3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers..
BRITISH PATENTS ACT
Mr. MATHEWS.- I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has read a cablegram from London published thisweek in a Melbourne newspaper, in which it is stated that-
The operation of the new Patent Act, which was. introduced by the President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Lloyd George, has apparently fulfilled the expectations of that Minister. When he introduced the Bill, Mr. Lloyd George explained that it was designed to prevent the obstruction of British industrial development by the abuse of patent rights. The measure compelled foreigners to work their patents in Great Britain, and prevented them from imposing onerous conditions on British manufacturers using their patents. The measure was passed last year.
Speaking at Carnarvon yesterday, Mr. Lloyd George said that the Act was already bringing into the country many foreign industries, and it was anticipated that it would soon provide employment for tens of thousands of British workmen.
The Daily Mail, dealing with ‘ the same subject, states that the Beyer Company, which has a capital of£13,000,000, and represents industrial organizations at Berlin, Elberfeld, and elsewhere, has purchased twenty-four acres of land in Cheshire. Its object is to secure a site for the erection of buildings in connexion with the establishment of an aniline factory.
Many Australian manufactures are protected by patents, and as there is a likelihood of some of our manufactories suffering by reason of the use of steam power being superseded by other motive power, I should be pleased if the Minister will consider the advisableness of introducing a Bill on the lines of the new British Patents Act?
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN.- The honorable member was good enough to inform me that he was going to ask this question. I have read the cablegram in question, and may say that we have a Bill in preparation. A question on somewhat similar lines was recently answered in the Senate.
Mr. Joseph Cook. - Are not the provisions to which’ the honorable member refers to be found in the Commonwealth Patents Act?
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN.- I think not. At all events it seems to me that Great Britain has taken a move in the right direction, and I hope that we shall be able to avail ourselves of every opportunity to extend our manufactures.
Report (No. 13) presented by Sir John Quick, and read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Sir John Quick) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- I do not know whether the schedule to the report of the Committee covers ‘ a recommendation for the printing of regulations relating to Papua. The custom is to lay those regulations on the table and not to order them to be printed. Having regard to their wide scope in many instances, I think that they ought always to be printed.
– Although the Committee may not have directed the printing of the regulations to which the honorable member refers, it is open to him or to any other honorable member to give notice of his intention to move later on that they be printed.
– Attention has already been given to the point, and steps have been taken which I hope will lead to the printing of all such regulations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I should like through you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the honorable member for Wide Bay why the notice of motion recently given by him in relation to a matter of such urgency as the establishment of a Commonwealth system of oldage pensions has disappeared from the notice-paper.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay may reply, if he pleases, to the question.
– The honorable member in a few minutes will discover the reason.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Military Forces - Annual Report for the year 1907, by the Inspector-General.
Opium- Report by the Comptroller-General of Customs on the working of the prohibition! against the importation of opium.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the suggested construction of transcontinental lines of railway by the Commonwealth, and the necessity for the adoption of a Commonwealth gauge, if construction be approved; also in view of the desirableness of the States maturing plans for changing to the Commonwealth gauge wherever the change will facilitate and cheapen conveyance - will the Minister ascertain what ‘number of miles of each different gauge in each State are -
In course of construction;
Authorized but not commenced; and place the information in the possession of members ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
I now lay upon the table of the House in the shape of an approximate return, the information - which has been obtained by telegraph from the various States.
Oath of Fidelity - Guards of Honour
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If, in addition to the usual oath that is to be administered to the Australian citizen soldiers, the Government will take into consideration the desirability of adding a clause or supplementary oath embodying the swearing of fidelity to Australia ?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member will” receive attention in connexion with the new Defence Bill now under consideration.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In reference to answer of the 17th instant, re Guard of Honour -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Yes; I am informed that various duties render this at times necessary, but the period of their training is subsequently made
A guard was provided on the 5th inst., for the Commodore of the French Fleet in the Pacific, in compliance with the regulations, and international custom. It is laid down that a guard of honor is provided when the Commodore of the Fleet of any other country pays an official visit to the naval and military authorities of the Commonwealth. The official visit in question was not to the District Commandant specially, but to the Naval Director, the Military Board, and the District Commandant. One occasion comprised all branches of the service. 3 and 4. There is no intention to interfere with this customary interchange of international courtesy, but in future if such can be arranged by providing a guard from men closer to headquarters it will be done. 5 and 6. The allowance for officers is as stated by the honorable member, if they do not draw Government rations and provide their own meals. Instructions have been given that adequate provision must always be made.
Post Office: Port Pirie - Lineman’s
Hours - Telephone Directories - Country Telephone Exchange Extensions - Queensland Telegraphists
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received any reply to the letter addressed by him to the Government of South Australia, relative to the proposal to change the site of the post office at Port Pirie?
– I have received no reply, but shall ask the Prime Minister to expedite the matter.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Printing of Telephone Lists. 126A. (1) Any person who, without the authority of the Postmaster-General, prints, publishes, or circulates, or authorizes the printing, publishing, or circulating of, any list of all or any of the subscribers connected with any Telephone Exchange, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding Ten pounds? 2 Is it proposed to prohibit the publication by local firms of publishers of lists of subscribers to local exchanges such as Liverpool, Penrith, Homebush, and other exchanges, which are at present a great convenience to subscribers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - . .
– The answers to the honorablemember’s questions are as follow -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
Native Indented Labourers - LabourRegulations.
Motion (by Mr. McWilliams)agreed to-
That a return be laid on the Table of the House showing -
The number of native labourers indented in Papua when the Commonwealth assumed control of that Territory.
The persons to whom such labourers were indented.
The rates of wages paid and amounts deducted therefrom in fines and penalties, showing the nature of offence.
The death-rate of such labourers in the different capacities and localities.
The number of labourers indented each year since the Commonwealth assumed control of the Territory.
The persons, showing occupation, to whom such labourers are indented.
The rates of wages paid in the successive years and amounts deducted therefrom in fines and penalties, showing the nature of offence.
The annual death-rate of such labourers in the different capacities and localities. .
Copies of the labour regulations issued by Sir Wm. McGregor whilst Administrator of Papua, and of those now in force, together with methods of engagement.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas the Stale Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have made no provision for the payment of old-age pensions, this House is of opinion that the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty.”
I am pleased to have this opportunity of bringing a very important matter under the notice of honorable members. Nobody will deny that the payment of old-age pensions throughout the Commonwealth is a question of urgency. It is a question with which every honorable member is familiar, and upon which the electors have repeatedly expressed their views, and we have now arrived at a stage when this House should at least give an - emphatic expression of opinion regarding its policy on the matter. I know very well that there are difficulties in the way of instituting a Federal system of old-age pensions, but these difficulties we shall surmount as soon as the question is tackled in real earnest by the whole of the members who are pledged upon it. In this case, happily, our constitutional powers are not in doubt. The Constitution expresses in clear and definite language that one of the powers delegated to this. Parliament is the power to legislate at its will in regard to. old-age pensions. That being so, it is not our power under the Constitution that is in doubt. It is a subject upon which th is Parliament is perfectly free to legislate at any moment that it thinks fit. Of course, it would be idle for me to deny that ever since its inception there have been difficulties in the way of the Commonwealth Parliament dealing with the question. No honorable member who is sincere will dispute the statement that Governments have been hampered by the financial provisions of the Constitution, and no honorable member will deny that, however able administrators may have been, a barrier has stood in the way of their raising a sufficient sum through the Customs and Excise to meet the expenditure contingent upon the payment of a Federal old-age pension, namely, £1, 500,000. Under the Constitution we should be compelled to raise £6, 000,000 through the Customs House, before we should be able to retain an amount sufficient to cover the cost of a Federal system of old-age pensions. Undoubtedly, that has been a difficulty from the first. But great as that difficulty is, it does not justify us in standing before the people of the country - and especially the old people who have nothing but their votes to give us - and assuring them that this is an urgent question with which . it is incumbent that Parliament should deal, and that we would see that they obtained justice, and not doing so when returned to Parliament. At this stage of our Federal history I think it becomes honorable members to reflect upon our responsibilities, not only to Parliament, but to the people generally, and particularly to the aged people, whom we have promised so faithfully to help. The history of this question, though not at all flattering to us, is, at least, no more flattering to the Premiers of the States. It is only just to say that early in our history the Federal Government appealed to the States Premiers to allow a sum of money, sufficient for the payment of old-age pensions, in their respective States, to be retained by the Commonwealth, for that purpose out of the surplus money the Commonwealth returns to the States, but that they have repeatedly declined to do so. They have declared, in unmistakable language, that, as far as they are concerned, if the Commonwealth Parliament desires to pay oldage pensions, it must pay them out of increased revenue collected from the people of the Commonwealth. That has undoubtedly more or less embarrassed this Parliament in its action. The reason why I take definite action at the present time is, that it would be intolerable if this question were kept in abeyance for an indefinite period - if we do not say now what we have said upon the platform, namely, that it is a matter which ought to be settled without delay. I ask Parliament and the country whether, when the people voted for candidates who espoused the cause of old-age pensions, they did not clearly empower us to raise the necessary revenue by all the resources at our command.
– It does not necessarily follow.
– I should like to know why that conclusion does not necessarily follow. If any electors gave their votes with a qualification in this connexion, they did not do so in my own case.
– There are no old-age pensions in Queensland.
– I am now speaking of the electors of States in which there are old-age pensions. The honorable member for Illawarra, I feel sure, is as anxious to do justice to the aged poor in the other States, as he is in the case of his own State’; and without the assistance of members like himself in New South Wales and in Victoria, we, who favour Australian old-age (pensions, might as well beat the air. My appeal is to the representatives of States in which there are not old-age pensions, as well as to representatives of States in which such pensions are the law. And this is a fitting opportunity to say why I am particularly anxious that this question should be dealt with now. Reviewing the history of old-age pensions, we note the singular fact that in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Victoria, in the order named, pension systems were established prior to the inauguration of Federation, whereas in the seven years which have elapsed since, none of the other four States of the Commonwealth have made any serious attempt in this direction. These States, in the matter of old-age pensions, have co-ordinate powers with the Commonwealth, but they have done nothing. Why ? The only reason I can give is that which I heard advanced in the State Parliament of Queensland prior to (Federation. Just after the Constitution Bill had been passed, but prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the Labour Party in the Queensland Parliament endeavoured to pass a motion in favour of old-age pensions j but they were met with the contention that this was a matter delegated entirely to the Federal Parliament, who could more fitly deal with it. I agree with- that view, and I go so far as to say that, if all the States Parliaments passed up-to-date and desirable old;age pensions Act’s, the schemes would yet be incomplete so far as the Federation is concerned.
– The honorable member will admit that the problem would then be simplified very considerably.
– That is so, but, as I said in my opening remarks, the problem, though difficult, is not insuperable. I have before said in this Chamber that if the interests of great and powerful factions - of merchants and similar classes, who are well able to claim their own rights - were involved, the question would not have been allowed to lie. in abeyance for seven years after the mandate of the people had been given. But’ the fact is significant that during the seven years of the union none of the States have seriously attempted to pass old-age pensions Acts, and this shows that they consider the power is delegated to the Federation. That being so, we are in duty bound to exercise our rights, and do justice to those whose only hope is in this Parliament. It is only fair to say that an Old-Age Pensions Bill has been introduced in the Parliament of Queensland, and partly proceeded with, and that some hints have been given of a similar measure in South Australia. But it is clearly recognised that the States cannot meet the demands of the situation, and; therefore, the duty of legislating- devolves upon us.
– In Western Australia the cost would be greater to the State, if the scheme were carried out by the Commonwealth.
-.- I ‘.cannot understand? how any simple act of ours, under which the same pensions as those already given by the States will be paid, can add to the sum total of the expenditure.
– It is becuase of the-‘ per capita distribution.
– I presume the right honorable gentleman is not unacquainted: with the trend of policy at the present moment, which indicates that the financialrelations of the States and the Commonwealth will be adjusted at a very early date ?
– I am speaking of the requirements under the Constitution.
– When there is a readjustment of the financial position, theremust, I recognise, be special consideration? given to Western Australia; and I do not: wish the right honorable gentleman to assume any desire to do an injustice to that State.
– This would be”other” expenditure, and would becharged per capita.
– It would be “other”expenditure, but I think that the financial) relations might be adjusted without any injustice” to Western Australia. At any rate, I think the right honorable gentleman* will agree with me that it is just as desirable to have old-age pensions’ in Western* Australia as it is in New South Wales and; Victoria.
– Hear, hear.
– I do not wish to drag: the House back to the old manifesto. Inthe early days of this Parliament, we heard* a great deal of the Maitland programme.. We listened’ to many ‘reviews and long quotations from that declaration, but we have heard very little of the matter lately. I cannot go into all the interesting featuresof that manifesto, but can only refer to it as connected with this particular subject y and it is only fair to the leader of the Opposition to say that he was definite and’ straightforward in his statement to the public that old-age pensions for Australia, although- there was a scheme in operationin New South Wales at that time, was a matter of urgent public policy. I can speakfor the members of the Federal Labour Party. At that time they . had only four planks in their platform, of which a White Australia was the first, and Old-Age Pensions the second, and the White Australiapolicy having been settled, Old-Age Pensions at once took precedence.
– The Labour Party has been running the show all along, arid yet we have not got any further in this matter at the present stage.
– The honorable member is in error in saying that we have been running the show. The Prime Minister can tell him that, so far as I am concerned, at any rate, there has not been a suggestion made to the Government which should -cause any honorable Minister to blush. There has been no attempt on our part to coerce Ministers of the Crown.
– What about the dirteating complained of by Sir George Turner and the right honorable member for Swan?
– . Has the Labour Party not applied the slightest pressure in regard to this matter?
– If it will be information to honorable members, and the public, I wish to say that no pressure in regard to this matter has been brought to bear on the Prime Minister, or any other Minister.
– Has he not been even approached on the matter?
– I legitimately approached the Government, so that I might bring on this motion as early as possible.
– Has the Government not been approached at any other time?
– No. I wish to tell .the public, once and for all, exactly where the Labour Party, stands in this matter. There has been no eating of dirt on the part of Ministers, so far as I am concerned.
– Has the party waited for seven years without doing anything?
– It would appear that, after all, the honorable member has been eating dirt.
– I do not know if the honorable member regards the taunt as worthy of him, but I would eat political dirt if thereby I could obtain a Commonwealth old-age pensions system. There are some men who would use this question merely to humiliate their opponents.
– The honorable member says that he has never lifted a finger in the matter.
– What some honorable members mean by lifting a finger is the smiting of their opponents. They do not care whether they can or cannot get what they profess to want, and do not mind if the good of the aged is sacrificed, so long as they can smite their opponents. They think that, if they do that, they have accomplished a great work. That is not the view of the party with which I am associated, which desires political progress and justice, whoever may benefit or suffer. If every one of us were swept out of Parliament, it would be as nothing compared with the- injustice done to those who have voted faithfully on this question expecting to receive justice long before this.
– They have waited seven years for the honorable member to exert pressure.
– I ask if honorable members who occupy the front Opposition benches would at once proceed with the measure were they in power?
– We shall support the honorable member’s motion.
– I need not pursue the history of this matter, nor argue the principle involved, because that has been accepted. The advisability of establishing a Commonwealth old-age pensions system per se need not be argued, it. being accepted all round.
– The honorable member should let us know what makes it possible now to establish a Commonwealth old-age pensions system, seeing that for the last six or seven years it has been, by his own showing impossible.
– I did not say that it has been absolutely impossible. It has been impossible in connexion with our Customs and Excise revenue. The right honorable gentleman knows that to obtain 500,000 for this purpose out of Customs and Excise revenue it would be necessary to impose duties producing something like ;£6, 500,000.
– That is still the position.
– We have other resources. I have shown that on three occasions the country .has given an almost unanimous verdict in favour of the establishment of old-age pensions. The people have said, “ Go and do this thing.” They know nothing about the restrictions of the Constitution ; but they are aware that we have resources, and the duty, therefore, devolves on Parliament to obey their will.
– Why did not the Labour Party do it when it had a chance?
– The electors do not mature programmes of legislation. It has never been contended that they must settle the details of a measure. It has been considered enough to ask the people to return members pledged to give effect to some broad principle, leaving the details to be settled by Parliament. If the right honorable gentleman had from nine out of every ten of the electors a mandate for a certain policy, he would set about- giving effect to it.
– While the Braddon provision has force, financial considerations prevent the establishment of an old-age pensions system.
– Is the motion only another placard? Is it going to be talked out?
– There will be the whole day in which to discuss it. That, I am sure, will please the honorable member.
– How . does the honorable member propose to raise the funds necessary to pay Commonwealth old-age pensions ?
– I do not feel’ called upon to answer that question, though I am ready to give a general reply.
– The difficulty suggested by the honorable member for Illawarra has been the lion in the path all along.
– The finding of the means necessary to give effect to the verdict of the country is a duty devolving on those who administer its affairs. The. electors do not care whether the Braddon provision makes the thing difficult. They mean what they say. The resources of the Commonwealth are within the control of the Parliament for providing the funds necessary to pay old-age pensions throughout Australia.
– The honorable member proposes that the House shall give the Government a mandate.
– My motion is clear and distinct. I say that the matter is now urgent.
– That is a mandate.
– The honorable mem- ber may call it what he pleases ; no one can misunderstand its tenor or import.
– The honorable member should tell us how he would provide for Commonwealth old-age pensions.
– I do not think that I am called upon to say how the necessary funds should be raised. Were I to do so, the Opposition would charge me with dictating to the Government.
– Yes. If I say anything mildly to the Government, it is called dic tation, and yet the Opposition now want me to engage in the worst kind of dictation, by telling the Government what their financial policy should be. Honorable members should try to be consistent, even if they are wrong.
– Is not the honorable member now censuring the Government for their failure to introduce an Old-Age Pensions Bill?
