we call it. It still can be used as a defence base. Perhaps we are waiting for the day when this Government, if it ever gets back, gulls the people of Australia into believing that perhaps we would get better equipment from the Soviet Union than we would get from the United States or some other country. I cannot help but think that feeling may be behind all the procrastination that is going on at the moment. There is no question that the defence policy of this Government has been a disaster. This statement does nothing to encourage anyone in the community to think that the policy will be otherwise.
– I join my colleagues in protesting at the impertinence of this statement. As Senator Withers said, it was born in haste. It is nothing more than an election gimmick. I think they are the words which he used. I think my colleagues have amply demonstrated the truth of that statement. I suppose that if we look at this Government’s sorry record we should be thankful for small mercieswe should be thankful that at least it is recognising some need, small as it apparently is. This statement is, I think, best examined from the point of view not of what it contains but of what it does not contain. Quite apart from the garbage which the Government continually repeats that we are living in a period of tranquility I will deal with that in a moment- the statement talks about a low threat. One wonders who wrote this nonsense for the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). He said:
Threat does not arise readily or without warning.
I think Senator Carrick referred to a threat which arose suddenly and without warning in the Middle East only last October. It brought the world to the verge of war, when the United States Mediterranean forces and the United States nuclear strike force were put on immediate alert in response to a Russian threat to send divisions of troops to Egypt. That threat arose suddenly and without warning. It was followed by the energy crisis which had the effect of creating threat and instability throughout the world. No one knows where this will end.
– Your Party would have sent in a gunboat.
– That is the type of inane comment that we expect from Senator O’Byrne. He never lets us down. We expect it, and we always get it from him.
I wish to refer to 2 or 3 notable omissions from the statement. The first is that there is no mention of artillery. I think Senator Carrick mentioned this. Our artillery is outmoded and outgunned. We are in urgent need of new artillery for our armed forces, but there is no mention of that in the statement. Apparently in the haste with which it was prepared this was overlooked. We are told that we will purchase 53 tanks. That is a big deal. Indicative of the haste and the lack of thought is the fact that we do not know what type of tank will be purchased. Either the M60 or the Leopard will be purchased. The Government has not had time to make up its mind. Let us assume that we are to get 53 tanks. It will be some years ahead- in the next 7 or 8 years, presumably. They will go to Puckapunyal. How will they be transported to any part of Australia where they may be needed? Today there is no means of transporting them. I think there are 32 transporters to transport our 120 Centurions. The new tanks would certainly need transporting because they could not go on their own tracks. They could hardly leave the workshops. HMAS Sydney’, which is the only vessel capable of moving equipment and troops, has been scrapped. There is no indication in this so called defence statement- this non-defence statement by a non-Defence Minister- of any type of vessel which is capable of moving not only our forces but their equipment. It must be of great comfort to those people living in Western Australia to know that although it is suddenly announced that in due course we are to have some 53 tanks we have no means of moving them. They will simply have to rattle along on their tracks to get across the Nullabor Plain, because there is no ship- merchant ship or any other ship- in Australia capable of transporting heavy equipment.
– Around the coast.
– Around the coast.
– Why do they not go on the land?
-Senator O’Byrne asks: ‘Why do they not go on the land?’ This is the type of intelligent statement that we see right throughout this defence statement.
– You are hoping there will be a war, and there is not going to be one, according to the experts.
– We will come to that in a moment. I do not want to speak for too long and repeat what has been said so effectively by my colleagues. Then it is proposed to purchase some maritime aircraft to replace the 12 aging Neptunes. That is a big deal. We are to purchase eight of these maritime aircraft but this statement has been prepared in such haste that we are not told what type will be purchased. The Government has not made a decision as to the type; it could be the Nimrod or it could be something else. We do not know. We do not even know when they will be purchased. As we go through this defence statement piece by piece we can see the gimmickry in it; we can see the whole falseness of it. It is a statement made by a government that has proved itself to be a corrupt government and a government that is trying to mislead the people.
We are faced at the present time with the increasing Russian build up in the Indian Ocean. With the opening of the Suez Canal, which is being hastened, of course the flexibility of the Russian Mediterranean fleet to move into the Indian Ocean will be greatly increased. In response to the increasing build up of the Russian naval strength in that area the United States made some arrangements with the United Kingdom to upgrade the facilities on Diego Garcia. What is happening? The interest that this Government has in the defence of the western side of our continent was displayed when the Minister for. Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), who is a Western Australian senator, announced that the Government was protesting to the United States because the United States was responding to the increased Russian naval strength in the Indian Ocean. The Government’s contempt for the defence of our western seaboard is indicated also by the slow-down in the construction of the base at Cockburn Sound. There will be a delay in this project of something like 3 years. In the face of a growing Russian build up in the Indian Ocean the Government’s response is to slow down the development of the only naval facility on our western seaboard.
We can go through this defence statement step by step to prove the insincerity of this Government. On what is the statement based? The Minister repeats in the statement the worn-out strategic assessment that did not recognise the possibility of war in the Middle East and did not recognise the energy crisis. History teaches us that such strategic assessments have always been wrong. Senator Carrick referred to Lloyd George, to Pitt and to Chamberlain. We could go right through history.
– And Curtin.
– And Curtin when he followed Chamberlain. We do not blame the Government because it has never been right. It is a pity that the minister did not refer to the fact- maybe he did not have time to think about it- that he commissioned a committee chaired by Dr Millar to examine the Citizen Military Forces. The Government has to a great degree accepted the Millar report and, presumably, it has accepted the strategic considerations contained in that report.
– How can you say that about such a responsible government which accepted that report. You reckon we have not done anything that is good.
– I have said that the Government does intend to buy 2 ships and 8 maritime aircraft. That is wonderful. But do not forget it has disbanded 77 Squadron and scrapped HMAS ‘Sydney’. I congratulate the Government on accepting the main recommendations of the Millar report. But if I were to read pages 27 to 34 of the report which carry the heading ‘Strategic Considerations’ they would make complete nonsense of the defence statement.
– Why do you not read the Minister’s statement?
– I have read it, and that is what horrifies me. Goodness me, I have read it. It ignores all the simple facts of the strategic situation. Not one mention is made in the statement of the Sino-Soviet dispute which, as I said the other day, is creating conflicts and uncertainties throughout the world. No mention is made of the dangerous possibilities inherent in that dispute. No mention is made of the events taking place in China today. During the period when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was having an amorous love affair with the Chinese leaders he referred to China as that peaceful nation. Only a day or two ago I quoted a statement made by Chou En-lai. In a statement which was an implicit attack upon President Nixon’s statement about there being a generation of peace, Chou En-lai said that revolutions and wars will continue. The events in China today do not give us any reason to feel confident about the future of China’s policies, and Dr Millar recognises this. In his report he refers to the Paracels, the Spratlys and other areas of possible conflict in the China Sea.
Let me take two or three quotations from Dr Millar’s report. After dealing with those areas of conflict and the grounds on which some people argue that the world situation is stabilising, Dr Millar said in paragraph 2.6 on page 28 of his report:
While not discounting any of these considerations, we also cannot set aside others which tend in different directions. Historically, governments embarking on war have often done so in the face of what seems to outsiders or even to many of their own citizens to be logical, sensible, or profitable. lt has to be demonstrated that modern governments make wiser decisions than their predecessors.
To make complete nonsense of the Minister’s statement that we are living in a period of tranquillity, let me refer to paragraph 2.8 of Dr Millar’s report. In that paragraph he sets out a number of wars and conflicts that have taken place since 1 948. Let me say also that in spite of the Minister’s reference to a period of tranquillitythat is a wonderful phrase- fighting is still occurring in the middle East and no one can say with any assurance that war may not break out in the Middle East again, with all the consequences that may flow from it. Fighting is continuing in Indo-China where 13 or 14 regular divisions of the North Vietnamese army are stationed on South Vietnamese soil. They still seek, and they announce that they seek, a military solution. No one can see the end of that war or the possibilities that will flow from it. Although the Minister speaks of a period of tranquillity, there is no tranquillity. That is garbage and nothing but garbage, but it is dangerous garbage which could easily mislead people. But it did not mislead Dr Millar, because in paragraph 2.10 of his report he states:
Changes in the pattern of power between the largest states do not seem to have reduced the incidence, or the level of violence, of these lesser hostilities. Whether such changes have reduced the likelihood of major war is impossible to determine.
He then goes on to deal more fully with that particular subject. In paragraph 2. 1 1 he states:
We are not, therefore, living either in a region or a period of international stability. Quite the contrary.
These are the strategic considerations in the report of Dr Millar’s committee of inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces, and the Government has accepted that report. I wonder whether the Government accepted Dr Millar’s strategic considerations.
There is just one other notable omission from this so-called defence statement. It is an item of defence equipment in regard to which there is an urgent need for the Government to make a decision. This is particularly so if the Government believes, as it states, that the defence forces should be prepared for continental war, that is, war within Australia. I refer to the urgent need for a close support aircraft. We have no close support aircraft. If operations were conducted on the north-west coast of Australia the range and armament of the Mirage aircraft which is not a close support aircraft- in fact, it is too valuable to be used for this purpose- are incapable of providing the type of support that our armed forces would require. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation who is at the table will draw the attention of the Minister for Defence to the urgent need for a close support aircraft.
I do not intend to repeat Senator Carrick ‘s comments about the Army. He referred to the reduction in strength of the Army to 6 battalions each comprising 3 companies. The Minister has said that we want a corps which is capable of rapid expansion. This Army of 6 under-strength battalions consisting of under-strength sub-units is simply not capable of rapid expansion. The Chief of the Generalf Staff made that clear when he dissented from the report. He wanted 9 battalions, not six. I do not believe that any military expert would accept that this so-called Army is capable of rapid expansion. Even the Government admits that it may be necessary at some time in the far distant future for the Army to expand rapidly.
I join with my colleagues in condemning the statement as being one unworthy of any Australian Government. Obviously, the decisions were made in haste and the statement was drawn up in haste because of the electoral situation facing the Government. The Government deserves the condemnation not only of the Parliament but also of the people of Australia.
– As an independent senator, I hope to be able to talk on the matter of defence in an impartial way. I know that the Opposition’s job is normally to endeavour to show that the Government is doing something as an election gimmick. This is said in respect to this statement because it has been introduced just before a proposed double dissolution of the Parliament. I wonder what the previous Government- that is, the present Opposition- thought of the proposal to establish the Cockburn Sound naval base in Western Australia? From memory, that was introduced just before the last election for the House of Representatives. At the present time, the area for that proposed naval base is a heap of sand stretching from the mainland to the island. All work has been stopped dead. In my opinion, that was purely an election gimmick by the former Government, just as this proposed expenditure on defence is an election gimmick by this Government. I contend that neither Government, former or present, has anything to crow about.
For many years, Australia has not been capable of defending itself in any manner. It has been proved time and again that people are landing on the north-west coast of Western Australia and bringing in drugs because we have no method of stopping them. We have not even got sufficient patrol craft to patrol our own coast. That is a disgraceful situation which, in my opinion, has developed over a number of years. We have been giving away money to other countries for the specific purpose of enabling them to produce naval patrol craft that we do not have ourselves. I have before me a Press cutting in which it was stated recently that we will give $262m worth of aid to Asia and Pacific countries. In my opinion, that ought not to be done as long as we in Australia do not have sufficient protection. lama great believer in the old idea of compulsory military training purely so that the young people of Australia have some knowledge of how to fight a war if it becomes necessary.
Australia never has had and never will have the capacity to defend itself. It must rely on bigger countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America to come to its aid. I sincerely trust that we will not do anything to stop America coming to our aid because at the present time the United Kingdom is in such a spot I do not think that it could even supply enough fuel for a warship to travel from that country to Australia. That is how far behind that country is financially and in regard to its overseas troubles. I have before me some information which was supplied to me by the research section of the Parliamentary Library. It show that in 1969 the Royal Australia Air Force had a total of 95 Phantom, Mirage and FU I aircraft in hand or on order. In 1972, we had 90 such aircraft and in 1973 we had 87 such aircraft. Those figures show that there has been a reduction of only 3 aircraft in the last 12 months. The Royal Australian Air Force had 20 Canberra bombers, but they are due to be retired from service. The Government has to look for a replacement for them. In 1969, the Air Force had 42 helicopters of the Iroquois and other types. In 1972, there were 47 helicopters and in 1973 there were 50. In 1969, the Air Force had 13 Caribou aircraft in South Vietnam and 13 in Australia, a total of 26 such aircraft. In 1972 and 1973 there were again 26 such aircraft. Overall, there was a total of 253 combat aircraft available in Australia in 1972, and there is still a total of 253 combat aircraft available today. So there has not been very much change there.
It is rather laughable to look at our naval patrol vessels, or whatever it is that we have. We have a total of 42 naval vessels to patrol the coastline of Australia. If they were all on the job we would have one aircraft carrier, 3 guided missile destroyers, 2 Daring class destroyers, 6 River class destroyers, 4 coastal minesweepers, 2 mine hunters, 4 submarines and 20 patrol boats. That is about enough aircraft and naval vessels to patrol Rottnest Island in Western Australia which is just a holiday island. But Australia has an awfully big coastline. As a Parliament, we ought to be trying to increase at least the number of our patrol vessels and the number of our aircraft even if it means taking money from education. In my opinion, education is highly overcapitalised at this time, to the extent that many of our highly educated people are claiming unemployment benefits which are costing Australia over $40m a year on the latest figures that are available. Let us do something substantial in the right way to try to protect our country.
I notice that the considerations contained in the statement presented by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) on behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) have been brought forward by the Chiefs of Staff of the 3 Services collectively. In all probability, those gentlemen were holding their positions when the previous Government was in power. So probably there has been no change in the Chiefs of Staff who brought forward the suggestions. It is mentioned in the Minister’s statement that the threat of war does not arise readily without warning. That is something we should consider seriously. Mostly, war happens without warning and therefore we should try to be ready. It has been indicated in the statement that even after the introduction of manpower economies which were announced last August, the manpower of the defence Services will still be 39 per cent above the 1 963 level. That is 1 4 years ago.
Often we see on television programs what is happening in places like the People’s Republic of China. China does not seem to indicate that it is looking for war with anyone. I notice that in China, from the age of about 10 years, children are taught something about war. I think that in Australia we are raising our young people in such a way that they are not prepared to go to war, and they would not be able to go to war if it really came to the point, because they would not know the first thing about it. We should reintroduce compulsory military training even if it is only for a few weeks a year so that every Australian who is capable of carrying arms has some knowledge of what would be required in a time of war. I believe that neither the previous Government nor this Government has anything to be proud about in its defence program and that we should not criticise either of them; rather, we should be prepared to accept that what they have tried to do is probably within the financial capability of Australia. That is all I have to say.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia-Minister for Repatriation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence)- Mr Deputy President, before I move that the debate be adjourned I should like to reply briefly to the point raised by Senator Wood. I promised to give him some information about the M60 tanks. It is a short statement and if there is no objection I will read it because it might be useful to other people.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Do you seek leave?
– I seek leave to make this short statement, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The statement refers to the matter raised by Senator Wood. The information was not contained in the earlier statement. This statement reads: The group of departmental officers who were responsible for the detailed planning and evaluation of new tanks for the Australian Army sought information from the Department of Transport to enable them to fully investigate the strategic mobility of the tanks they were comparing. On information prepared by the Department of Transport the tank study group concluded that there is no significant difference between the M60 and the Leopard in terms of strategic mobility by rail. Where difficulties are encountered, the problem can be overcome by care in loading the tanks and some preliminary engineering work which should take no more than a few hours in the case of each vehicle.
Difficulties were encountered in the transport of tanks where light weight or narrow gauge railway lines were, and suitable railway wagons were not available. In general, however, the study group found that both tanks possessed adequate strategic mobility to meet Australian requirements. In answer to the honourable senator ‘s question about the size of the tank, it is not true that the M60 is heavier than the Centurion. The M60 is, in fact, some 5,000 lb lighter than the Centurion although it is slightly wider. This difference marginal, however, only amounting to 0. 1 5 of a metre. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8 April (vide page 757), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr Deputy President, the debate with which we are concerned relates to the reintroduced Health Insurance Bill 1973- and I emphasise 1973’- and the Health Insurance Commission Bill also of 1 973. 1 will start by referring to 2 quotations from the second reading speeches which accompanied the presentation of these Bills. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), who in this chamber represents the
Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), in his second reading speech said: 1 should emphasise that the Bill contains the same provisions as those outlined to the Senate when it was originally introduced in December 1973.
In other words, the Health Insurance Bill is an identical Bill and, as I understand it, that is not disputed in any way. In order to see why the Bill has been introduced, let us have a look at the words of Mr Hayden when he introduced this Bill into the House of Representatives on 4 April 1974. It is interesting also to note that in the speech- which otherwise was almost identical with the speech delivered by Mr Hayden- which was made by the Minister for the Media, who had the responsibility for introducing the Bill into this chamber, these few words were omitted. Perhaps they were an indiscretion which was made off the cuff and were not intended to be revealed. But at page 1075 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4 April 1974 Mr Hayden is reported to have said:
It has been our intention, and we are fulfilling that, to reintroduce this Bill because we regard health as an important issue at any election, but not the only issue.
I remind honourable senators of the day on which the Health Insurance Bill was reintroduced. It was reintroduced on the day of and shortly following the announcement of the intention on the part of the Opposition parties to take certain action which might lead to an election of the House of Representatives and part of the Senate or to a double dissolution. As an almost immediate response by this Government, it cynically and for the purposes of the election- as clearly admitted by Mr Hayden in that statement which is reported at page 1075 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4 April 1974- said that this Bill was reintroduced because the Government regards health as an important issue at any election, but not the only issue. I believe it is significant to note that what has been stated in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) so often has been shown to be correct. This is an election gimmick, and it is a farce that this chamber should have imposed on it the duty of dealing with health Bills which were discredited last year throughout the public debate that took place in relation to them. I remind the chamber that when I spoke on this matter last December I referred to the fact that in Tasmania alone approximately 25,000 people had been prepared to sign petitions to the Parliament seeking to ensure that the Parliament was aware of the fact that these people did not want a health scheme, such as that which was envisaged by the Government, introduced.
– There were similar petitions in South Australia organised by the doctors. No one would accept responsibility for them. They were the same petitions. People did not know what they were signing.
– The brilliant senator from South Australia has been napping his feathers again and accusing the people of Tasmania, who are totally unkown to him, of being incapable of knowing the contents of the petitions that they were signing. On behalf of those 25,000 people I take great exception to Senator McLaren’s accusation, which is unfair, and unjustified, and there is no basis of knowledge on his part on which he can make such an accusation. Let us have a look at the situation. In Tasmania there were 25,000 people who were prepared to sign petitions of that sort. It is suggested that this Bill was popular with the Australian people- that seems to be the idea in the Minister’s speech- but what happened in Tasmania could hardly be described as showing popularity. The Bill was rejected by the people who looked at it, and it was rejected by this Parliament. But no, for political purposes and as a gimmick, this Government- this moribund Government, this corrupt Governmenthas decided to reintroduce the Bill.
At the same time we saw the Government reintroduce the Petroleum and Mineral Authorities Bill, and I will refer further to that a little later when it is debated. I wonder why the Government did that- except for the same political purposes. It was not because it is genuine legislation being genuinely introduced for the consideration of the Parliament. The Government is introducing the legislation for its own purposes in order to try to build up the number of occasions on which this Senate has rejected legislation. As has been pointed out- and it will be pointed out again and again- most of the legislation which the Senate has rejected is related to about 5 areas of legislation- the Government’s attempts to gerrymander the electorates and the Government’s attempts to introduce an unwanted and unpopular health scheme. The Government’s attempts to introduce that sort of legislation has been the subject matter of the disapproval of a majority of the Senate. But by far the vast majority- so close to the whole- of the Government’s legislation program has been passed through this chamber. When one looks at the figures one sees that the noises coming from the Government become hollow.
– Like the Securities and Exchange Committee.
– Do not mention that; that is an embarrassment.
- Mr Deputy President, I will have a drink of water and not do what some other people have done and throw a glass of water over somebody. This scheme reflects an obsession for power. I suggest that it is a typical reflection of this Government’s obsession for gaining power to the central Government, power over people. We have seen this obsession reflected in many actions of the Government, We have seen it reflected in many of its proposals. These Bills are not concerned with the health care of the Australian people. They are concerned with the question of funding and the question of Government control of funding of the scheme to provide insurance. But what about the health of the Australian people? What about the access of the people to proper and appropriate health care? These are matters to which greater reference will be made by my colleague Senator Carrick who will follow me in this debate.
