Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 4 April 1946


Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - One usually looks to a new member of this Parliament to express himself in sincere terms, because one assumes, that he has not had time to be drawn into the maze of political argument and evasion. Therefore, I looked to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for a sincere expression of his views, but I have never heard a speech containing so much sophistry in all my life in this House or elsewhere. I say this with a great deal of regret. I regard with admiration young men who come to this Parliament, because they usually bring something fresh in the way of a thorough and honest approach to the problems with which we deal. When a member adopts the sort of Jekyll and Hyde attitude taken up by the honor able member, who, as a lecturer outside Parliament, deals with facts and figures, whilst in this House he indulges in sophistry and evasion, he drags himself down to a very low level. Let us examine the first observation which he made before he indulged in efforts at academic oratory. He said that members of the Opposition know that the success of the proposed referendum requires a majority of both Houses of Parliament, and a majority of the people in a majority pf the States. That is quite true. I agree with him, and I could see no harm arising from the referendum if the issue were as clear as that. But the honorable member knows that the issue is not so clear as be would have us believe. He knows that the referendum will be submitted to the people at the time of the general elections. This has been decided upon by the Government deliberately to confuse the issue between party polities and the alteration of the Constitution. The honorable member is not so naive as to be unaware of that very important fact. Speaking of the judgment in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case he also said that the powers sought should be granted by the people in order to validate action taken by this Government and other governments relative to social services. He said that the judgment showed clearly that the Commonwealth had no power to pay maternity allowances, widows' pensions, or child endowment. The honorable gentleman knows that none of these social services are likely to be challenged, and that, if they were challenged and invalidated, the States would refer the powers to the Commonwealth Parliament rather than see the services inoperative. If the honorable gentleman is honest and sincere in this regard - and I throw the term " honesty " back to him - he must ask himself why the Government> instead of merely seeking to validate its social service legislation, has introduced other highly controversial issues.

The honorable gentleman spoke about " terms and conditions of employment " and said, with great pride and force, " This Government stands for arbitration ". Stands for arbitration ! After we have seen the demands that have been made upon it by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions for alteration of the

Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and alteration of the court, we know, of course, that the Government does stand for arbitration, but an arbitration court that is manoeuvred and jerked about by the invisible strings manipulated by the trade unions of this country. That is the sort of arbitration that the Government stands for. But I believe the honorable gentleman reached the pinnacle of sophistry when he made extensive quotations from an address by the Leader of the Opposition oh terms and conditions of employment. He did the right honorable gentleman less than justice. He prates about honest criticism, but he knows that had he wished to do justice to my leader, he would at least have mentioned the qualifications that the right honorable gentleman introduced into his address relative to the perpetuation of the weaknesses of the arbitration system. But he deliberately omitted the portions which did not suit his argument. In any case, what, force is there in his charge that the Leader of the Opposition has changed his views? That charge can bo levelled, against all honorable members whose opinions alter according to the trend of events. I have the record of the speeches made in 1936 when a referendum bill relative to marketing was submitted by the Lyons Government. It was similar to one of the proposals now before the House. I choose one example of many in order to give honorable members some idea of where members of the present Government stood relative to this proposed power when the Government of which I was a member brought it before the House. This is what the present Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), then a private member in Opposition, said -

I wish now to express the hope that the Labour party will oppose this bill in the House, and will advise the workers in the cities and in the country to turn down the proposed alteration of the Constitution. It is not a proposal for orderly marketing, as has been claimed, but is one to validate a scheme to permit a section of the community to corner foodstuffs; to force up prices so that the workers shall have to pay more for foodstuffs than those foodstuffs will be sold for overseas. It is also a proposal for" the continuation of an arrangement whereby the best of our foodstuffs is sent abroad, while that part which is not good enough for the. oversea market is placed on the Australian market for home consumption, and the Australian consumer is forced to pay more for second-rate goods than the oversea buyer pays for first-grade.

