House of Assembly: Vol2 - FRIDAY 9 MARCH 1962
For oral reply:
asked the Minister of Transport:
- (1) Whether the construction of any new overhead road bridges in the Durban area has commenced or is contemplated; if so, (a) where, (b) on what date did or will the work commence and (c) when is it expected to complete each bridge; and
- (2) whether any steps have been taken or are contemplated to expedite the construction or completion of these bridges; if so, what steps; if not, why not.
- (1) Yes.
- (i) Umgeni.
- (ii) Malvern.
- (iii) Merebank.
- (iv) Jacobs.
- (v) Avoca.
- (vi) Fynnland.
- (vii) Island View.
- (viii) Mount Vernon.
- (ix) Durban Old Fort Road.
- (x) On the freeway, National Route 2, to the South Coast (three bridges).
- (i) April, 1961.
- (ii) Work authorized but not yet commenced.
- (iii) to (viii) Still under consideration.
- (ix) About July, 1962.
- (x) Still in preliminary stage of planning.
- (i) July, 1962.
- (ii) Dependent on date of commencement of work.
- (iii) to (viii) Still under consideration; see (b) (iii) to (viii).
- (ix) December, 1963.
- (x) Dependent on the date of commencement of work.
- (2) Yes; in collaboration with the Durban City Council, the work has in some cases been let to private contract to expedite completion and, in others, consulting engineers have been engaged to prepare plans and contract documents.
asked the Minister of the Interior:
- (1) (a) How many applications from girls under the age of 16 years for permission to marry were received during each year from 1955 to 1961 and (b) how many were (i) granted and (ii) refused;
- (2) (a) how many such applications have been received from 1955 to date from persons who had completed a marriage ceremony and (b) how many were (i) granted and (ii) refused;
- (3) whether any decisions to refuse permission were subsequently reversed during this period; if so, how many; and
- (4) what is the nature of the investigation carried out before a decision is made in regard to such applications.
In respect of each year, respectively, 35, 39, 28, 28, 31, 43 and 56 applications were disposed of without submission to the Minister for various reasons, for instance, where the parties reached the required age shortly after receipt of the application.
- (a) 13.
- (i) 12.
- (ii) 1
- (3) Yes. 7.
- (4) The Department of Social Welfare and Pensions is asked to report on the domestic, social and financial position of the parties concerned and the necessity and desirability of the proposed marriage.
—Reply standing over.
asked the Minister of Transport:
- (1) Whether his attention has been drawn to an advertisement in Die Burger of 6 March 1962, in which an urgent appeal for assistance in connection with their roads is made on behalf of the inhabitants of Bushmanland and Namaqualand to, inter alia, the Government;
- (2) whether the Government will consider giving assistance to this area by the proclamation of new national or special roads; and
- (3) whether any other relief is contemplated; if so, what relief; if not, why not.
- (1) Yes.
- (2) No. Due to limited funds at its disposal and heavy capital programme commitments, the National Transport Commission is not in a position to shoulder further financial responsibilities.
- (3) No. My Department is only concerned with national and special roads. The roads in question are provincial roads and this matter should, therefore, be dealt with by Cape Provincial Administration.
Arising out of the reply of the hon. the Minister, does his “no” in reply to Question 3 also mean that there is no chance of further railway connections in Bushmanland?
Order! That is not relevant.
asked the Minister of Education, Arts and Science:
Whether his Department has considered making provision for scholarships for overseas post-graduate study to replace the loss of educational opportunity that will be suffered through the termination of South Africa’s participation in the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme; if so, what provision; and, if not, why not.
This whole question is the subject of negotiations at present and accordingly sub judice. I regret that I therefore cannot furnish the hon. member any information at this point.
Arising out of the reply, will the hon. the Minister let me know when his negotiations have been completed?
The hon. member will hear in due time.
—Reply standing over.
asked the Minister of Social Welfare and Pensions:
- (1) Whether his Department has investigated the case of a girl of under 16 years of age who went through a form of marriage in a Krugersdorp church during November 1961, and was subsequently refused permission to marry by the Minister of the Interior; if so, what steps have been taken or are contemplated by his Department;
- (2) whether the girl has been committed to a place of safety and detention; if so, for what reasons;
- (3) whether an inquiry in the Children’s Court has been held; if so, (a) when and (b) with what result; if not, when will an inquiry be held; and
- (4) whether his Department has received any representations in regard to the case; if so, (a) from whom, (b) what was the nature of the representations and (c) what is his attitude in regard to these representations.
- (1) Yes. Children’s Court proceedings in terms of Section 30 of the Children’s Act, 1960, have been instituted in respect of the girl. The inquiry has, however, been postponed from time to time because the girl applied to the Minister of the Interior for consent to marry.
- (2) Yes, because there is reason to believe that she is a child in need of care and is in need of protection until the Children’s Court has given its decision.
- (3) The inquiry by the Children’s Court has not been completed. The matter is therefore sub judice.
- (a) Yes, by the attorney for the parties, the mother, the girl and the person with whom she went through a form of marriage.
- (b) Representations were made for the reconsideration of the application for consent to marry.
- (c) The decision does not rest with me.
For written reply
asked the Minister of Justice:
Whether any additional prisons and/or places of detention were established during 1961; and, if so, (a) how many, (b) where and (c) what number and (d) what class of offenders can be accommodated in each.
- (a) Nine prisons.
(b) Robben Island.
- (c) and (d):
- Robben Island—150 non-White male prisoners.
- Vereeniging—(i) 22 White male and 253 non-White male prisoners; (ii) seven White female and 144 non-White female prisoners.
- Leeuwkop—(i) 700 non-White male prisoners; (ii) 72 non-White male prisoners (open institution).
- Kroonstad—130 White male and 360 non-White male prisoners.
- Patensie—310 non-White male prisoners.
- Brits—100 non-White male prisoners.
- Wentworth—300 non-White male prisoners.
Sir, what I am going to say here to-day, I say in a constructive spirit, and if my criticism of any present services are viewed in any light at all, I would like them to be viewed in the light of constructive criticism and not destructive criticism.
One of society’s greatest problems not only in our own country but throughout the world is the ever-increasing burdens placed on individuals and on the State to combat and overcome ill-health. The problems facing us today are greater than they were in years gone by and they will not easily be solved, but if they are tackled now and tackled energetically, I feel that at the very least we can lighten the burden that is placed on the individual considerably. I do not think that money alone can solve this problem. I think there has to be a willingness on the part of all sections of the community to work together to solve the problem that faces us at the moment. We have to have co-operation between the individual, the State, the doctors, the chemists, the nursing profession and the provincial services. At the moment there is some loose link existing between these present organizations, but I feel the time has come when we have to correlate those things which we have to-day and get the best out of them; that we should make them work efficiently and make them work in such a way that all people who wish to enjoy the benefits of medical science and the benefits that the Government can give them will be able to have some stake firstly in what they are working for and secondly some assurance of security for the future.
Now, Sir, what are the problems? Firstly, there is the problem that faces the individual when he gets ill. There is the pain and the suffering and the anxiety that go with illness; secondly, the patient, if he is an adult, has to consider the cost of the illness and thirdly, he has the additional anxiety, if he is the wage-earner, which goes with loss of earnings during an illness, but he also has the fear that because of the illness he may possibly lose his employment. This anxiety of the patient is one of the great problems that we have to face. Many of the mental ills and the psychosomatic diseases are already associated in some way or another with financial difficulties. When the person who is ill has the additional anxiety of not knowing whether he is going to be able to afford to pay for his illness, I feel that his basic troubles will be aggravated during the period of treatment and will not respond to treatment as he would if he had a clear mind and knew that come what may he would be assured of being able to meet the expense of the illness. Sir, I do not think that the minor illnesses that we find in a home—the everyday coughs and colds and the little infectious fevers—present any great problems. I do not think they are probems which we cannot meet in our ordinary every-day life, and I think that they can quite easily be met by some pre-paid medical insurance. It is the major illnesses which constitute the great problem, and here we are faced with the difficulties which have come to the individual through the advancement of medical science. Not very long ago a major illness very often was met by a general practitioner or even a specialist with the phrase, “ I am sorry, I cannot do more for you ”, and very often the patient was left to die. His pain and suffering were alleviated but his chances of recovery, his chances of being put back into an active and productive life, up to just a few years ago, were virtually nil. With the advancements which have been made; with the new techniques in surgery and with the new medicines which have been discovered, we find that the hopeless case to-day is not viewed in the same light in which it was viewed some years ago but that every hope is given not only to cure the disease, not only to keep the person alive but to keep that person an active citizen. These techniques which have been evolved, especially in the field of surgery, require a team of workers, special facilities in the hospitals, special accommodation in the wards, special drugs, special nursing and naturally a special, a very special banking account. How can the ordinary individual today face an operation in the case of a child who has to have the chest opened and the heart operated on? We have all read of the miraculous cures which have been made in recent years in heart surgery, but I want the House to know that it is not one person who does the operation; he has a team of experts to assist him, men who are specially trained in that field of surgery, and they work for hours and hours a day doing one single operation. Can you imagine what the bill at the end of the operation is like? How is it possible for the individual, who is a working man at even R40 a week, which is considered to be a good wage to-day, to meet such an emergency? But it is not only in those fields of surgery that we find increased expenses with the new techniques; there are many other fields. From the head to the toe there are new methods of approach, new ways of treating disease, new ancillary services and new expenses. Those are the problems that not only face the individual and the family but those problems of payment have to be met and faced by the existing schemes of Medical Aid Societies. Sir, is the present medical aid system capable of facing up to this type of expense? Have they got to make special provisions and set aside certain sums for this type of emergency? Fortunately it is not an everyday occurrence but it may quite easily be, and for that one reason alone—the difficulty of the individual and the difficulty of the existing medical aid societies and the existing benefit societies—I say that investigation, and correlation after the investigation should be done so that the problem can be met more easily. The State has its own problems, and what the individual has to meet in his own private capacity, the State now has to meet perhaps one hundredfold, because in its organizations as they are set up to-day, in the provincial hospitals and some of the Government hospitals, we find that greater time is needed for these operations, for the special techniques, bigger staffs are required, and the doctors who are employed by the State have got to reach certain stages of speciality before they can undertake this type of work. So it means that not only is the State faced with the additional expenditure for this work, but also they are facing a risk of not being able to provide sufficient staff to do the work. We are fortunate in this country, Mr. Speaker, that we have got in the medical profession and in the nursing profession a band of people who are willing to learn, to go overseas and learn the best techniques, and I am happy to say that in the main they are true South Africans, and the true South African doctor after he has got as much knowledge as he possibly can get, as much knowledge as he can gain from overseas techniques, is only too pleased to come back to our country and work here for us. To those people who have done that, I think, we in this country owe a great debt of gratitude. Because not only have they gone over and learned, but to-day those very same people are the teachers of the younger group of medical practitioners. So that the State then has got a further burden, a further problem to meet, and the State must make sure that we produce sufficient medical men in this country who are able to learn the technique that the others are able to teach them. Not only must we have a first-class team of specialists, but we must make sure that we have sufficient of the general practitioner type of doctors. With the increase in population, the State has got one further problem. As things are at the moment, the wage structure being what it is, are the people in the lower income groups able to pay for any kind of medical assistance? That requires some sort of investigation, but you will find, Sir, that as costs go up, and they are ever-increasing as the hon. Minister knows, bigger and bigger demands for free treatment from a larger and larger group of people. How is this going to be met? Will it be met in the hospitals, will it be met by the district surgeons? If my information is right, the district surgeons are already inundated with work. Those doctors who are district surgeons on the platteland for instance, have got to travel miles and miles today to see a handful of patients. There are not enough hours a day for them to get their work done. They are willing to do their work. And in the hospitals in the towns where individuals go to the hospital because they cannot afford private treatment, we get an unavoidable state of affairs which we of the medical profession feel very unhappy about—long queues of people waiting to be attended by the doctors on duty. One tries one’s best in hospitals to accommodate as many people per day as possible and to give the best possible treatment, and they do get very good treatment. But, Sir, can we imagine what the individual who is ill feels like, after he has travelled with a sick body from his home, by bus or by tram, to the hospital, and then has to wait to pass through the portals at the entrance where it is determined whether or not he is able to pay something towards the cost. Then he has to wait until a file is made out for him and a card is made out for him. Then he takes his place again in the queue and awaits the attention of a doctor. These are unavoidable waits. Those of use who are in practice still know how long a patient waits in a busy consulting room. It is unavoidable. But how can we make things easier for the individual? Surely the method would be to try one’s best that where necessary one should be able to send a doctor to the patient. If it is found impossible, then for the patient to go to the hospital.
Let us consider the question of an old-age pensioner who is ill. Let us take that man as an example. He probably falls in the lowest scale of income. The old man who is a pensioner gets ill with a cough, and he says “Well, I can’t get a doctor, I can’t afford to pay a doctor. What shall I do?” He takes, very often something from his meagre pension, and goes to a chemist and buys a bottle of cough mixture in the hope that it will cure him. Well, old people very often get worse. They do require medical attention. And things develop rapidly. In a matter of days they urgently require medical attention. Can that pensioner get a doctor to come and attend him? I know from my own experience that doctors would be willing to go and not charge these people at all. We have done it all this time, over and over again, day after day; but we do not want to continue doing it, not because we do not want to give the service, but primarily because of the other demands on us. So we say: How can this person get in touch with a district surgeon for attention? And there the scheme very often breaks down. There is no connecting link. These people very often don’t even know that they can get that sort of attention, and it is only through the advice, very often, of the attending general practitioner that he learns that he can get district surgeon service. Otherwise if his illness justifies it, he is sent to the hospital by the doctor. But there is such a demand for beds in the hospitals that a casualty officer who meets what he considers not a serious illness, has got no compunction whatever to send that man back home again with a bottle of medicine and a box of tablets. They may be first-class tablets, they may have given the right bottle of medicine, but the man goes back to his room again and he lies there and he does not get better. He has to get out of his sickbed again and make another attempt to get into hospital. And remember that these people are not living next door to a hospital. They have to travel, and very often they find it almost impossible to pay the small transport charge from their own rooms to the hospital.
Then we go to the problem of the individual who has got a family and has got to meet illness there. To some extent the same thing applies. Minor illnesses he is very often able to meet, but when it comes to the major illnesses, he is faced with one or two alternatives. Either he gets in a doctor and he decides beforehand that he is going to pay what he possibly can, and that is all he can do, or alternatively, he is going to seek admission into a hospital. Now that is not easy, because in the Transvaal and in the Cape and in Natal and in the Free State you cannot just walk into a hospital if you are earning a certain amount of money. You have got to pay towards it. But what I have read I think is correct: In the Transvaal only a small percentage of the working population are admitted into hospitals. I read the other day in an article in the Transvaler that in Pretoria there is an amount of more than Rl,750,000 owing to the hospital by patients who have already left the hospital. That amount is still owing to the hospital by patients who have received treatment and gone out of the hospital and who have failed to pay their accounts. That is another problem we are faced with. These are all problems that the individual is faced with or the State is faced with. What can we do to; alleviate this state of affairs? We have in existence to-day several methods of help. We have the benefit society schemes, the medical aid schemes and we have got the private insurance schemes, and then we have that group of people who have practically no problem facing them at all and those are the people that the State looks after, the people in the services, the soldier, the sailors, the airmen, the police. They are looked after by the State and their problems are not very great.
Now I come again to the benefit societies. Here we have got a scheme that has been in existence for well over 50 years and it consists of a method whereby the employer ensures his workers against illness and he insures the family of the worker at the same time. In its way it is a good scheme, but it has its drawbacks. One of the big drawbacks of the medical benefit society is the fact that there is no choice of doctor, that the individual who belongs to the benefit society has a limited panel of doctors from whom to choose, that there are very often limitations in prescription and very often limitations in the type of hospitalization. But they do make a very great contribution to the welfare of the individual who is a member, and there are many of these people belonging to a benefit society, and the benefit societies which are at present in vogue are those run by the mines, Iscor, the Johannesburg Municipality and certain other groups. Those are closed panels, there are limitations of prescription and hospital facilities. Then you have the insurance companies. They insure people against illness on a business basis. You pay so much to an insurance company and you get certain benefits. They have their conditions which are laid down beforehand, and if you want to abide by those conditions, good and well. They say, for instance, that if you pay so much a month, we will pay so much towards your illness, and if you want us to pay the doctor, we will pay the doctor what we consider a fee adequate for the services rendered. We say that you cannot get any insurance before you have established yourself with the association over a trial period. In other words, you may be paying for two or three months, without receiving any benefits. It is not a very popular system and I am not so sure that it is a very good system, but it is available to people who want it and if those people subscribe tb that system, it is their business; they do it voluntarily and nobody is going to ask them to leave it and nobody is going to force them to join.
And now we come to what I consider the most popular and the best system. That is the medical aid system. Here we have a growing group of people who for the good of their fellow-workers have banded themselves together to provide a service for those people who wish to join. The medical aid societies charge a fee and for that fee they give a service. They are able to negotiate with the medical associations, the pharmaceutical societies and get preferential tariffs for their subscribers. The medical aids are run on a voluntary basis, and the only amounts of money that are deducted from the subscriptions are the amounts that are required for administrative purposes. We find that on the whole the close on 200 medical aid societies that we have in South Africa to-day, almost 180 of these, are associated in some way or other with the medical association, who in turn have given these medical aid societies their blessing. They are good, they are very good. The doctors are satisfied, the patients are satisfied and because of the value to our community I feel that the time has come for us to correlate all the goodness that these medical aid societies have brought to us, that we must find some sort of uniformity; that we must ascertain how it is possible to run these societies as economically as possible and yet at the same time give to the subscribers as much as possible. I feel that, from the investigations that I have made, the time has come for our state, our Government, to take a hand in helping these medical aid societies, not directly—that I don’t think anybody will advocate, but help can be given directly to the subscriber. That is the importance of having a state medical aid scheme and a scheme whereby the subscriber is helped to contribute to a medical aid scheme. I want to make myself perfectly clear. I want to say that nobody in South Africa, I feel, who has considered the problem carefully wants a state medical scheme. We don’t want medicine to be nationalized here: We want freedom for the individual to choose who shall attend him in his illness. We want freedom of the individual to choose who shall receive his contributions and we want freedom of the individual to be able to say to whom he will go and where he will go when he gets ill. These are very, very important considerations and I don’t think there is any doctor practising in South Africa to-day who would agree to a state medical service, and I don’t think our Government would sponsor such a service. What we want is a building up of the existing facilities. We want those facilities encouraged to grow and to give more and more facilities to more and more people. But, Mr. Speaker, the lower income groups are finding it more and more difficult to join these benefit societies, and as the fees for treatment go up, in whatever branch it is, so we will find that the demands on the individual will grow, and instead of the membership of these medical aid societies growing, we will find that many will have to fall by the wayside because the individual cannot afford his subscription. So what I would like is for the Minister to consider carefully whether the time has not come for our Government to assist the individual who subscribes to the existing medical aid societies. I have heard some fantastic stories about the cost of such a scheme for the Government. But I know, and some of my colleagues here will agree with me, that you can get a very good service, probably as good as anywhere in the world for a monthly contribution of R8 for a family. We have got a population of 3,000,000 Whites. Let us say that represents 1,000,000 families. That means that if a contributor pays R8 per month for himself and his family, the income derived by the medical aid societies, if all were insured, would be R8,000,000 per month, R96,000,000 per annum. Now if the Government would contribute R for R, it would mean that the Government would have to contribute R48,000,000 per annum and the subscribers would have to contribute R48,000,000. But remember that this is a voluntary scheme and we will not have as many people as that contributing and the cost to the Government would not be as high as that, because from the 1,000,000 families we have to deduct those who are in the services, those who. are being accommodated free board and lodging in the various prisons (quite a lot) and those who are unable to pay any form of contribution to the scheme because they just have not got the money to pay—the pensioners, the lower income groups. I said it was a voluntary scheme and there is no reason as far as I can see for the million families to be made up not only of White people …
Where will the money go?
I am coming to that. But I am saying that it should not only be available to the White people, but if a Coloured in the Cape region should wish to join the medical aid scheme, he should be allowed to do so, and if the Indians in Natal wish to join, they should be allowed to do so. But remember that it is not going to be a uniform Scheme, so that there would not be a fixed contribution. The lower income group would still perhaps be able to pay less than the upper group, but those are details which I do not want to go into, because we would only get ourselves tied up. But I would like to say that broadly speaking we could get a first-class service for 1,000,000 families if the individual contributed R48,000,000 per annum, and the Government contributed R48,000,000. Now the hon. member for Vanderbijlpark has asked me where that money will go. That money would go where it goes now, in the main to the existing medical aid schemes. I for instance would like to join Scheme X, the hon. member for Vanderbijlpark would join Scheme Z. It may be a matter of convenience. It may be better for me to join a scheme that is established in the Cape than for me to join a scheme that is established in the Transvaal. So there would be the schemes in the various provinces and they would remain established under the Friendly Societies Act. There would be no danger of any squandering of money. They have been in existence voluntarily, they are rendering services. Now once you get the help from the Government in a matter of this kind, automatically one would say “Well, the Government will take over control”. I don’t think so. That should never be necessary. I for one would never suggest that such a scheme should be brought into being without the watchful eye of the Government over the distribution of the money. So that committees should be established in the various provinces consisting of individuals elected by the contributors, by the medical aid associations, by the medical associations, by the pharmaceutical associations, and these people should be there to keep a watchful eye on the organizations and help them to run their affairs properly but without too much interference. It will not be easy. None of the things that come into existence find it easy at the beginning. We know from experience that for 15 years the Medical Association has agreed that medical aids are running their affairs efficiently. And those medical aids that do not run their affairs efficiently fall by the wayside, but every few have done that. They continue to grow; they grow with difficulty, but they grow for one reason and that is that there is a demand for help and people are willing to take their last penny and subscribe to medical aid societies. I am concerned, Sir, with those people who cannot afford R8 per month to ensure the health of their families. It is for those people primarily that it becomes so important for the Government to step in and give assistance.
I am not afraid of the bogey that some medical people are afraid of that all the rich people of the country will join these medical aid societies, grab what they can and pay as little as possible.
They will join.
If they want to why shouldn’t they? But I know what the rich people are, like. They want their own doctor, they want, the prescription written in such a way that they are absolutely certain that it is the correct thing. In my own practice, Mr. Speaker, I have had people coming to me and saying: “Doctor, please don’t write your prescription on the Benefit Society form; give.it to me privately”. They honestly and truly think. that writing a prescription on a piece of my private paper is far more safe than the one which, is written on the Benefit Society form. People have these ideas. When the rich man goes into hospital he becomes very important. All his friends know he has gone in. He wants a private ward; he; wants a telephone; he wants flowers; he wants a day nurse arid a night nurse; he wants his business associates to contact him in the hospital. He has become; a very important person during that time. He. does not want one doctor, he is not satisfied with his family doctor’s diagnosis, no, he wants a consultant and then he wants a second consultant. And what does his wife say at the tea table: “What do you think? He is terribly ill. He had four doctors to-day.” Everybody says: “Is that so? Tell us all about it” and so it goes on till it becomes quite a business. Do you think a man like that is going to join a medical aid and that he is going to go into a general ward? Never. There is no danger of that happening. A number of my colleagues are going to be afraid that the high fees that they have charged in the past will not come to them if people are allowed to join medical aid societies. My own associates would like to see a set-up where people earning more than £2,500 per annum should not be allowed to join medical aid societies. Psychology being what it is there is no real danger of the very rich man wanting to join a medical aid scheme. Because he thinks it is something inferior. He still wants to say: “I had to pay 250 guineas for my wife’s operation”. He wants to brag about how much money he has paid and what it has cost him. I am not concerned about those people. I am concerned about the little man with a family of five or six who is afraid that anybody in the family should get ill. That is the person that I want to see helped more than anybody else. If the others want to come into the scheme let them do so.
Mr. Speaker, I have bundles of notes here, but I do not think it is necessary for me to go through them all. I have been speaking for nearly three-quarters of an hour, but I just want to read what Lord Cohen of Birkenhead said recently. He is a leading man of the medical profession in England and he said this a year or two ago—
He said that in England upon the introduction of a national health scheme. I have said that we do not like it. I am talking for myself but I am also talking for a number of my colleagues. But if he as a leader of the medical profession can say that, as far as State medical scheme is concerned, how much more pleasant would it be for this country if we had a voluntary scheme in which the individual was helped by the Government. I do not want to elaborate and keep telling you what good things will come of it. But let me just briefly reiterate that the cost will not be prohibitive, that the existing services which we have can be built up by this scheme, that the Government will still be required to give assistance and virtually run those services which it runs at the moment such as the mental health services, the infectious diseases services, the vaccination services. All those services must be continued by the Government. Only later when the time is ripe, will they be included in a medical aid scheme. But there is one branch which I mentioned first, namely the mental disease service, which has become so integrated in our ordinary health, where we are finding it difficult to separate the one from the other, that they will very soon have to be bracketed with normal health and normal ill-health. Medical aid schemes will have to look after those people. I have said, Sir, that the cost is within the reach of the individual if he is helped and I do not think that it is going to be a bad investment for this Government to assist the individual to maintain this scheme, to get it to grow, to get more people to join it, because in turn we will have a healthier country, we will have a better and healthier working force and the Government will recoup itself not only in respect of the loss it suffers to-day in the loss of manhours because of illnesses which are not properly treated, but financially a great deal of the money which the Government pays to the individual to join the medical aid scheme will come back to it, it will be paid back into the coffers of the provinces through the hospital schemes. It will not be a case of giving the money to the individual and getting nothing back.
Before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, let me just say one thing. We must not confuse the high cost of medical treatment to-day with the apparent high cost of drugs. That is only one branch. I for one do not believe that the chemists are making such fortunes in serving drugs to the public as is commonly believed. You know, Mr. Speaker, the changes that are taking place day by day in antibiotics alone and the number of new antibiotics that come on to the shelves of the chemist shops, are becoming almost fantastic. Drugs are put on to the shelf at the beginning of the year and by June of that year they are already out of fashion. And the chemist is left with those drugs on his shelves. The wholesaler does not take them back and a lot of them become dated and useless. I have been told over and over again that the chemist shops are just like bazaars to-day, they sell everything. Well, I do not think for one moment that a professional man is going to sell toys in his chemist shop if he did not have to do that to keep going. When we talk about the profits made by chemists on their drugs you cannot compare that with the profits made by a dress shop or a shoe shop. If the shoe shop or the dress shop has an accumulation of clothes or shoes on its racks it has a sale. Do you think a chemist can have a sale of drugs, Sir? Do you think he can start selling drugs at half price? So what happens? They go down the drain. Both of them sometimes—the chemist and the drug. I think too much stress is being laid on the fact that drugs cost a great deal of money to-day. It is not the chemist’s fault entirely that antibiotics cost so much. The manufacturers say: “I have spent millions of pounds on research. You in your country, in South Africa, have no research projects as far as drug manufacture is concerned. You get the benefits of what we have done in America or Germany or Switzerland. So you must pay.” A great many of these drugs, when they have been perfected, are sold under permit, under licence. That gives the manufacturer the right for 15 years or more, I think, to charge what he likes during that period. I am speaking from memory but I think when penicillin was first introduced we paid 27s 6d for 100,000 units and to-day we pay 2s for three million units. The price has come down because that period of protection that the manufacturer had has expired. There is competition, the know-how has been spread to other companies. The price has fallen from 27s 6d for 100,000 units to 2s per three million units. So you have it all along the line. I think three years ago aureomycin cost R7 for 16 capsules, to-day it is R4 for 16 capsules. They are bringing down the cost, but we in South Africa pay; we are paying higher prices than they do overseas because we have not got the facilities for our own research workers to produce these drugs. While we are importing them we have got to pay for the privilege. So remember. Sir, the cost of drugs, however high it may seem on the face of it, is not because the chemist has been making fantastic profits. But there is a gradual tendency of increases in prices throughout the service. Before the war a doctor’ fee for a visit was 10s 6d, R1.5c. Today it is R2.50c. I do not know what my colleague from Durban (Central) (Dr. Radford) charges, but I think his fees have gone up 100 per cent. I am not sure but he will tell us presently. He is in the upper income bracket. The same is the case of hospitalization. The costs there have gone up. Theatre fees have gone up etc. So do not say that if you can bring down the cost of a prescription the problem will be solved. That is not the problem. The problem is this that the people are not earning enough to-day in the middle income bracket to pay for an efficient medical service. That is the crux of the matter. And to provide an efficient medical service we need help. Assistance is being given at the moment by the Medical Aid Association and their medical aid societies. We now want the Government to help by giving a contribution equal to that which is paid by the subscriber.
Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry that, when a matter such as this is under discussion, the attendance in the House should be so sparse. We know that there are two or three Select Committees sitting who have taken a number of the members away. But let me say this, Sir. To me. legislation of this kind, when introduced, is of the greatest importance. It is time that we in this House should remember that the welfare of the people is of far greater importance than some of the legislation that is put through this House and gets a full attendance because it happens to have the added attraction of noise. To me. Sir, this is what the country wants. That is the reason why I have spoken here to-day and that is why it gives me great pleasure to move this motion.
I second. Mr. Speaker. My colleague, the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher), has outlined very eloquently the skeleton of the scheme. At the moment it is only a skeleton and should be regarded as such. I do not propose to fill in the flesh on the bones, but rather to join him in advocating that such a scheme should be seriously considered by the Government.
Before doing so, Sir, I look around the House and I remember last Friday when we were faced here with a horde of attackers pointing out to us the grave mistakes of the medical profession. To-day not one of those attackers is here in the House to give us a chance to show to some extent the unselfish nature of the profession to which I have the honour to belong, a profession, Sir, to which every man in this House owes a great debt, particularly for the communal work which the profession has provided. Every time hon. members drink a glass of water they should say: Thank God the medical profession has seen to it that we get clean and healthy water. The milk supplies of the country, the sanitation of the country, the good and clean food of the country, the personal hygiene of the country, all these are matters which are the result of great discoveries most, Sir, by that great surgeon, Lord Lister, who pointed out that it was the germs with which we walk this earth and which we carry with us that cause contamination. We have the communal service of the tuberculosis service; we have the communal service to deal with infectious diseases. All these, Sir, are State projects fathered by the medical profession. And now we come forward because we feel that the one field which has to some extent been neglected, the one field in which the State has let the policy of laissez faire perhaps go too far, is the field of the personal health of the individual. We feel that the time has come, as so many other countries have found, when the State must step in and try to provide a health service. Great Britain, as my colleague pointed out, introduced a national health service scheme in 1948. Other countries such as New Zealand, have done the same. But I do not think that this country can possibly carry a type of service of that character. We must, therefore, look around and see what we can do, what we can suggest to make provision. Provision that will give to the individual citizen the freedom to consult a doctor without considering the cash and which will remove from medical practice much of the mercenary element which circumstances have forced it to introduce over the last 50 years.
One of the great movements in this country, one which some of us at times perhaps view with a little suspicion and doubt, is the great co-operative movement which government, all governments, have from time to time introduced into the life of this country. Co-operation in trade, co-operation in farming, cooperation in carrying fruit, etc. and selling it. And this, Sir, is a scheme of co-operation; a scheme fathered and helped and supported, we hope, by the State, but carried through by those who partake of it on the one hand and the doctors and the nurses and the various ancillaries of medical service on the other hand. Any scheme of this nature must have Some form of local control. My own experience in practice over many years with this type of society has taught me that there will always be complaints. There will always be difficulties. There will always be local conditions which vary from one place to another and so this scheme must in general follow the principle of co-operation, and local co-operation. My experience has taught me that in general the public do not grumble about their contribution. It is curious that they grumble about most things they have to pay for but they rarely grumble about the contributions to their sick fund. For very many years I was the senior surgeon for the Railways and Harbours in the Natal system and I heard grumbles right and grumbles left, grumbles about conditions of service, grumbles about pay, grumbles about sick leave, grumbles of all kinds but I cannot recall one man grumbling about the deduction which was made for his sick fund. I go further and say that individuals, faced with a long illness in the family will deliberately join the Railways in order to enjoy the benefit of its sick fund. I am speaking about things I know. A married man who has a child born with club feet will leave his job and take a job with the Railways because he knows he is faced with a long expensive treatment for that child. When a husband has exhausted his funds on a querulous and complaining wife he will join the sick fund so that he can at least say to her: Go and see the sick fund doctor. It is a god-send to those people who are faced with long illnesses to be able to feel that they are not going to be faced with high expenses.
Any scheme will be faced with certain problems which must be foreseen. In the first place, nearly all the existing schemes consist of selected individuals. On the Railways, for instance, the man is sent for a medical examination before he is accepted for employment. Admittedly his family is not examined. An effort was made for some time by doctors to have the wife examined before employing the husband. However, that was never accepted by the sick fund authorities and I must say in my younger years I was inclined to agree that it was hardly right that the sick fund should dictate to whom a man should be married. But the fact remains that these sick funds consist of selected persons. Even individuals who enter the banks, although they are not examined, are questioned about their health. But they are young and if they are not healthy individuals they soon fall by the wayside. The bank gets rid of them and so they get out of that particular benefit society. Any State scheme will be faced with the problem of an extra load, an extra load of people who have failed to enter the existing schemes. The tendency will be for the better lives to go into the existing schemes. That is just one aspect to which I wish to draw attention. I agree with my colleague on my right when he said that the expense would not be high. I believe that on a very moderate cost—I would not venture to consider the actual figure; because there are more well people than there are sick people, and the well people pay for those who become ill—such a scheme could be introduced. That is the whole basis of the scheme. The scheme is that the unfortunates who fall ill are carried on the backs of those who do not fall ill, and there must be some benefit in it because companies like the S.A. Mutual Insurance and Sanlam have gone in for this type of insurance. They are offering insurance, although they did not have very happy experiences in the beginning and they are complaining. But that does not alter the fact that they went in for it and that when they have overcome their teething difficulties, which are quite understandable, they will make a profit and they will not desert this type of insurance. Therefore, it cannot be quite so expensive as many people believe. But sick insurance with insurance companies, except for these two companies and a few others, is not a very happy thing. Most of these schemes are based on Lloyds, and Lloyds will not issue any policy for longer than a year. Therefore, the average man who takes out insurance for illness finds that when he has a grave illness the company pays; they carry him through his illness and they are honest, but next year they do not accept him again. So, in his real need, at the time when it really becomes necessary, he finds that what he thought was a prop has been taken away, and in addition to that the insurance company will not carry him beyond a certain age, somewhere in the region of 65, just when this sort of care becomes necessary. But they are business people and one cannot altogether blame them. It is a great pity that the hon. member for Green Point (Maj. van der Byl) was not here when I mentioned the S.A. Mutual.
That is why I rushed in.
Anyhow, if we have any scheme at all, it must be a comprehensive scheme which offers all services, it cannot be, as was suggested by my colleagues, a limited scheme in some respects. There can be no limit. We must assume that in any scheme of this nature the individual is cared for from conception to the grave. I deliberately mention “conception” because so many of these schemes exclude maternity benefits, and that is one of the most vital matters that must be included. It cannot be applied to the whole country because there are too many believers in witchcraft, some even members of this House, as we heard last Friday. [Laughter.] But there are sufficient people among the wage-earners who earn sufficient to keep such a scheme going. It will be welcomed, I am sure, by all wage-earners, and it will replace many bad schemes. Because there are bad schemes in existence, mostly schemes introduced by individual industries or factories, because there they introduce the policy of having a salaried doctor. Now, far be it from me to consider that a salary is a bad thing for anyone, or that it detracts from the value of the doctor, but when the impression that the doctor makes on the administration is more important than that which he makes upon the patient, you begin to get bad doctors. When a doctor, as he is sometimes, is influenced perhaps to keep a man at work or to keep him away from work for the convenience of his employer, then there are evils which are difficult to avoid, because the doctor is paid by the owners of the factory. Further, if you have a salaried service you change competition between doctors for patients into competition to avoid patients. Any service must be comprehensive, and here I agree with my colleague that the mental service, up to the point of certification, somehow or other should be included. The time has come, as I have said before in this House, when the mentally ill should walk through the same gate as the man suffering from the ordinary physical ailment, so that to start with there is no stigma and no fear, and at the same place such services can be supplied. I hope, in passing, that the promise which was made last session by the introduction of the Mental Health Bill has been as successful as the hon. the Minister of Health had hoped. The effect on the public will be enormous and the effect on the doctors will be even greater. They will no longer feel handicapped by the fact that the patient will be worried about cash payments. The health workers will probably be given better conditions to work under and fair rewards for their work according to their professional qualifications, responsibility and ability. Profęssional freedom and professional discretion and professional education should be available to all health workers. At present the doctor is forced by the system of vicious circles to be a slave of circumstances. He works hard and studies for six years, or perhaps more, after he leaves school. He walks the wards for pocket money and at the age of 25 he comes into the world without money. If he wants to be a general practitioner he has to burden himself with a great deal of expenses for transport and consulting rooms, and if he wants to be a specialist he is faced with another five years of hard study. For this he hopes to get a reasonable reward and by a scheme of this nature in which a moderate return is guaranteed in a co-operative effort, a scheme by which he will realize that he has at least a modicum of returns coming in every month, he will break the shackles of the awful conditions under which he works. The main benefit will come to the individuals and to the State. And the State will benefit in another way.
It has appeared from services in other countries that statistics of diseases are compiled in this type of service, because the certification necessary indicates the disease and the benefit societies, finding perhaps a constantly recurring disease, draw the attention of the authorities to it and investigation is carried out. This has been most noticeable in the United Kingdom. In the first medical services introduced in Britain by Lloyd George in 1911, the national health insurance for workmen, it was found that the greatest loss of working time was due to a type of influenza, and that led to investigation which is still continuing. But now, out of this new 1948 health scheme, it is emerging that rheumatism of various types is the commonest illness that occurs in Britain, and the result has been that the British health authorities have turned the best brains to finding ways and means of dealing with rheumatism. They have established centres in the great cities where sufferers can receive treatment from specialists in this disease, and they have established particular centres at places like Harrogate, where there is a spa, and these people receive great relief with the result that to-day England, from being a country considered very poor in the treatment of rheumatic diseases, is the leader in the field, much to the surprise of the great watering-places on the Continent of Europe.
