It is with profound gratification to us all that the war has been brought to a victorious conclusion, that the prisoners of war are coming home with men and women of the Services generally. As Premier of the State I extend to them the warmest welcome, on behalf of the people of Victoria, as they rejoin their relatives and friends. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the prisoners of war in the hardships they have suffered at the hands of a cruel and barbarous foe and, moreover, we extend the deepest sympathy to the families of those who have made the supreme sacrifice and will never return. They have by that sacrifice erected an imperishable monument to themselves in the hearts of the Australian people and in the history of Australia. It is now the duty of us all to build up an edifice of post-war reconstruction worthy of their memory and sacrifice. In that task the Government will act in close co-operation with the Commonwealth Government of the day, always having regard to the provisions of the Constitution with respect to preserving the rights of the State. If these latter are to be altered it must be done by the people of Australia.
Gift of £25,000 to Britain.
As a mark of regard and admiration for the British people and the suffering they went through during the critical years of the war and of what they are still going through owing to their shortage of foodstuffs, the Government has decided on behalf of the people of the State to expend £25,000 on foodstuffs, to be sent as soon as possible, instead of the paltry £5,000 proposed by Mr. Dunstan. This money has now been spent and I have received through Mr. Banks Amery, as representative of the British Ministry of Food, its thanks to the people of this State for their gift. If necessary and if the foodstuffs are available, another £25,000 will be forthcoming.
INVITATION TO CHURCHILL.
As a mark of admiration and gratitude we have invited our great war leader, The Right Honorable Winston Churchill, with Mrs. Churchill, to visit this State for as long a period as possible and to do so as your guests and of the Government.
On the 10th November, you will be called upon to elect a new Parliament. The circumstances preceding the election and involving the formation of my Government, which is non-party in character, are unparalleled in the history of the State. Mr. Dunstan, having been defeated on successive occasions in the Legislative Assembly, asked his Excellency the Governor for and was granted a dissolution of Parliament. It then became necessary for him to get Parliamentary authority for the lawful expenditure of approximately £4,000,000 to cover the payment of salaries to public servants, teachers, police, and all other necessary Government payments until the new Parliament met, a period of approximately two months. This authority to Mr. Dunstan was persistently refused by Parliament and only two alternatives were open to him if he were to carry on, viz., either the payment of the amount illegally, or the non-payment until after the elections of the services mentioned. A third alternative was the formation of another Government to which the House would vote Supply, to enable the government of the State to be legally carried on. To me as Attorney-General and Solicitor-General of the State, sworn to ensure that the law of the State which binds both Governments and civilians was observed, the last alternative was the only possible one, as I obviously could not participate in a breach of the law involved in illegal payments, and if the payments were not made it would not only have been grossly unjust to the services referred to, but might have involved a serious disorder amounting to a degree of revolution. Mr. Dunstan had indicated in the House that he was contemplating the non-payment of the services. Before sending for me His Excellency exhausted every expedient to find a way out of the difficulty by sending for Mr. Cain, the Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Lind, the Deputy Leader of the Country party, and Mr. Hollway, the Leader of the Liberal party. No one of these gentlemen was able to give him assurances of sufficient support for a Government formed by them to be able to legally carry on. I was then sent for and was able to give His Excellency such an assurance. I am not at liberty to disclose what happened in the discussion between His Excellency and myself. I was able to give such assurances however, because the five Liberals, two Independents, and two Country members who had refused support to any of the others had signified to me that they were willing to give a Government formed by me support for the purposes of Supply only. Consequently I accepted the commission offered to me by His Excellency, formed the present Government and was given Supply to the amount mentioned above to enable the Government to carry on legally and, moreover, was given it by the unanimous vote of all members of both Houses of Parliament. This latter fact is most significant inasmuch as it showed that Parliament unanimously recognized the gravity of the position and that what had been done was the only course possible to save the State from chaos. It has been stated that the supporters of the grant of Supply to my Government were confined to members of the Labour party; nothing could be further from the truth as all the members of all parties supported the grant without a single dissentient voice. Nothing that has been said can gainsay the fact that Government according to law was made possible and that the supremacy of Parliament above everthing else has been maintained and strengthened.
During the course of the election I will publish a personal statement giving the true story of the recent happenings in the Liberal party, but I feel it would not be proper to include such matter in a statement of Government policy, of which I now proceed to give the details.
No one can forecast the shape the new Parliament will take. It is sufficient to say at this stage that, if events turn out that way, my Government will endeavour to implement the programme I am now about to outline, or if not, we will support any Administration which is willing to implement it.
REVIEW OF VICTORIA'S FINANCIAL POSITION.
Over the last few years the finances of this State have improved considerably. This improvement was due to war conditions, which resulted in a high level of railway revenue and the deferment of many maintenance works, not only in the Railway Department, but in Departments generally. There are thus substantial funds available for overtaking the arrears of works in connection with railways, roads, hospitals, and other public purposes.
With the cessation of the war, however, the State will be faced with a considerable reduction in railway revenue, which already is showing a serious decline. It has already been indicated that the increase in railway revenue has been the key to the financial situation under war conditions, and therefore the downward trend in railway revenue will entail considerable difficulty in maintaining the normal services of the State. As a matter of fact, it was only by taking a most optimistic view of the revenue position that the Budget recently submitted to Parliament indicated a small surplus. As, however, the Government feels that much more liberal provision must be made for the Social Services of the State, particularly Education and Health, it is obvious that action must be taken to obtain increased revenue for Victoria. At present, the Commonwealth Government is the sole taxing authority, so far as income tax is concerned, and therefore my Government will immediately take action with a view to having the amount paid to this State as compensation for vacating the field of income tax considerably increased.