– The answer to that question depends upon how the Government view my action. If the honorable member desires my personal opinion relative to the grave constitutional question which he has raised, I may say at once that if I were a member of an Administration holding such views as those entertained by the present Ministry I should not regard a direction such as I ask the House to give as being in any way a motion of censure. I asked the Opposition whether they would favour such a measure, and how they would provide the necessary funds, but waited in vain for an answer. Old-age pension schemes are at present in operation in New South Wales, Victoria, and New Zealand, and the proportions of those above sixty-five years of age who are covered by those schemes are as follows: - New South Wales, 44 per cent. ; New Zealand, 37 per cent, j and Victoria, only 17 per cent. The point that I wish to bring especially under the notice of the representatives of New South Wales and Victoriais that, owing to certain restrictions, 56 per cent, of those over sixty-five years of age in New South Wales are not receiving old-age pensions, while in Victoria., and New Zealand respectively 83 per cent, and 63 per cent.’ of the population over sixtyfive years of age is in the same position.
– The honorable member is including those who do not want a pension.
– I do not desire at this stage to go into all the details. We have the startling fact that only 17 out of every 100 persons over sixty-five years of age in Victoria are drawing old-age pensions. The question ought to be carefully looked into. It will be remembered that when the present leader of the Opposition held office as Prime Minister, .and the Minister of Trade and Customs was assisting him, a Select Committee, which was subsequently converted into a Royal Commission, was appointed to inquire into and report upon a Commonwealth system of old- age pensions. That Commission reported that the schemes in force in New Zealand and New South Wales were very fair, but that an annual expenditure of about£1, 500,000 would provide for a Federal system, under which slightly better conditions would prevail. A proportion not now benefited under the schemes in operation in New South Wales and Victoria would be caught in the Federal oldage pensions net. The Commissioners ‘ declared emphatically that the receipt of an old-age pension should not be considered to have a pauperizing tendency.
– It is in Victoria.
– The honorable member has no right to complain of the Victorian system.
– The Commission, however, made what I take the liberty of saying was an unfortunate recommendation, when, in paragraph 12 of their report they urged that provision should be made to compel the husband, wife, or children of an applicant, as the case might be, to contribute to the amount of the pension granted. I do not agree for one moment with such a proposition. One of the fundamental objects of an old-age pension system is to avoid the best men in our community being penalized. Where the son or daughter of an applicant is compelled to contribute to the pension granted, the most industrious members of a family suffer.
– Does the honorable member think that a man is penalized by maintaining his mother?
– That cry is played out long ago.
– I do not. I consider that it is an honour for a man to maintain his parents ; but I maintain that he ought not to be penalized. In an” ironworks not far from this House there is working at the present time, the father of a family of eight, who is receiving only 8s. a day, and has been ordered by the Court to contribute to the maintenance of relatives who applied for old-age pensions.
– Was it the mother or the father who applied?
– A man might be compelled to contribute to the maintenance of his wife or vice versa, but that was not the position in the case to which I am referring. Under such a system the ne’er-do-wells in a family go free whilst the. industrious members of it are penalized.
– The main to whom the honorable member refers runs the risk of being only intermittently employed.
– I am putting before the House the brightest side of the case.
– If a man were notregularly employed would not the Court take that fact into consideration?
– No doubt it would in some cases. The representatives of Victoria, however, will be able to put before honorable members many cases of the kind. I have mentioned, and will clearly show what kind of old-age pension system is. in force in the State.
– The honorable member need not carp at the Victorian system.
– I am not.
– I am ashamed of it.
– I would say to the honorable member for Franklin and those who think with him, that the cry which he sought to raise a few moments ago has long since been played out. Some economists used to assert that old-age pensions must necessarily fail since they would reduce wages and dissipate filial allegiance.
– Would if not be better for thehonorable member to discuss the question of ways and means? Only one aspect of the question remains to be debated.
– I recognise that fact, but I do not intend to allow any honorable member to score a point against me or my party when there is a good answer to be given. If we cannot maintain our position by argument we have no right to succeed. I was proceeding, when interrupted, to point out that economists at one time declared that we should defeat our own purpose by the establishment of an old-age pension scheme, since such a system must tend to reduce wages. That argument has been proved to be utterly fallacious. The evidence that we have from New Zealand is that since the establishment of an old-age pension system there wages are better, work is more plentiful, and there are more happy homes than there were before. There have been many happy home-comings as a result of aged people being able to secure an honorable pension.
-Is not that the case in New South Wales?
– I do not deny that the position is the same in New South Wales, but I am endeavouring now to meet the argument that it is dishonorable for a man to object to being compelled by law to contribute to a pension “ granted to his parents. Under a compulsory system of contribution the best sons and daughters are penalized, and that is why I object to it. The honorable member for Parramatta has said that there remains only one phase of this question to be discussed. I presume that he refers to its financial aspect.
– I have already told the honorable member and his colleagues that I have never attempted to dictate to the Government, and that I do not intend to do so now. The charge that we have done so is incorrect. My motion is directed to the House generally, and I hope that honorable members will emphatically declare that the time has arrived when this question should be dealt with as a matter of urgent public importance.
– Is not the honorable member prepared to make a suggestion to the Government?
– What a happy position the Opposition occupy. As soon as they are ready to take action, what an opportunity they have I
– Why has action not been taken before?
– I have always taken a very serious view of my personal obligation in regard to this question, and I feel more than usually pleased that thus early in my career as leader of the Labour Party I have an opportunity of speaking upon it, not merely on my own behalf, but on behalf of my colleagues. I will do my utmost to press this matter upon the attention of Parliament and the country, because I am fully assured that notwithstanding any quibbles that may be raised as to constitutional barriers the great mass of the people of the Commonwealth knows nothing of such quibbles, and will not tolerate them.
– Will the honorable member tell us his own scheme?
– I am not going to quote the celebrated reply of Sir Robert Peel to such a request. I have said again and again that if there are honorable members who know of a way in which we can raise the necessary funds for the payment of old-age pensions, they ought to rise in their -places and say so. I hold that the full resources of the Commonwealth are at the command of those who desire to initiate a Federal system of old-age pensions. If the time should come when the people must draw upon those resources, I have no doubt that honorable members will be found ready to do so. In my opinion, the payment of a Federal old-age pension would be a Godlike boon to the aged people of the Commonwealth. My objection to further delay in this particular regard is emphasized by the reflection that in ordinary cases we can remedy any defect - we can cure any evil - by paying compensation if injury be done, but in this case we know that the Reaper of humanity is day after day cutting off these men and women, these heroes and heroines in the industrial strife of this country, who are passing away under the impression that we are doing our best to help them, when, as a matter of fact, we are not doing anything of the kind. We are not seriously grappling with this question. We are not thinking of it seriously, or we should make an honest appeal to the electors, and they would tell us to introduce the system that we favour, appeal to honorable members, and I hope that their hearts will be touched, and that their minds will be quickened, when I remind them that the old people of Australia, to whom we have promised relief from. time to time, are daily going to their grand some of them under the stigma of pauperism, when they should be passing as honored’ citizens in receipt of an honestly earned retiring allowance.
– I have to thank the honorable member for informing me last evening of his intention to submit this amendment, and for his inquiry as to the way in which the Government would regard it. As honorable members are aware, the proposal to go into Committee of Supply, which is made every third week, is not one for the transaction of Government business - the Government always voting against it. It is a proposal which is made in order that matters of urgency - matters of grievance - may be brought before this House. Consequently, when the honorable member for Wide Bay informed me of his intention to submit his amendment, I at once told him that the Government would heartily support it. By doing so, we shall accomplish exactly the same purpose as if we voted against the motion, and at the same time we shall have afforded the honorable member an opportunity of putting his views before this Clumber.
– Now we understand the cock-a-hoop over the Opposition.
– Upon this question I thought that there was no opposition. If I had experienced any hesitation in this connexion, it would be when some question might be launched, having a party complexion, involving the discussion of issues which could not be satisfactorily determined upon a motion of this kind. But from the leader, and the deputy leader, of the Opposition, and from a great many other honorable members, we have had repeated assurances of their acquiescence in the proposal now submitted, and I felt, therefore, that no possible objection could tie taken to the course proposed to be. followed. We are not invited by the honorable member for Wide Bay to commit ourselves to the amount of the old-age pension to be paid, to its scope, dr to the source from which the necessary revenue is to be derived. The leader of the Labour Party has recognised that all these matters must be considered, that some of them have already been discussed by the Royal Commission appointed by this House to inquire into the question of old-age pensions, and that others are likely to be discussed shortly. In the last inference he is perfectly correct. He has merely anticipated, perhaps by not more than two or three weeks, propositions which the Government will submit, incidentally including a . provision dealing with the question of old-age pensions.
– We tried to deal with it last session.
– Precisely. May I. for a moment run through the record of the present Government upon this question? On 20th October, 1904, a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into it. On 2*7th February, 1905, the Committee was .converted into a Royal Commission, and on the 1 6th February, J906, the Commission presented its report. . Upon taking office during the progress of the inquiry conducted by that Commission, we at once called attention to it, and made a promise that its recommendations would be considered at. the first opportunity. That was on the 26th July. 1905. So far did we consider it that at the close of that year, or at the beginning of 1906, I laid before a Premiers’ Conference in Sydney proposals for an amendment of the Constitution, or better still, for a preliminary agreement, with the Premiers of the different States, which would have permitted us to introduce at once a measure establishing a Federal system of old-age pensions. I was unsuccessful in my appeal. But speaking upon the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on the 8th June, 1906, after calling attention to this fact, I intimated that the Government intended to proceed further. On’ the 4th September, 1906, in introducing the Constitution (Special Duties) Bill, I said -
Should it be assented to by Parliament and the people, it will enable the next Parliament to deal either with the question of old-age pensions, or with any other scheme which would make a large demand upon the funds of the Commonwealth.
Again, in speaking, upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I said -
I freely admit that, so far as this Government is concerned, the object we have in view is the establishment of an old-age pension scheme, and no other.
We submitted that measure to this House, where we were fortunate enough to carry it by 44 votes to 10, but it was laid aside owing to the third reading in the Senate not being agreed to by the statutory majority required under the Constitution. That was on the 2nd October, 1906. So far as this Government is concerned, it did all that was in its power to enable the question to be submitted to the country, which would have answered at trie’, last election. If the course proposed had been approved, we should have been in a position to deal with the matter now. In the Governor-General’s speech, at the opening of Parliament on the 20th February, 1907, the following passage occurs -
My advisers are anxious to lay before you, as soon as circumstances permit, a proposition determining the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States between themselves and to the holders of their securities. This is a most important matter in itself, and because it affects great issues, such as the nationalization of old-age pensions.
As honorable members are aware, that session lasted only a week or ten days. Again in the Governor-General’s speech at the opening of Parliament, on 3rd July last, the following passage is to be found -
The subject of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and’ States has been further discussed with the States Premiers, and the results arrived at will be communicated to you.
The great issues affected, including the federalization of old-age pensions, will be considered in this relation.
Of course the Tariff interposed, but during my absence last year on account of 111- health the Treasurer, in the course of his Budget speech, in speaking for the Government, said -
Once the Tariff has been sufficiently mastered in this House, J. intend’ to devote myself to the examination of the possibilities in this direction, of which Parliament will be duly informed.
That direction relates to the establishment of a Federal system of old-age pensions. He continued - 1 hope that the money can be found for the establishment of a Federal scheme al once, because the matter is one which cannot be allowed to rest. Honorable members will admit that, stepping into the Treasury Department as I have done, and having to find such a large amount of money, I have not had time up to the present’ to’ consider any practical scheme. I wish, however, to remind honorable members that, before the election last year, ‘ an attempt was made by the Government to secure a referendum for the alteration of the Constitution, to provide for the imposition of special duties for the purpose of old-age pensions. The attempt was defeated in the Senate by only one or two votes -
It was not defeated, but it lacked one or two votes of the statutory majority required under the Constitution. My colleague continued -
But where there is a will there is a way, and the question is one of such great importance that if I can possibly bring about the establishment of a Federal old-age pension scheme it shall be done.
So that from the first day that this Government took office to the last utterance upon this question; we have time and again committed ourselves to the very proposition which the honorable member for “Wide Bay has to-day submitted.
– There is plenty of utterance, but no achievement.
– In that respect, we make quite a favorable comparison with any honorable member. We are all doomed to undertake more than either our powers or our opportunities will permit us to accomplish. The question to be asked is not’ merely, “ What have you proposed and what have you done,” but, “ What have you proposed, and what have you clone considering the opportunities within your reach?” .1 submit that, having regard to the fact that the fiscal ques1tion was the issue before the country when the Government came into office - the question with which it was speciallycharged to deal - the public were perfectly- aware that our first duty had reference to that. Moreover, as the honorable member for Wide Bay stated at the beginning of his remarks, and as he was frequently reminded by interjection, this is a question which resolves itself into one of finance, and we have consistently declared - as I have, shown by reference to several speeches of the Governor-General, and to other statements - our belief that its settlement is necessarily bound up with a re-adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth to the States.
– And is not defence and everything else ?
– The honorable member is quite correct. Every important question affects and is affected by finance. The object of the Government at the present time, and the work on which it has been engaged for the greater number of its Cabinet meetings this year, has consisted of an examination of the various phases of the financial situation. The motion to-day, although it is simply an assertion of an undoubted fact, is more than that in the present instance because it is very timely, having regard to the fact that there is shortly to assemble in this city another Conference of Premiers.
– Is it not time we did something on our own ?
– The honorable member will, perhaps, hear the conclusion of this portion of the statement before he discovers whether that interjection is apropos.
– We have been waiting for years.
– The honorable member is interjecting just at a time when I am supporting an argument of his own leader, and, if he wishes to refute that argument, he will perhaps- wait until he is on his feet. I am pointing out that the motion submitted is timely, because it comes immediately before the assembling of the Premiers’ Conference. It is only fair that such ‘a Conference should be informed of the proposals in the minds of honorable members, and also of the proposals which are in the mind of the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the Conference that he intends to do something?
– As I have already said, we propose to lay on the table of the House before this Conference assembles a statement of the financial scheme approved by the present Govern- ment. In that statement it will be found that the question of old-age pensions has been considered from the first, and our proposals will be shaped with a view to enable the Government to introduce an old-age pensions measure. Then the details which have been brought before the House this afternoon will, one and all, come under review. The portion of the honorable member’s speech in which he alleges the urgency of his motion will pass without question, if the practical situation be taken into account. At last the . period is approaching at which the present distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue will require to be taken into review. The Bill which we submitted to the last Parliament would have anticipated that result ; but it was lost, as I have pointed out, by a very narrow margin indeed, considering the late hour of the session at which it required to be submitted. But for that it would have passed both Houses, and unfinancial disability by this time would have been removed. But under existing circumstances, there can be no doubt, as the honorable member has properly urged, that every succeeding year adds, and has added, to the urgency of the question. Having regard to the work which the Parliament has been obliged to undertake - having regard to the distribution of parties and to the expression of the will of the people of the country at the various general elections, and all the other factors which have to be taken into accounts- any fair-minded critic of the Commonwealth Parliament must admit that it has been worthy of its responsibilities. It is easy, if we ignore the difficulties, and generalize or theorize as if those difficulties had not existed - although they are well within the knowledge of every honorable member - to say that the system of pensions could have been put into force before now. At each election the electors have declared that the provision of old-age pensions, from a Federal stand-point, is an imperative duty on this Parliament. That opinion, as the honorable member says, has now been three times affirmed, and nothing but the financial restraints of the Constitution and the other factors to which I have alluded have prevented the question from being effectively dealt with before this time.
– Surely we are not limited to the Customs and Excise revenue for this purpose?
– We are not, but we are limited in the distribution of the .moneys so derived.
– There are other means of taxation.
– There are. A glance at the figures which have been supplied to recent Conferences will show that, though the Customs and Excise revenue may not yet provide the whole of the sum required for old-age pensions ; yet, if thu States had been restricted to the sums which are now required-‘ to be returned to them under the Constitution, a balance approaching to two-thirds of the total sum required for old-age pensions over and above the constitutional requirements, is now being returned to them.
– The forecast of the Treasurer does not support that view.
– I am not dealing at the present time with forecasts, but with the actually realized figures of the past two or three months. The actual proposals will require to be submitted to the House later in one form or another.
– Could those moneys not have been diverted long ago ?
– They could have been diverted to Federal purposes, but the revenue had not reached, until the last year or two, anything like that proportion. At the start, generally speaking, about one-third of the money necessary for old-age pensions was returned to the States in excess of the stipulated proportion under the Constitution, and that surplus has now arisen to two-thirds.
– That is under the new Tariff?
– But not before?
– No; I have just said so.
– Did the Prime ‘ Minister say that he hopes the Customs revenue will increase ?
– I hope that the returns from the Customs will steadily increase, beyond the returns of the present year.
– I thought the Prime Minister was a protectionist !
– Every multiplication of the population, every extension of industry in the country, means directly or indirectly an added return in Customs revenue. We should, indeed, have a very much more serious’ situation than that which we have to face, were we not confident that the returns from this source will be on a continually ascending scale. Under these circumstances, therefore, we are likely to find ourselves able to reconsider this question under much more favorable conditions financially than have been presented before. Not that, even now, the situation’ is without difficulties - it is surrounded by many financial difficulties - and it is with these that the Government are endeavouring to grapple at the present time. My colleague the Treasurer, when obliged to leave the Chamber .yesterday, was not aware that this motion was coming on ; and had he been here he might have thought fit to go a little further than I feel justified in doing in his absence in alluding to the question. But, after all, that cannot affect the decision of the motion which the honorable member for Wide Bay has submitted. After the financial course has been cleared we shall be able to bring down our Bill. This motion is a general declaration’ of an admitted fact. About whatever else there may be dispute, there can be none as to the verdict of the country on this question, any more than there can be a dispute about the policy of the Government on this head, so far as that policy can be embodied in an abstract or general resolution. We shall shortly have to consider it from the practical point of view, first, of finding the money, and then of determining the conditions on which it shall be expended.
