30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 56 citizens of Victoria:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
1 ) The grounds constituting ‘due cause’ for termination of services of tenured staff are expanded beyond those already available in existing legislation thereby introducing subjective discretionary powers which are inconsistent with career service expectations and entitlements;
The Bill relegates to subordinate legislation or administrative direction matters affecting substantive rights of employees including the scale of compensation, the composition and powers of the appellate tribunal, and the criteria upon which services may be terminated;
Existing rights of reinstatement in tenured employment was abrogated by the Bill;
Agreement has not been reached on a number of matters which should have been finalised before any attempt to introduce legislation. These include: an arbitral determination on redundancy arrangements; benefits; procedures;
As currently drafted the Bill overrides entitlements under Arbitration awards.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the consumer price index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the consumer price index by eliminating particular items from the index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Carrick, Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Baume and Senator Gietzelt.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Tuesday, 24 May-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.
Wednesday, 25 May-2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Thursday, 26 May- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Friday, 27 May- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 5.00 p.m.
Monday, 30 May-2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Tuesday, 31 May- 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Wednesday, 1 June-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.p.m. to 1 1 .00 p.m.
Thursday, 2 June- 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
Friday, 3 June-10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., 8.00 p.m. to 1 1.00 p.m.
I give notice of the motion today so that honourable senators may make up their minds over the next fortnight about how they feel about these proposed days and times of meeting. I give an assurance that time will be made available to complete the debate on the motion moved by Senator Gietzelt for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into certain matters relating to East Timor.
– My question is directed to either the Minister for Science or the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. I ask whether the Minister is aware that the solar energy report of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources states:
There is no Australian energy policy and in the absence of any central direction to co-ordinate a search for alternatives, the complacency that currently exists will continue.
Is the Minister aware also that the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Thomas, endorsed at least the first part of that statement this morning on the radio program AM? Does the Minister agree with that proposition? If not, is he able to indicate what is the energy policy of the Government?
-I shall take this question as I think it properly belongs in the area of responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Resources. I have not had the advantage of reading the report put down in the Senate yesterday by my friend and colleague, Senator Thomas. Therefore, I think it would be unfortunate if, not having read the report, I were to make any comment on it. However, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has drawn my attention to it, I shall look at it and certainly shall draw the honourable senator’s comments to the attention of my colleague in the other place.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, by reminding the Minister of the discovery in an isolated farm house in rural New South Wales this week of an arsenal of weapons, supplies, military uniforms and ammunition. I ask the Minister: Is there any information on whether this weapon cache is associated in any way with any irregular paramilitary group or whether the owners of the weapons are members of any irregular paramilitary group? Can the Minister assure the Senate that the Commonwealth Police are examining all the implications in this find in relation to the internal security of Australia?
– I certainly can assure the Senate that the Attorney-General and his officers will keep this matter under close consideration. I am advised that at this stage it is really too early to make any judgment as to whether the cache of arms, ammunition, food and so on, to which Senator Baume referred, provides any evidence that a paramilitary group was operating there. But certainly the matter will be kept under close observation.
-I preface my question to the Minister for Science by reminding him of a reply which he gave to my colleague the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, on solar energy on 28 April, a week ago. I refer to the Minister’s statement that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was aware of all aspects of solar energy research in Australia. If this is the case, will the Minister undertake to ensure that CSIRO will prepare a document showing all of those persons and organisations in Australia which are engaged in solar research, where the research is being carried out, the level of funding received and the nature of the research? Will the Minister have such a document prepared and table it in the Senate so that it can then be made available as a public document?
– The honourable senator asks quite a comprehensive question which can be answered by either yes or no. My immediate reaction is to answer no, but perhaps it will assist the honourable senator to understand the situation better if I direct his attention to the many answers that I have given in this place relating to the difficulties of establishing those things he mentioned. I have been assured by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and by various researchers in universities that a great deal of information is passing between researchers on the individual projects that are being undertaken in nearly every university and college of advanced education in Australia. The researchers, when attending seminars on an international basis, are made aware of projects being undertaken within the United States of America, West Germany and other countries.
The honourable senator asks me whether I will undertake to ensure that a report be put down by CSIRO. I will not undertake to do so because I believe it would be an impossible task for CSIRO. The personnel who are engaged on these projects at universities are constantly changing, as was indicated by the Sydney University some three or four months ago. Sydney University apparently decided to change the priority of funding in this field and so some researchers were retracted from a particular program. I do not believe that it is appropriate that CSIRO or I should be involved with the independence of universities to decide the research work in solar energy they wish to undertake. Another problem in this area was explained quite well by the Minister for Education in answer to a question many months ago when he said that generally research in universities is quite considerable. For instance, Sydney University has claimed that it has allocated a quarter of a million dollars each year for the last 3 years to a certain project. My understanding of the situation is that it is impossible for a teaching university to be able accurately to claim that X amount of dollars is spent on research. There is a degree of research as there is a degree of funding in the educational field. As regards the nature of research -
– I take it your answer is no.
– I answer these questions in this way so that those who ask questions will be alerted, as they should be if they have an interest in a subject like this, to the considerable problems that exist in this field. If Senator Cavanagh has assisted his fellow senator in saying that the answer is no, that is the way I will leave the answer at the moment.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. To say that I am intrigued by the Minister’s reply is describing it mildly. I ask the Minister for Science whether it is possible for him to direct not necessarily a particular organisationif he is worried about that- but an organisation or his own office to compile a list of the information sought in my original question. I further ask- this is not a new matter- if he is not prepared to do this, does it mean that any investigation into solar energy is classified or secret? I add that particular word because I think the whole world is worried about the energy crisis at the moment and we need the information.
– I am always anxious to help the Senate as I am to help individual honourable senators. I shall take the honourable senator’s question on notice to see whether it is possible for me to obtain information from individual universities- from private areas of research, as they would be- to verify what work is being done in the solar energy field. The word is being used incorrectly. We are not speaking of solar energy generally; we are speaking of solar heat. The general debate on the matter is often misconstrued. I shall attempt to look at the correct interpretation of what the honourable senator has asked me in the next few days and see whether it is possible to compile such a list.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs by saying that I am aware of the increased efficiency of the Narcotics Bureau in recent months in detecting and seizing illegal drugs. Nevertheless, it is disturbing to learn of the significant increases in the use of heroin in Australia and particularly that most addicts are under 24 years of age and some as young as 12 years of age. Is it known that most of the heroin used in Australia is smuggled from Thailand? If so, what steps are being taken to eradicate this illegal and damaging activity.
-It is a fact that the majority of heroin being sold on the illicit market in Australia originates in South East Asia, with Thailand being one of the major shipping points. Close liaison exists between the Narcotics Bureau and law enforcement authorities in South East Asian countries, including Thailand. An officer of the Bureau is stationed in Kuala Lumpur to facilitate the exchange of intelligence and conduct of joint operations. In recent months there have been a number of joint operations with Thailand authorities which have resulted in the seizure of significant quantities of heroin which were destined for Australia. In addition, enforcement personnel from Thailand have visited Australia on training and study tours and for discussion with narcotics and customs personnel regarding this problem. Currently the head of the Thailand Customs Bureau is in Australia. He has had detailed discussions with our departmental officers in Canberra concerning the drug problem.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of an investigation by the United States Justice Department into the allegations of interference in Australian politics by the Central Intelligence Agency? Will he state whether the inquiry promised by the Prime Minister has proceeded and what information has been gathered? Will the Government institute a full public inquiry into this grave matter of foreign interference in Australian domestic affairs?
-As the honourable senator will know I merely represent the Prime Minister in this chamber. I shall seek the answers to the honourable senator’s 2 questions from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. A report in a recent newspaper stated:
Last year, the Soviet Union and all their allies in the Warsaw Pact, gave less than half as much aid as West Germany to the under-developed world.
Can the Minister ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the other place whether he can provide information on, firstly, the amount of foreign aid provided by the Soviet Bloc countries; secondly, the general conditions underlying this aid, tied or untied; and finally, whether the paper’s assertion is correct and whether it is not unusual to find a similar comparison between the Soviet Union and countries other than West Germany.
-Senator Lajovic was good enough to give me prior notice that he intended to ask a question along these lines. My colleague in the other place has provided the following information: According to the latest figures available from the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development, net resource flows to developing countries from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern Europe in 1975 amounted to $US500m, of which $US375m was official development assistance, known as ODA. This represented 2 per cent of global ODA. Commitments by the U.S.S.R. generally carry hard financial terms, although in 1 975 the grant elements of its commitments may have reached over 70 per cent due to the rescheduling of Afghanistan’s debt. It is unlikely that these terms were reached in 1976. The figure compares with the DAC members’ average of 89.4 per cent and Australia’s average of 99 per cent in 1975. East European terms, on average, are still harder than Soviet financial conditions and frequently carry new commercial rates of interest.
The official Soviet view on aid is that, as it had no share in the exploitation of developing countries during colonial times, it is not obliged to share in the historical debt for the suffering caused those countries. Russia claims this is wholly the responsibility of Western countries. By way of comparison, the net flow of resources to developing countries from Australia in 1975 was $US590m of which $US507m was ODA, and that from the Federal Republic of Germany was $US4,962m of which ODA was $US 1,689m. The ODA of the Federal Republic of Germany is therefore seen to be 4lA times that of the Soviet bloc countries and its total transfer of resources is approximately 10 times as great.
- Mr President, my question is directed to you as the executive officer of the Parliament. I remind the Senate of the questions already asked regarding the provision of adequate shelter for police officers who are charged with the responsibility for the security of Parliament House. As winter is almost upon us, with the overnight temperatures already low and we have no reason to believe that this year they will be any less severe than in other years, and as this Parliament has a responsibility for the health of the people involved, I ask: Is it true that sentry type boxes have already been constructed and are at present being held in store at Fyshwick? If so, will they be installed, and when? What is the total cost of manufacture and installation? If not, what provision will be made for the protection from the elements of these people during the winter months? What other avenues of surveillance are being investigated for the security of Parliament House?
– We are very conscious of the problems inherent in the question. I shall give a detailed reply to the honourable senator’s question as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of speculation in Cairns resulting from a report that a booking has been made with the owner of a big game fishing boat in the name of a South African head of state and also a report that a booking has been made with a motel in Cairns for a leading Ugandan diplomat- both bookings for early July- will the Minister ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether any person fitting that description has applied to visit this country?
– The Premier of Queensland.
-That is a hard act to follow. I felt that there was a contradiction in terms by the honourable senator when he said that an African head of state might be the same person as a Ugandan diplomat. I have no personal knowledge of whether an African or a South African head of state intends to visit Australia in a personal capacity. I certainly have no knowledge of whether a booking has been made at a motel for a Ugandan diplomat. However, I will ask my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he has any knowledge of such a person or persons intending to visit Queensland.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services and refer to questions that I asked him last week concerning the printing and distribution of the second part of the Fox Ranger uranium report. The Minister replied to me that he had authorised the report to be printed by a private commercial printing house. Has the Government called for the second pan of the Fox report to be published not later than the first week in May, which is this week? Because today is the last day of sitting of the Parliament for at least a fortnight, is it intended by the Government to have the second part of the Fox Ranger uranium report issued while the Parliament is in recess? Can the Minister give some indication at this stage of the likely date of publication of the report?
-The last information I have on this matter is that the coloured maps which form a very important part of the report were delivered to the printers I think only on Tuesday of this week and it will be impossible to table the report this week because it is still in the printer’s hands. The Government is using all possible endeavours to make certain that the report is tabled before the Parliament rises for the winter recess.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Does the Minister agree that one consequence of wage increases in labour intensive low profit industries is increased unemployment as employers try to cope with increased overheads? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Council of Trade
Unions is putting to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the current case that all award wages should be increased across the board? Does the Minister agree that such an increase will penalise workers in the low profit industries -
– I rise to order. This is a matter before a judicial authority and to try to influence the authority by getting the Minister’s opinion which, I take it, will be put by counsel for the Government to the Commission, is a wrong practice for the Parliament to engage in. I ask that the question be ruled out of order.
– The Commission is an arbitral authority. It is a commission and not a court of law and I suggest that there is no substance in the point of order.
– I will hear the remainder of the question.
– Does the Minister agree that such an increase will penalise workers in the low profit industries by tending to create further unemployment? Can the Minister say whether or not this is further evidence that union leaders are doing all in their power to keep the unemployment level in Australia as high as possible?
– The Minister can reply.
– I think it can be expected that before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, when the respondents on both sides argue their cases, the employer groups will use a lot of the material which the honourable senator has mentioned. I would not in any way want to prejudice the hearing before the Commission or to take a position which would appear to be highly prejudiced but one or two things might usefully be said in the Senate as distinct from the Commission. I am not appearing before the Commission. It is perfectly true that over the last 5 years there has been a very serious cost imbalance between Australia and our trading partners. Three factors can be clearly identified. One is the exchange rate movement. Another is that wage increases have been well above the level of wage increases of competitive trading partners. This has resulted, without doubt, in a loss of market and exposed import competition. That, without doubt, has resulted in heavy increases in unemployment in the manufacturing industry. It might equally be said, I think in fairness, that the Government and myself have demonstrated our very great concern about unemployment. We have sought, wherever we can, to try to manage the import position so that we can keep unemployment at the best possible level. Unemployment has grown out of high wage increases and out of high inflation and the loss of competitive trading advantage. That is a fact of life. The continuation of that situation would be a continuation of disaster.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, relates to the one that has just been asked. I ask him: Is it not a fact that this Government has claimed for months now, at least certainly during 1977, that inflation is coming down, that the rate of increases in wages is coming down, that investment is going up and that profits are also going up? Is it not a fact that the Government has claimed consistently that these are the essential factors for economic recovery in this country and for the reduction in unemployment? If the Minister believes the Government’s propaganda which I have just indicated, and if all the claims are true, can he explain why unemployment is still rising and the fact that it is not due to the factors alleged by Senator Lewis?
