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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 704

Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - Mr Deputy Speaker- (Quorum formed.) I thank the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) for his assistance. I trust that I will be able to reciprocate in like manner on a number of occasions. In following the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in debating these Appropriation Bills one must pay him respect for the submission that he made and which has been documented because it contains a considerable amount of detail from a variety of sources and it deserves a proper analysis if it is to be properly answered. This is not possible to do in directly following him in the debate. However, there were some points that he made which I was happy to hear. For example, I was pleased to hear him remark on the happy state of the economy and the rate of Australian development. I would agree with him on this but I differ with him as to the reason for the happy state of the economy and the rate of Australian development.

There is no doubt that in Australia today the stimulus of the new Gobernment. the new confidence that the public, industry, commerce and working people have in their country arises from this change which is in strange contrast to that of the previous Administration. We have heard the old canard with regard to the arbitration system that here there should be Government interference at all times against any increases being given to the working people in wages and conditions. I am sure that we as the Australian Government are confident that this information is available to the court and that it will be used in making a decision. It seems natural for the right honourable member for Lowe to equate shorter working hours with reduced productivity. Of course this is something with which obviously the majority of the Australian people do not agree.

Mr Riordan - It has been proved wrong.

Dr JENKINS - The honourable member reminds me that it has been proved wrong because there are such things as greater efficiency and such things as developments in technology. I could go on and list many factors that are concerned in this and why there should not be this fear that the Opposition and its supporters try to inculcate in the community. Mention was made of the efforts of the last Administration to help the less fortunate members of the community. I believe that in the Government's program there is a much sounder basis for benefits for the less fortunate members of the community than was ever shown in the last 23 years.

My last comment on what was said by the right honourable member for Lowe refers to what he had to say about the 27 Ministers of the Australian Government and their activities. The members of the Government Party are proud of the fact that we have 27 Ministers who all meet together to make decisions on such matters as those for which these Bills will provide the finance to carry out. They all meet together and play a part in those decisions. There is no inner 11 and there is no outer 11 determined by the vagaries of one man or perhaps 2 men or perhaps outside influences. These 27 men who act as Ministers are elected by their fellows, supported by their fellows and they jointly make decisions to help govern the country.

In dealing with these Appropriation Bills I note that there are large sums of money for a variety of departments. Those of us who have served in the Parliament before know that these Appropriation Bills show a greater variety of departments, new concepts of appropriation of money for departments which will allow the new policies of this Government to be brought forward and carried out to the benefit of Australia. For example, one is the Department of Environment and Conservation. I remind honourable members that under the last Administration the Department of the Environment was almost the ministry of odds and sods. It was tucked away with a small staff and it had very little purpose or real effect. It is pleasing to see that this Department has been given individuality and a structure of its own to deal with the very real problems that it will have to deal with in our community today. It is no longer one of the odds and sods. It has a really increased role. It has a reality about it. It will be able to deal with the problems of air and water pollution. It will be able to co-ordinate with other departments in urban and regional development. It will have a real effect on wildlife conservation which so far has received little purposive treatment.

A matter I wish to raise in this debate ties in with the activities of expenditure relating to assistance given to local government. I refer to the problem of the solid waste mess in our community today because it is a matter that is tended to be overlooked. We have air pollution and water pollution control but we have forgotten about garbage and the problems it brings with it. The reason we tend to overlook it is that so much of it is related to the local government level. So much is left to local authorities to find the holes and areas of land to be reclaimed - all sorts of subterfuges are made - to get rid of the millions and millions of tons of solid waste which we create. I quote a statement by Art Buchwald made in 1970. He said:

And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminium can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminium cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried: Look at this Godawful mess.'

This is one of the problems we face in this aspect of the environment. What we throw away does not go away. Active measures will have to be taken to solve this problem. I trust that this Department will have a look at this problem. There are certain things that can be done. One is to implement recycling. But here again the economics of recycling are rather a problem. In theory a recycling centre that operated at a loss would still be a net gain as long as the cost was lower than the former cost of disposing of the waste conventionally. The real problem here is what I was talking about before. This Government hopes to assist local government. It is with local government that the disposal of solid waste rests. So, it is very hard to convince other bodies that recycling is an economic proposition. I believe that in this Department we have a hope that sound measures may be taken to cope with the problem.

