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Tuesday, 21 March 1961

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) .- I have carefully perused the Administrator's Speech. I trust that it will not be as fruitless as the speech that was delivered by the late Governor-General, Lord Dunrossil, a man whom Australia loved. He read that speech on behalf of the Government with the greatest sincerity; but that was the end of it. No one word of it was carried into effect during the ensuing twelve months; and this Government stands condemned for having brought the country to its present condition.

My mind goes back two and a half years ago when, with the honorable members for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and former Senator Harris, I represented this country in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro was our first port of call, and a week later we represented the Australian Government at the opening of the governmental palace in Brasilia, 420 miles from Rio de Janeiro. We went by plane and bus. The length of the palace would be about equal to the distance from this building to the hotel Kurrajong. Brasilia has large lakes and swimming pools. One would be ungrateful to our Brazilian hosts if one were to say anything other than that we were received with the greatest kindness that any country could offer to its official guests. From the time we reached Brazil until we left that country we received nothing but the best treatment.

However, when travelling about the country one could not help but note that it was a land of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Tram drivers receive a wage of £15 a month and that is far above the wage paid to most other classes of workers. I was sorry to read in last Sunday's press that 10,000,000 people in Brazil live in abject poverty with no abode of any description. They sleep under trees at night and no road leads to where they live. When we questioned our driver on this point he replied, " They get up there the best way they can ". At night you would think you were looking at the stars when you saw the lights of Brasilia which is situated at a very high altitude. I was reminded of this contrast of wealth and poverty in Brazil when earlier to-night the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) stated that 3,000 people in Canberra are still waiting for homes, and despite that fact the Government is building a lake here which is estimated to cost £4,500,000. I am in favour of the Canberra lake scheme, but I believe that project should be postponed until all of the people in Canberra are adequately housed.

The Administrator's Speech states -

My advisers keep the whole structure of social services under review. The revised means test for age, invalid and widows' pensions is now in operation.

I give full marks to the Government for introducing the merged means test. However only 20 per cent, of pensioners in this country are deriving any benefit from it. Many pensioners are homeless, and in any event most of them are unable to subsist on the present pension. This Government should follow the example of the Victorian Government in its treatment of pensioners. The Victorian Premier, Mr. Bolte, has offered to grant the more needy pensioners £1 a week in order to help them pay their rent. It is impossible for these people to exist.

The Administrator's Speech also states -

The importance of immigration in Australia's development is recognized by mv Government and it will proceed with its vigorous programme.

All of us, regardless of party recognize the importance of immigration; but when 200,000 people are at present out of work in Australia we should not bring in 115,000 immigrants annually to add to the number of workless. I understand that last week a deputation representative of the timber industry waited upon officials of the Treasury and that it informed those officials that 2,000 persons had been laid off this year in that industry. If that deputation had come from my electorate of West Sydney - from the water-front or from pensioners' organizations - the first thing Government supporters would say would be that the deputation was inspired by Communists. However, no one will accuse the deputation from the timber industry which urged the Government to undertake a programme of home building of being inspired by Communists. It remains to be seen what results will flow from that deputation.

Let me now make some comments about the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which is due to expire, and will then be renewed, next June. When this Government came to power there was an agreement in existence which still had a few years to run. All States were then building homes for the people, and this Government was bound by the agreement. The Chifley Government had arranged for the necessary money to be made available. In subsequent years, the present Government has made changes in the terms of the agreement, and during the last three months the number of homes being built has shown a decline of about 50 per cent.

Mr Fairbairn - Why don't you throw in a few of your pubs?

Mr MINOGUE - The honorable member has said something about pubs. It takes all kinds of people to make a world, and it takes all kinds of jobs to keep that world going. I am here to represent the people of West Sydney, not to adopt the role of psalm singer, as some other honorable members do, such as the one who has just interjected.

Now I want to refer to the three months' flutter in connexion with the sales tax on motor vehicles. The Government condemned the men who stood up in the other place and opposed the increase of sales tax, but now it has changed its mind, and it will be interesting to see whether the Government will repair the damage that it has done by refunding the extra sales tax paid by people who bought motor vehicles during that three months, and who were unjustly charged the extra amount.

I want to say something also about the housing of aged persons. I am fully in accord with the Commonwealth's scheme of homes for the aged, and I support it just as I did when the scheme was first outlined in this House. I am sorry to say, however, that in the seven years during which this scheme has been in operation, under which the Government provides £2 for every £1 provided by an applicant organization, only £1,000,000 a year has been provided by the Government for these homes.

Mr Cash - That is not true, of course.

Mr MINOGUE - It is true. I would suggest that if the Government was honest in its approach to this matter it would provide money for the people who have offered to house our elderly citizens, such as municipal councils. The State Government has told me that for every £2 the Commonwealth will give, it will provide £1, so that elderly people may be housed in the places in which they now live, instead of groups of them being taken away and given accommodation in one building. However, I do not want to suggest that there should be anything but praise for the people who have taken on the job of looking after the elderly. They have done great work, but unfortunately they have not been able to cope with all the work that has had to be done.

The next matter to which I want to direct attention is that of medical cards for pensioners. This Government in 1955 perpetrated the greatest fraud that has ever been seen in any country in the field of social services. At that time a pensioner was getting £4 a week - or perhaps it may have been a little less - and he was allowed to earn £3 10s. a week. The Government thought that this was too much, and so it said to the pensioner, " If you earn more than £2 a week in addition to receiving the pension you will lose your medical card ". Aged people in ill health and poor circumstances cannot afford to pay £1 10s. for a visit to a doctor, and then, perhaps, another £1 10s. for pharmaceutical supplies from a chemist. Yet this Government wantonly took the medical cards away from them. In some homes we find that there are certain old people in possession of medical cards, while others have not had them since 1955.