– Surely there is money enough in Australia to carry out the policy ?
– I hope so. With the motion, therefore,. I do not desire to detain the House. The position of the Government is so clear, and the attitude of the House is so unanimous, that the question put to us admits of but one reply. Practical financial proposals are about to be submitted, and, within the next month, I hope they will be on the table of the House, so that at last wc shall be able to say that we are face to face not merely with an abstract or general motion, but with the means of making a concrete proposition for old-age pensions.
– The Prime Minister, in reply to an interjection of mine in the early part of his speech, said he was not aware that any opposition was to be shown to this proposal.
– Could be shown, if the honorable member likes.
Mr-. JOSEPH COOK.- Let me say at once that, so far as I know, there will beno opposition to the proposal on this sideof the House. Let that be distinctly understood.
– Hurrah !
– I suppose thehonorable member does not like that declaration, now that he has heard it.
– Is this a new combination ?
– Let the honorable member for Parramatta finish his sentence;, there is sure to be some qualification.
– There will beno qualification j on the contrary, I hopeto move an amendment which will amplify this proposal, and show one or two additional reasons why it is necessary to proceed. In the first place, I should like toknow why, if members of the Labour Party are so anxious to proceed with the proposal, and to secure the support of theHouse, irrespective of party, they could not have given to the Opposition thesame intimation of their intention tosubmit the motion as they did tohonorable members opposite. Let it bedistinctly understood that this motion is not an interference with Government business, because this is grievance day, on which private members’ business may be discussed. If the honorable member for Wide Baydesired to be fair and impartial the least he could have done would have been to pay the same courtesy to all sections of the House, that he appears to have paid to one section. When we find actions like thison the part of the honorable member, we are entitled to doubt his bona fides, rather than accept his expressed desire to obtain the opinion of the House in a fair and reasonable way.
Mr. - McDonald. - The motion was on the notice-paper.
– Then why was it taken off?
– Because to take it off the notice-paper and introduce the subject as it has been introduced to-day, was the only way of having it dealt with.
– With all that I have no quarrel ; I am now taking exception to what has been done on the score of courtesy. Labour members may roar as much as thev like. You know you will not stop me. You have not been comfortable ever since this motion was submitted.
– Will the honorablemember address the Chair?
– Honorable members in the Labour corner are certainly more uncomfortable than they have ever teen during this session, now that they know that no opposition is to be offered to this proposal.
– We are delighted to hear it !
– All I can say is that the honorable member does hot look delighted. We have been told by the Prime Minister that it has been impossible to deal with this question during the existence of the Federal Parliament. For seven years, with one brief interval, the present party have been in possession of the Treasury benches, supported and loyallyassisted by the Labour Party. In those seven years there has Been enacted an AntiTrust Bill, which, up to date, has had no effect whatever, and a union label measure, which, so far as I know, has never been put in operation.
– Oh, yes, it has.
– The Labour Tarty have supported the introduction of Commonwealth Arbitration Courts, and also two Tariffs. Do the Labour Party regard these proposals, important enough as they are in their way, as of more pressing urgency than old-age pensions? Evidently; for this has been the course of their action ever since the inauguration of this Parliament. I should like to point out in passing, that the financial difficulty to which reference has been made by the Prime Minister, and which must be faced when we come to deal with this matter in a practical and serious way, has been gradually accentuated.
– And yet the honorable member blames the Labour Party !
– COOK.- Certainly. It has wiled away seven years, during which time our finances have been getting more and more straitened, so that to-day it is less easy to finance a Commonwealth oldage pensions scheme than it would have been on any previous occasion during that period.
– The financial position would have been the same had we taken this action seven years ago.
– Then, why was it not tak~en?
– What has the honorable member done?
– His party has been in power.
– And the Labour Party has been in power.
– This all comes from supporting the Corner Party. I am sorry that I have caused these interjections; but I challenge honorable members to contradict my statements of fact concerning what has happened since the inauguration of this Parliament. The surplus at our disposal has been continually diminishing, and we are now threatened with its total exhaustion by the ordinary purposes of Government. Yet now, when our finances are most straitened, this matter is suddenly declared urgent.
– Are our finances worse to-day than they have been at any past time?
– Yes ; in the sense that there is less surplus revenue to spend.
– The revenue has been largely increased by the operation of the new Tariff.
– So have the proposals for expenditure.
– In the last Estimates we made provision for an increase of 000,000 in the expenditure of the Government, without reference to the establishment of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme.
– I think that the increase in the revenue will be sufficient to provide for a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme.
– I shall come to that in a moment. My attitude is plain. As a member of the New South Wales Parliament, and as a member of this Parliament, I have always been a supporter of old-age pensions. There has never been any dispute between the Government, the Opposition, and the members of the Labour Party on this subject, except in regard to ways and means. But the leader of the Labour Party now proposes to burke that question, or to leave it out of sight.
– Is the honorable member going to tell us how Commonwealth old-age pensions can be provided?
– Why should I? I am not going to oppose the motion. Mr. Hutchison.- Why should we bring forward, a scheme?
– Since honorable members have determined to force the matter through, they should discuss the question of ways and means. They must eventually do so. The problem which we have to face is a very serious one. If we burke it now, for the purposes of having an airy, inconclusive, and useless discussion, we shall not be able to get away from the obligation of facing it later. The leader of the Labour Party has said that we have the full resources of the Commonwealth at our disposal. So far as that is concerned, those resources have been at our disposal for seven years, and the Labour Party has been practically in power during the whole of that time.
– Even when the right honorable member for East Sydney was in office ?
– I have already excepted that short period, and I did noli think it necessary to repeat the exception. The Labour Party have had the power to compel the Government to make such disposition of the resources of the Commonwealth as they thought fit.
– We were game to go to the country on the subject, but the honorable member’s party went and told a lot of stories.
– About what?
– In regard to our proposals for direct taxation. Honorable members opposite talked about the farmers having their land stolen.
– Is it the honorable member’s idea that a Commonwealth old-age pensions fund should be provided by means of direct taxation ? If so why has he not had the courage to say so in the motion?
– It is the honorable member who showed want of courage in denouncing direct taxation.
-We know why the statement is not contained in the motion. The honorable member had an interview with the Prime Minister last night, during which the terms of the motion were agreed upon.
– That is not correct.
– The Prime Minister told us to-day that the honorable member consulted him last might in regard to the motion.
– Only in regard to the method of bringing it on. I consulted Mr. Speaker, too.
– Then I withdraw my statement. The honorable member interviewed the Prime Minister, not to discuss ways and means, but to determine the method of bringing forward the motion.
– That is correct.
– The honorable member told us to-day that he advocated direct taxation for the purpose of financing a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme.
– I did not say anything of the kind. We advocated a land tax which, if imposed, would have provided money towards this object.
– The Labour Party did not advocate a land tax in Tasmania.
– I understand the honorable member’s interjection to mean that he thinks that the revenue to be derived from direct taxation should be placed at the disposal of the Government to finance a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme.
– We have given ample proof of our sincerity in this matter.
– The honorable member, since he became leader of the Labour. Party, is becoming a politician. He is as much responsible for the financing of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme as is the Government.
– Or the honorable member.
– The honorable member should be quiet. He voted against his constituents last night.
– The honorable member should withdraw that.
– So far from opposing the motion, I wish to insert in it one or two additional reasons to amplify it. When the time comes, I wish to insert a proviso to make it read -
Whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas many members so returned have continuously supported the Government, which has taken no steps to provide for such a system, and have, moreover, never once approached the Government on the matter, nor exerted the slightest pressure in its favour and.
That will incorporate in the motion a statement repeated over and over again by the leader of the Labour Party to-day. He told us very frankly that, although for the last seven years the party has sat behind the Government, it has not once approached Ministers on the subject of the establishment of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme, nor exerted the slightest pressure to bring it about. I gave the party credit for more real concern in regard to the matter. For seven years they have had power to compel the Government to take what course they desired, and it is as well that the public should know the complete inertia of the party during the whole of that period, so far as the establishment of a Commonwealth old-age pensions system is concerned. The statement of the honorable member is a sorry reflection on the industry, faithfulness, and loyalty of the party to this question, and a strange comment on the perfervid oratory which has been poured out on the public platform. It would have been far better if, instead of talking on th” sentiment of the subject, about which we are all agreed, honorable members had insisted on the Government bringing this matter forward at a time when the finances were in a state enabling it to be dealt with. But now that our resources are becoming more and more straitened, the Labour Party has suddenly awakened to the need for exerting pressure on the Government, and the honorable member has therefore made this appeal to the House - it would seem in the confident hope and belief that we would oppose the motion. Had we done so, the party would have been able to say, “ We did our best. We brought the matter forward, but the members of the Opposition voted against us.”. We are not going to be caught by chaff of that kind. The motion is absolutely idle as it stands. If it is passed, we shall still have to consider the question of ways and means, and a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme can be brought forward only by the Government. Therefore, honorable members would have done better to apply pressure to the Government which they support, and which they hold in the hollow of their hand. The Prime Minister made allusion to the proposals of the Government last Parliament for financing an old-age pensions scheme. He spoke of the effort to impose special duties for the purpose, and of the defeat of the proposal in the other Chamber. I gave that proposal my opposition for what I regarded as sufficient reasons. It had been announced that our surplus revenue for that financial year would be £750,000, but since the announcement was made the surplus expanded to over £1,000,000. Last year £3,000.000 was the amount of the surplus revenues returned to the States.
Two of the largest States already have old-age pensions systems in force, and with an arrangement it would not be necessary to raise half the estimated amount of £1,500,000 per annum in order to- give Australia a fully equipped and effective scheme. Since we already have over £800,000 towards the amount required, and the States have £3,000,000 of surplus revenue to dispose of, the financing; of this scheme within the limits of our present resources - without the imposition of additional duties - becomes a ques: ion of statesmanship which ought not to be beyond the resources of this Parliament to solve. That is the position that some of us took up. It is a position that I was able to justify in my electorate, and I believe that it can be justified on any platform. The position, so far as I know, has not altered. What, meantime, has been done by the. Government? They have taken no step with regard to the States that are backward in this respect. I venture to say that if this House at the beginning had taken up a firm attitude, those States would long ago have passed old-age pensions schemes. But to-day they are sheltering themselves behind this Parliament. They will not accept their own responsibility in the matter, because we say that we will take the scheme upon our own shoulders. There is not an honorable member below the gangway who does not know that if each of the States would actualize an old-age pension scheme there would not be the slightest trouble in federalizing those schemes at the least possible cost. That is -the way of least resistance. It is the most effective method. And yet, because we will not say here that it should be done, the States are burking their own responsibilities with regard’ to this very serious, pressing, and urgent problem. That is the attitude that the Opposition have taken up, and I have not a word of apology to offer for it, for I believe that we have adopted the correct course. I shall not oppose this motion. The question of ways and means will be a very serious one to discuss; but I hope soon to see it taken up, and to see realized, in some way or other, a Federal old-age pensions scheme under which there’ will be the fullest possible reciprocity of qualification and citizenship, and by which all those hindrances and frictional elements, which cause so much soreness, will be completely obliterated.
– Is not the honorable gentleman going to ask the Labour Party to support his amendment?
– Why should
– We have only to glance at the faces of the Labour Party to see how they regard our intention to support their proposal. I hope the day will soon come when there will be, from end to end of this continent, full, adequate, and humane provision for the indigent and aged poor.
.- I am glad that this question has been brought before the House by the leader of the Labour Party, because it is one that ought to be very seriously considered by the Parliament. Instead of being disappointed,
Ave are delighted to find that the Opposition are in accord with the proposition.
– The honorable member has known from the first that we are in accord . with it.
– I am glad to hear that the Opposition intend to support the motion, and hope that it will be carried unanimously. The question is one that -rises above party politics. It affects thousands of our indigent and aged poor.
– The Labour Party were careful last night to overlook one party in the matter.
– A number of the members of my own party did not know that I contemplated this action.
– I am pleased to think that the House is unanimously in favour of the proposition, and agree with the view expressed by the deputy leader of the Opposition, that we have remained silent too long with regard to it. Whilst I have on several occasions addressed myself in this House to the question, I plead guilty to having failed to do all that I might have done to force it to the front. There are other honorable members who occupy the same position. The general public have been fooled long enough with respect to it by various Federal Administrations. With one exception, every speech delivered by the Governor-General at the opening of the sessions of the Parliament has contained some reference to the desirableness of establishing a Federal old-age pension scheme. The exception to which I refer was the occasion when the Reid-McLean Administration held office. It will be remembered, however, that the then Prime Minister informed the House that he was endeavouring to do something in the direction of the establishment of a scheme, and that the Attorney-General, Sir Josiah Symon, had mentioned in another place that the Government proposed to take action.
– The Reid-McLean Ad ministration appointed a Select Committee with the object really of deferring the settlement of the question.
– That may be, but the fact remains that the matter has been before the House again and again. As far back as 1904, when the present leader of the Government held office as Prime Minister, there was a reference to the establishment of a Federal system in the speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the session. It must be recognised, therefore, that the time has arrived when action should be taken. I, like others, consider that up to a a certain point there is likely to be some difficulty in the way of financing such a scheme. As long as the Braddon blot remains on the Constitution we cannot hope to have a satisfactory system, since all the revenue required for the purpose could not be raised by means of Customs and Excise duties. But why should we draw the necessary funds from the one source? I am not here to-day to outline any financial scheme. I prefer to wait until the Government submit full and complete proposals, feeling satisfied that if they do not meet with my approval I shall have an opportunity then to give expression to my own views. But why should the financing of such a scheme be limited to indirect taxation? The time has arrived when we may fairly ask that a liberal proportion of the moneys necessary to finance a Federal system of old-age pensions shall be obtained bv means of direct taxation. That is my personal opinion, and I Tor one should not hesitate to advocate the financing of the scheme by means of land values taxation. I know of no more worthy purpose to which revenue, derived from a land values tax could be put.
– I thought that the honorable member’s party desired a land tax with a view of bursting up big estates, and not for the purpose of obtaining revenue.
– We are certainly in favour of breaking up big estates, and, if I had my way, there would be no Customs taxation even in respect of narcotics or stimulants. We have it on the authority of a distinguished member of the House - the deputy leader of the Opposition - that in taxing land values we should be taxing, not the thrift, but the legalised theft, of the country.
– When did he make that statement?
– That is immaterial; the honorable member does not go back on his word. No honorable member can express himself more clearly and distinctly than can the deputy leader of the Opposition, and when he makes a statement he is prepared to stand by it. If it be true that in taxing land values we tax not the thrift, but the legalised theft of the country, is it not reasonable that we should resort to such a means of’ financing so humane a project as this? Why should we hesitate to touch it? In the old days it was thought that to touch the Ark of the Covenant was to die, but we need not fear to touch a land value tax, although, by advocating such a tax, some of ‘us might meet with political death.
– In New South Wales land values are being touched to the extent of 5½d. in the pound.
– If we propose to touch legalised theft we should not hesitate to touch it a little more heavily than that. During the existence of the Braddon blot we cannot draw from Customs taxation the whole of the revenue necessary for a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions, but all that is required is courage on the part of the Ministry and the House generally to enable such a scheme to be financed by means of direct taxation. No doubt if the Government intimated their intention to raise in that way a certain proportion of the necessary funds they would earn the hostility of perhaps every metropolitan newspaper in the Commonwealth. They certainly would not bask in the smiles of the rich : they would incur the bitter and undying hostility of free-trade and protectionist conservatives alike. At the same time they would have their reward in the knowledge that they were taking action in the cause of humanity and proposing to establish’ a scheme that would tend to brighten the lot of tens of thousands of people in Australia whose old age under present conditions’ is’ little better than a lingering death. Who is more entitled to some of the land values that have been created in Australia than our aged poor? Land values have been created as the outcome of their industry and agony, and only an infinitesimal proportion of those values would be required to provide them with an old-age pension. Such a tax would also tend to break up big estates, and that I think is a scheme that the PostmasterGeneral a few days ago advocated.
– Land-owners would, under any circumstances, have to contribute their proportion to the cost of a Federal old-age pensions scheme.
– I should exempt no one.We are all agreed that an old-age pension scheme is necessary, and we must all recognise that a Federal scheme ought to be adopted in order that the old and indigent may be entitled to participate in it, irrespective of the particular part of the Commonwealth in which they may be resident. At the present time a large number of residents of Broken Hill, merely because they were born in South, Australia, are not entitled to receive old-age pensions, whilst their neighbours, who have been continuously resident in New South Wales for a certain number of years, are entitled. I understood the right honorable member for Swan to object that under a Federal scheme of old-age pensions Western Australia would be required to pay more than she would be. under a State scheme.
– That is perfectly true.
-Direct taxation, I might remind the honorable member, would obviate that little difficulty. My idea of a Federal old-age pensions scheme is that it should apply to every person upon reaching a certain age, irrespective of whether they be rich or poor.
– £3,000,000 annually would be required for such a scheme.
– I do not care if £5,000,000 were required. That is quite immaterial. I desire that a Federal oldage pension shall have no taint of charity about it. I notice that several members: belonging to the party with which I am associated signed the recommendation of the Commission which inquired into this question. Because I think a lot of them politically, and because they are personal friends of mine, I will not say all that I might otherwise be tempted to say. But it does seem to me that the scheme recommended by them does not provide for a Federal old-age pension, but in reality for a charitable dole. In the scheme which I desire to see adopted, the granting of pensions should not be subject to review except where the recipient has not been resident in Australia for the prescribed number of years or is not a British subject. The honorable member for Wide Bay objected to paragraph 12 of the recommendation of the Commission to which I have referred, which says -
Provision should be made to compel a husband, wife, or children, as the case may be, if in a position to do so, to contribute the amount of the pension.