-This is no time to be giving a series of economic lectures.
– Well you just gave us one.
– Why do I not just make a few useful comments amongst the shouting and the tumult? Most members of the Opposition rely from time to time on daily newspaper cuttings, so let us look at one that came out this morning. It states: ‘Inflation has been cut: Syntec’. The Government has said that the underlying inflationary trend is coming down. That is certainly so. The best information I have at the moment is that wage increases look like coming down for the year ending March 1 977 and will represent a lower rate of expansion than that for the year ended March 1976. From that information, together with the national account figures that show that economic recovery is clearly to be seen, it would appear that what the Government says is true. What the Government and I have been saying for quite a long time is equally truethat the last point of recovery in an economy that has been flattened is to get employment back to reasonable levels. That is the last thing that happens. Honourable members opposite ought to understand that.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate have been claiming continually that there is a necessity to have simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives, I ask: Is it not a fact that simultaneous elections of the Senate and House of Representatives can be held simply at the request of the Prime Minister? Is it also not a fact that in these austere times all that is necessary, with the Prime Minister talking about austerity, is for the Prime Minister to mount his push bike, go out to Yarralumla and see the GovernorGeneral and tell him that he wants an election of the House of Representatives and the Senate at Senate election time? Is it not a fact that that situation can be brought about?
-It is unfortunate that the honourable senator does not understand some of the problems even in that proposition which he put up. If he took time off to read the High Court judgments in both the McKinlay case and the McKellar case, he would know that unless one wished to have an election at large, it is not possible to take the House of Representatives out until a redistribution is made, certainly in accordance with the decision in the latter High Court case.
– And as approved by Parliament.
– Yes, and as approved by Parliament. Whilst the Government has great expectations that legislation for a redistribution will be through the Parliament before we rise for the Christmas recess, I remind honourable senators that the distribution commissioners are people of a great deal of independence and they will prepare a redistribution in their time and not in the Government’s time.
– I hope so.
– Yes, we hope so. I might say that the commissioners were quite deliberately chosen for having no known political affiliations.
– Like the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
-I am just saying that this case is unlike the previous case when distribution commissioners were picked. Not one person who was chosen has any known political affiliations nor has he been accused of having any known political affiliation.
– How did you check that out?
-As far as we know they have none with us. If honourable senators opposite thought that they had, they would have squeaked. No person in the community has ever made any accusation against the 18 commissioners who have been appointed of having any political affiliation. As far as I have been able to discover, they have none. After the redistribution is through- if all honourable senators do not understand, certainly people in the other place understand- it will be some time before the rolls are put in order. It is a very slick argument to use to take the House of Representatives out. That may have been a good argument if it had not been for the intervention of Mr McKellar in the High Court. That has changed the situation, certainly for the next 12 months at least. Therefore I say to Senator Wood that whilst it sounds a very simple proposition it is not in accordance with the fact.
- Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I feel that the Minister dodged the question. I ask him whether he remembers the No case campaign conducted by his party in the 1974 referendum when he said that the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, was putting up a fraudulent and deceitful case and that he could have an election of both Houses at any time he desired. Is this another case in which he has changed his mind? As a member of the legal profession, does he mean that the advice he gave then was unsound and that the advice is now wrong? Will he state definitely whether a Prime Minister can take the House of Representatives out when the Senate goes out to its halfSenate election, just as Mr Menzies, as Prime Minister, separated the 2 Houses in their simultaneous elections?
-I thought that I had explained to the honourable senator- perhaps I failed- that there are some problems in the way of the House of Representatives going out in the immediate future. If the honourable senator believes that it would be a good thing to have the House of Representatives elected at an election at large instead of by single member constituencies let him say so, but I think there is a general desire, certainly by members of that place, for the single constituency member to continue. It is not for me to put a judgment on that as a senator, but as an elector I prefer a single member constituency to having all the House of Representatives members elected in a single constituency sense. If the honourable senator just does not understand the implications of the 2 recent High Court cases there is nothing much I can do for him. But I would have thought that a person with his length of service in this Parliament would have understood that and that when Sir Robert Menzies took out the House of Representatives a year early these matters had not then intervened. The stage when Sir Robert took the House of Representatives out in 1963 was before the 1964 amendment was made to the Electoral Act which the High Court has just said is of no force and effect. So the situation did not apply and therefore I have nothing to add to the first pan of my answer.
– Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware of a massive slump in the building industry, with approvals for private dwellings falling by 16 per cent in March and total approvals decreasing by 22 per cent in the same month? In view of the tight monetary policy being pursued by the Government, especially on interest rates, does the Minister not agree that the prospects of a continued slump in the building industry are high? When will the Government take action to stimulate the building industry, especially as it has remained in the doldrums and with high unemployment for a considerable period?
-I heard for the first time this morning some of those figures which the honourable senator reported as appearing to be the case. I have asked for some papers on this and whether I can get them by tonight, because the indications are that the industry is slowing down, as he said. It is a matter of great concern. He is correct about that. If it is necessary to take corrective measures, they will be examined very critically both by myself and the Government. It is true that high interest rates are part of the problem. It is equally true that they grew out of a high rate of inflation. It is equally true that the Australian Labor Party put up the high interest rates.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say whether the reported failure of the Victorian Minister of Agriculture to proceed with legislation necessary to implement that part of the Industries Assistance Commission Crawford report relating to the introduction of a levy on market milk will place the whole scheme in jeopardy? In particular, what effect will it have on the underwriting support by the Federal Government to the dairying industry?
– I am actually in a state of greater knowledge of liquids other than milk, but I will do the best I can. I understand- this is pretty brief information- that the failure of the Victorian Minister of Agriculture is really a serious matter and that it could disrupt the stability of the fluid milk sector. It is very hard for us to understand, particularly Mr Sinclair to whom I was able to speak very quickly before question time began, why this course is being taken. Mr Smith apparently has not agreed to the introduction of stage one, as was agreed by all State and Commonwealth Ministers at the last Australian Agricultural Council meeting at Launceston. It seems therefore to Mr Sinclair- I am speaking for him- to be a great pity. He is hoping to resolve the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. It refers to representations made to him for the extension of repatriation benefits to those naturalised Australian citizens, mostly Polish, who fought with allied forces under British command. The Minister’s answer to representations indicates a wide discrepancy of the numbers involved. Is the Minister in a position to respond to my suggestion that a joint working party of representatives of his Department and of Polish ex-servicemen’s organisations ascertain a definite figure of those for whom the entitlement is required and thought desirable by the Government?
- Senator Harridine has referred to one matter that has been raised by me and my Department in relation to submissions made by Polish veterans in Australia for an extension to them of the Service pension, and that is the matter of how many of them would be entitled to receive a pension if an extension were made. There is wide discrepancy, certainly in figures that have been placed before me. I understand that further information has been supplied to my Department. Certainly that is being considered at the present time. Whether it needs to be considered by a joint working party, or some such proposal, is another matter. However, I add further that although the Government is sympathetic to the case made by the Polish veterans in Australia, and although it is the policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties to consider further extensions of the Service pension, this matter has to be viewed in the light of the present economic circumstances. The proposal was looked at last year in the budget context. I have said to them that I will look at it again in the budget context. The major problem facing the Government in this matter is simply a matter of cost and the economic circumstances that the country faces.
-Could the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs inform me why returned soldiers from other Commonwealth countries who are eligible for and receive Service pensions in this country do not receive any of the supplementary concessions such as medical, main roads registration, rates, rail and bus, etc., that are presently enjoyed by their Australian counterparts? Does not this appear to be unfair discrimination against those men who also fought and made many sacrifices in the cause of world peace?
- Senator Bonner has asked for a further extension of Service pension benefits to members of other Commonwealth forces to whom the Service pension has been extended in Australia, provided they have resided in Australia for at least 10 years and satisfy other conditions. However, it is a fact that although the Service pension is payable to eligible members of other Commonwealth forces they do not receive what are commonly known as fringe benefits. As far as my Department is concerned, that is eligibility for hospital and medical benefits at the expense of my Department. That, of course, is a major benefit received by other Service pensioners. The other matters to which the honourable senator referred such as relief from rates and concessions for rail fares, bus fares, motor vehicle registrations and so on are all matters for State governments and State parliaments. His question in that regard should be addressed to them and not to me. The question of extension of the Service pension to members of other Commonwealth forces and to other allied veterans to whom Senator Harradine referred in a question earlier does represent in itself an extension of the usual principle that applies between Commonwealth and allied countries regarding veterans’ rights and benefits. The principle is that each allied country or Commonwealth country accepts responsibility for their ex-service men and exservice women by giving them benefits similar to our repatriation benefits. The extension of the Service pension by Australia to certain Commonwealth veterans is really a generous extension of the benefit. Now we are being asked to extend that benefit further. We are being asked: Why not give them hospital and medical benefits as well? Why not give the Polish veterans the benefit as well? The simple answer to those questions is the cost to the Government of providing such benefits in the circumstances I have already outlined. I should have thought that honourable senators, particularly those on this side of the chamber, would be aware of those considerations. Cost is certainly the overriding consideration of the Government in regard to this type of matter at this time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. As it is now more than a year since the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Public Libraries revealed the inadequacies of the Australian public library services and recommended measures for their improvement and as, since that time, there has been no indication from the Government, apart from its referral of the report to an interdepartmental committee for its attention, can the Minister now give some indication of what steps the Government intends to take in respect of the report’s recommendations?
-This is an important matter. It is under study and, in due course, the Government will announce its policy on it.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the distress caused to persons who are separated or divorced and who have legal custody of children of the marriage to whom former partners, carrying dual nationality, are entitled to access. Is it a fact that in many cases the non-Australian country entitles the passport holder to include on the same passport his or her children? Can this lead to such children being legally spirited out of this country without the knowledge of the legal custodian? Will the Minister request the relevant Ministers to give urgent consideration to this problem with a view to obtaining the restriction of” duality of passports for the children of persons who are not their legal custodians?
-The honourable senator raises a very interesting problem. I am certain that my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will take it up. I will certainly refer it to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. In answer to a question I asked earlier in the week on holiday care programs for children, the Minister advised that the main criterion for funding was that the
Minister looks first to those organisations which have been funded before. Can the Minister now advise me what criteria were applied in funding the City of Frankston and the City of Hawksburn primary schools in Victoria as they had not been funded before, and why the City of Williamstown, the City of Altona, the Australian Greek Welfare Society, the City of Essendon, the Huntingdale Technical School and the City of Chelsea, which had previously been funded, were denied funding for these holidays? Do the same criteria that apply to those people apply in every other State?
– I shall analyse the questions that have been raised by the honourable senator. I suggest that if the questions were put on notice I could answer in definite terms the matters that have been raised.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he is aware that at a public meeting of 500 people at Coppin Hall, Melbourne, last week, addressed by the Russian’ dissident, Viktor Reinberg, and Oxford Lecturer in Psychiatry, Dr Sidney Block, the following resolution was passed unanimously:
That this meeting is aware of the distressing and heartrending misuse of the great profession of psychiatry for political purposes and deplores this. We ask the officials of the Soviet Union to take note of world feeling on this matter and to cease this abuse. We plead for the immediate release of noted psychiatrist, Dr Semyon Gluzman
Recognising the valuable international stand taken by the Australian Government last year on the use of torture, for which Australia has been thanked by Amnesty International, I ask: Will the Government take an early opportunity to express its views on the misuse of psychiatry, a matter of grave concern to so many Australians?
-I am quite certain that my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will be prepared to accede to the request of the honourable senator. There have been numerous allegations about the misuse of psychiatry, especially against dissidents in some countries. I think it is a matter which we all deplore as being contrary to human rights and human dignity. I shall certainly urge my colleague to take the action which the honourable senator suggests.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, relates to earlier questions which have been asked in respect of the payment of benefits to
Polish ex-servicemen living in Australia. In answer to an earlier question the Minister observed that the governments of the countries in which the respective ex-servicemen served held some responsibility for the payment of ex-service benefits to those people. Is it not a fact that Polish ex-servicemen and also, to a lesser extent and in smaller numbers, some other allied exservicemen living in Australia, such as the smaller numbers of Czechoslovak exservicemen, no longer have the type of relationship with the government of their home country which would lead to the government of their home country paying benefits to them? Is it not a fact also that the British Government has accepted responsibility for the payment of certain benefits to Polish ex-servicemen who are now living in Australia? As these Polish exservicemen, for the most part, have been living in Australia for some 3 decades now, during which time many of them have raised families and have worked in this community, does not Australia have some moral responsibility to provide benefits to these persons, most of whom are now Australian citizens, who served in the allied cause and whose case was under consideration by the Labor Government before its dismissal from office?
– The short answer to each of the honourable senator’s questions is yes. The fact that Polish veterans in Australia and some other allied ex-servicemen who are resident in Australia are not able to receive benefits from their former governments is a very strong reason for the Government being sympathetic to the problem. However, as I qualified my reply to Senator Harradine ‘s question, the important matters are how many such people would be eligible for such benefits if they were extended and what is the likely cost to the taxpayers of Australiathat is what it is; people talk about the cost to the Government- if the benefit is extended.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I refer to a reported statement attributed to the National President of the Ex-Services Action Association in the Sunday Mail of I May relating to the alleged misleading statement by the Minister regarding legal representation for ex-servicemen before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which, according to a Press release, will be in force by the end of this year. Is it a fact that in evidence before the Toose Committee inquiry many ex-service organisations supported the view that ex-servicemen should be entitled to legal representation, particularly as the President of the new Tribunal will be a member of the judiciary? In the light of advice of these organisations, is it the Government’s intention to proceed with the reported decision to allow legal representation only at the discretion of the judge who happens to be the President of the Tribunal? Is the Minister aware of the Canadian system based on legal representation for ex-servicemen which is quoted at page 251 of the Toose report and which has operated to the satisfaction of war veterans and the Government of that country over a considerable period?