Another great advantage is that doctors see the patients earlier. Patients come along sometimes, we think, with rather trivial complaints and it disturbs us, but with patience and observation we realize that these people, even though they come along with what seem to be trivial complaints, are coming earlier with the genuine complaints they have. Instead of first trying the family medicine chest and ultimately getting so ill that it is difficult to do much for them, they come earlier, sometimes so early that we cannot diagnose them and have to put them off for a few days to see what is incubating. It is a great advantage from the point of view of absenteeism from work that people should be encouraged to come in the early stages when we can still do something for them and perhaps eradicate a disease which, if untreated, will ultimately kill them.
The main thing in any scheme of this nature is that here should be a free choice of doctor. I know that this is regarded by many as a fetish of the doctors, and of course in some cases it is quite impossible. In a village with one doctor, well, there is only one doctor, and in a small industry there is perhaps only one doctor. But there should be freedom to the doctor to refuse to take patients, and there should be freedom for the patient to move from one doctor to the other, because it happens that the doctor does not always hit it off with the patient and you do not always see what is wrong with him, whilst someone else would see it. Therefore there must be that possisbility of moving from one to the other. If the Government will consider this problem, will take it up and try to introduce a contributory scheme, because it is not good that people should get anything for nothing, they would be conferring one of the greatest benefits they possibly can on this country.
Mr. Speaker, I think this Session, more than any other session for some considerable time past, has offered excellent opportunities for the discussion of health services, and I personally have regarded it as a very great privilege this year to be able to review public health on so many different occasions.
We have just listened to the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Dr. Radford). I should like to say that in listening to the hon. member we listened to somebody who is and throughout his life has been one of the great champions of medicine. I want to add what is perhaps not generally known that it is true that he is one of the greatest surgeons that South Africa has ever produced. But I do not think he will hold it against me if I go on to say that many of the things which he said here were not strictly relevant to the motion. But the observations made by him have once again brought home to me the enormous achievements of medicine, but in addition to that his remarks have brought home to me even more the tremendous responsibility resting upon medical practitoners in South Africa. I should like therefore to extent my hearty congratulations to the mover on having chosen the hon. member to second this motion.
As far as the hon. member who moved this motion is concerned, I just want to say that anybody who expects that there is going to be a great clash here to-day is mistaken. There may be a clash of ideas, but there will certainly be no fight with regard to this matter, because I think the hon. the mover has rendered a service to this country and to this House in bringing this matter to our notice. I should like therefore, with a view to having a fruitful discussion, to move the following amendment—
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) in moving his motion gave us a very fine dissertation on the various aspects of medicine; he did so with great taste, and I really enjoyed listening to him, but I could not quite reconcile his proposal with the printed motion as we have it before us. May I just read out the motion—
That this House is of the opinion that the Government should consider the advisability of introducing a voluntary medical aid scheme for the Republic as soon as possible.
In other words, he specifically asks that there should be a medical aid scheme, that the Government should introduce it, and that it should be voluntary. As I understood him, he really proposed that the Government should grant financial assistance, but that assistance should be given to the existing schemes and those which may still be established. In other words, I do not regard his speech as a proposal to establish a medical aid scheme but rather to establish a central fund to assist medical aid schemes. He has worked out that the Government will have to pay R48,000,000 and the patients R48,000,000, and this money is to be used then to subsidize the existing schemes. If I understood him correctly—and I can interpret his remarks in no other way—it is perfectly clear to me that he is not asking for the establishment of a medical aid scheme in South Africa by the Government but that he is merely asking for the establishment of a central fund.
I want to say at once that it seems to me that if we go so far as to do that, we shall be setting in motion what will eventually develop into a State medical service, and I am just a little perturbed about the fact that the quotation which he read out towards the end of his speech is too sympathetically disposed towards a State medical service in South Africa. I do not want to put words into the mouth of the hon. member, but my problem is that if the Government accepts responsibility for the financing of the sick funds as they exist to-day—the responsibility for granting financial assistance to them—there is a very great danger that the service will develop into a State medical service. I want to associate myself with the hon. member where he expressed himself against a State medical scheme. I think that this country and this House should resist any scheme which even tends to point that way. In any event I want to express myself strongly against the establishment of a State medical service or anything which may lead in that direction.
There are other countries from whom we can learn a lesson and let me say at once that I think some of them have instituted State medical services with great success, others with less success, but there is one fact which is true when one looks at the British State medical service and that is that the quality of the service that is being rendered has deteriorated since the establishment of the state service when one takes into account the enormous advance in medicine over the past 12 years. In Norway and Sweden they have also had a great measure of success. I had the privilege of witnessing how these services work there, but various persons in high positions in Norway told me that they would be only too glad if they could revert to the old system, as we still have it more or less in South Africa to-day.
Two things have become very clear to me in considering the possibility of the introduction of a State medical service or any scheme which would lead to a State medical service, and I want to deal with them here. The first is that the health service that is given to a country must fit in with the character and the mode of living of the nation. The second is the financial implications, and this is a most important factor. I want to say very definitely that I do not think a State medical service would suit the conditions in South Africa. Our character and mode of living and philosophy are such that a State medical service would not be a good thing for South Africa. And I think the situation that we have at the moment has developed from the philosophy and from the character of our people. The hon. member referred to it briefly, but let me just do it again for the sake of the argument. The State is responsible for certain services in respect of mental health, infectious diseases, etc. The local authorities and provincial councils are responsible for hospital services and clinical services. All these things are of territorial or national scope, but as far as the day-to-day medical requirements of the individual are concerned, the position has always been—fortunately that is still the position —that that is the responsibility of the individual, and when I talk about the individual it is usually the head of the family. The position has developed in this way that the head of the family has accepted this responsibility in the form of insurance against illness based on the principle of private initiative. If we deviate from this, I think we shall be rendering a very great disservice to the public of South Africa in the first place, because when one looks again at the British State medical service one notices—and here lies the difference in character and mode of living to which I referred—that that service was instituted at a time, just after the war, when the British people had become accustomed to many years of want. They were used to the coupon system and to control and standing in queues for most necessaries of life. All these things helped, when this service was instituted in 1949, to induce the British people to accept this service, and I think that is also the reason for the great measure of success that they have achieved with that service.
But the circumstances in South Africa are entirely different. The average South African, in the cities or in the rural areas, is accustomed to space and freedom with the result that we have a very high degree of individuality, and this individuality, the self-determination of one’s mode of living, also extends to the decision as to who shall enter the sickroom when there is illness in one’s home. To my mind this is one of the fine characteristics of the people in South Africa and I should not like to see it lost through the introducing of a socialistic system, as a State medical service undoubtedly is.
I said that too.
Yes, and I fully concede that point to the hon. member. I am afraid therefore that his motion, if accepted, may eventually lead to the situation that the State will have to take over everything.
I would also add that in my opinion the proposal of the hon. member that there should be voluntary contributions, that there should be a central fund and that the contributions made by the Government should be divided amongst all the sick funds, will not be able to work in practice. Let me just point out one problem. If it is voluntary you would find in the case of a sick fund with, say 1,000 members, that only 500 of them would contribute to the central fund, and you would find that a sick fund has various types of members, a fact which in my opinion makes it altogether impracticable to institute such a scheme.
But to come back to the situation as it has now developed, we find that while the individual has accepted responsibility for medical services for his family and that to-day he discharges that responsibility largely through the medium of sick funds, we have the fortunate position that the patient in the first place does not lose his responsibility but that the employer has also been drawn in to-day to a large extent in financing these schemes. And, thirdly, we find that for the medical practitioner there still remains the incentive of competition and that undoubtedly raises the standard of the services rendered by him. In other words, it seems to me that in the case of the development of these sick funds the underlying principle is the same as the principle that we find in all welfare organizations —this fine desire on the part of people that such organizations should come into being voluntarily and that it should be accompanied by certain sacrifices on both sides and, moreover, that the public and the employer should be able to contribute their share. I should like to see the retention of these sick funds which have come into existence as well as the retention of the voluntary services which have been put into it in various quarters. That is why I wanted to express myself very strongly at the outset against a State medical service. Because let me say at once that the moment that we begin to give effect to the proposal of the hon. member we are going to find that the development which has taken place up to the present moment is going to suffer, because it remains a fact that the moment the State steps in the voluntary organizations are inclined to sit back. The moment the State steps in much greater demands will be made for services than the sick funds are able to provide at the moment, and I am afraid and I foresee that the present system may disappear if the State enters this field.
I just want to deal with a second aspect in connection with a State medical service, and that is the question of finance. We have noticed in Britain that there has been an enormous increase in expenditure, and that expenditure is still increasing steadily. The other problem is that in the initial stages of such a service or even in the initial stages of a fund such as the hon. member proposes, the contribution of the State will be very high indeed. Hon. members are aware of the calculations that were made in respect of a State pension fund, and there one of the insurmountable problems is the initial contribution that the State has to make. In this connection I just want to say also that since that is the position, we must not forget that in South Africa there is an additional consideration that we have to face squarely, and that is that in South Africa we have non-White population, and if the State does enter this field, I can hardly imagine the State doing so only on behalf of the Whites, and when we come to the non-Whites, and particularly when we bear in mind the hon. member’s proposal that this scheme should be a voluntary one, that there should be contributions from both sides, then I think I am not being pessimistic in saying that I foresee practically insurmountable administrative difficulties. I want to make it perfectly clear therefore that in my opinion a State medical service in South Africa—and I think that is a fact that we must accept for the future—is quite impracticable and altogether undesirable. In addition to that, it is something that we should oppose at all times in the interests of the high quality of the service and in the interests of our national character. Sir, I have made these observations not so as to contradict what has been said by the mover of the motion or his seconder; I say this simply because I think that it is a good thing for South Africa to know that this has always been the attitude of the Government in the past and I do not think that anybody will ask in this House in the future for the establishment of a State medical service.
To come back to the amendment that I have moved, namely that we support the Government in its policy of encouraging the present pattern of insurance against sickness, I think it is necessary in the first place to ask ourselves with which categories of people we are dealing here. The hon. member also made reference to this in passing. In my opinion there are three categories that one must consider in respect of health services in South Africa, and here I refer to the everyday needs; the person who is sick at home, the person who wishes to go to the consulting room and the person who needs operative treatment. In the first place there are the indigent, whether they be young or old, and the pensioner. I think there is ample provision for them in South Africa to receive free services. The second category is the well-to-do person. Here I want to say that I listened with great pleasure to the hon. member for Rosettenville when he gave this House a dissertation on how many well-to-do people regard health services as a luxury item. But may I just add a word to that. I think there is one thing that the well-to-do people in South Africa must realize very clearly and that is that it is no longer necessary to-day to go beyond the borders of South Africa for medical treatment. The medical services available in South Africa to-day are just as good as those available anywhere else in the world, and I make bold to say that there are certain fields in which the services available in South Africa are even better than those available in the rest of the world. It makes me sad to see in the newspapers sometimes that there is an appeal for funds to send a patient to some wonderful place or other overseas when one knows that the operation or treatment in question can be performed or given with just as much success here in South Africa by men whose names we could mention specifically. Mr. Speaker, there are many fields in which South Africa has made a name for herself in the world, but in the field of medicine South Africa is definitely on a par with the best countries in the world. Sir, I have said that we are not perturbed about the well-to-do people, but then there is the middle income group. The hon. member referred to the lowly paid section, but I would also add the middle income group. Even if a person is fairly well-to-do to-day, health services may impose an enormous financial burden on him. Here I have in mind the factory worker, the official, the clerk, the teacher, the professional persons and—a group which has always been overlooked in this respect—the farmers of South Africa.
They are always negelected.
I think I am one of the few members of this House who can really be proud of a remark from the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. F. H. Bekker) by way of interjection.
You are not a “boerehater” (“Boer hater” or “hater of the farmer”).
This middle income group is undoubtedly the group to which we should give our very serious attention to-day. In the old days medical services were simple and less expensive, but it is a fact to-day—and there are good reasons for it—that modern medicine is expensive as the result of unprecedented development, expensive apparatus, and expensive remedies. Mr. Speaker, has it occurred to you that a public servant or a teacher or any person in that category may be entirely ruined financially if he has a prolonged illness in his home, and I think it is this fact which has given rise over the years to the desire for security in respect of financial burdens resulting from illness. I just want to show the House how strongly this need has been felt over the years. When one looks at the history of the development of sick funds, one finds that the first sick fund was established in South Africa in 1889; I refer to the De Beers Consolidated Mines Benefit Society. In 1910 there were seven sick funds; in 1939 the number grew to 48, and in 1960 it stood at 214. But we must bear in mind the fact that during this period 33 of them dissolved, and since September of last year something like 20 new funds have come into existence, and then I must also add that since 1957 the insurance companies have also entered the field of insurance against illness. I am informed that they mostly insure groups of people and that at this stage they are insuring about 8,000 groups in South Africa. When one looks at the individual schemes, one realizes what a great need there is for insurance against illness. We find that in 1940 the Public Servants’ Medical Aid Society, which is a voluntary organization, had 927 members; in 1960 the membership stood at 9,467. The Post Office Medical Aid Society, which is also a voluntary organization, had 1,147 members in 1940 and 10,714 in 1960. In 1940 the association of commercial banks had 5,802 members; in 1960 the membership stood at 20,865. It is estimated that approximately 1,500,000 persons are insured against illness in South Africa at this moment, that is to say, about 50 per cent or, to be precise, 48 per cent. but I want to point out that this figure may be misleading, because in the case of the Police Force, the Defence Force, and the Prison Service, medical services are provided free of charge, and we also find that the State provides various services. There are 391 part-time district surgeons; there are 63 full-time district surgeons, and then there are still the various mental institutions, etc., and in addition to that there are the services provided by the provincial administrations and the local authorities. Taking all this into account, it appears to me that the figure may be much higher than 50 per cent: that at this stage possibly 70 per cent of the entire population of South Africa is covered by some form of insurance against sickness.
I want to point out that this development has been a spontaneous one and that it has taken place on a voluntary basis. It is a spontaneous development which has grown out of the desire to be insured in times of illness against financial ruin. Here I want to associate myself with the hon. member; in my opinion the most desirable form of insurance against illness is the medical aid fund in contradistinction to the medical benefit scheme. I do not know whether hon. members know what the difference is between these two. In the case of a medical aid fund a group of persons contribute to a central fund from which sickness benefits are paid but a certain portion of the account is always paid by the patient himself, with the retention of free choice of doctor on the one hand but also a free choice of patient on the other, while in the case of the medical benefit scheme it is usually a closed panel. The medical practitioner is an official to a very large extent and in some cases a full-time official, and the patient is not responsible for the payment of a certain portion of the fee. I want to say at once that in my opinion the medical aid fund is by far the best, and in South Africa we find that it is most popular with both the patient and the medical practitioner.
I also want to refer here to the attitude which the World Medical Association adopted at their congress in 1955. In that year the World Medical Association met in Vienna, and after they had very fully discussed this whole question of insurance against illness, they accepted the following points—
You will see therefore, Mr. Speaker, that here we have a spontaneous development which has always taken place on a voluntary basis and which has already assumed very great proportions. In this connection I want to refer to an article in the South African Medical Journal which puts this whole matter very clearly and which has convinced me entirely that the sick fund system as we have it to-day in broad principle in South Africa, is the soundest system for a country like South Africa and that it is a system which should be extended. Where a scheme has developed spontaneously and on a voluntary basis to such an extent that 50 per cent or probably 70 per cent of the population is already covered by it, I think it would be extremely unwise to bring about a change in the situation as far as the principle is concerned. I shall deal later on with changes so far as improvements are concerned. This article very clearly points out the importance and the benefits of this scheme. I refer to the Medical Journal of 8 May 1954—
I think I have said enough, together with what has been said by previous speakers, to bring these facts very clearly to the notice of this House, namely that here we have a spontaneous development, that this development has already assumed enormous proportions and that this development undoubtedly has very great advantages for the various interested parties. But at the same time I am fully aware of all the problems which are experienced at the moment by the sick funds, all the problems which are experienced by medical practitioners and all the problems which are experienced by the insurance companies, but I make bold to say that not one of these problems, as we know them to-day, is insurmountable. As a matter of fact many of them have already been resolved. But I want to add that it seems to me that the time has come when the Government will have to lend a hand in overcoming these problems and in placing this whole development of the sick fund system in South Africa on a firm and sound basis. I think one can put the problems which arise into three categories. The first problem is in respect of membership, the second is in respect of financing and the third is in respect of the benefits that these schemes ought to offer to the public. As far as membership is concerned, the position to-day is that most concerns—factories like Iscor and others—have made it one of the conditions of service that their employees must join the sick fund established by that organization. This was also accepted in principle by the Government when it was made compulsory for railway officials to become members of the Railway Sick Fund. That also applies to Iscor, which is a semi-Government undertaking, and it also applies in many other cases. There are still various organizations where membership is not compulsory, as in the case of the public service, the post office, the provincial authorities and the local authorities. But I should like to point out that if membership of a sick fund is voluntary, it undoubtedly creates financial problems, and it seems to me that the normal development is for the employer to make it compulsory for his employees to become members of a sick fund; I am not talking about compulsion brought to bear by the Government but compulsion brought to bear by the employer, and here I include the provincial authorities and the local authorities and the post office.
One finds that in the case of 137 out of the 169 independent schemes, compulsion has already been introduced and that the remaining 32 are all very keen to make membership compulsory. I say that this is a matter in regard to which one should have an open mind, but my present attitude is definitely that in the various spheres of employment where compulsion has not yet been introduced, it should be made obligatory for all employees to belong to the sick fund which is at the disposal of that particular undertaking. There is no doubt that where membership is made compulsory, it increases the benefits which such a scheme can offer. At the moment I am far from convinced that the Government itself can do anything in this matter, because if the Government were to step in I think it is doubtful in the first place whether the scheme would be capable of implementation in practice, but in the second place, if the Government were to step in, it would have to make a contribution to the whole scheme and it would have to see to it that the obligation imposed by it is carried out, and it seems to me that the normal development that the employer should make compulsory membership a condition of service is the most suitable way to ensure that the vast majority of the population will eventually belong to sick funds.
The second matter that one has to consider is the question of financing. Well, in this connection there are a number of problems. The first is that at the moment there is such a thing as an upper income limit; at present only persons earning below a certain income may belong to sick funds approved by the Medical Association, and the reason for this is quite a sound one, and that is that a preferential tariff is given to those people. In other words, they get medical services more cheaply than other people. But I want to say very clearly here—and that is why I made that interjection while the hon. member was speaking—that to my mind it is unsound and unnecessary to impose any income limit. The preferential tariff should always be such that the medical practitioner is able to make a good living. There are sound reasons for the granting of a preferential tariff by the medical profession—and I think that is how they accept it—because the fact of the matter is that if all your patients are members of sick funds, the possibility of bad debts is entirely eliminated, and it is for that reason that the medical profession is able to grant a preferential tariff. My personal opinion is that this attitude that there should be an upper income limit is not a sound one. There is also another argument in this connection and that is that the contribution of the member is assessed in most cases on his income We have the principle already therefore, as in all fields of life, that to some extent the rich man subsidizes the poor man.
In this connection I want to say that in the Medical Journal we find a very clear picture in respect of fees and tariffs, and this throws further light on what I said a moment ago. The Medical Journal says—
In this connection I just want to say that since this article was written in 1954 there has been a great improvement and that employers have contributed to a much greater extent to the sick funds which give their employees medical cover.
May I come back now to the contribution of the employer. I have said that there has been a great improvement, but as far as this principle is concerned the State has also taken a definite stand. The State is subsidizing the Railway Sick Fund; the State is subsidizing the public servants’ sick fund, and I think that is a very sound principle. Since this principle has been accepted—and to some extent this links up perhaps with the proposal of the hon. member for Rosettenville—I think in the long run it may prove beneficial—and I say this again pending the report of the Snyman Commission—if the Government, particularly with a view to uniformity and the combating of administration costs, will consider the question of giving a certain subsidy to every member belonging to a sick fund. In the nature of things it would be small but it would give the Government an opportunity to impose certain conditions perhaps in respect of unduly high administration costs, in respect of the benefits to be provided, etc., because I have not the slightest doubt that in contrast with a State medical service, in contrast with a central fund from which everything is to be financed, the Government will have to step in to give a lead and also to assist perhaps in coping with the problems that we are discussing at the moment.
I now come to the other problems which have arisen. These problems have come to the fore especially since the insurance companies have entered the field of insurance against sickness. Let me say at one that I have no misgivings in my own mind; I think it is a good thing that the insurance companies in South Africa have entered the field of insurance against sickness. The costs are so enormously high to-day that it is a sound and good thing and one which is in the interests of the patient that this field should be entered by a financially strong organization or organizations to combat the high administration costs. There is always the condition, of course, that we should have a much sounder basis and a much sounder system than we have at the moment. When one thinks of the fixation of fees, for example, it is perfectly clear that this has created enormous problems in the past, because on the one hand the sick funds and insurance companies want to have the fees of the medical practitioner to be fixed as low as possible and on the other hand the medical practitioner is entitled to a reasonable and good living. In this connection I just want to say that one cannot easily gauge, the remuneration to be paid to a medical practitioner in the same way that one measure remuneration in other professions. A medical practitioner is on duty 24 hours of the day; he may work eight or 10 hours out of those 24 hours, but it is that responsibility which continually rests on him to be available for which the medical practitioner in my opinion has not been adequately compensated in the past. Up to the present time the fixation of fees has been in the hands of the Medical Association. Let me say at once, although I am a member of the Medical Association, that in my opinion it is wrong that the fixation of fees should be done unilaterally. In the first instance this is a matter which least of all concerns the two parties, in question, namely the sick fund, or the person who has to pay, whoever he may be, and the medical practitioner. At the moment it is the Medical Association which represents the medical practitioners, but we are faced with this problem that if we leave it entirely to them, it is very difficult to get the sick funds to stand together. They have made an attempt to do so; in 1952 they established a committee to bring about uniformity, but it is not working, and it seems to me—and more and more I am beginning to realize this—that it will be welcomed in all quarters and that it will be a sound thing if the Government lends a hand in the fixation of fees. It is not so difficult to fix fees, but then it must not be done unilaterally; all parties concerned must have a hand in it, and I wonder whether it would not be advisable for the Government to consider establishing a Sick Fund Council, or a committee or whatever one would like to call it, which would fulfill one of two functions in respect of funds —either to act as arbitrator where no agreement can be arrived at between the Medical Association and the sick fund, or perhaps it should be so constituted that it represents all those interests and it could then once and for all fix a tariff of fees that would be acceptable to everybody.
Another problem that crops up is the question of uniformity of benefits. As I have already stated, the sick funds felt very strongly that there was a need for uniformity. In 1952 they appointed a committee to try to bring this about, but nothing much came of it. But in my opinion it is an absolute necessity, and there I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Dr. Radford) that the benefits offered by these sick funds— it does not matter whether they are connected with insurance companies or whether they are associated with employees’ organizations— should be uniform and that all aspects of medicine and dentistry should be covered. One could perhaps make a few exceptions. I cannot see, for instance, why it should be necessary for a sick fund to pay if a person undergoes a cosmetic operation to change the shape of the nose, slightly or to remove a few blemishes or to have a face lift. Such operations can perhaps be excluded. I am not at all sure either that mental illness should not be excluded as well. But there must be uniformity and there should be the widest possible cover for all the patient’s medical and dental needs. Furthermore, I feel that the supply of medicines should definitely be included. I know there are tremendous problems in that regard, but there is not a single one of them which cannot be solved if we have a central council devoting its attention to these matters. I feel further that hospitalization should definitely also be included. But then a change must be made in two respects. Firstly, hospitals should not do what they do to-day, at least some of them, namely to exclude patients and send them to private institutions merely because they are members of a sick fund. Because it is very clear that unless sick funds are encouraged in South Africa and unless they develop further and hospitalization is included, the burden on the provincial hospitals and particularly on their out-patients sections will become increasingly heavier. I feel that if hospitalization is included the burden on the hospitals will be alleviated, and it will eventually be only the needy patient and the pensioner who will really have to be dealt with by the outpatients section of the hospitals. Then one will perhaps again be able to restore in honour the splendid practice we had in the past that the medical man who gives his services to the out-patients section of the hospital, or who as a doctor in the hospital itself renders services to needy patients, will not be an official but will do so voluntarily on an honorary basis. It is a great pity that this system has died out in South Africa. I have this considered opinion by a very important person in South Africa, who also says that the inclusion of hospitalization with sick insurance will make the burden on the hospitals much lighter—
It is obvious that if 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the population are covered by sick funds and hospitalization is included, the burden on the provincial hospitals will be infinitely less, and that can only be in the interest of South Africa.
The last matter to which I wish to refer, and perhaps it is the less pleasant one, is particularly the serious financial problem created for sick funds and insurance companies as the result of abuses. Now there are three people who can abuse it. The first is the funds and the insurance companies. In the case of some of them the administration costs are far too high, and I am not so sure that some of them do not make use of the high administration costs in order to make a profit. In the second place, the direct profits should never be too large. Because to me it is as clear as daylight that it is in the interest of any insurance company, that it is in the interest of the general business it does, also to cater for sick insurance. Let me in passing just say that I think that these abuses can easily be coped with if in the first place we ensure that there is registration of sick funds, and that registration is made subject to certain conditions and the exercise of control if those conditions are not complied with. We have that at the moment. We have the registration of building societies and of pension funds. They must comply with certain requirements. Now it is true that sick funds at the moment are in fact registered in terms of the Mutual Aid Societies Act of 1956, but because no demands are made and no conditions are set, this registration is of no value at the moment.
Then I feel that the other person who makes himself guilty of abuse is the patient himself. We find that there are patients who expect the doctor to visit them unnecessarily and at inconvenient times and that they expect to be given medicine quite out of proportion to their needs, and that they are only too inclined to expect that the moment they join a sick fund they must get everything to be found in a chemist’s shop which they desire. But again it is easy to deal with these anomalies. We today have the system in many employers’ circles that there is a permanent committee of employers and employees, and that all cases of abuse by the patient are referred to that committee and generally such cases are dealt with very easily. But secondly I believe that the best way of dealing with these abuses is the system of medical funds where the patient must pay a share of all the expenses incurred in respect of his illness. There is not the least doubt that this is one of the most important matters, and probably this is one of the conditions which should be imposed for the registration of a sick fund.
Then I come to the third aspect, and I find it very difficult to discuss it, namely the abuses committed by medical men and chemists. Let me say immediately that I have always been very careful about saying anything in this House which can in any way reflect on the medical profession; and I think we should try as far as possible not to do so. But it remains a fact that there is a small group of the 9,000 medical men we have in South Africa to-day who conduct themselves in such a way in regard to fees and other matters that it constitutes a big blot on the good name of the majority of medical men who behave absolutely professionally. I am very sorry to say so, and one does not expect it, but the fact is that we cannot deny that some of the problems of the sick funds and of the insurance companies emanate from the fact that there are doctors who exceed the limit in regard to fees. I want to express the greatest praise, and I do so wholeheartedly, for the medical profession and for what it has done in the past in performing such a tremendous amount of work completely gratis. But all these things are negatived by the conduct of some of our colleagues when it comes to fixing fees.
I just want to mention a few examples. One finds that the wrong descriptions are given of illnesses so that claims are paid for diseases which are excluded from the benefits granted by the fund; wrong descriptions of operations so that higher fees can be charged; changing the dates of treatment so that claims are paid in respect of periods during which the member was not entitled to such benefits; the treatment of other patients, such as servants, as insured members on the account of the member; additional visits to cover the cost of medicine supplied by doctors where the member is not insured under the medicine scheme. You know there are certain schemes which do not provide medicine; the booking of visits which were not made in order to increase the account; superfluous visits, particularly in the case of less serious illnesses; the unnecessary utilization of the services of specialists; operations in private nursing homes where appreciably higher hospitalization costs have to be paid than in an ordinary hospital (and in many cases the surgeon has an interest in the nursing home); and then of course operations of a cosmetic nature and the utilization of specialists in operations where normally those services would not have been rendered if the member himself had had to pay for it.
I have pointed to these matters simply to indicate that we should not allow this spontaneous development of sick insurance and the spontaneous development of the participation by insurance companies to be wrecked as the result of this sort of behaviour which can easily be coped with in South Africa.
Formerly I adopted the standpoint that the Government should only give active guidance and advice and encourage the development of sick funds, but I am increasingly coming to the conclusion, and again I say this in expectation of the Snyman Report, that the Government could fruitfully devote attention to establishing a sick fund council, a council which in the first place should encourage the establishment of further sick funds on the basis of the relationship to the sphere of employment of these persons, and also to encourage the development of the present schemes which the insurance companies have, and to give direct advice, and which will have officials who can go to a company to advise and assist them in the establishment of a scheme, and in the second place to deal with the registration of all sick funds and to lay down the conditions for the establishment of a sick fund. And finally, to ensure that these conditions are complied with. And, thirdly, as I have already mentioned, to assist in determining the fees. Personally I feel that if this council is properly constituted it can fix the fees itself and it can cope with the evils committed by the funds, by the medical man, by the patient and by the chemist itself, because in the final result the composition of such a council should be such that it consists of representatives of the funds (i.e. the patients), of the insurance companies, a representative of the medical men, and of the chemists. This type of composition would result in a body which can devote attention to all these problems, and I believe that with the guidance they can give and the work they will be able to do there will be such a radical change in South Africa in respect of the administration of sick funds that the time will soon arrive when only exceptional individuals will not belong to a sick fund, and the benefits granted will cover practically all possible needs on payment of a premium which is not too high, even for the lowest-paid person in South Africa, to afford, because we will still retain the principle that the rich to some extent will pay for the poor. That is a sound principle and we cannot get away from it.
Business suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.20 p.m.
I had just concluded my remarks in regard to sick funds when business was suspended, and in conclusion I once again want to emphasize very strongly that I feel the time has now arrived that, as opposed to a State medical service, the Government should give encouragement and guidance in respect of the establishment and expansion of sick funds, and that it should not only stop at guidance and advice, but that perhaps it should also play an active part in the determination of fees and combating the various problems and anomalies which have developed during the years.
I second the amendment and I want to congratulate the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) heartily on the fact that he has succeeded in creating a different atmosphere in this House from that which prevailed yesterday and the day before. I think the people outside will be grateful for the fact that the hon. member has focussed attention on the importance of national health services. I am sure that if more motions of this nature were discussed in this House, we as a nation would learn to understand each other better, because, our brains would be clearer and it would assist the medical profession to bring into relief certain things which are a little obscure at the moment. I am very pleased that the hon. member has referred to a matter in connection with which I would rather not have had a commission, and that is the question of the costs of medicines. The medical profession consists of doctors, dentists and pharmacists and as far as the appointment of the commission is concerned (although that is not the intention at all) people are of the opinion that if a commission to investigate the price of medicines were appointed, it will be found that the pharmacists are the people who make tremendous profits over the counter. I am pleased that a surgeon of the standing of the hon. member over there has raised this question. I may perhaps just add this that the appointment of the commission has created the wrong impression amongst the public, that it is in connection with the organization which provide the medicines and not in connection with the pharmacists who sell it. I know of cases where a doctor has prescribed a certain expensive medicine which the pharmacist has had to stock for the sake of the few people who may need it. That doctor goes somewhere else and another one takes his place. The pharmacist has acquired a large stock of the expensive item for the sake of a few patients and the other doctor says that he does not want to prescribe that medicine, he wants to try something else. The pharmacist is then left with that medicine for which he has paid an enormous amount of money and it may happen, particularly in small towns on the platteland, that medicine is never used again. That is why I should much rather have seen a commission appointed to investigate the medical profession as such as far as their fees are concerned, without a reflection being cast on anyone in particular. In my humble opinion the public outside is not sufficiently aware of the great services which the medical profession as such is rendering to the people.
I want to say at once that I personally am grateful to the hon. member for Rosettenville for having moved this motion and that the fact that we have moved an amendment does not mean that we are not appreciative of his motion. The only reason why we have moved an amendment—and I am speaking for myself only—is that I personally feel that the less we tamper with the medical profession or with anything else connected with national health, the better. I think it is necessary that we view the position in South Africa in the light of the composition of the nation before we discuss the matter, and whether or not we should bring about a change or whether we should allow things to develop normally as they are doing at the moment. I just want to draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the South African nation consists of plus/minus 3,500,000 Whites and 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 non-Whites and I do not think we can establish a scheme without taking into account the fact that the nation consists of those various sections. We cannot lose sight of the fact that up to the present those 3,500,000 Whites have had to carry the non-Whites as far as hospital services, for example, were concerned. In the circumstances, if any change is contemplated, that fact should be borne in mind. No country can provide more medical services than it can afford and I think that in the case of our country, if we think what is being done and we compare that with what is done in other countries for the under privileged sections of their community, there is no doubt that what we in South Africa have done for our under privileged people is at least equal to if not superior to what is being done in other countries for their under privileged people. I think the idea has unfortunately gained ground in South Africa to a great extent that the Government should see to these things. You no longer find a feeling of gratitude towards the doctors or the Government of anybody else for the services which are being rendered. People also have the idea that if they get anything cheaply or for nothing, that it is not of the value which it would have been had they paid for it.
The hon. member for Rosettenville has told us of his experiences in his consulting rooms. The fact remains, Mr. Speaker, that if you provided the public with cheaper medicine or medical services than that paid for by other people they will think that you are giving them an article which is inferior to the one which the other person gets. It is not always a case of people wanting to boast about this or that operation which they have undergone and that they have had to pay so much or so much for it. I think it is mostly a case that they think they get a better service if they pay more for it.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a tremendous increase in the cost of medical services. It costs the ordinary person much more to-day than it did in the past to undergo medical treatment and as the hon. member over there said, I do not think there is any possibility of those costs coming down in the future or even remaining where they are at the moment. I think those costs will continue to rise. I think, therefore, that these voluntary organizations and these voluntary workers have stepped into the breach in order to make it possible for the public to undergo medical treatment and to get the necessary medicine and other services. I want to assure you, Sir, that those services have expanded tremendously. I can assure you that there are very few complaints about the way in which the public is treated by those societies and by the doctors. I think, therefore, that the amendment moved by the hon. member for Vanderbijlpark (Dr. de Wet) probably reflects the correct approach to this matter. What has happened during this time that medical costs have increased the way they have? Medical aid schemes gradually came into existence. There were 12 sick funds in 1944. As medical costs increased that figure increased to 158 over 11 years. That means that the figure has increased 14-fold during a period of 11 years and all that has been brought about by voluntary workers, by people who offer their services voluntarily in order to promote and to encourage those services. In 1940 five of the most important schemes had a membership of 8,878. By 1960 it had risen to 45,221. To-day there are 169 independent schemes which are operated by voluntary workers. And according to my calculation those members pay more or less one-third of the normal tariff and the running costs amount to approximately 10 per cent. Everything has more or less been established by voluntary workers. They have a member-ship of 368,890 to-day with 588,997 dependants. I am afraid that the moment the Government introduces such a fund—such a voluntary medical aid scheme as my hon. friend calls it in his motion—as soon as something like that is introduced with the assistance of the Government, there will be a decline in voluntary services. Experience has taught us that happens the moment the Government steps in. As soon as the Government introduces a fund or whatever it may be, you will find that the public outside will more and more pass the burden on to the Government. Eventually, instead of it being a fund, there will be requests from time to time that the Government should establish a medical aid scheme. I think we as a small country will find it very difficult to introduce such a medical aid scheme. I shall tell you in a moment, Sir, what such a scheme is costing Great Britain. We know that such a scheme was introduced in England in 1948.
I should like hon. members to remember what I said at the outset. I think the doctors themselves can play a very important role—I include the dentists and pharmacists—in helping to provide the poor people with medicine and the best services. I should like to give an example. I do not know whether my hon. friends opposite studied overseas but if they obtained their degrees there, they will confirm it when I say that at Edinburgh, for example, in the Royal Infirmary, they get people who are experts in their particular subject to provide medical services. They are prominent people, outstanding not only in Great Britain but throughout the world. I think of people such as Sir Harold Stiles and Dr. Rayney— I am talking about people who have achieved world-wide fame—who attend to the poorest of the poor. The poorest man could have asked Sir Harold to perform an operation on him and he used to do so free of charge. Why? Because if a doctor were asked to lecture on a certain subject in a hospital, that was regarded as one of the greatest honours that could be conferred upon him. The result is that when he is appointed as professor or as the head of a department of the hospital, patients come to him in Scotland from all parts of the country and even from Europe for treatment. The result is that what he loses in treating the poor free of charge in hospital he gets back twofold and tenfold in the form of the people who come to him from other parts, because by having done that he has acquired world-wide fame. I think if something similar could be introduced here in South Africa where we have the clever doctors and surgeons whom we have, we will be rendering the country a great service and I also think that those doctors will be trebly remunerated for their services.
The hon. member also said that if such a medical aid scheme were established, the cost would amount to approximately R96,000,000. It would therefore cost the Government R48,000,000. He naturally arrived at that figure as far as the White section of the population alone is concerned. As I have said already, we cannot establish a scheme which will exclude the non-Whites. If the hon. member’s figure is correct, therefore— which I doubt—it means that the Government will have to find between R450,000,000 and R460,000,000 and once you reach that stage, Mr. Speaker, then as sure as the sun is shining outside, we will be heading more and more in the direction of something which even the doctors themselves do not want, namely the establishment of a national medical scheme.
Now I want to give you an idea, Mr. Speaker, of what it costs the Government of Great Britain to run the State medical scheme which they have introduced there where more or less three-quarters of the population pay fairly high taxes. Their taxation is much higher than here and three-quarters of the population pay fairly high taxes, whereas that is not the position here in South Africa. I want to give you a rough idea of the costs and I want to quote from the “Official Handbook” of Great Britain for the year 1962. It comes under the heading “Health Service Finance”—
That is 3½ per cent of the national income. I do not know what the national income of Great Britain is but as you will realize, Sir, being such a big country the national income must be enormous. But that is not all. That does not include all the costs connected with their national health scheme. There are still the following—
You can imagine, Sir, that if this scheme were to develop and it will develop, whether it happens during our lifetimes or not, if such a scheme were introduced, it will develop into a national health scheme. You can imagine how the people will complain and say that the Government should contribute more than it is contributing. That is not the only money that is needed—
That means, Mr. Speaker, that apart from that money they will have to pay 2s. for every item on a prescription and over and above that in proportion to the services which they receive—
Hospital medical staff are either full-time and salaried or part-time; part-time medical officers are usually paid on a sessional basis and are free to accept private patients. General medical practitioners in public service are remunerated mainly by capitation fees according to the number of persons on their lists.
