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Wednesday, 20 August 1969

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I rise to support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). Before commencing my onslaught on the Budget I want to make some comments on some of the remarks made by Senator Gair. First I want to put the record straight concerning the attitude of the Australian Labor Party on the question of education. During the course of his speech Senator Murphy mentioned two prominent GPS schools in the Sydney area to demonstrate what he described as inequality of treatment in the distribution of the grants for education. He compared the treatment given to such independent schools with that accorded the average metropolitan working class independent school under the system of priorities operated by the States.

Senator Gairknows only too well that the independent GPS school, irrespective of denomination, is in a very happy position in that old boys from the school who have made good financially make big bequests to them. I say in all sincerity, knowing what is in the mind of my leader, Senator Murphy, that whatever sum of money is set aside for grants to independent schools, if we exclude those schools that come within the GPS category for which Senator Gair made such a clamour it is obvious that more money would be available for the ordinary working class and middle class independent schools. In that way. there will be some equality in the treatment accorded independent schools. That was the theme of Mr Whitlam's case at all the gatherings which Senator Gair attended. 1 say quite candidly from a Socialist point of view that nobody could justify to me putting in the same category as the working and middle class independent schools those schools I have mentioned such as Riverview or ;he Newington college or others with a denominational background which enjoy big bequests from old students. Senator Gair and Senator McManus did not come from GPS schools and would appreciate the impact of the argument that I am putting forward. But I want to go a little further in talking about the future.

The platform of the Australian Labor Party which was adopted on 1st August 1969 - not at an Easter conference as has been suggested - referred to the establishment of an Australian schools commission and an examination of the future. It is no solution to the problem to get into a morass of bigotry and sectarianism. They are the honourable senators words, not mine. Nor is it any solution to develop this theme of auctioneering. The honourable senator knows in his heart that there are population shifts and that there can be a problem in one State which has not manifested itself in another State. I know that in my own State there could be a State system in one electorate which is inferior to and the reverse of a system in another electorate. All this is the background that I know my Deputy Leader, Senator Cohen, will deal with in detail later. No matter what is done now by way of grants for education, there must be adequate planning for the future in all facets of education. I make that as my first point.

The second point is the emphasis that Senator Gair gave to defence. I know that he had a very difficult brief tonight because he did not know which side to blacken most. The honourable senator knows that in Asia there are some lost causes which are symbolised in South Vietnam. The Australian Labor Party makes no apology for its repeated utterances about secondary industries being given greater opportunity to share in the tooling up for various arms of defence. But we raise this question having in mind what a former leading United States defence officer, Clark Clifford, said in referring to the bottomless pit in Vietnam and the money that was being spent there. Senator Gair advocated the use of a more modern fleet of helicopters. I did not disagree with him for one minute, but the thought occurred to me that there would not be much use in having them in South Vietnam because, as he knows, within the next 2 years at the most there will be a de-escalation of the number of troops stationed there.

The honourable senator has backed this Government and has sooled it on. He has said that we should not retreat 1 inch, that we need more rather than fewer forces in Vietnam. What is the situation? We read of President Nixon's various utterances as he went all over the world. It must have made the honourable senator dizzy to hear what he was saying. Did he ever visualise that a president who was supposed to be to the right of President Johnson would go to Romania and offer the hand of fraternal friendship? It was political realism and I shall explain why that was so. In the first instance, was it not a deliberate attitude on the part of the United States and Britain to encourage Romania and Yugoslavia, which have internal left wing governments, to create a buffer State to offset the expansion of the Soviet Union? This is a situation that will not happen immediately, but it will develop.

What is our attitude to South East Asia? We do not doubt for one minute - the honourable senator will have to swallow this whether he likes it or not - that in South Vietnam there could be a coalition government made up of all sorts of neutralists, militant nationalists and even left wing groups. 1 suppose, for want of a better term, they could be referred to as Asian Titoists. We will have to live with that sort of government for 5 or 10 years, and undoubtedly at that stage their wants, hopes and aspirations will clash with those of China and possibly the Soviet Union. They are the facts of life. We have advocated bringing the Vietcong to the conference table and Mr Freeth has now got on to our band wagon. It is now a question of what will happen. Every time that we said the Vietcong should be brought to the conference table the honourable senators have called it treason. But no-one has wanted that more than the Treasurer (Mr

McMahon) who has said that every time he has appeared on television. On those occasions Government supporters have been just as embarrassed as Senator Gair was on this occasion. But we have been the people in the middle and we have been vindicated.

