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Thursday, 15 October 1964


Mr BENSON (Batman) .- I support the remarks that have been passed by previous speakers from this side of the chamber. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) express doubt about the statement made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). If anybody knows anything about the Northern Territory and the problems that arise in that part of the country it is the honorable member for Fremantle. I do not think anybody in this chamber can honestly say that any remarks passed by the honorable member for Fremantle are untrue.


Dr Gibbs - I did not say they were untrue.


Mr BENSON - You said he did not know what he was talking about.


Dr Gibbs - That is not the same thing.


Mr BENSON - Have it whichever way you like. Like the Ansett affair which was debated in the House today, it all depends on the way you look at it. I go along with all that the honorable member for Fremantle had to say.

I wish to refer briefly to Norfolk Island and, if time permits, to New Guinea. Last July, I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to Norfolk Island. I arrived there at the same time as our present Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes). I felt very Bony for the Minister because he was then only newly appointed to his portfolio and was travelling round the various Territories under his control to see what was happening. It would be quite impossible for a new Minister to understand immediately what is going on in all the Territories under his jurisdiction. He needs time and he has a number of areas to cover. The Minister went to Norfolk Island to make an inspection and to see what some of the troubles of the people were. I think he will agree that the troubles on Norfolk Island at the present time are many. One of the greatest of them relates to medical facilities, or the lack of them, and the lack of medical attention. I have in my possession the minutes of the proceedings of a meeting which the Minister attended. They indicate what is required in the way of medical services on Norfolk Island and, with the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate them in " Hansard ".

MINUTES OF MEETING OF THE NORFOLK ISLAND PUBLIC HOSPITAL BOARD WITH MR. C. E. BARNES, M.H.R., AND HIS HONOUR THE ADMINISTRATOR, HELD IN THE BOARD ROOM ON SATURDAY, 4th JULY 1964, AT 10 A.M.

Present. -

Mr. C.E. Barnes, Minister for Territories.

His Honour the Administrator.

Mr. RobertSwift, Secretary.

Mr. G.Adams, Chairman.

Mr. R.H. H. Nobbs.

Mrs. B.Quintal.

Mrs. A.Bathie.

Dr. M.B. Clark.

The Chairman declared the meeting open at 10 a.m.

Chairman. - Minister for Territories, I would like to welcome you officially on behalf of the Board and the Hospital staff. As you know, running a Hospital and being so isolated here, we have problems, and it is some of these problems that we are presenting to you this morning and hoping that we might achieve something to help us out of these problems. Our Secretary has prepared a Statement of Revenue and Expenditure for the forthcoming year, but some of the figures may seem a little high to you. With all this in mind, I have made a few notes which have been brought to my notice. You will see on the Revenue side, Sir (and here the Chairman proceeded to enumerate the items set out on the Revenue side of the Statement). Of the £8,000 asked for, the Chairman stated that we wished to have four trained Sisters on the staff, and that we were also hoping to have a "bush nurse", who, as part of her duty, could visit some of the older people around the Island. There were quite a number who, owing to their old age, were unable to get around any more and some of them could be suffering from malnutrition. This would be one of the duties which a fully trained bush nurse could attend to. The Chairman explained that the salary for this nurse was included in the £8,000 asked for. The Chairman also explained that one of our problems was to get staff to come here and then when we do get them here, it was a problem to keep them here. They did not have the scope here and they sometimes felt that there was no advancement in their profession, in comparison to what they could get on the mainland. After six months, if they did stay that length of time, which was seldom, the Board were prepared to pay their fare one way. If they did stay 12 months, their return fare was paid.

The Chairman then explained that " Advertising " covers calling for nurses when necessary. " Remission of fees" covered what we might call bad debts and also there were patients who could not afford to pay the Hospital fees and that was left to the Board's discretion. For the kitchen, a new Frigidaire was required. The present Frigidaire had been giving trouble for some time now and it was decided that it had outlived its usefulness. The condition of the linen, crockery and cutlery was also very bad.

At the moment, we did have an X-ray machine. It was quite a new one, just about two years old, but the Medical Officer said that it is just too small. Patients have come here for X-ray and that machine was just not big enough to cope. We have had residents on the Island who had had to visit the mainland for X-rays because they had been unable to be done here.

The Chairman stated that he had also been asked by the trained staff for a little kitchenette in their quarters so that they could make a cup of tea when off duty. They had also asked for a small wash-house where they could deal with their own personal effects. Regarding furniture, they would like four small bedside tables and bedside mats and small bookcases where their literature could be kept in some order.