At present, this State receives from the Commonwealth only £6,500,000 per annum, or £3 5s. per head, compared with £15,300,000, or £5 6s. per head, paid to New South Wales.
Victoria has therefore every reason to expect the Commonwealth Government, if the uniform tax is to be continued, to make a more reasonable allocation to this State in the near future, possibly in the region of £4,000,000 annually. Every effort will be made to secure this grant.
RECOGNITION OF THE SERVICES RENDERED BY EX-SERVICE
MEN AND WOMEN.
My Government is determined that the fullest recognition will be given to the great service rendered, in the following ways.
Preference in Employment.
As a member of the last Government I introduced and had passed through Parliament the present Discharged Servicemen's Employment Act, which provided in effect for absolute preference. I explained at the time that the legislation was the first of its character in the British Empire, was necessarily experimental and might, after experience of its practical working, require amendment. Since that time Federal legislation has been passed on the subject and as to the effect of this on the State Act I have in the Law Department no less than three conflicting opinions of counsel, varying from the view that it completely abrogates the State Act, to the view that it does not affect it at all, with a third view that it abrogates it excepting as to promotions in the Public Service. These doubts will have to be resolved before any amendments to the State Act, even if there are any such desirable, could be made and must be left to the new Parliament. It is sufficient to say at present that my Government stands solidly for the principle of preference.
Reinstatement in Former Employment.
This is provided for in the State Preference Act, compliance with which will be strictly enforced by the Government. Important questions on this subject arise in avenues other than those of strict employment.
Depending upon the shape of new transport legislation, it is intended to extend preference to discharged servicemen in respect of applications for new routes, or old routes relinquished by the holders of the licences. Present holders of licences will not be affected.
Similarly, dependent on modification of the zoning system in respect of bread, milk, and ice, preference should be extended in respect of new licences.
Protection of Ex-Servicemen and Women in the Purchase of Businesses.
The Government is determined to confer on an authority the duty of giving advice and protection to discharged servicemen in the purchase of businesses by them. It has now been arranged that this work will be carried out by the Discharged Servicemen's Employment Board which, strengthened by the services of a business man with extensive experience, will give advice confidentially and free. Recent experience has shown that numbers of ex-servicemen are receiving considerable sums of money on their discharge and are having passed on to them by certain unscrupulous firms and individuals valueless businesses; this process being rendered easy as after a long absence from civilian life and occupation they are easily duped.
Although legislation was passed about two years ago giving powers of compulsorily acquiring land, or of acquisition by agreement with the owners, it is a remarkable fact that up to the formation of this Government not one acre of land had been acquired, and suitable soldier settlers have returned, are returning, and will be returning in still larger numbers. My Government, although it has only been in office a few days, is doing its best to meet or to mitigate this situation and has already acquired two properties in the Western District covering some thousands of acres, and the acquisition of others is being pushed forward as quickly as possible. The agreement with the Commonwealth Government should be ratified, an equity in the land assured to the holder and, if he so desires, he will be able to acquire the freehold.
In co-operation with the Commonwealth Government, the Government will put into effect a sound scheme of training for returned soldiers desirous of settling on the land and will extend the facilities at Dookie and Longerenong Agricultural Colleges and at the State Research Farm at Werribee for this purpose. It is also proposed that additional colleges should be founded in suitable districts in the State.
The Government will not allow the compulsory acquisition by the Housing Commission or any other Authority of land owned by or held for servicemen and servicewomen who intend to build their own homes on it unless it is absolutely necessary for subdivisional or re-subdivisional purposes, in which case the Commission will be required to give to the holder a suitable block in the vicinity.
Generally, the Government will make available the whole of the resources of the State to replace ex-servicemen and women in civilian employment, to ensure that the hospital and general health services of the State will be at the disposal of the disabled, and that the prisoners of war who require it will have all necessary attention in this way. If necessary, the State will provide for the dependants of those named, insofar as their needs are not sufficiently provided for by the Federal Government. The educational facilities of the State will also be made available to them.
REHABILITATION OF ALL WORKERS WHO HAVE BEEN
ENGAGED IN WAR INDUSTRIES.
The Government will make every effort to provide suitable avenues of employment for those who may be thrown out of employment by the cessation or partial cessation of war industries. We feel that they merit recognition of the vital part they played in bringing the war to a victorious conclusion.
The Government is in favour in principle of abolishing all war controls and allowing industry and the people to revert to their normal courses. The Commonwealth Government has expressed its agreement. A number of those controls have been abolished, others can very quickly be treated in the same way, but there will be a residue for which a breathing space will have to be given before final abolition is practicable. I refer particularly to such controls as are involved in the zoning of bread, milk and ice, and controls over the supply of building materials and building permits. In the case of the lastnamed the Prime Minister has indicated his desire that the States take over such controls as from the 1st November next. As the work involved is large and legislation may be required, I have asked the Prime Minister to continue the Commonwealth control until the 1st January next, and am awaiting a reply. If the controls in respect of building materials and building permits are taken over by this State such controls in the case of materials will be as little onerous as possible and only sufficient to ensure an equitable distribution of the depleted supply. Control as to building permits will be treated in a similar manner. Both classes of controls which are to an extent bound together will be abolished as soon as possible. Somewhat similar considerations apply to the zoning of bread, milk and ice, which may possibly have to be continued whilst a qualified scheme is being evolved. The Government is anxious in respect to these matters not to interfere with competition in the industry involved, but is also anxious that the consumer gets the best quality commodity. In the case of controls over building materials and building permits the Minister of Housing is convening a conference of the persons interested in the building industry to discuss the position, and in the controls over milk, ice and bread, the industries concerned will be consulted before any final action is taken.