I want to refer again to some of the aspects of the politics of the reintroduction of these Bills, just in case the Government thinks that we will pass this legislation. If that is the thought behind their reintroduction and not one of building up the number of occasions on which the Senate has rejected legislation, let me refer to the history of the Opposition ‘s attitude towards this type of activity on the part of this Government. I shall start with what the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, said on 15 May 1973 in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. He said:
In recent days a number of Ministers have been grandstanding and huffing and puffing about the possibility of a double dissolution. I would like to make it quite clear, as I have done before, that as far as I and my colleagues sitting behind me are concerned, this does not frighten us. My parliamentary Leader, the Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, has made it very plain that he is not afraid of a double dissolution and in fact he is on record as saying that he would welcome it; so let us hear no more threats, no more grand words, and see no more poses by the Government.
That was on 15 May 1973 and it made the position quite clear. No doubt the quotation recalls to the memories of honourable senators how the Government at that time was making a great deal of noise about double dissolutions. But that was before supporters of the Government saw the gallup polls. That was before they saw that the longer their Government lasted the less popular it became. That was before they saw what their own actions were doing in creating inflation in this country. That was before their series of broken promises, like the promise on defence which has just been debated here. They promised that they would expend at least 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence, but they have got nowhere near 3 per cent yet. These are the sorts of things that made the Australian people change their minds very rapidly.
I want to quote further to show the attitude of the Opposition on these matters. On 19 September 1973, when speaking about the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1973, the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber said:
There is no need for the Prime Minister so to indulge himself. If he is dissatisfied with what the Senate is doing or has done, the remedy is in his own hands. He has the means of obtaining a double dissolution. So, rather than indulging in abuse, he should go to the Governor-General and ask him for a double dissolution.
The opportunity is there, what is lacking is the Prime Minister’s courage- or maybe Caucus will not allow him to take the plunge. Its faith in him is not as great as his own faith in himself.
One could comment that that Caucus lack of faith in the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has been displayed a number of times now. Let us consider what the Leader of the Opposition said on 28 August 1 973 in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2). He said this: the next step is then up to the Prime Minister. We do not shirk from allowing the Australian people an opportunity to pass judgment on the performance of the Government nor of ourselves.
The fact that the Opposition is prepared to face the people is not something that has just happened. It has been prepared to face the people at any time. The suggestion by the Prime Minister that the action contemplated by the Opposition in this chamber is in some way immoral, because Opposition senators were not prepared to face the people, is very shallow, in the light of history, in the light of the repeated statements and in the light of the fact that it has been the Prime Minister who has not been prepared notwithstanding the fact that the opportunities were there. On 13 March of this year, when speaking on the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill, the Leader of the Opposition said:
A double dissolution would bring about simultaneous elections of the whole of this chamber and of the House of Representatives. It is not even necessary to hold a double dissolution to bring the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives back to the same date. The Government could, if it wished to do so and if it had the courage to do so, take out the House of Representatives at the next Senate election- that is, when those honourable senators who are due to retire at 30 June 1974 have to face their electors. There is no constitutional or legal reason why the Government should not take out the House of Representatives at that time.
I should point out that it is not the Senate which is out of step with the House of Representatives but rather the House of Representatives which is out of step with the Senate.
They are just some examples of the number of occasions on which it has been made very clear by the Opposition what its attitude is towards facing the electors. It also makes very clear that the people who have not been prepared to face the electors are those people in the government. They have not been prepared to take the opportunity which is open to them of letting the people of Australia pass judgment on their performances in relation to matters such as the health scheme.
I remind you, Mr Deputy President, that this health scheme has been changed so many times from the one originally proposed at the time of the election campaign in November 1972 as to be virtually unrecognisable. It is interesting to consider that point. Why was it that so many alterations were made between November 1972 and now? The 1972 proposal was the one upon which the people of Australia voted, insofar as the mandate theory is at all applicable. That is the proposal for which the Government has a mandate. Why were there so many alterations throughout 1973 until in November 1973 a Bill, in the same form as the one we have before us today, was introduced in the House of Representatives? One might think that the Government was having second thoughts because it found that its ill conceived scheme had to be patched up and made workable in some ways. The Government tried to patch it up when it found that there was very stiff resistance from the Australian people in relation to the introduction of such a scheme once the people saw a little more of what was involved.
I want to go on from that point. The history of this matter then takes us to the rejection of the Bills- the clear, constitutional and democratic rejection of that proposed legislation. What happened then? Virtually as soon as possible after the Parliament rose the Minister for Social Security went overseas for a month or so. If it was not a month exactly no doubt the Minister in this place representing the Minister for Social Security can correct me and supply the exact time. However, I believe it was about that length of time. Obviously that visit was at considerable cost to the taxpayers of Australia. The Minister would have taken with him advisers and assistants. He went abroad to examine health schemes around the world in order to try to find out how the Government could further patch up their scheme which was rejected both by the Parliament and the people, or to find a new scheme that they might be able to introduce. The fact that the Minister went overseas to look at all the other health schemes was an admission that he, his Party and the Government had rejected the idea of a health scheme as contained in the 2 Bills now before us, this Health Insurance Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973. If that is not so why was it necessary to spend all that money, the taxpayers’ money, in going overseas and investigating all the other schemes in order to try to find a better one? There certainly was no indication from that action that the Government was going to reintroduce the same rejected and discredited proposed legislation which was dealt with last year.
I suggest that the conclusion is inescapable: These Bills are an election gimmick. They do not represent serious action on the part of the Government. We have heard the statement by the Minister for Social Security in the House of Representatives, which I quoted and in which he said that the Government was introducing this scheme because. health was an important matter for an election. I wonder also whether it is a matter of trying to use the rejection of this scheme in some other way than to provide some grounds for a double dissolution. The Government already has sufficient grounds to seek a double dissolution from the Governor-General. As has been indicated by the quotations I have read already from speeches by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, as well as from numerous other statements, the Opposition would welcome such a double dissolution. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.4S to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
Section 3 of the Constitution provides that there shall be payable out of Consolidated Revenue for the salary of the Governor-General an annual sum which, until the Parliament otherwise provides, shall be $20,000. The Constitution also provides that the salary of a GovernorGeneral shall not be altered during his continuance in office. It is proposed now in this Bill that, for the first time since Federation, the Parliament should establish an amount for the salary of the Governor-General other than that provided in the Constitution. It is proposed that the Governor-General ‘s salary be $30,000. This salary will become payable when the new GovernorGeneral is sworn.
It is important, as I know the Senate will readily accept, that a matter such as the Governor-General ‘s salary should be dealt with in a non-party way. Also, it is necessary that the salary arrangements for Governor-General should clearly recognise the importance and place of this high office. Appointment to the position of Governor-General should not be made to depend on personal wealth or the availability of other income. These considerations have been taken into account in the salary now proposed. It is time that the Parliament provided an increase.
There has never been any legislative retirement provision for a Governor-General. Consequently, in a number of cases, it has been necessary for the Government to make ex-gratia payments to former Governors-General or to their widows. There are many calls on a man who has been Governor-General or on a woman who is the wife or widow of a former GovernorGeneral arising from the position they have held. It is only reasonable to recognise this. We now propose by this Bill to make provisions for the future under legislation rather than by ex gratia payment.
The proposed pension arrangements for the Governor-General are based in part on the pension arrangements that apply for the Chief Justice of Australia. In brief, a Governor-General on retirement will be eligible for a pension equivalent to that payable from time to time under the appropriate legislation to a retired Chief Justice of Australia. The widow of a Governor-General will have an entitlement equivalent to the entitlement for the widow of a Chief Justice of Australia. The House will appreciate that all the provisions of the Judges’ Pensions Act do not automatically apply. It is not desirable to determine, for instance, a qualifying period for payment of pension. The Bill does provide, however, that where a former Governor-General has other pension entitlements payable by Australia or a State or a Territory of Australia the retirement benefit in total shall not exceed that to which a retired Chief Justice of Australia is entitled.
Honourable senators will notice that the entitlements for retirement benefits under the bill are not retrospective. The circumstances of former Governors-General and widows of former Governors-General vary. A full pension entitlement in all cases is not called for. It is intended, however, to continue the ex gratia amounts now payable and to adjust them from time to time. They will be reviewed, in the first place, in the light of this legislation. I shall, if he wishes, let the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) know what adjustments are to be made. The provisions in this Bill both as to salary and as to retirement benefit for GovernorsGeneral are necessary and timely. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– Normally I would seek the adjournment of this debate.
– I want to have the debate adjourned.
-The honourable senator may wish to have the debate adjourned and in that case he may move for the adjournment of the debate. Mr President, normally I would seek the adjournment of this debate but in this case, for several reasons, I shall not. Firstly, I would hope that when the salary of the GovernorGeneral comes before the Parliament it is dealt with somewhat expeditiously and not on a political basis. I think that the office of the GovernorGeneral is too important for that. We in the Opposition do not resist the increase in payment; the payment has been the same for some 74 years. I know that adjustments have been made to the Governor-General’s establishment costs but I welcome the fact that at last a government has recognised that the Governor-General ought to be paid a proper salary. Whether this proposed salary is adequate may be a matter for debate, but the amount proposed is not excessive.
I welcome also the fact that if something is to be done for retired Governors-General it ought to be put on a statutory basis. They ought not be mendicants asking for an ex gratia payment from the government of the day, and for that reason also I welcome it. Whether the amount is adequate or excessive may be a matter for debate. But I do not think that the salary and emoluments of the Head of State of this nation should be open to too much debate.
We know that this legislation must be passed into being before the next incumbent is appointed. One trusts that the Government will accept our challenge and call a double dissolutionand the sooner it comes the better we will be pleased, whether the Government acts voluntarily or we force it into that act. It would be most unjust to the incoming incumbent, having been told by the Government what his salary will be, if we were to attempt to impose any impediment and that he would not receive what had been undertaken would be given to him. For those reasons as far as I personally am concerned- and 1 trust that most of my colleagues will agree- this Bill ought to be given a speedy passage. For those of my colleagues who may feel that they may wish to give the Bill further consideration I do not much mind whether the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting or for a later hour this day. But I think that I ought to place clearly on record the official Opposition stance that we welcome the proposal and the fact that the retirement provisions are being put on a proper parliamentary statutory basis. As we all know, the incoming Governor-General’s appointment is welcome. He is a man for whom we all have enormous respect. We know that he will carry out the duties of his office with great dignity. For those reasons the Opposition supports the Bill.
– I differ in not one word from anything that Senator Withers has said except his desire that the Bill be given a speedy passage. My present attitude to this Bill is, and has been ever since the Government announced it, one of support. But I want to consider the involvement of the judiciary with the highest executive officer of the land, the Governor-General. 1 want to consider also the multiplication of emoluments that may grow to the highest officer of the land who may have been a Territory judge or a Supreme Court judge or who may have a pension from a parliament and whose salaries accrue in this way. I have heard the second reading speech. It is an insult to my intelligence to ask me to give a proper analysis of those high considerations at this instant. I ask leave to continue my remarks and move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) I move:
I draw the attention of Senator Wright to clause 4 of the Bill and to the second reading speech. The Bill has very simple provisions. Clause 4 states:
The amount of the allowance that, but for this subsection, would be payable to a person under this section in respect of any period shall be reduced by the amount of any pension or retiring allowance payable to that person, whether by virtue of a law or otherwise, in respect of that period out of moneys provided in whole of in part by Australia, a State or a Territory.
I can think of nothing that is simpler. The proposition means exactly what it says. What is stated in the second reading speech is reflected by the draftsmen who give effect to it in the Bill. Sometimes we have obscure Bills. This time we have a simple Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, this Bill provides for the validation until 31 August 1974 of the duties collected in pursuance of those Customs Tariff Proposals which have not been enacted to date. The tariff changes validated by the Bill relate to Tariff Board reports on acetone derivatives; ethyl methyl ketone; agricultural machinery; lawn sprinklers; agricultural tractors; cathode ray tubes; cherries; consumer electronic equipment and components; domestic appliances; heating and cooling apparatus; earthmoving, construction and materials handling equipment etc.; engines, motors, pumps and valves; fire hose; lightning arresters; machine tools for working stone, etc.; and wood, etc.; pneumatic hand tools, etc.; NZAFTA-machine tools for working wood, etc.; chain saws (Dumping and Subsidies Act); metal plates, etc. for printing purposes; prepared additives for mineral oils, etc.; products of the printing industry; resins of the propylene type; and synthetic rubber latex; and the following reports by the Special Advisory Authority: industrial type plastic coated knitted gloves, and phthalic anhydride. The 25 per cent tariff cut and the revised and expanded system of tariff preferences for imports from developing countries are also being validated by the Bill. I commend the Bill. As honourable senators know, this is the machinery provision which is traditional.
-I ask for leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The facts of life about this Bill are that while it is said that it is just a formal machinery process, only today delivered into my office was the full volume of documents on this business. I have had very little chance to study them all. I will have no chance whatsoever to study them in the latter part of this evening and I prefer to deal with the matter tomorrow. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 809).
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner and before we co-operated with Senator Murphy to enable him to introduce some Bills, I was referring to the basis upon which the Health Insurance Bill 1 973 and the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1 973 had been introduced. Both these Bills were introduced and rejected last year and discredited in the public debate which took place last year. I was examining the reason why these Bills might have been introduced again at this time after the announcement of certain action which would lead to an election. I had said that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) had made quite clear in the House of Representatives the real reason for the re-introduction of these Bills. The real reason is political gimmickry, as an election gimmick, as a sham and as a fraud upon this Parliament. They were not introduced for the purpose of considering a real scheme for the health care of this nation, but rather so that the Government could gain what it thinks is some advantage out of the further rejection by the Senate of these Bills. And vote against them the Opposition will.
It is exactly the same legislation which was introduced and rejected last year. Notwithstanding an expensive overseas trip by the Minister for Social Security to look at alternative schemes the Government has the hide to reintroduce these Bills unaltered. I wonder whether one could ever have regard to the Government’s health proposals at any stage of an election campaign when one regards the general duplicity which has been employed in regard to this and some other actions.
Let me refer firstly to a meeting which took place on 27 March in Melbourne. Some reference has been made to it already. We are told that this meeting took place with the knowledge and on the instruction of the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. His senior officers,
Dr Deeble and Mr Corrigan, brought together in Melbourne a group of people to discuss a significant variation to the proposal in relation to health. At that meeting there was consideredcertainly with the Minister’s knowledge and according to his senior officers at the Minister’s instruction- by a number of people concerned what the Minister was prepared to do, or at least it was said, by way of significant variation of the health scheme. But did the Minister accept that? Apparently not. When he found that it had gone wrong and that the people involved were not prepared to accept his proposals, he got a spokesman, so-called, to deny his senior officers. I refer to the Sydney Morning Herald of 4 April 1974. This has been admitted by the Minister. The article reads:
A dual system of national health insurance- with a Government commission and voluntary health funds providing cover- is proposed in a document circulated by a top Government health planner.
The proposal would allow people to ‘opt out’ of taxfinanced Government insurance in insuring privately. It is a major compromise of the aims in the Government’s Health Insurance Bill rejected by the Senate last year.
The planner, Dr J. S. Deeble, one of the architects of Labor’s universal health scheme, was criticised yesterday for having ‘exceeded his brief by a spokesman for the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden.
The spokesman said that Dr Deeble, a special adviser to the Social Security Depanment, had no authority to commit the Minister- as he has done in the document- to proposed amendments to the scheme.
The proposals in the document were Dr Deeble ‘s and not Mr Hayden ‘s, he said.
I wonder what depths ministerial responsibility has reached when a Minister is prepared to at least acquiesce in, if not direct- I do not stay to enter a debate whether it was acquiescence or a direction, because I do not think it matters; the responsibility of the Minister is equal; I refer to the responsibility of a Minister who permits his senior officers to circulate a proposal on the basis, obviously, of his acceptance, which would be the impression given to the average member of the public outside the Parliament who received the document. They went to Melbourne in good faith to consider the proposals. Then the Minister turns round when he finds that his plans fall flat and denies his senior officers saying that they had exceeded their brief. Of all the contemptible actions a Minister can take I think probably the most contemptible is the finding of scapegoats for his own failures or inadequacies. This is apparently what happened in this case.
How can anyone have any faith in the honesty and integrity of a government which just a fortnight ago called a meeting in Melbourne to propose significant variations to its health scheme and then wheels in before us this Bill, which is unaltered from the one rejected last year? It seems to me to point clearly, emphatically, to duplicity and total disregard of what might be called normal standards of conduct by a government. Let me refer also to a certain dust-up- I suppose it could be called that- which took place yesterday when, having regard to considerations of the morality, constitutionality and the general propriety of the actions of the Government in reintroducing this legislation. Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was asked a question in relation to the situation in the Senate, that is, action being taken to object to or to vote against financial measures, appropriation Bills and the like. This is a matter which has received a great deal of publicity recently. His attention was drawn to a statement by Senator Murphy, made on 18 June 1970 in a debate on the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. As appears on page 2647 of Hansard, Senator Murphy said:
In doing this the Opposition is pursuing a tradition which is well established, but in view of some doubt recently cast on it in this chamber, perhaps I should restate the position. The Senate is entitled and expected to exercise resolutely but with discretion its power to refuse its concurrence to any financial measure, including a tax Bill. There are no limitations on the Senate in the use of its constitutional powers, except the limitations imposed by discretion and reason. The Australian Labor Party has acted consistently in accordance with the tradition that we will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill or other financial measure whenever necessary to carry out our principles and policies.
I simply restate that. I think it is something which is vital and fundamental to the understanding by the Australian people of the debate which has taken place in relation to matters such as this Health Insurance Bill and projected action in relation to certain Appropriation Bills all of which are relevant as being brought together in one debate. I restate what was then said. Senator Murphy said:
The Australian Labor Party has acted consistently in accordance with the tradition that we will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill or other financial measure whenever necessary to carry out our principles and policies.
That is what Senator Murphy said as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on 1 8 June 1 970.
– Not one newspaper has printed one word of it.
– But maybe, Senator Wright -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! I suggest that the introduction into this debate of future possibilities is out of order and is a subject matter of another debate rather than the debate on the Health Bill before the Senate at the moment. I realise there is a lot of scope in this debate.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, would you hear me in relation to the extent to which I can refer to these matters?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- As long as you can link your remarks to the Bill before the Senate you may continue. The debate gets a little too ragged otherwise.
– The case which I was putting is that the bona fides of the introduction of the Health Bill are related to the current political situation. It is my case to the Senate that the way in which we should regard the Bills, which were rejected last year, and in relation to which the Minister in charge of them has said in the other House that they are being reintroduced because, in effect, there is to be an election and we can look broader than one might normally look in that situation. I therefore wish to proceed but I shall have regard to any occasion when you, Mr Acting Deputy President, think I have exceeded your ruling.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Rae, as long as you appreciate my ruling you may proceed. I expect that you will respond to my ruling.
– On 18 June 1970 Senator Murphy also said:
The Opposition has done this over the years, and in order to illustrate the tradition which has been established, with the concurrence of honourable senators I shall incorporate in Hansard at the end of my speech a list of the measures of an economic or financial nature, including taxation and appropriation Bills. . . .
I emphasise the words ‘Appropriation Bills’- which have been opposed by this Opposition in whole or in part by a vote in the Senate since 1 950.
On page 265 1 of Hansard of 18 June 1970 there is set out every measure which was opposed or voted against by the ALP, including appropriation Bills, in this chamber from 1951 until 1970 when the debate on the Bill then under discussion took place. That anyone could have the hide to say that the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill is unprecedented is incredible. That anyone within the Australian Labor Party, within this present Government, could have the hide, after 168 occasions of such action of their part in the past 1 8 years, to say that the Opposition’s actions on this occasions are unprecedented is almost beyond credence. Perhaps they still expect that after the Gair affair we will continue to believe in leprechauns. If there was one person embarrassed by it it was the Prime Minister who said yesterday:
I remember that Senator Murphy tabled such a list in the Senate. 1 did not approve of him tabling it. I do not regard it as the Labor Party’s attitude.
The Prime Minister was referring to a tradition of action over 20 years in which the whole of the Labor Party in the Senate time and time again- 168 times- trooped across the chamber in unison to vote against measures such as this. The Prime Minister is obviously out of step with all members of his own Party in the Senate.