As for the water supply, in summer time, it is quite possible, and it does happen, that we have water problems. His Honour would bear this statement out that we have had, on occasion, to call on him and he has had to ask the public to help us out if they had water available and request them to make it over to the Hospital to carry us through the dry weather. It was the opinion of the Board that it might be necessary to provide another storage tank to store the water during the winter months, and it was suggested that a minimum of 20,000 gallons should be considered. We did have a deep well, but again there was the problem of getting the water from the well. There was an old piston type pump on the well, but in the Chairman's opinion, it was quite obsolete and was always subject to breakdowns, which caused a great deal of inconvenience. The Chairman said that we would like to ask that a new electric jet pump be supplied to this deep well to save so much inconvenience.

The Chairman then called on Dr. Clark to put his views before the Meeting.

Dr. Clarkthen said that what the whole thing amounted to was that the Health Services here had been, not exactly neglected, but that now the red light was showing and that if there was to be a Hospital here, it would need a great deal of help from the Commonwealth Government. He felt that this should be a Commonwealth Hospital, where Health and Hospital Inspectors could come around and see just what was necessary. In the past, doctors have come here for perhaps three years or perhaps two years and sometimes one year and have done the work to the best of their ability. This was not good enough because of the equipment and the staff position. It had been said that a man can play a good tune on an old fiddle, but he can play a better one on a good instrument. He would like to point out now that the £3,000 which the Administration had made available to the Hospital was for urgent equipment and was not included in any of the present Statement of Revenue and Expenditure. As the Chairman had said, the staff problem was a big one. It was a big problem to get them here and then to keep them here. The main incentive was that there was no Income Tax. We were short of staff at the moment. At the present time, we had three sisters only and one girl who came in for three mornings a week. Another difficulty was finding the money to pay the staff, because one week the Hospital may be full and the following week it could be empty. The Minister asked what type of malady caused this rise and fall of patients in the Hospital. Dr. said that this was ' caused by epidemics of influenza and so on which were brought mostly from the mainland, and there was also a good number of old people who required attention from time to time. This was a 16-bed Hospital and at the moment, we had only 6 patients. Of these 6, two required full nursing care. The old people in Hospital required nursing care, because they could not have attention at home. If tha Hospital was full all the year round, a lot oi our problems would be solved, also providing that the patients could pay, but for many months in the year, the Hospital could be practically empty. With a bigger population, we would get a bigger turnover and we could keep the Hospital relatively full. The staff only got paid when tha work was here, and Dr. Clark said that he would like to see the whole staff paid by the Administration. Lots of people on the Island could not afford to belong to the Hospitals Contribution Fund, and even if they do, they only get 90 days' benefit paid for in Hospital. We had a patient in Hospital! now who had exceeded that period of time, and he did not know how he was going to pay his wife's bill. We had another patient who had had a coronary two days ago and he had only £20 in the Bank and he was worrying now, because if he did not get out of Hospital very soon and get busy on his land, he was going to be in trouble. This was a bad state of mind for any patient and did not assist in his recovery. We also needed a " bush nurse ", because there were a lot of old people on the Island - about 70 of them - who live by themselves. About 38 of these were widows. All these people have to be looked after and the people who helped the Dr. most were the ministers of religion visiting them and they let him know if these old people required help. Some of them needed injections and some of them required quite a lot of time spent on them. A lot of people who had come to the Island have developed bronchitis or asthma and they come here for climate reasons and not to get away from Income Tax or anything else. They come here with a certain income each year which they now find is inadequate and are scratching for money, because they are chronic invalids. We had no Commonwealth Benefits here, so that patients have to pay the full price of their drugs. For instance, there was one patient here who had to have certain drugs which were costing him about £3 per week, and he would be taking this drug indefinitely. If he finds that he cannot afford this and leaves off taking the drug for two or three days, his infection gets him down and he has to send for the Dr. again. A 5-day course of Aureomycin on this Island costs about £4. Quite a lot of people on the Island have high blood pressure and many of these patients have to pay about £1 per week for drugs. Another course is cortisone, which costs £3.16.9. Dr. said he had to keep a supply of this, because it was life-saving, but if it was not used before 196S, it had to be discarded and wiped off. But it still had to be kept here. What he would like to suggest was that the Commonwealth Benefits should apply here on the Island. People got these drugs free on the mainland, but, for instance an injection of Penicillin costs 14/- here.