A scheme for the delivery of all household commodities if so desired is being prepared for the relief of harassed housewives and others who have been called upon to suffer by lack of these facilities during the war.
These are a sore trial to the people of the State, and the Government is anxious to find the proper solution, if such is possible. Hasty and ill-considered action on the part of either employers or employees should be averted in the interests of the community as a whole. Conference and conciliation appear to be the only sensible expedients possible. In the recent tramway hold-up I had little trouble once the contending parties could be got together in arranging the matters in dispute without any loss of face to either side. Strikes in New South Wales are now having a paralysing effect in this State, through the acute shortage of New South Wales coal. Governments and the Arbitration Court appear to be powerless, and there appears to be only one possible solution for this State. We have in Victoria inexhaustible supplies of brown coal and I am advised by the State Electricity Commission, after exhaustive experiment, that it can if properly processed be used in such a way as to make this State independent of supply of fuel from outside sources. In other words it can be used in one form or other for locomotives, production of gas, and in industry. The first step, we are advised, must be the opening up of an additional open-cut in some Gippsland area. The Government is determined to bring this matter to a head. The official files disclose a remarkable degree of delay and hesitation in dealing with the matter. On the recommendation of the Electricity Commission we have now approved of a definite site for the new open-cut. The scheme which I have indicated can be implemented and will open up a a new era in the history of the State.
These services have been notoriously financially starved during the whole of the long term of the Dunstan Government.
This is the vital problem, rendered all the more difficult by the warcontrols on manpower and material. The Housing Commission was appointed in March, 1938. It is now estimated that over the whole State approximately 80,000 houses are required. The Housing Commission has erected or has in course of erection 4,038 houses. The Commission now proposes to, after experiment, greatly accelerate its building programmed by the supply of pre-fabricated houses composed of metal and concrete which can be made the subject of mass production. The Government will encourage any move in that direction once it is persuaded that houses of this type are reasonably suitable. House building should not be restricted to the Housing Commission. Private enterprise must be given as wide a field as it can cover. The formation of co-operative building societies will be encouraged in every way. Despite the fact that the co-operative building legislation was passed at the end of 1944, and that numerous applications have been received for the approval of these societies by the Treasurer, approval had not been given in any case until this Government took office. This no doubt has seriously impaired the housing campaign. I have now as Treasurer approved of the formation of two, one at Box Hill and one at Geelong, and no doubt before the new Parliament will approve of others.
Every possible facility will be afforded by the State Savings Bank and the present Building Societies will be utilized to the utmost. In fact every available resource will be thrown into the field to meet the shortage of houses which so vitally affects so many thousands of our people.
Several matters in respect of the Housing Commission require adjustment. There is widespread dissatisfaction as to the compensation paid to the owners of suburban allotments which have been compulsorily acquired. It seems anomalous that an Authority with the power of such acquisition should also have the power of fixing the price to be paid, leaving the unfortunate owner the alternative of either accepting a price which he feels to be totally inadequate or facing expensive arbitration proceedings. The Government has therefore determined to set up a Board of Review, which will go into the whole of the circumstances of each case or in each estate where there is a dispute without expense to the owner concerned. Again dissatisfaction is felt that while the Housing Commission will build houses for renting, it will not allow the buying of such houses. The Commission has been instructed to allow persons who can comply with the provisions of the Act to purchase the homes. A difficulty confronting the Commission has been that suburban land within any reasonable distance from Melbourne and available for their purposes is comparatively scanty. In the event of it being necessary to acquire land farther out, the Government will inaugurate a scheme of reduced railway and other transport fares on the lines of that introduced by my predecessor in Brighton, Sir Thomas Bent, in 1902. These concessions would apply, of course, to the householders irrespective of the Authority erecting the houses. Lastly, it is obvious that with the tremendous task in front of it that the Housing Commission should be reconstituted to give it a more expert character, the Commission having been appointed originally as a Slum Reclamation Authority.
Recognizing the importance of this subject I have confided its administration to a full Minister and not left it as Mr. Dunstan did to an Honorary Minister.
The prime fundamental responsibility of the State is to see that suitable and adequate provision is made for the education of its people, that the powers and abilities of the individual are developed in consonance with the true understanding of spiritual values and the responsibilities of each to his fellows in a really democratic citizenship. Most other things can be trusted to find a satisfactory solution.
My Government will not shirk its duty in this matter. We shall explore every opportunity for education reform, beginning with our schools and extending to the field of adult education and the University. It has long been obvious that many of our aims and methods are out-moded. We must have more and better schools. We must improve our equipment, encourage the initiative of teachers, raise their standard of training and conditions of work, so that those upon whom rests the responsibility of developing the future mental and spiritual powers of the people may justly be looked upon as belonging to the greatest profession of all. Education from the kindergarten to the University, we believe, should be free to all, but no doubt in the case of the University, some selective method would have to be adopted.
At present, the only basis adopted appears to be the financial position of the parents.
The curriculum should be in a constant state of revision to keep it abreast of the times, to eliminate frills, and to ensure that the subjects taught will be those of real value to character building and to enable the pupil to fill his or her proper place in the social structure.
Financial responsibility for equipment and other necessary adjuncts to the school should not be placed on the members of the school committees and mothers' clubs, which do such splendid voluntary work, but should be the responsibility of the State. Transport facilities to convey the children to schools in the country must be extended and should apply to registered schools also.
The field of technical education must be considerably enlarged and extended into the University.
There should be increased allowances to student teachers and an increased number of scholarships.
