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Friday, 5 April 1946


Mr FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) . - For the second time within two years this House has before it legislation providing for the making of an appeal to the people to grant new powers to the Commonwealth. The Government has profited from experience. Last time it asked for fourteen powers, and these, together with the three so-called safeguards, were all lumped together so that the electors had to accept them all or reject them all. As a result, they were overwhelmingly defeated. This time, it is intended to put the proposals separately, so that the people may accept or reject any one of them.

The attitude of the Australian Country party towards proposals for constitutional reform has for a long time been well defined. We believe that a Constitution which was written 45 years ago must need modifying and bringing up to date, but we believe that the proper approach to the matter would be to refer the Constitution for overhaul to an elected convention similar to that which originally drew up the Constitution. The platform of the Australian Country party contains the following points on the subject of constitutional reform : -

1.   Amendment of the Constitution to -

(a)   eliminate overlapping between federal and State jurisdiction in : (i) industry, (ii) trade and commerce, and (iii) finance.

(b)   re-arrange the financial relationships between the States and the Commonwealth in such a way that the economic and developmental requirements of each State will be automatically taken into consideration and provided for by agreement between the States and the Commonwealth.

(c)   provide for co-operative development by the States and the Commonwealth of. (i) Public health and hospital services, (ii) all forms of transport, (iii) social services. (iv) agreement as to settlement of industrial disputes, and (v) power production and water conservation.

2.   Advocacy of the balanced development of Australia, the checking of the excessive growth of bureaucracy, maintenance of the federal system of government and constitutional reform along practical lines. These objective? to be achieved by-

(a)   a representative convention elected by the people;

(b)   a referendum on proposals for amendment of the Constitution as soon as practicable.

Pending this procedure, an approach be made to the States for the transfer of certain indispensable and urgent powers to the Commonwealth to enable them to fulfil their joint responsibilities for economic development and social progress.

The Australian Country party believes that the Government is approaching the matter in the wrong way, and that the amendments immediately sought are unnecessary. The Government is seeking these additional powers so that it may validate certain legislation, the validity of which is now in doubt. The Government wishes to place beyond question the power of the Commonwealth to continue social services, including child endowment and family allowances. The doubt on the validity of such services has arisen _ as the result of the judgment of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case. It is worth noting that, of the fourteen powers sought at the last referendum, this one about family allowances stood thirteenth on the list. The Government is now asking for power to legislate, in respect of organized marketing of primary products. At the last referendum, the Government wanted power to legislate in respect of the "marketing of commodities ", and the difference is important. The third proposal of the Government is that the Commonwealth should have power to legislate in respect of terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription. That was the second of the Government's fourteen points at the 1944 referendum. It appeared under the bald heading, " Employment and Unemployment ". We were told in 1944 that, if the referendum were lost, all sorts of dire economic results would follow. When the proposals were rejected by the people, the Government said that child endowment was in jeopardy, that its plans for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen could not be carried out, and, indeed, that economic depression could not be avoided. . Strangely enough, the powers which the Government claimed to be most important in 1944, are not referred to in the three bills now under discussion. Therefore, I am impelled to seek the reason underlying the Government's new proposals. In doing so, I recall the propaganda of fear employed by the Government in the 1944 referendum campaign. An enormous sum was expended on the campaign by the Government through the Department of Information and one advertisement published at the expense of the taxpayers depicted a sad-faced woman above the caption, " Mother, vote Tes to keep your child endowment ". We may expect the same sort of misleading propaganda at the expense of the country in connexion with the campaign for the new proposals. In spite of the Government's campaign of fear, the 1944 proposals were defeated. I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) whether the child endowment scheme has been jeopardized in any way in the intervening period. The answer, of course, must be no. This exposes the dangerous nature of the Government's tactics. Its propaganda was entirely misleading, and it served only to exaggerate unfounded fears in the minds of a few people. No member of the Opposition objects in any way to placing the validity of child endowment, maternity allowances and widows' -pensions beyond doubt. But the Government has adopted the wrong approach to the matter. A referendum is unnecessary. The Government wants the people, at the referendum, to grant powers with relation, not only to child endowment, maternity allowances and widow pensions, but also other extraneous items ; all are to be lumped together in the proposals. Child endowment was brought into being by the parties which are now in Opposition. The scheme has never been in jeopardy, as the Government claims, and is never likely to be in jeopardy. The Government could easily have made arrangements with the States to have power referred to it in order to place the validity of the legislation beyond doubt. The Government's methods are unfair. The power sought in relation to child endowment, maternity allowances and widows' pensions should be sought separately. There would be no doubt then that the proposal would receive the almost unanimous support of the people. The Government has arranged for the referendum to be held on the day of the general elections, and it has wrapped up with the proposals which I have mentioned other proposals relating to sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students, and family allowances which are extremely controversial. This will serve only to confuse the main issues. Let us examine the way in which the validity of child endowment, maternity allowances and widows' pensions is to be shackled to the other proposals under the Government's plan. At the 1944 referendum, the Government took every possible advantage of its opportunities by wrapping up repatriation with' certain other obnoxious proposals which had to be approved or rejected by the people im- toto.