The Dr. also said that we needed a full time handyman around the Hospital. As they went round the Hospital, Dr. would be able to point out all these things to the Minister and then it would bring home to everyone just how much these things we had asked for were needed.

Mrs. Bathie.; Mrs. Bathieasked that if this Hospital was put under the Commonwealth, what difference would it make to the island and the people.

Minister. - The Minister stated that this was ? very difficult question. It involved principles which he had agreed to respect on the Island. The whole thing that the Dr. had suggested, that we come under the Commonwealth, was cutting right across what he had promised the Islanders to keep out of - the kind of legislation which they had in Australia. This point was very interesting to him, because it took him back about 25 years in Australia when they had had these problems. In all country hospitals in Australia, they had the difficulty of balancing the budget. The old idea was that the local authorities (and all authorities differ but this was in Queensland) and the ratepayers came to the rescue to lighten the burden. They also helped by holding fetes and balls and any other community service which would help raise funds for the Hospital. Then the Government started to come in and take over Hospitals and when the Government took over, they fixed the fees and everything else and all independence was lost. As the Minister saw the situation here, we had had a lot of people who could not pay fees, so therefore it had to be a community effort. In Australia today, they had to pay taxes, and the Minister thought that last year, the Pharmaceutical Benefit Fund was ?28,000,000. This included all these expensive life-savings drugs which the Dr. had just enumerated. All one had to do was pay 5/-. A pensioner did not pay anything. The average person paid 5/- to the chemist and the Government made up the difference between that 5/- and the cost of the drug. The Dr. said that in Queensland, the patient did not pay anything. The Minister replied that that was where the taxpayer came to the rescue again. Last year, the total tax, direct and indirect per man, woman and child, was ?109 per year. The Dr. said that if the people here had to pay Income Tax, the Government would still have to put more money in. The Minister agreed and said that he knew that this would happen. The Dr. then said that as regards health, it would then be a political thing and we would be running into the same thing as they had in the U.K. and it would just be a political football.

The Minister. - lt could become a political football here too.


Doctor Clark - Dr. said that if it was up to the politicians to find money, then this was what was needed. He also said that if the Minister indicated that the money could not be found, then we would just have to scratch along as we had been doing, but it was not very good going.

Minister. - The position is that this Island has a Council which represents the Australian Govern ment here. From indications he had seen and heard, the Islanders do net want Income Tax.

Mrs. Bathie.; I do not think that it is Income Tax which the people are afraid of. I think it is Land Tax. The old people on the Island were terrified of Land Tax, because they felt that if they could not pay their rates, they would lose their land and this burt them very much indeed.

Minister.- Whatever taxes they may be, the individual here must bear the same responsibility as the individual must do in Australia. This is just the position. This Island wants to be a separate entity, as they have gone along for many years, and they do not want to come into this sort of legislation which they had in Australia. The Minister believed that the Island would eventually have to do it, but he said that he was not going to tell them what to do, because he had promised them this.

Mr. Adams.; Mr. Adams suggested that perhaps we could add a few more members to the Board and they could take over the Council.

Administrator. - The Administrator said that it could be the reverse and the Council take over the Board.

Dr. Clarksaid that he believed that about tcn years ago, the Hospital was run by the Administration. Mr. Adams stated that this was so before the actual Hospital Ordinance came into force, but as far as he could remember, there was always a Board.

Dr. Clarksaid that even if it was a Commonwealth Hospital, we would still have to have a Board in order to decide policy and so on.

Mr. Adams.; Mr. Adams said that he would like to say that the Hospital Board was the only governing body on the Island, and in his opinion, the Council bad no other power than being totally advisory. As far as the Hospital Board was concerned, they did have certain powers and could make By-laws with the approval of the Administration. Mr. Adams continued by saying that it must be obvious to the Minister, the Administrator and to all present that we were running into financial problems and it was on those lines that we had put our difficulties before him and that we hoped that be could help us as far as our financial difficulties were concerned and also as regards the equipment which Dr. Clark had requested as being necessary. It was not so long ago that we were having difficulty because we did not know where the next fortnight's salaries were coming from. Mr. Adams asked the Minister if, in his official capacity, he could even guarantee us if we were short of funds, that the Government would cover even the fortnight's salaries. He said that perhaps if we omitted paying the staff for one fortnight, we might even come back next day and find we did not even have a staff.