He said also- and I thought this was a gratuitous insult which hardly showed that the Government was acting cohesively-
I have not always agreed with Senator Murphy in the past and I did not at that time.
He then went on to make the significant statement -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Rae, I must insist that you debate the health Bill before the Senate at present. You have the right to debate it and to oppose it. Whilst it is true that you may be entitled to some latitude, if I might use that term loosely and broadly, that has been allowed in debates on this subject matter in the Senate, your remarks extend far and wide beyond the real issue before the Senate. I am sure that you will accede to my request that you do not go beyond the bounds of the Bill before the Senate at the moment. You are now introducing matters, in an anticipatory way, about what might happen in respect of other issues. I ask you to respect my wishes and confine yourself to the Bill which is in fact before the Senate now.
- Senator Rae has no argument against the Bill that is why he is deviating.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I do not need any help from my colleagues. I am sure that I can handle this matter by myself. I am sure that Senator Rae will respond in the manner which I have requested of him.
– At all times I wish to cooperate and I shall co-operate with whoever is in the chair. I indicated to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, the basis upon which I was putting my argument. You have now indicated to me that you think I have gone beyond what is reasonable. I shall leave the matter there. I shall return to make some comments which I think support the general points I am making about the bona fides of the Government in reintroducing this proposed legislation. In a document dated 20 March 1974, which is a document to which I referred some time ago and which no doubt is the cause of great embarrassment now to the Government, there is set out proposals for an alternative health scheme. The proposals were circulated by senior officers of the Government service who are denied, apparently, by the Minister. This document states:
The Minister is prepared to amend the present program to allow those who prefer private treatment to ‘opt out ‘ of the Government fund and to offset payments to private insurance funds against their liability for the health insurance levy. Specifically, this would mean . . .
Then is set out what it would mean. How can a government, having circulated a document like that as late as 20 March, come in and expect us to receive, with any feeling that it is acting bona fide, a scheme which is exactly the same as that which was rejected before and which even the Government was prepared to amend and alter in significant ways? How can we have any faith in the bona fides of the Government? Let me continue, though, in relation to the bona fides of the Government in relation to health; and I limit it to health. On 10 August 1973 the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, wrote a letter in relation to the operation of the health funds and the private hospital benefit tables which had been projected. He stated:
The basis on which I would be willing to consider the introduction of a private hospital table is that, insofar as special contributors are concerned, Government special account liability should be limited to the fund benefits payable under the existing table for private ward charges in public hospitals.
That made quite clear the basis upon which the Minister was prepared to vary the scheme and to introduce new private hospital tables. People, acting in the belief that the word of the Minister could be taken, proceeded to make significant alterations to comply with his requirements so that their proposition came within the conditions laid down. Those people again wrote a letter referring to the fact that the funds had, some time ago, put forward a proposal to cover the situation and that the relevant officers of the Minister’s Department had offered the opinion that the proposal was acceptable. They were therefore writing to inquire when some decision could be anticipated in the matter. That was the content of a letter written in December. By January the Minister replied. In a letter dated 1 1 January 1974 he stated:
As pointed out in your letter I have been concerned at the implications for the Special Account and although the further proposals submitted meet my condition -
I pause to emphasise the words- although the further proposals submitted meet my condition regarding the limitation of Special Account liability, there are other aspects of the requirements of the National Health Act which need consideration.
So 6 months after having led people to believe that they could act in a way and prepare a table and a proposal which would satisfy the Minister’s conditions, he was then prepared to say:
Although I recognise that you have completely met my conditions, I now impose new conditions’. Was he bona fide or was he finding excuses? The matter was taken further and the correspondence somewhat drearily proceeds; drearily from the point of view of anyone who believes that he might find action from this Government. One of the letters rather pathetically finishes: (n the light of the above information we sincerely hope that you will make an early decision to approve without any further qualifications the introduction of the private hospital tabic as being entirely consistent with the explicit recommendations of the Senate Select Committee -
Which all honourable senators will recall did a very good job in investigating the question of health and the health scheme- and compatible with the Nimmo Committee recommendations.
Then there is further correspondence again seeking some action out of this Minister. One of these letters states:
This is from the same association seeking some action from this Minister, a Minister who, as early as August last year, had set out the conditions under which he was prepared to agree to something. For 8 months thereafter he has shillyshallied and said: ‘Although people have met the conditions I imposed I now want to impose new conditions’. Having used fatuous arguments about the Nimmo Committee and having failed to have regard to the Senate Committee’s report the Minister simply does not act. But in what way does he eventually act? He called a secret meeting and later disowned entirely his senior public servants. Undoubtedly they acted with his knowledge and, one would say, undoubtedly with his acquiesence. We do not know whether they had his instructions. He disowned them and placed blame on them, which is a despicable action on the part of a Minister. He then refused to accede to a reasonable request from an association trying to improve the health scheme and to introduce a new table, although the conditions had been met. But what is the sole action which the Minister takes? He cynically reintroduced into this Parliament the same piece of legislation which was rejected last year, the same piece of legislation which he impliedly rejected when, early this year he went overseas for a month to try to find for himself a new scheme. In those circumstances is it any wonder that the Opposition will have some considerable pride in being able to retain its sense of propriety and say: ‘If you want a double dissolution and you want to include this Bill in your request, we shall certainly do our part in providing a double dissolution because we shall vote against the proposal’.
– I rise to support the Health Insurance Bill which has been submitted to this Senate by my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland. With him I share amusement at some of the assertions of Senator Rae. I have in my hand a document called ‘Health Insurance’. It is the report of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry dated March 1969. This is the famous Nimmo Committee report which has been referred to by other speakers. It is remarkable that since 1968 I can recall successive present Opposition honourable senators in the persons of, firstly, Senator Greenwood and later Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson being bombarded by Senator Douglas McClelland, myself and our colleagues about what the Government was going to do in relation to the Nimmo Committee’s findings. What were these findings? Mark you, this was not the Australian Labor Party which made these findings. It was a very high jurist. He stated:
There are a number of other recommendations. But every story has to have a beginning. This document was presented by command on 25 March 1969. It was ordered to be printed on 27 March 1 969. During the 1 969 election campaign the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, went right across this continent clamouring for reform. But what did we find? For a further 3 years the present Opposition which constituted the Government of that era was too timid to do anything. It was not that the then Government did not know that something was wrong. I can recall Senator Greenwood, when he was the Minister for Health, being extremely exasperated about the inability of himself and a fellow member of the Liberal Party, the forgetful, former New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr Jago, to reach agreement with the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd in New South Wales.
Senator Greenwood and Mr Jago were heartily sick of the HCF and the MBF in New South Wales because of the refusal of the funds to reach agreement. They were in dispute on a matter on which Senator Douglas McClelland and several others have harped. It was: Why are not members of private funds consulted on policy and on the dispersal of the massive reserves that funds accrue from time to time?
I dwell on that point because I am sick and tired of Opposition members bleating about rank and file control of trade unions. The Registrar of the Industrial Courts has far more control over trade unions than have the rank and file members of the HCF and the MBF over these funds. I know that Senator Greenwood at that stage was very anxious to adopt a more militant attitude to the funds. We prate about democracy. The thousands of members of the HCF and the MBF in New South Wales and their counterparts in other States must belong to a fund to get anything. Let us get away from this rubbish about compulsion. It was the Liberal Party in the 1950s which insisted that, although we were taxpayers, we did not get a cracker unless we belonged to a fund. Let us get away from this rubbish about compulsion. Having joined a fund, a member has no rights. I have no right, neither has any other individual, because I am subject to superbureaucrats such as Mr Cade and Mr Turner. Why would they not defend their rights? They are on $25,000 a year. They are not accountable to anybody. People talk about the rank and file members.
I remember the famous occasion when 2 Liberals, the State Minister, Mr Jago, and Senator Greenwood, and his successor Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, could not reach agreement with the funds. Were the members of the funds ever consulted? If Senator Greenwood were honest about the matter, he would say no. One day in the corridor he admitted to me that he was displeased with the funds. From the time that he was the Minister for Health until the advent of a Labor government the previous Government did nothing to curb the funds. It was in a cleft stick. But there is a little hope left in the world. I notice that the maverick Opposition Shadow Minister, Mr Chipp, agrees that things are wrong. But a hell of a lot of members opposite say that things are all right. I have no quarrel with the Australian Medical Association. I think that my adversary who will speak later, Senator Carrick, would agree, but I intend persuing my vendetta against these bureaucrats of the HCF and the MBF. I will challenge any senator to deny that if an Australian travelling overseas has an accident or an illness, unless he goes to an M.P. he will have a great old fight to get justice from the HCF or the MBF.
I digress for a moment to say that this criticism is not levelled at some of the smaller funds. I know that on the coalfields of New South Wales and elsewhere in other States certain funds are exemplary in relation to rank and file control. I do not speak idly on this matter. I know that in the 1950s there were small railway funds such as the Chullora railway boiler shop benevolent fund and other funds which people might scorn. They had 400 or perhaps 1,000 members. When there was a case which did not quite meet the standing orders of the fund there was a mass meeting, and the matter was thrashed out. All I ask is that if these funds have reserves, there should be a postal vote by members to decide whether say $5m of a reserve of $7m should be fed back to stabilise or even reduce premiums. But members are never consulted. Some of the board members of the funds in New South Wales have had to take court action to get some adjustment. This reminds me of a story about Nye Bevan. He started off in a small Welsh mining village. He was always trying to find where the power was. Even when he was elected to the House of Commons he said that he doubted where it was.
I compare his position with my position. In 1953-54 1 had a vote in a small railway sick fund whenever a matter had to be adjudicated. I am a senator now, but I know that I can never get satisfaction when I take up cases with the HCF or the MBF as a member. But on occasions, with Senator Douglas McClelland and other senators, when we go to the present much maligned Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, we win some cases. Not everyone goes to his senator or House of Representatives member for justice. I fully expect Senator Rae, Senator Withers and perhaps Senator Carrick to offer reasonable criticism where they think that what we want is excessive. But surely honourable senators opposite should come up with alternatives. What is the only alternative? Senator Little who, I notice, is in the chamber introduced a Bill. The whole emphasis of his Bill was on the 1 3 per cent of people who were regarded as being under the poverty line and on what he considered were injustices to members of the AMA. Other speakers can deal with these 2 facets of Senator Little’s Bill. If Senator McManus were here he would recall that in early January he sent a letter to the national Press on what he called the Hayden Bill. The whole emphasis of the letter was on the rights of the AMA. There was not a word about the fund members.
Some honourable senators will say that I have an obsession about the matter. If I have it is because my files show that the beef of most people is about the inadequacies of the funds and this idea that perhaps Mr Cade and Mr Turner treat members like privates in the British Army were treated at the time of the Crimean War. It was not for a private to reason why; he was just cannon fodder. But in 1974 members are entitled to get explanations. I know that many of these cases are quite simple. There is a schedule. Somebody has an ailment, and it rests with the doctor to diagnose it. I am not questioning the diagnosis, but If it is one of those in-between complaints that is not in the refund schedule, one cannot be sure how much he will receive in reimbursement. Even if it is 70 per cent, that is a far cry from what was envisaged by the illustrious and late Sir Earle Page who proposed that everyone would get a 90 per cent refund. It is the uncertainty which is causing complaints. Whatever honourable senators opposite might say about the ambit of our scheme, the plain fact is that people can be in a fund for a long time- most people have a very tight budget- before they discover that they are up for 20 per cent or perhaps more of a particular medical or hospital cost. Then their budget goes haywire. The say: ‘Well, we are compelled to join a fund’.
In all the debates that we have had on this matter over the years I have waited in vain for the Opposition to concede that subscribers have no rights. The Opposition never denies it. The Opposition speaks in favour of the fund bureaucrats and the doctors. I am here to speak on behalf of the patients, the people who are compelled to join a fund. The funds have never offered anything. Many doctors are good friends of mine. I have said to them: ‘We are not arguing with you, but we say that it is time that the AMA had a look at the rights of patients’. I refer particularly to the infamous Dr Arnold who pontificates on television. If any criticism can be levelled at Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, and to a lesser degree Dr Everingham and some of the other illustrious members of the House of Representatives- Dr Klugman and Dr Gun- it is that they have gone around the highways and byways not looking for trouble but saying in simple language that the scheme does not measure up.
It is all very well for people to talk about the millions which have been expended. Successive governments in Britain, whether they were tory or Labour, have not disturbed the structure of the British health scheme. Of course you can make modifications. Only a fool would say that what was espoused 5 years ago should not be revised. That is why I took up Senator Rae’s point. In deference to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I refrained from interjecting. Honourable senators opposite say that Mr Hayden has made certain revisions. I know that Senator Rae has had some experience in the industrial field. We talk about collective bargaining. We have honestly tried to meet legitimate objections, but at no stage have the funds ever admitted that there are excesses and that they are authoritarian. Whether we like it or not, most countries have a national health system. As a result, there should be reciprocal agreements. It is not very unusual these days for people of various ages to go overseas. If while they are overseas they suffer an injury or an ailment they have a fight on their hands in trying to obtain reimbursement of their medical expenses from many of the major health funds. I repeat that some of the small health funds could not be faulted on their democracy.
The Government is sick and tired of honourable senators opposite sniping at it and not offering alternatives. About 3.5 years ago- I thank Senator Davidson for nodding to indicate that that is right- I went to Europe with Senator Davidson, Senator Byrne and a few other people. I purposely interviewed the Belgium Government because, although Belgium has had all sorts of political parties in government, it, like most of the middle European countries, has had a comprehensive system of national health insurance for many years. At the time I made that visit Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Minister for Health. I brought back with me a 10-page document, and I brought it back for a particular reason. Australia is a very vast country, and I have never accepted the fact that every decision must be made in Canberra. I have always believed in regional administration. The Belgium Government assured me that it had regional authorities to arbitrate and to make decisions in the schisms such as one gets between the Walloons and the Flemings. After all, we are Australians and do not have such disputes.
I produced this 10-page document. I gave it to the then Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. He said that he would have the document translated and he thought that in view of what I had said there would be some merit in it. That document has never been produced since. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is a nice senator and a very gentlemanly man. But my local member, the former Prime Minister, Mr William McMahon, and people like him think that Mr Cade and Mr Turner are God Almightly. I do not; I think they are overpaid bureaucrats. It is in the area of the excesses of the medical funds that I argue. Honourable senators opposite might say to me: ‘We are prepared to make modifications. But I want to get away from this whole attitude of taking into consideration what the Australian Medical Association wants and what the bureaucrats of the HCF and MBF want.
Even the system that the Opposition is espousing involves mass meetings and postal votes if a decision has to be made. If it is found that the funds have been up to some funny business, let us bring it out into the open. It is for this purpose that I want tribunals set up. On the last occasion on which the Estimates Committees sat I was Chairman of Estimates Committee C which inquired into the estimates for the Department of Health. Far be it from me to put a Commonwealth public servant on the grill, but from the evidence that was given and from the demeanour of the witnesses, I have no doubt that many people are constantly complaining about the mistakes made by the medical profession and, what is much more important, about the takeitorleaveit attitude of the funds. I intend to hammer this matter again and again.
As a matter of fact, there is a report in this morning ‘s ‘ Sydney Morning Herald ‘ which came to my notice. The report may have emanated from some document that leaked out, but it is concerned with the new health policy of the Liberal Party. The article is headed: ‘Compulsion in Liberals’ Health Plan’. The report mentions a few other adjustments to the Liberal health plan. I say to Liberal Party senators that the fact that they are not answering the criticism of the faults of the present health system is, in my book, the Liberal Party’s soft underbelly in the health field. They are in a jam. The Opposition does not want to offend the HCF and the MBF because these funds act as its indirect propagandists, and that is the reason the Opposition is pulling its punches in relation to these funds. I defy any honourable senator opposite, or any of my colleagues on this side of the chamber for that matter, to say that people do not complain about being short-changed by the health insurance funds. That is the whole problem we have at the moment.
Until we pioneered our health insurance scheme the Opposition parties were prepared to let things drift along. The Opposition was critical of our scheme. It talked about playing politics. With the increasing cost of drugs and kindred services, the Australian Government, which is virtually the Australian taxpayer, has had to pay bigger subsidies so that this ramshackle system will work. If it is the intention of the Opposition to take away the bulk of the revenue that comes from taxation, why should we, in effect, include the free-riders- that is, the bureaucrats- in these funds? I wish to make one other point. Mr Hayden has made it abundantly clear that the several funds which operate at the moment will, under our scheme, become part of one government fund. It should be remembered that the jobs of the people employed by the existing funds are not on the line.
Let me return to the Nimmo report, where I started. Never mind what the Labor Party is putting up; one only has to look at the findings of the Nimmo Committee. Its first recommendation, which appears on page 9 of the report, states:
That the administration of the health insurance scheme be transferred from the Commonwealth Department of Health to a National Health Insurance Commission of five members.
The pregnant sentence which honourable senators opposite have never had the courage to supportand I throw the challenge to Senator Carrick to make some comment about this during the course of his remarks- appears a little further on in the first recommendation, and it reads: a person to represent the interests of contributors and patients.
What a great day it would be when Mr Cade, Mr Turner and these other people who have sponged on the subscribers to health funds had to account for their administration. The crying shame about this is that this document was produced 3 years before the Liberal-Country Party Government was voted out of office. Honourable senators opposite say: ‘Oh well, we are the Liberal Party. We try to get the best of the 2 worlds.’ I say that the Opposition was gutless in dealing with the funds.
The Opposition knows how all these funds squander the subscribers’ money. My eminent leader, Senator Murphy, has said to me repeatedly that this matter is in a sort of legal no-man’s land. Maybe some of the State governments, including the Askin Government in New South Wales, could have dealt with these funds. But one finds that one of the funds bought a light aircraft to fly around New South Wales. God knows why it purchased that aircraft, but it did. When the aircraft got smashed up the fund never bought another one. So it could not have been necessary in the first instance. This is the sort of skulduggery that goes on. I am not cavilling at the medical profession. I simply wish to address a few remarks to the medical profession since it did choose to come into the fight. Our system gives doctors more leisure. They can have more time for relaxation and are much better when they go into the operating theatre. But if, on the other hand, they want more salary, they should not squeal if they have to work excessive hours. In spite of all the criticism that has been levelled at my eminent colleague, Mr Bill Hayden, the fact is that this Government has fed several millions of dollars into an emergency plan to train more general practitioners. So let us be fair. We should not be snarly and argumentative about this matter.
Let me return to the Nimmo report. I could have spent as long as did Senator Rae in quoting from this document but I did not do so in deference to other honourable senators who wish to speak in this debate. The Nimmo report is not the Australian Labor Party’s platform. As I say, it is the report of a committee that was set up by a former government. This report simply contains the findings of the committee. The Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland and I- I can also include you, Mr Acting Deputy President- were made aware of the imperfections of these funds when we served on the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.
The health insurance funds got a Shylock complex in relation to their reserves. They did not want to unlock them. This is the whole attitude of the funds. I would not mind if the previous Government had adopted some of the recommendations contained in the Nimmo report. Some of my colleagues will probably tear me to pieces for saying this, but I believe that had Senator Greenwood remained as Minister for Health- I say this even though I violently differ with him on foreign policy and civil liberties- he might have taken out the stick on the health funds. I report that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is a man of peace, but I have never believed that the meek inherit the earth, particularly when what is involved is obtaining something for the public interest.
I repeat- I say it over and over again- that if the people who administer these health funds intend to divert the reserves of the funds into the next election campaign, we will go out on the hustings and defeat them on this issue. I know that both Mr Cade and Mr Turner have an obsession about my criticism of them. I would make the same criticism of them outside the Parliament. In fact, if I ever meet Mr Cade outside the Parliament I will ram this report down his throat, because he is one on the people who has denied democracy to the people of Australia. He is one of the people who has denied justice to many people.
I have mentioned before in this place the Bekovich case, but I did not mention the case until the woman involved received justice. The medical fund to which she belonged did not want to reimburse her for the medical expenses she incurred after she had the misfortune of being involved in a motor accident in the United States. She had to wait for 3 years for her money because of litigation. The rotten fund in New South Wales to which she belonged wanted to hold up the payment of money to that woman who never thought that she would be able to walk again. These are the sort of people that honourable senators opposite defend- the infamous Mr Cade and the infamous Mr Turner. While I have breath in my body, I will get up and expose these sorts of people.
– Ha, ha!