– I understand that it is true that some ex-service organisations supported the idea of legal representation before repatriation tribunals at the hearings of the Toose inquiry. However, certainly the Returned Services League of Australia did not do so. I believe it is true that the Ex-Services Action Association to which Senator Jessop referred was one of the associations that supported legal representation. In the statement I made when announcing the Government’s decision on a new appeal system under repatriation legislation I was referring to comments that have been received by me or my Department in relation to the Toose report. The Toose report advocated legal representation, but the Returned Services League, the Australian Services Council, which represents 12 important ex-service organisations, and Legacy all informed the Government of their opposition to the proposed right of legal representation at all hearings of appeals. That is a very wide and distinguished representation of the views of exservicemen detailed there.
It was those views to which I was referring. If anyone felt that I had been misleading about the views of some other ex-service organisations which were expressed at a different stage of the proceedings I can only apologise to them. I am aware of the Canadian system. Apparently it works satisfactorily there. The fact remains that in Australia the overwhelming views of exservice organisations are certainly against legal representation at hearings before appeal tribunals.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In prefacing my question I assume that the Minister is aware that a highly controversial redistribution of State boundaries in Queensland is currently being carried out by the Queensland Government appointed commissioners, including Sir Douglas Fraser, who is aged 77 years and a patron of the National Civic Council, and Mr Archibald Archer, who is aged 75 years and a former member of the Country Party. In view of the increasing criticism in Queensland over the background of the commissioners and of the redistribution itself, both from the Labor Party and from the Minister’s own Party, will the Minister confirm that Mr Archibald Archer’s name was put forward for consideration as a Commonwealth distribution commissioner prior to the announcement of the commissioners in April? If so, who suggested Mr Archer for this task? Secondly, is it a fact that Mr Archer’s name was rejected by the Commonwealth Government for a number of reasons, most important of which was that Mr Archer was considered to be so biased towards the National Party that he was unlikely to carry out his duties as distribution commissioner impartially.
-It is a good story. The distribution commissioners as finally selected were all recommended to me by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. From memory I do not think that Mr Archer’s name was amongst the panel submitted by Mr Pearson. I shall have to check to see whether I have ever seen Mr Archibald Archer’s name anywhere in connection with the appointment of the distribution commissioners. I cannot recall seeing his name. I know nothing of the gentleman, his age, his political affiliations or anything else. He is totally unknown to me.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a report in today’s Press that 60 employees in a paper mill in South Australia have launched a work sharing scheme taking one week off without pay every month to save the jobs of 28 men. Is it a fact that these men cannot obtain unemployment benefits for the off week? If so, why do employees on the same scheme in mills in other States receive unemployment benefits. Why has the Minister referred the matter to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations?
– This matter was raised with me by Senator Donald Cameron on 2 occasions a week or so ago. I undertook to obtain information for him. I was able to advise him yesterday of the Department’s and the Government’s attitude with regard to this matter. It would be appropriate if I were to state some of the information I was able to give to Senator
Cameron. Firstly, the article in the Australian today states that the scheme was adopted at paper plants in 3 other States and that workers in those plants had received unemployment benefit. As far as we have been able to discover the only approvals given in 1975 in work rationing situations were for Associated Pulp and Paper Mills in Burnie and Nowra -we have regarded this as one organisation- an automotive plant in Victoria and a manufacturing organisation in New South Wales. The benefit for members of staff of those organisations was approved in the particular circumstances applying at the relevant time in 1 975 when the former Government was in office. In 1975 approval was given by the DirectorGeneral to the payment of benefit to the employees of the small number of organisations which I have mentioned with whom temporary stand down arrangements were made by the employers. In the case of the employees in one of those organisations it was decided that special benefit would be paid when a similar situation arose in 1 976.
I was asked by Senator Young why the matter has been referred to the Department o.f Employment and Industrial Relations. As I advised Senator Cameron, the whole matter was reviewed by my Department in 1976 in association with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. As a result of that review the Director-General has concluded that a person who has not effectively terminated his employment and is working on a 3-week on and 1-week off basis would normally be unable to satisfy the conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefit, namely that he is unemployed, that he is capable of and willing to undertake suitable work and that he has taken reasonable steps to obtain such work. In view of this, unemployment benefit cannot be paid to employees who are temporarily stood down because of work rationing arrangements by employers. It is not possible to make exceptions to the circumstances applying at the cellulose mill. I assure honourable senators that the benefit is not being paid under these conditions in New South Wales or in any other State. The circumstances applying at the cellulose mill lead us to conclude that the benefit cannot be approved under the terms of the Act which I have stated. Because of our observance of privacy and confidentiality it is not our general practice to discuss individual cases except with the person concerned. But because this matter has been raised in the Senate I have given more publicly stated views on it than I normally would give. As I have said in response to Senator Donald Cameron and I now say to Senator
Young, the persons who would be working under these stand down arrangements of one week off in 4 weeks would not be considered by the Director-General to be eligible for unemployment benefit.
-Can the Minister for Social Security inform me why there is a delay by the Office of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation in deciding and settling compensation claims? Is there any explanation of why a period of 2 years has elapsed in trying to meet a claim in relation to industrial deafness by 3 boiler attendants at the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury in South Australia?
– As Minister responsible for the activities of the Office of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation I am unaware of the long delay which has been mentioned by the honourable senator with regard to specific claims for industrial deafness. I shall refer the matter to the Commissioner and obtain information for the honourable senator. I agree with him that settlement as early as possible is desirable. If there is undue delay for any reason I shall see that the honourable senator is advised accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I invite the attention of the Minister to an important and responsible editorial in this morning’s edition of the Australian Financial Review entitled ‘CIA: Fraser cannot just sit on his hands’. I shall quote briefly from that editorial. It states:
The allegation (not as yet denied by any government authority) that the CIA has tapped overseas telephone and telex messages is a particularly serious one.
The Australian business community ought to be especially concerned about the commercial implications of this.
If it is true that the CIA has access to all communications by telephone and telex between Australia and the rest of the world then the US agency has access to information of considerable commercial value.
In view of the serious nature of these allegations that the CIA has been tapping telephone and telex messages from Australia and the fact that such information would be a grave intrusion, providing United States business interests with major advantages over Australian businessmen, will the Government cease doing nothing and establish a full investigation to ascertain the truth or otherwise of these allegations?
-I shall pass on that request to the Prime Minister.
-Yesterday Senator Primmer asked me a question about a squash tour of South Africa. My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs has supplied the following answer: The squash tour to which the honourable senator refers first came to the notice of officials yesterday, 4 May. Our understanding is that it is a women’s team which does indeed comprise 4 players and a manager. The Government is not in a position to stop the tour. However, the relevant Australian squash authority should be in no doubt about the Government’s position on sporting contacts with South Africa. Nor should it be in any doubt that it would be a matter of regret to the Government and in our view contrary to Australia’s interests if a tour clearly inconsistent with the Government’s policy in this area should go ahead. Finally, steps are being taken to ensure that this view is brought to the attention of the squash officials concerned.
– For the information of the honourable senators, I present the monthly reports of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for October, November and December 1976, and January, February, March and April 1 977. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of these papers have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library.
-I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria)I wonder whether the Senate would extend to me the beneficence of allowing me to make a statement whilst sitting down. Senator Sheil informs me that this lack of resilience is only temporary but I would be grateful of some succour at the moment.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I seek leave to have a statement relating to the operations of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence incorporated in Hansard. I merely make the observation that in accordance with the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate that when leave is sought to incorporate material in Hansard the senator seeking the incorporation should make the information available to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition. I understand that both honourable senators have no objection to the incorporation of this statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
By the authority vested in it by resolutions of both Houses of the Parliament, the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee is empowered to investigate and report on matters referred to it by either House, by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, or the Minister for Defence, and it may initiate its own references. It also has power to appoint subcommittees to conduct investigations. In the reconstitution of the Committee in March 1 976, the Committee decided to appoint three subcommittees to investigate a number of matters upon which it considered it important that the Parliament should be informed. The Committee believes that it is appropriate that the Senate should be informed of the activities of the Committee and its sub-committees. The main Committee itself has met regularly and has been briefed on a number of important matters regarding both foreign affairs and defence. The sub-committees have been given references initiated from within the Committee and these are:
The committee is continuing its work in the wider field of the significance of the fragile Middle East situation and has submitted its draft report to the full Committee, which has fully endorsed that report and it will be presented to Parliament during the current Parliamentary sittings.
In conclusion, on behalf of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, I commend the Chairmen and members of the three subcommittees for the valuable contribution they are making to Parliament’s knowledge of important Foreign Affairs and Defence matters. The Senate can rest assured that the Committee and its subcommittees are conscientiously fulfilling the tasks the Parliament intended for them.
-I present the twelfth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
-On behalf of Senator Rae, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Is it desired to postpone or rearrange the business?
– By agreement, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday 24 May 1977 at half past 2 p.m. or such other hour and day as may be fixed by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees and that the day and hour of meeting so determined shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 3); 1976-77 which, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77 which I shall introduce shortly, comprises the additional estimates for 1976-77. In these Bills, Parliament is asked to appropriate moneys, under specified heads of expenditure, additional to the appropriations made under Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1976-77. The additional appropriations total $326.073m, of this $247.476m is sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $78.597m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4). I particularly draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that the amount of $326.073m in additional appropriations sought in the Bills that I am introducing today compared with $506. 201m provided for last year and $1,240,941 min 1974-75.
The proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1976-77. 1 am pleased to be able to inform the Senate that, notwithstanding the additional appropriations that are now sought, the prospect is that the total outlay in 1976-77 over the whole range of expenditures, including those financed from special appropriations, will not vary significantly from the figure of $24,32 lm that was contained in the Budget. This situation reflects, in a quite dramatic way, the success the Government has achieved in the execution of its policy of expenditure restraint. The additional appropriations sought in the Bills are more than counterbalanced by savings in other annual appropriations that have resulted largely from the Government’s determined efforts to achieve expenditure savings wherever possible. Savings in other appropriations in Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1976-77 are expected to amount to $505m. A document showing the details of these savings has been distributed to honourable senators.
I now outline the main areas where there has been found to be an unavoidable need for the additional appropriations that are the subject of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77. The most significant area relates to salaries and wages. Honourable senators will recall that the Budget contained an allowance of $90m for prospective salary and wage increases for Commonwealth employees but that that amount was not appropriated in individual salary votes. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate $44m in respect of increases in award rates since the Budget. I mention that this amount would have been larger if it were not for the staffing economies we have achieved as the year has progressed. Because the Bli was at an advanced stage of drafting when the national wage decision of 3 1 March 1977 was announced, it does not contain provision for the effect of that decision, the cost of which, for the remainder of 1976-77, is estimated to be $2 8.6m. The cost will be mostly financed from a special appropriation that was included in Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1976-77.
A total of $ 1 5m is provided in the Bill for the salaries of officers of the newly-created Departments of Finance and Productivity. There are offsetting savings in the appropriations of departments formerly employing these officers. Increases in administrative expenses for which provision is made in the Bill include $9m for the May referenda and $ 1 .9m for payment to private practitioners under the legal aid scheme. Under the heading of Other Services, there are additional provisions totalling S9m for Aboriginal housing and other Aboriginal programs. These arise from the Government’s review of Aboriginal programs pursuant to the undertaking that was made in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. There are also additional provisions totalling $38. lm for defence equipment as a consequence of cost increases, including those resulting from the devaluation of the Australian dollar, and faster contract progress than was expected.
The Department of Education requires an additional $32.5m to meet increases in students’ living and other allowances and relaxation of means tests as from 1 January 1977 and also because of greater student numbers than were anticipated. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations requires an additional $4.3m to meet an increase in the number of firstyear apprentices and the earlier than expected lodgment by employers of claims for payment of the incentive allowance.
Other additional provisions include: $2m for payment of termination benefits to former employers of the Australian Staffing Assistance Group in Papua New Guinea and pension payments to former employees of previous administrations in Papua New Guinea; $6.6m for the Australian Broadcasting Commission; $3m for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; $5.5m to meet an unforeseen increase in the cost of providing pharmaceutical services to repatriation beneficiaries; $6.9m for maintenance of repatriation patients in non-departmental institutions.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77 in which appropriations totalling $78.596m additional to those made by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1976-77 are sought for capital works and services, payment to or for the States, advances and loans and other services. As I explained when presenting Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77, the proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1976-77. 1 shall indicate some of the major items in respect of which additional appropriations are included in the Bill.
Capital Works and Services
Under this heading, an additional $8. 16m is required to meet unavoidable contractual commitments of the National Capital Development Commission arising from cost increases during the first half of 1976-77. An amount of $4.29m is being provided for additional expenditure on the Cooper Basin gas field. The appropriation of $2.35m in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1976-77 assumed divestment of this asset by 31 December 1976; in the event this divestment has not occurred.
Advances and Loans
The Bill includes a provision of $3m for the Northern Territory home finance trustee for onlending under the post-cyclone concessional home loan scheme. There is also a provision of $2.9m for additional working capital for the Government Aircraft Factories.