Minister. - The Minister replied that these were the responsibilities of the Hospital Board and that they should regulate their finances. There was no use in having a Hospital Board if these expenses were to be put on the Administration.

Mr. Adams.; Mr. Adams agreed with this, but it did not alter the fact that we have to purchase drugs which are put forward by the Medical Officer, and even at the present Lime, we could be dragging the chain there a bit as far as paying for the drugs were concerned. We had to cover that sometime, and even with the Hospital full, it could be months before we got that money back from in-patients to put back into our general funds. It was on occasions like these that when we have to purchase drugs as well as our general supplies that cuts our financial position down to a bare minimum that we are never sure, from fortnight to fortnight, whether we will be able to pay the staff. With our present Secretary, and we have had trouble with previous Secretaries, things have changed very much. She is doing a marvellous job here and we are, beyond doubt, collecting a good amount of our outstanding debts, thanks to her. At the moment, we are in a position to cover most of our expenses and debts, but when all this money has been collected, we will be back to the old situation when we do not know whether we will be able to cover the staff pay for the next fortnight. Mr. Adams said it was a very tricky problem, so he failed to see where they could refer back except the Administration.

Minister. - The Minister said he could not agree with this at all. He recalled that Mr. Adams had said that the Council had no powers and that it was just an advisory Council. He intended to give them power in the sense that he sought their advice. It was useless to have a Council elected by the people of the Island if we did not take their advice, and it would be wrong if he did not take their advice through the Administrator. If funds run short, then fees must be adjusted to provide for the necessary reserves.

Mr. Adams. Mr. Adamssaid that in the course of his day-to-day work he often had people telling him that the fees were too high already, so how could they be asked to pay perhaps ?2 or ?3 more per week.

Minister. - The Minister then asked what the fees were, and on being informed of this, stated that they were very low indeed. Certainly in comparison to mainland standards.

Mrs. Bathie.; Mrs. Bathie said that from personal experience, she knew that at Prince Alfred Hospital, it cost ?21 per week, but this amount included drugs, injections and operation.

Dr. Clarkthen said that no Hospital makes a profit; it always made a loss.

Mr. Adamshere quoted the case of his two children who had to be flown to the mainland and were admitted to the Royal North Shore Hospital where they were costing him ?3 per day each. He also had had to pay air fare for his wife to accompany the two children, but fortunately, he had had the means to cover this. It just could not be done again. This was one of our problems here. We are so isolated and if an emergency arose, we could get to the mainland in a few hours, but we had to have the finance to get there in the first place. It cost over ?50 to get there for the parents as well as air fare for the children and there were very few who could afford it.

Minister. - The Minister said that the difficulty was to run this Island on the standards of the mainland on a legislation or a principle which they had had 25 years ago in Australia. He had no doubt that we had people coming here from the mainland feeling that there was a great disparity on what they could get here and what they could get on the mainland in regard to these sort of things, and in the way of amenities. The whole difficulty was trying to maintain isolation under these circumstances.

Dr. Clarksaid that when one got to the top of Mount Pitt and looked around, one could see how very isolated the Island really was and the question is did they really want a Hospital on the Island and did the Minister think that a Hospital was really necessary.

Minister. - The Minister said that he did think so.


Dr Clark - Dr. asked the Minister that if we were to have this Hospital, was it going to be fully staffed.

Minister. - The Minister replied that, as he had said before, this was again a question of funds, and they could not be picked out of the air. Someone had to pay for them.


Dr Clark - Dr. said that this Hospital had managed to carry on in the past because they had had to cut down on staff and had not replaced them when they left. He, the Dr. had come here for one year and that year was up in August, and unless the Hospital can carry on in some way with help, he was not prepared to stay on, although he had promised the Administrator that he would do so.

Minister. - The Minister said that this was an important matter, but that it involved the principles which he had promised the Island. They did not want taxation here and they wanted to keep out of the system which they had on the mainland and he had promised to respect their wishes. He would say that the proper thing to do was to make a formal application of all those things we wanted and had asked for to the Administrator, and he, in turn, would get the opinion of the Council on what they wished on the matter. This would have to be a decision made by the people of the Island, because he was not going to make any decisions in Canberra.