If we accept the suggestion of my hon. friend opposite, as I see it—and I hope I am wrong—that is what will happen here—
I just want to give you a rough idea of the numbers that have to be paid—
Can you imagine all doctors in South Africa being prepared to do that—
Mr.Speaker, if the position were to develop in South Africa that it will eventually become a national scheme of the Government’s, it will not be as effective as the present system is at the moment. I want to conclude by saying this I trust the discussion which has taken place to-day and the motion introduced by the hon. member opposite and the amendment of the hon. member for Vanderbijlpark, both prominent medical men, will bear fruit and that we shall have similar discussions in this House in future, because that is what the public outside want. If the people are healthy their brans are healthy; and if our brains are healthy we will understand each other better than we do in this House on occasions. I am grateful for the fact that I have had the opportunity of taking part in such an important discussion as this.
I am pleased to see that there is such unanimity on both sides of the House as far as this important subject is concerned. Where there have been differences of opinion on a few points raised, I am convinced that was due to a misunderstanding. I think the hon. member for Durban (Central) (Dr. Radford) has made it very clear that this side of the House is not asking for a State medical scheme. We are not asking for that at all. We believe it is not such a success overseas and we are not asking for that at all. For the rest I am grateful for the amount of unanimity which there has been. It is clear that if anything is praiseworthy to-day, it is the realization which has manifested itself that we should look after the welfare, the happiness and health of the worker. I want to elaborate on that and say not only the health and happiness of the worker, but that of all citizens of the country. It is true, of course, that as far as the workers are concerned, most industries and big employers of labour have realized, as has already been said, how important it is that the welfare of the worker should be looked after so that he will live a calm and healthy life. Most of the big employers of labour realize that if a man is worried, if he is worried about illness, about going to hospital and about a big operation he cannot do his work properly.
Legislation and agreements with employers provide for sick leave etc. and most of the big employers of labour even go beyond what is required of them by law or demanded of them by the law. We find that most employers—I am talking of big employers of labour —form one or other kind of medical aid society which deals with the costs of medical treatment, hospitalization and medicines. I think most people realize to-day in South Africa that the costs of the services which I have mentioned may run into a figure which is beyond the means of the average worker. I contend that the costs can very easily run into a figure which is beyond the means of the ordinary person, even though he lives frugally and looks after his money and even though he gets a reasonably high salary. It is a well-known fact that in many cases illness has led to serious poverty. I say again that I am talking about the person who receives a reasonably high salary. I realize, of course, as everybody in this House realizes, that those people with a low income do receive free medical services through district surgeons and they get free hospitalization at provincial hospitals. Strangely enough because of the very fact that there has been such wonderful progress as far as modern medicines and modern surgery are concerned, the people who have to pay for those services are in the financial difficulties in which they are. It was clear from the speech of the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) why that was so—because of the expensive research work that has to be done in order to discover those wonderful medicines; the years of study which a person has to undertake, the years of training that he has to undergo before he becomes a skilful surgeon—all that has contributed towards the high costs of medical and hospital services.
Mr. Speaker, I have already said that employers of labour realize only too well that medical aid schemes have to be established in our country. We consequently find that the numbers of medical aid schemes are increasing month by month. According to the S.A. Medical Journal of April 1960 there were 135 plus 23 medical aid schemes as at that date. On the 10th December 1960— six months later, that number had increased to 143 plus 23 plus 89. In other words, there were 255 medical aid schemes. The hon. member for Mossel Bay (Dr. van Nierop) has given us the membership figure and the number of dependants of those members; those are the people who are covered by these medical aid schemes. But, Mr. Speaker, who are those people who are covered by the existing medical aid schemes? They say the following according to the Medical Journal of the 6 February 1960—
It is clear from that it is only a certain type of employee who is covered by the existing medical aid societies. I repeat that it is the “white-collar” worker, and only the “white-collar” worker of the most prosperous industries and business undertakings who share in these medical aid schemes. What is the position on the platteland? What is the position of the person in the small town who is self-employed? The hon. member for Vanderbijlpark asked what about the farmer? But he did not enlarge upon that. I think it is clear from what I have read that it is the “white collar” worker, the more refined worker, in the most prosperous business undertakings who is covered under these schemes.
The worker who wears the “white collar” is not necessarily the most refined worker.
I accept the hon. member’s explanation but we need not quarrel on that score. As I have said the person with a low income is in this position that he can go to the district surgeon and he receives free medical services. The person with a low income can go to the provincial hospitals and his hospitalization costs him practically nothing. But the man who belongs to the middle income group, the self-employed person in the small town, the person who has a small business and who employs four or five people, cannot establish a medical aid scheme. What must happen to the farmer on the platteland.
Unfortunately my figures are not up to date, but I have tried to ascertain how many doctors there are on the platteland and how many in the towns and cities. I was interested to find that there was one doctor for every 446 souls in Cape Town; In Pretoria one doctor for every 1,100 souls. In Johannesburg one for every 700. As you will notice, Mr. Speaker, the figures in respect of Cape Town and Johannesburg do not differ greatly. In Pietermaritzburg one doctor for 1,400 souls. Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg are closer together in this instance. Now I come to the platteland. There is one doctor for every 14,000 souls in the magisterial district of Utrecht, the little town where I live. There is one doctor for every 12,000 souls in Babanangu. That is in Natal. In the Transvaal there is one doctor for every 15,000 souls. There is one doctor in Groblersdal for every 17,000.
How many witch doctors are there.
We are discussing a serious matter, Sir. If the hon. member for Pretoria (District) (Mr. Schoonbee) is interested in witch doctors I suggest that he takes the people who vote for him to them.
The position is not quite as bad in the Cape Province, but we find that the problem here is the long distances. In some parts of the Cape Province, in the Transkei for example, the figures are very high but they are not so high on the platteland of the Cape Province although the distances are so much longer. I make this point because long distances mean high costs when you have to call a doctor. All the specialists are concentrated in the cities. Every visit of a doctor costs you so much more. The hospitals are concentrated in the big cities. Take the case of a person on the platteland who becomes ill. Assuming he lives 200 miles from Cape Town. He has to be brought to Cape Town and here he receives the best medical attention possible. In the meantime it is costing his family more than it would have cost the ordinary Capetonian because his family cannot let him lie alone in the hospital. If it is the husband his wife has to say here, often for weeks, so that he is not alone in the hospital. And if he is seriously ill, Mr. Speaker, the children have to be brought down as well. Those are all additional costs. But the fact remain that because of the long distance the costs are so much higher in the case of the person who lives in a platteland town and in the case of the farmer and the self-employed person than in the case of the person who lives in the city. I think it was the hon. member for Rosettenville who said that coughs and colds could be treated by the person himself. But in the case of the farmer and the small self-employed person in the small town, that cough and cold may get worse. That means that the person on the platteland must be satisfied to try to get along as best he can even if he is seriously ill.
I want to remind you, Sir, that there are only 1,000,000 people in the country who are covered by medical aid societies; the remaining 2,500,000 must still be covered. There are thousands of people in the country who have to think seriously before they call in medical assistance, with dire consequences. That “cough and cold” often develops into something serious. I have referred to free medical services and I have said that the person with a small income could get free medical services either through the provincial hospitals or through the district surgeon. There is one point, to which I want to draw the Minister’s attention and that is that a property owner is not entitled to free medical services or to the services of the district surgeon. The fact that he is a property owner, even though it is mortgaged, the fact that he owns a little house, even though it is not worth much, deprives him of the right to get free medical services.
I found it interesting to learn what types of medical aid schemes and medical aid societies there were. Here I have the list for 1960 with me and it gives for example African Cables Medical Benefit Fund, African Explosives Medical Benefit Fund, Argus Medical Benefit Society, Associated Employers Medical Benefit Aid, Bakers Ltd. European Sick Benefit Fund, Bloemfontein Municipal Employees, Friend Medical Aid, General Motors Medical Aid Scheme, Germiston Industries, Hubert Davies and Kransberg Mines Medical Aid Society. You find that the people who are covered under these various schemes are mostly people employed in industry. It is in this respect that our motion is of such importance, and it is in this respect that I should like the Minister to give his serious attention to the matter. There are thousands of people to-day who would like to join a medical aid scheme, but they cannot do so because there is no one which they can join. It is true, that insurance companies insure against illness, but in this case too, some difficulty arises, because I find that they say the following in the Medical Journal. I want to add that I have nothing against the assurance companies because I am pleased that they are doing it and that there are people who avail themselves of that facility. I find, however, that they say the following—
I am not criticizing them. I am simply stating the fact that has been the finding. We have this layer of people in between who are anxious to belong to a medical aid scheme but who are deprived of that privilege. It is there where the Minister and the Government have to step in and where, with their assistance, another medical aid society should be established, a voluntary society, which anybody can join if he wishes to do so and which will cover that great number of people who are not covered at the moment.
Mr.Speaker, the interesting debate in which we are participating at the moment deals with a great ideal, the ideal of humanity and assistance for people who find themselves in a difficult position. It is an idea with which we can all on both sides of the House associate ourselves. The only difference between us, however, is the method to be adopted in order to give effect to this idea.
There are a few facts we have to face and accept in our search for a solution to this problem. The first is that the cost of medical treatment is high, and it is high as the result of the excellent medical services we receive to-day, and because of the tremendously high cost of medicines as the result of all the research involved. We must accept that in fact we can do very little to reduce the cost of medical services. We may perhaps be able to do something, but in the long run it will be very little. In the second place we all accept that the solution of this problem, the problem of making the financial burden caused by illness bearable to the ordinary person, does not lie in a national health scheme but in sick funds, medical aid societies, insurance schemes, etc. The question we must answer is in what way the State can manage to ensure that everybody who is ill and has to bear the high cost of illness can be protected so that the burden will be bearable. In order to decide that it is necessary to review for a moment the existing position in South Africa.
South Africa has already done much for the poor section of the population and for the Bantu. That section of the population is catered for by the State by means of an extensive system of district surgeons and hospitals. It provides medical services and hospitalization gratis. South Africa can be proud of the fact that it is one of the countries which first gave consideration to the poor section of the population. We took them into account before considering the average man. The average man in South Africa, the man with the average income, was mainly left to his own devices. He had to provide for himself, and to a large extent succeeded in doing so through the establishment of sick funds, medical aid schemes and insurance schemes. Medical coverage to-day is part of the pattern of civilization throughout the world, and consequently also in South Africa. The need we all felt to make provision for illness started as far back as 1898, as the hon. member for Vanderbijl Park (Dr. de Wet) pointed out, and to-day it has already reached such a scope that according to the figures he quoted 1,500,000 of the White population, or 48 per cent of our White population, is covered by such schemes. These medical aid societies and other schemes render a praiseworthy service. In many respects one can say that they render a wonderful service. They make it possible for the ordinary man, who otherwise would never have been able to afford it, to make use of the best services possible in South Africa.
Now the success of these associations lies in the exertions of small groups of people who offer their services gratis and who, by personal sacrifice and work, have succeeded in doing something for their fellow-men, and the underlying motive is not profit. The attempt to initiate sick funds and medical aid societies mainly emanated from the sympathy these people had with others and at the same time from the desire to do something worth while. In many cases the executives of these medical funds and associations do not receive a penny compensation for their services, and sometimes they themselves have to pay costs such as travelling expenses. In this way the administrative costs of these funds are limited to a minimum. These associations function very successfully amongst working communities like those of the Railways, in offices, in industrial or commercial undertakings, and there these sick funds particularly perform a service which one sometimes loses sight of. There they not only organize or collect funds and pay accounts. There they render a social service, because the sick fund in the first place becomes a bond between the workers, a bond of mutual help and co-operation. But they do more. They create a bond between the employer and the employee. Because in most cases the employer contributes a large amount to the funds of those schemes. It is calculated that in South Africa the employers contribute from one-third to 100 per cent of the funds of these schemes, and in addition they also often bear the entire costs of administration. In that way a bond of friendship and co-operation is established in our large undertakings between employer and employee. Every employer in the country will testify to the fact that where there is goodwill and co-operation between the employer and the employee, it goes a long way towards ensuring the success of the undertaking.
Now the motion of the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) says that the solution of our problem is to be found in the establishment by the State of a voluntary medical aid association. Let me for a moment analyse the effect of this motion. I think that in the first place we should accept it as axiomatic that if the State were to start establishing sick funds or any medical scheme it would have to provide only the very best services. The State would have to do so at a tariff which would be as low or even lower than the member has to pay to any other scheme. In other words, the State services would have to compare with the best services rendered by the best associations, and it would have to make the premiums as low as those of the fund with the lowest tariff.
Now the motion of the hon. member for Rosettenville contains this basic proposition, that in the first place it must be a voluntary scheme. Now there is this difference between voluntary and compulsory schemes, that in voluntary schemes the contributions of the members are much higher than those of compulsory schemes, and the reason is obvious. It is because the young and healthy man does not easily join a voluntary scheme. The people who join it are those who have reached an advanced age, and because the costs of those associations are already high the contributions must also be high. Therefore the first problem in the scheme of the hon. member for Rosettenville is that it must be established by the State to render the same services to the public as other schemes, but in the most expensive form, which means that the burden on the State will already be appreciably heavier than the burden borne by any other scheme. But in the second place, the hon. member’s idea holds the following problem, that in almost all existing medical aid schemes the member only pays a small proportion of the income of the fund, whilst the employer contributes usually between 50 per cent and 100 per cent. It will therefore mean that if the State starts a medical aid scheme it will have to be prepared itself to contribute the employer’s share, because unless it does so either the services rendered by that scheme will be infinitely worse, or the contributions paid by the members will be infinitely higher. It means that the State will have to contribute between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of the funds of the scheme. Let us accept that the State will contribute only 50 per cent, and let us now go further. In the third place, the scheme has this weakness, that in the majority of medical schemes the employer bears the administrative costs, but if the State were to initiate such a scheme it would also have to pay the administrative costs. In the fourth place, in the ordinary medical scheme the members of the executive render their services gratis, but the State will not be able to rely on the gratis services of members of its scheme. It will have to pay everybody. In other words, the costs of administration will also have to be borne by the State.
I now want to make a calculation, and I want to put it on a much lower basis than the hon. member for Rosettenville did. The total contributions paid into these medical schemes to-day is approximately R20,000,000. That is the total income of these medical schemes. Let us assume that the State pays only half of it, then the State would have to pay R10,000,000 per annum. But the costs of these medical schemes amount to approximately 7.8 per cent of the income. In other words, the State will have to pay another 7.8 per cent on a total income of R20,000,000, i.e. an additional R1,500,000. But this will still be only for the half of the population which is not covered yet, and when the other half which is covered now eventually demands that they should also be covered by this scheme, the cost to the State will amount to twice R11,500,000, i.e. R23,000,000 per annum. That is appreciably lower than the estimate made by the hon. member for Rosettenville, because he calculated that it would cost the State R48,000,000 a year. But the hon. member made another concession which makes the problems still more serious. The concession he made was that when one establishes a medical scheme for the Whites, one will eventually be forced to establish it for the non-Whites also. Now one can foresee that eventually the non-Whites will insist on having it, and will eventually get it too, if the State agrees to initiate such a scheme itself. That would mean that one would have to initiate a scheme for the whole population, and let us then look at the picture. Then it will no longer, according to my estimate, be R23,000,000 a year, but five times R23,000,000, or R115,000,000, and then, according to the calculations of the hon. member for Rosettenville, it will be five times R48,000,000 or R240,000,000 per annum. In my humble opinion the country cannot possibly afford it, and however much we want to assist where we can, we are eventually limited by the economic potentialities of the country.
But what is more, the unfortunate aspect of the scheme proposed by the hon. member is this, that it eliminates the burden which to-day is borne freely and happily by the public. The public which is insured under these medical schemes to-day and which contributes towards them, and also the employers who contribute, will all be relieved of their obligations, or of the major portion of their obligations. It means that by introducing such a scheme we would be shouldering an unnecessary burden which we could have avoided.
But that is only one portion of the costs of such a State scheme. That is only the financial cost, but there are also social costs connected with it, namely that by means of such a scheme we would be destroying everything that is splendid in all these hundreds of schemes. We shall be destroying the unselfish service rendered in love and self-sacrifice towards others. Those sacrifices which constitute the most splendid aspects in our elements in our society, which enrich our lives as people towards one another, and which ennoble our society, that intangible thing which is the bond between people, will be destroyed. But we shall also be destroying the pride we have in those groups of people throughout South Africa who take the lead in this work, the people who undertake it out of love for their fellow-man, and out of a feeling of pride that they are doing something worth while. It is a pride and a spirit of initiative which cultivate leadership, and we shall lose that also if we accept the idea of a State medical scheme.
But, thirdly, we shall also be destroying that valuable bond which these associations to-day create in our industries, that bond between the employer and the employee, the bond of goodwill and co-operation. Then the worker will again become a number and the employer will again become merely the writer of that number. But the problem confronting us still remains how we can provide medical coverage for every member of the population. Our population is divided into three sections, the poor and the Bantu who are already receiving medical treatment on a reasonably sound basis, secondly the 48 per cent of the population already covered by the existing schemes, some of which are good and some not so good; and, thirdly, those who are not covered at all. The motion of the hon. member for Rosettenville will have the effect that eventually the existing system of sick funds will simply be abolished and replaced by a State scheme. In my opinion, that is the wrong solution. I think the correct solution is that the State should rather try to expand and to improve the existing medical schemes, to eliminate their weaknesses and to consolidate them, and to assist that 52 per cent of the population for whom there is no medical coverage to-day to organize themselves to establish such schemes on their own. That seems to me to be the solution we should try to achieve.
The existing medical schemes show little uniformity. There are very great differences between them. Some give few benefits, others many, and some give exceptional benefits, so much so that if they are to continue in that way, they will eventually find it impossible to continue existing. Some provide for dental services, others again for maternity benefits, and others for the services of specialists. Some even provide for funeral costs, others for death benefits and for labour disabilities. Some provide for the payment of the whole of the patient’s account, whilst other again pay the accounts only up to a certain maximum amount. Some require the member to pay the initial portion of every account. In this way there is a total lack of uniformity. Some of these undertakings are actuarially sound, others doubtful. The great need is for expert assistance and guidance. They say they need a body to assist them and to guide them and to place them on a sound basis. In 1950 an advisory board for the medical aid associations was established. This body achieved considerable success, but not completely so. They are now requesting the State to establish a body which can serve as the liaison between them and the medical profession, to assist them to solve their problems and to place themselves on a sound basis. The establishment of such a body by the State is advocated by no less a person than the chairman of the committee of contractual practitioners of the Medical Association a number of years ago. It was also advocated by the advisory council for medical aid societies. If we want to provide sufficient medical coverage for the whole of our population, it seems to me that this is the direction in which we should think. It seems to me that this is the solution of the problems we would all like to solve.
Towards the end of 1959 the Commission of Inquiry into the high cost of medicine and of medical services in South Africa was appointed under the chairmanship of Prof. Snyman, the vice-president of the Medical Council. At the same time a small departmental committee in the Department of Health was appointed under the chairmanship of Dr. Reinach to make a study of medieál funds and medical aid associations. This committee of Dr. Reinach’s was eventually incorporated in Prof. Snyman’s commission of inquiry, and I hope that the report of this commission will be submitted this year still. In the meantime Dr. Reinach has already performed valuable services in this respect in the Department. His assistance and advice have already repeatedly been called in by medical aid associations and sick funds in connection with the problems with which they are faced every day. Dr. Reinach has already assisted in the establishment and development of new medical schemes for groups which were not covered before, and since he concluded his task towards the end of August last year, no fewer than 20 new medical schemes have been established, of which only half already represent 20,000 members. I hope that one day when this small section in the Department of Health is functioning properly it will help to realize the object we are all striving for in this House, namely the improvement of the existing medical associations and medical schemes and the expansion to cover the whole of the population of South Africa. It seems to me that in this way we will succeed in attaining the great ideal we all envisage in South Africa without derogating in any way from the existing sound system of sick funds and medical associations we have.
I think that the speech of the hon. Minister of Health has come as rather a disappointment to many members of this House, because it is quite obvious from the speeches which have been made in the course of this debate that we all feel that something must be done towards bringing down the increasing cost of illness to the ordinary man in the street. I feel that the motion moved here by the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher), which calls upon the Government to consider the advisability of introducing a voluntary medical aid scheme, is one which should have been accepted by the hon. the Minister. The hon. member for Rosettenville has nut forward his suggestions as to what form such a medical aid scheme should take. We all realize that there are enormous difficulties involved in formulating any scheme of this nature. However, it is felt that if the Government had accepted this motion and considered the advisability and investigated the possibility of introducing such a voluntary medical aid scheme, it would have done a great deal to alleviate the present position. The hon. the Minister, in the course of his speech, mentioned the millions of rand being expended on medical services and he dealt with the cost of a scheme such as that proposed by the hon. member for Rosettenville. I believe that these enormous expenses which the Minister outlined here this afternoon all go to show the necessity of instituting a more realistic scheme to bring about a more practical spreading of costs. The position as we have it to-day, where people who are not members of a medical aid scheme, suffer severe financial difficulties, particularly in the latter part of their lives, is one which I believe requires the immediate attention of the governing party. With the introduction of a medical aid scheme, we feel that an effort will be made to alleviate the position, but at the same time the difficulties that will be experienced in the initial stages will be great; we are the first to concede that, but we are fortunate in that various other schemes have been introduced in other parts of the world and they are available to the Government. I am thinking particularly of a scheme which is gradually being introduced in New Zealand. I realize that there are certain members opposite who will immediately suggest that such a scheme is socialistic; some might even suggest that it is communistic. However, far from advocating a welfare state or any form of socialism, we do feel that social security must be a comprehensive Security cover which allows for all circumstances that may arise during a person’s lifetime; and in such a scheme of social security, the knowledge that the finest medical brains will be available to every man, irrespective of his economic status, will provide great comfort and a feeling of security to the patient. Sir, I have made a study of the system of social security as it exists in New Zealand to-day. There they have an all-embracing scheme where the medical benefits are considerable and certainly in advance of the medical benefits and advantages of the medical aid scheme put forward this morning by the hon. member for Rosettenville. I would like to draw the attention of the House to some of the items which are provided for in New Zealand, because I feel that in considering the advisability of introducing a medical aid scheme, we should look around to see where such schemes are being successfully implemented. We find that in New Zealand, according to a booklet that was published by the International Labour Office, the health benefits which come under the Department of Health incorporate maternity benefits, hospital benefits, medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits and supplementary benefits as x-ray services, massage services, district nursing services, domestic assistance, laboratory diagnostic services and dental benefits. The question will be raised immediately as to what the cost would be of providing such a scheme to the people. The whole question of the financial structure of such a scheme is based on two sources of income—a tax known as a social security contribution, plus an annual grant from the consolidated revenue fund. The New Zealand comprehensive social security fund derives its revenue from a contribution of 7½ per cent of all salaries, wages and other income of persons over 16 years of age. This is the all-embracing social security scheme which includes medical benefits. The revenue that they derive from such a source is only sufficient to meet the demands made upon that fund; it is not a question of accumulating funds with a view to building up a large financial reserve. The latest figures available, which are outlined in this booklet, shows that the cash benefits under this scheme amounted to £34,455,000; in other words an amount of £18 12s. 3d. per head of the population. The health benefits, other than cash benefits, amounted to £7,875,000, in other words £4 5s. Id. per head of the population. The overall scheme which allows for these benefits, goes on to outline the various conditions under which these benefits are available to all sections of the community in New Zealand. And here I fully realize the difficulties involved in our own country with the large number of non-Europeans requiring expensive hospitalization and medical services; I realize that is a very big problem indeed. I know that in the province of Natal, where the ratio between the Bantu and the Whites is 8 to 1, an enormous strain is placed on our provincial hospitals to maintain the high standard of medical services rendered to the non-Europeans, to such an extent that the financial resources of the province are seriously affected by that drain. However, I am merely giving details of this particular scheme to show that there are other schemes where medical aid is rendered to the people and that those schemes are working successfully.
With regard to other medical services which are made available to these people, they also have out-patient services in all public hospitals, and these services are provided entirely free. Under this scheme you find that people take timeous steps to see that they do not develop serious health problems, with the result that the ultimate cost of the scheme is far less than it would have been if these timeous steps had not been taken. These people are not discouraged by the prospect of incurring high medical expenses. We know very well that there are many people who neglect to approach a doctor because of the fear of the financial burden that will be placed upon them as the result of such a consultation. We all know to-day that there is rarely a cheap remedy available for any illness from which you might be suffering. These people, because of this failure to consult a doctor timeously. find that their health deteriorates considerably. The provision of these free services, however, encourages people to take the necessary steps to see that their health does not deteriorate. Sir, since the health and productivity of our labour force play such an important role in commercial and industrial undertakings, it is in the interest of the employer and of the national economy to see that a high standard of health is maintained. This scheme which they have in New Zealand is one which goes a good way towards providing all the needs that arise from time to time. For instance, the cost of any approved drugs, medicines and appliances prescribed by a doctor in the course of providing medical services is met from this social security fund. Similarly, the necessary facilities are also provided for persons requiring the attention of opticians. Certain hearing aids are also supplied at the cost of the State, and in respect of other approved aids a subsidy is paid towards the cost. For instance, in the case of artificial limbs 80 per cent of the cost is paid by the State. In addition to this service, a free dental service is also provided, and this scheme gives a complete coverage in regard to all situations that may arise during the course of a person’s lifetime, as far as his health is concerned. Where schemes of this nature are provided in other countries for the benefit of the people and are incorporated in a comprehensive social security scheme, it is important that this matter should also receive attention in South Africa, where Governments of the past and also the present Government to a certain extent have encouraged certain steps to be taken in regard to social security measures. After all, the Unemployment Benefit Fund, which makes provision for persons who are unemployed, the Workmen’s Compensation Act and even our social pensions, are all a form of social security. Unfortunately, however, our social security programme falls short when it comes to the question of health services. We find that many people are suddenly faced with enormous bills which cripple them financially for a number of years. It is hoped therefore that the hon. the Minister will not stop at this stage in his investigations in trying to reduce the high cost of illness. We always talk about the high cost of living, and here we have had an opportunity to-day to talk about the high cost of illness. We have heard from the Minister about the committee of inquiry which has been set up to inquire into the high cost of medicines, and we naturally all look forward to receiving the committee’s report. I feel that at this stage of South Africa’s development, where we need a healthy labour force for the development of our country. where the family man should receive every encouragement, the Government should come forward with some tangible assistance to provide the necessary security for our people. I feel that the hon. member for Rosettenville who has moved this motion to-day calling upon the Government to consider the advisability of introducing such a voluntary medical aid scheme, has put forward a motion which requires the very careful attention of this House.
I as a newcomer regard it as a privilege to have listened to speeches in this House to-day of such a high standard. I think the House and the public outside owe a debt of gratitude to those members who have conducted this debate on that high level. As a layman, and not as somebody who belongs to the medical profession, I think it is only fair that we should express our gratitude to the hon. member for Rosettenville (Dr. Fisher) for having introduced this motion in the House to-day. We are grateful for the fact that it has been discussed in the calm manner in which it has been discussed. This motion has been introduced because hon. members are concerned about the health of the people outside, but I think we are justified in saying that the health of the people of South Africa probably compares favourably with the health of the people in most other countries in the world. We are proud of the fact that our doctors have contributed to that high standard of health in South Africa. As a layman I want to pay tribute to those doctors who have made their contributions to maintain that high standard of health. At the same time I want to pay tribute to the Minister of Health, the Government and the Provincial Administrations for the fact that they have all along maintained the health of the people on such a high level and for having made so many facilities available to the people. When we think of all the facilities that are available to-day in the form of health services and medical services, we are grateful to all those who have assisted in bringing about that state of affairs. I also think we should pay tribute to our South African doctors and specialists for what they have done. I want to mention a case, Sir, which happened in my own constituency—and in this respect I wish to support the hon. member for Vanderbijlpark. People are inclined to-day to go overseas for any special operation, and I agree with the hon. member that those operations can be performed in South Africa equally well. For example, there was a child of a less privileged person in my constituency who had to undergo an open-heart operation; that operation would have cost him from R3,000 to R4,000, but that team of doctors did that operation on the child free of charge. We want to say thank you very much to the doctors for what they are doing for us in South Africa. Mr. Speaker, what is the real problem to-day? We have all these different medical aid societies to-day, but practically every one of them is in financial difficulty. Every one of them is approaching the employers to assist them. What is the real reason why those medical societies are in financial difficulties to-day? The reason is that it has not as yet been made compulsory for the employees to join the medical aid schemes which have been established for their benefit. Most of these schemes are today still being conducted on a voluntary basis. Take the municipalities, for example. It is only during the past three years that it has been made compulsory for the municipal employees to join the medical aid societies. When the worker enters the employ of the municipality or the factory or whatever it may be, his attitude is that he is healthy and that he does not need a doctor. The result is that while he is young he is not making the contribution to the society which he ought to make. But at a later stage, when he is older, when he has children, he joins that society and he places an additional burden on it, with the result that the society cannot fulfil its obligations and higher demands are made on its members. I want to plead with the Minister this afternoon and ask that legislation be introduced to make it compulsory where such a factory or company establishes a medical aid scheme, for the persons who work in that factory or with that company to become members. It will have the added advantage that those societies will be strong and able to develop.
We also welcome those other medical aid schemes which the insurance companies have introduced. Here again the insurance companies are doing pioneering work by making it possible for people who would otherwise not have been able to belong to a medical aid scheme, to become members of this society. But this too is another case of group insurance. When representatives of those insurance companies get to the platteland and ask the teachers of the local school to join the scheme, only a few of them do so; those who are young and healthy refuse to join. The farmer on the farm may also become a member of that medical society to-day, but we all realize that it is an expensive scheme and that it costs a great deal of money. We should not try to transfer the responsibility of the head of the family on to the State; and in that respect I agree with the Minister that we should make propaganda so that the existing facilities and the existing schemes will be expanded and so that the head of the family will realize that it is his duty to see to the health of his family. Just as the head of the family is concerned about what his income will be when he retires, he should be concerned about the health of his family and he should see what he as head of that family can do; he should not be as inclined as he is to-day to expect the Government to do everything for him. I agree with the hon. the Minister that we cannot simply introduce a scheme which does away with all the existing schemes. I personally think that is an impossible task and as soon as the Government starts contributing towards such a scheme we will find that far greater demands will be made than those which are made today.
At 3.55 p.m. the business under consideration was interrupted by Mr. Speaker in accordance with Standing Order No. 41 (3) and the debate was adjourned until Friday, 30 March.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Orders of the Day.
First Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on conditions in agricultural industry, to be resumed.
[Debate on motion by Mr. Connan, upon which an amendment has been moved by Mr. Martins, adjourned on 16 February, resumed.]
In these times of sudden change in which we live it is of course a fact that since I spoke on 16 February on the motion of the hon. member for Gardens (Mr. Connan), to which an amendment was moved by the hon. member for Wakkerstroom (Mr. Martins), both the motion and the amendment have to a certain extent become antiquated because conditions have changed so much in the meantime. Where we had a full-blooded Thursday yesterday, we are to-day having a full-blooded Friday, particularly in view of the fact that the hon. member for Drakensberg (Mrs. S. M. van Niekerk) took part amiably in the discussions. Let us then conclude the day on that note. It is just a pity that so little interest is being evinced in the matter at his hour of the day, judging by the numbers present in the House.
Mr. Speaker, you will remember that the hon. member for Gardens expressed his concern about the falling prices of agricultural products and the rising production costs, as well as the growing surpluses, and that he asked that the Government should consider the desirability of combating these evils and making available sufficient market facilities. In Col. 1274 of Hansard (12 to 16 February 1962) the hon. member says that two years ago we imported 3,000,000 lbs. of butter from New Zealand, and he added that before that consignment arrived here we sat with a surplus and had to get rid of 24,000,000 lbs. of butter and 8,000,000 lbs. of cheese. With this admission by the hon. member for Gardens that such a change could take place within a short time, I want to ask the hon. member whether he has a formula in terms of which the Government under similar circumstances can find a market by some magical means to neutralize this position which really arose overnight. In Col. 1276 the hon. member says that means can be evolved to give these surpluses to those people who really need them, at a reduced price—we all feel that way about it—and then the hon. member says that it simply must be done and that methods can be evolved and that it should be done. But if one stops there with one’s advice, one has made no progress at all. The hon. the Minister pointed out, when he addressed the House, how by paying a subsidy of 2½c per lb. on butter and a reduced price of 2½c per lb. on butter fat, the Government had already taken steps to make this product available to the less privileged people at a price which was reduced by 5c per lb. We must remember that when something like this is done, somebody has to pay for it. In this regard the hon. member for Bethlehem (Mr. Knobel), in my opinion, said a very good thing; he gave advice but he said one, of the great things which are said throughout the years and are then buried in Hansard. It is that consideration should be given to the idea that the profits made by local authorities on the sale to non-Whites of White man’s liquor should be used partially to provide subsidized dairy products to the less privileged non-White children. I just want to refer to what was said by the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg (District) (Capt. Henwood). He also predicted—and it is a good thing that hon. members should draw attention to it—the possible loss of our market for dairy products in the United Kingdom, if the United Kingdom joins the European Common Market. The hon. member also pointed to the danger threatening our egg market for the same reason, because the six countries which are already members of the European Common Market will demand preference in regard to the sale of their eggs. Here we again have a case of a market being lost very suddenly for a certain commodity, and I therefore again want to point out with what problems the Government has to cope. Here we have the loss of the market for a certain product as though by the wave of a magician’s wand, and nowhere else in the world can a market again be found for that commodity simply by the wave of a magician’s wand.
Then we had a less pleasant episode when the hon. member for South Cost (Mr. D. E. Mitchell) was speaking. Now the position is that one can call the motion moved by the hon. member for Gardens a political motion, and one can turn it into a political motion if one wants to (nothing is easier than that), and one could call the amendment moved by the hon. member for Wakkerstroom a political motion and make it a political motion, and that is what the hon. member for South Coast really attempted to do. I want to point out that I right from the beginning did not set out with the idea that the motion of the hon. member for Gardens was a political motion, just as little as the amendment of the hon. member for Wakkerstroom was a political amendment. I am just referring to the challenge issued by the hon. member for South Coast when he said: “I will now sit down timeously so that the Government can vote on the motion of the hon. member for Gardens and the amendment of the hon. member for Wakkerstroom!” Now you will remember what a stormy reception the member for Water-berg had the moment he got up to sing the swan-song in the debate.
And he is still singing.
Yes, it is the kind of swan which sings a swan-song in order to remain a swan and to be able to sing again another day. Where the motion of the hon. member for Gardens perhaps unjustifiably—I do not want to say that it was intended that way—to some extent wish to intimate that the whole agricultural industry was in a deplorable position and further insinuated that the Government had neglected the farmer to a large extent in this regard, the hon. member for Wakkerstroom in his amendment clearly pointed out the assistance given to the farmer through the Marketing Act, through the activities of the Department of Agriculture to raise the standard of production, the financial assistance given by the Land Bank, by the Farmers’ Relief Board and other institutions, and the hon. member did it so as to put the matter in the correct perspective when we compare this motion and the amendment with each other, and in order to get the true picture against the proper background. I had thought that both the motion and the amendment could supplement each other nicely if the temptation is not always there to seek an excuse to drag into politics those things which we all say we want to keep out of politics. It is not easy to resist the temptation in an unguarded moment to drag something into politics if one thinks one can derive a little political advantage from it. In Col. 1323 the hon. the Minister referred to the assistance given to the farmers in the past in the North-Western Free State, as we all remember still, and here I want to add also the recent assistance given to the North-Western Cape and the assistance now being given in the Northern Transvaal. Before I pass on to refer more specifically to the practical assistance now being given in the Northern Transvall to the farmers suffering from foot-and-mouth disease and drought, I just want to read again the fourth paragraph of the amendment moved by the hon. member for Wakkerstroom, namely—
I emphasize “areas in which unsatisfactory conditions have arisen in the agricultural industry because of climatic vagaries”. That is precisely what the position is to-day in the Northern Transvaal, practically from the Magaliesberg to the Limpopo. In regard to the Northern Transvaal I want to point out what precisely has been done, and that will serve as the reply to the motion of the hon. member for Gardens, and I also want to deal with the assistance which is further envisaged. The assistance rendered in regard to foot-and-mouth disease covered the northern part of the Palala soil conservation district, the Koedoesrand soil conservation district and the Gregory and All Days soil conservation districts. That is a large area in which to-day indescribable misery prevails as the result of having been afflicted by foot-and-mouth disease for 22 months, followed by an unprecedented drought which has now lasted for four months already, where the fierce summer sun is baking the earth and everything is dying to such an extent that, according to the latest figures sent to me from my constituency, to date about 5,000 cattle have died because the farmers cut their throats or died before their throats could be cut. About 1,000 farmers and about 150,000 to 200,000 head of cattle are affected, and in order to alleviate the urgent need the following proposal was submitted to the Cabinet for its approval. I am at liberty to mention it now because it has already been published in the Press, and I merely mention it to show that the Government actively renders assistance when necessary: In the first place rebates, (a) on the transportation of animals by road motor services of the S.A. Railways, 25 per cent of the costs of transportation. I imagine that we are dealing with a new principle here, something which has never been granted in the past, and which was not easy to obtain. But as the result of the conditions prevailing there and the fact that the Government realized the position, and because, as we know, the Government is the friend of the farmers, this step was taken. I think we are dealing with a new principle here and that proves to us the integrity of the Government in regard to its attitude towards the catastrophes to which the farmers are subjected and over which they have no control. Then 50 per cent of the costs of transportation of fodder by S.A.R. road motor services. But rebates were also granted in connection with private transportation, because there is no railway line in that area and there are not many railway buses, but there are quite a number of people who obtain permits from the Road Transportation Board to transport stock and fodder there, and on the transport of fodder by private persons a subsidy is paid to a maximum of R1.75 per ton for a maximum of 120 miles, and on the transportation of stock by private transportation a maximum of 80c per beast for a maximum of 120 miles. And before that time fodder loads were also granted.
It is the first time in history that such transportation was subsidized.
Those are the concessions the Government made in those circumstances to the farmers of the Northern Transvaal who were in trouble, and it is unprecedented and the Government has laid down a new principle, well knowing that in future this precedent will have to be followed in times of necessity. But this Government does not mind doing that and opening this door. Originally the aforementioned assistance was to have applied only to the end of February, but immediately we saw that this period was too short we asked for an extension, and our words were hardly cold when the assistance was extended to the end of March. For the purpose of this assistance the costs were estimated at an approximate amount of R30,000 on the basis that at least 30,000 head of cattle and 3,500 tons of hay would have to be transported in that 1½ months.