I object to that paragraph not only upon the ground mentioned by the leader of the Labour Party, but because I hold that it is the right of every person after having lived in Australia for a certain number of years to receive an old-age pension, no matter how well his or her children may be placed. In most of the States the Judges are entitled to a pension after they have rendered certain service to the community. We do riot ask that their children should contribute a part of that pension. The same principle should be observed in respect of the payment of pensions to our old people. Paragraph 14 of the Commission’s report says -
That the yearly income of a pensioner from all sources, inclusive of pension, should not exceed£52 per annum.
I am not one of those who advocate thrift. I do not believe very much in the gospel of thrift, butIam not quite sure we should penalize a man because he happens to be thrifty. According to the recommendation of the Commission which investigated this matter, if a. man possesses property exceeding £310 in value he should not be eligible to receive a pension. In that case he would simply have to spend his substance with the local publican to insure that for the rest of his life he should be entitled to an old-age pension. I shall be very disappointed if this Parliament does not approve of a scheme upon lines such as I have suggested. Some honorable members inquire, . “ Where is the money to give effect to this scheme to come from?” ‘ Yet we constantly hear from a hundred platforms that Australia is the greatest and most wonderful country in the world, and that per head of population she is the richest country in the world. It is not long since the Treasurer told the people of England that they were merely living from hand to mouth, and that their future could be assured to them only by the adoption of a system of preferential trade with Australia. That country, I would remind honorable members, raises in taxation about £1 26,000,000 annually, and spends £31,000,000 annually upon its Navy and £27,000,000 upon its Army. In. addition, the annual interest upon its national debt is £28,000,000. We have a big debt, but I think everybody will admit that there is an immense difference between our- indebtedness and that of Great Britain. The debt of the Old Country is chiefly the result of wars, and consequently no revenue is being received to meet the interest bill, whereas we have assets which are returning interest upon the capital that has been expended. I suppose that there are capitalists in the world who would be prepared to take over the railways of the Commonwealth and in return to guarantee the interest upon our national indebtedness. A country occupying that position may reasonably be asked to Sanction a Federal scheme of old-age pensions which will have no taint of charity about it, and which will apply to all British subjects who have lived in the Commonwealth for the prescribed period.
.- I must compliment the honorable member for Wide Bay upon his ingenuity in securing the discussion of this question to-day. In the form in which the proposal relating to it stood upon the business paper yesterday, probably we should not have dealt with it during the current session. The leader of the Labour Party and other honorable members might then have justly been charged with having merely placed a placard before the people. It is a singular thing that both in the Old Country and in Australia the question of old-age pensions has been used as a stalking horse by political parties. Mr. Chamberlain introduced it as a stalking horse for preferential trade. Here the reason alleged for increased Tariff taxation was the necessity of providing funds for the payment of oldage pensions. The deputy leader of the Opposition has rendered good service to the community by the amendment which he has foreshadowed. He desires to place upon record the inactivity displayed by both the present and past Parliaments in not giving effect to a Federal scheme of old-age pensions. I have a further amendment to submit upon the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay. I intend to move the addition to the words proposed to be inserted by the honorable member for Wide Bay of the words “ and further, this House is of opinion that the Government should give effect to such expressed will of the people during’ this session.” It is all very well for the honorable member for Wide Bay to emphasize the urgency of this question and for the honorable member for Barrier to- talk about the hardships inflicted upon indigent persons in Broken Hill who are unable to secure relief because they were born in South Australia.
– The Prime Minister promised to bring forward a Bill dealing with the matter.
– That is not sufficient. This very measure was promised last Parliament. If the leader of the Labour Parliament consulted not only Mr. Speaker but the Prime Minister as to the means by which he might be enabled to discuss this question - -
– I mentioned it to the Prime Minister.
– I am not going to put any construction upon the honorable member’s action in consulting Mr. Speaker. This question can be dealt with this session ; and as the honorable member foi Wide Bay was some time ago a most powerful advocate for Parliament sitting continuously, I urge the Labour Party, who have placed old-age pensions in the forefront of their programme for years, to accept my suggested amendment, if the present motion is not merely a method of conveying to the electors the fact that the question has not been forgotten. These discussions do not feed the indigent poor of Australia ; and we are almost unanimously agreed that the proposed system of relief is the correct one. Indeed, I would go further than the honorable member foc Wide Bay, and suggest that, not only the aged poor, but the invalid poor, should be provided for.
– We have no mandate for that, though I agree with the suggestion.
– That is the direction in which schemes of this nature are tending at. the present time. The honorable member for Parramatta was very earnest in his declaration that this was no party question ; and I think we all agree that the necessities of the poor should not be used for political or party purposes.
– I said that I believed that nine-tenths of the members were pledged to the system.
– I do not think that any pledge is required in this humanitarian age. As to the financial difficulties, I suggested to the Prime Minister eighteen months ago that, instead of waiting for the Premiers, he could, by an arrangement with the Governments of the States, effect the desired object. But now that the Premiers are to meet in Melbourne, what more important subject could be considered bv them? T have no desire to wait for any fancy financial arrangements, because I am satisfied that, if by instituting a Federal scheme, we relieve, as we shall do, the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria of an annual expenditure of about £1.000,000,. there will be no difficulty. It has been said that the present state of the financeswill not permit of old-age pensions, but we must not forget that during this vear £2,000,000 has been realized from Customs and Excise in excess of what was anticipated by the Treasurer. Surely out of such a sum old-age pensions could lae financed without the necessity of imposing fresh taxation. The honorable member for Barrier is of opinion that direct taxation should be resorted to in this connexion ; but I am not concerned with the earmarking of revenue, in view of the fact that there has been this immense extra return from Customs and Excise - a return which, by the way, was most , accurately forecast by the honorable member for Parramatta over twelve months ago. . The .Prime Minister has said that he will introduce an OldAge Pensions Bill, and, if that be so, we certainly ought to continue this session until it has been dealt with. What is the use of telling the old men and women, who are waiting for pensions, that their wants willbe relieved at the end of the -next seven or ten years?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the matter should be dealt with during this short session ?
– Why should this be a short session, if we believe that the aged poor are in want of relief? I may say that, some years ago, I hat! the privilege of being a member of the first Parliamentary Committee which dealt with this question in New South Wales, and I had the further privilege of supporting a BiU in the Parliament of that State. In my opinion, the honorable member for Parramatta has justly spoken of the delay there has been on the part of this House in the past. The probable recipients of old-age pensions are not a political force and influence which can be brought to bear on honorable mem. bers who neglect promises ; but’ the Prime Minister is of a humane nature, and he knows that, if the session is prolonged, there should be no difficulty in dealing with this question. We have already had three months’ holiday, and I see no desperate hurry to rush into recess, especially as we have time after time been told that the winter is the proper time for our work. All the circumstances are favorable, and I ask the Labour Party to support the amendment I have foreshadowed.
-.S*]– I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that this question has reached! such a stage as to justify a very definite statement from the leader of .the Government. I deal with the question very briefly at the present time, understanding and believing that 99 per cent, of honorable members believe that the institution of a fund for the purpose of old-age pensions is desirable. Under the circumstances, I think we may reasonably review the attitude which honorable members have taken up in regard to this question during the seven years’ existence of the Federal Parliament. I do not conceal the fact that I am disappointed at the attitude of the Government. . I have a distinct recollection of members of the Federal Government some years ago touring different towns in Australia, and, with tears in their voices, . picturing the hardships under which the aged poor laboured ; and, so far as the general public are concerned, the great bulk of them have for years past thought that this Parliament might, at any time, provide old-age (pensions. The Government must bear the bulk of the responsibility for they have been in office about six years out of the seven. We are told that the financial position does not justify old-age pensions, although in each successive Governor-General’s speech we have been assured that an effort would be made to meet the necessities of the case. At the end of seven years, when there has been no appreciable change in the conditions, we are told by the Prime Minister that he - thinks in about four weeks-
– Before the Premiers’ Conference.
– The Prime Minister thinks that he will then be able to make a statement that will be satisfactory to all.
– I propose to lay all . the proposals relating to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, involving old-age pensions, on the table.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate to the House how near that will bring us, in the event of the House being agreeable to the adoption of the Bill, to the provision of old-age pensions?
– I could not say that now.
– The Prime Minister having said that he is going to introduce a Bill, must accept the responsibility of admitting that he is not in a position to say when pensions, in the event of the Bill being passed, will be paid to the old people. The Prime Minister nods an assent, and I admire the honorable gentleman’s frankness. He does not appear to be “san- guine as to the possibility of doing anything until the expiration of the Braddon provision.
– Quite true.
– In my humble judgment, an Administration which at this stage accepts the position that old-age pensions cannot be paid until there has been an alteration of the Braddon provision, does not deserve the confidence of the House.
– The honorable member must realize that there is now much greater pressure upon the Premiers to come to an agreement than there has been previously, and that it gets stronger every month.
– Our experience of Premiers’ Conferences does not justify us in believing that the next Conference will bring about the adoption of a scheme satisfactory to the Commonwealth.
– We are twelve months nearer 1910 than we were last year.
– Yes; but I think that the Premiers believe that they can force their opinions on this Parliament by exerting their influence at the next elections. I do not think that they can, and I hope that they will not. Nevertheless, they seem to believe that their opinions are those of the people of the States, and therefore they are not likely to make concessions now which they have been unwilling to make previously.
– Did not Mr. Kidston say so during his electoral campaign?
– I think he indicated unmistakably that that would be his attitude, and I am of opinion that some of the others will be still more difficult to deal with. I fear that there will be no satisfactory arrangement with the Premiers, and that the matter will not be properly dealt with, until this Parliament takes it in hand after the expiration of the Braddon provision has taken from the States the right to interfere. This position is, to my mind, a most unsatisfactory one. Approximately £5,000,000 have been returned to the States since Federation, which the Commonwealth could have expended in paying old-age pensions, or for any other Federal purpose. The Government, instead of using that money as the nucleus of a Commonwealth old-age pensions fund, has shown anything but anxiety to give effect to this benevolent idea. Although the establishment of a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions has been promised in the speeches of the Governor- General, the Government, instead of making provision for it, has taken over the Meteorological Departments of the States, has incurred responsibility for agricultural bounties amounting to thousands per annum, has proposed the granting of an expensive bounty for the production of iron, has embarked on costly defence schemes, has undertaken to appoint a High Commissioner, has engaged to take over the control of the Northern Territory - which will mean an almost certain deficit of £250,000 per annum - and has expressed its willingness to enter upon other large enterprises, all of which are to take precedence of the establishment of an old-age pensions fund. I do not say that these proposals are not important ; but, in my humble judgment, the payment of pensions to our aged poor is of more importance.
– The Government has done its best.
– Ministers may desire to do their best, but they have failed to adopt means worthy of consideration for establishing a Commonwealth old-age pensions fund.
– Why does not the honorable member blame the States as well ?
– We are responsible for our own failings.
– The Government tried to pass a Bill to provide for old-age pensions.
– If we are content to propose financial schemes to the States which they reject, we areblameworthy, and the Government is more sanguine than experience justifies of the success of its new proposals. Some time ago a Bill was introduced for the raising of special duties to provide revenue for the establishment of a Commonwealth old-age pensions fund, and, although I voted for it, I considered that it was an objectionable proposal, because the intention evidently was to raise money by means of duties on tea, kerosene, and other necessaries of which the poor are larger users than the rich. It therefore proposed class taxation.
– It was an attempt to help the poor.
– It was an attempt possessing objectionable features.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it was not an honest attempt?
– I do not question the motives of those who put forward the proposal.
– If the people had been satisfied to accept it, there would have been nothing to say.
– The people might have said, as I did, that, although they did not like the scheme, they would accept it as better than nothing. The Government has not indicated that it intends to put forward a similar proposal. Ministers say now that, if the Conference of Premiers agrees to their financial scheme, they will provide old-age pensions at once, but that if that scheme is rejected, we must wait until the Braddon section expires.
– That is so.
– The attitude of the Government is eminently unsatisfactory, seeing that there are other resources available for making provision for our aged poor. I express merely my own opinion ; I am not trying to influence other members of my party.
– Every member of that party seems to be “ on his own.”
– I am not called upon to apologize for stating my views. I was “on my own” before I came here, and probably would not have got here had it not been for my confidence in myself. My honorable friend did his best to keep me out.
– The honorable member did the same in regard to me.
– Yes, and we shall probably do it again next election. The attitude of the Government is eminently .unsatisfactory to me. After seven years of waiting, we are told that unless .six Premiers accept a Commonwealth proposal, a thing that they have never yet done, our aged poor must wait another two years for relief, notwithstanding the resources available for providing an old-age pensions fund. This position of affairs does not do us credit, and I am prepared” to vote for an alteration.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin) £5.10]. - I desire to congratulate the leader of the Labour Party on the moderation displayed by him in presenting this matter to the consideration of honorable members, and also to compliment the Prime Minister 011 his good judgment in at once recognising that it was a question for the whole House. The deputy leader of the Opposition, however, was not quite fair in suggesting that the Labour Party had not endeavoured, in and out of Parliament, to persuade the Government to bring in the necessary Bill.
– I simply quoted the thrice-repeated statement made by the honorable member’s leader.
– My leader is new to the business. On this question I am the leader, because I was the first to give notice of motion in this House as to the desirableness of establishing a Federal system of old-age pensions. The Labour Party has since kept the flag flying. In order to show that the honorable member for Parramatta was labouring under a misapprehension when he asserted that the Labour Party had done nothing in seven years to hasten on the movement, I would point out that some three years and a half ago - namely, on 17 th November, 1904 - we discussed in this House the financial aspect of the question, and that I then pointed out many methods of raising the necessary revenue.
– The deputy leader of the Opposition did not say that the Labour Party had not talked about the matter. His complaint was that they . had done nothing.
– There is a difference between remaining silent and endeavouring to persuade the Government of’ the day to take action. But we have no right to attempt to bulldose the Government. No honorable man at the head of an Administration would submit to the dictation of any party if it went beyond what was reasonable and just.
– Trie’ leader of the Labour Party said that he had never approached the Government.
– He said that he had not brought any pressure to bear on the Government. I am sure that the Opposition desire, like the Labour Party, to be absolutely fair, but they are not always so. On 17th November, 1904, when the financial aspect of the question was discussed in this House, I said -
I suggest that the Prime Minister should enter into negotiations with trie Premiers of the States, with a view to procuring the passing of States Acts authorizing the Commonwealth Treasurer to retain the full amount of revenue raised by special Customs taxation for the purpose of providing for Commonwealth old-age pensions. If that were done, I should bie willing to vote for the imposition of duties on tea and kerosene, which would provide a large part of the money required.
I make this quotation from the Hansard report of my speech in order to set the deputy leader of the Opposition right, so that he may be able to look at himself iri a glass and feel that he is still a Christian. The honorable member must recognise that he has made a mistake in charging us with inaction, since we . have attempted in this House, by every means at our disposal, to expedite the passing of an Old-age Pensions Act. We have not only endeavoured to press this question forward, but have shown how such a scheme could be financed. The necessary revenue might be obtained,’ for instance, by nationalizing the tobacco monopoly. It could also be obtained by nationalizing the liquor monopoly. Could we do better than utilize the vast amount of wealth that goes to create hundreds Of drunkards in the Commonwealth in a scheme to assist the aged poor? Then again, we could raise revenue for this purpose by means of a graduated land tax, in respect of unimproved land values with an exemption of .£5,000. There are many other ways in which the necessary funds could be provided, but the question of finance is not one for the Labour Party to solve. If we attempted to solve it we should usurp the functions of the Ministry. We have no desire to do more than persuade the Ministry, whom we believe to be as anxious as we are to secure a Federal system, to take action without further delay.
Unfortunately, however, in this country we have cheques and bank balances, stone walls, bridges, and hurdles, and all sorts of obstacles that have to be surmounted before we can get the real article. The right honorable member for Swan seemed somewhat disposed to object - although he did not completely do so - to the nationalization of an old-age pension scheme on the ground that under it Western Australia would have to pay more than her fair proportion towards its maintenance. That is true. The Royal Commission, of which I was a member, took evidence in Western Australia, and was informed bv the State Statistician that, on the basis of the equity of its requirements, Western Australia would have to pay a little more under a national scheme than she would be called upon to pay under a State system of oldage pensions. That, however, is due to the fact that she is, comparatively speaking, still very young, and has within her borders a smaller proportion of aged population than have the other States. In a few years, however, the proportion of aged people in Western Australia will be as large as it is in other States of the Commonwealth, and it is’ not humane for a State to object to such a project as this on the ground that under it she might lose a little. Under the) Constitution Western Australia was granted the right to maintain for five years a special Tariff on a sliding scale. That really was an infringement of the rights of the other States, but neither little Tasmania nor Victoria raised any objection. However we may adjust the system of distribution, some one must suffer. We are all one people, and I am sorry to hear men who call themselves statesmen speaking in this connexion of territorial divisions. Even the Apache Indians look after their old people, and the old Cherokee chiefs take care of the aged members of their tribe.
– They do not use a tomahawk on them ?
– No; the tomahawk is used in Christian countries, lt might almost be as well to tomahawk some of our old people as to allow hundreds of them to starve as thev do. Objection should not be raised to a Federal system of oldage pensions on the ground that one State might have to pay a little more than her fair share of the cost of it. Western Australia has gained at the expense of the other States. Many young, able-bodied men left Tasmania, New South Wales,
Queensland, and other parts of the Commonwealth for Western Australia.
– They showed their good sense.
– The honorable member himself went to Western Australia from another State. Many men from the eastern States used their wealth and the education they had received at the expense of those States in the development of Western Australia. I am sorry that the foremost statesman from Western Australia should be disposed to object to a national system of old-age pensions on the ground that under it that State would suffer.
– I am pledged to support old-age pensions, and but for my action the power to establish a Federalsystem would not have been given us under the Constitution. ‘
– That is so. At the Melbourne sittings of the Convention, the Hon. J. H. Howe, of South Australia, moved the inclusion of the necessary power in the Federal Constitution, and Mr. Hassell, of Western Australia, seconded the motion. The Emperor of the West then came forward and carried it. Had he opposed it, I am certain that it would have been lost. The honorable member for Barrier was somewhat sarcastic iii his references to the members of the Royal Commission.