Mr. Nobbs.; Mr. Nobbs said that the Board had tentatively fixed a sum of ?6,000 increase per year for subsidy, making a total of ?8,000. He thought that the Minister would have heard sufficient to realise that we do need assistance. He suggested that an amount such as this should be placed on the estimates. He also thought it was obvious to everyone that we require some immediate assistance. If we could have an immediate increase in subsidy, and then whatever other sums are allocated, we could then go to the Administrator and state what we wanted, and if he agreed, along with the Council, then this amount or part of it, could be spent each year on the necessary equipment and other necessities. Mr. Nobbs said that he would prefer to see some immediate assistance, and stated that, as the Minister went round the Hospital, he would see the need for assistance and for spending a lot of money on the Hospital. We were also faced with continually rising costs and rising salaries, and he considered that our problems were not of our own making. He had been on the Board for twelve months, and pre.viously, they had limited the Dr. to ?50 per month for drugs.

Minister.- The Minister said that the situation was that we were in need of funds. He stated that we could achieve this for our Hospital by raising the fees or going to the Administration for a greater subsidy. We must make a request in a formal application for extra subsidy and he also suggested that we should get the opinion of Council. The Commonwealth Government made its allocation every year and it covered the administrative expenses of the Island. He repeated that Council would have to advise on the question.

Administrator. - All this extra expense is a situation which has suddenly arisen. I have said before that the expenses of the running of this Hospital depends greatly on the Medical Officer. The question of this equipment had not arisen before. The X-ray which the Administration had purchased for the Hospital on the advice of the previous Dr. now that the new Dr. had arrived, was now not big enough according to him. That was ?700 wasted. The Hospital had shown a profit of ?500 in the last year, and he could not understand why the Board should suddenly require another ?8,000. This, he felt, was something out of the air. The Board had talked about various alterations to the Hospital, but the Administration did this in the ordinary way. Then the Administration had suddenly received a demand for ?3,000 from the new Dr. to pay for new equipment, which had been granted. He felt that the Board must have some forethought.

Mrs. Bathie. Mrs. Bathiestated that the Members of the Board gave up a great deal of their time and tried to do what they could for the Hospital.

Dr. Clarkexplained to the Administrator that the reason why the Hospital Board could not look ahead was because they could not see beyond the next pay day.

Mr. Adamsexplained that he had been three years on the Board, and it was only when the Board had had their recent meeting with the Administrator that they had any idea of putting in estimates at all, but it should be appreciated that at least we are' keeping the Hospital open. During those three years, it had always been scratching for money. As the Minister was visiting the Island now, the Board felt that it was an opportunity to make these things known to him and we would appreciate his helping us out now. This again did not alter the fact that our Secretary will be scratching for money to pay the staff again. Mr. Adams stated that we could only hope that the present Board would now have some ideas on estimates and that this knowledge could be passed on to future members of the Board.

Mr. Nobbs. Mr. Nobbssaid that he was in full agreement with the Chairman. He thought that the community had been wonderful and had supported the Hospital very well.

Minister. - The Minister said then that he had a much clearer picture of things now. The situation was that we did not know where the money was to come from. To use a simple term, he said we were living from a hand-to-mouth method, but that these things had to be provided for 12 months ahead in estimates. The Minister then asked Mr. R. Swift if it would be possible to get someone to come over to the Island and look into certain matters concerning the Hospital. Mr. Swift said there would be no difficulty in arranging this, but that the cost of the visit would have to be paid out of Norfolk Island revenue.

Administrator. - The Administrator said that by putting in our estimates now as we had done, we had shot his estimates up by 18 per cent

Mrs. Bathie. Mrs. Bathieasked whether the roads or health was more important.

Administrator. - The Administrator said that this was something which the Island itself must decide.

Minister. - The Minister stated that we were obviously very short of funds, and this is where the Council must advise us.

Administrator. - The Administrator said that there was certainly an urgent need for money, but that our policy was Government policy and that we must take note of what Council advises. The Administration could pay the Hospital subsidy of ?2,000 straight away.


Dr Clark - The Doctor said that the reason why all this had come up now was because he was looking into the future and he would like to see this Hospital put on a sound financial basis.

Minister. - The Minister said that this Hospital was up to the standards of 25 years ago, and the desire now was to bring it up to completely modern standards. This was a decision which he believed the Island people had to make and they would have to bear the cost of doing this. Before the Council are asked to make decisions on large expenditure, he thought that they should know what was ahead of them. This question of a subsidy of ?8,000 was to be suddenly brought upon them. He believed that this question had to be brought before the Council. The Minister said that he would have a discussion with the Administrator and Mr. Swift as to the best way they could go about it and how they would put this matter up and how they could plan ahead. The main thing to him was as to how they could best assist.