I put it to the House that if those conditions and those arguments were good when that measure was before the House, they are equally good to-day; therefore the charge of insincerity and inconsistency levelled against us by the honorable member for Fremantle can be levelled equally against his own Ministers. Let us have a look at the division list, because it is interesting to see how the House divided on that measure. I take only the Ministers. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) was against it. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) was against it. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) was against it. You too, Mr. Speaker, were against it. The Minister for Transport was against it. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) was against it. All those Ministers voted against the very measure that they now place before this House. Again, I say to the honorable member for Fremantle that his argument is pure sophistry. He knows full well that the arguments he advanced in that regard have no weight in this debate.

I pass from that to say something about general matters. This debate has taken a strange turn, from the straight and narow path on which the AttorneyGeneral started it. Every speaker on the Government side, without exception, has made it perfectly clear that the Government is using exactly the same technique as it used in 1944, by mixing the bitter with the sweet and saying to the people, "If you want this prize that we offer you, you have to take a very severe dose of medicine with it". I give the House an example. The bill relating to social services starts off -

A bill for an act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws for the provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions and child endowment-

I have said something in answer to the honorable member for Fremantle a.bout that. I think those powers are not likely to be challenged; but if the Government wished to make, certain of the validity of its actions in legislating for those services, it could have sought that power, and we would have given it all the support we could, because we believe those benefits are fit and proper to be controlled by this Parliament. But that is not what the Government has in mind. It said, "Here is a jolly good excuse for us to offer the people something; they will fear that they will lose the benefits they now enjoy, ;and we will trade on that fear and try to get some powers that we know we would -not get in ordinary circumstances. Therefore, we will also ask for power to make laws for 'the provision of unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students and f amily allowances ". I believe that the Government is making a straight-out attempt to nationalize the dental and medical services of this country. It is true that the Attorney-General very adroitly slid over a question asked from this side. He did not make it clear in so many words that he intended to nationalize those two services, but other honorable gentlemen opposite have stated frankly what the intention of the Government is in relation to medical and dental services. The right honorable gentleman required some ice to skate on when he left this forum to put the case to "the people outside. If he is charged with intending to nationalize medical and dental services, he will be able to say, " I never said that. I said that this would give us power to take over all things incidental to the provision of those services, but I did not say that we would nationalize them ". He needed that ice to slide on, but other honorable gentlemen opposite, unfortunately for him, have pinned the Government down completely, because they have said, in no uncertain terms, that the intention is- to nationalize both dental and medical services. If that is the intention underlying this measure -and the Attorney-General will agree that it will give him the power - I look upon it as a. political" confidence trick played upon the people. The right honorable gentleman evaded a declaration of his intention, but some of his supporters are not so politically astute and have plainly said what they intend to do.

I must say that I cannot understand why the Government has decided to con- fuse the referendum with the general elections. It may be to create what we call a " Yes " atmosphere amongst the people. They know that the alteration proposals will not be opposed by the people if it is stressed that they will validate the social services that they enjoy at the moment. I make it clear to the people that I believe that the power contained in this bill, if passed by this Parliament and agreed to by the people, will certainly give the Government power to nationalize the medical and dental services, and I think that the people should have no misunderstanding in that regard. I pause for a moment to say that the right honorable gentleman must remember the reaction of .the people to the threat of socialization at the last referendum. He has to be perfectly certain that on this occasion he states his. case clearly so that there shall be no ambiguity whatever in regard to it, and so that the people shall be given the full facts as to the Government's intentions with regard to the powers it is seeking. Otherwise the Government will not get those powers. Unless the right honorable gentleman is ready to say " This is what we are prepared to do ", he is going to permit a welter of argument attributing to him motives that may be he has| and may be he has not. Therefore it is essential that the arguments shall be clearly stated and defined. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) contributed a. good deal to this debate, because they said just what, they would do and what the Government would do if granted these powers. The honorable member for Adelaide said that if free medical and dental services were given to the people, we should have a healthier people. He took medical and dental practitioners to task because of the excessive charges imposed by them.


Mr Russell - Does the honorable gentleman doubt that charges are excessive?