– The honorable ‘ member, if not vicious, was unspiritual in his references to it. The Commission examined many witnesses, including officers of the States whose duty it was under local old-age pensions schemes to inquire into the ability of men and women to maintain their fathers and mothers, who had applied for pensions. We were told again and again by them that men worth a lot of money had sometimes refused to help their fathers or their mothers. I am in favour of a universal system of old-age pensions, and not of a charity dole ; but I want some sort of antiquated or dark-age method of pinching the rooster who will not pay a little towards the maintenance of his family. In China parents who give their children an education, and qualify them for the battle of life, are held in the highest honour.
– Do we ask the son of a Judge. to pay a part of the Judge’s pension ? ‘
– I admit that the arguments of the honorable member upon the other side are very strong. I should like to see a universal old-age pension adopted, and I may add that I should have no Hesitation in drawing it. But this is the position : Why should a man who is worth £7,000 or ,£8,000 refuse to support his mother?
– That has not happened.
– The Commission took evidence upon that aspect of the case. When it commenced its inquiries, I held the view that any Federal old-age pensions scheme Should be universal in its application. But after many witnesses, who were examined on oath, had testified that persons were inmates of the destitute asylum, whose sons were possessed of several thousand acres of land and money in the bank, the spirit of resentment was aroused in me. I would not allow those persons to evade their responsibility. It seems to me that the more money some persons get the more heartless they become. They are absolutely losing their Christianity. In fact, wealthy men are dying from a slow method of social consumption. I admit that one cannot serve both God and Mammon.’ One can live in this country without1 brains, but he cannot live without money.
– Who is the individual who possesses £10,000, and who refuses to support his mother?
– I did not make that statement. I do not believe in establishing an inquisition in connexion with the payment of old-age pensions, but I do believe that persons possessed of wealth ought to support their parents.
– Does the honorable mem-‘ ber know that the report of the Commission which he signed recommends all the inquisitorial conditions in which he says he does not believe?
– That is not so. . So far, old-age pensions have not been adopted in the United States. Yet I learn from the New York American that at the present time there is a Bill before the New York State Assembly providing for the payment of old-age pensions, and that President Roosevelt is working to secure its adoption nationally.
– In America there is a big pension scheme for soldiers.
– No old soldier there ever finds his way into the destitute asylum, and until his last child’ is twenty-one years of age, the children continue to draw his- pension. From the journal to which I have just referred, I’ quote the following -
Albany, February 2. - Assemblyman GeorgeA. Voss, of Kings, has invited Andrew Carnegieand Edward Everett Hale to personally appear before the Legislature to urge the passage of his Old-Age Pension Bill. Voss maintains that President Roosevelt is doing all he can to makethe project apply to the country at large, and that through the British Parliament . Mr. Henry Asquith promises soon to have enacted a similar law for King Edward’s Empire. Already the scheme is said to be working admirably in New Zealand. The Voss Bill grants every native resident of this State, of 60 years or over, whohas no other means of support,, a pension of $r2 a month, provided he has lived here continuously a quarter of a century. lie must never have been convicted of crime, must be a legal citizen, and incapable of maintaining himself. Assemblyman Voss says : “ Such a law would encourage better citizenship, and deplete the alms houses, which are little better ‘thanprisons, and whose inmates have absolutely lost their independence. Andrew Carnegie has put the plan into execution Tn several of the Scottish shires.”
When we have a good old horse, who has served us faithfully for years, we do not’ turn him out on to the metalled road to starve. On the contrary, we turn him into the best paddock that we have, and if we have no paddock we send him to eternal sleep with a friendly bullet. But when the old soldier of industry has finished his career in a new and progressive country he is turned out on the metalled road to starve, or to read on the estates of the rich signboards announcing, “ Old men and dogs shot here;” I say that it is not a Christian country which forces old men to have recourse to begging, and which compels them to ‘ reduce the standard of wages, because they axe unable to live without securing employment.
– Does that state of affairs exist here to-day?
– Then the honorable member should vote for my amendment.
– But I am a friend of the Government, and I believe that their intentions are good. The Prime Minister means well, and I must credit him with one of the greatest diplomatic acts of the age in securing to the Commonwealth a visit from the American fleet . I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [53<>lUpon this question I think that I have -always voted in the right direction, and it is understood outside this House that with the exception of legislation for the protection of child life, there is no question which appeals to me . more strongly. “While recognising that in New South. Wales and Victoria old-age pensions are already being paid, I cannot but admit that the system which obtains in the former State is of a much more scientific and Christian character than that which prevails here.
– What ! Is New South Wales being given credit for something?
– I do not think that the honorable member will allege “that I would wrong anybody.
– But it is something novel to hear New South Wales being given credit for anything,
– I am sure that the honorable member will recollect that upon one occasion I praised the post-office there. In Victoria, the way in which old-age pensioners are treated is simply infamous. I have seen old men and women haled before the Court, and subjected to the degradation of seeing their children examined as to their means, and as to how much they could contribute towards the old folks’ maintenance. I may inform honorable members that Victoria pays more in the way of pensions to its public servants than do all the other Australian States and New Zealand combined. When we were asked where the money for these pensions would come from, the answer of the party with which I am associated, was, “Take it from the Consolidated Revenue.” That is my reply to the inquiry which has been put by several honorable members1 to-day, as to’ where we can’ obtain the funds with which to finance a Federal scheme of old-age pensions.
– Is the honorable member in favour of delay . in initiating such a scheme ?
– No. It would appear that honorable members on ali sides favour old-age pensions ; and, when the Bill is introduced, let us translate our opinions into action. The honorable member for Parramatta has stigmatized my party ; but I have a keen recollection of one occasion when five honorable members, following his leadership,, destroyed the whole of the work of the session. However, the voters of New South Wales so resented this conduct that, at the next election, they returned only 50 per cent, of the honorable gentleman’s supporters. I shall, at the proper time, move that the following words be added to the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta - and that this House sincerely regrets that the Opposition has done nothing to further this desirable object.
The period of office of the honorable member’s party was very brief, and, in the words of Hans Breitmann, I may ask : “Where is dot barty now?” There are only three of them left, and I think the best of those who are still- here is the leader of the Opposition. I shall vote for the motion, and if it be decided that anything shall be done this session, I hope the Prime Minister will see his way to introduce a measure, and claim the aid of the Opposition in passing it. If a fresh form of taxation is required to finance the scheme I hope we shall have the support .of the deputy leader of the Opposition in this connexion, seeing that he is so favorable to old-age pensions.
.- But for the remarks of the two last speakers, I should not have occupied the time of honorable members. While quite prepared to warmly support a Federal old-age pensions scheme, I cannot, for one moment, indorse a proposal to take money out of the pockets of the people by means of taxation, and then hand it back in the form of pensions. The honorable member for Darwin says that, although he enjoys the liberal stipend of a member of this House, he is prepared to take an old-age pension ; but such a scheme as this involves, is a grave departure from the object which the people of the country have in view. We are sympathetic with the aged poor and are prepared to assist them, but I am strongly of opinion that a universal scheme would be so repugnant to the general public that it would be’ impossible for Parliament to pass it. Under the Victorian scheme, it may be supposed that in some applications for pensions, revelations are sometimes made which are repugnant to the applicant. But, under the first scheme in Victoria, pensions were granted without any publicity, and, of course, the expenditure grew apace. There is no degradation in persons in need receiving assistance, or in their cases being made more or- less public; because, if their relatives are in a position to support them, they ought to be called upon to do so.
– In some cases that is impossible. I ‘know the case of a man with seven children who is called upon to contribute is. 6d. a week to a pension, and he can no more afford it, than the honorable member could afford £1,000.
– The honorable member for Darwin says that the people are becoming less and less charitable, but I venture to suggest that that is not true. I. believe that our sense of charity is growing, and more and mare giving rise to the desire to help those less fortunate, than ourselves; and a most effective way of killing true charity would be to inaugurate a system of compulsory contribution from . the general community. So far as people who cannot maintain themselves, are concerned, we are under an obligation to see that no one dies of starvation in the Commonwealth, but that the aged poor shall receive assistance to enable them to end their days in some comfort. I am not prepared, however, to support a pension system as advocated by the last two speakers.
.- I believe that the people of Victoria, after their experience, are absolutely opposed to such ideas as those expressed by the honorable member for Echuca; at any rate, in the whole of the electorates with which I am familiar, and I know most of them, the people desire old-age pensions as a right and not as a charitable dole. There is an old lady in Richmond who receives an old-age pension of 6s. per week, contributed by three sons, in sums of 3s., 2s., and is. respectively. The son who contributes the 3s. has six surviving children, one of whom is a cripple, and he earns on the average 30s. a week. He got behind in his payments for twelve months, and was summoned to the Court. Unfortunately, he was not able to attend the Court in time, and an order was given, against him; but at my advice he applied for a re-hearing. The case is standing over, with the arrears piling up; and I am sure it will be impossible for this man to pay them, This is by no means an isolated case ; and I ask the honorable member for Echuca whether he’ thinks that a humane system ?
– I am sure that no one in this Chamber would ask a man to do the impossible.
– In my opinion, old:age pensions should be paid as a right, though, perhaps, we in New South Wales and Victoria look at this matter from a different point of view from that taken in the other States. In my opinion, the amount of the pension ought. to be increased; and I do not believe in an inquisitorial examination before a Court. In any Federal scheme that may be adopted, I shall do my best to avoid the defects of the Victorian system, and to secure,’ by means of reasonable taxation, contributions from those who can afford them.
– I take this opportunity to intimate that I cannot allow such speeches as the honorable member for Echuca and the honorable member for Yarra have made. So long as’ there is merely general or incidental reference to the point whether pensions are to be universal or only applicable in certain cases, honorable members will be perfectly in order. We have not before us now the details of any pensions scheme, but only the question of the general broad principle of old-age pensions ; the details will have to be fought out later on. I hope that honorable members, while not avoiding such incidental reference as I have indicated, will not devote the whole of their remarks, as did the last two- speakers, to what is really merely a side issue.
– Should a division be taken, it is my intention to vote for the ‘amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Dalley, but I shall take time to consider my attitude in regard to the other amendment. There has been a great . deal of beating the air in regard to the question this afternoon. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie expressed the opinion that fully 99 per cent, of honorable members are in favour of a Federal old-age pensions scheme, but I believe that the whole of them are perfectly in accord with the proposal. This is a policy which commends itself to the humane feelings of every one, so that objections cannot be anticipated. ‘ All that remains to be considered is the financing of the scheme; and one honorable member contended that a land tax, while.it might not provide the whole of the necessary money would, at any rate, provide a considerable proportion. The party to which I have the honour to belong have on every occasion stated their intention, on the first opportunity, to impose a graduated land tax, with, to my mind, a much too high exemption. But if the specific purpose of such a land tax were effected, there would be no revenue from that source. The idea of imposing a land tax is to burst up the large estates held in Victoria and New South Wales, not with a view to raising revenue, but with a view to promoting settlement; so that, as the tax was effective, there would be a diminishing revenue. I voted for the proposal for special taxation for this purpose ; and I am sorry that it was defeated in another place; but, at the same time, I must say that, while I so voted, I knew that the proposal would be the means of imposing a tax on people least able to bear it, because it would have resolved itself into duties on kerosene and tea. Therefore, whilst willing to accept that means of providing revenue for a Commonwealth oldage pensions fund, I felt that it would do a certain amount of injury. But I was compelled to its acceptance by facts within my own knowledge with regard to the circumstances of the people. In New South Wales I know a family where the mother and father are both incapacitated from doing anything to help themselves; but, although qualified in other respects, they have not been long enough in that State to make them eligible for an old-age pension. Under a Federal pension scheme, they would be qualified. Those responsible for the keep of these two old people would willingly pay increased duties to obtain the pension. The poorer classes would rather pay a little more on the necessaries of life than be deprived of the advantages of the old-age pension system.
– They are willing to pay 3d. a week in order to get £1 a week.
– Exactly ; that arrangement would appeal to most of us. The honorable member for Barrier did not know all the circumstances, arid had not read all the evidence, or he would not have been so severe upon the Old-Age Pensions Commission. The recommendation of the Commission was that every person beyond a certain age, and in poor circumstances, should receive a pension.
– It is stipulated that he must not be of disreputable or intemperate habits.
– Is that not right?
– I agree with the honorable member for Echuca thatwe should not aim at establishing a fund for paying pensions to every one.
– That is the fund that I want.
– The honorable member for Darwin has said that if there were such a fund, he would ‘go down and claim his pension. Would that be right? If every one were living on a pension provided by the State, the community would be much in the position of the inhabitants of a certain town who made their living by taking in each other’s washing. The Commission recommended that relatives who were in a position to do so should pay something towards the maintenance of their parents.
– Why are not the sons and daughters of Judges called upon to do likewise ?
– It seems to me only right that relatives who are in a position to contribute towards the support of the aged should do so, and on this point. I should like to read some evidence taken in Sydney.
– Nothing more than an incidental reference to the Commission’s report can be permitted. I ask the honorable member’ not to go into details.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, and as honorable members are in possession of copies of the report, I refer them to question 451, asked by Senator Gray, and the reply of the New South Wales Registrar of Old-Age Pensions. The interjection in regard to Judges’ pensions does not appear to me to be relevant. They are in. part payment for direct services. The Commonwealth, however, has made no provision for pensions for its public servants or the Justices of the High Court, and we are not concerned with what has been done by the States. Until the Braddon provision expires, it seems to me that we can make provision for a Commonwealth old-age pensions fund only by the nationalization of industries. It is questionable whether we have the power to nationalize ;. but we have not yet made the attempt. The tobacco and sugar industries, if nationalized, would provide all the money necessary for a Commonwealth oldage pensions fund.
– If they were properly worked. . .
– We have taken upon ourselves the government of this great Commonwealth, and notwithstanding carping critics, we are carrying it on successfully. If we took over the monopolies I have mentioned, we should also take over their offices and staffs. None of the shareholders has now any “ say “ in their management.
– That is probably why they have succeeded.
– Does the honorable member propose to pay for these industries ?
– Yes ; or start in opposition, and squeeze them out. The Labour Party has never suggested, or thought of, confiscation. Honorable members jump to the conclusion that if we bought out these monopolies we should have so much to pay that there would be nothing left. They forget that capital equal to what we should have to pay is already sunk in these enterprises, whose shareholders live on the profits made. The State would do the same.
– Assuming there to be a profit.
– We know that there are profits. Last year the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made a present of nearly £400,000 to its shareholders, which is 25 per cent. of what we want. I sympathize with the Prime Minister in the difficulties of his position. Those who have made a study of the financial position of the Commonwealth realize how difficult it is to make provision under the Constitution for an oldage pensions fund. At the same time, I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley, leaving it to the Government to find a way out, which I hope will be done by the introduction of a Bill for the establishment of an old-age pensions system forthwith.
– That would mean direct taxation, and nothing, else.
– I should not have risen, but for the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne, who appears to doubt the sincerity of the members of the Opposition in this matter, and has declared that they will take every means to delay the establishment of an old-age pensions fund.
– I do not think that any one else believes that.
– That has been our experience in the past.
– The honorable member’s parliamentary experience is very limited, and if he has formed his opinions on tittle-tattle heard outside Parliament, or upon newspaper reports, which are not always accurate, my reply is that it is unsupported by evidence. Members of the Opposition have done what he has; never done; they have supported in Parliament the establishment of an old-age pen-: sions scheme. Not only did I support the measure which, in New South Wales, provided for the payment of old-age pensions by the State, but I also favour the transference of control in this matter to the Commonwealth. I do so for several reasons, one alone of which I think is ample- the gross injustice of the present arrangement. A man who has lived continuously in one State for twenty-fiveyears or more receives a pension on arriving at a certain age, while another man, who may have been much longer, indeed born, in Australia, is prevented from getting a pension because he has migrated from State to State - having perhaps helped more in this way than the stayathpme to develop the country - without living long enough in one State to qualify for a pension. I am, therefore, strongly in favour of the federalization of old-age pensions. I may differ from some honorable members as to the details of such a scheme, but that, after all, is a secondary consideration. I believe that every honorable member of the Opposition favours the federalization of the system.
– When ?
– The Labour Party have had seven years to bring about such a scheme. They might give us another seven.
– Had we been in a majority, we should have had such a scheme long ago.
– In reply to the observations of the honorable member for Melbourne, I think it right to point out, in addition to what the honorable member for Parramatta has said, that the Labour Party has practically had control since the establishment of the Federal Parliament.
– That is not correct; I wish that it were.
– It is correct.
– The Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament for five years had control of the Reid Government; of which the honorable member for Parramatta was a member, but could not get it to introduce the system.
– And the first time that that Government attempted to establish an old-age pension scheme the Labour Party put it out.
– I do not like to enter into these old-time incidents, but since the interjection has been made, I think I am justified in pointing out that it was the Reid Government, to which the honorable member for Newcastle has referred, that took the first step that resulted in an old-age pension system being established in New South Wales.
– What was . that first step? Something that Senator Neild did?
– He did a very useful work.
– It was about as useful as a chip in porridge.
– We again find the Labour Party endeavouring to claim all the credit for the introduction of that system in New South Wales.
– They are reflecting on every one else who worked for it. Was it the Labour Party that introduced an old-age pensions system in . New Zealand? As a matter of fact, there was no Labour Party in existence there when it was established, nor is there one in existence in New Zealand at the present time. Was it the Labour Party that introduced it in New South Wales? It merely joined with others in passing an old-age pensions scheme.
– That is all we claim.
– Had it not been for the Labour Party, the system would not have been adopted in New South Wales as soon as it was.