Mr. Adams. Mr. Adamssaid that at the next Board meeting, they could discuss this as a Board and refer it to the Administrator, and if His Honour could get a sub-committee formed, then we could work in as a unit.

Mr. Hobbs.; Mr. Hobbssaid that he thought this situation had been brought about largely by our present Doctor and that he was right behind the Doctor in demanding that this Hospital bc brought up to good standards.

Minister. - The Minister said that, on the mainland, Hospitals get considerable help from outside bodies such as the Red Cross, Lions Clubs etc. There was also a wonderful service run by the Methodist Church known as the Blue Nursing Service.

Here Mr. Adams informed the Minister that we had received a donation of a 4-burner gas stove from the Lions Club. Mr. Adams also mentioned that the public do help in the way of donations of fruit, fish and vegetables and do excellent voluntary work when called upon to do so.

Mr. Adamsthen asked the Minister that, as all the facts had been placed before him, that he would give the whole matter his fullest consideration at the earliest opportunity. Concluding, Mr. Adams said that on behalf of the Board and the staff, he would like to thank the Minister for coining along and bearing with us in our problems and hoped that, in due course, all these problems could be ironed out

Minister. - The Minister replied that he would like to thank the Board for the opportunity he had had to listen to what had been said andhecertainly would, as the Chairman suggested, give the whole position his fullest consideration. He realised our difficulties and the Government were here to help us in every way they could.

The Chairman declared the meeting closed at 12,45p.m. (Signed.) F. G. A. ADAMS, Chairman.

 

There is nothing contentious in those minutes, but they do contain a request for a subsidy and I thank the Minister for allowing them to be incorporated in "Hansard".

The Hospital Board there took up this matter of medical facilities with the Minister. It asked for several little things to be done on the island, and it would like the Minister to give approval to the payment of subsidy as soon as possible. I think the Minister should take action immediately, because the amount involved is only £8,000. Although it is small, it is essential and will be of great benefit. The Government Medical Officer made it quite clear that the situation on the island is not good.

I think the Minister will agree that the Government Medical Officer told him that the old people on Norfolk Island are suffering from malnutrition. I ask the Minister or anyone else who knows all the facts of the position there how people can be expected to exist on the miserable sum of £2 a week which I understand is all that these proud and dignified people receive. This £2 a week is paid from a fund called the Destitution Fund, and to get it, applicants have to submit to a very severe means test. Out of this £2 a week, these elderly citizens have to keep themselves.

After all, these people are Australians. Norfolk Island belongs to Australia just as Tasmania does. We call the residents of Norfolk Island, Norfolk Islanders just as we call the people from Tasmania, Tasrnaoians. But they are all Australians, and it is up to us to see that they are treated as Australians. I ask the Minister to increase this miserable handout of £2 a week and to put these elderly people on the same footing as all other Australians. I further ask that the name " Destitution Fund " be changed because I feel that it is a degrading name.

Let me mention for the information of the Committee that the cost of living is higher on Norfolk Island than it is in Australia becauseallessentialgoodsaresold as Sydney prices plus freight and plus lighterage charges. These lighterage charges must be added to the cost of the goods because there is no natural harbour at Norfolk Island, nor is there any wharf there. For this reason, goods shipped from Sydney have to be transferred to lighters, which makes the cost of handling much dearer. I mention this point because these poor old people have to meet all of these added charges out of their miserable £2 a week.

I understand that the Government Medical Officer explained to the Minister that it is his duty to keep the people on the island in good health and to treat them if they become ill; but the cost of some of the modern drugs he has to prescribe is beyond the means of the Norfolk Islanders. I think everyone will agree that when people know they should have drugs but cannot afford them the knowledge does not tend to help them get well. The worry about this problem disturbs them and their condition deteriorates further. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. It is inhuman and un-Australian. The Minister should step in right now and exercise his authority to right the wrongs that prevail there. I am sure that after he has had time to study the question in more detail he will do something along the lines I have suggested.

As was pointed out a moment ago, the Minister has a big portfolio to administer. The Territories over which he has jurisdiction are big and are scattered over a wide area. We know that his responsibilities cover Cocos Island, the Northern Territory, New Guinea, Norfolk Island and some other smaller places. That is a lot for the Minister to have to look after, and I think he is to be congratulated for the vigour he has shown and for demonstrating that he is prepared to travel round to see for himself. I know there are two sides to every question, but I am confident that he will look into these matters relating to Norfolk Island. I am bringing them forward now in the hope that the Minister will analyse them. If he agrees that the people on Norfolk Island are Australians, I hope he will give them the same treatment as is received by people on the mainland.