Moreover, the extension of the school-leaving age to 15 years should be put in hand as soon as practicable and provision made in the primary schools for the accommodation of children in their sixth year.
Consolidation of Country Schools.
The Government will aim at erecting at least six of these each year capable of accommodating 200 pupils, and to carry their education up to the end of the ninth school year, which is the proficiency certificates stage.
School Holidays to be Made Uniform.
In order to save inconvenience to parents by having primary scholars on holidays whilst secondary scholars are at school, school holidays will be made uniform.
The total expenditures on education provided for in the recent Dunstan Budget of £5,276,000 is not nearly enough and falls sadly behind that made in other countries and States comparable to Victoria. It is not too much to say, having regard to the importance of the subject, that too much money cannot be expended on it so long as it is expended wisely.
Properly regarded there is no doubt that this subject combined with education lies at the root of the happiness of the people and of the entire social structure. Upon the passing of the Ministry of Health Act in the last Parliament and the consequent great enlargement of the functions of the Health Department, I became intensely interested in the same. As a result, the Department was divided into the appropriate compartments and has functioned successfully under that plan. The Government is determined to give all the assistance possible, financial and otherwise, to safeguard the health of the community. Looking ahead to the future generation I regard the Maternal and Child Hygiene Branch of the Ministry of Health as being possibly the most important. It covers Infant Health Centres, attending to expectant mothers and infants under two years of age, the kindergartens covering pre-school children of two to six years of age and the school medical and dental services dealing with children during their school career. The Infant Health Centres have done wonderful work and will be extended to the utmost possible limit. Since their institution in 1917 the infant mortality rate has decreased from 75 in a thousand births to 31. There is no doubt that the greatest part of the reduction is due to the fine work of the centres, and I believe that the State is under a debt of gratitude to all connected with them. There is, unfortunately, a different story to be told as to the kindergartens. For some reason the child between two and six has been comparatively, except for such attention as it gets in its home, neglected by successive administrations. Of the 125,000 children in the State only about 8,000 receive any physical attention or mental training in the kindergartens. The Government will do everything possible to place the kindergartens in the same position as the infant centres. An important feature of the matter is that, unlike the infant centres, the kindergartens are dependent on the services of qualified teachers. The Government, therefore, will take steps to ensure an adequate supply of teachers by extensions, and subsidies, to the kindergarten college at Kew, will increase the present amount per annum now paid to the municipal and denominational kindergartens to £6 per child per annum for maintenance and will consider, in this event of new kindergartens being erected, a subsidy towards capital expenses. It will also grant free scholarships.
Every effort will be made to have a new kindergarten erected to serve the unfortunate deaf and dumb children.
So far as the school and medical dental services are concerned, owing to the lack of doctors and dentists due to the war, these services have been practically suspended. As soon as circumstances permit these services will be restored and extended. When the child leaves school it is then entitled to the help and guidance of one of the youth associations, of which there are 35 with 70,000 members, in conjunction with the National Fitness Council, all of which bodies the Government will encourage in every way.
By this time the child has become a man or a woman and his or her future must be shaped by the churches, social and cultural bodies and, to a large extent, by its environment and itself.
As Minister of Health, I initiated the Nutrition Division of the Ministry of Health. Few people recognize the importance of this subject, but I am assured by experts that it is fundamental to public health. The Government will build up and extend the Nutrition Division to whatever extent is necessary.
Municipal Pre-Natal Clinics.
At present hundreds of expectant mothers from all over the metropolitan area are forced to attend the Women's Hospital or some other institution in Melbourne for advice and care. It is estimated that there are 900 attendances at the Women's Hospital alone every fortnight. This involves travelling by train, tram or bus - possibly more than one of them - a good deal of discomfort and possibly embarrassment and is not without risk both to the mother and the child to come. The Government will establish, therefore, a scheme of municipal clinics at which expectant mothers will be able to get advice and attention close to their own homes, and will subsidize the municipalities to give effect to the scheme.
Of all the scourges which afflict our people in the health field probably this is the deadliest. I am informed by the Anti-Tuberculosis Council, which is a body composed of the twelve leading specialists in the State, that there are in Victoria today between eight and nine thousand diagnosed cases of T.B. A large proportion of these sufferers are a source of potential danger and infection to all persons they come in contact with, whether in their homes, their occupations, or elsewhere. About 400 sufferers have been certified as suitable for admission to sanatoria, but cannot be admitted owing to the inadequate sanatoria accommodation. No doubt many more would be certified if accommodation were available. The Government, therefore, will do everything possible to increase this, which is limited at present to 741 beds. New wards at Heatherton, Greenvale, additional beds at the Central Hospital, six country chalets, and extensions at Geelong and Sale Hospitals, all of which have been approved and which are either in course of erection, or shortly will be, will make a total of 1,055 beds. In addition, since the Government was formed we have authorized the erection of still additional wards at Heatherton and Greenvale of 72 beds each, and we will proceed with the erection of two new sanatoria, one for males and one for females, each of 500 beds, as soon as suitable sites can be determined by the Director of Tuberculosis and the Chief Architect. This will bring the total number of beds to 2,055, which will probably have to be still further supplemented.
In the last Government, I, on the recommendation of the A.T.C., recommended that a sum be granted for a publicity campaign and particularly in relation to the question of mass radiography. The Government will proceed at once to implement this proposal, which is designed to educate the people as to the precautions and methods to be adopted to prevent them being infected by actual sufferers.