-I do not know whether Senator Sim is devoid of any humanity, but he and some of his friends are very interested in criticising the Jewish community on foreign policy. But I what to get right back to -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Order! I have tried to follow the honourable senator’s argument. I think that in a way it has been linked to the cognate debate on the Bills before the Senate, but I must say that the honourable senator is beginning to lose me now. I ask him to link his remarks directly to the cognate debate on the 2 Bills that have been introduced by the Minister. I do not wish to take up the honourable senator’s speaking time but I say this so that it will be understood by honourable senators on both sides of the Senate that the subject matter before the Senate is the cognate debate on the 2 Bills. That is the matter to which honourable senators will direct their remarks.
– I commenced my speech by stating that as a Government we have sought to introduce certain reforms in the health field. I sincerely believe that there is an obligation on the Opposition to offer alternative proposals. Opposition speakers, in this debate and in previous debates- I include Senator Little who I know is anxious to enter the debate- have had a fixation about the rights of the Australian Medical Association and about whether the vested interests of the medical benefit funds were involved. I simply say that the Government is making an endeavour, in the light of the criticisms made by Mr Justice Nimmo in his report, to reform the health system. All major countries- I include Great Britain but exclude the United States of America- have adopted a national health system. I do not question the many millions of dollars that can be spent on health. The United States of America is an example of this. The plain fact of the matter is that value has to be obtained for every dollar that is spent.
The whole purpose of the Government has been to try to reform the shortcomings in the existing health scheme that were shown up in the report produced in March 1969. The Opposition parties have a greater number in the Senate than has the Government Party. I think that they would be serving democracy and the little people in the community if they offered constructive proposals and did not become the lackeys of the vested interests that are the free riders under the present system.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I found that while Senator Mulvihill was speaking I had the difficulty that apparently you had in attempting to tie up his remarks to these 2 Bills. He made a biblical quotation about the meek inheriting the earth, and I certainly gained a very interesting picture of Senator Mulvihill ramming a copy of the Nimmo report down the throat of some poor fellow. The picture that I have had of the honourable senator for the last 24 hours has been that of some members of the Government Party ramming ballot papers down Senator Mulvihill’s throat because I believe that there is a chance of his name being put in the first position on the Australian Labor Party Senate team ticket in New South Wales. That is to his great credit because that is an excellent thing to have achieved.
I think that the honourable senator was unfair in speaking harshly of the 2 gentlemen he named, gentlemen I have not met. I know that he is anxious to make statements outside the Parliament and to state that these men are super bureaucrats who receive $25,000 a year. The honourable senator might be interested to know the affairs of some of the leading unionists in Victoria. According to evidence given in court cases that are currently proceeding, they are pulling $40,000 a year out of union funds. Such union officials apparently would not fall into the same category as the officials of the various health funds throughout Australia whom the honourable senator criticised.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Webster, I would expect you to assist me while I am in the Chair. Incidentally I must have missed out because I was a union secretary in’ Victoria and quite frankly I never enjoyed that type of salary. However, I ask the honourable senator, as I have done earlier, to confine his remarks to the subject matter before the Chair. I know that the honourable senator is capable of doing that.
– I am offering information that is of use to all of us. I do not doubt that the information that I have given ties up very well with the general proposition of health insurance. At the present time the Senate has before it 2 health Bills. One is called the Health Insurance Bill and the other one is called the Health Insurance Commission Bill. The second Bill sets out the functions of the proposed Commission, together with the terms of appointment and the termination of tenure of the Commissioners. Apparently, that is one of the parts of the general structure of a proposed Labor Government health scheme for Australia. The other Bill, the Health Insurance Bill, which is of much greater importance, is a very large document containing 152 pages. It has 45 pages devoted to setting out the substance of what the Labor Party would hope to be a part of the health insurance scheme for the citizens of Australia. There appears to me to be great wisdom in the Opposition prompting the minds of honourable senators on whether this is the type of legislation that the Labor Party wants in regard to a health insurance scheme.
Some doubts are cast in the minds of members of the Opposition by the Bills that have been brought into the Parliament in the first year of office of the Labor Government. Perhaps I should not commence by dealing with the Bills but by dealing with some of the declarations in relation to divorce made by Senator Murphy in the early part of his reign as Attorney-General. He introduced certain regulations that were to be the whole basis of divorce law. Finally, he gave them away altogether and after a 12 months period decided that he would introduce a Family Law Bill. After stating that he hoped that the Senate would pass it, he again looked at the Bill and introduced another Bill completely different from that which had been introduced previously. Again, in relation to trade practices -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Webster, I must ask you to speak to the subject matter before the Senate. This is not the first occasion on which I have said this. I have also stated before that I am reluctant to intervene on the speaking time of an honourable senator, but the honourable senator must concede that to introduce these other matters of family law and trade practices is going very wide of the mark and the subject matter before the Senate. I know that much latitude is usually extended to an honourable senator. I would expect you to assist rather than to make more difficult the management of the affairs of the Senate. I look forward to you to help me by coming back to the subject matter before the chair.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I am afraid that I cannot agree with you on this point. You must see that the matters that I have raised are very relevant to what we are discussing. The Senate has before it a Bill which the Australian Labor Party threw away months ago. It introduced the Bill last year and then threw it away. It then reintroduced the Bill into the Senate in exactly the same form in which it was previously rejected. I am pointing out to the Senate that in relation to family law, the Government introduced Bills which were useless, threw them out and introduced new ones. The Government introduced a Trade Practices Bill, but then made 109 amendments to it. Here is a Bill which was introduced in 1973. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) declared that it had foundered on the rock of the Senate. It was completely disowned by the Government, but again it is introduced into the Senate in identical form. Mr Acting Deputy President, if you do not see that these remarks tie up the fact that this is the type of Bill that we are receiving from the Labor Government today, I am very surprised.
I am sure that all of my colleagues see the point I am making. They see that the Bill has been brought back into the Senate to enable the Government to say to the people of Australia after tomorrow: ‘This is the type of health legislation which the Senate once rejected. We introduced the legislation again and the Senate rejected it again. What are we to do with this marvellous concept that we have in relation to health insurance for the people of Australia? Surely we have a right to be returned at this general election that is to be held on 1 1 May or 18 May’ Mr Acting Deputy President, I make this point because it concerns me greatly that you are not able to see that it is relevant to indicate that this Bill, once disowned by the Government, has been reintroduced without a second thought being given to amending it. Even though after it was rejected the Government decided to send the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to Canada. Mr Hayden must have done something over there, but he has not placed one thing on record as to whether the Canadian health scheme was the ultimate for this country.
– Have you read what he said in his second reading speech?
-Senator Douglas McClelland, who, I acknowledge, apparently is to get a place on the ticket inferior to that -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder!
- Mr Acting Deputy President, the Minister interjects on what I am saying, and it is a fair comment -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I propose to deal with the Minister, too, if he intervenes again.
-There is no doubt that whatever the Minister for Social Security did in Canada, he did not bring back one iota of wisdom to use in varying the scheme that he had here.
– He was more convinced in his own.
– He was convinced, apparently, that there was nothing overseas to better the scheme which Labor had put forward and which had been rejected by one of the Houses of the Parliament. So now we have these 2 health Bills before us today. By no means has this Senate been given an indication of what the Labor health plans are. We are left entirely in the air as to what Labor’s health scheme is because the Minister for the Media, in his second reading speech, said:
I should mention that while the Health Insurance Bill is the main legislative instrument for the introduction of the Government’s health insurance program it is the Government’s intention that complementary legislation concerning such matters as the scope and operation of private health insurance and the introduction of levies on taxable income and on motor vehicle third party and workers compensation insurance will be introduced at a later date. We will also, I repeat, introduce complementary legislation on the subject of the protection of privacy in health insurance operations.
We have it put to us, as a Senate, that we are being given a complete health scheme. We have the Minister’s promise, which was given to us when this matter was debated previously on 12 December 1973. On that occasion the Minister for the Media, in his capacity as the Minister in this chamber representing the Minister for Social Security, 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.
According to Mr Whitlam today, the autumn sittings are getting pretty short, and I think that it does no justice to the Senate to have the Minister bring forward 2 Bills and say: ‘Debate those. We want to get your acceptance or otherwise of those measures. But we have got four or five other ones that form a basic part of our health insurance scheme, but we will not tell you about those. We promised you those in the autumn session, but we are not going to bring them forward’. I think that there is a great criticism of this legislation just on that basis. I believe that the Health Insurance Bill 1973, which, in 1974, we are debating for a second time, is the socialist health program of the Labor Government. The Minister in his second reading speech on this occasionand I take it that he wishes this view to be conveyed to the people in the old hackneyed phrase about what Labor has a mandate to do- stated:
We are putting this Bill once more before the Senate because the introduction of an equitable and efficient health insurance program covering all Australians was one of our major election promises and one which was clearly approved by the electorate.
Further on in his speech he said:
All of the deceit and distortion which has been injected into the community debate on our health insurance proposals cannot alter the fact that this Government came into office with a clear mandate for its program.
– Hear, hear!
-The senator from Victoria says ‘Hear, hear’. I have wondered what this mandate is. I have attempted to question in my own mind whether the speech of the Prime Minister in relation to health in actual fact gave the Labor Party a mandate for this proposal. I would be most anxious to agree with the Government’s proposal if a promise that the Government had made to the public was to be fulfilled. That then would constitute something which the Government must carry out; it would be a promise which must be honoured. But I find that the Labor Party has acted in so many areas without giving any promise to the electorate. How is the electorate to take the statement that this health scheme was promised to the electorate, so it must be put into action?
– Are you seriously suggesting it did not?
-Does that mean that the Government did not have a mandate for taking action in regard to other matters? I am sure that that will appeal to Senator Gietzelt. Did the Government have a mandate to introduce rampant inflation into Australia? I am sure that it did not. The Government in its policy speech did not tell the Australian people that there was going to be an annual rate of inflation of 14 per cent in Australia. Was that a part of the electoral mandate that the Government claims, or did it just think that up on the way? I think that this health Bill has just been thought up on the way. Did the
Government in its policy speech say to the public that it was going to eliminate the superphosphate bounty?
– We said we would have a reallocation of resources.
-The Government said that it would have a reallocation of resources all right, but it did not say it in relation to that matter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Webster, superphosphate is a little wide of health care.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I realise that this is the third occasion on which you have found it necessary to prompt me, and I am quite happy if that is what is intended, but you must realise that I am tying in what I am saying with the statements made by the Minister. Did the Labor Party promise the Australian people that it would introduce this Bill? Did it promise the Australian people that it would increase interest rates to the highest level they have ever reached in Australia? No, it did not. It certainly increased interest rates, but I am certain that there was no mandate for that. Did the Government indicate that it was going to increase building costs to the highest level they have ever reached? They have increased probably by 26 per cent this last year. That was not a mandate. But the Minister in his second reading speech on the Health Insurance Bill said, in effect: ‘We have a mandate to bring in this particular socialist philosophy that we have here’. One could refer to so many matters. The Government did not tell the electorate that when it came into office it was going to fiddle with the electoral boundaries. Those mandates were not handed to the Labor Party, and neither was a mandate for this health insurance scheme, when it was first devised, handed to the Labor Party. I agree that this health scheme is in line with Labor socialist philosophy. The philosophy of the Labor Party is to socialise the delivery of health service in this community.
– What is your philosophy?
-Senator Gietzelt, you interrupt me. You would be one of the greatest socialists in the Labor Party. How near to the Left you are one would not like to say.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Webster, will you please speak through the Chair, and Senator Gietzelt, will you refrain from making these constant interjections because they do not serve any purpose, and I make that clear. If you have an opportunity to speak in this debate you will be guaranteed the same protection as Senator Webster is being afforded.
– I was making the point that the proposals of the Labor Party are a significant change from the present method of delivery of a health service. Again, we did not hear from the Minister for Social Security, when he returned from his visit to Canada, any criticism in depth of the present medical scheme that we have, which, incidentally, is viewed as being one of the best in the world. Honourable senators on the Government side may laugh. It may have faults but there is not one proposal that does not need amendment. I do not doubt that if we passed a trade practices Bill we would find in 3 months time that it would need 109 amendments. There is no need to laugh about this matter. Much wise thought has been given to this proposition and it has been amended, but we have a scheme. A complete alteration of the present scheme to this Government controlled scheme is not in the interests of the consumers of a health program in the community.
– How much has the AMA put into your Party funds?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- Senator Gietzelt, my patience is being tested. I will not say any more than that at this stage. Senator Webster, will you address the Chair, please.
– He is a good example as a Deputy President. He is wandering all over the place like a lost sheep.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
-That is not as bad as wandering all over the place like a lost fowl, as we find with some members of this Senate. I was making the point, Mr Acting Deputy President, that a socialist scheme is being proposed. Perhaps there may be no harm in applying that word to it. We note that Mr Hayden, in his earlier days, uttered these words- and I quote what he said 12 months ago:
Labor is a socialist Party and its aim, as Tar as medical care is concerned, is Tor the establishment of public enterprise.
We see that that philosophy has been followed through in the present proposed scheme. I object, as one who sees that we need some freedom in the community. I do not agree that we get the best administration by total control, total single control, by a government instrumentality. I agree with the Labor Party that on many occasions total monopolisation in the community is bad, but total monopolisation by Government control is probably worse. Mr Hayden indicated the philosophy and it has been applied in these Bills.
Public enterprise is proposed by the Labor Party in many facets of our life today. I see it within Canberra. It is romping away in many areas to the disadvantage of the community in Canberra. One could divert onto that subject. I would like to divert to it, Mr Acting Deputy President, if you were not shaking your head, to indicate the depths of despair being felt as a result of the socialisation of the building industry in Canberra. The same thing will occur in this sphere. We have a situation here that can be likened to what would occur in the health field if these Bills were to be passed. We have heard promises made today in relation to the value of land. This is pertinent to these Bills if we look at the costs that will be incurred by measures such as these. Various Labor Ministers for the Capital Territory have said that the Government was going to reduce the price of land by Government control.
– I take a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- I do not propose to accept any point of order. I want to make one point very clear. I have asked you, Senator Webster, to concentrate your remarks on the subject matter before the Chair and I would appreciate you responding to my request. I have asked those honourable senators on my right who support the Government to desist from this constant interjecting which does not -
– It is laughable.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator McAuliffe!
– Yes. I think it is humorous.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Well, I do not.
-Well, I do.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Well, you had better recast your thinking on that matter. I do not.
- Mr Chairman -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Just a moment. I am on my feet. Do you understand the Standing Orders?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You will retain your seat. I am simply addressing both sides of the House. This evening there is a cognate debate on these 2 Bills relating to health. I have allowed a certain amount of latitude because after assuming the Chair I had no alternative. What I say is no reflection on whoever happened to occupy the Chair before me because a certain degree of latitude is allowed in the course of debate. I have attempted, with some tolerance, to control the debate to a degree so that the honourable senator on his feet speaking is given the opportunity of addressing himself to the subject matter before the Chair and so that he can be heard without constant irritating interjections. I repeat that I am not concerned about the side of the chamber on which this happens. Speakers from both sides will be protected as far as I am concerned while 1 occupy this Chair. I call on Senator Webster to respond to my request and for honourable senators on my right to do likewise.
– I want to raise a point of order. You have made a general assertion about senators on your right. I have not interjected once this evening. For the sake of the Hansard record 1 would like you to exclude me from that generalisation. I have not made an interjection this evening. From your remarks there is a reflection that I may be one of the interjectors.
– Speaking to the point of order, I do not think it can be construed that because a person occupying the Chair speaks of gentlemen on the right it means all the gentlemen on the right. It means a number of gentlemen who may have interjected. I do not think there is any substance to the point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Let me make it very, very clear. There are 2 ways of interrupting a debate. One technique that can be employed to deprive a senator of the time allotted to him for his speech is by interjection and another is by audible conversation which amounts to much the same thing, although there is a minor variation if you want to be technical about it. I did not name anybody on my right. I simply said that there was constant interjection. If the cap happened to fit you, Senator McAuliffe, I apologise to you.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I resent the remarks -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Do you wish to take a point of order?
– You said that if the cap fits, it fits me. That is the remark. Again I want it on the record -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Do you wish to take a point of order?
– My point of order is that I have not interjected this evening, nor have I caused any disruption to Senator Webster’s speech. You generalised and in so doing included me in those remarks from the Chair.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I shall make only one more comment. I will try to repeat as faithfully as I can what I said a moment ago. There are 2 ways in which one can interrupt the senator who is on his feet and that is by constant interjection or by audible conversation which has much the same effect. I said that if the cap fits you wear it. I did not name you. I now call on Senator Webster to complete bis remarks.
– In the intervening time I have lost my chain of thought.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I ask you please to respond to my request.
– I am most anxious to fit in with the view that you take. I do not accept that the points I have been referring to are not relevant to these Bills. I had been putting a point in relation to building in Canberra. It is most relevant to consider the costs of socialised building and what will flow in regard to the cost of hospitals in this community if this type of scheme is passed. If people cannot understand how the cost of a simple building in Canberra can escalate from $18,000 to $28,000 in 12 months of Labor administration, I say that that is the picture they must expect to find under socialist administration. It cannot be refuted. And if that escalation is to be transmitted to hospitals and welfare costs we will find that the money is not being spent where it should be spent. In deference to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I will speak on other matters. But what I have said does relate to what we may find if this type of scheme is followed in other areas.
Once previously I have had the pleasure of quoting from a comment that was made by a reporter on ‘This Day Tonight’ when interviewing a Dr Geiringer, whom I do not know, but who apparently is a Minister in New Zealand. He said:
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 perhaps15 per cent of the population has opted for medical insurance- the only way of guaranteeing elective hospitalisation.
It is quite evident that if we are to pursue a Bill such as this and if we are to accept the socialist schemes of Labor as indicated in the Minister’s second reading speech, we will enter upon an era of government control of the medical profession, of government control of private hospitals and government control of the whole ambit of the delivery of health benefit in this community. I am opposed to it and I hope that it never comes into this community.
– The Australian people are not opposed to it.
– I wonder whether the Australian people have not had the wool pulled over their eyes. I regret, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I have been diverted. The honourable senator opposite prompts me to demonstrate the many ways in which Labor has pulled the wool over the people’s eyes. Suffice it to say that we have seen it in the last few days in this chamber in the remarks of Senator Murphy and the Prime Minister about Senator Gair losing his office on 14 March. Perhaps it would be as well not to go into those things. But there is one associated with this Bill in relation to which the wool has been pulled over the public eyes. Since we debated this Bill on 12 December 1973 not one Ministerand I say it advisedly- has had the honesty to explain to the public what the contribution of 1.35 per cent means as a cost to the average wage or income earner.
– That is entirely true.
– I wonder whether the Minister at the table, the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), would say that it is entirely true. Will he be bold enough to reply to the questions that were raised in debate on 12 December 1973 when the Government was asked very forcefully: ‘What does this cost actually mean to the public?’ It was put at that stage that it was not a taxation deduction. My recollection of a point that I made was that an individual who earned between $6,000 and $7,000 would find that he was paying for this new medical scheme what it cost him at present, except for the fact that he now gets a taxation deduction for his contribution of $100. In many instances that would mean probably the equivalent of a refund of $30 or $40.
– What about the thousands under the $6,000 or $7,000?
-Here we have my farmer friend from the western district challenging me to speak of the brilliance of his leadership in that field. It would be better if the honourable senator did not interrupt but let me deal with the
Health Bill. Let me ask Senator Douglas McClelland whether he will answer that question. Will he get his advisers to give him the truth as to the cost of this medical scheme in terms of a cash contribution by the average working man. The Minister’s second reading speech, I think, says that it will be cheaper for most citizens. I challenge the comment. I believe that it will be more expensive, and I wish the Government would be honest about it. Perhaps the 1.35 per cent contribution will be the equivalent of the contribution now paid by many in the lower “ income bracket and that those earning more than $7,000 will pay more. That is something that one might recognise. I ask the Minister for the Media whether he will please explain to the Senate whether in the calculations that have been made or in the statements that have been made to the House he can point out to us something to indicate what is the effect of the non-tax deductibility of the commitment of 1.35 per cent. I hope that other speakers on the Opposition side will echo that point. May I say that Senator Little was one of the first in this chamber to raise this matter. He asked the Minister for the Media who represents the Minister for Health, on seven or eight occasions at question time to answer this question. If someone calls across the chamber ‘Be honest’, I say to Labor ‘What about being honest on this particular matter? Tell us what it is really going to cost’.