– The Labour Party in the State Parliament assisted to bring it about just as any other body of fifteen or twenty . members who voted for it did. Did the Labour Party introduce such a system in Queensland when it had the power to do so?
– Then where is it? Is it in existence?
– They have never had power to introduce it in “Queensland.
– They have the power to-day to secure its estab lishment. The Government at present in office must go under if the Labour Party deserts it.
– Is the honorable member aware that an Old-Age Pensions Bill was being discussed by the Government Legislature when the Governor of that State, against the wish of the majority, dissolved Parliament ?
– I am merely pointing out that the Government ot Queensland, which is supported by the Labour Party, and which originally had in its ranks members of that party, failed, although in office for years, to introduce the system. Did the Labour Party, in Western Australia introduce it when in power there? Has the Labour Party, which has been in power for some time in South Australia, introduced such a system there?
– They are not in power in South Australia.
– Did the Labour Party in the Federal Parliament attempt to introduce a Federal system when they were in power?
– We should have been in power still had there hot been so many renegades
– I shall not say anything as to the brief period during which the Labour Party in this Parliament were in power.
– More members of that party were returned at the following general election than members of the Reid party.
– When the honorable member for Melbourne made imputations upon certain other honorable members - imputations which I regretted to hear, although I could not intervene, since they were not disorderly - there was no great uproar from the other side. The honorable member for North Sydney, who is now seeking to reply to those imputations, finds it almost impossible, owing to interjections, to proceed. I ask that the same courtesy be extended to him as was extended to the honorable member for Melbourne.
– I do not know to what part of my speech you have alluded, Mr. Speaker, but I willingly withdraw it, whatever it was.
– These reflections on the Opposition come with an ill grace from the Labour Party
– Will not the same remark apply to the reflections made by the deputy leader of the Opposition on the Labour Party ?
– The deputy leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment which exactly expresses the situation.
– It is an exact quotation.
– That is an absolutely unreliable assertion. I never said anything of the kind.
– Turning from that aspect of the subject, I may- say that I do not propose to support, in its present form, the further amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley. I recognise that it is impossible to pass an effective scheme this session.
– It is impossible to pass an effective scheme in the short time available to us.
– Why should it be a short time ?
– Surely the session is not going to be interminable ? The general anticipation is that it will not be a long one, but if it extends to the close of this Parliament we might be able to do what the honorable member proposes. I am not prepared, however, to fix any exact time within which this scheme should be carried into effect. It would be unjust to do so. I shall support the further amendment moved by the honorable member, provided that he will amend it by substituting for the date named the words “ without delay.”
– What does the honorable member mean by the words “ without delay “ ? Does he suggest that the scheme should be carried out before 1920?
– When it is impossible to name a date within which a certain proposal s’hall be carried out it is absurd to attempt to fix one.
– Then it is equally absurd to blame others for their failure to take action within a certain time.
– I am not blaming others.
– The honorable member is supporting the amendment moved by the deputy leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member does not know what I intend to do in regard to that amendment.
It is true that I said that it expressed the exact situation.
– I deny absolutely that it expresses what I said.
– I did not hear that part of the honorable member’s speech to which it relates, so that I cannot express any opinion on that part of it ; but it is wrong to suggest that I am casting reflections on others. I am merely replying to a .charge of insincerity which has been levelled at the Opposition. Those who make it Have the most slender reason for doing so. I am not “ suggesting that they have dishonoured their pledges ; I merely say that in alleging insincerity on the part of the Opposition they are overlooking the fact that their own case for sincerity, viewed from the same standpoint, is a very poor one. I recognise that financial adjustments will have to be made to secure the amount necessary to provide for a Federal system of old-age pensions. It is true that at present, in round numbers, 2,780,000 of the total population! of Australia are living under an old-age pensions system, and if Queensland and South Australia - both of which are op have been under Labour Governments, or subject to Labour domination - had adopted this system there would have been a total of 3,704,000 living under it. I do not doubt that both those States before long will pass old-age pensions schemes, even if a Federal system be not adopted. When that step is taken, the additional expenditure required in respect of a Federal system will not be very large.
– The honorable member is not taking into account the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution. Each State has to carry its own burden in that regard.
– I am merely showing what proportion of the population is living under an old-age pensions system. Queensland has shown some indication of an intention to adopt such a scheme.
– The Premier of Queensland is pledged to it.
– South Australia is also likely to fall into line. When they’ do we shall have 3,794,000 of the people of the Commonwealth under such a system, and provision will have only to be made for the remaining 442,000 of the population of Australia. Thus, if four States adopt separate schemes, the additional expenditure to provide federally for the whole of the people of Australia will not be very great.
– But the honorable member would not call upon those States which have old-age pensions schemes in force to pay for them, and at the same time require them to bear part of the cost of providing for the rest of the Commonwealth ?
– No. -The States would be dealt with individually. The Royal Commission on Old-Age Pensions estimated that an annual expenditure of £1,500,000 would be necessary to provide for a Federal system. New South Wales is now annually expending nearly £500,000, and it may be fairly assumed that the total expenditure of New South Wales and Victoria in this respect is now rather move than £800,000 per annum.
– Victoria has recently increased its maximum pension from 7s. to ros. per week.
– So that its total expenditure in this regard will have increased. That being so, if the estimate of the Royal Commission is correct, we shall require for a Federal system from £650,000 to £700,000. ger annum more than is now being paid by way of bid-age pensions. Some adjustments will have to be made between the Commonwealth and the States that are already paying these pensions. If they decline to allow their present contributions to go into a general fund the Government will be faced with a new financial difficulty.
– Most likely they will do so.
– In that case provision may have to be made for an expenditure of not £650,000, but £1,500,000 per annum. That is one of the difficulties that have to be faced. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have indicated that they are endeavouring to formulate a scheme for the adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, and that settlement should not be confined to only one or two items. An endeavour should be made to permanently settle the whole of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, including the establishment of a Federal system of old-age pensions, provision for the transfer of the States’ debts, and for payment for transferred proper- ‘ ties, and an arrangement which, while it would render unnecessary the continuation of the Braddon section of the Constitution, would guarantee that the States would not be left in an unsound financial position. It would be idle to settle all these matters piecemeal.
– It might be a good thing to have the question of old-age pensions dealt with separately.
– It might be. But in the .adjustments which will have to be made between the Commonwealth and the States, it will probably be found easier to settle several questions at once than to deal with them separately, because, where several questions are concerned, there will naturally be more of a disposition to give and take. It is for. that reason that I cannot support the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley. Some honorable members have referred to the desirableness of establishing a universal system of old-age pensions. Personally, that suggestion does not find favour with me, for the reason that if £1,500,000 be required to cover the cost of a system under which pensions will be granted only to those who require them, a very much larger sum would have to be provided to cover the cost of a universal system. In that regard I would point out that those who really require old-age pensions certainly contribute to the revenue out of which those pensions are paid. They contribute directly through the Customs in proportion to the goods which they consume, and they also contribute indirectly to an extent which we cannot fathom, because a large portion, we cannot say how much, of any taxation imposed passes on to the masses of the community. Under a universal system of old-age pensions, these persons would be compelled to contribute towards tha additional amount, probably three or four times as much, required to cover its cost. In other . words, they would be contributing a large additional sum for the payment of pensions to persons who are well-to-do. My opinion is that, while there may be grave doubts as to whether many old persons who are badly off have really earned pensions, there can be no doubt that those who have done well in the country, and who have reaped their reward, .should not be permitted to come upon it for an additional reward in the shape of a pension which they do not require.
– I listened with some interest to the speech delivered by the honorable member for North Sydney, and I must compliment him upon his manly statement in regard to this question. I quite agree with him that it would have been much better had the personal recriminations which were indulged in this afternoon been avoided. But when the honorable member for North Sydney accused the .honorable member for Melbourne with having erred in this connexion, he ought to have recollected that the original charge was made by the deputyleader of the Opposition, who attacked the Labour Party in what I conceive to be a very unfair manner indeed. Had his charges been based upon fact I could have understood them, but based as they were upon misrepresentation of facts, I could not.
– Then the misrepresentation of facts is due to the language employed by the honorable member’s own leader.
– The leader of the party with which I am associated has absolutely denied that statement, and I was present in the chamber throughout the delivery of his speech. What he said was that the Labour Party had not attempted to bring any undue pressure to bear upon the Government, which is quite a different position from that put by the deputy leader of the Opposition. -
– Why did he use the term “eating dirt”?
– Exactly. If one chooses to pay any attention to the charge that we are supporting the Government in return for concessions, I might point out that it is equally applicable to every Government which has occupied the Treasury benches. Does the deputy leader of the Opposition suggest that when the Labour Party in New South Wales were supporting the right honorable member for East Sydney they brought any undue pressure to bear upon him to secure the enactment of certain legislation, or that they had to eat dirt “ ? Concerning the interjection of the honorable member for Wentworth, that the misrepresentation of facts by the honorable member for Parramatta was due to the language employed by the leader of the Labour Party, I wish to say’ that I Have now in my hand a proof of the Hansard report of. the speech of the leader of the Labour Party this afternoon, and it credits the honorable member for Illawarra .with having interjected -
The Labour Party has been running the show all along, and yet we have not got any further in this matter at the present stage.
– The honorable member is in error in saying that we have been running the show. The Prime Minister can tell him that, so far as I am concerned, at any rate, there has not been a suggestion made to the Government which should cause any honorable Minister to blush. There has been no attempt on our part to coerce Ministers of’ the Crown.
That is a very different position from that put by the honorable member for Parramatta during the course of his address. The honorable member for Parramatta went on to point out that during the early stages of Federation, when the revenue was more buoyant, this Parliament neglected its duty by failing to initiate a Federal’ system of old-age pensions. Assuming his statement to be correct, what would have been our position to-day if such a system had been established at that period? This question, like all other questions of a Federal character, must be governed by our financial position. Those who believe that old-age pensions should be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue know as well as I do that it would be utterly impossible to obtain the necessary funds from our one-fourth share of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– We have plenty of money available for the purpose now.
– We might have this year, under the operation of the new Tariff, but until the Braddon section of the Constitution expires it seems to me that we must find some other means to finance any such scheme.
– What means does the honorable member suggest?
– I look upon the question of . the payment of old-age pensions as being more urgent than some of th? questions .with which. the Government propose to deal in the future. Seeing that in two of the States which comprise a majority of the people of the Commonwealth, old-age pensions are provided, it seems to me that we must either ‘take over their systems, and .relieve them of what they are spending at the present time, or we must ask them to relieve us of liability. But in taking action we must say - to the States which have not provided old-age pensions for their citizens, “ You must pay your share of any Federal scheme.” I am not in favour of asking those States which have provided pensions for their own aged poor, to continue to bear the burden they carry at present, and then permit the Commonwealth to step in and provide pensions for the aged poor of the other States.
– That would be so manifestly unfair, that no one would suggest it.
– But such a course has been mentioned during the debate. I have always held that any scheme should provide for universal old-age and invalid pensions, administered in such a way that the payments shall be a right and not a charity.
– Surely the honorAble member would not give an old-age pension to a person who was well off?
– I should not deny any such person the rightto take a pension. The law as it is administered in New South Wales is in my opinion unfair. If a man has been saving enough to buy himself a cottage, there is a deduction made from his pension in consequence, while the man who has, not exercised any thrift, and possesses no property whatever, is paid the full 10s. a week. That, as I say, is simply unjust, because it penalizes the industrious and the thrifty, while it gives an advantage to the idle and the thriftless.
– Is- there not a difference between such a case as that, and the paying of a pension to a rich man ?
– Yes ; but, after all, it is a matter of degree. The moment it is decided to pay pensions to only a. certain class or section, then they become a charity and not a right. We do not admit that the amount we shall be able to pay will be sufficient for anold person or an invalid, and, therefore, I contend that children, who do not feel inclined to do the fair thing, ought tobe compelled by law to add something to the pensions of their parents. If children forget their duty, they ought to be compelled by law to make some contribution to the support of their parents. As to the amendment of the acting leaderof the Opposition,I think that, in al: decency, it might well be withdrawn ; and if it is persisted in, I shall move a further amendment which I think will most effectively answer those who appear to desire to in.- jure the members of the Labour Party in the eyes of the public. I should agree with the object of the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley if it were practicable at the present time, but we all know that this session is not intended to last much longer.
– Is that arranged?
– I do not think so, but that is what one may gather from expressions of opinion one hears amongst members of the Opposition. It is idle to affirm that a scheme ought to be carried out this session on the basis of the Customs and Excise duties,” when we know that such a course is utterly impossible; and, further, if it were intended to finance the scheme by means of direct taxation, we know that the necessary legislation would be equally impossible in the time at our disposal.
– Then why submit the motion during this session?
– In order to affirm the principle. We must begin somewhere, and this is the first chance that has been presented, not only this session, but practically during the lifetime of the Federal Parliament. I suggest that the honorable member for Dalley should omit the word “give” and substitute “take steps to wards giving.”
– What steps would those be?
– To get into recess.
– Honorable members may say that, but I believe that what I suggest is the only practicable way, and if the honorable member will adopt it he will remove himself from a position in which he is leading the country to believe that something can be done this sessionwhich we cannot possibly accomplish. I hope the expressions of good feeling towards the principle of old-agepensions (will bear good fruit amongst the members of the Opposition.
.- It would be difficultto find any honorable members who do not. think it desirable for the Commonwealth to undertake the whole management and control of old-age pensions; but much that we have heard during the debate is quite beside the object of the motion.I think the members of the Labour Party have, through their leader-, displayed considerable adroitness in taking this opportunity of practically saying to the Government, “ You are too slow in bringing this matter forward, and we desire you to hasten on.” That I take to be the whole object of the proposal we are now discussing, and I should have liked to see the Government somewhat resenting a suggestion from any part of the House that they are dilatory in their efforts to carry out a policy even though it is favoured by all sides. Personally, I am absolutely opposed to the alienation of any of our public funds for such a purpose, unless those funds are provided from the primary source of the Commonwealth revenue, namely, the duties derived from Customs and Excise. I do not at all favour a land tax, which would interfere with States rights.
– States rights are not involved in a land tax. .
– The honorable member knows that I have already, on the floor of the House, expressed the opinion that we have the right in an emergency-
– At any time.
– At any time, possibly, we have the right to raise money by means of a- land tax, but, in my judgment, we are not justified in exercising that right unless in a national emergency.
– It would touch the rich - that is the reason !
– I do nol care whether a land tax would touch the rich or otherwise ; the opinion I have expressed is the opinion I hold. We have been told that only two of the States, have taken any steps in the way of providing old-age pensions, and surely that fact has considerable significance. Further, . there have been various Conferences of the Premiers of the States, at which opportunities have been presented for pressing this matter on the consideration of- the Federal Government, but nothing has been done in a way which would seem to show that the States are very sincere or earnest in the matter. In my opinion the lion in the path has always been the difficulty in satisfactorily settling the financial relations as between the States and the Commonwealth. Efforts have been made, but without success, to bring the States into line. Had there been a sincere desire to settle the great financial questions, they could have been settled much more advantageously iri the early years of Federation than they can now. This question, too, could have been more easily dealt with a few years ago than at the present time., I have always been of the opinion that old-age pensions should be under the control of the Commonwealth, to secure uniformity of treatment. Had the other States desired to bring about a general system, they could have followed the example of New South Wales and Victoria, and then allowed the Commonwealth to take over their Departments.
– Have there not been halfadozen attempts to get the States to agree to some general system?
– I think that there has not been enough earnestness. No member of the Chamber, so far as I am aware, is opposed to the granting of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth, and all that the leader of the Labour Party has proposed is a reminder to the Government that he wants matters pushed forward. Ministers tell us that they intend tq push them forward.
– Why have they not done so during the last seven years?
– I am not prepared to individualize the responsibility for the delay which has occurred, and I am not in the habit of supporting proposals not likely to have practical effect. Therefore I shall not vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley, because it seems to .me impossible to deal with this matter in the present session, unless it is: to be a much longer one than is anticipated. Much, however, will be gained by an expression of opinion on the part of .the House that the Government must hurry up. Ministers might reply, “ We are hurrying up as much as we reasonably can under all the circumstances. ‘ ‘
– That is what they have said.
– The Labour Party is to be complimented for having secured an expression of opinion from honorable members generally in favour of what is one of the main planks in its platform; although its members are not the only persons, who are in earnest about this matter. We all desire a Commonwealth old-age pensions system; but we wish to see it provided for in a manner which will not cause injury to any one. I hope that the deputy leader pf the Opposition will not press his amendment.
– I should not have joined in the discussion had it not been for the attack on the
Labour Party made by the deputy leader of the Opposition in his suggested amendment.
– I quoted the words used by the leader of the Labour Party.
– His words have not been fairly quoted-.
– We -have a proof of the Hansard report of his speech.
– So, too, have we, and it has been read to the Chamber by an honorable, member on this side. While there are questions which it may be to some extent permissible to treat as frivolous, this is not a matter out of which honorable members should try to extract amusement, to the injury of the dignity of the Chamber. There should be no political trickery in dealing with it, nor should it be treated as it has been treated by members of the Opposition.
– I shall always be prepared to follow the honorable member on matters affecting decorum.
– If I knew the honorable member to be following me, I should doubt the propriety of my conduct. I do not concur in all that has been said by the members of my own party. It is the easiest thing in the world to condemn ; but I shall not abuse the Government for not having dealt with this big problem in the seven years which have elapsed since the inauguration of Federation. In my opinion, they have’ done all that they could to further a settlement of the question. The attack made on them by the Opposition was made merely for electioneering purposes, and to throw dust into the eyes of the people: Members opposite forget that history records every effort made by the Government in this connexion.
– The debate was started by the Labour Party, for platform purposes.
– And the party’s complaint has been that the Government has not moved fast enough.