The campaign will take the form of lectures, broadcasting, the formation of a Tuberculosis Association as has been done in other countries, composed of representatives of all classes in the community, such as the churches, trade unions, friendly societies, employers and, in fact, all organizations willing to co-operate - the ultimate aim being not only to prevent infection, but by means of the community X-ray to ensure the detection and treatment of all cases of T.B. in the community. I am assured by those best qualified to know that if the course which I have described is proceeded with, this scourge can be, if not absolutely eradicated, at all events practically eradicated from this State. Similar methods have resulted in that way in the province of Ontario in Canada. The Government has at present two Government specialists in America studying the scourge from all points of view and particularly as to what has happened in Ontario. These gentlemen will soon return and their advice will be available in the campaign. The Government will throw all its weight behind the campaign hoping for the whole-hearted support of every member of the community.
I have been promised the support of the great Red Cross organization in the campaign as its war work diminishes. Already they have entered the field at Williamstown Hospital where splendid work is being done. It is to be hoped that, in regard to the cause of this disease, as in the case of many other diseases, research will lead to the discovery of some immunizing agent.
This is another scourge affecting rather the elderly than the young as in the case of tuberculosis. No sure cure has been discovered up to date, nor has the germ even been isolated. The Government will go on with the plan which has been laid for the beginning of a temporary Cancer Institute at the Central Hospital, and for its ultimate transfer to a suitable site in the Parkville Hospital area, and will encourage and help in every way those public-spirited people in the community who are helping in the campaign against this disease.
Diphtheria, whooping cough, &c. - immunization as a protection against these will be extended to whatever extent is necessary.
The Government is determined to support the formation of these in every way, and, if necessary, to subsidize them. It recognizes that centres both for the youth and adult population furnish invaluable forms of contact and of the exchange of mutual standards of citizenships. The centres should be open to all irrespective of class, creed, or any other potential disturbing distinctions, and are no doubt in the future destined to play an important part in post-war development and in the post-war reconstruction of the State.
The Government will co-operate with the Federal Government in its Federal Hospital Benefits Scheme, thus giving free treatment to all patients in public wards and in other specified hospital activities.
The Government has decided on an entirely new policy in respect of moneys owing by Public Hospitals to the State as distinguished from grants made to such bodies. A review of the position over many years shows that these moneys, except in isolated and comparatively small amounts, are not repaid, but that the interest on loans to the institutions is paid to the Government out of the Hospital and Charities Fund; in other words, the absurdity is involved that interest is paid to the Government out of what are practically its own moneys, the fund being depreciated to that extent and not being available to that extent for distribution in the form of grants to the general institutions in the State. The whole position is an embarrassment both to hospital and State finance. The Government has therefore decided that the total amount of the loan, viz., £471,672, will be transferred to the grants account and the hospital concerned relieved of liability for repayment.
The Government will in every way possible improve and increase the hospital facilities of the State and do everything it can to facilitate the transfer of certain of the teaching hospitals to the Parkville site in close proximity to the University. The Dental College and Hospital will be erected also on that site along with the Cancer Institute. In addition, it has been supplied by the Charities Board with a recommendation for many new hospitals in the country and metropolitan areas. These will be proceeded with and subsidized as prevailing conditions permit.
A combined Hospital School for Crippled Children should be built in the outer suburban areas to take the place of the Carlton institution, Yooralla, which during the war has been housed at Macedon.
We propose to constitute an expert full-time Hospital Commission with full power to control the hospital side of the Board's activities.
These are indeed a tragedy in our social structure. Apart from Mont Park, which is comparatively modern, the others are out of date and even primitive and totally unfitted for the housing of the unfortunate sufferers.
I have written to the Army Authorities asking for the vacation of our new institution "Larundel," and immediately that is vacated the inmates of the Kew Hospital will be moved there. The Government has decided that pending erection of new institutions to replace the existing ones everything will be done to alleviate the lot of the sufferers. One new institution is being built at Warrnambool and plans for an additional one at Traralgon have been completed. The Auxiliaries attached to the Mental Hospitals are deserving of all commendation for the assistance they render under most difficult conditions.
The members of this profession, quite apart from the invaluable work that those in the services have done during the war, deserve the gratitude of the people for the work they have done in all our institutions. The Government has decided that due recognition shall be paid to them by the provision of a superannuation scheme applying to all nurses. Recently I authorized the inception of such a scheme in the case of nurses in certain institutions under the supervision of the Hospitals and Charities Board, but that is not enough. I have asked Mr. McVilly, the Inspector of Charities, to confer with the underwriters of that scheme as to its extension to all nurses irrespective of where they are employed. It is absurd to think that a woman in this great profession for the best years of her life must leave it without any provision being made for her. The Government will take the earliest opportunity of implementing the general scheme.
In addition, the salaries of nurses and female and domestic staff of sanatoria and mental hospitals have been revised by way of a general increase as recommended by the Public Service Board and approved by me as Treasurer. A similar revision has been made and approved in the case of the doctors of the Health Department and the institutions referred to. A review of the salaries of the male staff in the sanatoria and mental hospitals is now being considered by the Public Service Board; this revision will be expedited and any recommendation made by the Board accepted.
Finally, on the question of Public Health, I would draw the attention of the people to the remarkable fact that of the total expenditure of the Health Department of £3,000,000 annually, only about £128,000 or 4 per cent. of the total is spent on preventive measures, the huge balance being spent on curative measures. In other words, under the system which has been followed in the past we allow children and adults by the lack of preventive measures to contract disease and then are forced to spend millions of pounds on hospitals and medical services to cure them. The Government proposes to make a much larger allocation to the preventive side of medicine out of the total expenditure. It is not suggested that hospitals, sanatoria, &c., can be done without, but the new step will involve two advantages - that a great deal of pain and suffering should be obviated and a much smaller amount needed for expenditure on institutions. Moreover, it appears to be the commonsense method of dealing with the whole health problem.