I guarantee that within 3 months we will see a de-escalation of the number of troops in Vietnam. But will Senator Gair still say that we should put more there? I have developed this strategy of what will happen and I reiterate that it is what the Australian Labor Party has advocated. I do not regard it as a policy of appeasement, nor does any other honourable senator on this side of the chamber. Unfortunately Senator Gair has now left the chamber. Let us consider his remark that everything is either black or white. Did he or other honourable senators ever imagine that President Kennedy and Khrushchev would get together and negotiate to avoid an atomic war? Of course it was sanity to do so. Did not the Prime Minister and our leaders agree with what happened? Unfortunately, Senator Little's people had misgivings. I am not unaware that many people, old Australians and new Australians, do not ignore the episodes of Budapest, Prague or anywhere else. Honourable senators would know enough of the trade union movement to appreciate that we have to live with and contain all sorts of elements. That is the overall concept of foreign policy. Mr Whitlam has said that this situation would develop. It does not matter how much we talk, each month more Americans leave Vietnam. Tt will be the honourable senator who will be on the hot spot - not the Labor Party - and that is something which he will have to live with. I wanted to get those few points off my chest.

I now refer to the Budget. Senator Webster used a very apt term when he referred to budget programming. When I heard that term I immediately turned to page 4 of the Budget where I saw that Mr McMahon spoke in glowing terms of the employment position. When I consider forward planning it amazes me that there is not a word in the Budget about what will happen to our work force as a result of the onslaught of the computer on the society in which we live. Already we have had a sign of what will happen. In view of what I have listened to in the last 2 days from what would be deemed to be my legal betters opposite on what can be said about judges and conciliation commissioners, 1 hope that Labor speakers will come in on this theme. 1 refer now to redundancy in industry. So far we have had only one case; it involved Golden Fleece Petroleum Products when the computers were introduced. In that case about 30 to 40 members of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia were deemed to be redundant. Because the Federal Secretary of the Union, Mr Riordan, had the temerity to argue with the court that the future of those 40 members was just as important as the future of the board of Golden Fleece, the judge said that he was being impertinent, that the employer knows what is best and that is all there is to it. I would describe that as a Judge Jeffreys' decision. Yet honourable senators opposite suggest that we should bow our heads at every judge of the arbitration court and every conciliation commissioner. Government supporters have asked for this criticism. They have been talking about the right to criticise other judges and so 1 am now expressing a view on behalf of the trade union movement. This attitude is the reason for the number of industrial disputes that we have had.

The Clerks Union has had to live wilh this decision by the court. To take the matter a little further and beyond one union, I refer to containerisation and its impact on the trade union movement on the waterfront where three general unions were affected. The introduction of this system has affected waterside workers, transport workers, and also storemen and packers. A decision has been made about containerisation. Two unions have been reasonably satisfied but a third union is not satisfied. I make this point against the background of the Golden Fleece case. In the case to which I now refer there has not been one utterance by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) on what has happened to this famous committee which was supposed to be looking at the effects of automation. Honourable senators know what will happen. The committee will sit for 2 or 3 years and then suddenly in a particular industry we will see the full impact of automation with 4,000 or 5,000 people out of a job. The Government then will be looking desperately for a solution.

I refer next to a situation in Victoria. Senator Hendrickson will agree with what I have to say on this point. Some Government senators have said what a terrible thing it is that members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Electrical Trades Union of Australia should be quarrelling about who will use a spanner on a particular job. But if we go around the trade union movement, whether it is to a craft union or any other union, and ask the men what they expect their job prospects to be in 5 years time we find that what I have been saying is not merely an expression of a Utopian dream. Consider the port of Mackay and the reduced work force in the waterfront industry. These are all situations about which there is not one word in the Budget, lt is all very well to say that we will face up to these problems when we come to them. Anyone who has studied the situation of redundant coalminers in Kentucky in the United States will know that even when you retrain men aged 35 to 45 years there is no guarantee that employers will accept them when men of 22 years of age are finishing their apprenticeships and there is competition for work. This is the first indictment that I make. I feel that it is time to make it. Honourable senators opposite wonder sometimes why trade unions are not always as confident as they may be about the judicial system. It is because we felt, for instance, in the Golden Fleece case that it was just the thing for the judge, seated in his lofty chair, as it were, to say that the Clerks Union was ill advised in trying to interfere and to dictate to an employer. But nothing came of this. There was no suggestion as to how the slack would be taken up to place the victims of computerisation in the non-manual industry in other positions. I repeat that as far as those in manual industries are concerned the same question applies. As late as this week, 1 was reading in the Western Australian Press about what is going to happen to coal miners in Collie. Somebody might say: Well, the slack will be taken up somewhere', but in isolated areas what does it mean if a man in the 35-year or 45-year age group is expected to go another 100 miles in search of a living? It is all very well when the pay is going up, but this fellow happens to be on the same wage level or even less. This is the type of tragedy that we are talking about.