Mr HARRISON - Not at all, but the people are not going to escape excessive charges ' by the nationalization of medicine and. dentistry. Medical services have been nationalized in New Zealand. It ought to be interesting to honorable members to know how that scheme is progressing. If the Government intends to nationalize medical and dental services, it is of vital importance to us to know the position not only in New Zealand but also in European countries that have adopted the principle. The Christian Science Monitor of the 29th December, 1945, published a cabled article from New Zealand in which the medical superintendent of the Hokianga Public Hospital, Dr. G. M. Smith, is reported to have made what is described as " The most powerful attack on the system of taxfinanced, free medical care ". He wrote -

New Zealand's system of tax-financed free medical carehas resulted in the debasing of medical practice in this country, vast increases in physicians' earnings, and a decline in their value to the community.

Dr. Smithdeclared in a brochure published towards the end of last year -

First results of the plan have been that of every 100 patients who consult a physician to-day, only 25 per cent. are able to benefit from his advice. City physiciansnow send twice as many patients to the hospitals as they did before hospitalization became free and doctors' consulting fees wereguaranteed. The nation is becoming addicted to the habit of swallowing valueless nostrums from bottles, and since the great growth of hospitalization there is no efficient control of hospitals, which are publicly financed in this country, and there is no audit of their results.


Mr Daly - No doubt thedoctor is a member of the British Medical Association.


Mr HARRISON - I shall cite another authority. The New Zealand Observer on the 30th October, 1945, published an article entitled the " Golden Age of New Zealand Medicine ". It stated, inter alia -

In the year ended the 31st March. 1045, £1,287,023 was paid out to doctors from the social security fund.

There were then 865 doctors in practice, some only practising part time.

A simple calculation discloses that apart from other sources of income, fees from social security alone averaged about £1,500 a year. In actual fact the average was much higher.

Many doctors received large additional sums, quite apart from the extra 3s. which many added to their accounts, over and above the fee of 7s.6d. paid from the social security fund.

Whereas medical incomes of £4,000 or £5,000 a year in the past were fairly excep tional and usually earned only by specialists, such incomes are to-day commonplace. What is more, they are earned by general practitioners.

I should like the honorable member for Adelaide, who severely criticized the medical profession, to comment on that assertion. The article continued -

These figures are on record in departmental papers and have been debated in the Dominion Parliament. Each year when the estimates conic up there is critical comment upon the subject of medical incomes.

Lastyear, says the paper, Mr. W. A. Bodkin asked in Parliament if it was true that some doctors were getting more than £10.000 a year from the social security fund, and he mentioned the case of a refugee doctor who was alleged to be drawing £5,000 per quarter from the fund.

It was later announced in Parliament, in reply to a question, that there were no doctors earning £10,000 a year and over from the fund, but it was admitted that three wore drawing more than £8,000 annually.


Mr Daly - Many doctors in Australia are earning similar incomes.


Mr HARRISON - They are specialists. General practitioners in New Zealand are earning the incomes referred to in the article. Members of the medical profession throughout Australia are expressing concern as to the manner in which the nationalization of medicine will affect the general health of the people. The honorable member for Adelaide said that Australians would be a healthier race. Let us examine the opinion of the general secretary of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in evidence before the Social Security Committee -

Results of a salaried system would be -

The young practitioner will have to carry out his work always with an eye to winning the esteem of his seniors and promotion would depend not on merit but on seniority.

The doctor will become a civil servant, and will have to work not only for the Government but for the public. To give an efficient service in these circumstances will be impossible. In many of the critical situations that arise in medical practice, the practitioner's judgment will be influenced by the fear of criticism, and cramped by his having two masters - his senior officers and the public. A patient's life in many cases depends on the doctor's judgment, and to have it endangered by such judgment being biased by outside influences would be tragic.

As a civil servant, the practitioner would be prevented' from ventilating his grievances except through well-trodden channels. The opportunity for starting campaigns for improvement would be considerably denied him as a public servant.

Not every graduate in medicine will be absorbed into the service.