The Government will take steps to encourage the formation of a chair of preventive medicine at the University.
Recently an amendment of the Local Government law was made to enable municipalities to set up bureaux for home helps, the object being to enable mothers of families to obtain assistance in their homes, and especially when the housewife happens to be an expectant or nursing mother. The families concerned will pay for the service if able to do so, the municipalities making good any balance. The recent Government refused any subsidy to the municipalities for the purpose. My Government will make such a subsidy at least on a pound for pound basis.
Cultural and Art Centres.
Plans for the establishment of a National Gallery at the South Melbourne entrance will be proceeded with, as will be the plans affecting the National Museum and Public Library.
Country Libraries and Art Galleries.
The establishment of Country Libraries and Art Galleries will be encouraged in every way and subsidies for the same increased.
Provision will be made for effective foreshore protection to prevent the loss to the people of beaches, reserves, and other public facilities. The tourists works of the State will be proceeded with in order that the people may be enabled to spend their leisure in healthful holiday-making in their own State, and, moreover, visitors from other States and overseas may be attracted, thus providing a livelihood for those catering for tourists.
LAW AND PENAL REFORM.
The consolidation of several important statutes including the Local Government Act, Stamps Acts, and the Workers Compensation Acts, has been steadily proceeding in the Law Department. The first-named is now ready and there should be no difficulty in Parliament passing it before the end of the year. A Bill to indemnify clients of solicitors against loss of trust funds and providing for an audit of trust accounts is in the same condition. For some time I have been engaged on the preparation of a Bill dealing with the very difficult problem of sexual offences and sexual offenders, particularly against young children. The difficulty is to distinguish between responsible and irresponsible offenders, but, above all, the children must be protected, even if it means the permanent segregation of both classes of offenders, with, of course, provision for treatment and, if possible, cure in the case of the latter class.
Severe punishment is the only proper remedy in the case of the former class. The proposed legislation will include a provision for the appointment of an expert body, to whom parents, guardians, schoolmasters, &c., who detect symptoms of undue sexual propensities in adolescents can, in a confidential manner, resort to for advice, treatment, &c. This particular provision is aimed at the prevention of offences. At present the only provision is to deal with offenders after possibly some serious offence has been committed.
My Government recognizes that family life and parental responsibility are the basis of our social structure and will do everything to build up and encourage the same. It particularly will not tolerate any attempt to weaken the marriage tie or to render it more easy of dissolution. We will co-operate in having a uniform divorce law for Australia.
Commercialized Sport on Sunday.
My Government views with concern the movement in this direction. It will discourage all ideas of introducing into the State anything like the Continental Sunday, where horse-racing, &c., is indulged in.
To avoid the Parliamentary bitterness which recently arose on the question of redistribution, we will adopt the Federal system of an automatic redistribution every ten years, providing for fair quotas to be fixed for both country and town and to enable the drift of population from one to the other to be adequately provided for, whichever way that drift may take place.
Reformation of Criminals.
The Government favours a more active policy for the reformation of young men and women convicted of crime. To implement this policy, it proposes, firstly, that reformatory prisons shall be under the control of persons with the necessary education qualification and experience to undertake this difficult task; that ample facilities for the general and technical education and for the proper employment of leisure shall be made, and that, secondly, modern buildings more in the nature of residential schools than prisons shall be provided for the accommodation of these young men and women who the authorities decide may respond to reformative treatment.
We will examine the system of forest prisons, which has been such a marked success in New South Wales and of which we have only one as an experiment in this State. It does appear to be medieval that we should cage offenders up in a place like Pentridge, excepting, of course, in the case of hardened criminals for whom no other form of treatment appears to be open. We feel that in our gaols large numbers of young, and possible first or second offenders, could be given a chance of reformation by the adoption of a system of forest prisons and engaging them on work such as afforestation, agriculture, &c.
The Government will subsidize appropriate bodies willing to establish hostels for the reception of youths who have spent their childhood in children's institutions and who are deemed suitable to engage in a course of study or to be apprenticed to a trade, but are unable to maintain themselves. The need of such hostels has been recognized for many years by all interested in child welfare work, and their lack has resulted in many children being sent to "dead end" occupations.
The Government is also willing to assist those organizations conducting children's homes to improve the standard of accommodation and service given.
PUBLIC SERVICE, TEACHERS, AND POLICE TRIBUNALS.
It is time that the vexed questions connected with these tribunals were permanently settled. The Government is determined that the continuous wrangling between the State as an employer and the bodies named as employees shall cease, impairing as it has done in the past the whole of the activities of the last Parliament. The Liberal, the Independent, and the Country members associated with me in the Government, who were responsible for the defeat of Mr. Dunstan, were largely actuated by the fact that they had given the most explicit pledges at the last election as to the constitution and freedom of action of any tribunals constituted and the question of long service leave, and also by the obstinate refusal of Mr. Dunstan to give way in any degree worth while on these and other matters, and by his calm assumption that they would be prepared to break their pledges at his request. It is safe to say that this attitude was the largest factor responsible for the present political situation. As Attorney-General, I have in the Law Department given instructions for the preparation of new Bills dealing with the bodies mentioned, which will be entirely different in two or three vital matters from the Bills introduced in respect of the Public Service and Teachers, and the one prepared for introduction in the case of the Police. There will therefore be no excuse for any Government which may be formed after the elections for not at once proceeding with these Bills and having them passed into law before Parliament rises at the end of this year. All three bodies and particularly the Police have rendered arduous and valuable service during the war and are entitled to a recognition of that fact. Moreover, surely it is in the public interest that the relation between the State and its employees should be placed on a footing as far as possible satisfactory to both, so that efficient service can be given and efficient government carried on. In the present disturbed position as between the State and its employees, neither is possible. As from 1st November, the Government will introduce a scheme for a five-day working week in respect of the public offices. This has been recommended by the Public Service Board and an assurance given to me by all the permanent heads that such a scheme is practicable without any inconvenience to the public or any additional expense. This will bring Victoria into line with the Department in the Commonwealth and in all the other States, where the system has been in operation for varying periods and is found to be quite satisfactory.