By visiting Norfolk Island frequently the Minister will get to know the islanders better. They want the Minister to clarify their position because they are the descendants of the crew of the historic " Bounty ". They want to know just what their standing is. They are very proud of their record of service to their monarch. They say that in proportion to population, more people enlisted from Norfolk Island and more paid the supreme sacrifice than was the case in respect of any other part of the British Empire, as it was known then, or the Commonwealth as we know it now. They feel that they have played their part and they now want a little bit of understanding. They want to be put on the same basis as other Australians. They want their hospital modernised and they want social service benefits similar to those which are available in this country. At the present time, no social service benefits are available on Norfolk Island.

The Norfolk Islanders have asked to be allowed to contribute to the Commonwealth social services scheme so that they may benefit from it. I do not know what the answer to that is, but they pointed out to me that the basic wage on the island amounts to only seven-eighths of the Federal basic wage. They argue that as they receive only seven-eighths of the Federal basic wage they are in reality paying a tax. If the Minister agrees with the argument that as their wages are so much lower and as they are paying more for their goods, they are in effect already paying a tax, he will concede that they are in an awkward position. I point out, for example, that petrol is dearer because of shipping and lighterage charges. There is no organised transport on the island so that most people have to provide themselves with motor cars. They pay 6s. a gallon for super grade petrol and Ss. 9d. a gallon for standard grade petrol if they wish to use their cars to get around the island or if they wish to work their tractors. I understand that shortly the Government is going to endeavour to equalise petrol prices. I understand it is going to make the price of petrol for the man living outback the same as for the man in the city. If that is the case I will not moan about it, but if the Government is going to do that it should think of these people on Norfolk Island and give them a little of the same treatment.

A case was referred to me concerning the hospital on Norfolk Island. There is one medical officer on the island, and he does an excellent job, but he cannot do everything. He has not the facilities to carry out a simple tonsillectomy. If it were necessary for a child to have its tonsils removed the child would have to go to Sydney. The mother would have to accompany the child. This would cost £78 5s. in fares alone, then the mother would have to find somewhere to stay in Sydney while the child was in hospital. It is only by going to these places that one hears about these things, but it was pointed out to me that a member of the local hospital board had to go to Sydney five times in six months for X-ray treatment. It is a simple matter to work out approximately what that would cost if it costs £78 5s. in fares for a mother and child to go to Sydney. Hospital treatment can be a big expense for anyone living on Norfolk Island.

It is this sort of thing which the people on the island want rectified. They want several other things, too. They have told me what they want, and I know they have told the Minister. It would not matter if I were the Minister or whoever was the Minister, these requests would be made. The requests have to be looked at and the urgent matters treated without delay. I know that for a long time the islanders have been pleading for some sort of breakwater for a harbour. I do not know whether or not that can be tackled from a defence angle. I do not know what the Government's policy is concerning Norfolk Island, but I know that situated as it is almost midway between Australia and New Zealand it could be a place of great importance in the defence of New Zealand and Australia. The airstrip on the island is not strong enough for the heavy type of aircraft operating in the area. This is why DC6's are engaged on the route. However, I understand there is some move afoot to strengthen the airstrip.

From what I can see something should be done, if possible, to make boating safe in the area just as we make provision in Australia for fishing co-operatives and the like. The fishing potential of Norfolk Island is considerable. They are having trouble at present with Japanese poachers, as we are having in New Guinea. Every week or so we read of a Japanese fishing ship going into port in New Guinea for repairs, or we read of a Japanese ship being involved in an accident or of a Japanese ship being stranded on a reef. We know that this sort of thing is happening. We know, too, that it is happening around Norfolk Island, and even off the Queensland coast, but we have not a fisheries protection vessel in Australia the same as most maritime countries have.

This is the sort of responsibility that should be shared by the Department of

Territories and the Department of Defence in order to ensure that our continental shelf is not poached, because these people who come down to fish in our territorial waters think it is an open go for everyone. I ask the Minister to look at this and to get together with the other departments to stop this poaching which goes on in Papua-New Guinea and in isolated places around Norfolk Island.

Progress reported.

Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.







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