Lay interference in both the organization and carrying out of medical practice is certain to occur as is also pressure from outside interests and political agencies, particularly in regard to appointments and promotions.

The sense of individual responsibility and freedom of action essential to medical practice would be interfered with by regulations and rules of procedure.

Honorable members opposite cannot deny those strictures. It is perfectly clear that if the medical profession is nationalized, and practitioners are paid a salary on a panel system, all incentive for them to engage in research work will disappear.


Mr Russell - That does not say much for their initiative.


Mr HARRISON - It is human nature. If medical practitioners find that they do not need to enter into competition in order to improve themselves, but can become civil servants, operating in a panel system, their initiative will be destroyed. I shall now examine the situation in European countries where socialized medical services have been introduced. The Christian Science Monitor on the 9th February last stated -

Experience with socializedmedicine in Europe shows that it has led to inferior service and to economic and political problems.

In every country there has been a constant increase in the sickness rate after the introduction of health insurance. In Germany it trebled from 1885 to 1930. In England the number of claims increased by almost 50 per cent. in a six-year period from 1921 to 1927.

Ernest Bevin has characterized the. medical service given the industrial classes as a "tragedy of incompetence".

Sir KingsleyWood, Health Minister, said the national health insurance system had made the English "a nation of medicine drinkers".

Is not that a most serious indictment? Those two prominent British statesmen bitterly criticized the effect of socialized medical services upon the health of the British people. Some honorable members opposite declared that even if the people endorse the referendum proposals, the Commonwealth Government will not have power to nationalize medical and dental services. I warn them that they are dealing with something more combustible than they realize. If they attempt to use these powers to nationalize the medical and dental professions, they will do a grave disservice to the community and vitally affect the health of Australians, which, at the moment, is something of which we all should be proud. I direct attention to the fact that the granting of this power to the Commonwealth will enable this Government to take another step towards its goal of socialization.

The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Powers) Bill provides -

Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (xxxiv. ) the following paragraph: - " (xxxivA.) Terms and conditions of employ ment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription:".

Broadly, that provision means that the Commonwealth Parliament will have the right to determine wages and conditions of employment. The power is not hedged with qualifications, nor may the courts override a decision made under it. This will remove from all court procedure the even balance of justice as between employer and employee, and will import the determination of industrial terms and conditions into the highly charged party political atmosphere in this Parliament. Industry will become a political football, and its future will be marked by political bargaining and intrigue. Last night, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) revealed the Government's intentions if the people endorse its referendum proposals. He said, " The Government will, immediately after the election, enact legislation providing for a 40- hour week and an increase of wages in all States by at least 30s. a week ". The honorable member made that statement after he had read a long list of award rates applicable to males and females in various States. His disclosure was the echo of a drive which the Australasian Council of Trade Unions recently launched for a. 40-hour working week. Already 47 unions have demanded that the Commonwealth Government intervene in the printer's claim for a 40-hour week, and theyare seeking to influence, by whatever means they may possess, the Arbitration Court. If the court rejects their claim, the Commonwealth Government, which is always susceptible to any pressure that they care to exercise, can reply " Never mind boys, you may not be able to influence the Arbitration Court, but if we are granted these additional powers, you will get a 40-hour working week, and an increase of the basic wage by 30s. a week ". Can honorable members doubt my statement that industry in this forum of. highly charged party political atmosphere will become a political football? When legislation to make grants to States is being considered, all the various State jealousies and interests are paraded in this chamber. When honorable members feel the pressure of the unions to whom they look for their political endorsement, it will become still more pointed, and industry will be ruined. The real wages of the worker will be reduced in purchasing power, and the hours of leisure which the unions are seeking to gain, will react like a boomerang upon Australian industry. The greatest danger lies in the threat to the Arbitration Court. These powers, if granted, will permit the Government to interfere with the court. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated to-day that after having sought the advice of a judge of the Arbitration Court, he had suggested to His Honour certain things, and he added, "Not that I can influence the judge, but I merely made the suggestion because I obtain his advice from day to day ". That was a naive way of expressing it. After the appointments which may be made in the near future to the Arbitration Court, those ministerial suggestions will carry much more weight than they do to-day. Another great danger which I see is this: The Parliament is required constantly to amend parent acts, and an act relating to the terms and conditions of employment will not prove an exception. It will be amended from time to time, and if the Arbitration Court still exists, there will be a continual state of unrest within it. The Court will be harassed by alterations of conditions which are likely to be made on the whimsy of the great unions, which will demand some additional consideration from the Government. Every time a union secretary waggles his chin at honorable members opposite, amending legislation will be introduced for the purpose of giving to the organization the concessions that it desires. This proposal amounts almost to complete dictatorship by the trade unions over the whole field of Australian industry. The public was well aware of that danger in 1944, but the danger is very much greater to-day. The country is in a state of continuous industrial unrest, due to the tactics of the avowed disruptionists who openly state 'that one of their objects is a complete industrial tie-up. We know that some big Communist-controlled unions have made a tripartite agreement under which they have undertaken to do everything they can to secure the terms and conditions they desire. How much farther is this industrial dictatorship to go? It is interesting to recall the power which the Communist-controlled coalminers organization has over the Government of this country. We. have only to look back a short while to the time when, by the exertion of pressure, that organization was able to secure the withdrawal of summonses and the remission of fines in respect of its members. The control which the coal-miners have already exercised over the Government gives us an indication of what will happen if the Constitution be altered as is now proposed. Under the new conditions it will not even be necessary for the coal-miners to strike; they will be able to apply political pressure. We all remember how powerless the Government was in connexion with the dispute at Port Kembla about Christmas time.