– What is your policy?
-The senator breaks in to divert me. The honourable senator has never taken any interest in trying to help the worker on this matter.
– That is what the Government is about.
-Of course, that is what the honourable senator is about. But he is not interested in this point. If the Bill happened to go through, the average worker would be paying more for his health insurance than he pays under the present system.
– Have you not seen the leak from the Liberal Party’s policy?
-No, I have not. I was too busy reading the leaks from the Labor Party. Mr Acting Deputy President, I made the point that this Bill had come in again after having been thrown out by the Prime Minister. I have before me a copy of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 18 January. I imagine that it is a true comment. It is headed ‘PM Shelves Health Scheme. Foundered on the rock of the Senate ‘. I quote:
The Federal Government would look at other ways of financing health services, particularly public hospitals’, the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said today.
Our plans have foundered-at least temporarily- on the rock of the Senate”.
There are other comments here by the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, about salvage moves on health. But we are led to believe that this Bill that is in front of us and which this Senate looked at in December 1 973 was one which the Labor Government had adopted as the ultimate for its health program. Perhaps the Government slipped this Bill into the Senate yesterday so that if there was a double dissolution it would be able to say again: ‘The Senate has rejected our health Bill for which we had a mandate at the last election’. The point was made by Senator Rae that apparently it is public knowledge that on 27 March- which is not so very long ago, I do not know how many days it was before Senator Gair put in his resignation- a meeting was held in Melbourne with the full authority of the Minister for Social Security to see whether some agreement could be reached to alter this Bill which had foundered. One could canvass the whole matter. In fact I have several pages of notes relating to the suggestion of what took place at the time. The Minister has indicated that 3 people were present. He knew all about the meeting. But 12 people were present. The Minister has not made clear how many people were present. A great deal of publicity was given to the discussion of this matter by Dr Deeble and Mr Corrigan, apparently with the Minister’s approval. It was hoped to get some agreement on variations.
This type of health scheme is not for the good of the Australian community. If someone’s aim is total socialism he can say that the objective of the present Government is to gain complete Government control of the medical sphere, complete control and employment of all doctors in the community and complete control by Canberra of public and private hospitals with State functions gradually being eliminated. This objective can go further into the recuperative and geriatric areas where I imagine this centralist Government wishes to achieve total control. I am opposed to it and I believe most members of the public are opposed to it. I believe that as much as Labor is making its first flurries by this particular Bill the Senate will reject it, if not this evening, on the very earliest occasion.
– Under standing order 364 I ask that Senator Webster table the documents from which he has quoted in relation to the meeting held in Melbourne.
– I table the documents I have used in my speech this evening
-The Bill before the Senate has been discussed before and it was not thought we would discuss it again. The introduction of it is purely a political gimmick because the Government wishes to discuss in an election campaign a myth of free medicine. The Government had no intention of re-introducing the Bill in this form. There is substantial evidence of that in the community. This is not surprising because the Bill in its present form was first introduced- as I said on a previous occasion- in circumstances that gave it no possible hope of acceptance by the skilled professions in the industry which is involved. The doctors were abused. Most immoderate language was used by the Minister in describing the doctors merely because they wanted to have their say and express their opinions on what this type of program would do to the quality of medical health services in this country. The National Standing Committee of Private Hospitals was placed in a similar category. Indeed there is evidence that the Government tried to seek better beginnings for any future ideas after the first Bill had been rejected by the Senate. But that was not the reason for the abandonment of the scheme.
The Government had begun to see the sense of many of the arguments produced by the people whose hostility it had aroused. I refer to the skilled professions in the industry whose cooperation had to be obtained to make a success of any health service in this country. The original scheme had been completely unacceptable to that section of the community. It is not sufficient to produce a health scheme that is acceptable to the patients of this nation without having the cooperation of the skilled practitioners who provide the health services. What would happen if plumbers had to work to a certain system or standard and they did not agree with it? They would never get a building finished. So it is with the medical health services.
If this Government is so conscientious about giving priorities to bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, bootmakers or anyone else to express their points of view on circumstances in their industries which personally affect them, surely it should extend the same rights and privileges to the most highly intelligent members of our community, including members of the medical profession. Surely we do not regard them as charlatans who are merely trying to improve their own wealth and status at the expense of the people. People of that calibre are in a minority. People would never become doctors if they were not dedicated to the profession. I noticed this week that a doctor who was 44 years of age, who was dedicated to his profession and who had been one of the greatest sporting doctors in Victoria had died, at an age at which many doctors die. The average life of a doctor is the shortest in the community because he works under enormous concentration and persistent strain. 1 have heard politicians complaining this week of the circumstances under which we have been working because of this extraordinary period in politics. Doctors diagnose major complaints and are faced with the possibility of performing major surgery. How many hours sleep a night do they get? How often is their sleep interrupted by planning the intricacies of major surgery and operations which may take 4 or 5 hours? Absolute and complete concentration of the highest possible degree is required. The Minister charges the doctors with being charlatans. He could not do their job himself. Unless someone undergoes the extensive training to which doctors submit themselves and the years and years of discipline that are involved they could not operate on that scale. It would be well if all of us in the community remembered that.
Plenty of proof is available that this Government was proposing to change the present Bill. I would like to draw the Senate’s attention to a meeting of the National Standing Committee of Private Hospitals, which met in Melbourne on 27 March 1974. It is interesting to study the pattern of its previous meetings. All its previous meetings were held in Melbourne. In 1973 it met on 18 June, 9 May, 26 July and 21 November. It met about once every 3 months. It met for its scheduled meeting on 14 March 1974. It met again a little over a week later on 27 March at a special meeting called at the behest of the Government. Delegates were brought at great expense from all over Australia because the Government had requested the Committee to review a situation that, in spite of the open government pledged by the present Government, remains a mystery.
I will outline what happened at the meeting. The Committee acceded to the Government’s request for this meeting and the Chairman asked that consideration be given to the expenses incurred being paid by the Government because the Government had requested the delegates from all over Australia to be present. One of the Government officials indicated that the proposals submitted in writing for discussion were without prejudice on both sides. The proposals were then discussed together with pertinent questions asked by members of the National Standing Committee of the 2 government officials present. The government officials left the meeting at approximately 1 p.m. and indicated that they would return at 2.30 p.m. in order to obtain the decision of the Committee. Prior to departure one of the government officials indicated that the Minister would be prepared to meet the National Standing Committee the following day, Thursday 28 March, if such a meeting was necessary. Members of the Committee considered the proposals presented- by the Government and as a result of these discussions the meeting unanimously agreed:
The initial impression is not favourable and we feel that we must return to our respective States to discuss the proposals freely in the context of the original Bill with our associations and their members. In the meantime we do not feel that a meeting with the Minister would serve any useful purpose.
The 2 Government officials returned to the meeting at 2.45 p.m. The Chairman presented them with a written copy of the resolution and an explanation of the action taken.
One of the two government officials then requested that the papers distributed that morning be returned and that the committee members disregard the matters raised as though they had never been placed before them. The papers distributed that morning . . .
By the Government- were then handed back to the the Government officials who then left the meeting.
On 28 March this occurred, and now a couple of weeks later we have the Government bringing back the original Bill as though they had never attempted to amend it at all. This is with only one of the skilled bodies which is concerned with running the medical services of this country, the National Committee of Private Hospitals which met under those circumstances. I believe the Minister referred to this in a speech that he made today and suggested that the meeting on 27 March was merely a meeting of this Association that was already in progress. Yet the Committee had been specially called together only a fortnight after it had met. It usually meets every 3 months. Even the costs of conducting the meeting had been discussed. Yet the Minister went into the House with again this element of trickery and deceit of the Parliament and suggested that that meeting was the normal meeting conducted by this association. I turn from the question of whether this Bill was sincerely brought in by the Government to the question of whether it is a good Bill or not, whether it is any better than it was when it was brought in before.
I notice in the Minister’s second reading speech in the other place that he paid the Party to which I belong, the Democratic Labor Party, and the Bill I presented in this chamber a very great compliment because he spent a third of his speech on the introduction of his own Bill in discussing the DLP’s Bill. He suggested, of course, that our Bill is no good. He said that to cover the 13 per cent- he claimed it was 17 per cent- of people not already covered would cost $ 180m. I challenged his figures. It will not cost that at all in our book. But let us accept what he says. He suggests that this is worse than the Government’s Bill for that reason. But in the White Paper issued by the Government headed ‘Public Hospitals: Estimated Contributions to the Operating Costs by the Australian Government and State Governments’, he makes a comparison between the present private insurance scheme and the Government’s health insurance scheme that we are debating. His figures show that it will cost the Government on the hospital side alone another $290m. Whose is the better scheme on a monetary basis? Certainly $80m of that would be saved by the States which would pay less. He claimed this of one factor of the medical service, the public hospitals estimated contributions and proved if we take his figures, that in this one aspect he is $30m over the Democratic Labor Party scheme even assuming that all the costs as stated by the Minister were correct; and they are not.
It is simple to work out the estimated cost of the DLP’s scheme. It means that the Commonwealth Government will pay for every pensioner, every unemployed person, every disadvantaged family and every new Australian who has not heard about the scheme a contribution to the present medical benefits scheme so that they will get an equal service to everybody else, a service which the Minister admits is satisfactory and of which he says the only reason for the change is the number of people eliminated under it. Let me turn to the number of people who are disadvantaged under the present scheme. There are a lot of people who do not come under it. In Queensland it is not necessary for everybody to come under the full benefits because, as we all know, residents of Queensland get free access to hospitals. There is no means test. So they do not have to insure themselves for that purpose. They are part of the percentage said to be not covered by the existing scheme but this does not mean that they are not covered by some scheme. Then there are the war widows, war pensioners, service personnel and that portion of the Queensland population entitled to free treatment in public hospitals. The total number not covered works out at fewer than half a million people in the whole of Australia- 338,900 people. This clearly indicates that the Government again is publishing figures that are designed to trick the people.
I turn now to the problem of the quality of medical care. We know that there is a system in England which when it started off was to be very cheap. Today it is nearly bankrupting the English nation because of the availability of what was alleged to be free medicine. I want to quote from a discussion which took place apparently in a ‘This Day Tonight’ type of program. Whether that was its name I am not aware but I quote from documents prepared by the Australian Reference Service entitled ‘New Zealand’s National Health Scheme’. These are the sort of questions asked and answers obtained:
Reporter: 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.
– It is the same in New Zealand.
– I am referring to the New Zealand situation. New Zealand in this respect is not nearly as well off as Australia which has not got this scheme yet. New Zealand has 7.2 beds for every thousand people while Australia with many more cheaper and less ambitious private hospitals has 10.8 beds, nearly half as many again.
The swing to private insurance in New Zealand shows that it is necessary even on the costs that the Government estimates- and I will come to that in a moment- it will cost the average person for free medicine, for people to turn to private insurance as well to get a satisfactory quality of medical service. The reporter continued:
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 15% of the population has opted for medical insurance- the only way of guaranteeing elective hospitalisation.
A Dr Cooper was asked 2 questions and the report reads as follows.
Reporter: This seems to be quite contradictory to the idea of a free medical scheme- how does this arise?
Dr Cooper The public hospital is not available, so I ‘ve got to immediately ask the patient, ‘Can you afford to go to a private surgeon, ‘ or has he got private medical insurance.
Reporter: Take a case that doesn’t need hospitalisationsay, for example, someone with a skin problem that you want to send to a skin specialist. Now, why can’t . . . why don ‘t you like sending your patients to the specialists attached to the public hospitals?
Dr Cooper Well, if you go to the public hospital, he may be seen by a junior doctor who knows less than I do; if he is seen by a specialist,
Dr Cooper doubts whether he is thoroughly trained in the specialist area of skin complaints to diagnose or to treat properly- a proper specialist, that man … the specialist may be expected to see twenty or thirty people in a three-hour session, that means that he can spend about two minutes, or three minutes, or half a minute, on a patient, which is inadequate.
If you cut corners in medicine, you make mistakes. The easiest corner to cut is the corner of taking a proper historyyou’ve got to listen to people if you’re going to come to the right diagnosis- and I find that the skin specialist privately may spend up to half an hour, ferretting out information which is necessary to make the right diagnosis to give the right treatment. In public hospitals, there is one harassed specialist with a multitude waiting- the only thing that can happen to medical standards is that they fall. So unless a person is in real financial difficulties, I direct the lot into a private specialist’s office.
That is the practical way in which these sorts of schemes work out. This is not a rosy dream of what the Government would like alleged free medicine to be; these are the hard practical facts. We can study the scheme in England and we can read the information which is available in book after book. But we are all people and I am afraid that when something is free everyone tries to get more than his own pound of flesh. Actually nothing can ever be free. The Government’s White Paper on The Australian Health Insurance Program completely explodes the theory of free medicine. Again I make reference to the White Paper which was issued by this Government to prove how cheap to the little man this scheme was. I emphasise to this chamber again that we have what no intelligent person could suspect to be anything but the art of trickery, in that the Government is trying to represent something to be exactly what it is not. If this were not so, why would any intelligent Government department produce a scale to show the levy payable at selected levels of taxable income, and the deductions for dependants, by starting the scale at $24 a week and concluding it at $45 a week? Who in the hell does it cover in our community today? This is the only table produced to show that for some people on those lowly incomes the scheme will cost them nil if they have dependants.
– Do not cry. Does the honourable senator need a handkerchief?
– The honourable senator ought to be crying with shame. I do not need a handkerchief but he does. This is his Government’s scheme. It is his Government’s trickydicky explanation to the people of this nation. But let us go through it with a much finer toothcomb. At $24 a week income a taxpayer with no deduction for dependants will pay $16.20 a year for free medicine. But, of course, when he has deductions for dependants of up to $100 a weekhis wife had better not be working because she cannot claim for dependants too- he does not pay anything at all. The scale goes down meticulously from $27 a week to $30 a week and the taxable income is increased by $200 a year to give a pattern of the Australian people. But that does not apply to any Australian people today. The table then goes up to $44 a week. Mr President, do you know what the Government does with this alleged intelligent table which is the only one to show the cost? The yearly taxable income jumps from $2,200 to $2,210 which is $10 a year extra; and the Government gives a table for those amounts. From the fellow on $40 a week the table goes up to the fellow on $44 a week. One can then pluck out the next 5 categories which go from $2,2 10 a year to $2,272 a year. Between any two of those amounts there is not a difference of a dollar a week. The difference in the 5 categories which the Government gives is $62 a year. On a weekly basis we are dealing with fractions of cents. In this table the Government shows that in relation to the extra $10- which is the difference between the taxable yearly income of $2,200 and $2,2 10- if one claims $ 100 for dependants the Government takes $5 out of the $ 10 which leaves one with $5. If one has the princely income of $2,272 which is where the table cuts out and which works out at about $45 a week, one is getting $62 a year income over the fellow who is paying nothing with a $100 claim for dependants, and out of that extra $62 a year income, the Government takes $30.67 for hospital and medical benefits. That is the Government’s free medical scheme for the little man; and one has to have dependants to get that. If one does not have any dependants the difference is not nearly so marked. At $2,200 taxable income a year one already pays $29.70 a year and the amount goes up by only about $1. But when one has a claim of $100 for dependants on his taxable income, the amount goes up to $30.67. That is Labor looking after the little man! But we cannot find any little men on $45 a week.
If this is what the Government is doing in relation to incomes of between $40 and $45 a week, what happens to the man who gets between $90 and $100 a week which is the average wage? Let us consider the man who has a claim of $100 a year for dependants. If, as applies in most households today, his wife happens to be working and, being intelligent Australians, the family claims on the husband ‘s salary for the dependants, then the wife can claim no dependants at all. Her payments start when she is on $24 a week, if she is prepared to work for that amount. The Government cops her for $ 1 6.20 a year. If she gets up to a more believable salary of $45 a week, although no woman works for that today- I only go this far because this is as far as the table goes- then the Government takes $30.67 a year off her because she has no dependants to claim as her husband is working too. So if both of them were receiving $45 a week and if they had children to enable them to claim $100 a year tax deduction, between them they would be paying almost $62 a year for the Government’s free medical scheme, in spite of the fact that they have 2 children.
– It is $94 now.
– Ninty-four dollars now. Well, I suggest that the honourable senator go to the Australian Democratic Labor program and he will find that people on that sort of income- if that were their total family income with 2 children- would pay nothing at all. Let us see which is the best scheme for the people. We are giving the Senate the facts. I notice that those who were most vociferous with interjections have disappeared. Honourable senators opposite cannot be proud of this alleged free medical scheme. Is it any wonder that the Labor Party was abandoning the scheme, not because the Senate rejected it but because the Labor Party went off- as it has on many things- without sufficient preparation of what it was doing. This is not a good scheme. It is a very bad one. It is a scheme which could shatter the Government. It could be an enormous financial burden to this nation and to its taxpayers, because whatever the Government at this time has computed to be a reasonable cost to expect from the scheme I warn the Government that the cost will double and treble within the first 5 years.
People, because they are no better or worse than people always are, will get the idea that this is something for nothing or something for which they have already paid in their taxes and therefore, as a right, when little Johnnie falls over and scrapes his knee in the garden his mother, instead of doing home surgery as she has always done by putting antiseptic and perhaps a sticking plaster on his knee, will take him to the doctor. Of course there are thousands of little accidents like this every day. This is happening in England and in New Zealand. Those are the cases which form the long queues that many people who are genuinely ill look at with despair because they really need to see a doctor. They will be joined by the lonely and the depressed who feel that they have the right of the company of a doctor at any hour of the day or night. They will call him out. Doctors in England are complaining and screaming. They are leaving England because of it and because they feel that they have no rights at all. They are the slaves in modern England. People ring them up at all hours of the night. When they make a diagnosis it is that the people are lonely and terrified a little of the night. The people might have some of those pains which all of us who are getting on in years get from time to time. This is no reflection on them. They are human. They send for the doctor, not realising that with thousands of others doing it every night they are making it impossible for a competent and proper medical service to be conducted for the whole of the people.
In my younger days, with great enthusiasm, I helped sponsor free schemes for workersworkers education societies. We would start a year with 200 people interested in a subject because it was free. Because it was free they did not value it. Within 3 months they would get sick of going out at night, and the 200 would have dwindled away to 5 or 6. Because it was free nobody valued it. We may think it is reprehensible, but it is human nature. That is what the Government is dealing with. I warn the Government, with its enthusiasm for schemes of this sort, to examine their practicality. Listen to the doctors, many of whom are refugees from a similar set of circumstances in other parts of the world and have come here to escape them. I appeal to the public not to fall for the myth that the scheme can possibly be a free medicine scheme. Do not accept that what the White Paper states is true. Forget the trickery of the tables which are supposed to represent the Australian people, because they are not extended into the areas that affect Australian income earners. They must have been put there for a purpose. What purpose can I read into it other than to trick the people by showing 7 times in some column at the end of a line of statistics that nobody will pay anything. Work it out. An income earner on $44 a week who has sufficient dependants to be able to claim $100 from his annual gross income is referred to. Is anyone on the Labor side prepared to say that it is even an intelligent thing to say that such a person -
– There are only 2 senators opposite.
-They all fled. The facts destroy them. This White Paper is another tricky Dicky which is designed to deceive. The great tragedy of this Parliament today is that those things which are thought to be clever in order to get one’s own way in politics are becoming the accepted standard. Even when the cleverness sometimes fails they are prepared to do things which have not been tolerated previously in this country. Previously, even in the little State of Tasmania, when somebody found that he had inadvertently given an untruthful answer to a question he immediately resigned his seat in Parliament. I suggest that if one looks at the records of this Parliament in the last few weeks one finds that there can be no other conclusion but that deliberate lies have been told to trick not only the people but now the Parliament. They are the things that are making honourable men stand up in this place and say the things that we say. I will not discuss the matter on this Bill because I might be out of order, but there will be another occasion.
This Bill will go out because the mere circumstances of its re-introduction are tricky. The Government has been negotiating with people to amend and reconstruct a proposition which was analysed here and which we ultimately rejected. We sent it back to the Government. The Government realises that the criticisms were valid. It tried to meet those criticisms with changes and amendments. That is what Parliament is all about. That is why we have Oppositions. I heard in this chamber tonight a cry to Senator Webster: Where is your mandate?’ Each senator has a mandate. It is not only governments which have mandates, all honourable senators are elected by a majority of the people when we are elected. With our ideas and our thoughts we are trusted to do, on behalf of the people of this nation, the best that our limited abilities enable us to do. We should do it with honour. We should at least do it a little better than we would expect of the rest of the community, of business ethics or of the usual political licence which we extend to each other perhaps on the hustings. But in the Senate the truth should surely be sacred. Surely we should not produce documents, as this document has been produced, in a deliberate attempt to deceive and not to disclose. After all, a White Paper is surely something which any person should be able to read to gain some information about the proposition to which it refers. The table to which I have referred defeats this purpose because it does not explain the scheme to the people concerned. But that was the purpose of the issuance of the document.