In addition, the Government has decided to recognize the fairness of the long-standing claim of the Police Force to have one day off in seven.
The Government realizes the need for a progressive policy of decentralization to bring about the balanced economic, industrial and rural development of the State and to provide for a better distribution of population throughout the State.
There has been appointed a Minister of Decentralization who will act as Chairman of the Industries Location Committee which, under the previous administration, had not been permitted to function in the manner originally intended.
Closely allied with the conduct of an effective policy of decentralization is that of regional planning whereby the State's resources can be utilized to give the maximum benefits possible. The State Regional Boundaries Committee has presented a valuable Report on Regional Boundaries.
The Government has now approved of the appointment of a State Planning Board, with the Minister of Decentralization as Chairman, and will also take action to set up the necessary administrative machinery and to appoint the Local Regional Committees.
The Government will continue to assist industries to become established outside the metropolitan area by-
- Locating industries as close as possible to the source of production of the raw materials of the industry;
- Granting substantial concession on rail freights to approved country industries - so that no approved country industry is charged more than the rate applicable to suburban transport;
- Introducing a uniform tariff for electricity throughout the State;
- Providing concessions on water charges so that the Melbourne rates will apply to approved country industries;
- Granting loans for building purposes at low rates of interest to approved new country industries;
- Granting free transport of plant and machinery from the metropolis to approved country location;
- Erection of houses in the country;
- Granting priorities for building of country factories and houses.
- Provision of finance and assistance in raising capital for approved new industries.
RURAL ELECTRICAL DEVELOPMENT.
Recognizing the great disability of those country residents now without a supply of electricity, the Government has determined that as an urgent measure every effort shall be made to progressively extend the State supply system to a maximum possible development.
To aid it in its post-war objectives, the State Electricity Commission has substantial reserves for rural development, and, further, the Government will assist the Commission to its utmost in overcoming the wartime arrears of rural electrification works. It realizes fully how great are the benefits of electricity to the country dwellers, and also that it is of first importance that a supply be available. As regards home amenities and farm services there is no greater encouragement to the man on the land or in the interests of decentralization than the availability of power, light and heat at the turn of a switch.
Heavy expenditure will be incurred on main transmission lines and local reticulations. Those erected to serve the most remote areas necessarily will be subsidized, and, consequently, it will be possible to keep such revenue guarantees as may be required of prospective consumers to an absolute minimum and at the same time safeguard the Commission's finances against heavy future losses.
The State by means of the recent drought and the resulting shortage of fodder throughout the State has been taught a long-forgotten lesson that to provide for such seasons there should be a sound scheme of fodder conservation. This will be at once attended to. Steps will be taken to strengthen the scientific and technical staff of the Department of Agriculture and to arrest the loss of trained personnel. To this end and to obtain personnel capable of carrying out research, investigational and advisory work in animal husbandry, the Government will increase the present grant to the School of Agriculture to enable the University to give a course of higher training in that subject. In order to enable the Veterinary Research Institute of the University to undertake additional investigations into diseases of livestock and their control, the grant to that institution will be increased.
The Government proposes to strengthen the instructional side of the work of the Department of Agriculture, especially the work of visual instruction carried out by the Cinema Branch. Increased equipment and staff will be provided for the purpose of expanding and strengthening the wheat improvement work of the Department of Agriculture. Special attention will be given to improving the milling and baking quality of wheat. As soon as possible, the field experimental work of the Department in pastures, cereals, and horticultural crops will be restored and extended. The work of developing the Potato Research Station at Toolangi will be proceeded with and a research orchard for apples and pears in the Southern districts will be established. It is the intention of the Government as soon as practicable to establish a Pig Recording Station designed to enable pig breeders to select the strains of pigs that are most commercially profitable. The work of T.B. testing of dairy cattle supplying whole milk for human consumption will be continued and extended and the formation of additional Herd Testing Associations will be vigorously encouraged. A revised scheme of pasteurization will be considered.
It is a most difficult matter to form even a very rough estimate of the damage being done to the State by the rabbit pest. On the basis of losses caused to graziers by the amount of grass eaten which would otherwise be available for sheep as against returns obtained from the disposal of rabbit skins and carcasses an amount of £250,000 per annum would be a conservative estimate of the damage being done each year by the rabbits. The loss occasioned by the destruction of ground cover in the mountainous water catchment areas, the amount of erosion caused by and the spread of noxious weeds brought about by the rabbits' selective feeding habits is incalculable, but would easily involve another £500,000 per annum.
The figures given above are too grave to be disregarded. The Government will set aside suitable areas for rabbit eradication experimental purposes and consult the best experts on the matter. The manufacture of wire-netting at Pentridge will be resumed and extended as soon as supplies of wire can be arranged.