– The leader of the party did not make that complaint; he merely asserted that the time has arrived when the Government should take a step forward. The establishment of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme is not a nebulous idea with the Labour Party, it is one of the main planks of our platform. We have not framed our programme to meet political exigencies, but to deal with the needs of the community. We are- therefore justified in asking that effect shall be given to the planks of our platform at the earliest practicable opportunity. Without going over what has been said by the Prime Minister as to the actions of the Government in regard to the oldagepensions question, I unhesitatingly say that there is no legitimate ground for the assertion that Ministers have done nothing to bring about its settlement. The honorable member for Parramatta desires to gain political kudos <at the expense of a party which is at least sincere in its desire for reform. He belonged to a Government which, when it had the opportunity to place an old-age pension scheme on the statute-book of New South Wales, refused to move in that direction.
– There is not a tittle of justification for that statement.
– Other members of the Opposition belong to. the old party which in New South Wales withstood the cry for old-age pensions. The Reid Government refused to give effect to the demand made upon it, both in and out of Parliament, for the establishment of an old-age pensions system.
– There is no truth in that statement.
– I mention the matter only because of the .proposal of the honorable member. A leopard cannot change its spots, nor can a politician change his political aspirations.
– The honorable member has changed his political aspirations a couple of times. ‘
-.- That is an allegation that has not yet been proved.
– What has the honorable member for Lang to say on that point?
– He is just about as reliable as is the honorable member. The deputy leader of the Opposition has attempted to condemn the Labour Party for its alleged inaction.
– He was once a dele-, gate to a Labour Conference.
– And a leader of a Labour Party.
– Without a caucus.
– He was the best leader the Labour Party ever had.
– Until he was led away by his associations. I believe that the honorable member for Parramatta knows that the allegation contained in his amendment is not correct. It is largely due to the Labour movement that oH-age pension schemes have been brought about. That party has been responsible for the passing of many of our humane laws, and has endeavoured in more ways than one to push this question to the front. We have treated it not as a mere political placard, but as a very necessary reform, which should be carried out at the earliest possible moment. At the last general election we told the people that we were in favour of a Federal system, and when asked how we would finance it said that a progressive land tax would provide the necessary funds.
– That is not the object with which the Labour Party advocated a progressive land tax.
– It is idle for the honorable member to attempt to dictate a policy to the Labour Party. I am speaking now of what took place in New South Wales at the last generalelection. When we are asked how the necessary funds can be secured, we reply that we are prepared, failing a more suitable method, to do what the Opposition dare not do, and that is to support the taxing of those who are best able to provide for those who are unable to support themselves.
– In what way would the honorable member finance this scheme?
– I am not going to suggest a proposal so impracticable as that embodied in the further amendment moved by the honorable member. I believe that the party with which I am associated is prepared, if it is impossible by other means to secure the necessary revenue, to go to the land for it.
– If the honorable member will support a land tax without. exemptions, I shall be with him.
– I am not so undemocratic as to suggest that men who happen to hold that which enables them to earn a living wage shall be taxed for this purpose, rather than those who are best able to contribute to it. The honorable member for Dalley looked as serious as a judge in moving his further amendment. He would have the people believe that he meant everything he said, and that he was proposing something to which effect could be given.
– Effect could be given to it this session.
– I do not think that any reasonable man will suggest that a scheme could be carried out this session. The honorable member for Kooyong is at least honest in his declaration that he is not in favour of a land tax’ for the purpose of raising the funds necessary to provide for a Federal system of old-age pensions. He has made a declaration which I am sure the deputy leader of the Opposition and some other members of his party would not dare to make. I do not intend, however, to labour this question. I think that a solution of the difficulty is to be found in the direction indicated by the Prime Minister. Under present conditions the only course open to the Government is to submit to the Premiers’ Conference a proposal which is calculated to appeal to them. The Premiers of the States should be asked to assist the Government in making a financial adjustment that will permit of a Federal system of old-age pensions. In the absence of such an adjustment we shall have to resort to direct taxation or wait until the Braddon section and the machinery under it can be remodelled towards the close of this or the beginning of the next Parliament. The financial problem lies at the root of this proposal. Hitherto a practical opportunity to do anything in this direction has not presented itself. We have availed ourselves of this the first opportunity, not to dictate to or harass the’ Government, but to induce it to take a step in the direction of this desirable reform.
– And have moved always in open daylight.
– Exactly. We have taken care that the public shall always understand what we desire. If the Premiers of the four States which have no old-age pension law in operation have any sympathy for those who are not enjoying the advantages of such legislation it will be their duty to assist the Commonwealth Government to bring about in a short time a practicable scheme. I am prepared to give the Ministry an opportunity to submit to the House within the next three or four weeks the proposals in this direction that they intend to lay before the Conference of Premiers. Having reviewed those proposals we may await the decisionof the Conference of States Premiers before we take any more determined stand towards the realization of our desire. That I feel sure is a manly, fair and correct attitude to adopt towards the Government.
– Then what is the object of this motion ? .
– We simply desired to learn what steps the Government intended to take. There has been no secret arrangement between us, and the Labour Party having no knowledge of the intentions of the Government in this regard, we submitted this motion two or three weeks before it is possible for the Ministry to take action. Having taken the earliest opportunity which presented itself of bringing the question before Parliament, we cannot honestly be taunted with neglect to urge the enactment of legislation in respect of old-age pensions.’ The amendment of the deputy leader of the Opposition cannot be upheld for a single moment by those who desire to deal out justice to our aged poor. Of course, I realize that in modern times Oppositions have degenerated. But surely they ought to recognise that’ they have a duty to perform, apart from that of badgering the Government.
– Is the honorable member discussing the question?
– I think so.
– Who put the honorable member up to “stone-wall”?
– Surely I may be permitted to occupy a little of the time of the House, seeing that the honorable member himself occupies so much of it. I merely rose to justify the attitude taken up by the leader of the Labour Party and by the Government in their desire to bring about an urgently -needed reform, and to expose the hypocrisy of the amendment of the deputy leader of the Opposition, and the further amendment of the honorable member for Dalley.
.- It is rather significant that a proposal submitted this afternoon - I presume with the idea of expediting the establishment of a Federal system of old-age pensions - should now have to be “ justified “ by t he honorable member for Gwydir. Personally I fail to see that any “ justification “ of it was necessary.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Gwydir did not also attempt to justify the Opposition.
– He certainly made a number of vehement statements concerning members of the Opposition, all of which I do not propose to traverse. I shall content myself with dealing only with his most violent denunciation,’ with a view to showing how absolutely unfounded was the main portion of his speech in regard to the attitude taken up by the deputy leader of the Opposition. He stated that in submitting an amendment to the proposal of the leader of the Labour Party the honorable member for Parramatta was insincere, and that his action was prompted by a desire to gain political kudos. In other words, he accused the deputy leader of the Opposition of attempting to gain a cheap advertisement at the hands of that section of the community whose feelings, when we are seeking political advertisements, should be most spared - I refer to the aged poor.
– How feeling !
– I think that the interjection of the honorable member this afternoon, to the effect that the discharge of ordinary filial duty - which most people uphold - was played out’ in Melbourne, was not only unfeeling but unworthy of him and this House.
– I said nothing of the sort, and well the honorable member knows it. That kind of statement cannot hurt me.
– But the pages of Hansard may hurt the honorable member if they are read very carefully. If honorable members will permit me to do so, I intend to quote from the speech delivered by the leader of the Labour Party this afternoon, in order to show that the construction placed upon his utterances by the honorable member for Parramatta was an absolutely just one.
– I donot agree with that statement.
– I shall quote the honorable member absolutely fairly - if I do not, I hope that he will tell me of it. The proposal submitted by the leader of the Labour Party was -
That all the words after “that” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas the State Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, have made no provision for the payment of old-age pensions, this House is of opinion that, the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty.”
In submitting that proposal the honorable member, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Illawarra, said -
The honorable member is in. error in saying that we have been running the show. The Prime Minister can tell him that, so far as I am concerned, at any rate, there has not been a suggestion made to the Government which should cause any honorable Minister to blush. There has been no attempt on our part to coerce Ministers ofthe Crown.
The honorable member for Illawarra then interjected -
What about the dirt-eating complained of by Sir George Turner and the right honorable member for Swan ? and the deputy leader of the Opposition also asked -
Has the Labour Party not applied the slightest pressure in regard to this matter?
To these interjections the leader of the Labour Party replied -
If it will be information to honorable members, and the public, I wish to say that no pressure in regard to this matter has been brought to bear on the Prime Minister or any other Minister.
The Hansard, report continues -
– Has he not even been approached on the matter?
– I legitimately approached the Government, so that I might bring on this matter as early as possible.
– Has the Government not been approached at any other time?
– No. I want to tell the public, once and for all, exactly where the Labour Party stands in regard to this- matter.
Now, I propose to. read the amendment submitted by the deputy leader of the Opposition, and to ask honorable members whether it does not represent a fair statement of the case as put by the leader of the Labour Party. The deputy leader of the Opposition moved to include - .
After the word “ and “ the’ words “ whereas many of the members so returned have continuously’ supported the Government, which has made no provision for such a system, and have, moreover, never once approached the Government in the matter, or exerted the slightest pressure in ils favour, and.”
These are almost the very words used by the honorable member for Wide Bay when he declared, not merely on his own behalf but on behalf of his party, that he had never, sought in any way to influence the Government upon this question, upon which the members of that party have taken a platform stand in this Chamber for the past seven years.
– The honorable member must bear in mind that the leader of the Labour Party said that he had not approached the Government in such a way as to cause any Minister to blush.
– Of course that is part of the context, and everybody must recognise it. I gave the honorable member my H’ansard proof so that he might quote the whole of my utterance in this connexion.
– I have quoted the whole of it. Under, these circumstances I think it is a legitimate question to ask the members of the Labour Party what they have obtained for their support of the Government during the past seven years?
– I think we should have got more had the members of the Opposition been in power.
– Personally, I should be very sorry to measure myself with my honorable friend. But it seems to me that there is a very reasonable explanation of the facts as they have been stated by the leader of the Labour. Party. We all recognise that he is a straightforward man, who speaks his mind without reservation, and he has declared that his party has never applied pressure in any form to the Governments which they have so loyally supported during the past seven years.
– Private pressure.
– There is an explanation, and a very natural one. We all know the personal charm of the leader of. the Government. We all know the effect which the affability of the Prime Minister has on people who are brought in contact with him; and the members of the Labour Party have for years past been close associates of the honorable gentleman. But this affability of the Prime Minister will be a poor recompense for all those aged poor who have been looking to the members of the Labour Party for years past, if we may believe their words, to give them old-age’ pensions. It will be a poor recompense to those who are hoping that “ a matter of urgency “ may one day become a matter of accomplished fact ! But it is a pity that the magnetism of the Prime Minister should have blinded for so long a great party in the country to its platform protestations. I do not propose to address myself much longer to this question ; I rose mainly to put on record in Hansard the exact words of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and I did not wish it to be said that he was misquoted or misreported.
– It may be news to the honorable gentleman, but, although I seldom correct my Hansard proofs, my words are there all the same.
– I hope the honorable member does not think I am making any insinuations ; I should be the last to do so.
-. - I- only desire to say once more that all I said was governed by the preface that no undue influence was used.
– What is “undue influence” ?
– All I have done has been done openly in Parliament.
– I know that so far as the pledges I make to my constituents .are concerned, I endeavour to influence as many of my party and members of the House in their favour, as I legitimately can. It seems to me that consideration for the amour prof re of the Prime Minister is making the members of the Labour Party forget what is due to their own constituents ; ‘ but I leave them to their constituents, and their own consciences. I now wish briefly to refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Newcastle with reference to the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley. The honorable member for Newcastle told us that it was “ not practicable “ to proceed at once with the scheme.
– Then what is the use of the motion?
– That is what I want te know, because, in the motion we are told that the provision of old-age pensions is “ an urgent public duty.” When an honorable member on this side proposes to prove his sense of its urgency, we are told by honorable members opposite that the matter is not so urgent as it was thought to lae, and that we are to have a short session !
– Is twelve months a short session ?
– I mean since Parliament met after Christmas. In the course of the debate a number of statements have been made about “advertisement” and “political placard,” and so forth; but I leave the House and the country to judge who are guilty of advertisement, or of wishing to issue political placards - those who suddenly move a motion of urgency, and find only too soon that the matter is not urgent, or those who are prepared hot only to support the motion as a matter of urgency, but also to show their bona fides by asking the Government to bring down a scheme, which we have been told they are prepared to do, during this session.
– The procedure which has been adopted to-day is not, I think, one usual in parliamentary procedure, inasmuch as we have been taken by surprise. We, of course, all saw the notice of motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and, as no special precedence was given to it, we did not anticipate it would come on for discussion today. I think the honorable member for Wide Bay would have acted more courteously, and perhaps, more wisely, had he informed the House of his intention to bring the matter forward to-day.
– I did not know until last night that I could submit the motion today.
– With all respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I think that the procedure is most unusual. I have always understood that when a notice of motion is placed on the paper, it comes into the possession of the House, and cannot be removed except by a motion made openly. The procedure to-day will, I am afraid, tend to our being taken by surprise on many occasions, if it is possible, under cover of a motion which has been on the notice-paper for weeks and secretly removed from it without any notice with the object of moving the Speaker out of the” chair on grievance day, to bring forward that motion. I certainly have not been accustomed to such procedure, and while it is a procedure which may have been adopted in this Parliament on unimportant occasions, I regard it as very inconvenient.
– It is adopted, in the House of Commons.
– That may be; but it seems to me fraught with inconvenience, and liable to. take members . by surprise, in being called upon to debate matters which ‘they have not come prepared to consider.
– I can assure the right honorable member that some members of my own party did not know that it was possible to bring the motion on to-day.
– I am not complaining of the honorable member, but merely referring to the inconvenience of the procedure. I can say for myself that I have been altogether taken by surprise. I do not think that the honorable member for Wide Bay has shown sufficient reason for submitting the. motion at the present time, seeing that no one is more aware than the honorable member himself of the exact position of affairs. The question of oldage pensions has been discussed for the last seven years on every platform throughout Australia; and the Government have plainly set forth, times out of number, that financial reasons prevent the question being dealt with until 19 10, when what is known as the Braddon section ceases to operate.
Last session the Prime Minister took a most drastic course - which I think was open to a good deal of argument on the score of its wisdom - in invading this part of the Constitution, with the avowed object of hurrying on a settlement of the old-age pensions question. We know what was the fate of that measure ; it passed through this House, and was lost in another place. - At any rate, every one will admit that bv that action last session, the Government did all they could to expedite matters. Further, His Excellency’s speeches in opening Parliament have reiterated the intention of the Government to see whether means could not be found of dealing with the question. We are all aware, of these facts, and it seems to me that those honorable members who suggest that the present action is only s “ placard “ have” some reason on their side.
– Does the right honorable member say that the power of taxation for old-age pensions is exhausted ?
– Speaking generally, I do say so, unless we “ doublebank “ by entering avenues of taxation which have already been explored to a considerable extent by the States. I am not able to say the course that could be fol)wed by the Government which would produce the necessary revenue. No one knows better than the honorable member for Wide Bay that there are a great many obligations staring the Government in the face.
– And old-age pensions is one of them.
– But there are a number of others, which, if not important, are pressing and almost mandatory. For instance, there is the question of defence, and the administration of Papua, in connexion with which Possession there are great obligations. Then there is the Northern Territory, in regard to which we have entered into an agreement with South Australia, and the Parliament of that State has passed an Act which is now awaiting the Royal assent.
– And there is the transcontinental railway.
– That matter has not gone so far as an agreement, although, in my opinion, it is an obligation. When I was prosecuting my election, I said plainly that, while I was in favour of oldage pensions, I did not see any likelihood of a scheme being passed by Parlia ment until after the end of 1910, when the Braddon section becomes alterable. For this I was taken a good deal to task by the Labour Party, who were opposing me, and I was amused at the mode in which they proposed to raise the money. Their idea was to nationalize the tobacco industry, but they forgot that, before that course could be adopted, there must be an amendment of the Constitution, so that it would be much later than 1910 before money would be available from that source. ‘ In other words, while they corn.plained that 1910 was too far ahead, they proposed a scheme which would have put off old-age pensions to a much later period.
– It is questionable whether an amendment of the Constitution would be necessary.
– I think it is admitted that ian amendment would be necessary. I do not think any one can charge me with being opposed to the object which the honorable, member for Wide Bay has in view, although, by’ interjection, some honorable members seem to infer that I am not in favour of old-age pensions. I may point out, however, that had I not been in favour of the Federal Government undertaking this work, honorable members would not have had the opportunity of dealing with the question at the present time, because they would not have -had the power to do so. It was myself and the other Western Australian delegates who turned the scale at the Federal Convention in favour of the Commonwealth having control of old-age pensions. The mover, Mr. Howe, of South Australia., was most persistent in his advocacy, and it is to him that most of the credit is due for the provisions in the Constitution. Mr. Howe did not propose that rich and poor alike should have an oldage pension, and I think that had he taken that stand he would have got very little support. What Mr. Howe said was -
When we come to trace the history of this question, wc find th.it all the great philanthropists, and many leading statesmen, of the world are endeavouring, b)’ all (he means in their power, to solve the problem of bow best to provide for the deserving and aged poor.