We will reject this Bill again. It was not proper for it to have been brought back here so that it could be said on the hustings that this Government has a glorious free medicine scheme. It is not free. It is not a scheme of medical service to assist the little man. If it is, will the Government prove it to us by the production of statistics which at least apply to the lower income earners of this nation, not this mass of rubbish which the Government thought was suitable for the people of this nation but which, when analysed in the Parliament as it has to be, shows up the glaring weaknesses of the scheme? We will reject this Bill. We will fight it on the hustings, if that is the reason the Government has re-introduced it. We will tell the people that the tables which we will produce show what the scheme really costs.
– I am very pleased to be able to support the Bill, which has been introduced into the Senate for the second time. I am more pleased that the Bill did not need any amendments. The Government has been criticised by the Opposition because the Bill has been introduced without amendment. At the same time the Opposition condemned the Government because a previous Bill, the Trade Practices Bill, was reintroduced with 109 amendments. If we amend a Bill which has been previously introduced we are condemned by the Opposition, and if we do not amend such a Bill we are still criticised.
– We can never please them.
-We can never please the Opposition. We have probably heard the last speech that Senator Little will make in this chamber. He did not add anything to what he said in December last year. He only repeated wrong calculations of what the low income earner would pay under the Government’s proposed national health scheme. I will now quote some figures. They are the facts. I will show what will be paid under the proposed 1.35 per cent levy, compared with the minimum amount which a contributor now pays to any of the voluntary medical and health funds. The 1.35 per cent levy on an income of $6,000 a year, if one allows deductions from that income of only $ 1 ,000, which would leave a taxable income of $5,000 a year, would be equal to $65.50 a year. An income of $6,000 a year would be equal to earnings of approximately $120 a week. According to the last quarterly figures, this is more than the average weekly earnings in Australia. When we take into account that only 40 per cent of the people of Australia- that is, the wage earner or the income earner- earn the average weekly earnings and the remainder earn less than the average weekly earnings, we can see that a large percentage of people in Australia will pay far less in health insurance under the proposal put up by the Government than they do under the scheme in operation at the moment. Weekly earnings of $ 120 represent a total yearly income of $6,000. A person earning that amount would pay under the new scheme $65.50 per annum, instead of $92 per annum which is the smallest amount for which one can obtain health insurance at the moment under any medical or hospital scheme in the Commonwealth. A person would have to be earning something like $9,000 a year before he would pay in the vicinity of $92 for health insurance based on the 1.35 per cent levy. Fewer than 10 per cent of income earners in Australia receive a yearly income of $9,000. So that disproves the point on which Senator Little tried to fool the people here tonight. He talked about low income earners and mentioned an income of $45 a week. He knows very well that the minimum wage is $61 a week. He is talking rubbish when he speaks about people receiving $45 a week and what they would pay under the new scheme. He knows very well that they would be covered under the subsidised health care scheme. He knows that no one would be receiving less than the basic wage or the minimum living wage. He has seen that in the White Paper put out by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). Senator Little is only trying to fool the Senate by quoting false figures that he knows will be corrected in this place.
Senator Little also criticised national health schemes in other countries. Let us look at the scheme in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has had a national health scheme for something like 30 years. I have met hundreds of people from the United Kingdom who have come out here. They have lived with the Australian National Health Act, with all its complexities and everything that is associated with it. They also know the benefits of the national health scheme which operates in the country from which they came. I have never met one migrant from the United Kingdom who has criticised the scheme which operates in that country. If that scheme is as bad as Senator Little tries to make us believe it is, it is a wonder that when there has been a change of government in the United Kingdom- there have been many changes of government over the last 30 yearsthe Conservatives, as one of their first actions when elected to Government, did not change the national health scheme to some system that they support. But the scheme in the United Kingdom has remained unchanged for more than 30 years. The situation applying there is completely different from that applying under our National Health Act which was introduced in 1951 and has been changed on many occasions. It has to be changed every time the doctors put up their fees or the hospitals put up their charges or when contributors to health insurance funds are required to increase their voluntary contributions in order to make up the leeway. Of course, it does not matter what type of health insurance scheme we have because eventually it is the taxpayer who pays. Whether he pays it by means of a levy or whether he pays it voluntarly into some medical or hospital fund, he is the one who eventually pays for the scheme. So it is not the amount that he pays that we are concerned about, because the figures I have quoted clearly prove that the amount paid under the 1.35 per cent levy would be far less than that paid by 70 per cent or 80 per cent of contributors under the existing scheme. It is the quality of health care that is of most importance. No doubt this will be improved when we have one health insurance scheme and all contributors belong to that one scheme. Both medical and hospital care will be greatly improved by having one scheme.
– How does that affect the quality of health care, for heavens sake? What a lot of nonsense.
– If the honourable senator wants to read nonsense he would do well to read the Hansard report of the debate that took place in December of last year. On that occasion Senator Jessop spoke on this Bill. As a matter of fact, only 2 opposition senators from the Liberal Party spoke on this legislation on that occasion. Yet Senator Rae had the audacity to say on 2 occasions tonight- once before the dinner suspension and again after the dinner suspension- that the Health Insurance Bill was discredited during the debate last year. The Bill was not discredited, particularly by Liberal senators opposite, because only two of them spoke on that occasion. They were Senator Rae and Senator Jessop. The other 2 speakers from the Opposition side were Senator Webster and Senator Little.
During the previous debate Opposition senators raised the objection that Labor was introducing a compulsory scheme to which everybody had to contribute and that therefore everybody would have the same coverage under the scheme. The reason the Government puts forward this proposal, of course, is that under the existing National Health Act only 87 per cent of our population has medical and hospital insurance coverage; the other 13 per cent, representing 1.5 million people, is not covered. Opposition senators must surely agree that any health insurance scheme that does not cover such a high percentage of the population of the Commonwealth has some faults which should be rectified. It is the purpose of the Bill that we have introduced to rectify the anomalies that exist in the present National Health Act.
Another problem caused by the present Act is the complex manner in which a contributor gets a refund of his medical expenses. First of all he makes an appointment with his local general practitioner. After the consultation he receives an account. He goes to the doctor, pays the account and gets a receipt. He takes the receipt to his health insurance fund where he is required to fill in a very complicated form which contains a host of questions. He then submits his contribution card, together with the receipt from the general practitioner, to the fund. Later on he will have posted to him a cheque for the amount of his refund. So all of these actions have to take place before the contributor, having paid his contribution in advance, can get a refund of the expense incurred following a visit to a doctor or a stay in hospital.
All of this nonsense, of course, will be overcome under the provisions of the Bill that has been presented to the Senate. The Bill has been passed with a big majority in another place on 2 occasions. Surely honourable senators opposite would not have the audacity to criticise a Bill which is introduced following long consideration by two of the most eminent doctors in Australia. These doctors were asked to prepare a report on a national health scheme. So this Bill was given a great deal of consideration before it was introduced. The scheme was carefully thought out and the plan was fostered so that the benefits would go to those who could least afford to pay. We are not concerned -
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-It has been said in the Senate on one or two occasions tonight that the Australian Government did not have a mandate to introduce the legislation that we are now debating. I remind Opposition senators of the policy speech of the present Prime
Minister (Mr Whitlam) delivered on 13 November 1972. When referring to health, he said:
The most notorious single instance of unequal sharing of burdens is the Liberals ‘ health insurance system.
I personally find quite unacceptable a system whereby the man who drives my Commonwealth car in Sydney pays twice as much for the same family cover as I have, not despite the fact that my income is 4 or 5 times higher than his, but precisely because of my higher income.
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. An estimated 350,000 Australian families will pay nothing.
These are the families with an income of only $45 a week to which Senator Little referred in his remarks. The income earners of such families must be working for newsagents if they are receiving such low incomes. The Prime Minister went on to state in his policy speech:
Four out of five will pay less than their contributions to the existing scheme. Hospital care will be paid for completely by the Fund in whatever ward the patient’s doctor advises. The Fund will pay the full cost of medical treatment if doctors choose to bill the Fund directly, or refund 85 per cent of fees if the patient pays those fees himself.
The policy speech went on to refer to the Nimmo report which was mentioned by Senator Mulvihill tonight. There is no doubt that in December 1972 this was a vital issue for the people of Australia that decided the big swing to Labor. The health scheme was advertised in newspapers all over the Commonwealth. In South Australia, the State from which I come, the Australian Labor Party ran 3 full page advertisements on the national health scheme. The people of South Australia and the other States were well aware of the benefits in this scheme compared with those in the existing scheme which benefit only those on high incomes. If such people can afford to pay $150 a year to have the luxury of medical care in a private ward of a private hospital, they know that when they file their income tax returns, they will get back $80 of that $ 1 50. So all such people are paying is $70 to have the luxury of medical care and a private room in a private hospital. In this legislation, we overcome those anomalies and the advantages of the rich and equal out the position so that the poor receive equal benefits and the same opportunities as the rich.
-The Senate has before it the Health Insurance Bill which has been submitted to us for a second time. In examining this Bill, we must look to the months prior to the general election of 1 972. In those months, many representations were made by the then Australian Labor Party Opposition on all policy matters. On no issue were more claims or assertions made than on the issue of health. I remind the Senate that on the issue of health the Labor Party said to the people of Australia that the real core of evil as to national health in Australia lay in the rapacious medical profession, in the unduly high fees that members of the medical profession were charging and demanding. The Labor Party sought a mandate to get into government by stating that it would have a tribunal fix medical fees so that they could be limited. The whole basis of the claim made by the Australian Labor Party in 1972 was that the doctors were really money hungry and rapacious. These were the claims that were put to the people. When the Australian Labor Party attained government it set up a tribunal. The Australian Medical Association put its fee schedule to that tribunal. The Government tribunal adopted every level of fees in the AMA schedule. The case of the Government fell to the ground. The Labor Party had said that members of the medical profession were charging too much and that this would be rectified by a tribunal. In fact, the Government tribunal endorsed the fees requested by the AMA and destroyed its own case. Of course, this is very much the trouble of the Labor Party on this issue, as in the Gair issue. Indeed, members of the ALP should remember the words of Macbeth as they were spoken some 300 years ago. They well could be applied to this issue and to the Gair issue. He said:
If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well It were done quickly:
Macbeth was talking of Gair when he said:
If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success:
But of course, members of the Labor Party forget this.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Now, let us return to the Health Insurance Bill.
– The point I was trying to make, Mr Acting Deputy President, was that Shakespeare was thinking of the misrepresentations contained in the Health Insurance Bill when he went on to say:
But in these cases.
We still have judgment here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor.
I am grateful for the reminder of the pertinence of these quotations to the Health Insurance Bill. The Australian Labor Party said to the people of
Australia: ‘Put us in power and we will give you a health Bill which will give a better health service for all at a cheaper cost for all’. This was the representation that was made on top of the assertion that, of course, the Labor Party would contain the medical profession. In fact, when Labor came to government it brought in this Bill. It is significant that at no time has the Government brought in another Bill, a tax Bill. If the Labor Government is seeking to go to the people on this Bill, then this whole scheme is not as yet complete. Where is the formula that can be shown to the public? Where is the proof that the contribution rate will be 1.35 per cent of taxable income? For what period will that percentage apply? Will it apply at all? Will the percentage be 1.4 per cent or 1.5 per cent? Where is the document or the legislation to say this? Where is the document or the legislation to show the cut-off point below which people shall not pay? I ask honourable senators to bear in mind that we have had enough of confidence tricks of late. We now have another one. What this Bill does is to produce for the people of Australia a medical scheme of infinitely higher cost to almost everyone and of greatly inferior quality.
– You are talking rubbish.
– I am grateful to Senator Poyser. He is always helpful. Now I will take a case to demonstrate what I am saying. I was helped by the fact that Senator Donald Cameron said that if we wanted to take cases we should quote people on average weekly incomes. With his help I will do that. The average income of an adult male today is $6,400 a year. Help me if I am wrong. Such a male, if his wife is working, would have deductions which would make a net taxable income of, say, $5,500 a year. On that taxable income he will have $74.25 deducted from his wages. Of the one-third of the families in Australia in which there are working wivesthat is, of the one million families in Australia -
– You have not read tonight’s newspapers. It has been increased by 24c a week.
-I thank Senator Poyser. The interjection only adds to the sum. The sum will be greater. I will take a working wife who is receiving a net taxable income of $3,500 a year. She will pay $47.25 a year. Does anyone dispute that? This Government proposes to deduct $121.50 a year from a family receiving the average income, and with one million working wives -
– You are being completely dishonest.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Poyser, you will cease your interjections.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President, but I do not need your protection. The arithmetic can be checked. At the present time that same family is insured as a whole family by one payment. If that family insures under the highest scale in the medical and hospital benefits scheme, for private hospital wards and for the highest medical scale, it will cost $120 a year, and that is tax deductible. A man who is receiving the average weekly income will get $40 -
– That is not true.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Donald Cameron, you have already spoken in the debate.
-I belong to the Medical Benefits Fund. I am insured under Table 12RF, which is the highest table that that fund offers. It gives me full cover for medical benefits and private ward treatment. At the present time I pay $120 a year. If I were on the average weekly wage I would then receive $40, by way of tax rebate, on that $120. So I would be paying a net amount of $80 a year. Under the Government scheme a family receiving the average weekly wage will pay $121.50 a year, and under our scheme that family pays $80 a year. So at the present time the Government scheme would cost infinitely more, but for a poorer service, because under our scheme for $80 a year a family gets cover for private ward treatment. Under the Government scheme that family would get cover for standard ward treatment for $ 1 2 1 . 50 a year.
Let us pause a moment and refer to the single or unmarried person. Under the Government scheme a single person would pay $74.25 a year. Today, under our scheme a single person pays half the family rate of $ 120 a year, which is $60 a year. That is tax deductible, so a single person pays a net amount of $40 a year. But under the Government’s scheme that person would pay $74.25 a year. As I say, under the existing scheme a single person pays $40 a year and gets cover for private ward treatment. Under the Government scheme that person would pay $74.25 a year and get cover for standard ward treatment. Clearly the Government scheme would be more costly, and clearly it is inferior because it provides for only standard ward treatment.
– You have not read tonight’s newspapers.
– I have read tonight’s newspapers. I learned of the grave difficulties of the left wing steering committee over this and other issues. I followed with great zeal the steps in the traumata of the Labor Party in the Senate. So indeed I have read tonight’s newspapers. The Government scheme is a very inferior scheme for another reason.
– What you are saying is that everyone is on the average wage.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Poyser, you will remain silent while I am standing. I ask you to refrain from interjection. You are only prolonging the debate and disobeying the Chair. I am not prepared to tolerate it.
– I pause here because there has been some reference to lies and dishonesty. I will refer to matters of recent days concerning this Bill. I refer to the meeting of the National Standing Committee of the Private Hospitals and Private Nursing Homes Association which was convened on the instructions of the Minister. It was held in Melbourne on 27 March last. On the Minister’s instructions, 2 Government officials attended the meeting and said to the meeting: ‘We are here on the Minister’s instruction. Here is a paper from the Minister which represents the amendments he wants to make to this Bill’. In order to established the fact that the Minister had sent them, the officials said: This is convened at his request’. They were asked had they sought from the Minister whether their travelling expenses would be covered. They said that they had discussed this with the Minister but that he had not made up his mind. But they were given to understand that it they could get the right answers that day, their travelling expenses would be paid. They were asked what would happen to the Fourth Schedule regarding private hospital fees that had taken monthseven years- to get settled. They said that they were given to understand that the Minister would settle this one within a week if they made up their minds that day. They said they would come back at 2.30. They went away. They returned at 2.30 and were given the answer that the Standing Committee rejected the offer. They said: ‘The Minister has instructed us to say that he will meet you people tomorrow anywhere in Australia that you name’. They were told: ‘It is no use. We have made up our minds’. The officials said: ‘The Minister has instructed us to say that this meeting has never occurred and that all these papers must be returned’. They were told: ‘This is unfair. We should take the papers to our State branches and discuss them’. The officials said: ‘We are sorry, but we have our instructions from the Minister’. There has been talk of dishonesty from the quarter opposite. The fact of the matter is that the Minister said publicly that he did not call this meeting.
– A point of order. Certain charges are being made by Senator Carrick. I ask him to table the document in which he claims this evidence appears. If he cannot do so, let him proceed no further.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, there has been no quotation from any document. Senator Carrick has been stating facts which he asserts. He has not quoted from a document. In my submission there is nothing in the point of order.
– Speaking to the point of order, despite what Senate Rae has said, Senator Carrick did hold up a document when he quoted what was said by the advisers to the Minister at a meeting in Melbourne. When he said those words he held up a document to the Senate. I submit that Senator Poyser is quite right in asking Senator Carrick to table the document under standing order 364.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Any motion for the tabling of documents quoted from by a senator cannot be moved until the conclusion of the senator’s speech.
– Lest the enthusiasm of -
– He says things and is not prepared to stand up to them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Poyser, if you do not cease interjecting I have given you more than fair warningyou will not be in the chamber when the speech concludes.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, lest the enthusiasm of Government supporters should not contain itself I want to say that the document I held out is the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1 973 which I now table at Senator McLaren’s request, a document which no doubt he will read for the first time. I now table the document which I held out.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Carrick, you heard me give a ruling. A motion for the tabling of a document can be moved only at the conclusion of your speech. Will you please continue your speech and address the Chair.
– Yes, and with absolute deference to you I indicate that at the conclusion of my speech I propose to table the document I held out. Lest there be any suggestion otherwise I say also that I do not have in my possession here any document relating to those meetings. I never purported to have such a document. If any honourable senator desires to inspect every piece of paper on my desk he will see that they are public property. Never in the course of my remarks did I say that I was quoting from a document. I now repeat that, as reported to me and as has been stated in another place, quite clearly events happened in Melbourne and the Minister has denied that those events took place. I said that the intention was to amend this document. The Hansard record will show this. Since we are dealing with the difficulties of misrepresentation I want to add further evidence of extra financing to set up the kind of enterprise, the kind of huge Government monopoly, envisaged in this Bill. The whole of the existing voluntary funds must be demolished, although no good cause has been given for this, including many trade union and voluntary organisation funds. In their place there must be a massive institution of bricks and mortar, installations, equipment and machinery. I think that the cost of the computers alone, from my memory of the estimates, runs into something like $14m. The expense of all the buildings, all the equipment and all the computers will not add one benefit to the ordinary taxpayers that they do not have today.
When this scheme was foreshadowed last year or the year before it was understood that out of tax revenue the Government would have to match the tax deduction from the taxpayer, dollar for dollar, because, of course, the cost of a scheme is not only the tax deduction from the taxpayer but also the indirect tax that comes out of Consolidated Revenue. It is now abundantly clear that that matching revenue from Consolidated Revenue will be at least $ 1 . 50 for every $ 1 , rising to $2 for every $ 1 , and that the scheme is virtually costing itself out of economic existence. In recent estimates investigations in this place it became clear that deception was being practised in the presentation of estimates; that in the amalagamation of those parts of the Department of Health and the Department of Social Security that are involved in the national health scheme, the administrative costs of the national health scheme are being intermingled with items of the Department of Social Security so that in the future it will not be possible to get a single costing of the national health scheme. I say that this is gross misrepresentation. I said that this proposed scheme would be an inferior fund. Not only would it cost more; it would only provide standard wards and it would not provide freedom of choice. In terms of the fund to which one subscribes it would be a complete monopoly. There is to be no choice at all. On top of that the taxpayer must seek out another fund if he wants private ward treatment. I turn now to the next phase of this scheme. What about treatment in hospitals? The first point is that this scheme is geared so that the totally normal and majority practice in this country shall be that the people of Australia shall go into standard or public wards. If it were not so desired, if it were not so geared, clearly the Government would have put into its scheme a provision for intermediate wards or private wards for financing purposes. Deliberately it did not do so.
– Tell me why.
-I will say why. Spokesmen for the Labor Party said that their policy was to eliminate private hospitals. Dr Cass is on record -
– Who said that?