Payments to or for the States
Additional requirements under this heading include: $7. 4m for Aboriginal advancement programs; $3.4m for the growth centres of AlburyWodonga, Bathurst-Orange and Macarthur; $10m to meet Commonwealth commitments in respect of recent natural disasters including floods in New South Wales and Queensland, bushfires in Victoria and a cyclone in Queensland; $2.6m to cover increased costs of the Tasman Bridge reconstruction and associated assistance for which the Commonwealth is liable under the agreed arrangements; and $15m for the new rural adjustment scheme which took the place of the rural reconstruction, dairy adjustment and beef carry-on finance schemes all of which expired on 31 December 1976. Savings available from cancellation of the old scheme will more than compensate for this.
Additional requirements under the heading include: $850,000 for the community youth support scheme under which financial aid is provided to community groups which provide supportive services and programs for young unemployed persons; $3.6m for ex gratia payments to firms affected by the termination of mining on Fraser Island; and $2m for the introduction of the Tasmanian south-bound freight equalisation scheme.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 4 May.
– I understand that last evening a question was asked by Senator Cavanagh about clause 27 of the Life Insurance Amendment Bill. The following answer has been provided: This clause, in conjunction with amendments in clause 28, increases the limit specified in sections 108 and 109 of the principal Act which a company may contract to pay on the death of a child under 10 years. Under existing provisions the benefit payable by one or more companies on the death of a child under 10 years is limited to a refund of premiums with 4 per cent interest or to an amount specified in the seventh schedule, the maximum amount being $120,000. These limits have become unrealistically low, and the amendment in the Bill increases the limits to repayment of premiums with interest at 8 per cent or $500. Both the existing provisions and the proposed amendments are designed to ensure that a person shall not be encouraged to profit from the death of a child. At the same time, the increased limits will be more in line with present day conditions and will have regard to increases in the cost of a funeral since the previous limits were introduced.
– I question that answer. It is unfortunate that my 3 children have passed the age of 10 years before the Government has increased the limits. It is harsh to think that people murder children to gain an insurance benefit. I do not think they do. I see that a woman in Sydney and a man in Whyalla in South Australia have been charged with the murder of a 3-year-old child. It is one of a number of exceptional cases. They have been the result of some matrimonial disturbance. It would be very unlikely that such parents would have the child insured. They are not the type of person who is looking for an insurance benefit as a result of the death of a child. These things happen as a result of trauma in their daily lives. The thing that worries me is that fast talking insurance salesmen can talk the parents of a child, at the birth of the child, into insuring the child for an amount which is higher than $500 and which is payable if the child dies after reaching 10 years of age. But if the child dies before it reaches 10 years of age, the insurance companies are limited in what they can pay, despite the existence of a contract in which they have undertaken to pay more. This limitation is enforced upon the companies by the Act. I think there is a lot of jurisprudence that would show that one cannot claim a benefit as a result of an unlawful act. Therefore, if there were a successful prosecution against parents for killing a child, there could be no insurance claim. If a person has entered into a contract, if that person is paying weekly premiums for compensation and if the child dies before it reaches 10 years of age, the parents cannot get the total benefit. By virtue of this Act, they cannot get the total benefit unless the the child is over the age of 10 years at the time of decease.
– I was interested in the comments of Senator Cavanagh. I do not think that there is anything more that I can do at the moment to help.I have just spoken to the adviser. I undertake, on behalf of the Government, to have Senator Cavanagh ‘s comments examined to see whether something of a more positive character might be done. I think that is the best I can do. I note with some seriousness his comments, because that sort of thing could possibly occur under the Act.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Cotton) together read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is debating the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill 1977 which extends the period of operation of the principal Act for a further 12 months, to 30 June 1978, by providing an additional $10m to finance selfcontained units for eligible pensioners under this scheme. The Opposition also notes that the Bill repeals existing requirements for the States to submit for the Commonwealth Minister’s approval details of projects which are undertaken under this scheme. The original legislation covering this program was introduced by a previous conservative government in 1969. These provisions were extended in 1974 to include other groups of pensioners and eligible people such as single invalid pensioners, class B widows, repatriation pensioners and tuberculosis pensioners of various types.
In the period 1974 to 1977 some $30m was made available for the provision of these dwellings. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation nor does it particularly want to delay its passage but we do express concern about some aspects of the legislation and some aspects of the Government’s intentions regarding the provision of housing for age and other pensioners in particular and, indeed, the housing situation in general. Our first concern, of course, is that the amount made available under this Bill is the same in money terms as has been made available in previous years. Thus, it is a reduction in real terms in the amounts that have been made available to the States in the last 3 years. We are very aware of the fact that the proposal in this Bill is an extension of the present legislation partly to enable the Commonwealth Government and the State governments to negotiate a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. We note, with interest, the difficulties that the present Government is having with all State governments in this regard. We also are aware that it is a delay to allow the Government to decide what its housing policy will be and what its future housing programs will be. This $10m will build no more than about 600 units for single pensioners. I submit that this will not even hold the line in the battle of providing accommodation for the single aged and invalid in this country. Honourable senators on both sides of this chamber, members on both sides of the other place and members of all State parliaments must face this fact and face it squarely.
There is ample evidence of the enormity of the problem which is facing any government in this country in adequately housing the aged and underprivileged. It is a problem that has been with us for a long time. It is a problem that has been barely scratched at in the last couple of decades in this country. It concerns the Opposition and it concerns me somewhat that the present Government seems more concerned about fiddling with the administrative arrangements and the power-sharing arrangements and indulging in exercises in so-called federalism than in building new houses and making available new accommodation that is appropriate for the aged and invalid in Australia. I believe one of the clearest examples of this was in the strict and narrow guidelines which the Government gave to the Bailey task force on health and welfare which looked into these and other problems.
It is important, I believe, that the Government and all honourable senators should look at the problem of housing people adequately, rather than fiddling with administrative arrangements and indulging in philosophical exercises to redistribute power and financial responsibilities in this country. The present Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Newman, has been very vocal on housing problems in his short time in this Parliament. One well remembers- and Senator O ‘Byrne will remember- that in October 1975 and in the months previous to that Mr Newman announced that the City of Launceston alone immediately and urgently needed $25m to solve its housing problem. This was said to be needed then and there. The Labor Government at that time was berated for not supplying this $25m for this one city. I note that now Mr Newman is a Minister and has to be somewhat more responsible he has adopted a more realistic approach. Rather shamefacedly, I suggest, he has had to admit that Queensland has a worse and more urgent housing problem than Tasmania and that one does not throw $2 5m from the Treasurer’s coffers into the City of Launceston alone.
Let us look, firstly, at the sorts of problems we are facing in the field of single pensioner housing alone, bearing in mind that the amount of money provided in this Bill will provide very few dwellings. Some 1 1 600 single pensioners are on Housing Commission waiting lists in this country at the moment; I stress that number. The waiting time for people seeking such accommodation varies from State to State. In Victoria it is 12 to 15 months. In Tasmania it is longer; it is 2 1 to 48 months. In Western Australia, depending on where the pensioner or disadvantaged person lives, it is 3’A to 8 years. One wonders whether in Western Australia they do not solve the problem by having the delay so long that the people die before they get to the top of the queue. This presents to me, and I am sure to others, a very depressing picture. I am sure every member of this chamber and of this Parliament repeatedly has had to try to deal with the unfortunate situation of constituents who are unable to get housing and who are desperate for housing.
We have the further evidence of the aged persons housing survey which was presented to this Parliament and which shows a disturbing number of aged single and married pensioners who live in sub-standard accommodation. The figures in that survey show that a much higher percentage of pensioners than non-pensioners live in sub-standard housing. In fact the percentage is about twice as great. It is also worth noting, I believe, that the quality of housing in which these people live is much worse in rural areas than it is in urban areas, especially when the state of repair of roofing, the structural condition of the floors, the fire risks, the standard of plumbing and toilet facilities and the presence of vermin are considered. The survey showed the need, which is known to everyone here, for domiciliary assistance for these people. The well known desire of most aged people to stay in their homes is complicated by the fact that some 60 per cent of them have one or more physical disabilities which may make it very difficult for them to be accommodated in their own homes. They need extra assistance; they need domiciliary care. Frequently this is not available in appropriate localities.
We know from the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty- the Henderson reportthat housing loomed very large as a factor in determining the level of poverty amongst the aged. Some 22 per cent of pensioners had an inadequate income after housing costs were taken into account. This compared with 9 per cent of the aged in general. We know a lot of facts. I submit the facts we already know- there are many more than the few I have quoted today- have generally painted a problem of such proportions that I and the Opposition suggest that it is a national problem which must be attacked nationally. I submit that the problem is beyond and has been demonstrated to be beyond the capabilities, financial or otherwise, of the States to handle alone. They will continue to need considerable financial assistance in this area. The Opposition has always asserted and continues to assert that national problems of this type are best approached by a combined attack by State and Federal governments, with co-operation between those governments, but with the establishment of national guidelines and standards.
The history of this country shows that the States have not always been as concerned as they should have been in providing for the housing or other needs of the aged in a sensible geographic or demographic manner. This applies particularly in the field of welfare housing. This assessment by the Opposition of the need for national standards and national guidelines is asserted not only by the Opposition. It will be described by our opponents as being anti-States rights, or socialistic, or by any of the other perjorative expressions that are used to describe the principle of having national guidelines; but we believe that such an attitude is a recognition of the practical realities. Of course, those who would prefer the national Parliament just to discuss foreign policy and, perhaps, the level of pensions will not agree. I repeat: We believe this is a national problem which needs national solutions.
I suggest that it is important that, where possible, the aged should be accommodated in their own homes. I believe everyone in this Parliament agrees with this. It is important also that when accommodation is to be built it should be appropriately sited. It is important that the people be sited near their friends, relatives and the facilities they need to belong to and to be part of this community rather than isolated in ghettos for the aged or in underprivileged areas. The poor geographic distribution of accommodation is a prominent feature of every report that has been produced on this matter. The Henderson inquiry into poverty noted that there was a tendency for elderly people, particularly elderly poor people, to be confined to inappropriate and restricted geographic areas out of contact with their friends and their families. This was particularly so in State homes, State hostels and State Housing Commission areas.
For this reason the Social Welfare Commission’s excellent report on care of the aged recommended that the Australian Government should take an active part in determining the distribution of housing for aged and disabled people and that it should take an active part in the planning and funding of this accommodation. On page 141 of the report of the Social Welfare Commission one can read the following quite definite statement:
Initiative should be taken by the Australian Government to identify regions in which special accommodation and care for aged or disabled persons is inadequate and to direct the attention of appropriate organisations to such areas or to take such other action as may be appropriate in order to achieve an equitable distribution of accommodation.
That report has been around for sufficient time now for the Government to consider and to comment on its findings. It is an important and careful report. We are concerned that consideration of that report seems to have been lost in the Government’s desire to introduce new federalism policies and to consider the recommendations of the Bailey report and the Holmes report. The Social Welfare Commission’s report also comments on the legislation we are dealing with now. It in fact suggested that the present legislation be extended to consider people who are married and people in categories of age or disability who need self-contained accommodation. This important and well regarded report mentioned the importance of national guidelines and the importance of the Federal Government, which inevitably will have to fund these projects and which has a special responsibility to ensure that Australians of whatever age or wherever living are adequately housed and adequately looked after.
The reports of the Bailey and Holmes committees, which are so often quoted in this regard and which were frequently quoted in the debate on this subject in the House of Representatives as though they were holy writ, talked about Commonwealth guidelines and standards being part of the broad band programs of funding. Those committees did not suggest that Commonwealth funds should be given to the States to do with what they will. I admit that it is a bit mystifying to me on reading the Bailey report to understand how these guidelines were to be carried out and how the Commonwealth was to influence the States to keep within these guidelines. Even so these reports made it perfectly clear that there was an important place for the Commonwealth Government in setting down guidelines as to how expenditure in this area should be made.
One can hardly suggest that the Bailey committee or the Holmes committee was concerned with espousing centralism, socialism or any of the other phrases that are so frequently used when the Labor Party suggests that there is an important place for national guidelines. It therefore concerns us that this legislation seems to be the first step in a plan whereby the Commonwealth Government will opt out of the future planning and the future overseeing and development of welfare housing in this country. We see so often in other areas the Federal Government wanting to opt out and to hand out so-called broad band payments to let the States do with what they will. The Minister for Social Security has had difficulties with the Queensland Government. The Federal Government gave funds to the Queensland Government to cover such projects as women’s health centres and shelters. The Queensland Government, because of some strange philosophical quirk, refuses to use the money for that purpose. As the Minister said in answer to a question from Senator Colston recently, she now has to run around and find out how she can fund these projects which she and her Government accept as very worthy.
The Opposition awaits some more definitive statement from the Government as to what it intends to do in the field of housing. Before the last election the conservative coalition was quite clear that it had the answers to the housing problems in this country. It was quite clear that suddenly it was going to enable thousands of millions of houses to be built for ordinary people and for people who need assistance with their housing. We suggest that these plans have not come forward. We suggest the necessity to extend this project for another year is an example of the Government’s inability to decide just what it shall do. It also disturbs the Opposition that the only initiative of note about which the Government has been boasting has been in the field of welfare housing. I refer to the housing allowance voucher experiment. As I have said in this place before, this experiment is still not the subject of any debate or scrutiny in this Parliament. Information about this project has to be dragged out of the Minister or has to be obtained by all sorts of means from all sorts of people who are variously becoming involved. This project is being conducted under considerable criticism from all sorts of tenant groups and housing groups in the community without any proper discussion in this Parliament and under a veil of secrecy which is difficult to penetrate. The Opposition still awaits the Government to announce its intentions in this important area which concerns single pensioners, married aged pensioners, low income earners and all other under-privileged people in this community. We have not had such a statement. It would seem from the year’s extension to the Act that it will be some time before we have such a statement.