But the drought conditions in the area became worse by the day. I arrived back from that area yesterday and death is on the threshold and in some places it is in the house. There is nothing. In the meantime the farmers made further representations to the hon. P. M. K. le Roux during his visit to Potgietersrust, and submitted by me. but in view of the fact that these representations are still being considered by the Cabinet I do not feel justified in saying more about it at the moment, although I have every hope that further assistance will be forthcoming.
Now people say so easily: Just increase the prices of agricultural produce. The hon. member for Drakensberg also said so when she stated that the farmer must receive an entrepreneur’s wage on which he can live. It really amounts to an increase in prices. Allow me to mention just one example to show what this nonsensical increase of prices can lead to, and that in the past prices were in fact increased. I just want to say a word about meat. Meat prices were increased during the past two decades, in regard to the floor price, by not less than 30 per cent, and now I just want to say that the average selling price during the plentiful months, i.e. February, March, April and May, was 30 cents above the floor price. If one increases the floor price by only R1, one has the position that the floor price is then 75 per cent higher than the average selling price, and where will that lead? It will result in a greater surplus which the Board will have to buy and will be compelled to buy, whereas in normal circumstances during these four months I have mentioned the Board is already buying 14,000 carcases.
I may just add that during the same period the following concession was also made to the farmers afflicted by foot-and-mouth disease and drought, namely that Minister Nel, Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, rented the Native Trust lands to the farmers for grazing at 7½cent per head per month, whilst under normal circumstances the price is 25 cents per head per month. And in addition, it did not matter whether the farmers were plagued with foot-and-mouth disease or with drought.
We should not lose sight of the fact that when we see that the farmers are in trouble and we want the Government to assist them, all kinds of factors come into play. To what extent can the freedom enjoyed by the farmer, for instance, in practising his profession perhaps assist in creating the problem of overproduction and marketing? Let us take, for example, the crop farmer, the man who makes his living from cash crops. In the first instance the farmer buys land just where he likes. If he buys land in a desert area he does so because he has the right to purchase it there and wants to do so, but if he buys in a desert land he must expect trouble. The farmer also buys as little or as much land as he likes and if he buys a very small bit of land then it is an uneconomic unit and he can also expect trouble because he is not able to make a living on it. But it is his own free will, perhaps because he cannot afford to pay for more land. Then the farmer plants what he likes, and I do not say that in any bad sense of the word. He farms scientifically and he perhaps thinks it is the best thing to do and he plants what he likes, and it is not easy to tell him what he should plant. Just go to the closer settlements and see how people are sometimes sceptical of the advice given by the superintendent and his committee of control there. Very often one hears someone say: “If only they had left me to myself to plant what I wanted to plant, I would have had a crop”. Of course, nobody can control that because he did not plant that thing and could not have a crop. But the farmer’s freedom goes much further. Not only does he plant what he likes but he also selects his own seed, and the agricultural technical officials tell us that it has been proved that the crop can vary by as much as 25 per cent depending on whether one sows good or bad seed. But the farmer is also at liberty to select his seed, and he does so. I want to point out that the farmer also plants as much as he likes. It makes no difference that last year we had a maize crop of about 52,000,000 bags and are still sitting with approximately 30,000,000 bags surplus. We planted again this year and expect a crop of between 55,000,000 and 60,000,000 bags. That is the freedom enjoyed by the farmer, and now I would like hon. members opposite to consider to what extent the liberty enjoyed by the farmer in exercising his profession contributes towards the problems with which the Government, together with the farmer, has to cope later. But, Mr. Speaker, the farmer also supplements his labour force as much as he likes, and one can use one’s labour force very economically, but also very wastefully. And the farmer buys and uses whatever implements he likes, and in regard to fertilizers he buys what he thinks is suitable, and spends much money on it. I have now mentioned eight freedoms, absolute freedoms. And now I come to the ninth and tenth. He has now harvested his crop and two more steps remain. Now he must have a market and he must receive a price, and it is here that the Government comes into the picture. Hitherto the farmer has had general freedom, and he has come to the stage where he is faced with a fait accompli, where supply and demand probably no longer correspond at all. At that stage he is faced with a fait accompli, and if the supply exceeds the demand the Government immediately enters the picture and it is also faced with the fait accompli and the farmer and the Government are confronted with what is commonly called a marketing problem. And it is at this stage that constructive consultation between organized agriculture and the Government rather than destructive criticism in order to sow suspicion give the best results to the farmer and facilitate the task of the Government.
The hon. member debated the question as to whether the motion of this side of the House or that on the Government side was a political motion or not. I should like to inform him that the mover of our motion (Mr. Connan) did his level best to frame a motion that could be generally debated over the floor of the House without any political implication whatever. The motion was a very plain one—
- (a) The downward trend in commodity prices; (b) the upward trend in production costs; and (c) the accumulation of commodity surpluses.
To this motion the hon. member for Wakkerstroom moved an amendment which was a typical “thank the Government motion” as we are accustomed to from the Government-side.
A very good amendment.
The hon. member says that was a very good amendment, so I need not stress that the Government side favoured that particular amendment, and then of course you immediately find that politics are introduced in the debate. That is the reason why the hon. member for South Coast (Mr. D. E. Mitchell) challenged the Government to come to a vote.
The hon. member for Wakkerstroom (Mr. Martins) quoted a number of figures to prove the country’s prosperity. It is of course very easy to quote figures, because our finances in this country in general have increased to an enormous extent. When I first came to Parliament, our annual revenue was something like R74,000,000 per annum, now it runs into R800,000,000 per annum. So it is very easy to play with figures, and the danger of figures is that they sound convincing. But I would like to remind the hon. member that it is stated in medical reports that people who have too much to do with figures are very subject to thrombosis. That is why our Natives for instance who have never anything to add up are in the lowest category as regards that particular complaint. Then again the hon. member for Vryburg (Mr. Labuschagne) suggested that mealie-meal now should be mixed with our wheatenmeal in making bread, I don’t know how that is going to be accepted by the country, but I should like to remind the Government that this side of the House was put out of power as a result of introducing mealiemeal to our bread in time of war. We on this side of the House are very much perturbed about the financial position of this country and about the position of the farmers in particular. The position is giving us considerable anxiety. We have had a few strokes of luck, but they are mere bagatelles. For instance the sugar industry was able to enter into a very favourable contract with Great Britain, under which they sold 150,000 long-tons of sugar. This quantity will be taken by Great Britain annually for five years at almost double the world price. But that is only 16 per cent of our production in this country and when the Pongola area is developed, our sugar production then will be such that the sugar industry may have to face a very parlous period. And in regard with our sugar production too I would like to state that at present there is 1,000,000 ton surplus in the world, which by next year may be 5,000,000 tons, and besides that we have considerable surpluses of butter, cheese and eggs and canned fruit, and even if we become an associate member of the European Common Market, we could not face the surpluses that market is building up. And if Great Britain joins the European Common Market, we farmers will have considerable misgivings. We know that Great Britain is going to negotiate to protect the Commonwealth countries, but we are a foreign country. We are now an independent republic and we are dependent on our own resources, and we must not expect imperial preferences being applied in our case at all. We are also worried as regards our general co-operatives in this country. We do not feel that there is that cooperation that there should be, that our cooperative organizations are perhaps working against each other and not working for cooperation. Generally speaking the finances of our country are such that the Government to-day can only assist farmers who are actually bankrupt. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there are many farmers in this country who fear that may not even last too long, and that farmers will be thrown entirely on their own resources. We in this country are apparently looking for some miracle to take place, such as that Great Britain will devaluate her currency again, or that there will be an increase in the price of gold, or that we may unearth some rich new gold-reserves. We must not expect miracles to happen. We must be practical. We, as a new nation, must put our shoulder to the wheel and if the Government will assist us and go slow perhaps on its separateness activities and concentrate on extending our home markets and rather encouraging the production of surpluses and developing a well-fed happy nation, that would be the solution. If we have a well-fed happy nation, we would have a prosperous farming community, which is the basic necessity of any nation, and if we want peace generally among your people, you must see that they are well fed.
Mr. Speaker, at this stage, I want to move—
Agreed to: debate adjourned.
The House adjourned at
First Order read: Adjourned debate on motion to go into Committee of Supply on Estimates of Expenditure from Railway and Harbour Fund, to be resumed.
[Debate on motion by the Minister of Transport, adjourned on 7 March, resumed.]
Mr. Speaker, in order that this House and the Minister may be seized of the heads of argument which will be used in this debate I will read out our amendment which is as follows—
- (a) meet the claim of railwaymen that their standards of living be raised by increases in basic wages, benefits and pensions;
- (b) place the financial administration and management of the Railways, Harbours and Airways on a strictly business as distinct from a political basis; and
- (c) appoint a Commission of Enquiry into ways and means of improving existing staff negotiating machinery.”.
I think it is high time this House re-examined with great care the functions and personnel of the Railway Board. Recent changes in its composition and the newly increased salaries of its members have brought the matter into the spotlight of public attention. Neither the Minister nor his Government is revealed in a very creditable light. It is necessary, Sir, briefly to go back to beginnings and examine the original reason for the existence of the Railway Board. The stated aim, at time of Union, was to protect the Railways from undesirable political influences. It was to ensure that the Railways would be operated on business-like as distinct from political lines. I quote Mr. Hull speaking to the National Convention. He said—
Listen to the Hon. R. H. Brand, Secretary of the Convention—
As failed it has, Sir. The whole conception of the Board has failed. In my opinion the Minister can do one of two things. He can either scrap it or reform it. As it stands at the moment it is not worth its cost. He could make it a really useful, business-like advisory board. He could enlarge it and have on it lesser paid but more representative members of all sectors of our economy (including also a legal representative to hear appeals). He could enlarge it, Sir, so that it will really carry out its many statutory functions which it now ignores. He could enlarge it and have subcommittees to study specific problems or specialize in definite departments.
As it is, Mr. Speaker, the Minister has lent himself to the process of making it a Board on which political pals get jobs. He has connived at making it a tool for Government manoeuvering. The Railway Board has retained little of its original power but all, all of its sweet perquisites of office. They have been reduced in all respects, except privileges, to mere pawns of Executive policy. They have their newly-enhanced salary; they have their entertainment and other allowances; they have their railway coaches, saloons and their cars and their chauffeurs; they have 40 days’ annual leave; they have a gold travel-free pass for life and even a supply of the local newspapers free of charge. Why? They have no parallel at all in the Civil Service. They are unique in every way. I have said that they are pampered. Are they not? I have said that they were well paid. Are they not? Six thousand eight hundred rand per year plus all their “perks’’.
Would you not like to have a job like that.
I have said that they are political advisers. Well, Sir, two out of three of them are recent Nationalist members of Parliament, so I think they are justly called “political adviser ”. For all I know the hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) (Mr. van Rensburg) would himself like to have a job like that and may be the next on the roster to replace Mr. Botha, should another English-speaking Cabinet Minister be required by this Cabinet. I endorse the opinion of Prof. Franckel when he said—
But worse is to come. This year the Board was made a perch for a displaced politician (displaced, I may say, through no fault of his own). We all know the cynical manner in which this latest appointment was made. First of all let me say that, about a year ago, the Board comprised Dr. van Abo, an engineer and a technical man of acknowledged ability; Dr. Botha, an economist and financier of note. We have no objection, and indeed approve this type of man being put on the Board, because Railway Commissioners should not only be divorced from politics but should appear to be divorced from political allegiances. The third member is a Mr. du Plessis, a pleasant party man, a friendly man, but a politician, significantly placed in charge of staff affairs. The Minister with some justification claimed that this was a well-balanced Board. But now we come to the sordid political manoeuvre in connection with the Board, which upset its balance. The Prime Minister, as we know, wished to reward a newly-enlisted follower with Cabinet rank merely because he was English-speaking. A seat for him had to be found in Parliament. Mr. de Villiers, recently re-elected to Vasco, had been chairman of the Select Committee on Railways and Harbours for one year. That was sufficient qualification to use him to create a vacancy in Parliament for the now Minister of Propaganda.
Order! The hon. member must withdraw that appellation.
I withdraw the term Minister of Propaganda and will say Minister of Information. Such people are called “Minnies” in Britain. It was done in order to get Minnie into our Cabinet, called the Minister of Information. That Minister took his post in Parliament and sits here now. Mr. de Villiers could only get on to the Railway Board by the very happy coincidence that Dr. van Abo had apparently become tired of being a Railway Commissioner although he did not wish to retire from the Railway service and although the Railway Administration itself wished to retain his valuable services. He was shunted to a position in the engineering section of the Railways and the whole process was then complete. A seat in the Cabinet was found for our musical-chair Minister of Information. The Railways got another highly paid technical adviser put on the pay roll and the Board got another party politician which upset its balance. The Minister must, of course, take responsibility for this action. Knowing him as I do I believe he would never have done such a thing on his own initiative. He has too much respect for the Railways. He will probably excuse himself and say: “ I did no more than others have done before me.” The fact is that he did it for political motives. He may even go so far as to say that the Board is ideal and really well balanced now. He may feel forced to do even that. But I think I can see behind his facade. I think that he did this thing most unwillingly. I think he must have lost some of his own self-respect. He has certainly lost prestige among all genuine railwaymen. He knows what the staff thinks of the introduction of politics into Railway management in this way. Of course I do not blame Mr. de Villiers. I have long been associated with him. He is a pleasant man and I like him, but that is not a qualification to be a Railway Commissioner. He knows as well as his other partner on the Board does that a party politician should not really be on the Board. His function now is the direct opposite of what was originally envisaged in the Act of Union.
But worse is to come. It was at this juncture that the Minister chose to give a substantial rise in salary to all Board members, two out of three of whom were recently politicians, Nationalist Members of Parliament. A few years ago the Minister made haste to reward with pensionable increases in salaries the “top brass” of the Railways before considering the salaries and wages of the ordinary working man. Meanwhile, the Minister has shown an unfortunate reluctance to meet the reasonable wage demands of the Artisan Staff Association. He only surrenders to the just demands of railway workers for increased pay and allowances after a dour struggle—that is, if he surrenders at all. I think they will not readily forget his preference for rewarding the bosses and the bigwigs and the brass-hats, at the cost of the rank and file. May I make this last appeal to the Minister? He said in his Budget speech—
May I say that there are even more important aspects than those he mentioned, namely the workers, the men. I would like the Minister to give more thought to railwaymen, even if it means thinking less of his machines. Think of the workers who build these tracks he speaks of, who drive these locomotives he is so proud of, and who keep the wheels of progress turning on the railways. They are the flesh and blood—they are the soul of Railway service. A fair and adequate wage, plus the benefits to which they are entitled, must be a first consideration in the running of the Railways. The human element is the most important element. This expensive and impressive machine which the Minister has built upto serve the transport needs of the country will never work to full effectiveness if the workmen feel they are ill-treated or have legitimate but unsatisfied grievances. Many of the workers feel that the Minister is too peremptory and too impatient in negotiating with them. Sir, it may hurt their dignity if he gives them a brusque refusal. That is annoying, but it is tolerable; but when he refuses to listen to their fair demands for an increase in wages, then he hurts their pockets. They will not stand for that because it affects their wives and their children and their standard of living. I have said before that the railwaymen have been almost models of restraint and, if they threaten strike action, I ask the Minister to take serious note of it. He should respond to the desire of all railway servants to have their standard of living progressively advanced and their earnings increased. They should have increases in wages and benefits as the Railways prosper by their sacrifices and efforts. And let us not forget, when we are considering the men, the railway pensioner. His services are past, but his efforts for the Railways over a lifetime should not be forgotten. I believe he should get at least an increase of 10 per cent in his pension. I know the funds are there, and the contribution of the working men towards those funds has been as great as that of the Administration. There is no reason why the Minister should not meet this most reasonable demand by the Railway pensioners.
To come back to the average railwayman, and particularly to the artisan staff, I feel it was more than ill-timed, it was unjust for the Minister to raise so generously the salaries of people in “Joe Plush” jobs like the Railway Commissioners (who only fulfil a quarter of their statutory functions anyway) whilst he turns his back, disdainfully, on the modest demands of the artisans for an increase in wages of some R6 a month. I believe the railwaymen are becoming suspicious of the Minister. Each year he turns down their demands, saying: “ I have to budget for a deficit. I cannot give you the raise you are asking for; there is no money.” Then he produces a fat surplus, and when demands are renewed he says: “ Oh, that was last year; I have to face another deficit this year, so go on your way unrewarded; tighten your belts and do more work.” I believe that this year he will produce another satisfactory surplus, after having refused the modest demands of the workers. I ask the Minister: “ Why did you finalize your Budget, why did you get Cabinet approval of this Budget (which you said could, therefore, not be altered) before hearing the full case of the Artisan Staff Association and before finishing your negotiations with them?” I think it is quite easy to show from an examination of his Budget, and the way he presented it, that in fact the Minister did alter his Budget between Monday, the 5th, and Wednesday, the 7th. It is quite clear, by comparing the printed Memorandum and Statements with his later statements in his speech, that he altered his Budget at the last moment to consolidate cost-of-living allowances with wages—a good and worthy thing. Why then did he tell the railwaymen that he could not alter his Budget; that he was committed to the Cabinet decision …
That is not so.
Well, if he explains his action satisfactorily I withdraw any allegation I make against the Minister. I ask him whether he will not do this. He said he could not give the artisans a moderate rise in salaries because he would have a deficit. Now, supposing he gets a surplus, will he agree, out of that surplus, to pay the Artisan Staff Association what they would have got if he had estimated a surplus? Will he give it to them retrospectively, as he has given the Railway commissioners their raise, out of his surplus. Would it cost Rl,250,000,000 extra? That would be a small price to pay. Pay them what they really deserve and what they have sweated for? The Artisan Staff Association have pressed for a rise in basic salaries for a number of years without success. He now has this surplus of R8,000,000 and it shows that the Minister could obviously have paid the Artisan staff its true worth in wages during the past year. I ask him, how much of this year’s surplus comes out of the leanly-lined pockets of the railway workers? Behind this façade of a R8,000,000 surplus, we can see the disappointment, the disillusionment and the desperation of the artisan staff, who feel that they have been deceived. They feel that they have been swindled.
Order! The hon. member must withdraw the word “swindled”.
Then I will say “done down”. In last year’s budget debate I said to the Minister—
I pointed out that in the Economic News Letter published by the Government it praised the Minister as follows—
He will have to do some coaxing this year, Sir.
I said then—
No wonder we have had to fight every inch of the way to see that railway workers are not exploited. “When times are good”, the Minister said, “the railwaymen will benefit.” Give them I say, their fair share, and give it to them Now!!
Mr. Minister, let us go now and look behind your false façade of R8,000,000 surplus and examine some of your financial sins. Sir, let us first examine the Renewals Fund. For many years now the manipulation of this fund has been cause for regular comment by the Select Committee on Railways and Harbours, and the principles which should govern its operation have been specifically laid down. A Departmental inquiry was instituted as a result of complaints by the Select Committee and because the solvency of the fund had been affected by the increasing costs of materials and labour. This Departmental Committee recommended the establishment within the fund of a Higher Replacement Cost Account to ensure the greater stability of the fund. The Minister has now seen fit, without reference, may I say, to the Select Committee, to wipe out this stabilizing section of the Renewals Fund.
Where do you get that from?
It is my belief that he has taken this step to avoid the embarrassment of our criticism of the way in which this special account has been handled over the last few years. He has never followed the correct procedure of estimating what appropriations should be made to the Higher Replacement Cost Section. He has never satisfactorily explained whether he has any method at all. The correct principle was that he should take from Revenue an amount equal to the estimated higher replacement cost of works shown in the Brown Book as due to be met by the Renewals Fund. He has never bothered to make a careful calculation. For years he has shown inaccurate results, because of careless estimation. Last year if I remember correctly, he estimated an expenditure of some R7.1 million. Then he appropriated R7,000,000 from his previous year’s surplus and set aside R 1,000,000 from his estimated current surplus. That left about R800,000 to reduce a debit in the fund of some R18,000,000. The account of course, is bankrupt and there seems to have been little attempt to keep it solvent. I remember this Minister saying in last year’s Budget debate that priority would be given to wiping out the deficit in the higher replacement costs section of the Renewals Fund. He abandoned that priority. This year he has not wiped out the deficit, but he has wiped out the whole higher cost account itself. He has done away with the safety device, designed by his own Departmental Committee, to see that Parliament was given a clearer picture of the way in which the Administration managed this, admittedly difficult, Fund. Let us remember that it was mismanagement and miscalculation which caused the fund to fall into arrears and into utter confusion. Now he has strangled his own Department’s brain child and it will be much more difficult for us in future to realize what is happening to Railway accounts and particularly to the Renewals Fund. It will be much easier for him, now, to conceal his methods of working and to evade criticism. It will be much more difficult for us in Parliament to check faulty methods. The serious aspect of this matter is that this action was taken without referring the matter to the Select Committee. Time and time again the principle has been reiterated that in order to see that Parliament is kept fully informed of the use of the moneys set aside under parliamentary sanction in the renewals fund—and I quote now from the Select Committee—
Why was it not referred to the Select Committee? It seems to me that one of the reasons may well be that this Minister wishes to avoid all form of control of the financial administration of the Railways. This is an especially dangerous attitude of mind, I think, at a time when some of the funds of the Railways are in a very precarious state and close parliamentary scrutiny is necessary to guard against slipshod methods.
Let me now take the House behind the façade of the Betterment Fund. Last year the Minister stated as one of his other priorities that he would restore the Betterment Fund to proper order. He had in mind also the redemption of the R 10,000,000 loan which had been made, that questionable financial manoeuvre which was severely criticized by this side of the House. I doubt whether the Minister will ever indulge in such an ill-advised transaction again. What has happened does show the benefit of constructive criticism. Not one member of that side of the House would ever have raised this issue; but we raised it and we forced the Minister to recognize the error of his ways; he is gradually trying to reduce this irregular loan.
But let us come to the Fund itself. The Minister said—and I would like to interpret him here correctly if I can—that he was against a Fund being accumulated for Betterment purposes. This time last year he said—
I wonder what he means by “future commitments”? Does he mean future requirements? The Select Committee deals with future “requirements”. He said—
It seems to me that the Minister is proceeding on entirely the wrong principles. I ask him to remember that after all this is a Fund and he should treat it as a Fund. Any surpluses which are available go towards next year’s works. This fund should not be allowed to go into arrears. The Republic of South Africa Act clearly contemplates that regular annual contributions shall be appropriated from current revenue. I take it to mean: irrespective of whether there is a surplus or a deficit, or whether in the Minister’s opinion it would be placing too great or too small a strain on current revenue. Various Select Committees have laid down a procedure that “regular contributions shall be made from revenue” saying, “contributions shall be based on requirements”. The Minister used the word “commitments” and then said he did not like the idea, but the Committee does, and that is more important. Contributions shall be based upon requirements “and not upon expediency”. Of course that loan of R 10,000,000 was the height of expediency. It seems to me—and I would like the Minister’s reaction to this—that the Select Committee was recommending that he should do what he says he cannot do, that he should base his figures on future commitments and treat this Fund as a continuing Fund. In any case, it is surely not too much to ask that the Fund should at least be kept solvent by seeing that sufficient regular contributions are made to it out of revenue.
The present position of the fund seems to be this: it stands at R 1,250,000. The programme of new works calls for a betterment expenditure of R8,000,000. The Minister will provide R8,000,000 from his 1961-2 surplus, to this Fund, which will then stand at R9,250,000. But there is a loan outstanding of R6,000,000. So that in fact until this loan is repaid the Fund really only has R3,250,000 to finance R8,000,000 worth of new works. It seems to me that the trouble with this Minister’s budget is that when he does fill up one hole he has to dig another hole in order to fill it. The Fund is really insolvent, but other hon. members on this side will deal with this matter more expertly than I can.
Let us look behind the façade of the surplus and see the way in which the Minister deals with the government-guaranteed railway lines to Bantu townships. Here is another example of weird and wonderful estimating and of unnecessarily vague and unsatisfactory methods of estimating revenue. Quite rightly the losses suffered on this service is a charge against consolidated revenue and not on Railways and Harbours Fund. It is a service provided as a matter of Government policy, and after many years of criticism the Government has come to see the rightness of taking on that responsibility and guaranteeing these lines. It is, however, quite wrong that settlements should be made by way of spasmodic lump sums which are apparently estimated on an entirely arbitrary basis. The amount paid over from the Consolidated Revenue Fund is not the result of careful estimation or calculation of the actual costs of operation, as it is stipulated should be done in the various Railway Construction Acts. An agreement should be arrived at on the basis that each year’s losses will be worked out accurately, and after the passage of five years an adjusted settlement should be made in full. This process has never been followed. An arbitrary figure is arrived at by guess-work and not by calculation. Years have passed without the application of any proper system for a settlement of these accounts. I remember in 1959-60 the Minister of Transport explained why his original Estimates of revenue were so much smaller than the final figure turned out to be. He said—
R4,000,000 to help the Minister get a higher surplus. Here is a case where four times the sum expected was provided. Surely it is time that the two departments got together, as they should, and made a firm agreement on the basis of which losses could be accurately calculated.
That has been done
Has anything been done for this year? And will anything be done for next year? There was no mention of it in the Minister’s budget.
The hon. member is right off the rails.
I may be, but I am in very good company with a great “puffing Billy” who says things he does not check. The Minister cannot say that he has ever supplied Treasury with a proper calculation of the actual losses suffered. There has never been an adjustment made on that basis. It has been a lump-sum payment every time. Perhaps the Minister will explain whether it was oversupply last year which has caused Treasury this year, and next year, to deny Railways any contribution? I hope he will deal with this subject in his reply.
My time is getting near the end and I would just like to peer again behind this surplus of R8,000,000 to see another financial irregularity. I refer to the way in which this Minister deals with his Loan Fund expenditure. I must refer to the regrettable, if not the pernicious, habit the Minister has of over-estimating loan requirements. Last year more than R10,000,000 of loan funds were surrendered to the Treasury. These were amounts that had been provided for and could not be used. This year, according to the second Additional Estimates, there was an indication, not only that there would be a saving on new works on open lines of over R25,000,000, which is another matter, but of the total appropriation of R85,000,000 in respect of loan funds for Capital and Betterment services, only R65,000,000 will be used. Twenty million Rand less than estimated. Up to 16 February I think only R54,000,000 of this had been drawn. How much will finally be drawn? I would like to know what Treasury thinks of this process. It must be more than embarrassing to Treasury to have tens of millions of rand of unused loan money handed back to them. I think the Minister owes this House an explanation of why these large sums go unused. I always understood that the system was in vogue for 30 years by which the Railways gave Treasury a month’s notice of their loan requirements. If, in spite of this precaution, these savings on Loan requirements occur, I believe there must have been wild over-estimation of requirements. Does the Minister realize what adverse effects this may have on our economy? The Railways at one time had priority for loans. They needed them to get over their self-created transport difficulties. They may do so still; I do not know, but whether they do or not we know that loan moneys, which are held, unused and have to be surrendered later, deprive other Departments of the necessary loan facilities for their own or national expansion. Only the Minister of Finance can tell us what projects have had to be shelved because the Railways called for loan funds they did not use. The needs of other departments must have been crowded out. Who knows what irrigation works, soil conservation projects or housing or road plans had to be dropped or delayed? Who knows what under-developed regions such as the Bantu areas have been handicapped by lack of funds caused by the unnecessary greed of the Transport Department? Here again, we expect reform in future. Let me say a last word in connection with the third priority the Minister gave us. He has made some progress in building up the Rates Equalization Fund. It is up to R22,000,000. But it is still much less than the Minister stated as his ideal. I hope he will concentrate on building up that insurance fund for the railway worker and the railway user to increased heights. I hope he will follow the wise advice given by you yourself, Sir, that R60,000,000 was not enough for an adequate rates equalization fund. I hope he will not say that we are urging that this be done this year and use it as a debating point. I do not ask that it should happen this year, but I suggest that he aims at a higher target than R22,000,000 and that he acknowledges the wise advice given to him some time ago by you yourself, Mr. Speaker.
I second this amendment, and in doing so I want to make no apology for dealing with what may be. and I think is, one of the most unfortunate aspects of this Railway Budget. I am not referring to the decision of the Minister in connection with the claims by certain staff members; I am referring to the absence in this Budget of any provision whatsoever for railway pensioners. I think it is necessary that the financial position of the Superannuation Fund should be examined, and I want to do that particularly in the light of the plight of the present railway pensioners. At 31 March of last year the total assets in the Fund amounted to R276,927,084 — over £138,000,000—an increase of R19,434,586 over the previous year, i.e. the year ending 31 March 1960. The total income for the financial year ending 31 March 1961, amounted to R33,298,469. The total expenditure for the same year amounted to R13,863,882. The excess of income over expenditure for the year amounted to R19,434,586. An analysis of these accounts reveal two noteworthy features. Of the total expenditure on benefits, for the year 1960-1 of R13,863,882, no less than R12,052,958 was met from interest alone from fund balances.,I want to emphasize that; R12,052,958 was met from interest alone from fund balances. The balance of the expenditure of Rl,810,924 was paid out of the current contributions of R21,231,090, made up of contributions of R10,616,162 from the staff another R10,614,927 from the Administration. Sir, that in emphasizing the amount that is coming in by way of interest alone, I am indicating at the same time how little is going towards paying out benefits from the actual contributions made by the Administration and by the staff. Only R1,810,924 out of the total expenditure of R21,231,090 for the current year 1960-1 was required to meet the cost of benefits paid out during that same period. Sir, 8.5 per cent of the total contributions from the staff and the Administration went towards paying out benefits. The balance came from the interest on existing funds and in the light of these facts I ask whether the time has not arrived for a reexamination of the fund and, secondly, whether we should not now discuss the plight of the existing pensioners, particularly those who were pensioned before 1944. Sir, they are suffering; they are amongst those who are suffering most to-day. The claim that has been put forward by one staff association that benefits should be based on total contributions to the fund and not on the average of the last seven years service, is one which I feel should be examined, but of course it cannot be examined without a full inquiry into the whole fund. The percentage increase in benefits that has been paid out up to now is not considered to be an equitable way of improving pension payments. Too big an increase is enjoyed by top-level staff under that system. Therefore the question of an inquiry into the whole of the Superannuation Fund, the assets of which stood as at 31 March last year at over £138,000,000 is overdue. We should examine the fund completely to see what the future holds for existing pensioners and for those who are to go on pension and what should be done in view of the extremely sound financial position of the fund.
Now I come more specifically to the question of the present pensioners. Sir, there is extreme hardship in numerous cases caused by the high cost of living and the fall in the purchasing power of the rand. We know that there is extreme hardship. The fund itself was established in 1925 and up to, I think, 1932 when South Africa went off the gold standard, contributions were paid by these pensioners in gold, and the gold sovereign to-day is worth, I think, R10. The purchasing power of the rand, compared with 1938 standards, is about 45 cents. These two facts together with the application of the means test in respect of old-age pensioners are the causes of most of the heart-burning amongst old-age pensioners and particularly the pre-1944 pensioners. The means test in many instances deprives the railway pensioner of the opportunity of qualifying for all or part of the old-age pension. The point here is that the railway pensioner paid for a pension as well as being a taxpayer during his working days. There is no provision in the Budget, either for a percentage increase for pensioners or for a cent increase in the pensioner’s cost-of-living-allowance by way of financial relief. Sir, R3,758,054 was paid out in the 1960-1 budget year to present pensioners by way of cost-of-living-allowances. These pensioners are the forgotten men in this Budget. There is no staff association to make representations on their behalf. I understand—the Minister can correct me if I am wrong—that the Minister turned down a recommendation for a 10 per cent increase in benefits from the Joint Superannuation Fund Board because it was not a unanimous recommendation. That is the information I have. No wonder the railway pensioners call themselves forgotten and forsaken ex-railwaymen. There is no relief for them at all in this Budget. Why should the Minister not have provided R1,000,000 from the surplus or from revenue directly or from the current expected surplus to increase the pensioner’s cost-of-living-allowance. I do not think it is a lot to ask for. A sum of R1,000,000 spent in this way would be money very well spent indeed. I know the Minister cannot control the Superannuation Fund directly but he has full control of his Budget surplus and of the Rates Equalization Fund with its credit balance of over R15.000,000 as at 31 March last year, and I am quite sure that the Minister could have found ways and means of providing R1,000,000 to present pensioners to assist them in their hard struggle to make ends meet to-day, for the reasons which I have outlined. I plead with him to reconsider this matter. It would be quite in order for him to come forward with supplementary estimates before the end of this Session to give effect to what I have asked for here on behalf of the railway pensioners. I think they richly deserve this consideration.
Sir, the Press has been giving considerable publicity to the dispute between the Administration and the South African Airways Artisans, or should I say the South African Airways staff. I do not think that we can ignore this issue, but I do think that it is necessary that he should examine the position. I know that there are many members in this House who are not familiar with the issues that are involved in this dispute, and I believe that it is important that these issues should be considered by all members because the public in the long run will demand that some action be taken.
In the early days, prior to this Government taking office, the principle of identity of interests was introduced by, I think, Minister Sturrock. Under this system the staff were divided into groups, and the groups were made up of staff with a broad similarity of interests. Each group is known by a letter of the alphabet. I do not know who is responsible for that, but it has made it easy to recognize the various groups. Group D is the group consisting of artisans and operatives— Schedule A and B men—and this is an important point to remember; Group D, like some of the staff associations, is registered under the Industrial Conciliation Act as a trade union, the S.A.R. & H. Artisans’ Staff Association. The actual congress of this association, like the others, elects an executive committee. Provision is made in the constitution of the Artisans’ Staff Association for a representative of the Airways to be elected on to this national executive, i.e. one executive member to represent the artisans and operatives employed in the Airways section. It is this executive which negotiates with the Minister for improved conditions and in regard to other matters. For the past five years, to my knowledge, the Airways section has been attempting to break away from the Artisans’ Staff Association and have now succeeded in obtaining registration, not recognition, but registration, under the Industrial Conciliation Act as a trade union. The Minister has refused to negotiate with this trade union, and the union has retaliated by instigating a “work to the manual” campaign. This campaign has been called off, but can we afford to leave it at that? What are the issues involved here? What has brought about this desire by the Airways staff to form their own union and to be recognized for negotiating purposes by the Minister of Transport? I think, firstly, the reason is the refusal by the Artisans’ Staff Association to negotiate on the basis of differential wage rates for different trades—I think that is basically what has brought this issue about— and, secondly, the claim by the Airways artisans that their work is of such a nature that they should enjoy a higher status with higher pay. Sir, the Minister faces this dilemma; if he negotiates with the Airways artisans he will be recognizing the principle of different wage rates for different trades, depending upon where they are employed in the service—I emphasize that point—depending on where they are employed in the service. For example, if a fitter is employed in the Airways he will receive more basic pay than a fitter in the mechanical workshops. The place of work will determine the rate of pay, not the trade or the degree of skill employed on the job. Hon. members may not realize what this issue really involves. It is one of the most complicated issues that any Minister or any trade union can face. The Airways artisans will not negotiate on the basis of differentiation of wages between artisans of different trades in the Airways section. I want to deal with this point at length. The problem which faces the Artisans’ Staff Association is that pressure has been brought to bear on them to agree to differential rates of pay for different trades, a request which they have not been able to agree to, because it would destroy the unity of their trade union; but if the same question were to be put to the Airways Association whether they are negotiating on behalf of all the trades in the Airways, they would say “yes”; they in turn are not prepared to have differential rates of pay in respect of trades in their union. We therefore have this position that the Airways artisans will not negotiate on the basis of differentiation of wage rates between artisans of different trades in the Airways section; if they did they would lose the unity which they now enjoy. This is the reason, as I said earlier on, why the Artisans’ Staff Association cannot accommodate the demand of the Airways artisans, and this is a reason which is common to both. Sir, I ask the Minister why does he not appoint a commission of inquiry to go into this real problem facing the members of Group D as a whole. Outside industry meets it by paying wages above the minimum laid down in the respective Industrial Councils’ determination on a “personal to holder” basis. This method has been adopted by the Minister in respect of certain officers on the staff who carry extra responsibility. I do not think the artisans will accept this method of meeting the problem. I only mention it because a precedent has been established in the Administration’s service. You will see, therefore, Sir, that, although Railway trade unions are not prepared, as far as the Railways are concerned at any rate, to recognize that there is a difference in the responsibilities between one trade and another, a difference in the responsibilities in the same trade in respect of one type of work and another, the trade union movement knows that there are, in fact, these differences. I do not know whether the Minister has had an investigation into this issue, but I can tell him that it is a problem that is not going to lessen in the future; it is going to grow, because there can be no question about it that what is happening in the service to-day to some of the most responsible positions in the various trade categories is that, because of the responsibilities involved, it is impossible for the person concerned to earn a higher bonus than those who are in less responsible positions earning much more money. I feel that if the Minister is not prepared to tackle this issue as a real issue, he will not be able to find the answer to the problem facing him in relation to the Airways Association.
What do you suggest? I am not trying to be facetious.
No, I know. I know the problem that we are faced with here, and I am suggesting that the Minister should have a full inquiry into this whole issue.
How will that help?
It would establish what can be done, if anything. I know that the Minister is perplexed over this issue. I know from my own experience how it happens in the workshop. Let me give the House an illustration that comes to mind of a particular artisan who was earning over 40 per cent bonus. He was a first-class artisan. A particular job came into that workshop and the foreman said “Look, So and So is the best man I have; put him on this job. It requires extreme accuracy.” He was put on to the job and his bonus earnings dropped; he was not able to earn the same bonus that he was able to earn on the other work on which he had been employed. The result was that he lost money, although he was doing a more responsible job. Another illustration is where an officer is proved to be not as efficient as another, and he is placed on work which is not so important, and his earnings increase. These are the issues that are involved. In the case of the Airways personnel, they claim that their work involves such great responsibility that they should be paid for carrying that responsibility.
We are missing the point. The Airways artisans are not prepared to be members of the A.S.A. They want their own union, and they want recognition to be able to negotiate themselves. What do you suggest in that regard?
That is the issue as it has been presented to the Minister. I am telling him why it became an issue with the Airways section.
I know why it became an issue. I want to know what you can suggest.
I suggest that the Minister should remove the fundamental reason as to why the Airways will not work with the Artisans’ Staff Association.
What do you think is at the bottom of it?