This union-dictatorship is rendering the Government quite impotent; even in respect of the administration of the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Under that measure it wa3 intended that certain concessions should be given to ex-servicemen in regard to vocational training, but the unions have said, in effect, " We are greater than the Government, and we will close our books against these trainees unless they have served an apprenticeship. We will not allow them to enter industry other than through our channels.".


Mr Conelan - That is not true.


Mr HARRISON - It is true. I have directed attention to specific cases which affect a refrigeration engineer and a young man who desired to work in the electrical engineering trade. I could mention other specific instances of that kind. Honorable members know that if an employer engages any non-union labour there is an immediate reaction in his establishment. At present employers are not " game " to employ any one who is not a unionist. The unions, in fact, have a stranglehold not only upon industry, but also upon this Government. Although compulsory unionism is virtually in force in this country, the Government is introducing the bill to secure additional power over industry in order, surreptitiously,, to weaken still further our industrial fabric.

I have discussed two of the three bills before the House. I do not desire, at this stage, to say anything about the bill which is designed to deal with the organized marketing of primary products, except to say that the statement of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) that we already have a scheme for the orderly marketing of "primary products is typical of the loose way in which honorable members opposite use language. The schemes in operation at present are not schemes for ' orderly marketing, but schemes for the Government purchase of primary products. The Government is in reality simply purchasing primary products at a fixed price, and selling them in the assured market which is available to it because of conditions which have arisen through the war. The honorable member said that what was good enough for war-time should be good enOUgh for peace-time. That is, in effect, a complete acceptance, on a permanent basis, of the dictatorship which has been practised during the war years by means of the National Security regulations. The Government schemes at present in operation for handling primary products cannot by any manipulation of language be regarded as schemes for the orderly marketing of primary products. Such a description of them is an entire misnomer. We cannot assume that the extraordinary prices obtained during the war for some primary products which Iia ve been controlled will continue far into the peace period. Conditions must change. In my opinion no scheme for the orderly marketing of primary products will benefit the producer so much as would a well-devised scheme of cooperative marketing in which both primary producer and consumer representatives would be associated.

These three bills are cleverly drafted. The bill in relation to social services is intended to authorize the Government to nationalize medical and dental services; the bill in relation to the orderly marketing of primary products is not worth anything to the primary producers;, and the bill in relation to industrial employment is designed chiefly to destroy our system of conciliation and arbitration by superimposing upon it a system of industrial control by Parliament.







Suggest corrections