We do not oppose the legislation. We are disappointed that the amount of money granted is not increased even to make up for inflation at the moment. We are disappointed and concerned that the Government seems to be opting out of the field of setting guidelines and standards for accommodation in this and other fields when funding such projects through the States. The Opposition suggests that from 1972 on, with the publication of reports by the Commission of
Inquiry into Poverty, the Social Welfare Commission and many other interested groups in the community, we have had the knowledge available to cope with the housing problem in this community or to start to cope with it. We now have the knowledge and the advice to start the action which the present Government when in Opposition promised. We suggest that as the Government has now been in power as long as the first Whitlam Labor Government was in power from 1972 to the middle of 1974, it is in fact time it let the public and the members of this Parliament know just what its long term plans are to cope with one of Australia’s most serious problems.
– I rise to give my full support to the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill 1977. 1 do not do so because I like it but because I see it as a short term necessity or what we might call a band-aid and an aspirin while we wait for the doctor. By next year I hope to see a vastly better scheme as part of an overall housing plan. All the main Acts that provide housing funds under various headings in the community are all treated in a politically loaded manner and too seldom are debated publicly. For instance, if I dared mention changes to, say, the Aboriginal housing set-up, I am sure Senator Cavanagh would be in the picture. If I started to discuss defence Service homes I am sure that Senator Bishop would be in the picture. When we start to discuss aged persons or dwellings for pensioners Senator Grimes comes into the picture. This occurs before we even start to get round to talking about the big one- the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
The whole system of housing funding can be improved. It has to be improved if the maximum assistance is to be given to those we want to help, those with the best entitlements. Too much money for housing gets fiddled away or winds up going to the wrong people with an insufficient priority. I know that the money spent could produce more houses and cover the greatest need areas better than it does at present. I shall be doing all I can to prevent the perpetuation of what I have seen clearly demonstrated as being far less than ideal.
The community care of our aged has been one of the major sociological changes in Australia during the last 10 years or thereabouts. Greater affluence in the community on the one hand has brought greater independence on the other. To many the normal course of making room for the aged parent no longer fits into the social scheme. It has changed substantially. We are in an age when we are seeing the results of longer life and earlier retirement. These too are influencing the situation very greatly. When the wide range of valuable philanthropic organisations moved into the field of housing for the aged, they were able to do a great deal. They built the framework of the new system. With a strong local and civic basis their organisations have been of great advantage. The high level of local involvement has been the secret of their success. They have achieved remarkable success rates. Whether they have built accommodation in units of two or three or whole retirement villages, the community units have come to be very much part of the community as a whole.
I can see a few changes that would be desirable but I look forward to a strong continuation for years to come of a system in which those who can help themselves will be encouraged to do so and those in need of help will have it provided. There is still a great under-utilisation of resources in the housing field. A correction of this situation will require, firstly, the optimum utilisation of funds from the public sector to house those in the greatest need and, secondly, a far wider involvement of the private sector to ensure the greatest utilisation possible of the resources available. It is my hope that some of the suggestions being made currently in this area will be approved and that the whole system can start from a new base and meet the sociological revolution concerning the housing of the aged. The implications of the Holmes report are also under scrutiny. Such recommendations as would affect the overall position have to be identified and dealt with. Many reports are now available covering the housing of the aged and considerable information is available on the public record. How this information is used is of the greatest importance. I hope that the various parliamentary and party committees will give the evidence they receive the fullest consideration with a view to making the best arrangements possible for those whose due is that they should be adequately provided for.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
-As my colleague Senator Grimes has said, we do not oppose the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill. In fact, we support a Bill which does anything at all to assist in alleviating the deplorable situation which exists for so many pensioners in today’s civilisation. But we do not feel that this Bill is good enough. It does not go far enough. It does not give any indication that the Government will go any further or take any more seriously the plight of many people in the community today. We cannot help wondering how long pensioners have to wait and how many surveys have to be done before the Government will act. This Bill extends funding for 12 months, we are told, until the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement comes into effect. But so far we do not have any sign from the Government that it is taking the situation seriously or is seriously considering the position in which many elderly people find themselves today.
We are told that this period of 12 months, apart from waiting for the new housing agreement, will give time for the reports of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health and of the Committee of Inquiry into the Care of the Aged and Infirm to be studied and perhaps reforms introduced. As Senator Grimes has said, many people will die in the meantime. I ask: How many people will die of neglect, in loneliness, hungry and cold while the Government dallies? We really do not need any more surveys in the community to know that a considerable number of people are not catered for, that they do not have a home of any sort. We do not need one more piece of paper to tell us that. The surveys we have carried out have filled in the details. We do not need any more work done on the subject.
Two years ago welfare organisations in Melbourne calculated that there were 3500 homeless men in the inner Melbourne area alone. They were sleeping in abandoned buildings, park kiosks and railway carriages. Today welfare organisations tell us that the numbers with which they are dealing are increasing rapidly and that the number of men who need a bed and breakfast is increasing rapidly. They point out that what worries them is that a larger number of those men are younger and that they appear quite hopeless about their future. Still there is nowhere for them to go. There is no indication that this Government knows or cares about the situation.
In refusing to make State governments accountable for the funds they receive, as this Bill does, the Commonwealth Government is washing its hands of the problems. It refuses to use its ability to channel some of these funds into these areas of very real need. What is the point of having surveys and committees of inquiry unless the Government is prepared to use its position to channel funds into the areas of great need? This Government in this Bill has opted out of that position. There is no evidence that State governments are prepared to look after or to face up to the problem of homeless people. If we are to believe that the Government is relying on the reports of the task force and the committee of inquiry, then we want to know that the Government is taking those reports seriously and is following them up.
The State housing commissions, certainly in Victoria, have done nothing in this area. In fact, if one asks them about this situation they deny it. But case after case comes into our offices of people in positions of great trouble. The State housing commissions appear to be magnifying the problem rather than solving it. Case after case comes in of the elderly surviving member of a marriage being asked to leave the home in which he or she has lived for years because the housing commission wants the accommodation for other families. So housing commissions are accelerating the problem. There are more elderly people in need of accommodation in many areas because of the attitude taken by the State housing commissions. How can we accept a federal government which opts out of its responsibilities by saying to the States: ‘There is the money, you go ahead and do the job’, without giving some guidance as to where the job should be done? Federal governments have to do more than just sign the cheque. They have to be accountable to the community to help solve the problems.
Nobody is taking responsibility for people who, for a varying number of reasons, have no home. For instance, it is well known in Victoria that the division at Pentridge to which the drunks are sent is home for many of them. It is the only home they know and the only home they have known for years. As far as they can see into their short future it is the only place in which they will ever get warmth, food, comfort and friendship. That is all society offers them. They do not mind how many times they go back because every time it is like going home. If I am to believe the welfare organisations in Melbourne- I have no reason to believe that they are not caring people who know something about this area- the position is getting worse. There are more and younger people in that position and this should be a great worry to the Government.
There is another area in which the Government could assist. As far as I can see the Government has not taken this situation very seriously. It is the cost of keeping elderly people in nursing homes. As we all know, from a private and government point of view, that cost is increasing rapidly. Also, if we are honest we know that the atmosphere in a nursing home is not right for people. We send elderly people to nursing homes because we do not have anywhere else to send them and, more importantly, because there is nobody to look after them. We would be more honest if we shot many of them. They go into the nursing homes, they give up and they die there. If they were kept in their own homes they would live longer and happier lives and take a part in the community. But often, because of their disabilities, they cannot be left to live alone in their own homes. Sometimes, just because they are old, they cannot be left alone in a house. But who is to care?
I draw the attention of the Senate to a group in New South Wales- as far as I know it is only in New South Wales- called the carers’ group. It was formed in New South Wales under the umbrella of the Council for the Ageing. Its members come from groups of people whose job it is to stay at home and look after elderly people in their own homes. At the moment these people get no recognition from the Government. Some of them get some sort of special benefit. Some of the members of these groups are mature people who left good jobs because they felt that they should set priorities. They felt they could not leave elderly people to starve or to die alone. Such members have left jobs to go home and look after the elderly. In doing so they relieve the Government and the country of a great responsibility.
We talk very glibly about the nuclear family and the family unit. But we do not do a great deal about it. These people take the responsibilities of a family seriously. They stay at home to look after people who need care. At the moment in only some instances do we give them any sort of income. Generally the allowance or special benefit we pay them depends on the income of the person being cared for. I think that puts people in an intolerable position. If we decide that we cannot leave our mother to die in a nursing home because we believe that in the last years of her life she deserves the love, comfort and care of a loved one at home with her, then we have to rely on her charity- that is the amount of money she has in the bank- on which to live. I do not think that is good enough. We ought to be showing some gratitude to these people. We should be showing some sympathy. These people have enough humanity to stay at home and care for the elderly people. We ought to make sure that at least they have a minimum income on which they can live while they are doing this.
I think the Government should look to those people and pay them a proper pension or benefit. These people should receive the same sort of benefit and the same sort of fringe benefits which people who are paid certain widows’ pensions receive. In the United Kingdom and other European countries it is accepted that people are being humane and are doing a great service to the community by accepting responsibility for the people who cannot be left alone in private dwellings and they are paid the sort of support they need to carry out that work. When one remembers that the reports and surveys that have been undertaken in this country show that our population is aging at an increasing rate, when one remembers that in New South Wales in February 1977 500 people were receiving income support paid by way of special benefit because they had left paid employment to care for infirm relatives in private dwellings, and when one remembers how hard it is to receive that special benefit, one wonders how many people there are in the community who are carrying out this work. One then realises that it is a very important task. There is an increasing number of people doing it and if we really believe that elderly people should be looked after we should take into account the people who are looking after them and provide government money, community money, to assist those people to do that work.
The Commonwealth now is paying $80 to $ 100 a week for each patient in a convalescent or nursing home and I suggest to the Government that that money would be much better used if it were paid to loving people who care for their aged people and look after them in their own homes. Under the present scheme we have adults who were taxpaying people carrying their weight in the community and who leave paid employment to carry out what they believe to oe a socially necessary task. I would like to think that governments would take note of this and realise what an important part these people play in the community. Otherwise these people- or carers as they are called in New South Wales, and it is a rather nice term- will feel abandoned by society as second rate citizens. Because they have a conscience and love the person they are caring for, they leave the working community and are made to feel much the same as the kids who are left on unemployment benefits, as bludgers, because they are asking for some income while they do this socially necessary task.
I suggest to the Government that they are not bludgers but are people performing a necessary task, a task that we had hoped governments would have seen to be necessary and would have taken note of. It does not mean the building of Taj Mahals all over Australia into which we can lump elderly people. It means that elderly people can go on playing a part in the community but are looked after in their own homes. I hope that before the Budget negotiations are concluded the Government will look at the entire field of elderly care. It is not a matter of building single units in the proper place. It is not a matter of building at all in many ways. It is a matter of the community facing up to its responsibilities and caring more about the entire community, whether it is young, middle-aged or aged. It is a way of using resources that we have to better advantage. Before this grant runs out we hope that the Government will accept responsibility for all pensioners and will accept that it has some responsibility to make sure that all and not just some pensioners have proper accommodation. Even if they are people who have not been able to provide bricks and mortar during their lifetime or the wherewithal to buy bricks and mortar, they are still human beings and unless the Government takes the responsibility for shooting them and putting them out of their misery, we have the situation where men spend nights in kiosks, parks and railway carriages, where old people cry themselves to sleep cold and hungry, where people who have the concern to look after them do not know where the next penny is coming from to carry on that task. I would like to think that before we get to the end of the Budget session the Government will have shown that it has a proper plan to cope with all aspects of problem of pensioners and their accommodation rather than continue the patchwork we have seen up to this time.
-I start my speech on the concluding words of Senator Melzer. Obviously, as she has spelt out in a few simple words, it is a patchwork policy. This has been the criticism of the Opposition in respect of many spheres of administration. The Government develops ad hoc policies and stumbles from week to week in the parliamentary session and from week to week in its decision making. Honourable senators will recall that during 1975 in the frantic election campaign the Government made lavish promises in respect of the older citizens in the country but has failed to provide the goods that these people were promised. Although the Opposition does not oppose the Bill, we feel that it deserves some criticism. It raises some important questions about the future of the Government’s welfare and housing programs. That has been spelt out in some detail in the other place and by my colleagues on this side of the House who have preceded me in the debate. This program which provides dwelling units to single aged and single service pensioners was introduced by the coalition Government in 1969. A total of $25m was appropriated for a 5-year period on the basis of $5m each year. The Labor Government made some minor changes to the program, in 1973 from memory, but decided to continue the program for another 3 years. However, the annual amount was increased to $10m a year in 1974. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the scheme for another year with some minor changes.
The second reading speech of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) in another place made it clear that this was an interim measure. The Government wants to hold the line until a review of the scheme is undertaken. One would have thought that after 1 8 months in government some comprehensive review would have already commenced or would have been completed. The legislation provides for an additional $ 10m to be paid to the States as an interest free and nonrepayable grant. I have some interesting figures which I will read because they show a breakdown of this $1Om between the various States. New South Wales is to get $4.0 7m, Victoria $2. 53m, Queensland $ 1.49m, South Australia $930,000, Western Australia $700,000 and Tasmania $280,000. The Minister in his second reading speech also said:
The amending legislation is intended to remove the existing requirement for the States to submit for the Commonwealth Minister’s approval details of each building scheme to be financed under the program.