I have just told the Minister. If the Minister has more information than I have I am pleased and I hope that he will give that information to the House, because this is too important an issue for it to be hidden behind some departmental inquiry. This issue can affect the finances of the Railways to an ever-increasing degree. Sir, if I had a ready solution to this problem I would give it to the Minister without hesitation. I feel it would be my duty to do so, but I am suggesting that it does require investigation; that there are issues here which have to be faced and which cannot be hidden, and I hope the Minister will give effect to what I have suggested.
I have told you that the Airways artisans do not wish to be represented by the A.S.A. They do not want the A.S.A. to negotiate on their behalf. They want to do their own negotiation through the medium of their organization. That is the fundamental difference between the two organizations.
Yes, I know that and I have told the Minister that there are reasons for it.
I know what the reasons are.
But if the Minister were to agree to the Airways having the right to negotiate directly with him …
That is what I refuse.
… he knows that he will have all of the various trade organizations within the A.S.A. asking for that same recognition, and he would not have one association representing all the artisans, he will finish up with many more.
That is what I refuse.
It is not sufficient to refuse. That does not solve the problem.
I know, but what do you suggest?
I have suggested that the Minister should have this inquiry into the basic reasons why the Airways do not wish to have the A.S.A. representing them in negotiations.
I have told you.
No, it is not what the Minister tells me that is important.
That is what the artisans have told me and I am telling you.
It is not what the artisans have told the Minister that is important; what is important is to get to the fundamental reason. The Minister claims that he has this information and I say to him, “What are you going to do about it?”
I will solve the problem; don’t worry about that.
The Minister claims that he is going to solve this problem. I sincerely hope that he is going to do so, but I am also going to suggest to the Minister that it is not as easy as he may imagine; that he may find that he will have to get in outside help before he finds the answer to this problem. I can tell him now that if he does give recognition to this union he is not solving the problem; he is only creating a much bigger one.
Let me turn to the problem facing the Minister in respect of this parent union, the Artisans’ Staff Association. The A.S.A., according to Press reports, has decided to take from amongst their members an expression of opinion as to what they should do now that the Minister has turned down their request for relief during this financial year. I say that the dispute which has arisen between the Administration and the A.S.A. is deplorable, to say the very least about it. What are the issues here? Sir, I do not want the Minister to accuse me of fabricating anything, and I know that I cannot say that the report that I have here which was published in the Daily News is completely factual, but if we are to discuss these issues we have to start with something, and the Minister has made no comment in the Budget speech on the issues involved here, so I am going to rely upon a report in the Natal Daily News of Durban of 8 March. Let me quote the report—
The Minister had told the executive that claims for higher wages would result in an additional expenditure of R2,700,000 a year, and that the Railway finances could not bear it.
In an effort to find a compromise, the executive proposed as a possible basis of discussion the pegging of bonus payments at the present rate and the retention of the present position with regard to unpaid holidays. It would reduce the additional cost to R1,785,000. The executive had said also that they would work under the new rates for three years.
As the discussions with the Minister progressed, it had become clear to the executive that the Minister was not in a position to negotiate anything—“that, in fact, prior to our arrival he had placed the matter of our request for higher wages before the Cabinet and that their decision had been a blunt “No”.
“No discussion took place when we originally presented our claim for higher wages to the Minister last November and no negotiations were possible at this recent meeting with him. The meeting was purely eye-wash and a pretence that collective bargaining and negotiating still exist.”
As a result, after a three-hour intensive discussion with the Minister, the executive of the association had told him eventually that it could not accept his refusal to grant its request for higher wages.
The executive was asking that artisans, at present on an hourly rate, should be paid R151 monthly on appointment, R157 after five years’ service and R163 after 10 years’ service. There had been no increase in the basic wages of Railway artisans since 1955.
If that is a correct report, then I think what has happened is indeed deplorable, to say the least about it. What are the issues here? Firstly, the claims were submitted to the Minister in November 1961. Presumably the hon. the Minister wished to see what the financial position was likely to be before starting negotiations with the A.S.A. One can understand that the Minister was not prepared to negotiate in November on an issue of this sort when he was not in a position to know what funds would be available. I ask, as the hon. member for Wynberg asked, what is the Minister going to do if his estimated surplus of R8.5 million is in fact increased before the end of the financial year? Will he be prepared to reconsider the claims of the Artisans’ Staff Association?
This would be recurrent expenditure.
The Rates Equalization Fund was established to deal with this very question. It was established to enable the Minister to adjust wages without increasing tariffs.
No, no, no!
If the hon. Minister examines the position of the Rates Equalization Fund.
Read the Act, and then you will see what the position is.
The Act lays down that there must be a Rates Equalization Fund, and originally it was a Rates and Wages Equalization Fund. If the hon. the Minister will examine it he will discover that was the position. The whole idea was that this fund was to be used to protect the railwaymen from having to have a reduction in wages, or that the Minister should have to increase tariffs. It was to equalize this issue.
You want the Rates Equalization Fund utilized for the purpose of making concessions to the staff, to increase their wages? Is that your argument?
Indirectly. If the hon. Minister had met these demands and if as a result at the end of the present financial year he had a deficit of R2,000,000, then that R2,000,000 could have been taken from the Rates Equalization Fund.
But your colleague stated in his speech that I must build it up to R16,000,000.
Of course the Minister can do both. I refuse to believe that this Minister cannot, with all the resources behind him, both utilize the Rates Equalization Fund for the purpose I have outlined and at the same time build it up, as we all want it to be built up.
That would require a sleight of hand then.
What is required is accurate budgeting. If the Minister had to budget for this increase in wages, he would then have to budget correctly, even if it meant an increase in rates. He would have to do it. But as long as he has this haphazard way of budgeting, sometimes having a surplus, sometimes a deficit, we will never be able to finance railway wages and everything that goes with it in an efficient way. The answer, Mr. Speaker, is not a sleight of hand, it is efficient budgeting.
I want to put another issue to the hon. the Minister. The Minister has made it quite clear that he is not going to give effect to the demands made upon him, or I should rather say requests made to him by the Artisan Staff Association, and I wonder whether one of the reasons is not to be found in the concluding paragraphs of the Minister’s Budget speech. The Minister said—
Does that mean that there can be no adjustment in the wages unless that adjustment applies to the entire staff? Is that the real reason why the Minister has turned down this request by the Artisan Staff, because he refuses to give one section of the staff an improved wage and not all sections of the staff? I ask the Minister, because my interpretation of this paragraph would indicate that is the real reason why the Minister is not prepared to give any relief to the railway artisans. I can put it in other words: If an increase in basic wages is to be made, is it the Minister’s policy to agree to such increase only when he can provide for all of the staff?
The next point that arises is the alleged failure of the Minister to negotiate because he had already been committed by the Cabinet to his Budget proposals. If this is so, then I can well understand how members of the A.S.A. feel. The main feature of trade unionism is the recognition of collective bargaining. Once this principle is ignored, trouble must develop. What has the Minister to say in this regard? I do not wish to prejudge the Minister, but I do think we should be told what the position is so that we can debate this point of important policy. This appears to me the main point that has given rise to so much consternation to members of the A.S.A. In regard to the actual request made to the hon. the Minister, I want to remind the hon. the Minister of a statement made by the general manager in his annual report for 1960-1, on page 28. There we find an article dealing with the consolidation of the cost-of-living allowances, salaries and wages, and the general manager has this to say—
And now comes an important part—
I wish to draw the attention of the House to what the general manager had to say, for two reasons, firstly, that I want to say that the general manager should have included amongst the restrictions the actual restrictions in the manner of calculating bonus earnings. That was another restriction which was placed and which the artisan staff, mainly, agreed not to proceed with. The hon. the Minister must realize that sacrifices in bonus earnings and overtime payments were and are felt particularly by the artisan group. But it is not my intention to go into the merits of the claims submitted to the Minister by the Artisan Staff Association, but rather to consider the broader issue: The question of staff and management relations, and this brings me to the third leg of the amendment moved by the hon. member for. Wynberg (Mr. Russell). This portion of the leg asks that the Minister should appoint a commission of inquiry into ways and means of improving existing staff negotiating machinery. The present position is that when staff organizations meet the Minister on major issues, the Minister is supported by members of the Railway Board, the general manager and the assistant general manager (staff) in addition to perhaps one or other of the other assistant general managers, depending on the issues under discussion. The issues affecting all of the staff are discussed, the Federal Consultative Committee is the negotiating body. But the point I wish to make here is that in any case if a request is put forward by the Federal Consultative Committee, or individual staff associations’ executives, the reaction on the staff is usually a call by them for the Minister of Transport to resign. [Time limit.]
I want to sympathise with the hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell) for not having succeeded with his speech last Wednesday to prevent the Opposition press from praising and congratulating the Minister on his Budget. I think it must have been a disappointment to the hon. member to have found that his words had fallen on deaf ears. The opinions of newspapers which do not support the Government show that the hon. the Minister has submitted a good Budget to the House and to the country. Let me read a few extracts to you, Mr. Speaker—
Cape Argus: Mr. Ben Schoeman and his railwaymen have done an excellent job in rehabilitating the backbone of the country’s transport system.
The Friend: All in all, however, the Budget would seem to be sound and safe, and it is good to know that Railway finances are being kept on an even keel.
Rand Daily Mail: In spite of the threatening trouble over artisans’ wages, the Minister of Transport has a good deal to be proud of as far as the Railways are concerned. In his Budget speech he was able to show steady progress in the past year and reasonable prospects for the immediate future.
Coming from a Press which does not support the Government but which is usually only too anxious to criticize that is very favourable comment on the Budget, Sir. It cannot be otherwise, because this Budget testifies not only to the sound economic position in which the country finds itself, but it also testifies to the sound financial position of the Railways. That was why I knew last Wednesday that the hon. member for Wynberg was putting himself to unnecessary trouble in the brave attempt which he made and that he would not succeed in preventing the Opposition Press from commenting favourably on it.
The hon. member for Wynberg had a great deal to say about the unreliability of the Minister’s budgets. He had a great deal to say about the Minister’s record as Minister of Transport. He accused the Minister of wild budgeting. But the hon. member for Wynberg should not forget that for the past five years he, as the main speaker of the official Opposition, has been the main critic of the Railway Budget. During that period he has also built up a reputation for himself which enables us to judge him as critic. Let me say at once that where the Minister has built up himself a proud record of achievement, of initiative and tenacity of purpose, the record of the hon. member for Wynberg is a record of wild prophecies, prophecies which never materialize, of dark futures in which darkness never sets in, and of attitudes and statements which have often had to be changed in order to adapt them to the circumstances. He has had to adapt them to hard circumstances, to the hard reality for him—one achievement after another on the part of the Minister and his management. Let me give a few examples, Sir, in order to show of what failures the record of the hon. member in fact testifies. In 1959 the hon. member for Wynberg predicted that the Railways would close their books with a deficit of R20,000,000. Sir, the Railways closed their books that year with a surplus of R16,000,000. The hon. member also predicted an increase in tariffs in 1959 and he said the following—
Do you know, Sir, that since 1958 there has not been a single tariff increase. The hon. member had hoped and prayed that it would be necessary to increase tariffs and he often said that straight out in this House. He has revealed himself as a real prophet of doom who has lived to see his prophecies of doom completely shattered by the progress and success of a mighty Railway undertaking under the National Party régime, by the remarkable progress of which the present Budget testifies.
Mr. Speaker, you will remember how the hon. member criticized the Minister last year because the Minister said that South Africa’s expulsion from the Commonwealth would make no difference to his Budget. You will remember how the hon. member predicted economic disaster in respect of the financial position of South Africa and the Railways. I should like to refresh his memory a little bit as far as this is concerned. He said this—
Imagine, Sir, that coming from the hon. member for Wynberg—
It has made no difference to the Minister’s Budget. Who had the temerity, Sir, the hon. member for Wynberg or the Minister? Furthermore, he said the following last year—
It so happens that so-called far-reaching statement of the Minister’s has proved to be true, because there has been such an increase in Railway revenue that an estimated deficit of R500,000 has been converted in an expected surplus of R8,500,000. In sharp contrast to the hon. member for Wynberg the Minister has been far too modest! But listen to this—
Mr. Speaker, there you have this prophet of doom at his best. I quite understand the hon. member feeling hurt because these wild prophecies of his have not come true. This Budget has quashed his most fervent hopes. But if the hon. member is hurt and annoyed with himself or if he is annoyed with the Minister, he is not doing the right thing. He should not be annoyed with the Minister but he should be annoyed with his own Leader who during the republican referendum campaign spoke about the catastrophies which would follow in the wake of our becoming a Republic and our expulsion from the Commonwealth. He should be annoyed with his Leader and not with the Minister. The hon. member has believed the wrong Graaff. He should rather have listened to his Leader’s brother, then he would not have been so annoyed. On these wild flights of imagination which the hon. member for Wynberg so often indulge in, he predicted the following in 1960—
What happened then? Only the following year, last year, their cost-of-living allowances were consolidated and once again one of his dark prophecies did not come true and the hon. member for Wynberg was compelled to swallow his own words. Just in passing, how different is the treatment which the Railway staff receive from the National Party Government from the treatment they received from the other side of the House at the conclusion of World War I when their cost-of-living allowances were not consolidated, but when they were reduced by 25 per cent cuts—the well-known “Jagger-cuts”.
You are going back very far.
We are still having trouble with Jagger’s children. You see therefore, Sir, that as far as the attitude of the hon. member for Wynberg over the past years towards Railway policy is concerned, his has been a history of wild prophecies, of conflicting statements and attitudes, attitudes which were so wide apart that you could turn with a wagon and a span of oxen between them, a history of taking up attitudes, changing attitudes, reconsidering attitudes and changing them again. If I have to condense that into one word I can do no better than to condense it into the hon. member’s own favourite word “re-thinking”. Did you not find it curious, Mr. Speaker, that after the hon. the Prime Minister’s announcement in regard to the Transkei, that hon. member was the first member of the United Party to suggest that there should be “re-thinking” on the part of the United Party in respect of their colour policy? Because, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is so accustomed to “re-thinking”. But the facility with which the hon. member changes his attitude to bring it into line with circumstances, is demonstrated by what he had to say about the capital programme of the Railways. In 1959 the hon. member for Wynberg criticized the Minister for having reduced capital works to the tune of R28,000,000 in the following words—
In the same year, still criticizing the Minister for having had to curtail his capital programme, he said the following in another speech—
Take note, Mr. Speaker, that in both speeches he criticized the Minister for having curtailed his capital programme by only R28,000,000. His approach at the time was that the Railways should keep pace with the development of industry, commerce and mining. That was in 1958. But, believe it or not, in 1960 he reproached the Minister for not having applied the brake sooner. His criticism then was that the Minister had poured money like water into Railway development. Listen to what he said—
He had no confidence in the economy of the country at that time. Once again he was the prophet of doom. What would have happened had the Minister been so foolish in 1960 as to listen to the hon. member? We find the answer to that question in this Budget where the Minister states that it is expected that the carrying capacity of the Railways will be put to the severest test next year.
Where do you get that? Read it again.
I cannot help the hon. member to understand plain language. The hon. member for Wynberg complained in 1960 about the ineffectiveness of the Minister in respect of long-term and sound economic planning. All the complaints which the hon. member for Wynberg and the United Party had about planning and lack of efficient planning disappear with this Budget. If this Budget proves anything it is surely that in order to expand the Railway system and to develop and modernize it, planning has never been more timeous, never more efficient and never more effective than it has been in this case. If we want to look for a reason for this success and for this good Budget, we need not look any further than the planning which there has been as far as capital development is concerned. The Minister and those at the helm together with the Planning Board deserve the greatest praise for that.
On the other hand, what would have happend had the suggestions of the hon. member for Wynberg been applied to the Railways during the past years? I am convinced that if all the suggestions of the hon. member over the past five years had been followed and applied to the Railways, the Railways would not have been in the position to-day to cope with the essential transport demands, apart from the financial mess in which the Railways would have been. And what a terrific brake would that not have been to the economic development of the country?
The hon. member for Wynberg has once again accused the Minister of having dragged the Railway Board into politics by appointing Mr. C. V. de Villiers to the Railway Board. Why did the hon. member not complain last year when Mr. P. J. C. du Plessis was appointed to the Railway Board? Both Mr. de Villiers and Mr. du Plessis were members of this House and both were chairmen of the Railways and Harbour Select Committee during their time. Why does he only object to the appointment of Mr. de Villiers? Is the reason perhaps the fact that the hon. the Minister of Information was thus able to stand as a candidate in the constituency of Mr. de Villiers? I think that is the reason. But why does the hon. member try to make us believe that he is concerned about politics on the Railway Board if he is really only concerned and jealous because an English-speaking person was able to get into Parliament in that way and take his place as a member of the Nationalist Cabinet? No, the hon. member bluffs no one with that. The truth of the matter is that he is jealous that an English-speaking person of the calibre of Mr. Waring is a member of the Cabinet to-day because he knows that this fact prevents him from continuing with his propaganda of racial hatred against the National Party.
The hon. member has also admitted that in the past the United Party have been guilty of appointing party politicians to the Railway Board. It is indeed true that the National Party have also in the past appointed politicians to the Railway Board. But there is a difference and a very important difference between the appointments made by the National Party and those made by the United Party. The National Party have appointed politicians, but they were all politicians who have served in this House for years, people who have made an intensive study of Railway matters, and all of them have served as chairmen of the Railways and Harbours Select Committee; Mr. J. J. Haywood, Dr. F. H. Boltman, Mr. P. J. C. du Plessis and Mr. C. V. de Villiers. But the politicians whom the United Party appointed to the Railway Board during the period 1939-48 were never members of this House. They had no experience of Railway matters. Their appointment was purely a reward for the political services they had rendered. Take the case of Mr. Louis Esselen. He was the chief secretary of the United Party. He has never been anything else in his life than a United Party organizer. His appointment to the Railway Board was an out and out political appointment. Take the case of Mr. Jan Fourie of the Free State. He had no experience of Railway matters whatsoever. He was appointed simply to reward him for the fact that on a few occasions he had stood as candidate in the Free State for parliamentary elections and had lost on every occasion. At the moment that same Mr. Jan Fourie is the secretary of the United Party in the Free State.
They simply caught him in the veld.
Yes, that is quite right, Mr. Fourie was simply caught in the veld and appointed to the Railway Board, because he was incapable of winning an election for the United Party. Mr. Speaker, the National Party has never yet made itself guilty of rewarding its political pals and organizers as openly as to place them on the Railway Board. I challenge the hon. member for Wynberg to give me one example of such a case. He cannot; I am convinced of that.
What about Mr. Teichman?
Yes, there is the case of Mr. Teichman. The hon. member for Wynberg says that the original object of the Railway Board—and he repeated that to-day— was not to have any politicians on it. As usual the hon. member is again ill-informed and his facts are not correct. As far back as 1910 Colonel E. M. Greene, a politician of Natal, was appointed to the Railway Board. Did the hon. member not know that? And if he knew it why does he give these wrong facts to the House? I find no fault with the appointment of Mr. de Villiers as a member of the Railway Board. Seeing that the major portion of the work of the Railway Board consists of matters relating to policy and personnel, I think it is quite proper to appoint members of the House of Assembly to the Railway Board, people who, as members of this House, have made themselves acquainted with Railway policy and who, as representatives of constituencies, have over the years gained experience in personnel matters, personnel problems and personnel complaints. But apart from Mr. de Villiers’ experience. he was a Railway official for 12 years in addition. But the hon. member for Wynberg objects to the appointment of a man like Mr. de Villiers. He ought to be ashamed of himself. He should rather congratulate Mr. de Villiers on the fact that he, as a railway official, has progressed so far in life as to become a member of the Railway Board.
Yes, but the hon. member for Wynberg has no time for a railway official.
The hon. member for Wynberg also objected against the increase in the salaries of the members of the Railway Board. His first complaint is that this has been done at a time when the Minister has turned down the demands of the artisan staff for an increase in salaries. The Minister has already pointed out to the hon. member that he has been misinformed and that this increase in the salaries of the members of the Railway Board came into operation last year already. As far as a comparison between the salaries of the members of the Railway Board on the one hand and those of the artisans on the other is concerned, I wish to point out to the hon. member that since 1948 the artisans have received salary increases in 1951, in 1955, 1956, 1958 and in 1961, whereas members of the Railway Board have received increases only in the years 1951, 1955 and 1961.
What about his own increase?
The percentage increase in the case of the artisans since 1948 to 1961 has been 50 per cent whereas the percentage increase in the case of members of the Railway Board over the same period has been 41 per cent. It is also erroneous to suggest that the privileges of the Commissioners have been extended. Basically the Railway Commissioners enjoy the same privileges which they enjoyed when the National Party came into power in 1948.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the staff for their outstanding contributions in assisting the Railways over its difficulties. I am convinced that the staff have made a positive contribution in assisting the Railways so far along its uphill climb, it is a contribution which is to their credit. I am particularly pleased to hear from the Minister that there is ever an increasing improvement in the productivity of the staff. Dr. Verburgh says in his book South African Transportation Policy which was published recently, that although the tractive power of locomotives had increased by 28 per cent and the Railway personnel by 16 per cent between 1950 and 1960, the goods traffic had increased with no less than 53 per cent. That indicates an increase in efficiency on the part of the staff. However, Mr. Speaker, I think everyone will readily concede and admit that high standard of efficiency would not have been possible, would not have been achieved, had it not been for the enterprise of and the guidance given by the Minister and his management. I feel, therefore, that the congratulations which the Sunday Times extended to the Minister, the General Manager and the senior officials on 31 December 1961, have been well earned.
They give credit where credit is due.
If only that hon. member would do that. The Sunday Times wrote the following in a leading article—
That is what the Sunday Times wrote on 31 December 1961. The leading article then goes on to enumerate all the impressive achievements of the Railways over the past year and it concludes with the following words—
Mr. Speaker, what does the hon. member who so often gets up in this House and speak about “ministerial and managerial inefficiency” think about that?
I now want to come to the question of the Artisan Staff Association and their demands. The branches of the Artisan Staff Association at Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein passed resolutions last week in connection with wage demands and in those resolutions they also demanded the resignation of the Minister. I want to say this. I have no objection to a staff organization submitting its demands to the Minister. I say it is their duty and their right to do so. Nor do I have any objection to the time that they have chosen to do so. It is the right of a staff association to submit a demand for wage increases to the Minister and his management. They may also feel completely justified in stating their case. I am not denying that at all. But I cannot agree with them and I want to express my deepest disapproval of the fact that they have demanded the resignation of the Minister. I disapprove and condemn that very strongly because I cannot believe that will do their cause any good. I was pleased, Mr. Speaker, to notice from a newspaper report yesterday that the President of the Artisan Staff Association, Mr. Liebenberg, has also expressed his regret about this resolution which was passed at Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein demanding the resignation of the Minister.
I do not have the details of the unsuccessful negotiations between the Minister and the Executive Committee and the Artisan Staff Association. But when I read the summary of the discussion which took place between the Executive Committee of that staff association and the Minister on 14 November 1961, as it appears in their own publication, the A.S.A. Magazine of December 1961, I think that the Executive Committees of the Artisan Staff Associations’ branches at Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom were not justified in demanding the resignation of the hon. the Minister. I find that on that occasion, namely on 14 November 1961, the Minister has adopted an exceedingly reasonable attitude towards the Artisan Staff Association. What were their demands? Let me just deal briefly with those requests and with the Minister’s replies thereto. The first was in connection with wage increases and pay on a monthly basis and the Ministers’ reply was that he accepted the principle of pay on a monthly basis, but that the question of increases had to stand over till the end of the year so that he could determine whether he had the money at his disposal to accede to the request.
- (2) In regard to the request that the working hours of artisans and machinists be reduced from 46 hours to 45 hours per week without any loss in wage, the Minister agreed to appoint a committee on which the staff would be represented to go into the question of a short working week. According to the summary it is expected that this enquiry will commence in March 1962.
- (3) In regard to the request that an increase in Sunday-time, over-time and bonuses be granted, the Minister said that he accepted the principle of increased Sunday-time and over-time but that nothing could be done until he knew what the financial position was at the end of the year.
The fourth request was that the non-pensionable allowances should be consolidated, and that the practicability of and the extent to which the pension fund could cover the additional contributions should be investigated. According to this summary the Minister replied that too was a matter which depended on the financial position of the Railways and that he had also received requests from various other staff organizations in connection with the matter. As hon. members know these requests are being acceded to in this Budget without any financial loss to Railway officials, because the Administration will carry the cost of R3,000,000 connected with the consolidation of non-pensionable allowances. There were further requests which the Minister promised to have investigated—I do not want to go into those—and amongst others the Minister also agreed to the travelling privileges for children as requested.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether this is a correct reflection. I take it that it is. But from this summary of the discussions it is very clear that the Minister adopted a very reasonable and sympathetic attitude towards the Executive Committee of the Artisan Staff Association. He stated specifically that the financial demands would have to stand over until such time as he could determine to what extent the financial position of the Railways would allow him to accede to them at the end of the year. Just as it is the right of staff associations to make demands to the Minister, it is equally the right of the Minister to approve or disapprove of them, because the Minister and nobody else in this country, is responsible to the country for the good and sound management of the Railways. He is, therefore, also the person responsible to judge whether the financial position of the Railways permits of any wage increases.
That is the point.
It is true that there is a surplus of R8,500,000 this year. However, of this amount the Minister has to use R8,000,000 in order to strengthen the Betterment Fund. That is absolutely essential even to meet the demands which will be made on that fund this year. That was more or less unavoidable because the credit balance of R 1,242,000 would have been hopelessly inadequate to enable the Betterment Fund to meet the needs of the ensuing year. You must also remember, Sir, that the Minister could not even make provision for the redemption of the amount of R6,000,000 which was allocated from the Loan Fund to the Betterment Fund in 1959-60, although it is the policy of the Minister always to avoid the interest burden attached to funds which derive from loan expenditure. The balance of the surplus amounting to R599,000 goes into the Tariff Reserve Fund because that is a Fund which ought to be built up. This Fund plays an important role in so far as it ensures stability in tariffs. The Tariff Reserve Fund may to a certain extent also be regarded as a guarantee to the railway official. Payments into this Fund can only be made from revenue and it is sound policy to strengthen this Fund annually if it is at all possible to do so. After provision has been made for the strengthening of the Higher Replacement Cost account of the Renewal Fund to the tune of R6.6 million, an allocation of R67,000 is made from the expected gross surplus of R1,067,000 to the Pension Fund and R500,000 to the Fund for the elimination of railway crossings. That leaves an expected surplus of nearly R500,000 which is not enough to meet the costs connected with the consolidation of the non-pensionable allowances, with the result that the Minister is budgeting for a deficit of R2,750,000.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to point out that the strengthening of these funds of the Railways is as much in the interests of the Railway officials as it is in the interests of a sound financial basis for the Railways itself. If the financial position of the Railways is not kept on a sound basis, the Railway official will be one of the first to pay for the consequences.
Mr. Speaker, during the years that they have been in power, this Government and the Minister have time and again shown their gratitude and goodwill to the railwayman. Whenever the financial position of the Railways has allowed it concessions have been made to the staff and they have received thanks in a tangible way. Over the past two years these concessions have amounted to not less than R16,000,000, while over the past 14 years they have reached the figure of R 114,000,000. Over and above that approximately R98,000,000 have been spent on housing for the staff.
I am not in the least surprised that the United Party see political advantage for them-selves in these resolutions of the branches of the Staff Association. They have all along under-estimated the mentality of the railway worker. During the recent elections the United Party came with the propaganda that the salaries of the railwaymen would be cut after the election. They tried to buy the vote of the railwayman in that way. The hon. Leader of the Opposition issued a five-point challenge to the hon. the Prime Minister at Aliwal North, in which he challenged the Prime Minister, inter alia, to promise that the wages of the railwaymen would not be cut the day after the election. Right down from their Leader they tried to buy the vote of the railwayman and in doing that clearly showed what they thought of the railway official. There was no cut in salaries and wages the day after the election nor were any of their benefits taken away. On the contrary, this very Budget provides for further benefits. Let me say this clearly to the United Party that rands and cents cannot buy the railwayman. His work and the salary which he earns have never and will never determine the political disposition of the railwayman in this country. If the United Party would only accept that they will not in future make a laughing stock of themselves in the eyes of the railwayman. We find proof of the fact that his work does not determine his political disposition in the attitude of the chairman of the meeting of the Artisan Staff Association at Bloemfontein. He asked the artisans at that meeting to leave politics completely out of the discussion. The Opposition has now dragged this issue between the Minister and the Artisan Staff Association right into the political arena. By doing that, they are doing a disservice to the artisans and the staff association. [Time limit.]
It has apparently become the custom for that side of the House to make a bitter attack every year on the Artisans’ Staff Association of the Railways. Last year it was the hon. member for Uitenhage (Mr. Badenhorst) who made himself guilty of this, and this year we have had the same type of attack from the hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) (Mr. van Rensburg).
That is untrue.
He is deliberately telling a lie.
Order! Who is the hon. member who said that it was a deliberate lie?
I said so, Mr. Speaker.
Order! The hon. member must withdraw that.
I withdraw it.
On a point of explanation I want to say that if the hon. member for Orange Grove (Mr. E. G. Malan) says that I made an attack on the Artisans’ Staff Association it is untrue, because I did not do so.
Let me put it this way then that the hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) made an attack on that section of the Railway Staff Association who asked that the hon. the Minister should resign as Minister of Transport, and apparently he agrees with that. One can well understand the feelings of the Artisans’ Staff Association when they come along year after year with reasonable proposals and with reasonable demands and then have to be told, as the hon. member himself read out, that the Minister accepts the principle underlying a certain request but nothing is done in that connection. For example, the hon. the Minister accepts the principle of monthly pay to the artisan, but why has nothing been done in this matter up to the present? They have been asking for it for a long time. He accepts the principle of higher pay for Sunday-time, but why has that increase not yet been given to the artisan staff? These artisans, who form an extremely important part of the Railways, are not trying to exploit the position politically, which the hon. member for Uitenhage accused them of doing last year. They are pleading for their own people by submitting reasonable proposals to the hon. the Minister. And it must be frustrating to be told every year, “Yes, in principle your requests are in order but I cannot do anything about them until I know what funds the Railways have available”.
The hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) made accusations against the hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell) with regard to certain prophecies made by the hon. member. In order to be able to make those accusations against the old South African Party and the United Party, he actually went so far, to use the old Afrikaans expression, as to go and fetch “die bobbejaan ver agter die bult” (to meet trouble half-way). I would say that not only did he go and fetch the baboon behind the hillock but that he went so far to go and fetch the baboon that he had to make use of a sputnik or go back to Darwin to get hold of the baboon; that is how far he had to go back into history to find some little justification for his attacks.
I agree wholeheartedly with the view which has been expressed here this afternoon that our railwaymen form an extremely important part of our population and make an extremely important contribution to this country’s welfare an to our national income. There are almost 110,000 White railway workers and almost 105,000 non-Whites, all of whom contribute a great deal to the development of our country. We on this side of the House also want to express our appreciation of the great work that is being done by those men in South Africa. When we think of them we do not only think of them as numbers; we think of them as individuals who with their families have to endure hardship because of the present high cost of living and because of their limited wages; who have to endure hardship under certain unjust regulations and under circumstances which need not necessarily be a burden to them. The background against which we should discuss this matter is the question as to whether the railwaymen in South Africa are being treated fairly at the moment or not. Is it not possible to give them better treatment in certain respects? To find the answer we must go to their various staff associations and hear from them why they are dissatisfied to-day. We find that there is a growing measure of dissatisfaction arising from the refusal of requests which are regularly put forward by them. There are complaints in connection with wages, there are complaints in connection with hours of service and working conditions …
What about the Aliwal verdict?
The hon. member talks about the Aliwal verdict. I think what happened in Aliwal is simply that the voters of Aliwal have not yet realized how far-reaching the plans of this Government are in connection with the development of the Transkeian Territories. While I am on this subject, possibly the hon. the Minister can tell us how the development of these separate Bantustans, which will also take place at Aliwal, is going to affect the Railways running through those future States. There has been an investment of millions and millions of rand of the Republic’s capital in those railways. Are they going to be handed over in the future to these Bantu authorities? A large section of the constituency of the hon. member for Aliwal (Mr. H. J. Botha) is going to fall in that independent Bantu State in the Transkei. What is going to become of the railway connections in those areas?
There is dissatisfaction in connection with grading, in connection with deductions, in connection with pensions, in connection with appointments and promotions, in connection with appeals and, not least of all, Mr. Speaker, in connection with political activities in the Railway Service. Let me say a few words in connection with each of these, as far as my time permits.
Let me first say a few words in connection with requests for wage increases and better conditions of service. The Minister of Transport has worked out a system to meet legitimate wage demands, a system with which we have now become so familiar that we practically go to bed with troubled minds when we regularly hear that old story from him year after year. His system is simply this: Every year in October he usually meets the Federal Consultative Council of Railway Staff Associations. When he meets them he comes along with the story that he expects a deficit that year, that he cannot possibly accede to their demands, that he knows that the Railways are going to suffer a loss; that he expects a considerable loss and that it is consequently impossible for him to accede to their demands. The hon. the Minister did this in October 1960 and he also did it in October last year. Last year on 31 October he told the Executive Committee of Salstaff that he expected a deficit, that he could not accede to their demands to considated wages and cost-of-living allowances. Mr. Speaker, does the hon. the Minister want to tell me that the finances of the Railways are in such a mess and such a state of disorder that he did not know on 31 October of last year that he was going to show a profit of approximately a few million rand? If he knew it, why did he come along with the story to the Executive Committee of Salstaff that there was going to be a loss and that he was unable to do anything for them? Here I have his words (item for discussion No. 2)—
This was a specific request in connection with grade 2 clerks. We can only repeat what the hon. member for Wynberg said: “If the hon. the Minister is always going to use that excuse not to improve the conditions of service, is he prepared then to say to the railwaymen: ‘ If I am wrong in my estimate, if there is a profit, I shall increase your wages?’”
I do not want to enlarge upon the case of the artisans. We have had two serious threats in the past few weeks. The one is the threat of a go-slow strike amongst the ordinary artisans, and the other was an actual go-slow strike amongst the Airways artisans. In both those cases I believe that there were in fact grievances which could have been eliminated beforehand, and if that had been done we would not have had that difficulty. The position is that these people are good workers but they are becoming desperate because their reasonable requests are not heeded. Take this simple question of the artisans’ request to be paid monthly. Why should it be so terribly difficult to accede to that request? Why should a commission go into this matter again? In Rhodesia the artisans have been paid on a monthly basis for years. Why cannot it be done here? Does the Minister realize that after 30 years’ service a member of the artisan staff is worse off, as far as pensions are concerned, than a member of the salaried staff on the same notch? No wonder these persons feel frustrated.
I have already mentioned that there are 110.000 White workers and 105,000 non-Whites on the Railways. The non-Whites also have a legitimate claim to increased wages, and I notice that in this Budget, judging by the figures, the Minister has granted a wage increase of between 50 per cent and 60 per cent to the non-Whites. Let him correct me if my figures are wrong.
Where do you get hold of that?
It is an inference on my part. The wages of the 25,000 non-White workers in the Department of Transport in the Maintenance and New Works Division have been increased from R4.4 million to R7.5 million. In the first place I should like to make it perfectly clear that I have no objection to it.
But it is not an increase of wages.
It is an increase in income, if the Minister wants to put it that way. I do not object to it because it is well known that the wages received by the non-Whites on the Railways have always been amongst the lowest in this country. But the increase in the total wages in this one Department that I have mentioned is only 6 per cent. A case can certainly also be made out for an improvement in the wages of the White staff.
I have greatly overrated your intelligence.
I should like to hear from the Minister then how he can justify this matter. If the Minister does not think much of my intelligence because I plead for higher wages for White railwaymen, the railwaymen must reconcile themselves to the fact that the Minister does not want members of this House to plead for them.
In this connection there is another great improvement that can be made in connection with hours of service and working conditions. An investigation is certainly required in that connection. As far as I can make out, the question of hours of service was last investigated 17 years ago. I think the time has come when this matter should be investigated again. The Minister promised in March of this year to appoint a Committee. I should like to hear from him whether that committee has already been appointed, and I should also have liked to have had a further statement from him in this connection. I hope that when a report is brought out the Minister will not shield behind the fact that the Cabinet says that he may not do this or that it depends on what is done in the Public Service. The excuse is frequently relied upon that the Public Service and the Railways are different and that they have different scales of pay for their staff. Surely then there can also be differentiation in this case.
Sir, if I were to go into all the complaints in connection with working conditions on the Railways I could take up a great deal of the time of this House. I want to mention a case, however, where an attempt was in fact made by the Minister to improve working conditions and I want to ask him to go one further step. This is not a very important case but it is quite interesting. As hon. members are aware, there is a huge number of tunnels on the section between Port Elizabeth and Noupoort and also between East London and Queenstown. I think there are 12 tunnels on each section. The drivers and firemen complained that in these tunnels, particularly in the long tunnels, they were exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning because of the enormous amount of smoke in the tunnels. It was then decided to issue gas masks to the drivers and firemen on those sections. One wonders whether that was the best thing that could be done. Is this not a case where diesel locomotives could have been introduced to do away with this inconvenience? I understand that the locomotives have been provided with cowls, with the result that the drivers and firemen are now exposed to less smoke in the tunnels, but all this smoke finds its way to the second and third carriages, with the result that the passengers are almost poisoned. If the Minister does not want to put diesel locomotives on that section, I suppose the time will soon come when he will have to issue gas masks to the passengers.
I have asked the Minister, and I want to ask him again, how the development of the Railways is going to fit in with this great developmental plan under which certain of the Bantu territories are going to be given independence. What is going to become of the Railway connections in those areas? It is important that the country should know whether there is any serious planning at this stage in connection in that regard?
Use your common sense for a moment.
How can you ask him to use something that he has not got?
I do not take much notice of that remark, but perhaps the hon. member over there can reply to the question. I am one of those people who believe that the Prime Minister is honest when he says that those areas are going to become independent.
Do you support it too?
Mr. Speaker would not allow me to reply to that and to start a debate on Bantustans, but I do not believe in that policy. I am pleased that the Minister has brought about one small improvement in the past year. He will recall that we asked last year that the rewards given to the members of the staff for worth-while discoveries or ideas should be increased. I understand that the minimum has now been increased from R2 to R3, which is a good thing, but I hope that the rewards will be stepped up slightly because we save tens of thousands of rand every year as the result of sound proposals put forward by the staff.
