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Tuesday, 9 September 1958


Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- I hope that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) will not think me discourteous if I do not reply seriatim to the arguments that he has addressed to the committee, but I want to say that he presented the characteristic unficationist point of view when he implied - or, indeed, declared - that the whole warrant of responsibility for the care of the aborigines descends upon this Parliament. I do not think that is the case. That is not the legislative position at all. I think that, in fairness, the honorable gentleman must concede that the States bear a very real measure of responsibility for the care of aborigines. The honorable member referred to the issue of interpretation of the Constitution. I would be the last in this Parliament to deny that we Australians have a very real responsibility to the aborigines, but I would hope that no one would interpret that to mean that I am distinguishing between aborigines and Australians. It is a responsibility that we are bound to say we have not accepted in the past in the manner we should have, but that is no reason for the honorable member for Wills to endeavour to make out that all the responsibility for the care of aborigines falls upon this Parliament and that all the shortcomings of various parliaments fall on this particular Government.

That was not the issue which attracted me to participate in the debate upon the estimates relating to the Department of Social Services. I rose to refer to one aspect of that department which I feel has been neglected in some measure not only by honorable members in this House but also indeed by the great number of Australians. I illustrate my point of view by advancing this point. The responsibility for the care of elderly people is by no means static. It is a growing responsibility, and I feel that it is growing at a rate of which very few people seem to be fully aware. In 1938, there were 224,154 age pensioners in Australia. To-day, twenty years later, there are 496,757 such pensioners. People could quite validly say that that growth was commensurate with general development in Australia in the last twenty years and was quite consistent with the increase in population over that period. But, on further inquiry and analysis, one finds that that simply is not the case, because whereas in 1938 age pensioners represented 325 per 10,000 of the Australian population, to-day they represent 504 per 10,000 of the population. The care of elderly people is a growing responsibility. It is growing at such a terrific rate and in such a manner that I hope that within the not too distant future the Parliament will be able to devote attention to it in a non-partisan manner.

Having said that, may I indicate, by way of contrast, the position in regard to invalid pensioners? In 1938, there were 86,096 invalid pensioners in Australia, whereas today there are 77,451 such pensioners. The first figure I quoted represents ,125 per 10,000 of the Australian population and the second figure represents 79 per 10,029 of the population. If you contrast the figures relating to age pensioners and those relating to invalid pensioners, you get a clear indication of the manner in which medical science, the discovery of life-saving drugs and various forms of social service assistance have increased the age span of many people. As I said earlier, I hope that in the very ,near future a non-partisan approach will be made by this Parliament to this terrific swelling of the responsibility of caring for aged persons.

I am amazed at the relative ignorance of many people of the fifth Commandment, " Honour thy father and thy mother ". Last week, an elderly lady came into my office seeking a place in which to live. I shall recite her story briefly, and I hope that the committee will bear with me while I do so. She told me she was 71 years of age, that for several weeks she had been employed as a housekeeper, but that now she had nowhere to live. I asked her whether she had any friends or relatives, and I was amazed, indeed dismayed, to learn that she had five sons and five daughters. All of them were living, yet she had no accommodation! I think it is scandalous that, when some people breach some of the Ten Commandments, society applies the full and proper measure of its authority and imposes sanctions, but that apparently the fifth Commandment can be breached in a gross and monstrous fashion without society seeming to care about it very much.

Not one of the ten members of the family of this woman was prepared to give her a room and to care for her. That is a position which I frankly describe as being intolerable. Upon whom does the responsibility rest? Is it entirely the responsibility of the Government? Must the care of every elderly person devolve upon society? Surely that is wrong. If it is not wrong, I hope we will be able to summon the courage of our convictions and say quite plainly that the fifth Commandment is an anachronism and should be either amended or deleted.

The next matter to which I wish to refer in passing relates to the estimates for the Department of Health. A few weeks ago I asked the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald

Cameron) what was being done in Australia to determine or to analyse the clinical and statistical evidence available in regard to lung cancer and smoking. The honorable gentleman furnished me with a reply, the nature of which I do not quarrel with. I am a smoker, but with many other smokers I share a measure of concern at the statistical evidence in relation to smoking and lung cancer. The United Kingdom medical authorities have produced a mass of statistical evidence which must concern every one. I hope that the Minister for Health and the department under his administration will endeavour to produce a clear and unequivocal statement about the apparent connexion between smoking and lung cancer. In the question that I directed to the Minister, I suggested that he consider the establishment of a committee embracing the State health authorities to analyse the position and to determine whether there is any real and genuine connexion between the two.

Finally, I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of Social Services. Many of them go out of their way to a very great extent to help not only members of the Parliament but also members of the public. I become annoyed when the various sections of the Civil Service are bracketed and regarded as being one corporate body and when I hear them referred to as being a miserable collection of selfseekers and loafers. That is not the case. The Civil Service of Australia is a very fine body of people, and I have found resident within the Department of Social Services not only a readiness to help people but also a very real and very warm sense of humanity.







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