No guidelines will be laid down and the States will be able to please themselves in respect of the standard of housing that is required. I do not wish to be disloyal to my own State although I am terribly disloyal to the State Government, because I can assure the Senate that when the State Government gets its hands on the money there is no guarantee that it will spend it on the purpose for which it has been given to the State. The Queensland Government is notorious for doing this and over a period of years in Queensland we have never got past the old wartime barracks known as pensioner areas. There is one at Sandgate, one at Rockhampton and one at Charters Towers, among others. There are very few comforts in the old wartime barracks which are known largely as eventide homes. Frequently there is a waiting list of people who want to get into these homes because they are cheaper than many private homes. We could finish up with 6 different standards of building for pensioners in the Commonwealth in much the same way as we had so many different railway gauge lines. The situation could be just as confusing.
There is a great responsibility on every member of the community-in particular there is a very great responsibility on government- to provide for our young people and for our aged people. We seem to be determined to avoid our responsibility in both areas. The present Government is probably more expert at doing that than most other governments have been. It throws a few crumbs to one side and says: ‘This is for the old people’. It throws a few crumbs in the other direction and says: ‘This is for the young’. I am afraid that until there is a greater public awareness governments will never settle down to the task in hand. They will never accept the real responsibility.
This goes outside the area of housing. I want to refer briefly to a case handled by my officers in the Brisbane area. It concerned 2 pensioners who are not married but who share accommodation. There has never been any suggestion of any physical relationship between these 2 people but they are paid the married rate of pension. Numerous requests to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for them to be paid at the single rate have fallen on deaf ears. In this case it was originally suggested that they were living in a marriage or physical relationship. They are both very old people, and if they are not allowed eventually to receive the few extra dollars a fortnight they will both have to go singly into aged homes and it will cost the Government a lot more. This cheese-paring policy applies not only in the payment of pensions but also in the area of accommodation.
The lack of accommodation for frail aged people around Australia is disastrous. In my own city of Townsville we have only one home, which is run by a board based on the organisation of the Anglican church. It has been a continuing struggle to keep that one place in operation. Of course, in Queensland a lot of the geriatric cases are accommodated in public wards of the government hospital system. But again frequently accommodation is limited because over the last 15 years the State Government has gradually pared down the standard or public ward accommodation to intermediate and private beds. So in some areas not even this sort of sub-standard accommodation is available. We cheese-pare in another way too. Two of my colleagues on this side have said that the ideal way to look after our aged parents and other relatives is to have them living at home if at all possible. In some instances weekly payment is made for nursing care for people who can live in these circumstances but getting that out of the Department is like trying to pull out a tooth which is decayed and covered up by the gum. One has to pare the gum and look for it before one can make the extraction. It is almost as painful to get money out of the Government.
I recall a case of a native gentleman from Thursday Island who had lost a leg. He could not get accommodation in the local general hospital and he did not want to leave Thursday Island because he wanted to live in his own home. It was many months before the Department finally came good with the $14 payment so that somebody could look after him at least for a limited period each week. I think we have to go even further than the provision of accommodation and look right across the board to see all the problems that are being encountered by the aged people of this country and in particular the frail aged who need some personal assistance.
The Act of 1974 distributed the sum of $30m over 3 years on a pensioner population basis, which worked out more or less on a State population basis. Using the 1974 population figures, New South Wales with 36.4 per cent of the Australian population obtained $12,210,000 or 40.7 per cent of the grant; Victoria with 27.8 per cent of the population obtained $7,590,000 or 25.3 per cent; Queensland with 15.1 per cent of the population obtained $4,470,000 or 14.9 per cent; South Australia with 9.3 per cent of the population obtained $2,790,000 or 9.3 per cent; Western Australia with 8.4 per cent of the population obtained $2,100,000 or 7 per cent; and Tasmania with 3 per cent of the population obtained $840,000 or 2.8 per cent. If honourable senators contrast those figures with the figures I read out a few moments ago they will find that there is a significant difference.
Two committees of inquiry have made recommendations of possible placement of the scheme. The Bailey report recommended that it be included in a comprehensive welfare housing scheme. The Holmes report saw this as only one option. In general terms, the Holmes report favoured the block grant approach to the care for the aged and the infirm. In this way housing would be linked with a proper domiciliary care service. This is one area in which we fall down. Sometimes we provide accommodation in areas where the back up services for aged people are not available. Let me refer to the old Wyben hospital on Thursday Island in Torres Strait which we are endeavouring to have retained as a ward for geriatric people. At the moment it is used only partly but there is a tendency on the part of the State Government at least to tear the ward down now that the new hospital has been constructed. This is an area in which the Commonwealth should play a role. I have made representations about that particular accommodation and I am still awaiting results.
The Holmes report recommended that housing be linked with a proper domiciliary care service and that housing for the aged and the infirm be located in an area where proper care and services are available. The main criticism which has been levelled at the dwellings for pensioners scheme has been that frequently it provides housing in areas where there are no services. This was particularly the case between 1969 and 1972. It may well be that the recommendations in the Bailey and Holmes reports are sounder in welfare terms than what the bureaucracy is proposing. The Minister should not cut off these options. It appears in the Minister’s second reading speech that he is likely to close off the options. People who are untrained and who have not taken into consideration the recommendations made in comprehensive reports would not be aware- not necessarily doing it deliberately- of some of the requirements.
According to the Minister, the 3-year scheme which is just about to expire has provided another 2017 units. This makes a total of 5342 single units of accommodation which have been provided since 1969, the year in which the scheme commenced. The latest grant would add another 600 units or so. This means that in total we have provided about 6000 units to date. Unfortunately, the Minister did not give any indication of the demand for this sort of housing -in other words, how many units are really needed. I think that sometimes local government organisations have a more perceptive view of what is required for their local aged people. A number of local government bodies, including country shire councils, put aside some money, which sometimes attracts a subsidy, for accommodation for single pensioners and pensioner couples living in their districts. In this way they have a closer feeling for the people, whom many of the local councillors and officers know personally, and they are able to look after people living in these circumstances.
I think- in fact I am sure- that if we get down more to the grass roots sort of planning as indicated in some of the reports to which I have referred, we will probably be able to provide the sort of accommodation that many elderly people need. Seldom do we consult with them. In the old days it was largely the churches that built the units and said: ‘Stay there. Like it or lump it’. Because people in their later years could not look after themselves they had to accept this type of accommodation. There was nothing more devastating than some of those units. This even spilt over into some of the government units. For instance, an aged couple who had lived together for perhaps 40 or 50 years, the biggest portion of their life, would be split up because no double accommodation was available for them. In some cases they had no sons or daughters. In other cases the responsibility of looking after aging parents was too great for the members of the family.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics, acting for the Department of Housing and Construction, in November and December 1974 undertook the first national study to provide detailed information on the characteristics of aged persons accommodation. The objective was to link this information with data on household incomes and expenditure on housing. The study was limited. It covered a representative sample of 4700 survey units- couples or single people. It involved the inspection of some 2000 dwellings occupied by such persons. The study found that the great majority of aged people were well housed. Nevertheless, it also found that a substantial number of dwellings- no less than 1 1 per cent of the total, which is a very substantial numberwere rated as unsatisfactory when assessed in terms of factors such as the condition of the roof, walls and floors, adequacy of plumbing and various health and safety aspects. It was estimated that 14 per cent of single aged persons and 7 per cent of aged couples in Australia were living in dwellings which were in need of a great deal of attention or in dwellings which were well beyond repair.
In the remoter areas of northern Australia in particular and in some of the central districts there are many old homes, particularly in the old mining towns. Old shacks have been allowed to run down. They are still owned by somebody. Frequently a rent is charged for those dwellings that is well beyond their real capital value. Because pensioners are in a situation in which they have no option, if they do not own their own home when the breadwinner no longer receives a full wage, they must seek cheaper accommodation. There is a great moral responsibility on the Government to provide that accommodation. Each person, in his or her lifetime, contributes to the national economy a very much greater sum by way of tax and by way of other payments to the national purse than that person is ever likely to take out in the declining years of his or her life.
Tasmania is not the only State involved, although it is in the most serious situation, with 19 per cent of pensioner housing being described as inadequate. Incidentally, Tasmania is the Minister’s home State. So we can hope that in future he will give pensioners in Tasmania a little more consideration than he has in the split-up in this payment. The figure is 12 per cent in Victoria, 1 1 per cent in Queensland, 10 per cent in South Australia, 9 per cent in New South Wales, and 8 per cent in Western Australia. The report also stated that the proportion of the aged living in unsatisfactory conditions was higher outside capital cities- 14 per cent as against 8 per cent in the cities. This bears out what I said a few moments ago. If somebody had lived at Katherine, Cloncurry or Port Hedland- that had been their lifestyle for much of the period of their lives; probably they had brought up their families there- they would not want to retire to the capital cities. They could not afford to buy a small cottage by the seaside and retire there. So they must put up with the next best. They must accept sub-standard accommodation in the towns in which they lived.
The Government has held the allocation steady at $10m. I am critical of this because, although we provided this sum each year for 3 years, inflation would have been covered in that time, except possibly in the last year. I am sure that the Minister would agree that building costs in the last 18 months to 2 years have gone up by something like 50 per cent or 60 per cent. So the real value of that $10m has been very considerably reduced. I hope that in the forthcoming budgetary planning people in Treasury will have sufficient broadness of vision to recommend some increase in this amount if the scheme is pursued for another year.
I once again make the point that the Opposition supports the legislation. Apart from the aspects which I have mentioned, we are critical of another couple of areas. The $10m is inadequate under the circumstances. The funds being allocated under those circumstances have not been indexed against inflation. The projected number of units may fall far short of the number which has been suggested. My other main point of criticism is this: The second reading speech indicates that the Government intends to phase out this scheme. If the Government phases out the scheme, what happens? Does it mean that the general grant to each of the States will have to cover accommodation for aged people? Will no additional moneys be paid? I think the position is a bit ridiculous. Unless this Government allocates certain sums to a State by way of a tied grant, there will be States which will misuse that money. They will use it on something else. Sometimes my State never sees the money. I recall some months ago visiting a local authority. Because it was politically expedient for the Premier to withhold grants that had been made to that State to alleviate the unemployment problem, he withheld that money to create a particular political situation. When the grant was ultimately received by that local authority it had accumulated a little under $2,000 in interest. It was eventually paid. It was paid, again at a politically expedient time. People will play politics.
So far as this country is concerned, on a national basis, there are our aged, our young and other minority groups in the community who have a low socio-economic level of living. I believe that all of them go well beyond politics, including Party politics. I hope that if the Government phases out this scheme and introduces a new system, it will ensure, in the short time that is left to it to govern this country, that none of that money will be mis-spent and that it will be spent in the manner in which the Government makes it available to the States. That is the way in which it ought to be done. I am sorry that those words of criticism had to be uttered. I believe that they were necessary. My colleagues on this side of the chamber, I think, have spoken in similar terms, in what we hope is constructive criticism.
– The comment was made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who has the responsibility for this legislation, that this debate reveals in this House, as it did in the House of Representatives, that the Government and the Opposition are united in one resolve, and that is that aged people must be helped to the greatest extent possible. The thrust of this legislation has been supported by previous governments for the past 10 years or so. Accommodation for the aged cannot be treated independently of other forms of assistance that are made available by the Commonwealth and the States for the aged. The reason why the Government has commissioned reports such as the Bailey report and the Holmes report is to enable expert advice to be available not only to the Government but to the Parliament and to those people in the community who would take an interest in the aged. This advice can be evaluated and appropriate measures taken to assist this class of people.
The present Bill seeks to extend the number of dwellings under the age pensioner scheme for one year to allow consideration of those reports. That appears to be a most appropriate step. The
Minister made it clear in the debate on this Bill that the Government was by no means opting out of aged persons housing. It has been unfortunate that both in another place and in this place there has been some suggestion that that is so. Speakers on the Government side have condemned soundly those who would put that type of fear into the minds of people in the community who were hoping for assistance and who were having their spirits dampened by Opposition criticism. The Opposition has criticised the Bill on the grounds that the Commonwealth will have no control over location and some other aspects of the type of dwellings that are to be built.
-Senator Keeffe butts in and asks ‘will you?’ We know that there is a difference in the philosophy of a socialist government and of a government which has a free enterprise stance. We hope that the least amount of control that can be exerted by the Commonwealth will be exerted through legislation which has been basically supported not only by previous governments of the Liberal and National Country Party complexion but also by socialist governments which have allocated money during their terms of office to this important work. The Act being amended, which was introduced by the Labor Government, did not have any locational contract. There was no control over the location of units. Senator Keeffe, who is attempting to interject, does so without any knowledge of the facts. Of course, that is not unusual. I shall refer to some of the comments that have been made by honourable senators opposite in this debate. I shall recite to Senator Keeffe some of the comments he made. The point I wish to emphasise is that siting of these units is important. The States basically are closer to the work being done. The State governments are the practitioners in this field. This Government believes that neither the Commonwealth Minister nor the appropriate Commonwealth officers in Canberra should have to be the experts for decision-making and should have to decide where units should be located in a particular State. That decision should not be made in Canberra.
– Why not?
-Senator Melzer interjects and asks ‘why not?’. Why should that decision not be made in Canberra? Senator Melzer quickly recognises the difference between this Government and a central government which wishes to make all decisions, even to the decision as to the siting of buildings in the States. That should not be done by a government that is many miles away from the point of activity. We believe that it is wise that the central government should be making arrangements with the States for the allocation of funds to the States which can carry out the siting of projects. The Federal Government should have the least possible control over the matter. The Government is working towards an integrated housing policy but this cannot be achieved overnight.
– Like solar energy.
– Stick to housing.