I have mentioned that there is dissatisfaction in connection with the grading system. The people who are particularly affected here are the 2nd Grade clerks. They are finding that their numbers are increasing every year and that it is difficult to get promotion to Grade 1. I admit that the Minister has now upgraded 200 Grade II posts to Grade I posts but a case can be made out and has been made out by Salstaff for the regrading of nearly 1,000 posts in this grade. This reminds me of a little poem that I come across in the Salstaff Bulletin, the dirge of a 2nd Grade Clerk in which he says the following. I do not vouch for the literary value of it, but perhaps it is worthwhile quoting it. He writes—
A long time you’ll be—
This is in store in the future
Promotion for all—but not for
And for those with promotion
Still less to do.
Promote a Grade I but do not replace.
Maak langer en langer die
Grade II se lys.
So, with one grade less and work in a mess,
Split up his section—en hier
Is die les:
Lighten the burden of seniors
Dish out the work to the Two’s
In a row.
It is clear that there are complaints amongst the Grade II clerks, and I think they are justified.
We find those complaints in connection with grading not only on one side of the scale but also on the other side of the scale. Here I am thinking of certain gradings in connection with engineers. There is a large number of resignations from the engineering division and I am convinced that to a large extent the grading system is responsible for this. The system works this way that in certain engineering divisions it is practically impossible for an engineer to reach the very highest rung. Let me take the four grades or branches. There is the chief mechanical engineer, the chief civil engineer, the chief electro-technical engineer and the chief signals engineer. The grading of the first two is the same, while the grading of the last two is lower. I think it is high time the grading of these four was placed on the same basis. For example, I am informed that the chief mechanical engineer and the chief civil engineer may become General Manager or Deputy General Manager, while that is not possible in the case of the other two. I think the Minister should give his serious attention to that matter. When we come to the question of resignations, we are entitled to ask how it came about that a capable person, a brilliant signals engineer like Mr. Golding, resigned last year, four years before he was due to go on pension. One also wants to know why Mr. Jackson, the assistant chief civil engineer, was transferred to a post carrying less responsibility where he has no hope of future promotion. These are matters which I can assure the Minister have not been brought to my notice by these gentlemen; they are matters which are mentioned by members of the staff, particularly engineers, and they would like to know what is going on.
There are also complaints in connection with deductions. I want to mention just one. It has been announced recently that there is going to be an increase in Sick Fund contributions. The increase is 40 cents per month; the Salstaff leading article says 40 per cent but I do not think that is right, and then there is also to be a further charge of 25 cents per prescription to be paid by Railway staff members who make use of the Sick Fund. I admit that the expenditure of the Sick Fund is increasing and that possibly the fees have to be revised, but the railwaymen who have to contribute to the Sick Fund feel that insufficient information is made available to them in connection with the activities of the Sick Fund. It will not help the Minister to say that the Sick Fund is entirely divorced from the Railways. It forms an integral portion of the railwayman’s life and it is necessary that something be done in that connection. I quote again from the Salstaff Bulletin, in which it is said—
I have said that there are complaints in connection with wages, hours of service, grading and deductions. In the same way, as the hon. member for Umhlatuzana (Mr. Eaton) has said, there are complaints in connection with pensions. There must be something wrong somewhere if the income of the pension fund increases by R33,000,000 every year and only R14,000,000 is paid out. On that basis a strong case can be made out for increased pensions, and we, on this side, advocate an increase of at least 10 per cent. We find, year after year, that the Superannuation Fund grows by anything between R19,000,000 and R21,000,000. That is the amount by which the income exceeds the expenditure. If this fund increases by R19,000,000 a year, a case can certainly be made out for increased pensions. The Minister knows that it is very easy for him, under the Act, to lend the money that he gets in to the Government at 4½ per cent. This is money on which the Government would otherwise have had to pay a much higher rate of interest. This is an additional burden on the railwaymen, and I think a change should be made in the rate of interest paid on this money.
Sir, there are also complaints in connection with appointments and promotions. The whole system of promotion, and particularly the system of selection committees, is still not working correctly. That is not what I say; that is what the Railway Administration itself says. I have here a circular letter from the General Manager’s office in Johannesburg, No. 1833, in connection with the nomination procedure and the filling of vacancies, and it reads as follows—
One wonders in how many hundreds of cases these mistakes on the part of the selection committees have adversely affected a railwayman’s chances of promotion, and how many of those cases have been rectified.
It is clear that avenues of promotion are not being kept open for the man at the bottom who is keen to get to the top. I could mention quite a number of cases where a person has been brought in from one division to become the head of another division, and he then serves in that division as a sort of stopper preventing the people below him from getting promotion. I want to refer to a few cases, without mentioning the names of the persons concerned. A person who was formerly a parliamentary clerk is Assistant Catering Manager to-day. What are the qualifications of that person—and the Minister will know to whom I refer—for the position of catering manager? Why was he placed in that post while people working under him, who have years of service, were overlooked? I also have in mind another case, the case of a parliamentary clerk who, at one stage was also in publicity, and who is now Chief Accountant. Then there is a third case, the case of a person who was in Customs and Excise, thereafter in the Railway Police, and who has now become Sales Manager of the S.A. Airways. What are his qualifications for this post? There is also the case of the person who was appointed as Chief Stores Superintendent. What better qualifications did he have for that post than the people working under him? Then I have in mind the case of a former newspaperman who has now become Acting Manager of the Publicity and Travel Division. What qualifications did he have except that he was formerly a newspaperman on a Transvaal Nationalist paper? No wonder many members of the staff feel deeply frustrated when they see how promotions take place.
I have mentioned a further aspect in connection with which objections are raised by the staff, and that is in connection with appeals. A member of the staff has the right to appeal against a decision in connection with his promotion. He can appeal to the Railway Board, but the unfair part of it is that he is not allowed to appear personally before the Board. The Administration is allowed to state its case against him, but the man who feels that an injustice has been done to him is not allowed to appear. He is judged in absentia, and frequently also condemned. I regard that as very unreasonable. The only exception that is made is in those cases where people are dismissed.
There are more and more complaints in connection with politics in the Railway Service. We heard the first example here this afternoon in connection with the Railway Board and political appointments to that body, where persons have been taken from this House and appointed to the Railway Board, other than in the case of Mr. Fourie and Mr. Esselen, neither of whom had been a member of this House. [Interjections.] But it is not only at that level that we hear complaints; there are also complaints at a lower level that members of the Railway staff take part in politics where they ought not to do so. Take the posts that were created a few years ago, the post of Native Labour Inspector in the Railway Service. The vast majority of those inspectors are capable officials who do their duty, which is to visit Native labour in the various parts of this country. The best amongst them have a command of some Native language. But now we find, and we hear, that a number of these inspectors are really acting as political agents of the Government party and that when they visit a place, their first visit is not to their offices, but to the local chairman of the Nationalist Party to find out what the political situation is in that area. [Interjections.] I am uttering this warning this year, and I give hon. members the assurance that, unless there has been a change by next year, I shall come along with examples— and there will be more than one example. There are examples in the constituencies of at least two of the hon. members on the other side who are now having such a good laugh.
What can one expect, however, when the Minister himself sets the example by introducing politics into the Railway Service? I should like to mention this case: Last year, or the previous year, the Minister addressed a political meeting near Silverton, but what we find strange is the fact that the Minister took a senior Railway official along with him to the meeting, and at the meeting the Minister said that if these people had any complaints they should go and see this person, that he would investigate and try to rectify the position. Sir, is it right to make use of an official at a political meeting to sit there as a sort of political lightning conductor to ward off criticism directed at the Minister?
Do you say it was a meeting that I addressed at Silverton last year? I have never held a meeting there.
The name of the place is Morgenvloed and the person who accompanied the Minister was Mr. Jordaan.
Do you say his name is Jordaan?
No, pardon me, it was Conradie. I think the Minister knows him. That sort of thing is wrong. If it is right, then we want to know whether our Railway supporters can come to our meetings to rectify matters for us. But the Minister would not agree to that. Sir, I have mentioned these complaints here and I hope that the Minister will go into them.
Do you want me to dismiss all the United Party supporters who serve on your executive committees?
No; but that is a peculiar threat coming from the Minister. He knows that we were never enamoured of the idea that railwaymen should actively take part in politics, but the Minister carried this policy further and also allowed railwaymen to become chairmen of the Nationalist Party branches and divisional chairmen. The result was that some of our United Party people said, “Railwaymen who are Nationalists are chairmen of branches; you might as well become chairman too and if there is any victimization, let us know about it”.
By and large I have dealt now with the problems of the ordinary railwayman. I just want to say a few words now in connection with the Catering Department and possible new lines. The Catering Department is showing big losses. These losses have become greater and greater in recent times, although there are signs to-day of a small improvement, but there is still no justification at all for these losses. A new reorganization has taken place in the Department, and as far as the new arrangements in connection with the bookshops are concerned, these have not had the desired effect. Here we have also a case of Parkinson’s Law; that new posts are created and heavier expenditure then has to be incurred in that connection. We understand that the accounting section of the Catering Department in particular is in a chaotic state. There are accounts there in respect of which payment has been outstanding for six to eight months. These are things which do not improve the good name of the Railways. As far as the Catering Department is concerned I admit that very fine services are being rendered in certain respects, but I feel that even better services could be rendered, particularly in connection with new dining saloons. In the past 19 years only ten new dining saloons have been put into service. I notice that provision is made in the Brown Book for more dining saloons, but in the case of most of these Votes provision is made for only a nominal amount. I feel, for example, that buffet saloons could be introduced between Windhoek and Walvis Bay or between Pretoria and Johannesburg. This is a matter which the Minister would be well advised to think about for the future [Time limit.]
The hon. member who has just resumed his seat was formerly the editor of the Kruithoring and then the United Party did not believe him. He later became a United Party propagandist and then the Nationalists did not believe him, and I do not imagine that anybody will believe him in regard to the representations he made here to-day. It is peculiar how this hon. member interprets the Budget. He looks at an amount budgeted for by the Minister for Native wages in the ensuing financial year; he notes that there is an increase as compared with the Budget for the previous year—because more Natives are employed—and then he suddenly comes to the conclusion that the Natives are receiving increased wages. If he looks at page 39 he will find that this year R5,088 is being budgeted for Grade II clerks in the office of the Minister and of the Railway Board, whilst last year the amount was R4,150. In other words, there is an increase of R938 this year. I suppose he will now say that the salaries of these clerks have been increased, but if he looks carefully he will see that their number increased, from three to four. As I say, it is surprising to see the way in which the hon. member reads the accounts, but I leave him there. I want to come back to the hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell).
In his amendment the hon. member says that the financial administration and control of the Railways, Harbours and Airways should be run on strictly business lines as opposed to a political basis. Well, let us investigate a little. One of the best proofs that things are going well with the finances of the country and with our economy and that there is development, activity and progress, is the fact that the South African Railways, Harbours and Airways are functioning steadily and that the transportation demands of the country are being complied with. The Railways, with its enormous personnel and the available rolling stock, transported a record tonnage during the past financial year, and from this one must infer that the Railways were effectively used, that the tractive power and rolling stock were properly used and handled, and that it also had an important effect on the economy of the country. Because passenger requirements were properly complied with; proper facilities for passengers were provided, and satisfactory service was rendered to the farmer, the industrialist and the business man who needed transport, and with the development of industries in the various centres of the Republic transport services were provided which were to the benefit of both the consumer and the Administration. It was of the utmost importance to the Republic to learn from the Minister in his Budget speech that “the onus resting on the Railways to keep pace with developments by being prepared to provide the necessary transport has been successfully complied with”. Together with these achievements there will, of course, also be problems and difficulties which will have to be dealt with. But as happened in the past, most of these problems have been successfully solved, and we have the fullest confidence that the Minister will be able to solve any difficulties effectively.
A revenue of the past two years and the anticipated revenue for the present financial year shows the tempo of progress. To be more specific, I can refer to all three services. During the year ending 31 March 1961, the record amount of R226.1 million was earned by the S.A. Railways in respect of goods traffic. This revenue is expected to be increased by the end of the financial year 1962; in other words, it is expected that goods traffic will increase to R232.5 million, an increase of R6.4 million over the previous year. And in the year covered by this Budget, 1962-3, it is expected that goods traffic will show an increase over the revised Estimates for the current year of R6.9 million, i.e. an increase up to R239.4 million. As I have already said, the increase in the revenue earned by the Railways can be ascribed to two things only, namely the efficiency of the staff with the means at their disposal, and secondly, the effective control and supervision exercised by the Administration itself.
A comparison can be made in regard to the harbour services also. Take, for example, the revenue derived from the services under the sub-head Wharfage Dues on Goods and Livestock. At the end of the financial year ending 31 March 1961, these services show an income of R13.2 million, and although the quay dues were deleteriously affected in the year 1961-2 by import control there was nevertheless no appreciable decrease in the income, and it is expected that progress will be made, seeing that the expectation for the year 1962-3 is that there will be an increase of R400,000 in revenue. And here it is noticeable that notwithstanding the small set-back in the year 1961-2, the handling of ships in the various ports was coped with. The handling of cargoes in all the harbours of the Republic was done effectively and satisfactorily. Without being too optimistic I want to predict that under normal circumstances such as prevail at present the increase in revenue in the present year will far exceed the figure of R400,000.
In regard to the Airways, it is encouraging to see that the revenue derived from passengers in the year ended 31 March 1961, amounted to R17.7 million, and that out of the globular figure for the revenue earned by Airways for the year 1961-2 the amount of R1.1 million, which was earned in excess of what was budgeted for in that year, will necessarily show a tremendous increase in respect of passenger services. And this gradual upward tendency in the revenue derived from passenger traffic is confidently indicated in the 1962-3 Estimates, in which provision is being made for a further increase of R1.8 million, i.e. 8.8 per cent, from passenger traffic.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that these comparative increasing revenue figures which I have mentioned in respect of one revenueearning service in each of the three divisions, viz. Railways, Harbours and Airways, seems to prove the statement I made earlier in my speech in regard to the efficiency of the staff and of the Administration. It also seems to prove that the Minister budgeted judiciously, not only this year but also in past years, particularly if we take into consideration the happenings of the past two years. The Opposition may criticize as much as they like, but they must admit that this year again the Minister framed his Budget on a very sound basis and that it is clear and effective for the year that lies ahead. This is an outstanding service to the Republic.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer also to the South African harbours, amongst which we have Durban and Cape Town which compare favourably with the best harbours in the world. These two ports, together with Port Elizabeth, East London, Mossel Bay and Walvis Bay, provide harbour facilities of such a nature that the Republic can boast of having the best harbour facilities in the Southern Hemisphere. Over the years various governments have spent appreciable capital sums on these harbours for their development and to make them effective for any shipping visiting the harbours, and to maintain at a high level the handling of cargoes. The statistics for the year 1960-1 show that our harbours in that year were visited by 6,256 vessels from other countries, the most important of which were the following: The United Kingdom 2,102 ships, Holland 902 ships, the U.S.A. 552, Japan 414, Norway 404, Western Germany 346, Sweden 268, and France 228. With this amount of sea traffic it is not surprising that in the year 1960-1 sea freight amounting to 18,885,810 tons was handled in the main South African ports. This tonnage was an increase of 5.7 per cent or 1,017,340 tons on the previous year. These figures show that our ports were very busy and that with the available facilities the ports could successfully comply with the demands made of them. This Government realizes the very important duty resting on it to make our ports efficient, and in every Budget so far the Minister has allocated funds to provide the most modern buildings and equipment in the harbours, to the extent that such funds were available. The Administration has always been able to render adequate services to the shipping in all our harbours. The show-place of the Durban Harbour is of course the new passenger terminal on T Wharf. Here modern freight depots, pre-cooling chambers, offices and cloakrooms were provided. The spacious customs hall with the excellent restaurant for Whites on the one side and for non-Whites on the other is a great acquisition to the harbour. Facilitating the control of passengers who are embarking or disembarking, particularly where the customs facilities have to be used, is always highly appreciated by passengers, and better service is being provided. Also, the handling of baggage has been speeded up and cargoes are being handled more efficiently and expeditiously. The Durban harbour will therefore be able to offer the travelling public some of the most modern facilities. Then Durban is also the chief port in our country for the handling of petrol and oil and the facilities and the installation at the Island View Quay are surely some of the best in the world. If these modern facilities had not been available for oil tankers, there would surely not have been two oil refineries in Durban to-day. Here, thanks to the action taken by the Government, industries have been attracted to our country which are of inestimable value to South Africa, and with a view to further facilities which may become necessary in future to develop this industry, I believe that the Minister will not hesitate to devote even more attention to further development.
But the Durban harbour has further potentialities. Just think of the development of the ship-repairing industry. In the past ships were repaired, but the demand increased, with the result that the authorities realized that effective facilities should be provided for the execution of this urgent and essenal work. The preparaon of the old flying-boat basin and the building of new wharves to comply with this object is again proof of sound and thorough planning on the part of the Minister and his Administration. The provision of these facilities may lead in future to shipbuilding becoming one of our great industries in South Africa. Although it is realized that sound planning is needed to provide wharves, keelblocks, special dry docks, slipways and workshops, and although power will have to be supplied and dredging will have to be done to provide space in the harbour for the launching of ships, in my humble opinion Durban harbour holds possibilities for such an industry on a large scale. The raw material, power and labour are available in the Republic. What is lacking, of course, is the technical, trained labour and workers who will have to be brought here, because South Africa, which is the most developed country in the Southern Hemisphere, urgently needs a big ship-building industry. In future provision will have to be made for a South African trading fleet which in turn can contribute to the development of our naval force for defence purposes. In this respect, also, it is my humble opinion that if overseas industrialists who want to start and develop shipbuilding here apply to the Republic, the Government should do everything in its power to encourage them by providing the necessary facilities. The benefits which will flow from such an undertaking will be of great advantage in future.
I just want to refer to the harbour in Cape Town. Firstly it is of great importance that the entrance to the Duncan Dock should be widened. After the investigations and experiments which were very thoroughly undertaken by the Administration in that regard, the work is now in full swing, and the wise step being taken here will also be recognized in future as something of inestimable value. The larger entrance will make it much safer for ships entering or leaving the harbour, which have to cope with the range action which is made worse by the wind and/or marine currents. At the present stage pilots find it very difficult on occasion to take ships safely through the entrance in bad weather. This widening of the entrance will make it much safer in any sort of weather, and will ensure that there will be no delay in ships entering or leaving the harbour caused by bad weather. In view of the fact that Cape Town is the oldest harbour in the Republic, it will now derive great benefit from the fact, as was recently announced in the Press, that the Caltex Company intends establishing an oil refinery in Cape Town. According to the report, the Minister, together with his colleague, the Minister of Economic Affairs, have given their consent to this development, which will ensure greater activity in the Cape Town harbour, and the provision of greater facilities to oil tankers by the Administration will also be tackled successfully, as was done in the past. The establishment of this great undertaking is of inestimable value to the Republic. It is an undertaking the benefits of which will be felt in various sectors of the economy of the country.
Then I cannot neglect again praising the Minister’s action a few years ago in rebuilding the pre-cooling chambers in the Cape Town harbour as speedily as he did. A visit to those buildings, and watching the activities there, make one realize that a great service was rendered to the country, and the results achieved have already become history, depicted in the statistics of the past two years. Mr. Speaker, allow me to pay tribute to the harbour port captains of our harbours, together with the pilots and the other personnel, for the manner they handled the traffic in the harbours, and also for the arrangements made for the loading and unloading of cargo. Then there are the harbour vessels, the tugs which do the towing and the rescue work in the various ports. This personnel, including the harbour pilots, have a proud record which they maintain. They render services which allow millions of tons of goods to enter and leave the harbour safely, and they are responsible every year for the safe entry and departure of hundreds of thousands of passengers and crew in our harbours every year. Few people realize what responsible work these people do.
Then I should briefly like to refer to another matter which was mentioned by the hon. member for Wynberg, in regard to the high cost replacement account. In regard to the Renewals Fund, the hon. member for Wynberg spoke about mismanagement, miscalculation, etc., and he said that the Minister should have referred the matter to a Select Committee before dealing with this fund. The Minister explained this matter thoroughly in his Budget speech. He explained why he did it. He said that a proper and thorough investigation had been made, and he told us what would be done in future, namely, that this contribution would be obtained, in the same way as the ordinary depreciation contributions, i.e. directly by regular levies against revenue. Sir, when we look at the two items in the White Book, Head 8 and Head 22, we see that, instead of the amount of R1,000,000 under Head 33 which was voted last year, this year R7,000,000 more is being voted under Head 8, and R429,834 more under Head 22. What is clear to me is that, with the percentage increase, as is now proposed in terms of the new arrangements, there will be a regular income for this fund, the high cost replacement account which will regularly be credited with amounts which are absolutely essential for replacement purposes, and if that does not happen, amounts must in any case be voted from the same account every year. It is much easier to budget if you have a regular income on a percentage basis than to have to take a globular amount from one account every year and to put it into the other fund.
Finally, I just want to say that the Minister has not had any proper criticism of his Budget from the United Party yet. If I am to judge by the speech of the hon. member for Orange Grove, I do not know whether this debate can last longer than to-night. I want to tell the Minister that he has rendered the country a great service, and the Railway personnel and the whole of the country are grateful for this splendid Budget he has submitted to us.
It appears as though the hon. member for Edenvale (Mr. G. H. van Wyk) must have been given the wrong notes to read. I think the notes he read out to the House a moment ago were designed for the Edenvale Chamber of Commerce or some similar organization, but they were certainly no answer at all to the charge made by this side of the House that the Minister in this Budget has failed to give due credit and due reward to the railway worker for his contribution to the position of railway finance. We heard the hon. member for Edenvale deal in his statistical record with the record tonnage carried, and he said that was due to the fact that the railway personnel had done their job properly. Why did he not follow that up and tell us what he proposes for his voters in his constituency who helped to build up that increased tonnage and who have received no reward for that extra work? Why does he not tell us, and why does no member on that side of the House tell us what they recommend in the interest of the railway worker who has helped the Minister to come with a surplus this year. No, dead silence from the Government side of the House when it comes to the welfare of the worker. Why has no member on that side replied to the hon. member for Umhlatuzana (Mr. Eaton) who pleaded for an increase of 10 per cent in pensions? Sir, hon. members opposite come with long figures of tonnage carried. Tonnage does not fill stomachs nor does it dress children. It does not help to bring up the family of the struggling worker on the railways. Why do some of them not deal with the practical problems of the railway employee.
Typical soapbox oratory.
No, this is not soapbox oratory. I happen to have railway workers in my constituency. I have here a letter dated the 6th of this month from one of these workers who says that he dare not go through the normal channels because he is afraid of victimization.
That is what happened in your time. You know that perfectly well.
He sets out figures here which show that a married checker trainee over 21 earned a monthly wage; in a 26-day month, of R98.27 before consolidation of cost-of-living-allowance and since consolidation earns R78.80, a drop of R20 in the earnings of a person in the same position. In the case of the intermittent casual worker who is married, his weekly income has dropped from R22.70 to R16.98 and he is not entitled to the 10-year increment. I could go on quoting other examples about Sunday-time and about promises not fulfilled. These are the problems which affect the man working in the Service to-day and who has to bring up a family, but all we get from Government members is “dank die Minister” and long sets of figures of tonnages carried, but no reply to the pleas from this side of the House for attention to be given to a just reward for those who have made this surplus possible and for those pensioners who helped to lay the foundation of the Railway Service—pensioners who to-day are struggling to exist on that pension and for whom no consideration whatsoever is shown. And then we are told that the Minister has budgeted efficiently. Budgeted efficiently when he withheld from the workers, on the grounds, that he could not afford it, R8,500,000 which is now being ploughed back —R8,500,000 which he could have spent helping the workers on the Railways but which he claims he did not have? No, we want to hear from Government members what they are prepared to do to bring pressure to bear on the Minister to help those in the Railway Service who deserve to be helped. They are afraid to criticize.
Do you want the whole surplus?
They are afraid to criticize because if they criticize they might not find a future post as Railway Commissioner in the years to come.
I want to deal with some of the things which I believe to be wrong in the administration of the Railways, the Harbours and the Airways, but particularly with the Airways. Before doing so I want to deal with something else which is symptomatic of the Minister’s attitude. I think it is important that this House should know these things. There is tremendous expansion going on at Durban harbour and there are tremendous plans for the expansion of that harbour. The hon. the Minister was good enough to permit Durban Members of Parliament to attend a meeting last year in Durban on this question, but I take the strongest exception to the attitude of the Minister in what I regard to be contempt of this House and contempt of Members of Parliament in that he refuses to make available to us documents—and I refer in particular to the report of the Moffat Commission —on which he is basing his planning. He is prepared to make that document available to the City Council and to other bodies but he is not prepared to make it available to Members on this side of the House. He says he does not want us to debate it in this House. I say that it is our duty to debate these issues in this House, and I want to make an appeal to the Minister to drop this dictatorial attitude, this attitude of contempt for Parliament as the body which has the ultimate say in and control over the administration of this Department. I want to say to him that Durban harbour is not just the property of the S.A. Railways; it is not just an instrument in our economy but that it is also the property of Durban; it is also an asset of Durban, Durban which in addition to its economic and its industrial potential and contribution to South Africa, is also the playground of South Africa. My constituency has developed a tremendously new housing area,— a new flatland. The hon. the Minister’s plans are bringing piers right across the harbour to within half a mile of the Esplanade in Durban. We want to try as far as possible to make some contribution to achieving not only the maximum efficiency, but also to preserving the maximum possible natural beauty and natural surroundings within which this efficiency must be built up. I hope that the hon. the Minister in his plans—and I quote this specific case—where he is dealing with the natural resources and assets of South Africa, will take into consideration other interests, other than the pure mechanical requirements of the Railway Administration.
I want to turn to another aspect of railway administration, the Airways, and I want to submit that the Minister must agree that there are increasing inroads being made into the Airways of what I call the railway mentality. The hon. the Minister, last year, admitted the importance of Airways. He said that in order to administer it separately, he had decided on a separate post of Assistant-General Manager (Airways). He accepts the principle that Airway Administration is not just a sub-branch of the Railways. An aeroplane is just not a train with wings on it, but it is a special organization of its own, requiring specialized knowledge and specialized background. It is one of our only links with the outside world. And dealing with links with the outside world, may I break my train of thought for a moment to deal with what I believe to be a great disservice which the hon. the Minister has done to South Africa in relation to our Airways. I refer to the deal which has gone on in connection with planes purchased for the South African Airways. The hon. the Minister was asked a question by the hon. member for Turffontein (Mr. Durrant) in regard to two Viscount aircraft purchased by the South African Airways, and in his reply the Minister said that these aircraft had been purchased from Switzerland, from Mr. Jerez. Why did he not tell this House the full story? Why did he hide from this House the fact that those planes had come from the Cuban Airlines, a puppet of communist Russia? Why did he hide from this House the fact that Cuba was in a spot over those planes because she could not obtain spares for them and could not get them serviced? Why did he not tell this House that South Africa and in particular the Airways which he controls had helped Cuba out of trouble by taking over those planes? Eventually the third time that we put questions to him, he admitted that these planes had come from Cuba. He had then answered three questions and he had still hidden from this House the fact that it was not a straight deal with Cuba, but that there was an interchange through an agent in Switzerland, an interchange of planes, and that not only had we helped Cuba out of its difficulties by relieving Cuba of two planes which could not fly, not only had we relieved them of their difficulties, but we had provided them with two alternative aeroplanes, ideally suited to be used as troop-carriers, if they so wish. Not only have we supplied a puppet of Russia with two aircraft, but we have provided this communist country with six engines as spares for those aircraft and with 50 per cent of the other spares therefore which South Africa possessed.
Did Great Britain not sell aircraft to communist China?
The hon. the Minister has made an interesting interjection. I am asking him whether he is quite happy that he has helped Cuba out of this difficulty by taking over these Viscounts. Because I want to come to the economics of the whole situation. Mr. Speaker, I asked the hon. the Minister the cost of the planes which South Africa possessed, and the average cost of Viscounts which we have purchased was R881,000 each. We paid for two second-hand planes, one of which has done some 3,500 hours flying, R770,000 each. We paid R770,000 for second-hand aircraft, one of which had done 3,500 hours flying, whereas the average cost of new aircraft, brand new aircraft delivered to South Africa was R881,000. But what is more, Mr. Speaker, in part exchange for those aircraft we gave to the agent of communist Cuba two Constellations whose value in the books of the South African Airways stood at R105,000 each; they cost us R813,937 each, they were in our books at R105,000 and we sold them for R90,000 each plus—free, gratis and for nothing—six engines and half their spares belonging to South African Airways. So not only did we help this communist country, not only have we offloaded from them planes which they were unable to use, and not made a bargain of it— we paid virtually full price for them—but we have supplied to them at less than their book value—and everyone knows that the book value of an aircraft is nowhere near its real value—two Constellations. The hon. the Minister withdrew these Constellations from use because he claimed they were uneconomic to run, but he has suddenly found that they are not so uneconomic, because he is chartering the other two Constellations we still have in South Africa to a commercial firm. That commercial firm must be making a profit out of them, because otherwise it would not be chartering them. And if a commercial firm can fly the two Constellations economically and can afford to charter them—and I assume they are economic charter prices (the Minister refused to reply to a question on that on the grounds that it was a commercial deal and therefore he could not disclose the details)— but either he is chartering those planes to Trek Airways at less than their cost to the Administration, in which case he is showing a loss on that deal, or he is chartering them at an economic price. If he is chartering them at an economic price and that company is making a profit on the deal, then why isn’t South African Airways taking that profit? Why is he not using the two planes that he has exchanged with communist Cuba in order to make more profits for the South African Airways? No, Mr. Speaker, three things about this deal leave a nasty taste: One is the way that it was hidden from this House and from the country, secondly, the way the Minister avoided giving us the full facts when we asked for them. Only when he knew that we had the full facts, was he prepared to give them to the House. And thirdly, the economics of this undertaking—of this interchange of planes—also leaves a nasty taste. But it goes further than a mere principle. I would like to ask the hon. the Minister whether he thinks that it is going to enhance our reputation in the anti-communist world, whether he thinks that Britain and America are going to be pleased with this deal which we have made, and whether he thinks that when we require further help or assistance that we are going to get the same co-operation and the same assistance from other countries, which are anticommunist, than we have had in the past?
Did Britain not sell Viscounts to communist China?
I wish the hon. the Minister of Information would join me in my plea to the hon. the Minister to divorce Airways from Railways so that we can get proper business efficiency in our Airways. I am going to quote what the hon. the Minister of Information himself thinks of this issue. He said—
This Minister of Information instead of making inane interjections, should stand up and support me in my plea to the hon. the Minister to divorce the Airways, to take them out of the strait-jacket of Railway red-tape and to treat them as a separate organization. Otherwise, Mr. Speaker, how is he going to inform the world of the efficiency of our airways when he does not believe that they are efficient, when he does not believe that they can be properly handled? How is he going to see that we get decent agreements with B.O.A.C., that we get passengers to use the South African Airways, when that hon. Minister himself does not believe that the Airways are efficiently run?
Tell me did Great Britain not sell aircraft to communist China?
Britain sold Viscounts to South Africa. That is what I am interested in, and yet we had to go and help Cuba to get rid of the planes they could not fly. I don’t know whether Britain sold Viscounts to China. I say that the hon. the Minister has done South Africa a great injustice. But not only externally; internally I believe he has not recognized the place which Airways should take in our transport system in South Africa.
Our Airways have built up a proud reputation, a reputation built up by the loyalty and devotion of the staff. It is a loyalty which has overridden the handicaps, the strait-jacket and the red-tape which often frustrate their efforts, and it is a loyalty which is being sorely tested, because in practice the Airways are being hogtied by the railway mentality which I have mentioned—the goods train idea. Just a little thing in passing: I don’t know who planned the terminal in Johannesburg, but there is not even a clock in the Airways terminal in Johannesburg. I don’t know whether that is symptomatic of the feeling in the Railway Administration that time is not important anymore. But in Airways, time is important.
That has nothing to do with Airways.
But surely it falls under him? Oh, I see, it falls under his colleague, Minister Schoeman, the Minister of Transport. I said that our Airways had built up a proud reputation, an accident-free record of which South Africa can well be proud and I believe that record will be maintained, because of the quality of the staff which we have, the pilots and the technicians—the pilots who fly the planes, the technicians who service them. But they are not getting much help from the Government, or from the Minister.
That is nonsense!
I wish my friends there knew something about the difficulties of airways. Every country in the world recognizes the importance of the airways. If you compare the salary scales of South African pilots for instance, with any airline in the world, you find that they differ from anything from 60 per cent to less than half of the remuneration other airways pay their pilots. Now the Minister’s answer is that conditions are different. My point is that other countries recognize and renumerate and reward the specialist services which are required to fly aircraft as opposed to driving trains.
And they have all the accidents.
Yes, that may be. South Africa, thank God, has got the finest pilots in the world, pilots many of whom were trained the hard way, learning to fight for their country, and they have carried that tradition over into the airways which they subsequently joined, the tradition of flying under difficult circumstances and with that background. I am proud of the type of pilot that we have, but I say that we will never justly reward the airway staff as long as they are a sub-section of a sub-section of the South African Railways and Harbours, without regard to the specialized nature of their services. More and more there is dissatisfaction over the extent to which railways are impinging onto airways. I want to quote for instance from January this year, when a chief engineer of South African Airways, a man only 51 years of age, resigned from the airway service after 28 years of unblemished service, service unquestioned in its efficiency and unquestioned in his loyalty to the Administration. But suddenly, a man who was a locomotive superintendent was transferred from the South African Railways, a special post created for him, that of engineering manager, and he was placed in a senior position to Mr. Scott. Why was it necessary to bring in a person, a locomotive engineer and to promote him over the head of a man who had given 28 years of efficient and loyal service because the locomotive engineer happened to have a technical degree which the other person could not have because it was not in existence when he trained. But the present incumbent had had 28 years of practical experience in the airways, airway engines, not steam engines or puffing-billies, but 28 years of experience with aircraft and aircraft engines. Sir, you are not going to build up loyalty in that way. Another transfer carrying a basic salary of over R3,000 a year was made when Mr. P. M. Botha was appointed as assistant-engineer (Electrical). Was there no airways electrical engineer who could have been promoted to that post? Was it necessary to bring a man from the Railways Administration and promote him to that post? Mr. Speaker, there were 66 persons earning over R1,000 and ten earning over R2,000 a year, basic salary, transferred from Railways to Airways over the last two years, and those people displaced airway personnel, qualified and able to do the job. Is it any wonder that people are starting to say that this is “jobs for pals”? The hon. the Minister evaded a question the other day which asked whether a senior-medical post had been filled. He said there was no such post. But will he deny that a medical officer was appointed in the airways service, that a railway doctor was appointed as the interviewing committee to interview applicants and that when he had interviewed the applicants, he appointed himself to that job? The hon. the Minister hid behind a technicality, trying to avoid answering the question. May I ask him to deny that the interviewer from the Railways gave himself the job? And why? Was he better qualified? Obviously he must have been if he was doing the interviewing. There are other reasons for dissatisfaction. The hon. member for Umbilo (Mr. Lewis) asked the hon. the Minister for instance how much route-check flying the present fleet captain of regional internal routes had done with the South African Airways. It is this official’s job to check the efficiency of pilots. The answer was 1,105 hours since he had taken on the post, and in the last two years let us look at what those flying hours comprised. The answer is 718 hours spent flying in Boeings. Now this is the fleet captain of regional and internal services, and on the whole of the regional and internal services there is one flight per week of a Boeing aircraft, once a week a Boeing aircraft flies from Johannesburg to Cape Town and back. But this person whose job it is to supervise and to route-check the internal and regional services has done 718 hours flying of Boeings. I don’t think he has been flying up and down from Johannesburg to Cape Town. In other words, he has been flying on overseas routes when his job is to check the efficiency of the pilots on the internal run. But whilst there is one flight per week on Boeings, there are 53 flights a week on Viscounts on the regional and internal routes, and the internal fleet captain has done a total of 141 hours flying in two years on Viscount aircraft, 70 hours per year. As far as Skymasters are concerned, there are 12 flights per week on internal and regional services, and the internal fleet captain has flown a total of 32 hours on Skymasters in the last two years. I want to know if that is likely to create confidence among the pilots, a spirit of camaraderie and a feeling for your superiors when the person who is due to check and to test their flying ability has flown 32 hours in two years in a Skymaster? What happens is that those people say: This particular incumbent of the post is flying around the world in Boeings because it is more interesting, and not looking after the internal pilots on the internal runs of South Africa. These are the things which lead to unhappiness and to discontent in the service; these are the I things which do not help to build up a confidence amongst the staff that their interests are actually being cared for.
Another example of railway mentality in the Airways is the introduction of the non-European Sky Coach service. Here the hon. Minister apparently thought that if you can hang a board onto a coach of a train saying “Whites only” and a board onto another coach reading “non-Whites only” and you have apartheid on the Railways, so you can have it on the Airways; you just hang a board onto the one plane and say “Whites only” and a board onto another one and say “non-Whites only”, and then you have apartheid. There were 78 flights planned for the non-White sky coach service from its inception to the time it was cancelled, and of those 78 scheduled flights, 71 had to be cancelled because there were not enough passengers.
Who is to blame?
I blame the hon. the Minister for not knowing that you can’t hang a board onto an aeroplane and say “I have got apartheid in the air”. The number of non-Whites booked on those 71 cancelled flights were accommodated without difficulty and without hardship on the normal sky coach routes. The revenue from those cancelled flights, R4,000 odd, was paid into the ordinary sky coach route revenue, whilst the non-White sky coach route made a loss of over R3,000 on the 14 flights, seven each way, which were carried out. But that is an example of railway mentality: The thought that you can merely take your railway attitude to airway problems, hang it onto an aeroplane and you have got a train with wings on it. There are other aspects, minor and major issues, which require attention. I wonder how many pounds and pounds are wasted by running these great big railway buses from the airports into town for two or three passengers. Surely a little bit of planning could provide two sizes of transport, medium and large.
Are you not making use of them?