Mr Wilson - That is not correct.

Mr MINOGUE - That is the position, and I can give you evidence of 100 cases to prove it

I shall say something also about unemployment. Sir Douglas Copland has said that we will have 200,000 persons out of work before June. Incidentally, this same gentleman, who cannot be classed as a Labour man, said in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to-day that is is a shocking thing that quarterly adjustments of the basic wage have not been restored.

Mr McColm - What makes you think he cannot be classed as a Labour man?

Mr MINOGUE - Well, you have claimed many times that he is on your side.

I now want to speak of Lord Howe Island. We hear a good deal about foreign affairsIt is a pity that the Government does not send a Minister for External Affairs to the island to see the situation in which people are living. The people there pay income tax, payroll tax and many other kinds of taxes, but they are deprived of an airstrip. You can pick up the newspaper and read that the " Runic " has run aground, o, some other vessel has had a similar mishap. The worst feature of the situation is that this Government spends £90,000 a yeal on the flying boat bases at Rose Bay and at the island. During the past two years it has subsidized that flying boat service to the extent of £188,000. I was on Lord Howe Island ten days ago. The trip costs £17, although the island is only 420 miles from the General Post Office in Sydney. A boat calls at the island once in ten weeks. When perishable goods have to be transported by flying boat the costs are prohibitive. I was shown a bill by the proprietress of the guest house at which I stayed. For six bags of vegetables, which cost £40 odd, the freight charge was £50.

Mr Reynolds - How do they live?

Mr MINOGUE - This Government does not care how they live. It has done nothing at all to meet their requirements. We get a good deal of valuable information with regard to the weather and other matters of interest in our daily life from installations on Lord Howe Island. The Commonwealth Government has quite a large work force there, and it could build an airstrip for less than £500,000. Every year it is paying £100,000 to the Ansett organi- zation. I would like to investigate that matter further when I have more time.

Let me say that there is no electorate in the Commonwealth which provides more work for the member representing it than does West Sydney. Day in and day out there are hundreds of people coming into the electorate. When they come to see me I ask their addresses, and frequently I find that they have arrived only last week. West Sydney reminds me somewhat of Canberra, and somewhat of Rio de Janiero, Luxury hotels costing millions of pounds are being built, while many people are out of work and practically starving. I hope and trust that something will be done in that regard.

I am disappointed with the half-hearted replies that have been given by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to questions concerning the restoration of the General Post Office clock in Sydney. Last week the Postmaster-General said that the cost of this work would be £130,000, but twelve months ago it was stated to be £230,000. This indicates the way in which the Government compiles its estimates. I agree with the Lord Mayor of Sydney on this subject. He said that it was the Commonwealth Government's responsibility. It has been claimed that the money could be better used for housing. Some people also believe that the sum of £4,500,000 which rs to be spent on the lake scheme in Canberra could be better spent on housing. If the Menzies Government is still in power after the next general election! there will be plenty of people anxious to see its members jump in the lake.

I would like the Postmaster-General, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and the Premier of New South Wales to meet and discuss the possibility of restoring this clock to the General Post Office. If these people were to meet I feel sure that they would find ways and means of restoring this clock with its beautiful chimes to the city of Sydney. I am sure that all will agree that the top of the men's convenience in Martin-place is not an appropriate place for a clock in the second largest city in the British Commonwealth.

I have covered Lord Howe island and the disgraceful way in which the pensioners are treated. Now I come to another problem in my electorate of West Sydney which concerns accommodation for schools. I have in my electorate Blackfriars Correspondence School. It is the largest school of its kind in the world, having 7,000 pupils at present. In addition, there is a kindergarten for young children attached to it which is a credit to the management of the school. The school accommodation is anything but modern. The teachers have many problems. But perhaps government supporters will say that this, too, is a concern of the State Government.

Now I come to the position of young children who attend denominational schools and whose parents get no aid of any kind from this Government. Australia is the only country in the British Commonwealth which refuses such aid. When I was in England three years ago I found that it had been the practice both of Labour and Conservative Governments to contribute 75 per cent, of the cost of building schools for all religious denominations. In Scotland, 100 per cent, of the cost is paid by the Government and nobody would accuse the Scots of wasting their money. At least they pay for justice. 1 hope and trust that the time will come when aid will be given to denominational schools in this country. If a war broke out to-morrow the Government would not ask the young fellow who was called up for service what school he had gone to. It would soon build a camp in which to put him. Yet the Government denies certain people the right of educating their children as they think fit.

Mr Pearce - Why does the New South Wales Government not do something abou; it?

Mr MINOGUE - The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has suggested that. Whenever he is asked for aid of any kind he says that it is a State matter. After the next general election, he will be looking for another excuse. When the Prime Minister was going overseas twelve months ago, I asked him to settle the question of Australian representation in Ireland. He said, " Fancy asking a Menzies to do what a Casey failed to do ". Yet he had the colossal nerve to try to fix the Suez crisis. He interfered in the Congo and in the

United Nations and he drew a blank in every instance. Perhaps the job of sending a representative from Australia to Ireland is too big for him too. Canada and the United Kingdom have done it. Why the great Prime Minister of Australia is adamant on this question I do not know. When the Liberal Party was campaigning in Queensland in 1949 it promised a very notable dignatory there that as soon as the general election was over a qualified representative would be sent to Ireland. It would not be in order to mention his name but he was to be a judge. That judge has never come tolight. After the next general election, the Labour Party will be in office and it will give justice to all.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.

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