– I am sure that those honourable senators opposite who are being vocal are very proud of the efforts of the Labor Party when it was in government even though it, by no means, worked towards an integrated housing policy. Indeed, it left the housing field in tatters, as it did the economic field, when the Labor Government was in office it debased this country. Now, millions of dollars more are required for housing due to the inflation caused by that Government and the desperate situation in which it left Australia. It is not for this Government or for any other government to bring in decisions overnight. Reports on housing and welfare will be available, and all members in both Houses of the Parliament believe that those reports will make a valuable contribution to the areas of housing and welfare.
An efficient market system, with the provision of assistance to those individuals who are unable to compete in the market, is essential. For instance, this Government has stated, in renegotiating the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, that it is working on the design of an individual housing voucher experiment. It also has launched a housing cost inquiry that will look at this problem. Indeed, that has been one of the problems which has beset those who have been involved deeply in the provision of houses for the aged. I recall that for a number of years I was involved in this matter as a member of a board of management of a very large establishment which instituted a housing scheme for aged persons. Undoubtedly, Senator Archer who is well aware of the problems in Tasmania would recall the housing scheme in Hobart. It was originated by and contributed to very greatly by a great Tasmanian, Ackland Lord, who was knighted later for his work. A. A. Lord, as I knew him, provided Tasmania with many hundreds of thousands of dollars under a housing scheme different from this one. The Opposition has discussed that scheme at length today. Assistance was provided on a $2 for $1 basis. As I have said, I was associated closely not only with the design but also with the work that was carried out under these schemes. Approval for designs of units had to be sought not only from the municipality but also from the State government and the Federal Government in Canberra. It indicated to anyone with any knowledge of efficiency that the least possible control was necessary.
When we are providing money for homes for the aged it is obvious that we must consider the problems associated with age. Our community is somewhat different from that in other parts of the world. When referring to aged persons in relation to the nuclear family, I believe that we are not perhaps as attentive to our parents as we should be. There is a demand for money from the Federal Government to provide homes for aged persons when perhaps families ought to be taking more care of those for whom they basically have some responsibility. Many people complain today that the Government should be providing money to enable the aged to be housed. I think it is a good proposition that aged people should be able to find comfort in their later life in the home of their offspring whom they have fostered during their life. Nevertheless, we have a situation in which once homes are established it is very necessary to give greater consideration than is being given at present to some of the integrated services associated with aged persons homes.
From personal experience I know the necessity of having people available to give advice to the aged once they are settled in a flat and have the responsibility of looking after themselves. It is necessary for community workers to be involved in making introductions and in seeing that someone visits the aged persons within their homes to ensure that they are healthy and mentally sound and capable of conducting their own affairs within the home. It is necessary that paramedical services should be available. People living on their own, as some wish to do, should have available to them the assistance of nursing staff or at least medical attention. Of course, the trend should be established whereby other community facilities are developed nearby to the housing scheme about which I have been speaking. I see the necessity of having a communal room whereby aged persons can gather together to discuss their particular problems and keep their minds alert by discussing the problems of others. Community workers and the families of these aged persons could visit them in their flats and then meet them in a communal room and have discussions with them and with other aged persons whose relatives or friends may not be visiting them at that time. I notice the laughter that emanates from Senator Melzer and Senator Grimes in this regard.
– Does it occur to you that they are just human beings? They might like to sit and talk to each other and not discuss their specific problems. They might like to sing or talk.
-Vitriolic comments from honourable senators opposite have come into this debate. They say that this is not wanted. That is a good comment, I must say. Senator Melzer does not realise that what she is seeking is provided in this Bill. An aged person will be able after some time to obtain a housing unit on his or her own where he or she will be able to be free. I am sure that Senator Melzer will agree with me that there is an obligation on the community to see that these people are visited if their families are in another State. Senator Melzer looks up at the ceiling. Well, the main part of her speech was taken up with vitriolic attacks on what the Government was not doing. Senator Melzer devoted half of her speech to the problems of homeless men which is, of course, the basis of debate on another Bill.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I find the remark made by the Minister objectionable. He said that my colleague, Senator Melzer, had made vitriolic attacks on the Government. She was very restrained in her language, despite some of the provocative interjections that took place. With great respect, I suggest that the Minister withdraw the inference in that remark.
– In response to the point of order, I must say that I did not note any vitriolic attacks in Senator Melzer ‘s speech. I think that the use of the term was excessive and if it is offensive to the honourable senator I think it could well be withdrawn.
– I accept your ruling, Mr President. If the term ‘vitriolic attacks’ happens to be unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– I based my ruling on the fact that I did not note anything vitriolic in the speech by Senator Melzer.
– I deal now with what Senator Keeffe had to say. Perhaps the main point of his speech was a vitriolic attack on Queensland. Perhaps he would care to withdraw those remarks because basically they were untruthful when related to this Bill. Let me just remind him of his words. He said that he would hate to see money flowing to some governments, particularly that of his own State of Queensland, because some people play politics. Those were his words and he was asserting that in fact the Queensland Government was playing politics with money.
– It does.
-Now we have a comment from an honourable senator opposite that the Queensland Government does play politics with money. Mr President, that is a reflection on a government of another State and in accordance with the Standing Orders I ask that the comment be withdrawn.
- Mr President, speaking to the point of order, I suggest that the Standing Orders state that one cannot make derogatory comments about individuals in a government of another State. They do not refer to a government itself. When Senator Webster speaks he frequently, in fact regularly, makes comments about our Party when we were in Government or the Opposition collectively. I suggest that the Standing Orders refer to individuals rather than to a government collectively.
– I call on Senator Webster to continue his remarks.
– I think that the Senate can be proud of the record established by this and former governments for the type of aid given under this type of legislation. It has been said before but it is worth putting on the record again that it is estimated that 67 000 single age persons live in sub-standard housing. Of this number, some 5600 people also have inadequate income. That situation has been developing for some time and has now come to the attention of the community. The allocation of many millions of dollars over the period has enabled some 3325 units to be built. The various States have established dwellings. So whilst the ambit of the situation cannot be readily realised, much good work has been done. Under this Bill, which is supported by both sides of the chamber, this Government is providing a further $10m this year so that we may receive the reports of the inquiries that have been carried out over the last year or so by the 2 committees I have mentioned. It is hoped that when those reports are received by the Government they will be studied carefully and made available to the public generally so that the public can comment on them. I hope that in the following three to five years there will be further legislation of this type so that State governments can assess their needs in the future and so that the enormous problem I have mentioned can be righted. I thank honourable senators for their contributions in this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-I wish to make a few remarks about clause 4 of the Bill which amends section 4 of the principal Act by removing the necessity for Federal Government approval for the way in which funds are expended by the States. As I predicted in my speech on the second reading of the Bill, the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) labelled any Commonwealth government that interfered in State affairs in this way- by providing guidelines or conditions under which money is given- as socialist, centralist or any of the other colourful expressions that he likes to use. I reiterate that in fact the Social Welfare Commission, in its report entitled Care for the Aged, recommended very strongly that the Commonwealth exercise some control over this expenditure and set up national standards and guidelines, as did the Bailey Task Force on Health and Welfare and the Holmes Committee. It is important to realise that the Government, by opting out of this very necessary function which a Federal Government should fulfil, is acting contrary to all these reports and contrary to the views of anyone else who is expert in this area. The simple fact is that in this country we have a very poor geographic distribution of all sorts of accommodation for the aged, including single accommodation of the type referred to in this Bill for single pensioners. We have an arrangement whereby all sorts of accommodation for the aged is built away from the proper associated services, be they paramedical, domiciliary or anything else.
I suggest that one cannot always rely on the States to spend the money in the way in which it was intended to be spent. I use as an example an associated field. The present Government changed its method of funding to the States for the provision of women’s shelters. I think every member of this Parliament agrees that such shelters are essential and necessary to the community. The present Government gave the Queensland Government a block grant to support the women’s shelters which existed in Queensland. What happened? I suggest that what happened is exactly what Senator Keeffe said happened: The Queensland Government played politics with the money. Senator Colston, in question upon notice No. 271, as recorded in the Senate Hansard, asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Guilfoyle:
Is the Queensland Government withholding from use funds provided to it by the Commonwealth Government for women ‘s shelters. If so, what are the details.
Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security, replied:
The Queensland Government has not passed on funds from the 1976-77 Commonwealth block grant under the Community Health Program to two women s refuges, one in Brisbane and the other in Townsville.
This was raised with the Premier of Queensland by the Prime Minister, but the Premier later indicated that his Government adhered to the position that it would not pass on funds from this block grant to these refuges.
The question of alternative methods of providing Commonwealth financial assistance to these refuges is currently under consideration and I expect that an announcement will be made in due course.
The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) answered similarly in the Estimates Committee last year. The simple fact is that when a national government sees a national need to set up and to support any sort of welfare funding, be it for women’s shelters, for aged persons’ housing or for anything else, it should do so. I suggest that from the figures I quoted earlier housing for pensioners, in particular single pensioners, is a national problem. We cannot rely on people like the Premier of Queensland to take any notice of the problem. Federal governments have to find, as this Government has to find, alternative methods to support a very worthy and very important organisation in Queensland to provide a service for some people who are amongst the most disadvantaged people in our communitybattered, bashed and deserted wives.
We are not suggesting that the Commonwealth should tell the States exactly what to do and where to do it- how many hat pegs to put in a place, how many bricks to use on the front wall and what colour the building should be- but we are suggesting that the Commonwealth Government should set up national guidelines so that we have a proper national program for housing the aged. As I said, such a program has been lacking in the past. I suggest that the Labor Government had time only to start to look at the problem because we did not have the information on which to base our planning.
I believe the contributions to this debate from this side of the chamber have been restrained. Until the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) spoke in this debate, the debate on this whole issue had been thoughtful and restrained and showed a general concern amongst all members of this Parliament for this very real problem. It was only when the Minister- completely in character, I suggest- decided to introduce what I would call vitriol and blatant political propaganda that the tone of the debate degenerated.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is a Bill to repeal the New Zealand Re-Exports Act 1924. It is a Bill merely of 2 clauses. The Act provides for duty purposes for a special valuation method of imports into Australia from New Zealand, which had themselves been imported into New Zealand. The concessional valuation basis that exists under the New Zealand Re-Exports Act 1924 was set out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) when he introduced the Bill into the Senate. It is not my intention to repeat that concessional valuation basis. However, in short, the repeal of the 1924 Act will mean that the special method of valuation will cease to operate and that goods that are re-exported from New Zealand will face the same import duty valuation as any other goods that are imported into Australia. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, upon this Bill receiving Royal assent, the New Zealand authorities will arrange for the repeal of their regulations to coincide with the coming into effect of this legislation.
My colleague in another place, the honourable member for Port Adelaide, Mr Young, who is the shadow Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, has indicated that the Opposition does not oppose this legislation. Just as he took advantage of the opportunity in the House of Representatives, I too, acting for him at the moment in the Senate, want to take the opportunity to emphasise that we of the Opposition place considerable importance upon trading relations between Australia and New Zealand. When this Bill was before the House of Representatives my colleague in that place suggested that because the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement had been in operation for over 10 years, perhaps at some time in the near future the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) or the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony), whoever is the responsible Minister, should consider making a ministerial statement on how the Agreement was operating and what adjustments it might be considered should be made to it. Delivery of a ministerial statement in the Parliament on matters of that nature enables such matters to be debated fully by the Parliament. As I said, the Bill is short, with 2 clauses. The Opposition does not oppose its passage through the Senate.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of the New Zealand Re-exports (Repeal) Bill. I shall draw to the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) the suggestion made on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Douglas McClelland that a statement should be made concerning the present situation in respect of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I do not intend to take up the time of the Senate for very long, but I do want to mention a matter that has been referred to me. I have to take this opportunity to speak on this matter before the holding of the referendum on 2 1 May because it refers to a request by Carl Linger Memorial Committee of Adelaide concerning the referendum. You will realise, Mr President, that a letter has been received from Mr Wallace, the Chairman of this Memorial Committee. The following in an excerpt from that letter:
Referring to the letter I forwarded to the Prime Minister of 2nd March, 1977,I have enclosed a photo copy of a reply received from the Department of Administrative Services dated 18 March, 1977.
I notice that the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services said in his letter:
Every effort will be made to ensure that any pre-poll publicity will give equal emphasis to each of the four tunes.
He was referring to the 4 tunes that are to be considered on 2 1 May. In his letter Mr Wallace also said:
I consider that this reply does not answer the questions I raised in my letter as nothing has been said about producing a new recording of the Song of Australia and its use on television and radio stations. Advance Australia Fair still continues to be played as has been the case in the past but there does not appear to have been any mention of the playing of our song.
I ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) whether he intends arranging for the playing of recordings of Song of Australia at intervals leading up to 2 1 May so as to give the people of Australia an opportunity to compare the various tunes upon which they will be asked to make a decision. Mr Wallace has also asked me to draw attention to the statement of the South Australian Governor’s Deputy, Mr Walter Crocker, in which he announced recently that the Carl Linger Memorial Committee had received a letter from Her Majesty the Queen ‘s Private Secretary expressing the Queen’s delight in accepting copies of Song of Australia published by clubs of Lions International in South Australia for the Carl Linger Memorial Committee. Mr Crocker said that Song of Australia was something that South Australia had given to the nation and was a part of Australia’s history. He said that it was truly Australian in character and sentiment. I agree that with modern orchestration this song is truly Australian in character and sentiment.
The President of the Senate, Senator Laucke, has expressed interest in the Carl Linger Memorial Committee over the years. He gave the occasional address this year at the ceremony to celebrate the memory of Carl Linger. On that occasion we both had pleasure in laying a wreath on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I raised this matter in the hope that the Minister will recognise the importance of giving people the opportunity to listen on the radio or television to Song of Australia in an up-dated, orchestrated fashion.