The other matter that I want to deal with now relates to what 1 call the famous case of the health scheme. We say that we are in an age in which the accent is on precision thinking and precision planning. Again, I am indebted to Senator Webster for one of those terms. But we should look at the history of our health scheme together with the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee. I remember that, in the early 1950s, the then Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, told us that we were going to emulate the Blue Cross system introduced by the Americans. As the years went by, that system became obsolete. The Americans introduced the Medicare scheme. The cost factor involved is going up. The only difference is that in Australia the situation is as stated in the Nimmo Committee report. Broadly, the finding of the Committee was that for every $4 a contributor paid to a health fund he received only S3 by way of benefit return. The case I am about to state is not put forward in an egotistical fashion, or in a form to illustrate grounds for actual discontent. I wish just to portray my own situation. In 1953-54, I joined two benefit funds because I was told that, by being a member of two funds, I as a single man would obtain complete coverage. Providence may have been kind to me to the extent that I have had only one call upon the benefit funds since that time. I give full credit to the doctor who removed a cyst from my eyelid. My eyesight was not impaired. But for 17 years I paid my contribution to those two funds. What did I find? My bill was for $30. The charge was for skilled services. I received SI 2 from the funds. Like a lot of other people, T find that these funds are waxing fat on my premiums. There has been no attempt by governments to try to bring the payments by these funds back to reality.

Now schemes are put forward by people including accountants and a learned professor from a Melbourne university and there are ridiculous handouts from medical benefits contribution funds telling us how dangerous these proposals are. They are dangerous all right. What has been done about the position of persons in certain lower wage groups? Does the Government realise that the vast majority of the people will find the same farrago of nonsense occurring in 12 months time? That is what will happen if the Government has its way.

The Australian Medical Association will come along and say: 'We have to boost the fees'. The Government will say: 'All right'. Then, the Government will say to the people: 'Contribute under a higher scale and you will be right'. People will be right for 12 months. But let us look at the other side of the picture.

I do not claim that the complete solution is to be found either in the system that we advocate or in the system that the Government advocates. Whatever scheme is adopted, it will have to be supplemented by an attack on the big drug houses about which the Government has done nothing. In Britain, Conservative and Labor governments have taken on the health insurance funds and drug houses, they have capitulated and money has been refunded. But the Australian Government cannot give me instances of equivalent sums that it has received from the funds or drug houses here. Even the Government in the United States of America has taken on the drug houses and has obtained redress. What do we find here? All the Government has to do is to turn loose the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and it would find that the cost of life saving drugs would suddenly toboggan downwards.

I noticed that Senator Gair started to develop a theme concerning age pensioners. Is there anything more pitiful - honourable senators opposite know this and I know it - than the situation where, as a result of these new medical cures, a man of 75 years who has some organic condition is told that there is a tablet on the free list which will reduce his pain but quickly learns by letter from the Minister for Health that a committee which investigates these has had a look at this particular tablet and recommended that it be no longer retained on the pharmaceutical benefits list. What is the alternative? It could be that the married son or daughter of that person, already with a large family, will need to dig a bit deeper into pocket or purse to help to provide the costly tablets to alleviate the parent's suffering. Yet the Government can play a part in the exploration of the stratosphere, build tracking stations and assist in enabling men to visit the moon. These are the things that it does. At the lower end of the social scale, the Government is so conservative regarding this scheme.