The Appropriation Bill once again shows substantial expenditures proposed by the Department of Education. One must even give some credit to the previous administration in that in the last few years the Australian Parliament has played an increasing role in education. I think some side effects must be considered by the Government when dealing with education. A great deal of public investment has gone into education and we should be examining the return to the public from that investment.

In late January of this year a conference nf the Australian and Ne,v Zealand Student Health Association and the Australian Association of University Counsellors was told that hoth student counsellors and physicians should check students who sought to drop "tit from tertiary education. This might well also apply to those students who fail exams at this level. Not only dropouts but also failures should be checked because the education nf those students, particularly those who have reached the later years of their courses, represents an enormous public investment. At the moment universities vary a great deal in the treatment that they give to dropouts and failures. Despite the fact that much has been spent on them there is very little activity in certain areas to endeavour to salvage these young people and what they have learnt and to allow them to use their knowledge in the community.

It may be that our universities are not geared and financed to give this type of help. I trust that in the future we will see in the appropriations for the Department of Education a sum set aside for this purpose. I believe there is much waste in the community today, particularly with later year students who for some reason or other fall by the wayside and find themselves unable to be employed in a great variety of categories in the community. lt is perhaps fitting that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) should be sitting at the table at present because one of the problems in the Australian community is, it is suggested, a relative shortage of doctors. Twenty-six of the 108 medical schools in the United States have decided that medical courses could be shortened by up to one year by a reduction in holiday and vacation periods. I realise that academics probably would resist this suggestion because they are interested not only in administration and teaching but also in research work. This reduction would restrict their research work. But when there is a high community need such as we saw during and after the Second World War courses may be, and are, shortened. During that period it was possible to supply good graduates in shorter time. This is another matter which I should like to see covered in Appropriation Bills. We should properly finance the shortening of these courses.

We have seen recently a statement that this Government, through its Department of Health, wishes the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to expand into the pharmaceutical industry. A strong comment by a former Liberal member of this House appeared in the Australian Medical Association Gazette warning the Government against planning to expand its activities into the pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, it even threatened the Government as to what would happen to the supply of pharmaceuticals. I belive that we should press on with the development of the CSL expanding well into the pharmaceutical industry. No longer should it be a restricted organisation whose main task is to supply the unprofitable sera and vaccines and other products which the commercial pharmaceutical companies will not produce, supply and sell. The sort of blackmailing attitude that is taken in that article in the AMA Gazette of 8th March 1973 is to be deplored. I am sure that it is something the Australian people do not want. They reject the basic argument in support of it.

Mr Peacock - Are you still a member of the AMA?

Dr JENKINS - Yes. I have been a member of the AMA for many years. I have expressed my views to members of the AMA for many years. In my own State, my fellow members of the AMA respect my right to state those views.

Mr Peacock - That is not denied. I am not denying that.

Dr JENKINS - I am just clarifying the issue. 1 have not hidden my light under a bushel on these matters and I will not hide my light under a bushel but will continue to criticise and to press for changes in the usually conservative attitude that I find in the medical profession. 1 should like now to refer in passing to a matter in regard to the Department of Health, and that is the provision of home kidney dialysis machines. These are machines that largely are imported and attract customs duty. They cost some $5,000 to supply to the individual to use in the home. Such a machine in the home enables that individual to lead a relatively normal working life. Little help has so far been given by the Commonwealth Government to these individuals. One concession has been made in the supply of dialysis fluid. No assistance is given with respect to the supply of machines, blood, membranes or drugs that are necessary. I suggest that if we took some action in this regard the savings that we would make in pensions paid to such individuals would very easily cover the concessions that are made.

I am proud to speak on these Appropriation Bills in this first term of the Whitlam Government. I look forward to speaking on many more such Bill in the future. I know that the next set of Appropriation Bills will indicate the very real advances that are being made in policies and conditions for the ordinary people in the community.

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