– I am most interested in Senator Jessop’s proposal. I thank him for bringing it forward in the Senate on what would be the last occasion the Senate will sit before the vote will be taken on a tune for a national song. I understand that some consideration is being given to a proposal of that sort so an opportunity will be provided for people to be reminded during the next 2 weeks of not only the song titles but also the tunes of the songs on which their choice is to be based on 2 1 May. I will certainly pass on Senator Jessop’s suggestion to the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), who unfortunately could not be here for the adjournment debate this afternoon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.29 p.m. till Tuesday, 24 May 1977, at 2.30 p.m. unless otherwise called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
In view of the Government’s stated aim of a 4 per cent real expansion in the Australian economy in this financial year, and in the light of the devaluation of the Australian dollar by 1 7.5 per cent and subsequent revaluation by 2 per cent, is the Government still depending on an increase in the velocity of money to realise that aim, as was suggested by the Treasurer in an interview with the Brisbane economist, Mr H. W. Herbert, published in the Brisbane Sunday Mail dated 28 November 1976. If so, what are the details.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Statement No. 2 of the Budget documents included the observation that ‘if the associated product and price expectations were to be realised this (M3 growth in the range 10-12 per cent) would represent monetary growth consistent with objectives of policy, namely, to provide sufficient funds to foster sustainable recovery in private sector activity and employment, while exerting some downward pressure on inflation; depending on precise outcomes it could imply some increase in the velocity of circulation ‘.
While it is not possible at this stage to give a precise indication of the year’s likely outcome, the national accounts statistics for the December quarter underline the likelihood that real growth in the non-farm sector will be around the 4 per cent foreshadowed at the time of the Budget.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Can a State Government establish a State Trading or Savings Bank without reference to the Federal Government.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Subject to the following qualifications applicable to the conduct of savings bank business by certain States, State governments may establish without reference to the Commonwealth a State trading or savings bank to operate within the limits of the State concerned (see section 6 ( 1 ) of the Banking Act 1 959 as amended).
In New South Wales, the Amalgamation Agreement between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia (CSB) contains a provision that, so long as the CSB (or its successors) carries on savings bank business in the State of New South Wales, no savings bank will be established or conducted by or under the Government of New South Wales and the Government will in every way aid and assist the CSB in the conduct of the business and activities transferred to it by the agreement.
In Queensland, the Amalgamation Agreement between the Queensland Government and the CSB states that, during the currency of the agreement, so long as the CSB (or its successors) carries on savings bank business in the State of
Queensland, no savings bank will be established or conducted in the said State by or under the State. In addition, the State will in every possible way aid, assist and further the interests of the CSB in the conduct of its banking business in the State of Queensland.
The agreement with the New South Wales Government operates in perpetuity, while that with the Queensland Government will terminate in 1 985.
By reason of section 50 of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 as amended, the entry of the CSB into Amalgamation Agreements (and any amendments thereto) required the approval of the Commonwealth Treasurer.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
What is the Minister’s response to the call by the Australian Council of State School Organisations, referred to in an article in the Courier-Mail dated 17 February 1977, for an urgent injection of $20m into school building programs to combat an approaching crisis in school accommodation.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Schools Commission in its report for the 1977-79 rolling triennium pointed to the need to replace and refurbish many existing schools and to build new schools to cater particularly for shifts in population to newly expanding areas, especially on the outskirts of our larger cities. This situation was exacerbated in 1976 when the Whitlam Government cut education funds by a total of $105m over the 1975 level of expenditure. This resulted in a reduction of some $85m to the Schools Commission’s capital program for 1976. Under the Fraser Government real money growth has been restored and expenditure on school building programs for 1977 is to be some $ 10.8m higher in real terms than it was in 1976.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 10 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I understand that consistent with past practice the details of any revisions of estimates of Government expenditure, from whatever cause, are not released. However, the outcome of the Government’s expenditure policies for the financial year is set out in detail in the Budget Papers for the ensuing year.
The bulk of the Commonwealth’s expenditure on education is on the programs of the Education Commissions which operate on a calendar year basis.
Details of the expenditure programs of these Commissions for the 1976 and 1977 calendar years are set out on page 1660 of the Senate Hansard of 4 November 1976. The 1977 figures show an increase of 3.2 per cent in real terms over 1976.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 March 1977:
-The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, dated 15 March 1977:
What action is the Minister taking to determine whether the use of saccharin should be banned in Australia, following the decisions by the United States of America and Canada to remove saccharin from the market after Canadian tests found it caused cancer in animals.
-The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The decision by the United States and Canada to phase out the use of saccharin in foods and beverages was the result of a study conducted by the Health and Welfare Branch of the Canadian Ministry of Health and Welfare in which saccharin was shown to cause bladder tumours in rats.
No cases of human cancer attributable to saccharin have been identified. It should be noted that the intention to ban saccharin in the United States was based on the Delaney Clause legislation which requires a food additive to be banned if the development of cancer in experimental animals can be attributed to that substance, irrespective of the level of ingestion. Some relaxation of the ban is now being considered by the United States.
In Australia saccharin is only permitted in a limited number of foods at specified levels of use. Details of the Canadian toxicological investigations have been examined by the Food Science and Technology Subcommittee of the National Health & Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) which is responsible for the assessment of all food additives in Australia. They did not recommend any change to existing controls. The National Health & Medical Research Council at its 83rd session in Hobart on 21-22 April 1977, endorsed this finding.
The NH&MRC will maintain its review of saccharin in the light of further toxicological studies. In the meantime, saccharin users have no cause for alarm and no further restrictions are foreseen on saccharin usage in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
Has the Government given consideration to extending the investment allowance to small businessmen, a course of action advocated by Mr Tom Cooper of President Office Machines NSW Pty Ltd, as quoted in the article ‘Investment Allowance Urged for Small Business’, in the Financial Review dated 14 March 1 977. If so, what are the details.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The purpose of the investment allowance is to provide an incentive to enterprises, large and small, to invest in new plant and equipment. To simplify the operation of the scheme for both taxpayers and administrative alike, it was decided to set a price threshold the effect of which is to exclude a host of small items. Many of these were specifically excluded from the former investment allowances and many would be fully deductible on a replacement basis.
The threshold, initially set at $1000, was subsequently lowered to $500 in response to representations. Units of property priced at $1000 or more attract full allowance; those priced between $500 and $1000, allowance on a tapered scale. It should be noted that the $500 threshold does not discriminate against small businesses. It applies to all purchases of small calculators or typewriters, by businesses large and small. The Government decided on the $500 threshold only after the most careful consideration. It has no intention of departing from it.
1977, asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Equipment available from both local and overseas sources is being evaluated to determine its technical compatability for use with the Australian switched network.
Telecom also issues permits for privately supplied equipment to be used on the switched telephone network and some of these devices are designed to assist handicapped persons.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 30 March 1977.
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes; details concerning the shareholdings in, Mr Gyngell ‘s positions of governing director and employee of, and the business of, Warooka Pty Ltd.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) No Commonwealth funds will be used.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2), (4) and (S) Detailed information concerning the amounts of each Commonwealth overseas loan outstanding, the year in which each loan was raised, the respective rates of interest payable and dates of maturity of all such loans raised on or before 30 June 1976 are to be found in the Budget document ‘Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1976’ ( Budget Paper No. 6). Details of the two loans raised by the Government in the European and New York markets respectively in September and November 1976 are set out in following Treasurer Press Releases, Nos 163 (7 September 1976), 172 (21 September 1976), 191 (20 October 1976) and 21 1(17 November 1976).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
When a draft environmental impact statement is released, are copies available in each of the State offices of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. If so, (a) what facilities are available in each State office of the Department for the public to read and make comments on environmental impact statements, (b) where are all State offices of the Department located, and (c) which draft environmental impact statements are currently under review, and where are copies available for perusal.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Copies of draft environmental impact statements are normally made available in the State office of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development when the proposed action, the subject matter of the impact statement, has an effect in the State concerned. In addition, impact statements are made available in State offices for proposals not having an immediate effect in the State but considered to be of national importance.
Conference rooms are available in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane offices for public examination of impact statements. Facilities in the Adelaide, Hobart and Perth offices are limited to interviewing rooms or the public counter area. Alternative accommodation is being sought, however, for the Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne and Perth offices which will contain adequate reading facilities.
b) The addresses of State offices are: 4 Bligh Street, Sydney, 2000. 113 Mitchell Street, Glebe, NSW 2037 (Glebe Project Office) 460 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Vic. 2000 (Housing) 260 Auburn Road, Hawthorn, Vic. 3122. 145 Eagle Street, Brisbane, Qld 4000. 223-236 North Terrace, Adelaide, S.A. 5000.
Sheraton Court, 207 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, W.A. 6000. 162 Macquarie Street, Hobart, Tas. 7000.
A draft environmental impact statement in relation to proposals by Harris-Daishowa (Australia) Pty Ltd concerning the export of woodchips from Eden, NSW is currently available for public review. The impact statement can be examined at the following places:
The State Library of N.S.W., Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000.
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, Bligh House, 4 Bligh Street, Sydney.
The State Library of Victoria, 304-328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000.
The South-East Coast Co-operative Library branches at Zingel Place, Bega; Cnr Imlay and Mitchell Streets, Eden; Young Street, Bermagui and 1 7 Monaro Road, Merimbula.
The National Library, Parkes Place, Parkes, ACT, and
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, John Curtin House, Brisbane Avenue, Barton, ACT.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
Was the Federal Government’s proposal to conduct an inquiry into land development and housing costs in Australia discussed at the April Premiers’ Conference. If so, what decision was reached?
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. The Conference decided that Commonwealth/State discussions on the proposal should be held and that the proposal should be referred to the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers at their meeting on 29 April.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 27 April 1977:
Does the Minister recall recent statements by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, regarding the plight of the beef industry. If so, does the statement by Mr Anthony urging beef producers to withhold their stock to force the price of beef upwards represent an approval by the Minister and the Government to the principle of withdrawal of labour if conditions are not suitable.
If the answer to ( 1 ) is in the affirmative, does the Minister agree that the present ‘union bashing’ policy of the Government is therefore totally discriminatory in that it criticises unions for withdrawing labour, but condones the withdrawal of stock by primary producers.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that producers would be wise to defer some cattle sales so as to bring the supply offered more into line with the demand for cattle for immediate slaughter. It contained no implications about the Government* attitude on labour relations.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 27 April 1977:
Yuendumu who have not been entitled to register for unemployment benefits.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The question of an investigation of all other Aboriginal communities is a matter I will consider in consultation with the appropriate Ministers.
Australian Coins: Collectors’ Sets
-On 22 February 1977 (Hansard, page 218) Senator Messner asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the price of collectors ‘ sets of Australian coins, announced recently by the Royal Australian Mint. The Treasurer has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The price of $ 1 4. SO for collectors ‘ sets of Australian coins, to which the honourable senator referred, is the registered postage paid price for a set of proof coins, which are specially made for collectors. The ex-Mint price per set is $13.50.
Proof coins are made from specially prepared blanks. They have a mirror finish, and the relief design and lettering are frosted. The coin set is packed in a hara plastic presentation case which is ultrasonically sealed. The manufacture of proof coins involves the use of dies which have been prepared by hand, and each coin is individually handled and struck twice. As this method of manufacture is very labour intensive, the charge of $13.50 is necessary for the Mint to recover the costs of producing the proof coin sets.
I am informed by the Controller of the Mint that, among the thousands of letters the Mint receives each year from coin collectors, he has no recollection of any collector complaining about the cost of the proof coins. The price charged by the Mint is considered to be fair and reasonable for the very high quality coins supplied.
The Mint also makes available sets of ordinary coins in Mint condition. A set of such uncirculated coins, packed in a vinyl wallet, costs $1.80 ex-Mint or $2.30 postage paid by registered mail.
- Senator Missen asked me the following question, without notice, on 17 March 1977:
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications inform the Senate why a list of postcodes is included in metropolitan telephone directories but not in country directories? In view of Australia Post ‘s request that the public affix postcodes when addressing envelopes, does this lack not disadvantage our country population?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Until October 1972, postcode lists were included in all telephone directories. Following a review of the costs involved, the listings were subsequently confined to metropolitan directories and those of the more populous country areas. The frequency of telephone directory reprints and the number of directories involved meant that the cost of continued inclusion of postcode lists in all directories was disproportionate to the benefits obtained.
Metropolitan and major country directories reach a high proportion of the total population and it was considered that the cost of continuing to include the postcode listings in those directories was justified. Householder distribution of a separate postcode directory, which requires only infrequent reprinting, is a less costly method of covering those areas for which the listings are not included in Tocal telephone directories.
A householder distribution of the postcode directory was made in country areas in 1974 and directories are available from country and metropolitan post offices on request.
-On 31 March 1977 (Hansard, page 686) Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning overseas loans. I draw the honourable senator’s attention to the following paragraph which was included in a Press release issued by the Treasurer on 17 December 1975:
All matters relating to borrowings by the Australian Government are subject to the Treasurer’s authority, and no person has authority to do anything in relation to these matters without authorisation from the Treasurer.
I am advised by the Treasurer that, apart from the normal contact which a limited number of Treasury officers have with leading banks and underwriters (which is approved by the Treasurer) no officers representing the Government have been authorised to take any action in relation to Government borrowings, nor is the Treasurer aware of any approaches which may have been made either to British or to French financial institutions to sound out the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency’s attitude towards providing loan funds to Australia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770505_senate_30_s73/>.