The Government prides itself on adding a few thousand people in the lower income group to what it calls the national health scheme. It thinks then that the millenium has been achieved. We challenge the Government on this. We will be doing so throughout the election. We challenge the Government to come up with a plan to provide cheaper medicines and with an effective scheme that will not go for 2 years only. It will be planned. What we have proposed are certain percentage payments buttressed by government contributions. In years of full employment and years of minimum epidemics, the funds would grow. But when they grew we would not find, as we find today, the organisations building veritable palaces known as 'medical benefits fund' buildings, and there would not be over 108 funds in existence. The number of funds would be reduced and their activities would be well and truly curbed. The Government has allowed this sort of thing to go on. It has done nothing about the position.

While I am on the subject of health, let me say this: The Government has talked about what we have been able to do in Australia, lt would be stupid to say that we had not advanced. Evolutionary processes ensure that we advance, no matter what governments do. I wish to deal with a news release issued on Sunday, 10th August 1969, by no less a person than Mr Bury, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I have just been very critical about what he is doing about automation and mechanisation, and of the standing committee that has been established to deal with those matters. Here is another one of the many facets of the operations that he controls. I refer to a paragraph in a statement on national service issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service and in which he blandly says:

Forty-four per cent, of those registered and medically examined for national service did not meet the standards required for Army service.

If it were 20%, I would say: 'Well, we must make some allowance because I know what the Government would say about Army standards'. But all I can say in the circumstances is that if the failure rate is 44% something is radically wrong. I know the reason why something is wrong. It is wrong for this reason: The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for example, or any other body or person does nothing about all the blarney and malarkey that goes over the air about clean cigarettes. We never see anything about these matters. The Government talks about diverting money into active service. Can the Government tell me what amount of money is wasted on advertising by Rothmans and all these other cigarette monopolists? This is one field in which the Government could act.

Let me take the matter a little further. I agitated here for 2 years for the production of certain booklets about physical training. They were produced, but the Government never went beyond that point. Probably it could introduce a much improved dental service, which would be able to improve the health of our children. There are so many other projects that the Government could undertake in the health field. If the failure tate were 20%, I would be a little more tolerant, but when it is 44% of those registered for national service - we must not forget that these are boys in the prime of life - we must admit that there is something wrong with the society that the Government has created. One of the reasons for this problem is that the Government is frightened to take on the Australian Medical Association and all the other appendages. The Government talks a lot about other forms of government in other countries. Some of them are totalitarian. At the same time, there is no doubt that the medical and health services in those countries are better than ours. Another reason for the existence of this problem can be found in examples shown by families in the community today. This applies particularly to British migrants. Those people find that they must economise on certain items while they are trying to save money to enable them to get out of a migrant hostel and buy a home. British people find a sharp contrast between the British health scheme and the Australian health scheme. The result is that an operation that should be performed on a child between the ages of 8 and 1 5 years is postponed and the health of the patient is neglected. Some of these problems become magnified, but the Government probably would find that some such factors are involved. But that is not the whole story.

I know that we live under a federal system. My concept of the Commonwealth Government has been that it is the pacesetter, but it took the Commonwealth 2 years to get action by State Ministers for Health in respect of the sale of inferior sunglasses. Honourable senators know that in the Australian summer a large percentage of people choose to wear sunglasses. The whole trouble seems to be that in the democratic process of which we talk, the Government does not get the whip out quickly enough and hold conferences with States Ministers in order to deal with some manufacturers. I never heard any publicity in relation to manufacturers who produced sunglasses which were of inferior quality.

Whatever I might care to say about United States foreign policy, 1 yearn for the day when food racketeers and manufacturers will get the same publicity and exposure as some people got through the testimony of Ralph Nader before congressional committees. In Australia there is always a smother-up job. On different occasions 1 have asked Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, questions about the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. 1 have asked about particular scripts that have been rejected and about phoney testimonials that have been put over in medical and pharmaceutical advertising on television. I have been told that corrections have been made, but the particular people involved have not been exposed. I suppose if the people involved had been lesser lights at another level of the community the full glare of publicity would have resulted.