- Dr Cass is on record. He was a spokesman.
– When did he say that?
– He said it in 1972. It is on record; he thought it was desirable. I shall produce the record for Senator Poyser tomorrow. I shall be delighted to produce the statements tomorrow for the Minister and his honourable senators. Clearly the intention of the Labor Party has been to reduce and wipe out private hospitals and private nursing homes. Statement after statement has been made on this matter. The best way to wipe out private hospitals is to reduce the number of people who insure themselves for either intermediate or private wards because a private hospital cannot exist on a standard ward rate. Clearly, also, it is the intention of the Government in future to tie its grants to hospitals on the basis that a hospital will get a grant only if it maintains a minimum number of standard wards. The Government will set out systematically to destroy private hospitals by means of the device of raising the percentage of standard wards that must be maintained in private hospitals. The intention of the Government, the intention of this legislation, is seriously to reduce and ultimately to eliminate private hospitals. Its intention is the same with regard to private nursing homes. The effect of the rates that it is setting at the moment for private nursing homes is exactly the same.
Another effect on hospitals relates to the treatment of those patients who go into standard wards and that would be the majority because they would be so financed. The consultant specialists, the surgeons and physicians operating in those public hospitals would be forced by this scheme to be either on sessional payment or on salary. The history of these matters throughout the world is that if you want inefficient services in a hospital, if you want hospital waiting lists to stack up, if you want impersonal service, take away the right of a patient to a private doctor and establish the impersonal service of the salaried or sessional doctor. That doctor on roster in standard wards will not be there for a confinement or for a crisis if that crisis does not happen during the sessional working hours of that doctor. So to all intents and purposes specialists in the hospitals are to be nationalised. Quite clearly therefore there will be a reduction in the service to the ordinary public. Equally, private hospitals give access to the general practitioner as well as to the specialist. If you reduce the number of private hospitals you reduce and deny the right of access to hospitals of private practitioners in full.
I want to refer again to the basic principle as it applies to the general practitioner. The Government says that it is not its intention to nationalise the general practitioner. It is true of course that the first plank in the Labor Party’s platform provides for salaried general practitioners. It goes on to say also that it acknowledges those practising privately. But its primary plank provides for salaried practitioners and Government members have said that that would be a desirable goal. The principle that is embodied in this document is a principle -
– Where is it?
- Mr Deputy President, I will be very happy when we resume tomorrow to give the honourable senator that source material. The fact is that in this Bill there is a provision for bulk billing. The whole incentive and duress on the general practitioner are that the general practitioner should not charge his patient at all but should bulk bill. The fact is that the Bill provides that if a doctor simply sends the account, without charge to the patient, to the Commission he will get 85 pet cent of the standard fee which will be determined by the Government. On the other hand, if he sends the bill to the patient, the patient will pay it in fall, get a refund of 85 per cent, and pay 1 5 per cent. Quite clearly what is hoped by the Government is that the bulk of patients will say: ‘I will not do that. You, the doctor, send the bill by way of bulk’. When that happens there will be no freedom of choice, because the Government will have created the illusion of free medicine. It will have created the illusion that a person can go to a doctor and get treatment without payment. The fact that the person must pay, firstly, by tax impost for national health and, secondly, by indirect tax is hidden by the Government. The intention is to create an illusion. In every country where the illusion of free medicine has been created, the standard of medicine has degenerated savagely and seriously to the detriment of the patient.
I quote to the Senate that in the United Kingdom the standard medical journals have stated repeatedly over the past year quite unchallenged that the average time made available by a general practitioner under the national health scheme to see a patient is of the order of 3 minutes. Does the Government suggest that that is good medicine, that it is an improvement on the average time in Australia today of 15 minutes for an ordinary consultation? Here in front of honourable senators is the United Kingdom scheme which clearly provides an inferior service. The hospital scheme in the United Kingdom is breaking down under a long waiting list of patients, and waiting time for ordinary surgeryhernias, hysterectomies- is a year to 18 months. This is the kind of scheme that this Government is trying to inflict upon us.
– It is 2 years for tonsillectomy.
– As the honourable senator reminds me, there is a waiting time of 2 years for a tonsillectomy. In Canada the same situation has developed through the illusion of free medicine. In Scandinavia.the home of free medicine, more than 50 per cent of the people in Stockholm now belong to private health funds because they have rejected the national health scheme. The Scandinavian scheme which was held up as the model for the world to see is now breaking down. Throughout the world this is what is happening. In England they are building private hospitals in an attempt to avoid the scheme. In Canada, the scheme is collapsing. Cosmetic surgery is so cluttering up Canadian hospitals that patients with significant illnesses are unable to get treatment because of the illusion of free medicine. The whole basis of a health scheme is that for those who are genuinely ill the best of health treatment should be given. If you clutter up the doctor’s consulting time with trivia you deny to the genuinely ill the important scrutiny of the doctor. If we cause serious waiting times to get beds in hospitals we make the health scheme degenerate and the patients suffer badly.
Let me make this quite clear. We have in Australia the elements, in terms of a voluntary health scheme and in the terms of the relationship of the patient to his general practitioner or to his specialist, of the best schemes in the world. I would state the principle this way: Under the present voluntary health scheme the patient is the employer of the doctor. The patient can choose his doctor, his health scheme, his hospital and the level of ward in his hospital. He can change his doctor and demand of his doctor quality and quantity of service because of his freedom. Tomorrow under the proposed national health scheme the Government would become the employer as the government has done in all other countries that have a similar scheme. When the government becomes an employer the terms to service of the doctor are dictated by government and not by the patient. In every country on earth where the government is the employer of the doctor, the standard of medical care has degenerated badly.
I repeat that this Bill provides for an inferior, a lowered service at much higher costs. It destroys the freedom of the patient; it destroys the freedom of the doctor; it is a deception. Above everything, it changes the vital role of the patient as the employer of the doctor and places the Government as the employer of the doctor. Although it is not direct nationalisation it is indirect nationalisation. Of course, the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, in a Fabian lecture said that the first act of his Government by way of socialisation would be the introduction of this scheme. In the Fabian lecture he clearly said that this scheme would be the first act of direct socialisation. Any doubt that it is socialisation is removed by the words of the Prime Minister himself. The Bill itself is a bad Bill. It purports to do things but in fact it does the reverse. It ought to be rejected.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (11.8)- I intercede in this debate quite unexpectedly. Not having been told to the contrary, I assumed that the Senate would adjourn at the normal time tonight and this matter would be resolved tomorrow. I make it clear that I am convinced that the policy of the Opposition Party to which I belong is that this debate will not be proceeded with for too long before we vote on the Bill. I want to make only 3 or 4 points in relation to it. The first is that it is my belief that it is not a sincere re-presentation of the Bill to this second chamber. In essence the Government’s action in re-presenting the Bill is an attempt, in the light of a double dissolution or an election, to bolster up an argument in relation to alleged or imagined frustration of the Government’s legislative program by the Senate. It is an attempt to make a case rather than a genuine attempt to represent this Bill. The dogs are barking all over Australia. It can be smelt- just as petrol spilt out or a can can be smelt- that the Government recognises that the Bill which it presented previously and which was properly rejected by the Senate would require amendment in order to accommodate even the aspirations of its socialist concept.
The Bill was just not a goer. The Government knew it, and everybody in Australia knows it. Reference has been made to a meeting in Melbourne on 27 March which seems to be exciting many people, I understand. It has been acknowledged by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in the other place today that the meeting occurred and that it occurred on the basis of getting some agreed change to the Bill and the concept of health as it was presented. We should not have this nonsense about tabling papers. If people are not prepared to accept what has been said here, they should go and talk to anybody in the free hospitalisation movement, the private hospitals association and the nursing homes association. I invite honourable senators to find out who are the people in those associations and to go and talk to them. They will be speaking to honourable people who will tell them the truth. There is no argument about it. The fact of the matter is that the Bill which was originally introduced into this place was not a Bill that was intended to be re-born. The resubmission of it here today is not a genuine attempt to get the Bill passed; it is an attempt to squeeze out some political argument that can be used at another time, at an election. For that reason I do not intend to go into too much of the detail of the Bill. I think honourable senators opposite know, as the people of Australia know, as the people in hospitals know, as the people in medicine know and as the people who are giving free service know, that another Bill was to be introduced.
There is another powerful reason why we should never adopt this Bill. The very essence of the concept is to tax the taxpayer. In this charade, this bit of nonsense, we are being asked to approve a Bill which does riot set out what the tax will be. Honourable senators opposite say that it is the socialist dream, the Scotton and Deeble dream. They know that it is not a goer. In fact, Dr Deeble knows that it is not a goer. My understanding is that Dr Deeble was one of the people who attended this classic meeting to try to get some variation to the proposal because the original Bill was not a goer. We, as a House of Review, are being asked to pass this Bill. I know that some honourable senators opposite wish to abandon the Senate, except when the crunch comes.
The fact of the matter is that this is not the only Bill concerned with this scheme. This Bill is only part of the scheme. The very guts of the Bill- I am using that vulgar word in its pure senseprovides that the taxpayer will be taxed. We have not seen a Bill concerning the taxation yet. We are being asked to pass the Bill which is before us without being able to put our minds to the very foundations or substance of the scheme- as I said, the guts of it. We are expected to pass the Bill. On the broadcasting system today I heard something about a mandate for this scheme which was outlined in the policy speech. If I am asked to table the policy speech I will dig out what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said. There is no reference in it to what amount will be involved.
At one stage a figure of 1.3 per cent of a person’s taxable income was suggested. It then got to 1.33 per cent, and in 1973 it was 1.35 per cent. God help us as to what it would be now. When Senator Little was spending a tremendous amount of dme working out all sorts of problems I thought: ‘Good heavens, we are working out problems based on what people were earning in November 1972 and calculated on a basis of a possible 1.35 per cent of taxable income’. Good heavens, if we bear in mind that there has been a 14 per cent annual increase in the cost of living, a continuation of this mad scheme would probably mean a 5.3 per cent and not a 1.3 per cent contribution.
Although the House of review is being asked to adopt a scheme, really it is being asked to reject it. Let there be no mistake- we will reject it. Let it be known that the Government pays a poor compliment to its own intelligence when it presents the Bill in this manner because all supporters of the Government know that this is not the scheme for the people of Australia. The Government does not even intend to make this the scheme. It intends to go off and adopt some other variation which has some socialist benefit. Those were the main points that I wanted to make. I know that the Government does not really expect the legislation to be passed. The Government expects the legislation to be rejected. Everybody in Australia will learn the reason for the Government’s actions. The people will learn of the insincerity of this proposal with which we are being confronted tonight.
I would just like to make a couple of other points. The whole principle of the socialist hospital and medical scheme is based on a loose statement that something like- I think that the Prime Minister talked about this- 1.5 million people were not covered by the present private scheme. According to the November 1973 summary of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics and other available statistics the percentage of people who are not covered in the voluntary scheme, having regard to all the people who are covered in other ways, is less than 5 per cent of the community. I have been overseas and talked to leaders of governments who administer the national health schemes of their countries. I do not think that even the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) who is at the table would attempt to argue that countries which have nationalised health schemes give a 100 per cent cover. If the Minister talked to people in England, Canada, Norway, Sweden or New Zealand and asked what percentage of the people are covered by that country’s nationalised health and medical scheme they would all tell him that in fact one does not get the maximum cover.
We are being asked to provide a nationalised form of medicine to cover a very small percentage of people. The figures that are available to me suggest that the voluntary health insurance funds cover about 10,5 19,000 Australians for hospital treatment which represents about 79.9 per cent of the people, and 10,430,000 for medical care which is about 79.2 per cent of the people. If the number of exemptions are added to these figures the position is that something less than a total of 5 per cent of people are not covered. I see that Senator Georges is looking at me with concern. He knows, for instance, that a person who lives in Queensland does not need to be insured for hospitalisation. There is no requirement in Queensland to take out hospital insurance. This is the first thing that one has to take into account when one starts adding to this basic figure. Then, of course, we have to add all people who are covered by repatriation services. I am talking of people who qualify under the Repatriation Act for hospital and medical benefits. As I understand it that would be people on the 100 per cent pension rate or higher. It would certainly be those who were totally and permanently incapacitated and would include what we know as the ‘old and bold’ who are eligible for certain hospital treatment. There are something of the order of 264,900 people or 2 per cent of the population who are covered by repatriation services. There is something of the order of 84,900 who are covered by membership of the Australian defence forces. I have not mentioned those who are in the pensioner field but one finds that there were, as at 31 March 1973, 1.35 million of them covered under the Pensioner Medical Service. This represents 10.3 per cent of the population.
The point I am making is that by the time we add all those people who are not covered by a private insurance scheme because they are eligible to receive services in other ways we find that over 95 per cent of the total population is covered. I have not touched upon the other group of people such as those in the medical services, for example, medical practitioners. Then there are those who work in hospitals. Every nurse and every person who works in a hospital is entitled to hospitalisation at that hospital. There is no need, therefore, for them to insure. To those we need to add the people of affluence or not of affluence who for some peculiar reason do not want to insure. In a free country it is a free choice. I suppose every parliamentarian at some time or other has had representations from various religious groups. I will not name them because we all know who they are but they are people who, because of religious beliefs, do not wish to join a medical or hospital fund since there is a form of compulsion involved in it.
Everybody knows that the Government wants this Bill defeated. It does and we on this side do. But eventually Government supporters will go on the hustings and say that this is a situation where we must have nationalisation of medicine in the interests of the people of Australia despite the fact that we have an overwhelming number of people in Australia who of their own violition wish to belong to voluntary funds. For that reason I suggest that the argument that the Government puts and has consistently put over a period is not valid.
Finally we all have to face up to the degree and quality of service that one gets. Many parliamentarians have been overseas and have talked to people there. I heard somebody tonight say how people overseas had said that they were happy with the nationalised health services they had in their countries. This is completely unreal. Do the people of Australia all want to get in a queue in order to get, as somebody pointed out earlier tonight, a service which in some instances is too quick to be effective and where there is no service by a family doctor at all? It would be service by a paid servant, working as ordinary people work from 9 till 5 or 8 till 6, or perhaps with some short period in surgery later in the day but who is not giving the service in the sense that we receive it in this country today. Is that what the Government says it wants in the interests of the people of Australia? Does the Government really believe that it can get a health service from the medical profession, the nursing profession and all the paramedical professions associated with medicine on the basis of compulsion? Does the Government really believe that it can achieve the kind of service which the people have received throughout our history with a paid service from which the dedication has gone?
Do any honourable senators opposite go and talk to people in the electorate, the pensioners, whom they say are their special care? The pensioner receives wonderful treatment from his own family doctor through a scheme which is subsidised to a degree by the Government. That is all part of the existing scheme which the previous Government introduced and which this Government has carried on. Do honourable senators opposite imagine that if they introduce a service on a wholly paid sessional basis or a fee for service basis or a fully employed medical service the people will receive the quality of care that they receive now? They must be joking if they think that. The intimacy of the relationship between a doctor and his patient will be lost. As somebody said earlier, that intimate relationship cannot exist if the patient sees his doctor for only 5 or 6 minutes, although he will receive the best service the doctor can give in the time he will be on the job under a paid service.
The people of Australia do not want that sort of service. They want the freedom to choose their own doctor. They want to be able to go to a hospital in the normal way. They do not want to be put on a waiting list, as is the case in some countries. I visited a magnificant hospital in Scandinavia. The Director-General of Health was with me. I have had 25 years in the administration of hospitals. This was a magnificant hospital. We asked: ‘Where are the patients?’ We were told: ‘We have a telephone service first of all. The patient rings and is given a telephone diagnosis. Then there is a waiting period, and if that does not work the patient can get in a queue for the morning session, which operates for some hours in the morning, or for the afternoon session which operates for some hours in the afternoon. Finally, if that does not prove successful he can go on the waiting list to be treated’. This is a departure from the system we have in Australia. It is true that at times people have to wait in our public hospitals, but the waiting periods are not of the order we found in that great blueprint for the socialisation of medicine.
I entered this debate because I felt that it was a sham debate. There are so many implications in a proposition for nationalisation of medicine that it is unbelievable that anybody would accept that this is a genuine attempt to bring into being proposals contained in a Bill which has been rejected once before. Finally I want to refer to a challenge that was issued tonight by a previous speaker, Senator Carrick. It is true to say that in the United Kingdom a growing number of people have joined voluntary funds. That is basic and honourable senators do not have to rely upon me to tell them it is a fact. More and more people are joining voluntary funds in England, Scotland and Wales. I have spoken to a number of the Ministers for Health in the Canadian Provinces. They say, as did a man who was out here from Canada last year, that quite a significant number of applications are coming from people to join voluntary funds. I believe it has come to the situation where people who are in compulsory schemes pay their taxes and, at the same time, so that they can get hospital and medical services promptly and of their own choosingthat is the essence of it- are also paying dues to private funds.
I sum up by saying that here we are on what may well be the second last day of the life of this Parliament. Really, in truth, if a test were made we would vote unanimously to defeat this Bill. In my heart I am sure that if the Government were given the opportunity in its own time and in its own way it would not put this Bill as it is now or this one leg of a series of Bills as the final answer for a health scheme. Another thing I say is that it is quite improper to expect a decision to be taken on a series of Bills of which the very foundation, the key stone, is a taxing provision. We are not being asked to make a decision and to vote on that taxing rule; the amount of tax has not even been mentioned. Already since 1972 and 1973 the amount has varied. We are being asked to vote on a Bill which will live or die on the basis of the taxing part. We are being asked to give passage to the Bill without being told or being able to debate or to vote on the taxing part of it.
I realise that the Minister will respond in this debate, but I hope that we will put this measure to a vote tonight and will defeat it. But do not let anybody imagine that the Prime Minister of Australia, or any of his Ministers or anybody else, can go around and try to use that defeat as an argument to establish misbehaviour on the part of the Senate. We have not delayed the Bill. In fact, if we had thought that it were a reality Bill we would have debated it for many more days and with much more particularity than we are doing now. This is only a political gimmick to be used in campaigning. We will demonstrate, as will the people involved in private hospitals and nursing homes, who are reputable citizens, by documents which they have in their possession that as late as 27 March the Government tried to get by persuasion- I am using a gentle word- a variation of the Bill by offering certain concessions if people would agree to it. This demonstrates that this is not the Bill the Government wants. So it will not be able to go around Australia and beyond, wherever Australians are, saying that the Senate has failed because it has rejected this Bill twice. We rejected it because it was inadequate. It failed to give all the facts. It was not what the Government wanted. In any event, a socialised concept of medicine is contrary to the spirit of Australia and is not what the overwhelming majority of Australians wants.
– in reply- I, as the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in this chamber, have listened with great interest to the remarks of all honourable senators opposite who have debated this measure for practically the last 10 hours. This evening their remarks have been practically the same word for word, parrot style, as the remarks which were made in this chamber on 1 1 December, I think it was, when legislation of this nature was put forward by the Government after it had received a mandate from the Australian people in 1972.
– I have not noticed any difference in the Minister’s speech.
– I have sat here for 10 hours and have not coughed, let alone said a word, and I expect Senator Jessop to give me the same sort of courtesy that I gave when listening to the repetition of honourable senators to whom I have had to listen for 10 hours. Mr Deputy President, if Senator Jessop wishes to make a speech at this stage I will bow to his wishes and sit down and let him have a go for 5 minutes.
Let me give the political history of the controversy surrounding national health in Australia. The whole blame for this controversy is to be sheeted home to those who now protect vested interests by rejecting legislation that a Labor Government after a great political debate lasting 5 or 6 years in this nation secured a mandate to implement. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson for whom I have the greatest personel respect and who was a very progressive Minister for Health, so far as conservative Ministers go, will know that in 1968 this Senate expressed concern at the way in which the administration of health services and health insurance schemes was being conducted in Australia. By a majority decision, this Senate established a Senate select committee to inquire into health and hospital services in Australia. It was presided over by Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood and I had the honour to be elected by my Party which was then in Opposition, to that inquiry. The then Senator Dittmer and I brought down a recommendation- admittedly it was a minority recommendation- that the entire health scheme which existed then and which exists now should be scrapped and a national health insurance scheme established. The majority members of the committee expressed great dissatisfaction with the administration- or the maladministration- of the private health insurance scheme. At the time that that Senate committee was about to sit, the then Government decided to establish its own health insurance commission in addition to the select committee set up by the Senate. As my colleague, Senator Mulvihill, said, it was presided over by His Honour, Mr Justice Nimmo. After conducting an inquiry lasting some 18 months, Mr Justice Nimmo brought down a series of findings. This was a completely independent committee of inquiry whose findings were presented to the then Government in March 1 969. Mr Justice Nimmo said:
The application of these rules has caused serious and widespread hardship.