The Government will prosecute a vigorous and progressive policy of forest conservation and development. Not only is forestry a prime factor in promoting decentralization but in relation to oil and water resources it is basic to the future prosperity of the State. It is also a valuable factor in providing employment. During the war supplies of imported timber were unavailable and the State forests have been intensively used for timber for war purposes and must be maintained even as making possible the housing programme of the State. As far as it is humanly possible the Government will completely safeguard the forests against fire. An extensive scheme of re-afforestation and regeneration will be introduced by the Forests Commission, which will be given every assistance by the strengthening of its professional staff so that maximum effectiveness can be achieved. The importance of tree-planting as a vital factor in controlling soil erosion is well recognized.
Accordingly the Government will give every encouragement to landholders, public bodies and others to extend their activities in this direction. The Government feels that the position of workers in the forests should have special consideration, isolated as they may be from their families for indefinite periods, and will ask the Forests Commission to introduce a scheme providing for additional amenities in the forests for workers and for homes for their families in adjoining townships to which workers can resort in the week-end.
Although the legislation creating this authority was passed by Parliament on 4th December, 1944, the implementation of the provisions of the Act has been left in a hopeless muddle by the Dunstan Government, and this in view of the fact that the bush fire season is rapidly approaching. The differences between and the spheres of the Bush Fire Brigades and the Country Fire Brigades have not been settled or defined. The Government is planning to overcome these difficulties as soon as possible so as to ensure a working scheme as distinct from a purely paper one.
WATER CONSERVATION AND IRRIGATION.
The Government recognizes that these subjects are vital to country areas, in fact to the whole of the people of the State, and will in every way press on with post-war work in accordance with the plans and surveys of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission prepared during the war for post-war works.
The National Works Council has already approved of large sums being expended by the Commission.
Similar considerations apply to the sewerage of country towns and to the provision of town water supply. Before large areas of land are merged for water conservation purposes the Government will have made full surveys of all tributaries of our larger rivers in order to determine the volume of water available.
Public Works Generally.
The post-war reconstruction programme of public works is an immense one, the National Works Council having approved on road and bridge works alone a sum amounting to £4,376,000. It would be impossible in a speech of this nature to go into details of the total programme. It is sufficient to say that whatever it involves the Goyernment will proceed with it with as great an expedition as is practicable.
The Government will subsidize country municipalities on the basis of at least £1 for £1 in respect of post-war works.
The importance of the gold-mining industry to the State is known to the Government. Every assistance will therefore be given to rehabilitate the industry following its almost total suspension since 1942 because of Commonwealth man-power requirements. The expansion of the industry will be encouraged by the resumption of the pre-war scheme of financial aid in the form of loans to companies and syndicates for approved developmental projects. Steps have been and are being taken to strengthen the geological staff to assist in the mining development of the State.
While the Commonwealth Government has decided to establish an aluminium industry in Tasmania, the State of Victoria, with extensive deposits of the highest grade of bauxite in Australia, is expected to provide the raw material. This Government considers that the process of converting the bauxite into aluminium oxide, for smelting in Tasmania, should be carried out in Victoria and is prepared to assist in the establishment of this section of the industry in the State.
Search for Oil.
The Government will continue to provide funds, on a £1 for £1 basis with the Commonwealth for the purpose of carrying out boring operations for oil in this State. At Nelson in Western Victoria, a bore is being put down and has already reached the record depth, for Australia, of 7,047 feet. Funds are also being provided for the continuation of the shaft-sinking operations undertaken at Lakes Entrance to test the possibility of the commercial production of oil in that district. The cost of the work, estimated at £200,000, is being shared by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments.
The Government will erect a Ministry of Labour, similar to the Ministry of Health, under which will be placed all matters which properly come under the heading of Labour and which are at present scattered over a number of different Departments. All questions of employment and unemployment, relations between employers and employees so far as these are affected by State law, the administration of the Workers' Compensation Act, and all questions of industrial hygiene, &c., will be placed under the new Ministry. I was advised in the Health Department that the schedule of industrial diseases requires revision and adding to, having regard to the new substances and processes evolved during the war. This Ministry should be a boon both to employers and employees.
The Government will co-operate in every way in the unification of the railway gauge throughout Australia, recognizing that whatever the expense involved this step is vital to the defence of Australia and to transport generally. Apart from this huge question the railway post-war programme is designed to improve travelling facilities throughout the State - the early duplication of certain suburban lines, extensive relaying of country tracks with welded rails, and the provision of modern locomotives and air-conditioned passenger cars. It will also be necessary to overtake arrears of maintenance and renewals which, because of materials and man power and the heavy demand for defence requirements, were deferred during the war years. Many of these works must of course be subject in their carrying out to whatever priority is accorded to the huge unification work.
Road and Air Transport.
With the lifting of National Security Regulations and other restrictions arising out of the shortage of liquid fuel, tires, &c., it should now be possible to plan for a progressive transport policy, designed to provide adequate transport facilities for both metropolitan and country areas. It is the Government's intention to bring all forms of transport, including air transport, under the control of one Minister and thus ensure that transport services will be properly co-ordinated. Proper planning of transport facilities will assist in decentralization and extend the system of cross-country services. Special attention will be given to providing transport services into new areas and other areas not adequately served at present.
The Government will reconsider the question of reserving suitable land at Fisherman's Bend, Port Melbourne, for the purpose of laying out an airport.
In conclusion I ask the people of the State to believe that the policy I have indicated in this speech is a modern and progressive one, designed to promote the greatest prosperity and happiness irrespective of class, creed, or any other distinction. We must all recognize that the world has changed, that new ideas and new thoughts are permeating the minds of the people. New ideas should not be condemned merely because they are new, but should be judged by their real merit or otherwise. I appeal to the electors of the State who hold ideas in common with those of the Government to organize and rally to our support. They can rest assured that this policy has been put forward in all sincerity and that we will not let them down.