My reaction to the Budget is that it is a patchwork operation. The Government should be looking ahead in the fields of health, education, defence and many other facets of governmental activity. We are looking in vain for long range planning. There are forgotten groups in the field of social services. I refer particularly to deserted wives. Recently the Sydney 'SunHerald' printed a very good article by a prominent journalist, Peter Manning. Acting probably with the best of intentions, the Government streamlined passport procedures. For a long while I have been drawing attention to the cases of husbands who may disappear to Britain. I refer to Britain because 1 believe that our legal processes should make it much easier to enforce maintenance orders in that country on husbands who desert wives in Australia, leaving them with children to support. The legal system is too slow in operation. 1 say to the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and to Senator Wright, who represents him in the Senate, that this particular social problem could be eased without spending a lot of money. The Government need not spend great sums in helping deserted wives. It could help greatly by putting teeth in the law and speeding up processes so that women in those circumstances may get speedier justice.

I have noted that no taxation concessions are included in this Budget. We are supposed to be on the same wavelength as the United States Administration. One of the first steps taken by President Nixon was to study certain anomalies in the taxation field. In this respect I wish to refer to another forgotten group - female members of the Shop Assistants and Warehouse Employees Federation. There is great talk about employers' rights. Judges are given to using this wonderful term 'employers' rights'. One of the rights of employers in big Sydney and Melbourne retail stores is to say to female shop assistants: 'For the honour of working for me you have to wear an old, obsolete black uniform, a black frock and black accessories and all the rest of it while in my employment'. If it is part of the procedure of the company, that is all right. But the Treasurer has been asked to direct his Taxation Review Committee to have a look at this matter. Make no mistake - the types of accessories and frock that must be worn by these employees would not be worn anywhere else and they should be allowed their cost as a tax deduction. The Treasurer says only that he will have a look at it next year.

I have always argued that in the society in which we live taxation concessions can be a very effective instrument to bring justice to people in industry. Some people in talking of wage increases refer to a failure to have curbs on prices corresponding to the levels at which wages are fixed. Price rises nullify many wage increases but taxation concessions are a great benefit. Today directors of companies have padded expense sheets. Sometimes it seems that unlimited expenses are incurred for luncheons in restaurants and so on in order to clinch a big deal. At the other end of the scale female shop assistants in retail stores pay a particular price for their employment because they have to wear black frocks. They cannot wear them to and from work. References are made to the new people of society in heavy industries and retail trades. Usually these people change their clothing before they travel home. In the field of taxation reform the unions have argued for a long time for changes. A very cheap form of justice could have been extended to industry in this Budget. Members of industry believe that they have been very mild in their submissions on this particular point.

The Opposition has submitted a plan in respect of health services which has been vetted by people outside the Labor Party and has been said by them to be effective. We believe that the value of such a scheme is mainly for people in the 25 to 45 years age group. After a reasonable period of good health they would like to feel that the profits made by the health insurance funds could be used to help them when they get older and require surgery. They would like to get back more than 30% or 40% of their costs when they incur serious illness after 16 or 17 years of contributions to a fund. 1 turn now to deal with education. The Chifley post-war Labor Government put university finances on their feet. We believe that the commission we have advocated should be ushered in quickly. Some of the other points of conflict that have been referred to here tonight would be taken out of the realm of party politics. Earlier speakers in this debate have dealt with defence. As each month passes we will be watching the Government very closely. Government supporters realise in their hearts that they will not ever again be conned in South East Asia to prop up a government so weak as those that have been helped by Australia in the past, f do not indict any Australian government on this score. 1 indict the French Government for its failure in the early post-war years to follow progressive British governments who gave independence to India, Burma and Pakistan. An Australian Labor government facilitated the creation of the independent nation of Indonesia.

Some honourable senators have tonight mentioned Mr Freeth, the Minister for External Affairs. When he spoke of the plebiscite in West Irian he conceded that what is done is done. Questions have been asked as to where the Australian Labor Party stands on this issue, i. refer Government supporters to Sir Percy Spender, formerly a prominent Minister in the Government who later went to sit on the International Court of Justice. In those days he was a hawk and said that we had had to back the Dutch. Today Mr Freeth says that we must face realities. Of course we must. The only difference we have between us on this score is that if we advocate a point 2 or 3 years ahead of public opinion we are told we are acting treasonably. Mr McMahon has said that repeatedly over Vietnam. Mr Whitlam, Senator Murphy and the rest of us have said that eventually the parties will have to sit around a conference table, with the Vietcong or with anybody else, and forge some form of peace. Government supporters have denied that, but now United States opinion has swung that way. I had in mind that I would deal in this speech with problems associated with overseas investment, but that will keep for another time.

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