In general, apart from some minor corrections which were made after that report, the matters about which the Nimmo Committee complained relating to the health scheme that existed at that time in fact exist today under the scheme that was fostered under a series of conservative governments.
We have heard a lot of complaints tonight, especially from Senator Rae and Senator Little, about my colleague the Minister for Social Security visiting Canada in January, inspecting the situation there, hearing how the schemes function there and coming back with no alternative proposal to the one which he, on behalf of the Government, submitted to the Parliament in December. I remind honourable senators opposite that Mr Justice Nimmo, prior to the presentation of his report, also visited Canada and looked at the situation there. After having taken evidence in Australia and after having visited Canada, one of his recommendations was that the Commonwealth establish a national health insurance commission consisting of a chairman and 4 other commissioners. That report- a detailed and voluminous report- sought by the previous Government was presented to the then Minister for Health, Dr Forbes, in March 1969. Practically one year after, the Minister, in a ministerial statement presented to the Parliament on 4 March 1970, 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.
That was the then Liberal-Country Party Government. He continued:
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 in March 1970. We have heard nothing since from our political opponents, except when this Government moved in the Parliament to establish a national health insurance commission. Then they said that we did not have a mandate from the people. They rejected the Bill in December. We put it up again in April. They say that because it is exactly the same legislation as that presented in December they intend to reject it again. If there is any doubt about whether the Labor movement secured a mandate from the people in December 1972 on health insurance, let me read what the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his policy speech. He said:
We will establish a universal health insurance system not just because the Liberal system is grossly inadequate and inefficient, but because we reject a system by which the more one earns the less one pays, a system by which a person on $20,000 pays only half as much as a person on $5,000 a year.
If honourable senators care to peruse my second reading speech which I made in this chamber on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Social Security they will see the whole gravamen of the case for presenting this Bill to the Senate a second time this session. It is because we say there is a principle that a person who earns more should pay more than a person who earns less. That is the whole tenor of the second reading speech which I made on behalf of my colleague in another place. Under the heading ‘Health’ the Prime Minister, in his policy speech for the December 1972 election, said:
The most notorious single instance of unequal sharing of burdens is the Liberals’ health insurance system.
I personally find quite unacceptable a system whereby the man who drives my Commonwealth car in Sydney pays twice as much for the same family cover as I have, not despite the fact that my income is four or five times higher than his, but precisely because of my higher income.
The 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. An estimated 350,000 Australian families will pay nothing. Four out of five will pay less than their contributions to the existing scheme. Hospital care will be paid for completely by the Fund in whatever ward the patient’s doctor advises. The Fund will pay the full cost of medical treatment if doctors choose to bill the Fund directly, or refund 85 per cent of fees if the patient pays those fees himself.
Labor’s health insurance scheme has been carefully developed, analysed and costed over a period of nearly six years. It embraces the chief recommendations of the Nimmo Report and the Senate Select Committee on medical and hospital costs. I note that the latest complaint from the Australian Medical Association is that its details have been revised three times in the last five years. At least that’s two times fewer than doctors have raised their fees.
– Is it a sin to have to raise your fees? Parliamentarians raise their fees sometimes. Is it a terrible sin to raise your fees?
– It is the accepted thing.
– Did not your Party set up a commission to do it and say that it would agree to what the commission said?
– It is the accepted thing that medical fees must necessarily be raised. But our complaint against the administration of funds by your Party when in government is that you put the contributions to funds up to too high a rate to enable massive reserves to be built up by the funds, reserves that were sat on by the funds. Workers in industry were finding that in many instances they could not afford to contribute. Only last week we had tendered by Professor Henderson a report on poverty in Australia. He said that there are 1,300,000 Australians living below the poverty line. All these facts have to be taken into consideration in determining whether this so-called voluntary health insurance scheme is a satisfactory one and can be compared in any way whatever to the universal health scheme.
I will not go on any further with the reading of the policy speech of the Labor movement in
November 1972. It received an overwhelming mandate from the people in December 1972. The reason we put this legislation forward now is that we realise that the Opposition parties have said they will vote against the Supply Bills when they come into the Senate and we want to prove that we have done our very utmost for the Australian people and to satisfy them that we have tried. We have done our utmost to carry out the mandate that they gave us to implement our policies on their behalf.
Much has been said by Opposition senators, especially by Senator Little, about the cost of the so-called- what is it that those on the other side call it- free medicine scheme. I just say that they always concern themselves about the costs but they never say what some of the benefits are that will accrue to the Australian community. For instance, the Australian Government- and that means the Australian taxpayers- pays roughly $ 1 95m by way of contribution to medical benefit funds and it pays $106m or $1 10m to hospital benefit funds, making a total of about $300m a year already that the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the taxpayers pays out to medical and hospital funds. But in typical fashion -
– Excuse me, is it to the funds or to the contributors?
– It goes to the funds for payment to contributors. But honourable senators opposite try to hide the fact that an amount of $300m is involved. They certainly ignore a great deal of the accruing benefits and, perhaps more to their shame, they try to hide the enormous benefits that would flow to the Australian people if this type of legislation were enacted. They do not say, for instance, that the present hospital bed benefit of 80c a day for uninsured patients is exactly the same as the amount of the benefit when it was introduced by the Chifley Labor Government in 1948. The hospital bed benefit of 80c a day for uninsured patients has never been changed in 26 years.
– How long has your Party been in government?
-We have been in government for 16 months. Last December your Party rejected our scheme which would have corrected the position and now you are rejecting it again. That benefit has never changed in 23 years of conservative government. We want to increase it from 80c a day not to $2 a day but to $16 a day. That is one of the benefits that honourable senators opposite would deny to patients in the hospitals throughout this country.
Honourable senators opposite refrain from saying that the hospital bed subsidy of $2 a day for insured patients is exactly the same as that which was introduced by a government of their political persuasion some 15 or 16 years ago, in 1958 or 1959, and never altered from 1958 or 1959 to 1972 when they went out of office. Honourable senators opposite do not say that in this legislation we intend to increase that bed subsidy for insured patients from $2 a day to $ 1 6 a day. They do not say, for instance, that the amount of subsidy payable for hospital bed accommodation for pensioners has been $5 a day since 1963. It has never changed in 10 years of conservative government. They do not say that if this legislation were given to us we would be increasing that subsidy for pensioners from $5 a day to $16 a day. They do not say that under our scheme pensioners, who now themselves have to pay for their own specialist attention unless they queue up at a public hospital and see a specialist there, will be able to go with dignity to see a specialist of their own choosing and receive the same treatment as anyone who presently can afford to do so. These are only some of the benefits that will be denied to the Australian people by the Opposition rejecting the legislation that we have proposed.
One could go on some considerable time. Certainly the universal health insurance program has been a major plank in the Labor Party’s platform since 1968, and the people of Australia have given the Labor movement the clearest mandate to introduce this program. The people of Australia gave this Government such a mandate because of the great need that exists throughout Australia for such a scheme. About a fortnight after the Government assumed office in December 1972 we established a Health Insurance Planning Committee to prepare guidelines for the implementation of the proposed health insurance program. At the time of his tabling the Committee’s report on 2 May 1973, my colleague, the Minister for Social Security, stated that the report was a working paper and that the final decision on how the health insurance program was to be introduced would be made by the Government. In publishing the Committee’s recommendations, it was the Government’s desire that the public and interested parties should have full opportunity to examine and discuss the proposals and to inform the Government of their views and suggested improvements before any final decisions were made. There were numerous newspaper editorials on the program. There were comments and there were letters discussing the report’s implications for health care in Australia. Mr Hayden expressed his gratitude for the opportunity that was given to such a wide section of the community to express their views. The numerous representations that we received and discussions that we had with Mr Hayden ensured that interested parties put their views to the Government. These ideas served as a valuable basis for planning. As a result the Government decided to depart from and expand upon a number of recommendations of the Health Insurance Planning Committee report, although basically it accepted its essential elements and general principles.
On 8 November last year my colleague, the Minister for Social Security, tabled in Parliament a White Paper titled ‘Australian Health Insurance Program’ which set out details of the Government’s intentions. The principal legislation authorising the Government’s program was presented to the House of Representatives by Mr Hayden in November of last year. The Bills were passed through the House of Representatives. On 1 1 December 1973 they came into the Senate and were rejected by it on 13 December 1973. That sets out the history of this legislation. It sets out the earnest desire of this Government to implement the mandate that it has been given. A lot has been said about what our political opponents might or might not do. From the remarks that they have tendered in the Senate today one would gain the impression that if by some mischance at some future election they were re-elected to government they would continue with the hopeless, maladministered ramshackle scheme that the Australian people have had to put up with for so long.
My colleague, the Minister for Social Security, today tabled in the House of Representatives a document which purports to be the policy recommendations of the Committee on Social Security, Health and Welfare of the Liberal Party of Australia. It is a highly confidential document. It makes it quite obvious that the Liberal Party is not adverse to the institution of some form of compulsory health insurance. In fact, such a scheme is proposed in the Liberal Party’s policy recommendations from its Committee on Social Security, Health and Welfare. What is extraordinary is that in paragraph 1 1 of the document tabled by my colleague in another place reference is made to the fact that the Liberal Party proposes that a discriminatory, compulsory levy should be imposed on the taxation payments made by those who are too poor to pay for private health medical insurance.
Indeed, the Liberal Party Committee goes further. It actually suggests that low income earners and others should be compelled in this way to contribute to a government health insurance fund or, alternatively, should actually have their health insurance interest actually auctioned off to the lowest bidder amongst the private health funds. That is freedom of choice as far as our opponents in the Liberal Party are concerned. But that is only the start of it. This extraordinary document headed ‘Highly ConfidentialLiberal Party of Australia- Committee on Social Security, Health and Welfare- Policy Recommendations’ sets out in paragraph 24 -
– Where did the honourable senator steal it from?
– I was given a photostat copy of it by my colleague, the Minister for Social Security who I assume was given a copy of it by a member of the Liberal Party. This extraordinary document, in paragraph 24, suggests that doctors should ask their receptionists to keep a check on all their patients. That paragraph, which is headed: ‘Persons still uncovered for Health Insurance’, states:
As mentioned above, any universal scheme will not net 100 per cent of people. For example, the above system would not ‘catch’ persons who do not submit income tax returns for some reason or another. This problem will be overcome over a period of time when a person has to visit a hospital or a doctor and he is asked the name of the fund under which he is insured. If that visit disclosed that he is not insured, a simple prescribed form could be completed by the receptionists at the doctor’s surgery or the hospital and forwarded to the Department of Social Security.
Paragraph 25 states:
The overwhelming chances are that that person would be entitled to a fully subsidised health insurance premium benefit. If he is not, he would need to have some explanation as to why he does not submit an income tax return. The essential advantage is that all Australians under this scheme will be entitled as of right to the full range of health care, and doctors and hospitals will know that they will be paid.
So much for the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. The Liberal Party obviously is suggesting that the doctor’s surgery should become a flytrap for tax dodgers. It is obvious from the remarks that have been made by the Government’s political opponents that they intend to reject again the progressive legislation that is being introduced by the Labor Governmentlegislation for which undoubtedly and unquestionably it received a mandate from the Australian people to introduce and to implement. The Australian people certainly will be reminded of these matters between now and 18 May. I am certain that on 18 May the Australian people overwhelmingly will give the Labor movement another mandate to implement its progressive policy of a universal health insurance program.
Wednesday, 10 April 1974
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Questions so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 8 April (vide page 721), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion ( by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 1 1.30 a.m. this day.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It is now 1 1 minutes past 12 -
– What business will engage the attention of the Senate when it meets at 1 1 . 30 a.m.?
– I will deal with that matter when the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has finished his remarks.
-Senator Murphy can reply later. It is now almost 12 minutes past 12.I wish to make but a few comments. A lot has been said for some 15 months about whether we will have a double dissolution. There has been a lot of talk about whether issues may or may not have gone stale. There is no doubt in my mind, for what it is worth, that the Government now has the absolute instrument to go to the Governor-General. More than the minimum period of three months provided for has elapsed since the time the Bills which have just been defeated in the Senate were first introduced. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam ) now has - ( Government senators interjecting) -
-The Prime Minister now has the absolute watertight case on which to ask for a double dissolution. The question now is: Does he jump or is he pushed? If he does not - (Government senators interjecting)-
-A11 1 wish to say is that, now the Prime Minister has the bullet put in the breech, if he does not jump, we will push. That is all I wish to say. Either the Prime Minister jumps or we push. This will be the test of courage. Early last year when the Electoral Bill was first presented to the Senate the Opposition parties in this place had to make a decision. They took the decision to vote against that Bill on that first occasion in the full knowledge that if it came before the Senate a second time they would again vote against it. We have lived with the threat of a double dissolution since approximately March last year. All I am saying to Government supporters is that whether they like it or not there will be a double dissolution.
– Order! In essence, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is attempting to make clear to the Senate matters which concern him. He will be heard in the silence which is normally accorded to senators. Honourable senators can make as much noise as they like after I have put the motion that the Senate adjourn, after it is agreed to and the sitting of the Senate is adjourned until 1 1.30 a.m.
-Thank you. All I am saying, Mr President, is that we all know where we are headed. We are headed for a double dissolution. All I am saying to the Government is: Take your choice- jump or be pushed.
– in reply- Mr President, there are a number of matters that the Government would like considered tomorrow. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is of prime importance.
– Could you indicate your order of preference?
-Well, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. I think the attitude on it could be demonstrated fairly rapidly, as I think would also be the case with the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, the National Investment Fund Bill and Trade Practices Bill.
– Could we have the order?
– I can understand some honourable senators opposite wanting to speak in the debates because we all realise that they will have very little opportunity to speak in this place in the future. It is quite understandable that they will seek every opportunity to speak whether by interjection or otherwise. I am indicating that the Government would like the position to be made clear on the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, the National Investment Fund Bill and the Trade Practices Bill. Those are matters which the Government has put up before and which the Senate has failed to pass. I will not go into the technicalities we would expect the position to be put beyond doubt, even for the most obtuse person, as to what has been done by the Opposition to these Bills. Then we would hope to pass through the chamber a Bill dealing with the position of the Governor-General and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill. It is necessary that these be dealt with.
– Is there one to be dealt with concerning the Irish ambassador?
– If the honourable senator would like to succeed to that post in due course I will pass the information on to the appropriate authority. Mr President, I was asked to indicate what the Government would want and those are the substantial measures.
– What about the Appropriation Bills?
– We would want to bring the Appropriation Bills forward. There are moneys to be provided for the great purposes of the Commonwealth. We will see whether the bravado which has been exhibited last night and this morning will be repeated later today. If members of the Opposition would refrain from the very lengthy speeches which were made tonight we hope to make progress and to deal with the Appropriation Bills tomorrow. I earnestly hope so.
– When do you think the Senate will rise?
-I hope that the Senate will rise when it has demonstrated its attitude on the Bills to which I have referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.20 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
What film awards, if any, were won in 1972-73 by Film Australia, a division of the Department of the Media.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Between January 1972 and December 1973 Film Australia won 67 commendations in 30 film award competitions and festivals, as indicated below: 13th International Review of Maritime Documentaries, Milan (Italy) 1972.
Probing the Continental Margin
I ‘m Going to School Today
Tempo- Australia in the Seventies
Time and Peace
U.S. Industrial Film Festival, Chicago (USA) 1972
Tempo- Australia in the Seventies 4th International Festival of Sport and Tourism, Kranj, (Yugoslavia) 1972
The Big Island 1st Thessaloniki International Film Festival (Greece) 1972
The Gallery 16th San Francisco International Film Festival (USA) 1972
Tempo- Australia in the Seventies
The Federal Republic of Germany Exhibition Awards 1972
The Line 9th ANZAAS International Scientific Film Exhibition (Australia) 1972
Faces of the City
Australian Cinematographers Society Awards for Cinematography 1 972
The Choice 28th International Competition for Sports Motion Pictures at Cortina d ‘Ampezzo ( Italy ) 1 972
Subaqueous Film Festival, Turin, ( Italy) 1 972
Will the Great Barrier Reef Cure Claude Clough?
U.S. Industrial Film Festival, Chicago ( USA) 1 972
Color Diary 37
I ‘m Going to School Today
Kangaroos- Part 1: Biography
Tempo- Australia in the Seventies
Time and Place 1 5th International ‘Gold Mercury’ Film Prize Competition Venice (Italy) 1972 Tempo- Australia in the Seventies
Australian Writers Guild 5th Annual AWGIES Awards, Sydney (Australia) 1972
The Choice 9th International Educational Film Festival of Ministry of Education (Iran) 1972
Man in the Desert
Pegli Marine Film Contest, Genoa (Italy) 1972
Eighteen Footers 8th Chicago International Film Festival (U.S.A.,) 1972
Tempo-Australia in the Seventies 4th Guadalajara International Short Film Festival (Mexico) 1972
Where Dead Men Lie 5th International Film Review at Columbo (Sri Lanka )
Australian Film Awards, 1972
Water for a City 7th International Cinema Review, La Spezia (Italy) 1973
In the Bush 29th International Competition for Sports Motion Pictures at Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) 1973
Big Game Fishing in Australia
Educational Film Festival for Children, Calcutta (India) 1973
Beyond the Pack Ice
A Day at the Zoo
Australian Cinematographers Society Awards for Cinematography 1 973
The Amazing Platypus
Leisure and Entertainment (Part 8: Travels in Kangaroo Land)
Where Dead Men Lie
International Film Competition, Chens (Switzerland) 1973
Time and Place 14th International Review of Maritime Documentaries.
Milan (Italy) 1973
Big Game Fishing in Australia
U.S. Industrial Film Festival, Chicago ( U.S.A. ) 1973
Water for a City
Where Dead Men Lie 16th International Gold Mercury Film Prize Competition, Venice (Italy) 1973
Unknown Land 1st International Didactic Festival, San Remo (Italy) 1973
Kangaroos (TV version) 6th Annual Australian Writers Guild AWGIES Awards. 1973
The Passionate Industry 6th Atlanta International Film Festival (U.S.A.,) 1973
Where Dead Men Lie 4th International Review of Tourist and Scientific Documentary Films. Ovada (Italy) 1973
Great Barrier Reef 17th San Francisco International Film Festival (U.S.A..) 1973
The Amazing Platypus
To Run 1973 Australian Film Awards
The Passionate Industry
Towards Baruya Manhood
Film Australia: Co-production Films (Question No. 109)
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
How many co-production films has Film Australia participated in during the last 12 months and how many are planned for the future.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In the last twelve months Film Australia has participated in two co-productions with the National Film Board of Canada and one with B.B.C. television.
Discussions are shortly to take place with the New Zealand National Film Unit with the object of setting up at least one co-production in the future, and in addition the possibility of local co-production with the Australian Broadcasting Commission is being explored.
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
What investigations, if any, is the Department of the Media making into the latest overseas developments in sound and projection.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The main investigations in this field are being made by Film Australia, which operates within the Broadcasting and Film Division of my Department.
Apart from regular perusal of trade publications, follow-up correspondence with contacts established overseas and continuous liaison with local representatives of overseas manufacturers of sound and projection equipment and with others in the industry. Film Australia sends representatives overseas at regular intervals to study developments in the industry. The last such visit took place in June- August 1973, when a member of Film Australia’s sound department visited all the main overseas manufacturers of sound and projection equipment with the express purpose of bringing
Film Australia’s knowledge of professional studio equipment in this field up-to-date before finalisation of plans to equip new facilities currently under construction.
Two- Way Radios on Small Craft
– On 19 March 1974, Senator Rae asked me, as the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, the following question without notice:
On 12 December last year I asked a question in the following terms:
1 ) 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 side band radios may be installed; (2)I also asked whether it was correct that at the moment there is a shortage of these radios;
Whether it was correct that the cost of them was four times as great as the cost of double side band radios;
Whether the Minister was aware that the almost inevitable consequence of the enforcement of the present proposition would be a reduction in the possible safety provided by the use of those radios; (5)I asked for a reconsideration of the decision.
The Minister said that he would take it up with the PostmasterGeneral. I now ask whether there have been any results?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (l).(2)and(3).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 April 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740409_senate_28_s59/>.