The Opposition then counselled the Government to submit the request in relation to repatriation as one specific proposal, so that it would not be jeopardized by the bad features of the other proposals. However, the Government rejected the advice and tried to create a fear complex by claiming that, if all of the proposals were not accepted, it would not be able to deal with the re-establishment of exservicemen. But what has happened since the referendum was lost? The Reestablishment and Employment Act has been passed, and the Government is carrying on unchecked with its repatriation plans, including its schemes for land settlement and housing. Therefore, its attempts to create fears in the minds of the people are proved to have been unjustified. Now, in its anxiety to obtain authority for certain obnoxious social service schemes, it has linked them with other schemes, the value of which is undisputed. By skilful use of political propaganda, it hopes to . " cash in " at the elections by making the Subject of social services a major issue. Its tactics do not deceive anybody. Everybody knows why the referendum is to be held on the same date as the general elections.

I emphasize that the Opposition does not object to the safeguarding of child endowment, maternity allowances and . other desirable social services. However, a fundamental principle of the policy of the Opposition is that social services, in the main, must be financed on a scientifically sound contributory basis. Unless this policy be adopted, social services are. destined to do more harm than good. In order to prove my case, I refer to what has happened in New Zealand. This Government's free medicine scheme was undoubtedly modelled on the New Zealand scheme. The cost of the scheme in New Zealand has continually increased since its inception. In its first year, 1940-41, it cost New Zealand £13,967,000. In 1941-42 the cost increased to £14,600,000, in 1942-43 it increased again to £16,000,000, in 1943-44, the last year for which figures are available, the total was £17,500,000. To-day, the scheme is not self-supporting. The original plan was to finance the scheme by means of contributions collected in the form of taxes. The calculations of the New Zealand Government were so misguided that the scheme had to be subsidized from Consolidated Revenue as follows : -

 

In operation, the scheme has not achieved the desirable results originally envisaged. The physical effects on the people, apart from the economic effects, have been most unsatisfactory. As evidence of this, I refer to a government-sponsored advertisement published. in Wellington on the 29th December, 1944. This is what it stated -

You can't get good health out of a bottle. . . The Social Security Fund spent more than £750,000 on medicines last year, supplied free to the public.

It is fallacious to say that a governmental service is supplied " free to the public ". It may be free to one section of the public, but obviously only at the expense of another section. The announcement continued -

This country must just about lead the world as a nation of tonic-takers and pill addicts.

Use medicine only when it is essential. . . Give Nature's method a trial. The result will probably astonish you.

That tells its own story. Another interesting sidelight on the disappointing result' of the scheme is contained in a press report which appeared in Wellington on the 27th October, 1945. It stated -

The admission by the Minister for Health (Mr. A. Nordmeyer) that "in view of the abuses .of the fee-for-service system on which New Zealand's free doctor plan is based, the Government is most seriously considering whether it should continue" dragged into the light the greatest racket in New Zealand to-day - the alliance of doctors and public to plunder the Social Security Fund.

Amongst the defects' stated are " Deterioration of the care provided " and " The new attitude of families now they know hospitalization is free - the desire to get sick relatives out of the home and into the hospital ".

That shows that the so-called " free " medical service in New Zealand is costing the country a great deal of money and is having a detrimental effect on the people.

Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.


Mr FADDEN - In amplification of what I have already said I quote from the New Zealand Observer of the 31st October, 1945-







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