I travel on those buses and it breaks my heart to think of the waste of money when one of those buses capable of carrying 30 or 40 or 50 passengers travels in with one or two persons. There is no reason why a little bit of careful planning cannot avoid that. You could have station-wagons carrying six or seven people which could be brought into service when the big buses are not required. These are little things perhaps, but they are things which go towards making up efficiency. I am not happy, I do not know whether the Minister is happy, with the system of reservations to-day, and I am sure not one member on the other side of the House is happy with the system of reservations under which they to-day cannot get onto an aeroplane or know until 24 hours before the time whether they are on or not. [Interjections.] They do not need them, Sir, they still travel by ox-wagon; their mental processes also travel by ox-wagon. I think there could be an improvement, because many is the time when I have tried to book people, not myself, but business people on a plane and have been told that there are no vacant seats on the plane, but when you go to the airport you find that plane half-empty with plenty of vacancies. There must be something wrong with a system whereby planes can fly often half-empty and yet potential passengers can be told that there are no vacancies.
Another slur on the personnel?
No, it is not a slur on the personnel. It is a slur on the system, the system which requires that every booking must be telexed through to Johannesburg, to be handled in one central office and then sent back to the various airports in each town. By the time a cancellation is notified in Durban and has gone up to Johannesburg and has come back to Durban, and Johannesburg has decided who shall take the vacancy that has been created by the cancellation, the plane is on its way and has left already, because planes cannot wait for messages go backward and forward from one town to another.
I would like to ask some questions too in regard to the agreement between South African Airways and Trek Airways which the hon. the Minister refused to give us information on when a question was put to him the other day. I ask this question because I want to suggest that South African Airways have been providing engineers with the Constellations which they have been chartering to Trek Airways—to a company, when their own planes as indeed the Minister admitted in reply to a question, have at times required the services of those engineers. Another question the hon. the Minister tried to evade, because of a typing error the date was given as 1961 instead of 1960, was the question of whether there had been a crash in North Africa and whether South African Airways had provided a charter flight to the scene of the crash he said: “No, and the rest of the question falls away.” But the Minister knew there had been a crash, simply on a different date. Why did he not tell the House …
Why do you not ask the right question?
… that in order to provide a charter flight to go to the scene of the crash no plane and no crew were available at the time and therefore the request for a charter flight was turned down, that refusal was subsequently countermanded from higher quarters and that crew were taken off a training course and sent up on that flight. I want to know whether the South African Airways is operating for its own profit or for the profit of private companies. If the latter, then what is South African Airways getting out of its agreement which the Minister refuses to give us information on? If this is a normal business transaction, Sir, then I feel this House is entitled to the details of that transaction. The hon. the Minister admitted the other day that there had been a number of planes flying close to South African Airways planes in the vicinity of the Rand airport, that he had appointed a committee to investigate. I hope he will tell us a little more about those incidents. [Time limit.]
We have listened to members of the Opposition this afternoon. I have been sitting in this House for a good many years, but never before have I seen an Opposition collapse the way this Opposition has collapsed during this debate. They did not have one new argument which they could advance before this House. Well, that is not surprising because the hon. the Minister has taken the wind out of their sails with this budget of his. They naturally expected to launch their attack from another direction, as has been their practice in the past. They have always been accusing the Minister and his staff of not being able to convey either the traffic offered or the passengers. Well, I have been listening very attentively to this debate and I did not hear any member opposite raising that point. It is very convenient or rather safe for them to sail around it because that is a dangerous point for them to raise at this stage.
We have listened to the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw). He raised minor matters such as the bus service. I want to differ from the hon. member. I myself have travelled in that bus and on occasions that bus is so full that there is hardly room for everybody. Because of a shortage of arguments we must not begrudge the hon. member that argument because he cannot come forward with anything else. He also attacked the Minister because he had purchased aircraft from Cuba. But the hon. member fought with those people, didn’t he? We are pleased to see that at long last his eyes have opened and that he has become converted. They even went so far as to bless the weapons of those people, but to-day he objects to it that the Minister has purchased aircraft from those people.
I am surprised to hear from the hon. member for Orange Grove (Mr. E. G. Malan) that he is now the champion of the railway employees. They have suddenly discovered that, with a view to the next election, they should start well in advance, to see if they can get the railway workers on their side. But let me refresh the memory of the United Party a little. The railway worker cannot be bribed. We must compare the wages which the railway workers received under the United Party régime with the wages which they receive under this party. The labour type received 3s. 4d. per day. That was his wage and I think it is a well-known fact that there are officials in the employ of the Railways to-day who will confirm that. There is not a single railway worker to-day who lives below the bread line. On the contrary, they travel about in motor cars to-day instead of walking to work. However, the United Party did not worry themselves about the position of the railway worker in those days.
Are you satisfied with the wages and salaries they receive to-day?
We can leave that to time and circumstances. When necessary and when the time is opportune, that will be attended to. The hon. member may safely leave that in the hands of this Government. The hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell) cut the most pathetic figure this year that I have ever seen. Since Wednesday of last week he has been trying to get the Press on his side so that the Press would not paint the picture which the Minister has painted to us in his Budget speech. However, the Press has disappointed the hon. member. For the last number of years we have been attacked year after year because of the accumulation of traffic that could not be conveyed. We did not have a single word in about that to-day because all the traffic offered as well as the passengers can be conveyed. What we did have from various speakers has been an attack on the Railway Commissioners, people who cannot defend themselves in this House. That was the type of criticism which we had from the Opposition to-day on the Minister’s budget. I want to congratulate the Minister, the General Manager and the staff very heartily on this budget. It is probably the most brilliant Railway budget that has ever been introduced in this House. In a moment I shall produce facts to corroborate my statement that this is the best budget which the Railways have ever submitted.
In the past we have had to import units. As recently as last year I still asked the Minister whether it was not possible to manufacture units in this country. The Minister’s reply was that it was not at that stage because certain parts still had to be imported. It was true that 30 per cent of the parts had to be imported. But now that we have reached the stage as far as the Railways are concerned, where we can build units and coaches in this country, we must pay tribute for this to the National Party Government; and not only to the present National Party Government, we should also think of the old National Party Government which was responsible for the establishment of Iscor and thank them to-day for that. If that had not happened—and we know that the United Party opposed it—if the old National Party Government had not established Iscor, we would not have been reaping the fruits to-day, we would not have been able to manufacture the necessary iron and steel in this country to enable us to build our own passenger coaches, our own trucks and our own units in this country. Mr.Speaker, the Opposition which sits there to-day fought tooth and nail against the establishment of Iscor. Will they admit to-day that the establishment of Iscor was definitely the wisest step which the National Party Government could have taken? Had we not done so we would not have progressed the way we have.
Order! The hon. member must come back to the Railway budget.
We must also bear in mind the employment facilities which are created in the country by the contracts which the Minister is handing out. In his Budget speech the Minister told us that contracts had been given to a certain firm in the Transvaal for the construction of units and passenger coaches to the value of R16,000,000. Had the position not been that we had the iron and steel those orders would have gone overseas and that is the very thing which the United Party always did in the past. That was the reason why they were against the establishment of Iscor but, I repeat, Mr. Speaker, had we not had the iron and steel, those orders would have had to be placed overseas. Today, however, everything can be manufactured locally.
The Administration and the Minister have deserved the praise of this House for the fact that they can convey the Traffic offered as well as the greatly increased numbers of passengers. We learned from the Minister’s Budget speech, and we notice it from the General Manager’s report also, that in 1960-61 309,418,834 passengers were conveyed and that the number is still increasing. We also heard that the number of long-distance passengers had increased by 546,544 and urban passengers by 14,160,820. But the Railways have nonetheless coped with that expansion. This traffic and these passengers are being conveyed without causing a delay in any service with the result that people arrive late at work. The Minister furthermore told us, and this is in the report of the General Manager as well, that 5,420 new vehicles had been taken into service, of which 1,644 had been constructed in the workshops of the Department. That gives employment to our people. Local firms were responsible for 3,746 without the necessity of importing one single vehicle. I think that deserves the praise of this House and I also think the Opposition should be grateful for that.
When we consider the fact that a newspaper like the Sunday Times, from which the hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) (Mr. van Rensburg) quoted, praises the Railways, I want to crave the indulgence of the House for a minute because I want to read this leading article which appeared in the Sunday Times of 31 December 1961. This is the New Year’s message of the Sunday Times and they congratulate the Railways. Mr. Speaker, I repeat and say that this comes from the Sunday Times, which is surprising because that newspaper is not well disposed towards the Government. We should nevertheless appreciate their honesty and openheartedness. If only we could have said that about the Opposition. The paper writes—
The record is impressive. During 1961 the Railways speeded up the schedules of all main line passenger trains, including the Blue Train, the Orange Express, the fast trains to Rhodesia and those on the Durban-Cape and Johannesburg-Durban runs. Observation cars and air conditioning—hitherto a luxury reserved for Blue Train passengers only—have been introduced on other trains. In many other matters of detail the comfort of the passenger has been increased, and the public has responded by making more use of the train service.
Consider, too, the Railways’ impressive handling, with complete safety to travellers, of the ever increasing holiday traffic …
This is important—
In making an all-out effort to improve passenger services, the Railways have not neglected their goods traffic. This service has never operated more satisfactorily. There was no unshifted backlog in 1961 and the increasing demands of commerce and industry have been met. The important part the Railways play in the nation’s economy may be gauged from the fact that they have undertaken, before August, to carry to our ports enough maize to fill the holds of 111 ships.
The year 1961 also saw the Railways promoting private enterprise on a bigger scale than ever before by placing important orders with South African manufacturers of heavy equipment. For the first time in Railway history orders have been placed in South Africa for electric coaches and carriages, and for electric units.
The articles concludes with this—
That was the Sunday Times, Sir, a newspaper which is not well-disposed towards the Government but it was honest and decent enough to say that the Railways had made the progress which they had made, which is a fact. When we think of the fact that we do not have complaints or the accusations from the Opposition which we had in the past, we have to agree that the Railways have progressed.
Mr. Speaker, as far as the removal of the black spots in Johannesburg is concerned—I shall confine myself to Johannesburg more particularly—you know that the accusation was levelled at the Government, and all sorts of wild stories were sent into the world, that those poor Africans would be dumped in the veld without any transport facilities or whatever it was—even without housing. What is the position? When we think of the new lines which have been constructed, most of which are already in service or about to be placed in service, and we consider the sums of money that have been spent, if the Opposition want to be honest with themselves, I think they will admit that they were wrong and that they had under-estimated the Minister of Transport of this Government. I want to mention the amounts which have been spent at the various places and this is important. R3,300,000 was spent; at Doornkop Crown West and West Street R2,634,000. So it goes on. In the case of Langa and Nyanga together, near Cape Town, more than R5,000,000 were spent.
Yes, the hon. member has quickly added them for me. My argument is that hon. members opposite are always too quick to say something with the result that they eventually have to agree with us and say: “Yes, that is right, it is quite in order now; we did not look at it in that light.” I can give numerous instances.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the railwaymen I want to thank the hon. Minister for the housing that has been provided for the opportunities that have been given to railway employees to acquire their own houses. Our experience in the past has been that people have been employed by the Railways for years and when they leave the service they have nowhere to live. To-day the railwayman has the opportunity of acquiring his own home. I want to make this request to the Minister. There is a terrific backlog as far as housing is concerned. There is also a great hunger to possess property. The worker wants his own house. Some of them have been on the waiting list for five years and longer but cannot get houses because none are available. I shall be pleased to learn from the hon. the Minister how he intends meeting this shortage in future. There is another important need which is a general complaint namely the shortage of garages. There is a long waiting list in that respect as well. Some of those people have bought new motor-cars. This is news, of course, to the United Party who allege that these people find it so difficult to make ends meet, that they live below the bread line and that they are so badly treated by the Government! Many of them are driving new motor cars and those cars have to stand outside. I shall be pleased if the hon. Minister would attend to this.
Now I come to consolidation. In this connection I want to tell the United Party that R10,000,000 were allocated to the workers last year and not one of them went home with a smaller pay packet than previously. This year the amount is over R3,000,000— R13,000,000 altogether.
They are getting nothing extra.
It is nevertheless to the benefit of the Railway worker. Everything goes to the worker and I can assure the Minister that the worker appreciates it. I also want to thank the Minister and the Administration for providing lounges on the long distance routes. That is very important. I think we who avail ourselves of the train service are all very pleased and welcome that news. Even the air conditioning in the dining saloons is very important. About a week or two ago I travelled to Johannesburg with somebody from England. He often comes to South Africa. We were travelling in the Blue Train and he asked me how it was that the Opposition in South Africa never said a good word for the Railways. He assured me that he had travelled throughout the world and that the best service and the best trains he had come across were those in South Africa. I was sorry that Opposition members were not present to talk to him. Perhaps they would have changed their opinion after that. I also want to thank the Minister for the elimination of crossings which is progressing fast.
Thank the Minister.
The hon. member for Turffontein (Mr. Durrant) jokes about it, but that is one of the most important projects which have to be tackled with expedition today on account of the number of accidents, although I notice that the numbers of accidents are on the decline. 93 persons were killed and 134 injured in 1959-60 and in 1960-61 the number killed was 85 and injured 118. It is clear, therefore, that with the elimination of crossings the number of accidents has decreased. I shall be pleased if the Minister could expedite the elimination of crossings.
In conclusion I want to know from the Minister whether he does not think that the Blue Train service between Johannesburg and Cape Town can be shortened by two hours. You find that the train sometimes stops at certain stations for as long as half an hour. When I travelled to Johannesburg recently in the Blue Train I studied the position carefully and I came to the conclusion that the train could save at least two hours. It will mean a great deal to a businessman if he could arrive in Johannesburg at 12 p.m. instead of 2 p.m.
There is one small point which I want to raise before I sit down. There is, of course, a reason for it but I should like to know why Diesel units cannot be used on the trains between Klerksdorp and Beaufort West, so as to eliminate the discomfort caused by steam engines. It is particularly uncomfortable during the hot summer months when you dare not open a window. I am informed that Diesel units are used on the Johannesburg-East London route and that it works exceedingly well indeed. There must be a reason for it but I should like to learn from the Minister what the reason is.
In the course of his address the hon. member for Langlaagte (Mr. P. J. Coetzee) who has just sat down and who comes from a very important Railway constituency, took the occasion to thank the hon. the Minister on three separate occasions, not that I say the thanks was undeserved. But it is surprising to find the representative of such an important Railway constituency not making use of the occasion of his speech to once thank the Railway staff for the work which they have done, the staff he represents in this House.
Business suspended at 6.30 p.m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
When the debate was adjourned I was commenting on the fact that the hon. member who had spoken immediately before me (Mr. P. J. Coetzee), as the representative of a very big Railway constituency, had completely omitted amongst the other eulogies he gave the Minister and the Railways, to congratulate or thank the Railway staff whom he so largely represents. The hon. member did quote from an article in the Sunday Times which gave considerable credit to the Railway staff, and one would have thought that at least that would have reminded him of his duty to his Railway constituents, but even that failed to get past him. That is an indication of the lack of consideration in certain quarters of the work done by the staff. The hon. the Minister himself never hesitated in his Budget speech to pay tribute to the services of the staff, but hon. members whose constituencies consist largely of railwaymen fail to mention it.
I want to deal with the staff position for a moment. Our own amendment clearly indicates our attitude towards the railwayman— and I refer to railwaymen at all levels. At the very top level I suppose one would put the opulent posts of the Railway Commissioners, but I want to refer to all railwaymen from the top ranks to the bottom. When I refer to the Railways I also want to make it quite clear that in that term I include all the four sections known generally as the Railways and Harbours Administration, i.e. Airways, the Railways, the Harbours and the Road Motor Services, because between them they form the basis of the Republic’s transport. I want to touch for a moment on one particular section of the staff, not in any sense of belittlement of other sections but because I feel that they are a section that at the moment warrant attention, and that is the general artisan staff. I want to say at the outset that the foundation on which the whole of the great transport service of the country rests in the long run is the loyal and unstinting service given to it by the four staffs, from the highest to the lowest, and that in particular, however worthy the other sections of the staff might be, the foundation of their ability to render service rests upon the artisan staff, the people who are responsible in the long run for the actual mechanical perfection of the machines that keep the wheels turning. I want to say that the men and women of this staff as a whole have responded magnificently to the Minister’s call to accept hardship, to tighten their belts and make personal sacrifices of no small nature when the Railways were in financial difficulties. I think I am right in saying that now of all times they have the right to expect to have their long-deferred adjustment of pay sympathetically dealt with, the more so in view of the fact that by their loyal acceptance of the Minister’s request they have helped him to produce another substantial surplus out of the year’s working. No matter what other factors contributed to it, it would not have been possible to capitalize on those circumstances had the staff not done their work. Having helped to produce this result, I think it is fair to say that largely as the result of their loyalty and devotion to duty that they have the right to expect the decision which had been deferred by the Minister to be dealt with now. I particularly want to refer to the present request of the artisan staff because no matter how efficiently the rest of the Railways function, it is in the long run the work of the artisan staff that they have to depend on. These are the men responsible for keeping the Railway machine working, men whose job it is to see that the locomotives run and that the aircraft actually fly and that the road motor transport wheels keep turning, and to see that the harbour service is actually functioning. The functioning of these services depends in the end on the work done by these artisans. It depends on the fact that their workshop production is up to the standard necessary to keep the machines working. Like many of the other big industrial concerns, and there are many industrial concerns in this country which adopt almost the same policy, the artisan staff is usually the last to share in the benefits when it comes to the up-grading of salary and improvement of conditions. The artisan staff is usually the last to have their claims rectified. It is an old and unhappy saying amongst artisans generally—and I speak from personal experience—that the artisans are the Cinderellas of any organization to which they belong. I would have expected better of the Minister, although no one can say he is not a very practical man when it comes to staff matters. I would have expected the Minister, who himself came up the hard way to the top to have remembered the people lower down who have not been able to advance as far as he has and who still have to depend to a large extent on him for what benefits they now receive. The artisan staff, like all other sections, have helped to produce the surplus the Minister has now been. able to announce and I believe he is in honour bound not to brush off their reasonable demands but to grant them the very just relief they ask for from the surplus they have helped to create. To me it seems a perfectly sound and logical proposition—relief in basic wages and staff benefits, the raising of pensions to a reasonable level, increases to the men and women who played their part in building up this surplus and who are now dependent on a hard-earned pension for security in their old age. These are things which are covered by our amendment, and we have moved this amendment to try to bring to the Minster’s attention more clearly the claims of this section of the staff. We know that an increase in pensions was recommended, but not a unanimous recommendation. It was referred back for further consideration, but the pensioners who are dependent on that increase are not to be assisted yet. The fact that there was a recommendation and that it was referred back pays none of their Bills. It gives them no increased benefits and they need the increase now, and not after months of waiting. They are not in the position of the Railway Commissioners, who received a big increase backdated for some months. They want their money now to pay their rent and their debts. We feel that it calls for much more sympathetic attention from the Minister.
Now I want to turn to another aspect of the Railway Administration, our ports and harbours. The very nature of the services they have to carry out make our ports and harbours a key factor in the every-day life of the nation. Practically every phase of the life of the nation is in some way linked up with our harbours, whether it is as a port of entry for the goods we have to import to build up South Africa, or whether it is the point of exit through which our raw materials are moved out of the country to find an export market. They are vital from the point of view of industry and agriculture. What would our wool farmers do if they could not export their wool through the ports, and the maize farmers, and the other farmers, like the fruit exporters? What would they do without the facilities offered by our ports in handling their crops? The mines and the industries have to find an external market. Every one of them in the long run depends on the ports. I would say that the whole of our economic life would collapse very quickly if it were not backed up by very efficient harbour services. To touch on only one aspect of the inflow through the ports, there is the Republic’s petrol and oil imports. That could be justly termed the jugular vein of our whole economy, and unless those imports flow through uninterruptedly, in the long run the country will suffer. With the increasing demand for oil, it is a vital factor in the whole set-up of our economy. I want to say that the development of our harbours, with the exception of Durban where the new refinery has to a large extent influenced developments, the development of our ports is taking place too slowly to keep pace with both the increasing volume of sea-borne oil traffic, and it is also lagging behind coping with the great growth in the size of tankers. We are moving behind the development which is taking place when we should be moving just ahead of it. We have had long enough warning of it. We should not wait until the crisis is on us. We should be prepared to meet the position as it arises, and it is arising. I know the Minister will tell us that they are doing this here and that there, but these things have largely been done as a matter of compulsion when the demand for it is already there. We knew that this demand was coming. It must now be six or seven years ago that the warning was first given in this House that the larger oil transport ships would be coming and that we had to be prepared for it. The whole of the development taking place now was foreshadowed some years ago by this side of the House and still to-day we are only slowly moving in the direction in which the development of the oil companies is practically forcing us to move to meet their demand. The fulfilment of that demand will probably be held up because we cannot cope with it in time. South Africa’s ports lie practically right in the key centre of the East-West oil route of the world. We saw what happened in the Suez crisis, and in the case of hostilities it can happen again overnight. Have we learnt anything from that? Have we learnt fast enough? It does not appear to be so, from what we see. At Cape Town, and to a lesser extent at Durban, they can handle only some of the giant oil tankers if they are in light load condition. Our shore resources can do a magnificent job of work in repairing these vessels, but we can only handle them if they are in light load condition, because in some places the water in the harbours is not deep enough. We are unable to handle those ships in a loaded condition, due to the lack of draught in our principal harbours. A port worthy of its name must be considered as a ships’ hospital port as well as being a commercial port. You must be able to deal with a casualty which can easily develop and which, if the facilities are not there to deal with it, can mean the loss of a valuable ship and cargo and jeopardise many lives. These are some of the things our ports still lack. Fortunately we have been very free of these emergency calls, but we cannot trade on that. Oil transport by sea in large ships along this route has come to stay. We have to accept that and do the development necessary to meet that new position.
The question of oil transport should not be restricted only to the question of a quay alongside which the tanker can tie up, with an oil pipe-line to transfer the oil to the refineries or to storage tanks. There are a large number of other requirements which go with a well-equipped oil basin, facilities which we have to have if we are to have an oil basin which is both safe and suitable and which will make the big oil lines of the world accept us as one of their focal points of call. It can bring to this country a large amount of additional trade, and much foreign exchange can be earned if we set out now to provide the facilities to deal with these ships here. It is not sufficient merely to provide the quays. We need an adequate basin. These tankers convey highly inflammable and explosive fuels, and this sort of basin does not really mix with the rest of a commercial port. That has to be considered and the ancillary problems which they bring with them, the special needs of a tanker fleet, must be considered. The development of an oil port also emphasizes the need for a much more energetic and speedy provision of sites and facilities for ship repairs. Here again I know the Minister will tell us that in Durban this, that, or the other scheme is envisaged, but some of these schemes have been envisaged for a very long time and ship repairs cannot wait. We have the classic example of our own country. We could not produce a ship required and had to have it built in Japan, because we did not give the ship-building industry here, in time, a site on which they could have done the job. These are things which call for a much more dynamic approach. These commissions of inquiry and the committees which sit to decide on the sites are taking far too long. The grass is growing under our feet, while we are deciding to proceed with this type of development. You have ship building firms which are prepared to invest their capital and they should be given the most sympathetic treatment. We have here the commencement of a great new industry which will become one of the major industries in this country, the ship-building industry and a major ship-repairing industry, which in turn will provide a ready market not only for our steel industry but for so many of our other basic industries. A lot of their manufactures can be diverted to ship repair work. We have had much talk and many promises. Now it needs serious consideration of the advice given by some of the ship-building firms themselves and a much speedier development and allocation of the sites required for ship repairs.
It will provide also for other classes of ships which use our ports to-day, but for want of facilities in our ports they have to go elsewhere for repairs. I want to touch on another section of shipping requirements, not associated with big ships but with small ones. It is the fishing industry. I am not referring to the ordinary in-shore or pilchard fishing Industry, but to the deep-sea fishing industry. It has been many years that the cry has gone up: When are we going to have a proper fishing harbour for the trawling industry? There have been all sorts of schemes. I have heard of probably ten schemes in the last ten years, but we still have not got the fishing harbour. There again, the world trend in regard to deep-sea fishing has changed. It is no good providing a harbour to-day only for the small type of trawler. The modern trawler is a much bigger ship and lands bigger catches. The shore facilities have to be extended to deal with bigger catches and should be able to handle the catch with the least amount of physical handling, the least amount of exposure to the atmosphere, and for the quickest possible transfer of the catch from the ship either to the factory or to the conveyances which carry fish throughout the country. These are all things that in many modern fishing ports to-day have transformed the outlook of the port, but we are just jogging along. The companies themselves do quite a lot to provide these facilities, but we jog along with one hand tied behind our backs due to lack of modern facilities. We have off our coasts some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. We see them being exploited by other nations to-day whilst our own country does not provide the harbour facilities to enable us to take full advantage of them. That is another matter which is calling for a much more active policy. Again, like the oil trade, the fishing fleet does not mix well with the ordinary commercial shipping harbour. It is a specialized job which should be dealt with as such. Then I want to comment on the development of our coastal trade. That again is a trade which has come to stay. I know it was not very popular in its early days, because the Railways regarded it as a competitor. It need not be a competitor. It can be an ancillary service to the Railways, but it has come to stay. The coaster provides certain special problems which are not parallel with those of the bigger ships. You can get a much quicker turn-around and quicker handling of the cargo if these little ships are given the equipment on shore to enable them to handle their cargoes, goods which are moving between Republic ports, goods largely produced inside the Republic and which can be most conveniently moved by sea. I appeal to the Minister to give some attention to these matters because they are vital matters. The coastal trade has come to stay and it is up to us to do all we can to give them the facilities they so greatly need.
I want to take the Minister back a few years when we first discussed across the floor the cartage of coal by sea. In those days the Minister was not enthusiastic. He condemned that service bell, book and candle, and said it would never pay and it would put the Railways to great expense. But I was glad to see, in an answer to a question put recently in connection with the Hangklip, the Minister said that there was no profit or loss account kept. That was in answer to the part of the question as to what profit or loss was made on the Hangklip, but the Minister went on to say that the conveyance of coal by sea was profitable to the Administration. That is a long distance away from the days when the Minister opposed our suggestions that coal should be carted by sea. But the point is this, that if carrying coal by sea has come to stay then one of the first priorities in the ports is for the Minister to equip the ports with machinery and equipment for the handling of such bulk cargos. We are now using the grab system. This is an improvement on the old bucket and pick-and-shovel system in force not many years ago. But it is a system which brings dismay to any decent and clean ship lying in the vicinity when the south-easter is blowing. They are plastered with coal or phosphate dust. Part of the cargo is blown away by the wind and the whole dock area becomes dirty and unpleasant, and the whole system is antiquated, slow and out of date. If the coal-by-sea trade has come to stay I think it is time that the Minister took the next step forward and not only provided the necessary bulk unloading facilities …
What bulk facilities?
There are bulk unloading systems for things like coal and phosphates. You have suction pipes and conveyor belts. They are used in many of the overseas ports, but they are not a success with the type of ship we are using. You must have a ship which is designed for bulk cargo loading and unloading, and if we are going to continue to run this service—and apparently from the Minister’s reply we will—then I say it is the height of folly to spend the money we have just spent on repairs to a ship like the Hangklip. With the ship market as it is to-day, the best thing to do would have been to have cut our losses on Hangklip and gone in for a vessel which we could have equipped our ports to serve efficiently. A proper coal carrier, thereby improving the port facilities as a whole.
It will not be economical.
Yes, you also told us it would not be economical to carry coal by sea, but you changed your mind, and the day will come when you will change your mind about this also. You will learn. In the handling of bulk cargo I want to exclude maize. From the way maize is handled in the elevators, much can be learnt about the handling of other bulk cargoes. I want to say right away that I know that when the Minister first took over one of his first priorities naturally was to carry out the urgent development of the Railway Service itself, which had lagged so far behind and had to be developed in order to deal with the demands of the country. But the Minister has done that now. He has told us that himself, and the reports of the General Manager have told us that phase of development is approaching its end and the Railways are now more or less in a position to deal with the traffic offering. I want to put this to the Minister, that as he has caught up with the backlog of rail traffic he should now turn his attention to the next thing, and that is the more speedy development of our ports. The ports have been used over the past years as one of the sources of revenue to assist the development of the Railways. They have earned healthy surpluses over the years, surpluses which have largely been diverted to expanding the Railways. It is time now that some of those surpluses should be ploughed back into the ports and the ports developed to keep pace with the new standards set by the Railways. They are part of the transport system of the country and I believe the time is here when as the Minister is being relieved of the problem he had with the Railways, he can now turn his attention to this important feature the ports. The goods landed in the ports bring trade to the Railways. We are talking about developing our country for the exporting of large quantities of raw material like steel and iron ore, for which we are building up export markets. If we are going to meet anything like the possible capacity exports of the country, our ports must be prepared to handle their share of that traffic. The Railways are now able to carry the stuff to the ports, but it is no use doing that if the ports cannot deal with it quickly. That is a feature also to which the Minister should now devote considerable attention.
But the ports can deal with all the traffic.
Yes, up to a point, but you have not yet got the load of traffic at the ports which you must expect if the export trade develops as is envisaged. I hope the Minister is right, but there is such a thing as dealing with the traffic economically and expeditiously, as opposed to dealing with it in an antiquated way. The Minister has to a large extent modernized the ordinary cargo-handling equipment in the ports, and I will say this for the Minister that he is not slow to take advice. We have given him considerable advice in that respect and he has profited by it, although he will not admit it. The fork-lifting trucks, etc. found their birth due to advice from this side of the House. The Minister then sent a commission overseas and started to buy them. Just as he has proved to his own satisfaction the value of that development, so I am convinced that the day will come when he will again accept the recommendations we are putting to him here. As a sound Government our policy would be to develop our ports to keep pace with the Railways, and to plough back into the ports some of the revenue they earn and which is now required to modernize certain sections of the ports. Our South African ports are held in the highest regard overseas. They have a well-deserved record, but that record can only be maintained by constant vigilance. If we are going to keep pace, we have to get more speed into the development of the ports. We must develop in order to keep ahead of the demand, and not lag behind it. That is my plea to this hon. Minister. He should now switch, his. budgeting to deal with that section of the Republic’s economy—air services, railway services, road services are all absolutely necessary. They should all receive attention, but I am particularly pleading for port development. The Minister will find that is one of the arteries on which this country can. thrive and I appeal to him to give that matter his very serious attention.
The hon. member for Simonstown (Mr. Gay) has made a constructive contribution to this debate and I have no fault at all to find with it. I want to commence by saying a few words about the demands being made by the Artisan Staff Association. I want to do so in a very good spirit. I feel it is my duty towards my electorate and my constituency to say that many artisans in my constituency—and there are many of them; and I am in very close contact with them every day—feel very dissatisfied and disappointed with the executive of the Artisan Staff Association in certain respects. One of the reasons why they are dissatisfied is because the executive allowed this association last year to break away from the Federal Consultative Council. They regard it in this way, Mr. Speaker, that in the past concessions were made to the staff as a whole and not to sections of the staff separately. Whenever there were consultations about concessions to be made to the staff as a whole, the Consultative Council was the mouthpiece through whom the hon. the Minister could negotiate. Another matter in regard to which they feel dissatisfied is the lack of co-operation between the executive and the associations of other branches of the Railway staff, and the fact that the Artisan Staff Association in their representations advance only their own selfish interests and do not consider the interests of the other branches of the service. I personally am of opinion that the artisans throughout the service are the persons who have least need to complain. I really think it would be an injustice if their demands and requests are complied with without concessions being made also to the other members of the staff, particularly the labourers and the lowly-paid railwaymen.
Another aspect of the campaign with which many artisans do not associate themselves is the bad habit of the executive in recent years of coming forward with demands before every election and before every budget and then adopting a threatening attitude. Personally I do not think that this is the right time to make such representations. It seems too much like blackmail. What my voters, and other railwaymen, Nationalists or United Party supporters, really deprecate is the crude manner in which certain sections of the association pass resolutions in which they demand the resignation of the Minister. Over the week-end I received numerous telephone calls from artisans who said that they did not wish to associate themselves with this type of behaviour. and that they deprecated it. They asked me to state so here.
Now the hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell) and the Opposition are trying to fish in these troubled waters. They are trying to exploit the situation and to pose as people who have always protected the interests of the railwayman. The hon. member for Wynberg should be the last person to hope to achieve anything by this kind of behaviour. There is no sheepskin to hide the cunning of that hon. member. The railwaymen will not forget how this hon. member in 1947 and at Port Elizabeth advocated that they should be replaced by non-Whites.
On a point of explanation, I have explained the whole position to the Minister. That is not true.
Order! Will the hon. member for Parow (Mr. S. F. Kotzé) allow the hon. member for Wynberg to give an explanation?
No, Mr. Speaker, I have often heard that story already.
Your own Minister admits that it is not true.
Do not start squealing now; I have not finished yet. I want to tell hon. members opposite that they should not forget that it was their Government which during the last few years before this Government came into power appointed a commission to investigate the circumstances under which the railwaymen were working, and that it was that commission which found that conditions were simply deplorable, and recommended that certain things should be done immediately to alleviate the conditions under which these people were working. And what did they do? They did not spend a penny. They did nothing to improve the position. They carried on until the Nationalist Government came into power and spent thousands of rand to make the railwayman’s life bearable.
The hon. member for Orange Grove (Mr. E. G. Malan) now comes along with his sweet blandishments for the railwayman. They know him also. Does the hon. member remember how in 1947 he ran around with his camera during the by-election in Hottentots Holland to take photos of the dirty hovels in which the railwaymen and their families were living? Does he remember how he exploited the position, and does the hon. member remember that as the result of the type of conditions under which the railwaymen lived his leader received a sound trouncing in that by-election? What is the position to-day? To-day more than half the married staff is being housed with the assistance of the Railways. But that is the type of thing the hon. member for Orange Grove does. Then I want to ask the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw) what he means by talking here about “the railway mentality”? Is the hon. member trying in this way to hurl a blatant and flagrant insult at our railwaymen?
It is just a different outlook.
Of course that is what he is doing. It is this type of provocation towards the railwaymen which has totally estranged those people from the hon. member for Point and his colleagues. The question was asked to-day what we are doing and what we have done for the railwayman. I think that what has not yet been sufficiently emphasized in this debate is the tremendous advantages given to the railway staff last year with consolidation. This matter cannot be emphasized enough, Sir. Through the consolidation of the balance of the cost-of-living allowances, by the up-grading of posts, by reorganization in the Airways and reorganization of the motor vehicle drivers, by improved leave facilities, by regrading for clerks and station masters and by other concessions, the Railways spent altogether R13,291,949. It is true that many of them did not take home more money, but what is true also is that the pension benefits of these people were greatly increased by these concessions in some respect up to 40 per cent. Just consider what it means to a railwayman and his family if there is a Government which suddenly improves his pension benefits by 40 per cent. Now hon. members opposite ask why the Minister does not do something in connection with the pensioners; why do they not make some concessions to them also? It is very nice to ask that question. I should also like to break a lance for those people. But I want to know from hon. members opposite what they did in that regard when they were in the position to do so. Is it not because they paid the railwaymen such starvation wages that their pensions to-day are so low that they cannot live on them?
May I put a question to the hon. member?
No, I have not enough time. I think hon. members opposite should desist from this wooing of the railwayman.
I now want to come to the budget. In his budget the hon. the Minister said, inter alia—
Now we can go further and state a few propositions based on that. The first thing we can say is that an efficient transport system is a basic prerequisite for unobstructed industrial development in a country. The second proposition we can state is that the development of the transport system of a country goes hand in hand with its economic development. The third is that the financial position of the Railways generally gives a fairly good indication of the position of that country’s economy. In other words, the Railways play a cardinal role in the economic and industrial development of every country and particularly of South Africa. I want to point to a few aspects of the important position the Railways occupy in our national economy. I want to emphasize that the Railways is the largest buyer of products manufactured in South Africa, and as such the Railways has practically made various South African industries what they are to-day. Through regular Railway orders, through regular support, those industries grew and they could become established to the extent that they are established. Furthermore, in order to be able to compete for Railway tenders, many large industries made huge capital investments in machinery which assisted the economy of South Africa. And what is more, large Railway orders and the preference the Railways gave to South African-manufactured products of a competitive nature was the incentive for numbers of foreign industrialists to transfer their factories to South Africa, thereby making large financial investments in the Republic.
On one occasion the General Manager said the following—
In order to emphasize the scope, the nature and the variety as well as the value of these South African-manufactured products I want to mention a few examples of orders placed by the Railways in South Africa last year: Firstly, 130 electric locomotives to be manufactured in South Africa for the first time to a value of R16,184,738; goods trucks, R3,716,500; rail equipment, R2,250,000; ore loading installations for Port Elizabeth, Rl,443,894; spare parts for electric locomotives; 80 passenger vehicles for the road motor service; cement tanker trucks; turntables; electric running cranes; steel loading bogies; spare parts for couplings; copper cables; underground telephone cables for use at Durban: insulating material; tools. The value of the 15 orders I have enumerated here is R26,488,776. If we analyse these orders more closely, it brings to light also another important fact, namely the tremendous impetus the Railways is giving our steadily expanding iron and steel industry. To-day the Railways, next to the mines, is the best supporter of our steel and engineering industry. The increasing demand for iron ore by our iron casting works is an indication of the development and progress in this respect. During the year 1960-61 the Railways conveyed 286,960 tons of iron ore more than in the previous year to our steel works. What is more, in the first nine months of the present financial year it increased by 425,014 tons above the figure for the corresponding nine months of the previous year. All main line steel passenger coaches are, for example, already being made in South Africa. In 1961, 71 of these coaches were taken into service. What is more, 90 per cent of the material used for these coaches consists of products manufactured in South Africa. It is also important to point out that for the first time in the history of South Africa on 15 December 1961 these orders for electric locomotives to be manufactured in South Africa were placed. I want to praise the Railways from this side of the House for the role they play in making South Africa increasingly more self-supporting also in this respect. But also in another sphere the Railways stimulate our industries in South Africa, namely as consumers. The Railway consistently apply the slogan: Buy South African. Over the past 20 years the local purchases of the Administration increased from R31,000,000 to R171,000,000 a year, i.e. by 552 per cent. The annual local purchases of South African products amount to R165,000,000.
But, Sir, I also said that an efficient transport system is an absolute prerequisite to the unhampered economic development of a country. That brings me to another point. It brings me to the onus resting on the Railways to keep pace with the transport requirements of the country, irrespective of changing its economic circumstances. Now the question arises: How did the Railways manage since 1959 to keep pace with the transport requirements? The reply is: Successful and effective advance planning. In 1954 when the Railways was faced with a crisis, when it was faced by a tremendous challenge, and when the hon. member for Wynberg and members of the Opposition and the industrialists demanded the head of the Minister on a platter, a planning board was appointed, which, as the Minister said in his speech, played an important role in the design of the present transport pattern and enabled the Administration successfully to discharge the onus resting upon it to keep pace with developments. That board had to evolve a five-year plan in order to catch up with the backlog in the carrying capacity of the Railways. It also had to make provision for increased traffic in future. New works were then tackled systematically and as the result, by 1959 the Railways could keep pace with the demand of the country for transport services. At the same time an intensive modernization campaign was tackled further to improve the carrying capacity and efficiency of the service. Diesel traction was introduced as the result of a commission appointed in 1955 to investigate the economic aspects of diesel traction, followed by a departmental mission abroad in 1956. That led to the introduction of diesel tractive power in the service, particularly in South West Africa where it has since eliminated tremendous losses. In 1958-9 the transport of coal for locomotives constituted 28 per cent of the traffic to South West Africa. Then the coal consumption by locomotives in South West Africa was 1,300 tons a day, whereas to-day it is only 300 tons a day. Mechanization projects were also tackled. In 1956-7 a scheme was tackled to modernize the handling of goods by mechanical means. A system of mechanical locomotive control was extended to most of the large centres. Railway line maintenance in certain sections was mechanized, as also office and accounts procedures. A whole series of new services formed part of the programme of mechanization. Fast goods train services were introduced and gradually extended. Specially designed container trailers which are very popular have been put into service. At the moment there are approximately 350 such vans. Road and rail tank trailers have been employed since 1958 to transport fuel in bulk. Various services were also improved. The delivery services were improved by the introduction of bonus schemes for delivery service drivers and through direct deliveries. Passenger services were improved by making suburban passenger coaches more attractive and convenient, and also those for the increasing number of third-class passengers. Main-line passenger coaches have been made more convenient by, inter alia, introducing showers, air-conditioned dining-saloons and observation coaches, and just lately by the introduction of that little notice-board saying “Do Not Disturb Tremendous costs were also incurred to expand the services to the resettlement areas for non-Whites. More stringent financial control measures were also introduced. As the result of a mission sent abroad in 1958 in connection with financial control, organization and procedure, improved methods were adopted to regulate Railway expenditure. A committee was established to apply budgetary control. Thrift and efficiency committees saved the Administration further millions of rand. Other measures were adopted to make the service effective through staff training. Bursary schemes and training courses were established even for non-White labourers in the handling of goods. On various sections centralized traffic and remote control were introduced. But there was also the elimination of a whole series of uneconomic services. For example, on 1 September 1954, a new balanced tariff structure was introduced which eliminated uneconomic preferences and special tariffs. In 1955 the Government undertook to bear all losses on new and improved lines to resettlement areas. Airports were transferred to the Department of Transport, including the losses resulting from maintenance. The smaller fishing harbours were transferred to other Government Departments. The rebates on the transport of certain agricultural products were taken over by the Government. An Act was passed to relieve the financial burden on the Railways in connection with the elimination of railway crossings. In addition, the Treasury was persuaded to take over 50 per cent of the subsidy paid to the S.A. Tourist Corporation. The elimination of all these uneconomic services relieved the Railways of a tremendous financial burden they had to bear in the past.
Another aspect of the service with which I want to deal is the policy in respect of electrification. Electrification contributes tremendously towards enabling the Railways to attain its object. The cheap and plentiful coal supplies we have in South Africa will, it is true, still keep the steam locomotives in the services for many years to come, but there are indications, Sir, that they are being used to a decreasing extent on the main lines. The number of locomotives in the service indicates that there is a decrease in steam tractive power. Whereas the number of electric locomotives increased by 42 between November 1960, and November 1961, and the number of diesel locomotives by 41, the number of steam locomotives decreased by 55 in the same period. Electric tractive power has increased to such an extent that in the year 1960-1 34,600,000 miles were travelled by electric locomotives and 23,800,000 miles by motor units. Over the past five years the tractive power of the Administration was increased by 15.8 per cent and that is mainly due to electric and diesel locomotives. Since 1954-5 approximately R40,000,000 has been invested in this electrification programme of the Railways. On 18 December 1961, a milestone was reached when the 179-mile section between Touws River and Beaufort West was taken into use. I want to congratulate the Railways on that. It is the biggest project of its kind which has ever been undertaken in South Africa. The scheme cost R7,000,000 and it brought the route miles of the S.A. Railways which are electrified up to 1,483. This year there is again R3,786,737 on the capital account for the electrification of lines. When the present programme has been completed, more than 1,689 route miles would have been electrified. Furthermore, the hon. the Minister announced that later in the Additional Estimates he would also provide for the electrification of the line between Witbank and Komatipoort. The policy of the Administration in this respect is to employ electric traction on all the busy sections where the traffic is heavy and the grades are steep. By means of this policy of electrification the Railways are on the right road. It is in line with the world tendency in respect of modern rail transport. In the U.S.A. and Australia, with their great areas, increasing use is being made of electrical traction in order to promote passenger traffic. Already 46 per cent of the Italian Railway system has been electrified, and 40 per cent of the Norwegian system. In France already 5,000 miles have been electrified in 1960, and the Russian Minister of Railways, when he was in America recently, stated in a Press interview that electrification was being accepted as the basic policy for the Russian Railways, and Russia wants to electrify its whole railway system. The alternative modern traction is of course diesel locomotives. but then of course we would increase still further the consumption of imported fuel in our country, and our national transport system will become increasingly more dependent on fuel, which we have to import from other countries. The continual increase in fuel consumption can be ascertained if we note that in 1961 the Railways transported 442,350,000 gallons of fuel, which is 2,740,000 gallons more than in the previous year. In these times in which we live we must bear in mind that in this country we have no guarantee for a regular supply of fuel. In addition, there are in South Africa about 1,500,000 motor vehicles and about 120,000 tractors whose wheels are kept turning by fuel. With the cheap electrical power we can therefore generate from our unlimited amounts of cheap coal, it is therefore quite correct that the Administration should concentrate increasingly on the electrification of the Railways to keep pace with modern developments.
In conclusion, I want to say a few words about the S.A. Airways. The small profit the Airways showed this year, R578,000, is good news to us and speaks volumes for the S.A. Airways. During the past year airlines found things very difficult and many of them suffered serious losses. It is estimated that the interior airlines in the U.S.A. in 1961 for the first time since 1947 suffered a combined loss of R20,000,000. The K.L.M. of Holland suffered a loss of R16,000,000 last year. Everywhere airlines experienced that there was a decrease in the number of passengers, whereas the S.A. Airways was fortunate enough to convey an increased number of passengers. What is more gratifying even, Sir, is the increase in postal ton miles of 19 per cent, and particularly of freight ton miles of 62 per cent in respect of our Airways. As the result of the increased carrying capacity with the advent of jet aircraft, the freight factor has fallen tremendously. In 1960 the freight factor was lower than at any previous time. In South Africa, however, increasingly more traffic and a greater variety of goods was transported by air. For example, perishable fruit like paw-paws, asparagus, pineapples, peaches and mangoes were successfully flown overseas. There is, however, still much room for development and exploitation in the sphere of air transport, chartered flights and transport services.
I should like to make use of the opportunity, Sir, to congratulate the management of the S.A. Airways on its very successful publicity campaign in regard to the Boeing service. I make bold to say that is the reason why our Airways this year made a small profit instead of a loss. There is widespread praise for the advertising scheme of the S.A. Airways, inter alia, by “Travel and Shipping News”, which wrote as follows—
For that reason I am glad, Sir, that under the head “Sales, Advertising and Publicity”, an amount of R3,245,180 is being budgeted for again this year, which is R313,180 more than last year. Mr. Speaker, civil aviation has trebled in the past decade. It is the transportation of the future, and we shall simply have to bear that in mind. The competition between airlines is tremendous to-day and is becoming even greater, and therefore it is only right to make an appeal to all South Africans to give preference to the S.A. Airways when making use of air services, whether for purposes of conveying passengers or goods.
When I bear in mind that what is being done in South West Africa by the Railway Administration in respect of rail, air and road transport services, I must admit immediately that the Government of the Republic of South Africa is making a very great contribution to the development of South West Africa. South West Africa is a very young country which is still in its developmental stage, and I should like to make use of this opportunity, in my first speech in this House, to thank the Government and particularly the hon. the Minister of Transport for the services which are being rendered there. I must say that South West Africa has no reason to complain about the good services that we are getting from the Railway Administration, just as little as we have reason to complain about the services rendered by the staff in South West Africa. We are particularly grateful for the great improvements which have been brought about there in the past few years and which are still being made. We know that since the taking over of the railway network in 1922, great losses have been suffered on the South West Africa division of the Railways. I do not want to weary the House with figures this evening but the losses are enormous, and we know that the public of South Africa carried all those losses, except in a few exceptional cases where South West Africa contributed smaller amounts. I want to emphasize to-day that South West Africa is entirely dependent on the assistance of the Republic of South Africa, not only as far as transport is concerned but in all spheres. If there are people who say that South West Africa should become independent, they can forget about it; we cannot stand on our own legs. We cannot under our own steam and with our own funds do what is being done there by the Republic of South Africa. And here I do not even want to talk about all the other services which, of course, do not fall within the scope of this debate. It is perfectly clear that South West Africa is entirely dependent on the assistance and the services that we receive from the Republic of South Africa. As far as betterment works are concerned—I am not talking now about the works at the Walvis Bay harbour where large sums are being spent to extend the harbour facilities and to build it up into a modern harbour capable of handling the traffic that has to be handled there. I should like to refer in particular this evening to the broadening of the narrow-gauge lines which were used there for many years, from 1906 to the end of 1960. In that connection I also have in mind the introduction of diesel tractive power. Everybody who knows South West Africa, particularly the narrow-gauge lines in the north from Usakos, will agree with me that improvement means a very great deal to us. The cattle farmers in the northern parts of South West Africa where cattle farming is practised, found themselves in this position throughout the years that they had to transport their livestock over the narrow gauge line, and the livestock then had to be transferred at Usakos on to the broad-gauge line, which meant that the animals were manhandled. Not only did the cattle farmers experience enormous difficulties and delays but it was extremely difficult also to transship at Usakos the copper ore transported from Tsumeb to Walvis Bay. With the introduction of this improvement all those problems of transshipment and delay in the handling of goods are things of the past, and this means a great deal to us in South West Africa. I want to mention here that the narrow-gauge line which was broadened was 353 miles in length. This line was converted into a line of standard width at a cost of a little more than R 14,000,000 Moreover, this huge undertaking was completed in the record time of three years. Hand, in hand with the broadening of the narrow-gauge line, new station buildings were also erected, new platforms and other facilities, as well as loading pens at most of the stations, which also made things much more convenient for the farmers and the other authorities concerned. The introduction of diesel tractive power is a great asset to us and a great improvement. We were very grateful when we learned from the hon. the Minister that he was going to provide South West Africa with diesel tractive power. Because the traction power of the diesel locomotives which are being used there is so much greater than that of the steam locomotives which were used in the past, they are able to transport heavier loads more rapidly. I might also mention here that with the replacement of the steam locomotives and with the broadening of the narrow-gauge line, train traffic in South West Africa has been reduced by almost two-thirds because the diesel locomotives are able to cope more easily with the loads that were formerly carried by steam locomotives. As I have said, very great losses have accumulated throughout the years since the taking over of this railway network, but personally I believe that with these improvements, and particularly with the diesel tractive power which is now at our disposal, these losses will be converted into profits. The previous speaker has just mentioned that 1,300 tons of locomotive coal had to be transported every day to South West Africa. This coal was transported from the Transvaal coal mines, and the transportation and handling of this coal will also fall away now. The present consumption of coal is so small that it is insignificant. Then there was another matter which always caused headaches and that was the scarcity of water in the days of the steam locomotive. This was a problem with which the Railways had to cope and it was one which gave them cause for concern. I know that there were times when this problem of water scarcity became so serious that there was a danger that the train services would have to be curtailed or brought to a standstill altogether. To-day that is no longer a problem either. Naturally, of course, diesel fuel also has to be transported, but there is this advantage that diesel fuel is transported from the depot in Walvis Bay to the various diesel depots in the territory, which means that it has to be transported over short distances only. Moreover, the Administration is now engaged in replacing the lighter rails in South West Africa by heavier rails and more and heavier sleepers are being provided. This will also mean that it will be possible to accelerate our train traffic from and to South West Africa. Already there is a great improvement and our trains are travelling much faster from South West to the Republic, and once the lighter rails have been replaced by heavier rails it will be possible to accelerate the train traffic even more.
Another matter that I want to mention here is the question of road transport services. These services are not operating at a profit either. In South West Africa they are operated at a loss. But it was some consolation to me to notice that it is not only South West Africa that shows a loss on these services; other divisions in the Republic are also showing a loss. I do want to say that South West Africa with its vast areas cannot do without road transport services. These road transport services are very necessary to us, and I am thinking particularly of the remote towns and farms from which goods have to be transported. Without those services I believe that it would not have been possible for this development to take place so quickly. Here I should like to re-assure the hon. the Minister. Although he might have had to incur heavy expenditure in former days on repairs to his vehicles and trailers because of poor roads, the roads which are now being used by the bus services are all being improved. I am also aware of the fact that before the Administration introduces a bus service the Administration of South West Africa first has to give an assurance that those roads will be built to facilitate the introduction of that bus service for the Administration and also for the farmers.
I do not want to be long, but I should like to make a very serious plea to the Minister not to curtail any of these bus services. Such a step would affect South West Africa very detrimentally. Even if there is a loss I feel that these bus services do serve as feeders for train traffic.
In conclusion I just want to say that as far as the building works of the Railway Administration in South West Africa are concerned, a great deal has also been done and we appreciate it. As you know, Sir, we have had droughts in the past few years as well as foot-and-mouth disease. This has been a tremendous blow to the territory, and the building activities of the Railway Administration provide employment to many South-Westers. Here I am thinking particularly of the Administration offices which are being constructed in Windhoek, but while I am on the subject I do want to ask the Minister to make sure that sufficient office accommodation is made available, because I know that in South West Africa, with the rapid development which is taking place there, the problem will always be that there will not be sufficient office accommodation. I think it is necessary at this stage, since the construction of this building is in its initial stages, to determine whether there will be sufficient accommodation for the purpose for which the building is needed. I mention this because I know that the Railway Administration in Windhoek hires a great deal of its office accommodation from private concerns. In conclusion I want to say that although great losses are still being suffered on the Railways, we in South West Africa are making our contribution in our small way. In particular I want to mention here that where we are tarring our main roads, we are building overhead bridges or subways at our own expense. In making that small contribution we want to show the Railway Administration that we also want to make some contribution and that we are appreciative of what the Republic of South Africa is doing for us in South West Africa.
It is indeed a pleasure to congratulate the last speaker with his speech. He has made an intensive study of the subject and judging from his maiden speech, I would say that we look forward to his continued contributions to the debate of this House. I also want to congratulate the hon. member on the fact that he was the only one of the last three speakers who did not read his speech. It was a maiden speech, yet he did not read his speech. He spoke from his notes in the normal way, but did not refer to them too much. I am sincere in my congratulations and I hope that he will spend a long time in this House.
The hon. member for Parow (Mr. S. F. Kotzé), who spoke just before him, will forgive me if I don’t follow him as far as the latter part of his speech is concerned. I must say that I thought it most interesting that the hon. member brough a synopsis of the General Manager’s Report, and worked that into his speech. It was a synopsis of the annual report of the General Manager for 1960-1. He was not the only member who has done that, because the hon. member before him did the same thing. I would suggest that if they have nothing to say and they want to draw their material from the General Manager’s Report, they should mix it up a little bit and they should not go from chapter to chapter—I was actually following as he was speaking from the index the one subject after the other as he went from one to the other, and I would suggest that although it sounds very impressive to a person who has not yet read the General Manager’s Report, it was extremely boring to members on this side of the House who have made a study of the General Manager’s Report.
As I say, I do not wish to follow the hon. member in this synopsis that he made, but I do wish to say a few words about the first two-and-a-half minutes of his speech, because he was the first member on the Government side to spend two and a half minutes on the staff position and on the position of the railway artisans. He was the first one to refer to the difficulties existing there. Of course he said things I cannot agree with. He said that the Artisan Staff Association “het die minste nodig om te kla”, that they had the least reason to complain, and then he carried on to say that the Minister could not possibly grant them any relief if he did not grant it to all other sections of the railway staff. And of course he went on and expressed his disappointment with what they have done and he talked about the “platvloerse manier” in which they had framed their resolutions. I hope that will reach the ears of the Artisan Staff Association that the resolutions which were taken by them in earnest, are being called by the hon. member, who tells me that he has a railway vote in his constituency a “platvloerse manier”.
The hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) (Mr. van Rensburg) quoted from speeches made by the hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell) in the past, saying that the Railways would lose because we were out of the Commonwealth, and with great joy the hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) said that we had lost nothing. Is that so? If it is so, why did the hon. the Minister when he was addressing the Federal Consultative Council of the Railway Staff Association on 8 June 1960 say—
He went on—
He spoke of boycotts in particular and said that we would have to tighten our belts. Mr. Speaker, he found it necessary to say to the Artisan Staff Association on 8 October 1960 who at that time were asking for an increase and better working conditions, that we would have to tighten our belts, because we were alone in the world. If this has had no effect whatsoever on the Railway economics, why did the hon. the Minister use that as a reason to refuse a rise to the Artisan Staff Association when they were asking for a rise? It is quite interesting to trace the whole history of this request for an improvement in wages. On 17 August 1960 the Railway Artisan Staff Association met the Minister and asked him for a two-hours shorter working week, and for an increase in wages of 3d. an hour, and the reply was that he had to cushion a loss the nation might suffer as a result of boycotts. On 18 August 1960 he rejected all these requests, that is the three penny rise, the reduction to a 44 hour week and the consolidation of the cost-of-living allowance which they had asked for. They only asked for a consolidation of R114 per year into their basic wage. The association was notified of the flat turning down of all their requests by the Minister. As long ago as that, that is on 18 August 1960 the Minister was notified of the gross dissatisfaction of the Artisan Staff Association. The association then pressed for the appointment of an impartial commission. They could not get that. The Minister refused. They then decided to send a petition to the Governor-General asking for a commission to be appointed. The Governor-General rejected their petition although it had 12,000 signatures, and the amazing part is that the rejection came through the Minister’s administrative secretary, surely not a very courteous way in which to reply to a petition of 12,000 strong. However, the artisans were still willing to bide their time, and they were still going to negotiate with the Minister in an attempt to prevail on him through reasoning, proving their claim and that they had a just cause.t They discussed the whole matter again at their annual congress on 19 March 1961. At the annual conference in March 1961 they found that the Minister had appointed a fact finding committee to report on consolidation. Now note the hon. the Minister’s attitude. He had shortly before turned down flatly all their requests, he had flatly turned down a petition signed by 12,000 people, a petition calling for a commission to be appointed. Yet, quietly the Minister goes and appoints a fact-finding committee on consolidation, although it was notable that the Artisan Staff Association was not represented on the committee. In the meantime the Artisan Staff Association had said to the Minister that if he would consider their claim, they would consider substantial restrictions in respect of overtime, Sunday-time and bonus rates. On 1 March 1961 just before they were going to hold their conference (on 19 March), the Minister announced full consolidation, not of the R114 for which they had asked, but R598 consolidation.
Four times as much as they had asked for.
Yes, full consolidation, but at a price! They had to undertake substantial reduction in overtime and bonus rates and Sunday-time.
They did so voluntarily.
Yes, they had volunteered to do so an they were prepared to do so, and they had told the Minister so before he turned them down flat. They had told the Minister so because 18 August 1960, when he turned them down flat they had told him before he turned down their petition for a commission of inquiry.
Another drop, another drop! (nog ’n sopie, nog ’n sopie!).
Mr. Speaker, I hope you heard what that hon. member said? May I inform him that I believe nothing stronger than water is to be had in the House.
Order! The hon. member may proceed.
Yes, Sir, but I must protest against remarks of that kind.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, is the hon. member for Edenvale (Mr G. H. van Wyk) entitled to say, referring to the hon. member “nog ’n doppie, nog ’n dop-pie”? That has a clear inference, and I want to ask you, Sir, to make him withdraw that remark.
Sir, in the meantime one must notice that the A.S.A. had to put the emphasis on the consolidation of the cost-of-living allowance. They had found that there were too many appendices attached to their wages and the consolidation of their cost-of-living allowances was of great importance to get a clear picture of any person’s salary, and the basic wage at that time did not give the true picture of what a man’s salary was. They felt that it was indeed necessary to get a true picture of the basic wage. But before the hon. the Minister gets away with saying that he gave them four limes as much as they asked, one must remember that at this time nearly all government departments or all government departments have already consolidated the cost-of-living allowances. So that when they came and they asked the Minister for this to be done, it had already been done in nearly all government departments. He agreed to have all the cost-of-living allowances incorporated and he also agreed that the Administration would bear the added costs in regard to pensions. The hon. the Minister also agreed at that time to a monthly rate instead of an hourly rate. But he rejected altogether all their requests for an increase in pay.
But that was a year later.
No, he had already done so when he refused the 3d. per hour.
That was the year before.
Let me try to speak in words of one syllable. When the Minister offered to consolidate the cost-of-living allowance, the artisans were satisfied to take it at that time, although they felt that at that moment they had had no pay increase, and immediately after that they started again by asking that a pay-increase should be considered. Now the hon. member for Parow said that they had better pensions as a result of the consolidation. That is perfectly true. He said that they had better security. That is also perfectly true. But that is something for the days to come, something in the far future, and especially for a young man it is something in the very far future indeed, a young man who has got a family and small children to raise, and the position is that they have no more money to take home, that they are still struggling to keep on the breadline with the increasing cost-of-living. One must realize that strict supervision has cut the extra earnings of the railway-workers absolutely to the bone, and one must also realize that in the difficult days which the Railways experienced, these railway-workers themselves offered their help to the Minister and helped to bring the Railways back on an even keel again, so much so, that I noticed that the hon. the Prime Minister when he spoke in September, last year, praised the railwaymen for their work. He was speaking at Heidelberg and he said that it was with gratitude that one had noticed an increase in the Railway earnings during the past months, partly due to the excellent work of the railwaymen.
Are you enjoying yourself?
I am not. I looked up my speech last year, and I find that I said this—
So if the hon. member there thinks that I am enjoying myself, I say I am not. I am not enjoying myself when we have to come to this House year after year and have tediously to repeat what we have said the year before, because we are speaking for the railway people. But no notice was taken of it. Now I want to quote what the reply was which the hon. Minister gave me on that occasion and I am certain that I will get the same uncouth reply this year.
Order! The hon. member must withdraw the word “uncouth”.
I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. Can I say it was an unhelpful or undignified reply? At any rate, he replied as follows—
The hon. member for Drakensberg had certain complaints. I really do not know what reply to give to the hon. member. She received a little information here and there from people and from workers. My advice to her is this “Tell those people that they have excellent staff associations which will cater for their interests and that those staff associations will do much more than what the hon. member will ever be able to do, because they know the conditions and they know their people and they are able to look after the interests of their members. They do so very effectively”.
I am glad to hear that because that is exactly what is not happening. The staff associations are making representations to the Minister, but instead of taking notice thereof, the Minister does what he did in the past, namely send them away with a flea in their ear. On 28 August he told them that he would grant them absolutely nothing. They asked for a commission of inquiry but that he turned down in an undignified manner. He sent them away but a couple of months afterwards he announced that he was going to incorporate their entire cost of living allowance in their basic wages—something for which they have not particularly asked for. If the hon. Minister had the intention of granting them their wishes, why did he not do so in a proper way? Then the hon. member for Bloemfontein (East) asks me whether I am enjoying myself. How can I do so in the circumstances? It is interesting to note that there were so far four speakers from the other side and of those four speakers only 2½ minutes were spent by the hon. member for Parow (Mr. S. F. Kotzé) on this matter. I already quoted what he said. He talked about “platvloerse besluite”, and said that their pay demands were unnecessary, and that they were the people with the least reason for complaint. I want to come back to the artisans and to tell the hon. Minister that these people feel that their basic pay must rise. It is amazing to note that only one out of every six artisans can get promotion because they can only get promotion within their own ranks. The scale for artisans is laid down, namely 74.40 cents per hour. After ten years this is increased to 75.706 cents. It was in 1955 that artisans got the last pay increase. Since then every conference asked for more pay.
That is not true. It is nonsense.
It is absolutely true. The hon. member can find that out from the artisan staff association. It seems as if the hon. member is taking so little notice of the artisan staff association and of its conferences that he does not even know what they are paid. Perhaps that is why the Government is so deaf to their demands. I say that since 1955 every artisan staff association conference has asked for increased pay. Its executive committee has approached the hon. Minister in serious vein. The position is that in 1951 the pay of artisans was increased from 3s. 6d. per hour to 3s. 11d. per hour, and in 1955 to 4s. 3d. The consolidation of portion of their cost-of-living allowance in 1956 brought this hourly wage up to 4s. 9d. This did not mean any increase in his basic wages however. Since 1955 the artisan could not take any more money home.
What about the N.P.A. in 1958—the non-pensionable allowance?
Or was it a National Party allowance? That non-pensionable allowance was, at any rate, so little that they continued with their demands. And, Mr. Speaker, they have reason for asking for an increase in their pay. The expenses of every worker have gone up. It costs more for him to live; it costs him more to build a house; it costs more for him to educate his children. It was most interesting to read that the General Manager, when addressing a meeting of Spoorbond in October 1961, said the following—
The same General Manager, when addressing the Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Sakekamer, said that R85,000,000 had already been spent on housing for railway men. If it is true that he said “Can White South Africans, and particularly members of the Spoorbond, stand aside and watch the non-White advance further every day and so threaten their work and their very existence”, then I think he should have said it to the Minister, because that is the very reason why they want a better salary, i.e. to educate their children so that they would be able to compete with the non-Whites. Most of them did not have opportunities for education themselves. I hope that the hon. Minister will open his mind so that this can enter.
The General Manager also said, as I quoted, that the sum of R85,000,000 had been spent on housing for the railway man. That is true. Houses have been built in various areas— quite a number in Natal particularly in Ladysmith. But what do I find now? I find that these houses are being built and given to workers only for the time they live at a particular centre. When they are transferred to another centre, they cannot get another house unless they buy it. I wonder whether hon. members have thought about the position this is going to place the railway worker in. In order that he may have a roof over his head, he has to buy whilst at most railway centres houses are just not to be had for any amount of money. But in order to have a roof over his head, the railway worker has to buy a house. Now, it is common knowledge that a railway worker is subject to transfer. Even when he gets promotion he is liable to be transferred. Let us take the case of a worker in Ladysmith who has had a house there for three or four years and then gets transferred to Cape Town. The Railway Administration will then let his house in Ladysmith for him but any reparations which might become necessary to that house, have to be done out of the pocket of the owner. So the poor railway worker sitting in Cape Town has to pay for any repairs to be done without his being able to go and see what is happening and why he has to face a bill of may be R600. This has now become the avowed policy of the Railway Administration, i.e. no longer to let railway houses but to sell them if that is at all possible. Speaking about houses, it is interesting to note the position of operators in this regard. There is a severe shortage of operators in Natal and particularly in Pietermaritzburg—so much so that the Administration has to employ non-White operators. The relevant staff association has informed the Administration that if enough houses were made available at Pietermaritzburg, it would be possible to get enough White operators. So a certain number of houses was built but instead of these being given to White operators, they were allocated to people who were on the waiting list. The position, therefore, still is that there are many non-Whites employed as operators in many centres in Natal. In the past an artisan had a certain status and he was proud of that status. This has, however, changed on account of falling wages. I wonder whether members opposite are aware of the fact that the most junior clerk in the Railway Administration to-day gets more pay than an artisan and that the policemen who waves artisans in at the gate in the morning and out in the afternoon is higher paid than artisans? An ordinary Railway constable is a higher paid man than an artisan. The railwayman is an intensely loyal person. He is one of the most loyal human beings that I have ever seen.
That is why they vote for the Government!
The railwayman realizes that when he was saving the Railways, he was also saving himself. That was the way in which they looked at it and that is why they succeeded in pulling the Railways out of the doldrums so quickly. I think it was during the speech of the hon. member for Wynberg (Mr. Russell) that a member opposite asked why one class of railwayman was being singled out for an increase in pay. But the pay of other classes have been increased. In this connection I think of the Railway Commissioners. Railway workers look on these commissioners as ordinary railway men and not as something peculiar. They forget that they were politicians in this House. Another class which has had an increase in pay is draughtsmen. Assistant foremen have also been given increased pay. So there are others who received an increase in pay. The fact is that the Western Transvaal provincial council of the Artisans Staff Association has passed a resolution asking the hon. Minister of Transport to resign. The Bloemfontein Branch passed a resolution asking the hon. Minister to resign. The Durban Branch has asked him to resign; the Windhoek Branch has asked him, and I am quite sure the Cape Province Branch will also ask him to resign.
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to say that what the hon. the Minister has done for his railwaymen has not been appreciated. I think the hon. Minister seems to have failed to judge the temperature and the temperament of the people with whom he is dealing. I think because they have been patient, and I have traced the steps they have taken—slowly, and year by year they have asked the same thing; they have been very patient and very long-suffering indeed—but I think the hon. Minister has misjudged the temperature and temperament of the people with whom he is dealing. I would suggest that in future he should be a little more helpful, a little bit more … Well, Mr. Speaker, you have told me not to use that particular word. Anyway, the hon. Minister knows what I mean.
And now, Mr. Speaker, I wish to come to Danskraal, because no speech of mine will be perfect unless I say something about Danskraal. I want to say there is a shortage of shunting staff at Danskraal. The shunting staff at Danskraal are on extended hours. There is a terriffic strain on their strength. Leave is difficult to obtain because there is no relief. There is a difference between serving an electric unit and serving a steam engine, because they have to be so much quicker. There are occasions when some of these shunters have to be on their feet for 12 hours. The guards staff have long hours because in their case there is a shortage too. They have long hours and they have short rests. They must work and they must do this overtime because their basic salaries are not high enough. They must submit themselves to these long hours and short rests.
The tin shanties about which I spoke in 1957, for guards and shunters and yard controllers, are still there.
It is a shame Those tin shanties in which these people have to eat, are full of rat-holes; they are full of cockroaches; they are dirty; they are too hot in summer and too cold in winter. They are not fit for pigs to live in, let alone decent, upstanding, hard-working Railway workers.
The men on repair jobs to engines have to work out in the open, and it is no fun when it rains and it is cold; neither is it fun when the sun is very hot. But hon. members sitting over there and enjoying organizers’ allowances evidently do not mind. The flash-butt depot people also still work out in the open. I say that for the edification of the hon. member for Bethlehem (Mr. Knobel) because, Mr. Speaker, you will remember that in 1958 when I said this, the hon. member got up and told me I did not know what I was talking about. Fortunately he was reported very full in the Transvaler. This copy of the Transvaler was sent back to me, together with a petition from the flash-butt welders at Danskraal, accompanied by three photographs, and they were very outspoken about what they thought of the knowledge of the hon. member for Bethlehem. There is still no flash-butt depot, in spite of the fact that it has been on the Estimates for three years. Nothing has been done about it. I know that some enlargements at Danskraal have taken place—new railway lines and things like that. [Time limit.]
The hon. member for Danskraal—I mean Drakensberg (Mrs. S. M. van Nierkerk) will forgive me if I do not, as is customary, react to certain of her remarks. I do, however, want to react to certain remarks which were made earlier this afternoon in this House by the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw). It was indeed strange this afternoon, Sir, to get complaints from that quarter about certain aircraft transactions; it was indeed strange to get the type of complaint which we did get from that quarter. I want to tell that hon. member that we had complaints from his side of the House about the Constellation aeroplanes. That happened as far back as 1957 and the hon. member for Drakensberg who has just sat down was one of the members who complained and said that the seats in the Constellations were too small and that she could not fit properly into them. The then hon. member for Yeoville and the hon. member for Turffontein (Mr. Durrant) complained about the same thing at the time and I can take this argument of the hon. member for Durban (Point) further as to the principle of which countries, to which type of country, things like these should be sold. He made an issue of the letting of the Constellation aeroplanes and he objected vehemently to it. But it is interesting to see that somebody on that side of the House said the following last year about the letting of the Constellations—
The person who said that was Mr. Hymie Miller, a former hon. member of this House. But apparently he displayed too much intelligence so it was found necessary to replace him. Furthermore another hon. member who was formerly a member of this House said the following—
That was said by Mr. Cope, a former member of this House who also at a later stage did not feel at home on that side of the House, not at home in the company of those members from whom we have had these remarks. The hon. member for Durban (Point) spoke this afternoon about “strait-jacket, red tape, hogtied, goods train mentality” etc. when referring to the S.A. Airways. He must not say that he was praising the Airways. The same Mr. Hymie Miller said the following about the Airways, the Airways which the hon. member for Durban (Point) calls a service which is governed by “a goods train mentality” or a “hog-tied” services.—
He refers inter alia, to certain aspects of the S.A. Airways and he says—
But as I have said, Mr. Speaker, he displayed too much intelligence for the liking of that side of the House so they got rid of him. They negotiated an exchange and whether they got anything better, I leave to history to decide.
I want to return to a few of the remarks which have been made about the S.A. Airways and I want to associate myself with those hon. members who have already expressed sympathy in regard to the recent unfortunate incidents which have claimed the lives of a number of South Africans. I want to sympathize with those who have perhaps lost next-of-kin or friends in those very unfortunate incidents. Let me hasten to add that although great publicity is given to these accidents. flying in South Africa in particular is the safest form of travel. This is only the second accident in the history of the S.A. Airways in which human lives have been lost. Although it is tragic and shocking, because we are not used to accidents in our safe S.A. air service, our air service remains one of the safest in the world to-day. The scope of air travel has expanded to such an extent and has assumed such terrific proportions, that you are surprised at the measure of safety which still exists Sir. Mr. Speaker, do you know that they expect to handle 12,000,000 passengers in the year 1965 at the Idlewild Airport at New York. More passengers than the total population of the Republic of South Africa will be handled in one year at one airport in the United States. As far back as 1959 London already handled 4,000,000 passengers and a total of 127,000 aeroplanes had used that airport. The air services of the world, Russia and China excluded, handled 21,000,000 passengers in 1947 and 87,000,000 in 1957. When we look at those figures and we consider the very low percentage of accidents which do occur, we can say without fear of contradiction that air travel has become the safest form of travel in the world to-day. And our South African air service more so than the air services of any other country in the world. There are various reasons why the S.A. Airways is one of the safest, if not the safest in the world. In the first place we are using the best type of aircraft available. It is interesting to think that one of our Boeings can to-day take all the members of this House and get them to London before tea-time to-morrow morning.
That is not a bad idea at all.
The hon. member should not allow himself to be diverted by the interjections of that hon. member.
Mr. Speaker, with reference to that hon. member, may I tell him research is already being conducted in the United States into rocket space travel and there have been space travellers before Col. Grisom went up and we do not want a repetition of that in South Africa. During the past five years the S.A. Airways have flown 40,000,000 miles and conveyed 1,500,000 passengers. That means that the total population of the Johannesburg complex, for example, have been conveyed within a period of five years by the Airways. In other words an eighth of our population has been handled as passengers by our Airways over a period of five years. The Jan Smuts Airport will in any case probably handle 500,000 passengers this year. But in spite of this and in spite of the tremendous progress which our Airways have made, and in spite of the fact that air services overseas are being subsidized by their governments so as to operate on an economic basis, our own air service have succeeded in showing a surplus of R4,500,000 on their operations during this period of five years. That testifies of the best administration that you can find in any air service in the world. When we look at other competition air services and some of the air services with which we co-operate, we find that they have to depend annually on considerable government assistance in order to balance their accounts. Our air service in South Africa, in spite of tremendous progress and development, have succeeded in showing a surplus of R4,500,000 over this period of five years.
Mr. Speaker, there are various reasons why our S.A. Airways are the safest. Fewer lives have been lost on our Airways during the whole of its existence than are lost in one particular week in accidents on the De Waal Road near Cape Town. The reason for that is to be found in the type of aircraft which is used by the S.A. Airways. Firstly, we have the Viscount which travel at 365 miles per hour. It carries the best equipment available in the world to-day. I mention that in particular in order to illustrate the precautionary measures which are taken to ensure the safety of our air service. They are equipped with weather radar, they are equipped with engines which are regarded as the most reliable aircraft engines in the whole world, namely the Rolls-Royce Dart Turbine propelled engines. They are regarded as one of the most infallible engines in the world and it is moreover interesting to learn that those engines still presented some minor problems, problems which were solved by our own personnel at Kempton Park and at the Jan Smuts Airport.
For the rest we make use of the Boeing 707, series 344 which were purchased for the S.A. Airways. They are of the most modern aircraft in the world to-day, and not only of the most modern but of the safest. Do you know, Sir, that in spite of the terrific size of the Boeing, it is capable of remaining airborne with only one of its four engines going, a fact which may make the difference between an accident and safety. Because of that it is the safest and its engine is the safest used for air travel to-day. Hence we find that the Boeing is not only an extremely fast machine and easy to manage, but it is also one of the safest in the world to-day. Before the Boeings were acquired for the Airways they were first properly tested in the United States. Those tests were carried out before the first jet aircraft was certified by the Government of the United States as suitable for passenger service. Those tests were carried out over a period of three months, during which period most intensive tests were carried out in all circumstances. They were flown at speeds far in excess of their maximum speed. They travelled at 670 miles per hour, a speed which is never flown normally. The aircraft was taken to a height of 42,500 feet to see whether it complied with everything that was demanded of it at that height. A total load of 130 tons was loaded into the aircraft. That was how they were tested. Only after the aircraft had undergone all those tests, were they bought for the S.A. Airways.
Mr. Speaker, there is another reason why our air service is so particularly safe and that is because the training which our air personnel undergo is of the highest standard in comparison with any other country in the world. I refer in particular to one section of that training, namely the simulators which have been acquired to make the pilots accustomed to the controls in the cabin of the Viscount, for example. The senior Airways instructor in link training was sent oversea. He visited, inter alia, the B.O.A.C., the B.G.S. and the K.L.M. in order to ascertain how this method worked and how it could be applied most effectively.
At 10.25 p.m. the business under consideration was interrupted by Mr. Speaker in accordance with Standing Order No. 26 (1), and the debate was adjourned until 13 March.
The House adjourned at