In supporting the proposal I said -
It seems strange that there should be so manyadvocates now for old-age pensions, when I was under the impression that the prevailing idea in the Colonies was that the ‘civil servants, who had spent all their years until they had become old in the service of the country, should receive no pensions. It seems that a newer light has been shed upon us, and not only are we desirous of pensioning those who have served the State, and who have grown grey in its service, but we are also desirous of pensioning every one. . . . There is no doubt, however, as time goes on, we shall have old and deserving poor here, as they have in the older parts of the world. When that time does arrive, I think it would be far better for us to allow the Federal Government to deal with this very great question, rather than that each State should deal with it in its own particular way,
I used other arguments, and eventually the proposal was agreed to, I think, after two attempts. I fear I have been misunderstood in regard to an interjection that an old-age pensions system would cost Western Australia twice as much if provided by the Commonwealth as it would if provided by the State Parliament. I did not” mean that the Commonwealth administration would be twice as costly as State administration. I am willing to believe that one would be as economical as the other. But, inasmuch as the population of Western Australia is largely composed of persons in the prime of life, and there are not many aged poor there to whom this Act would apply, the sum necessary to establish an adequate pensions fund for local State purposes would be less than £50,000 a year, whereas a Commonwealth pensions scheme would cost £1,500,000,’ to which Western Australia’s contribution per capita would be about £100,000. Western Australia would therefore probably contribute to a Commonwealth fund £50,000 more than was needed for her own requirements, and this sum would be spent in relieving the aged and deserving poor in the other States. Of course, we have many deserving old men in our Benevolent Asylum ; but they are mostly so decrepit that they cannot look after themselves, .and if would be cruel to induce them to take pensions. No doubt, there is a large number of deserving, old and helpless persons similarly situated in the other States.
– I thought that the honorable member looked forward to the time when the Braddon provision would cease to operate.
– So I do, with independent finance for both Commonwealth and States ; but even then there will have to lie a per capita charge on the States unless the present procedure is changed.
– There would be nothing to prevent Western Australia getting special terms.
– I hope that some fairer arrangement may be devised ; but there seems a difficulty in the way. We do not desire that one State should provide money to be expended in another, though, of course, there must be give and take. Although I have heard the subject of oldage pensions referred to in all parts of Australia, and especially in this House, the fact has been very rarely specially dwelt upon, that two of the States, whose population comprises two-thirds of that of Australia, already have old-age pensions systems, which are sud: as the Legislatures of those States are satisfied with. One would think, to hear the debates in this Chamber, that old-age pensions are not provided in Australia, whereas 3,000,000 persons have the opportunity of qualifying for them.
– Many persons residing in New South Wales and Victoria are ineligible, because they have moved from State to State without living sufficiently long in either.
– That is a small matter.
– Yes, and it could be dealt with by amending legislation. I am surprised to hear the member for Melbourne Ports abuse the Victorian system as if it were worse than none at all. I do not think that those who” draw old-age pensions in this State would like to relinquish them. But the honorable member sneered at the Victorian Act, at the Parliament which passed it, and inferentially at -the people who’ elected it, and whom he professes to represent. If the people of Victoria are dissatisfied with their legislation, they can alter it. The honorable member for Newcastle and the honorable member for Barrier - who - 1 understand votes and lives in South Australia, and is therefore really a South Australian - expressed dissatisfaction with the New South Wales system.
– Surely we were justified in pointing out its defects.
– The members of the Labour Party from New South Wales and Victoria do not do justice to the Parliaments of their States in this matter, and seem to more adversely criticize them than the States which have not an old-age pensions system at all. We have not had any representations ‘ from those States asking for old-age pensions. The representatives of Tasmania in this Chamber’ are dumb on the subject.
– The honorable member for Darwin was the first man to mention it here. He has done a great deal for it.
– I have spoken in favour of it on every occasion.
– The Tasmanian Legislature has done nothing in the matter, and the Legislatures of Queensland and South Australia have done nothing, although for years past Labour Governments have been in power in those States.
– It is part of the policy of the present Premier of Queensland.
– How many years has he been in office?
– He introduced it during his second year of office.
– Is he not opposed to the Commonwealth doing anything in the matter?
– I think not.
– Why should we not exercise our constitutional powers?
– In my opinion, the old-age pensions question has been used by members of the Labour Party as a good platform cry, and I do not know what? they will do when they can no longer avail themselves of it. Fortunately for them, financial considerations have hitherto made a settlement impossible, but it is still possible for the cry to serve them for one or two. elections more.
– I understand that the right honorable member shed tears at Bunbury because nothing had been done to provide old-age pensions.
– I am in favour of the granting of old-age pensions, but I have never thought the establishment of a Commonwealth scheme possible until after the expiration of the Braddon provision. Every one of us desires to do what he can for the aged and deserving poor,’ and I have often wondered why so much objection was shown to the proposal to raise funds fo<- °”rh a beneficent purpose by means of a tax- on tea, which would have provided’ a large sum. To night it was objected that such a tax would make the poor pay for a portion of the old-age pensions, and I interjected that the aged and deserving poor would get the whole benefit. I believe that the very poorest would willingly contribute something towards an old-age pension. I am opposed to the taxation of food supplies if it can be avoided, but I see no objection to raising some of the revenue necessary for this benevolent purpose by a tax which would not press heavily on any one. Still, it was thought to be popular to say, “ We are opposed to taxing the food of the poor man,” and that was made another platform cry, which, when analyzed, means that we want to provide for the aged poor, but rather than obtain some of the revenue necessary from a tax on tea, we will let the aged poor suffer and go without their pension, forgetting, also, that sugar is taxed to the extent of £6 a ton - a tax which every one has to pay. They seem to draw the line at tea, but not at sugar. I am anxious that we should have a Federal system, but am not going to say that so far as South Australia, Tasmania, and- Western Australia are concerned it is the most pressing question with which the Commonwealth is . confronted. That, after all, is only a cry raised for the purpose of gaining the votes of the electors.
– The right honorable member is very vigorous in his criticism.
– I certainly have no desire to be discourteous. I have no reason to support the Government if they are not deserving of credit, but I have no hesitation in saying that in the adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States they have before them a very difficult task. That is not a party question. The Government have before them a great work. The demands on the Commonwealth revenue are increasing on every hand, and in the effort to provide, out of ordinary revenue, £1,500,000 per annum for this purpose they may do great injury in other directions. If the proposition submitted last year by my honorable friend had been carried - I refer to the proposal to impose special duties - the coast would have been clear. We might be able in good years to take from the general revenue part of the sum required to finance this scheme. We have to remember, however, that in one year we had a balance of only .£300,000, .and that we are not yet able to determine what will be the effect of the new Tariff on revenue. Some portion of the necessary funds may be taken from the ordinary revenue, but by far the greatest proportion will have to be obtained by the imposition of special duties.
– Then, why do we not impose special duties to provide for other services ?
– Under the Constitution we have to raise £4 by means of Customs and- Excise taxation for the Commonwealth! in order to secure £1. That state of affairs must prevail until the close of 1910, and every one knows that it has led to this scheme being so long delayed. I regret that it has been delayed, but hope that, when we do es- tablish a Federal system, we shall find some means of financing it that will not press unduly upon the smaller States, and those which, like Western Australia, have before them vast obligations in respect of the settlement of an immense territory. I am quite in accord with those who urge that the establishment of a Federal system should be expedited, but I certainly am not in favour of trying to coerce the Government into doing that which 1 know it is impossible for th. m to do under existing cicumstances.
– I believe that old-age pensions should not be restricted, as has been urged, to the necessitous and deserving poor - with emphasis on the word “deserving” -but should be extended to the people generally. If they were strictly^ limited to the necessitous and the deserving poor we should hark back to the poor-house system. Every one who knows anything of that system is aware that it is only in the very’ last extremity that people will avail .themselves of it. How is it that only 17 per cent, of those, oyer sixty-five years of age in Victoria are in receipt of old-age pensions?
-I suppose it is because the others are well enough off.
– No; the reason is that those who apply for an old-age pension in this State are submitted to the greatest degradation.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not. I represent an electorate which, unfortunately, has more than its fair share of the necessitous and deserving poor of - the metropolis. Not one week of my life passes without my being called upon to make arrangements for some unfortunate to secure an old-age pension, and I always approach the task in fear and trembling. Ninety per cent, of those’ who seek an old-age pension in this State do so as a last resort. They have exhausted every other means of obtaining the wherewithal to live. They have appealed to the local clergy and members’ of Parliament, with their large allowances, to assist them, and at last have had to look to the State to provide them with a means of subsistence during the closing days of their life.
– This sort of business is no good. It does not help, the cause. If the honorable member continues in this strain we shall all be weeping presently.
– I am afraid it would take a great deal more to make the honorable member weep. I do not know what is the position in New South Wales, but I am familiar with the working of the old-age pension system in Victoria. My desire- is that a Federal system shall be established as soon as possible. Whilst I have no hope of any scheme that may be submitted by the -Prime Minister to the Conference of State Premiers being accepted by them, I prefer to trust him rather than’ the Opposition to bring about a Federal system at the earliest opportunity. I do not mean to suggest that the Opposition are opposed to old-age pensions, but it seems to me that they would support the immediate establishment of a Federal system chiefly for the purpose of embarrassing the Government or the party to which I- belong. It is for that reason that I look askance at any proposition coming from the Opposition.. If we adopted the proposal made by the deputy leader of the Opposition we should embarrass the Government and lay ourselves open to a charge of being wanting in tact. It might be said that we were political assassins, or an impracticable party. It is not for us to take a direction from either the Government or the Opposition as to the course we should pursue. We are as well able to state our own case as is any other party in the House, and we know that we have little to hope for from the Opposition. Had we thought that there was any chance of our securing the passage of beneficent legislation by placing the Opposition in power we should have done so long ago. Whilst the further amendment moved bv the honorable member for Dalley gives expression to a desire that we all entertain, we recognise that some time must elapse before the financial arrangements ‘ necessary to the introduction of the system can be completed. It may be said that we are not earnest in our desire to have a
Federal “ system at once instituted; but ‘no one can deny that the financing of such a scheme as this is not the work of a day.
– The Labour Party has had seven years in which to secure the passing of a Federal scheme of old-age pensions.
– If ‘ those who think with the honorable member were in a majority we might have to wait not seven, but seventy-seven years for such a reform. It may be asked why I sneer at the Victorian old-age pension system. My experience of it leads me to do so. I have been twitted with having said that all this talk about the want of filial affection is too old a gag. When I made the interjection in question my desire was to point out that the cry was too well-worn to have any effect upon those who urge that a man should not be called upon to contribute to an old-age pension granted to his parents. I am glad to say that I have never had to contribute one cent towards the maintenance of my father or mother. That being so, why should I desire to penalize an unfortunate man, w’ho is earning barely sufficient to support himself and his family, by calling upon him to contribute to a pension granted to one or both of his parents? Why should he alone provide all that is necessary?
– No one says that he should.
– I hold that the old men and women in the Commonwealth, in’ developing Australia, have done as much for me as they have for their own sons and daughters. ‘ I shall never cast a vote in .favour of a proposal to compel a man with a large family, who is earning only a small wage, to contribute to a pension granted to his father or mother. I know hundreds of men -who receive an average wage of only 6s. or less per day, and who are thus unable to support their own family as well as their parents. I know of one man who, when in employment, earns only £2 per week. ‘ His out of work for perhaps three or four months every year, but nevertheless he has been called upon to contribute 4s. 6d. a week towards a pension granted to his parents. He really does not earn sufficient to properly .maintain his own family, but the Opposition would say that it is right that he should be called upon to contribute to the support of his parents.
– What member of the Opposition has said so?
– The honorable member for Echuca said in reply to the honorable member for Yarra that 3s. per week was not too much to expect a man to pay out of his total earnings of 30s. per week towards the support of his parents.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the honorable member for Echuca. .
– If I am I apologize to him. It was urged that it was only reasonable that every man should be compelled to contribute to the support, of his parents. Because I declared that it was not, I was charged by’ the honorable member for Wentworth with being destitute of filial affection. I am just as anxious as is any honorable member to secure the establishment of a Federal system of old-age pensions at the earliest possible moment, and I have great hopes that the Government will formulate some such scheme without .further delay. I believe that we have a better chance of obtaining something tangible from the Prime Minister than we should have of getting it from the members of the Opposition if they were in power, notwithstanding the tricky amendments which have been submitted.
.- From the honorable member who has just resumed his seat we have heard a good deal concerning the sentiments of the Opposition upon the question of old-age pensions. He credited its members with desiring to tax the man who is in receipt of 30s. a week for the support of his aged parents.
– It is done in Victoria.
– If so, it is merely evidence that the indigent poor of this State are not treated in as humane a fashion as they are treated elsewhere. Personally I shall support any proposal to initiate a national scheme of old-age pensions, no matter from what- party it may emanate. It is absolutely common-sense that every indigent and aged or invalid person who has resided in the Commonwealth for a certain period should receive a pension, irrespective of the time that he or . she may have been resident in any particular State. I wish very briefly to indicate -the limitations. which I place upon my support of any Federal scheme, for the payment of old-age pensions. In the first place, the scheme must be a common-sense and equitable one. I shall not support a universal system of pensions. I favour making the conditions under which these pensions are granted as little humiliating as possible, and also insuring that the inquiries instituted in respect of applicants for them shall be conducted as privately as possible. In the second place, it must be conclusively shown that we are able to finance the scheme without overstraining the capacity of the country for taxation. Lastly, the Commonwealth must not trench upon the power of direct taxation which is the only’ avenue of taxation left to the States should their share of Customs and Excise revenue prove insufficient, and is the Commonwealth’s reserve of taxation in time of national emergency. It seems to me that the proposals of the Labour Party for universal pensions, irrespective of necessity, are unreasonable, and would involve the capacity of the country to bear taxation being unduly strained. The inevitable result would be that when an urgent demand was made for further taxation - as might occur in case of war - our primary industries, and also a great many of the secondary industries dependent upon them, would be absolutely ruined. Within the limits I have indicated, I shall be prepared to support any. scheme for the establishment of a Federal system of old-age pensions, irrespective of the party from which it may emanate. I am thoroughly satisfied that whatever State politicians may think of the matter, the people of the Commonwealth will be behind us in enacting the necessary legislation to give effect to such a scheme on a national basis.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand partof the question - resolved in the negative.
.- Nearly everything which can be said upon this question has. already been said, and consequently there is no necessity to debate its merits at all. In the first place the leader of the Labour Party submitted a proposal which the Government accepted. The deputy leader of the Opposition then declared that he recognised the necessity for establishing a Federal system of oldage pensions. Under these circumstances I failed to see any necessity for the debate which followed. Of course the difficulty which has hitherto been experienced in giving effect to a Federal system ofoldage pensions has been a financial one.’ I credit the honorable member for Dalley with the utmost sincerity upon this ques tion, but it is idle for him to chide members of the Labour Party with not desiring to bring about this urgentlyneededreform at the earliest possible moment when we know that up to the present time the leader of that party is the only honorable member who has successfully brought the question before the House. From the very inception of this Parliament efforts have been made to obtain the decision of the House upon it, but these have not proved successful. The motions relating to it have either been talked out or the session has ended without a vote being taken upon them. The honorable member for Wide Bay has embraced the only opportunity which has been presented of allowing us to give expression to our opinions upon this all -important question.
– Is this the first chance that we have had during seven years ?
– Unfortunately it is. If the right honorable member will look through the pages of Hansard he will find that my statement is correct. Under these circumstances the leader of the Labour Party is to be commendedfor his action.
– Action should have been taken years ago.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. The difficulty was not that we did not believe that old-age pensions should be granted to those who have assisted to develop the wealth of this country, and who have obtained such a’ poor return for their unremitting toil, but that many honorable members opposite believed that it would necessitate direct taxation - at any rate during the continuance of the Braddon section of the Constitution.
– Does the honorable member not think that we ought to tax the man with the mansion and the motorcar ?
– I think that the man with themansion should pay his fair share. Reference has been made to’ the fact that members of the Labour Party, including myself, opposed the method which theGovernment proposed during last Parliament to impose special taxation for the purpose of old-age pensions. My opposition was on the ground that the only taxation which would give an adequate return was on kerosene and tea, and my opinion is that the cost of oldage pensions should be borne by those who live in affluence on the result’s of the toil of those who need assistance in their old age. With the honorable member for Barrier I am of opinion that oldage pensions should be a right and nota charity, and the only proper method is to compel every person above a certain age to take a pension.
– Then the honorable member advocates compulsory pensions?
– Yes, and I have never lost an opportunity of expressing my view.
– The honorable member is making the Chairman of the Old-age Pensions Commission smile.
– We cannot forget that that Commission was appointed to shelve the question for a time, and that the honorable member referred to was put in the position to help the cause along not quite so quickly as some of us would have liked to see. I give every credit to the honorable member for Dalley for a sincere desire that this question should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment; but it is of no use submitting bald motions unless we have some means suggested by which they are to be carried into effect. It has been said that we on this side have not shown how the necessary funds can be raised, and I. repeat emphatically that it is of no use merely declaring that during the present session the Government shall deal with the question.
– At any rate, my amendment is in advance of the motion.
– I shall submit a proposal in advance of the amendment, and I shall expect the support of the honorable member for Dalley. I intend to move that after the word “that” in the provision which the honorable member for Dalley wishes to add to the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, the following words be inserted -
In the event of sufficient funds not being available from Customs taxation, the necessary funds shall be raised by direct taxation on the unimproved value of land and.
– Add “ without exemptions “ and I shall be with the honorable member all the time.
– There are no exemptions under my amendment. I hope that those who are in favour of expediting old-age pensions will vote for my proposal, which certainly does give some practical idea as to how the money is to be provided. The proposal of the honorable member for Dalley will be useless, because if the Government are not prepared to adopt direct taxation, the only other method is to wait until the expiration of the Braddon section. But there appears to be a desire in connexion with the financial scheme to continue the Braddon section, and if that idea is carried out, there will be no hope for old-age pensions except by the method I propose.
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy appeals to me as presenting a splendid opportunity for the Opposition to display the sincerity of their desire for old-age pensions to be established at once - a far better opportunity than that presented by the frivolous proposals which have emanated from the honorable member for Parramatta. It seems to me that the Opposition is suffering more from pique than a genuine desire to correct error, and I am surprised that men should exhibit such childish petulence in connexion with a matter of so much importance to the Commonwealth. This may be orthodox Opposition tactics, but it is not statesmanship, and it does not appeal to my commonsense. The proposition in regard to earmarking a portion of the Customs revenue, or the proceeds of a progressive land tax, do not appeal to me, because the revenue from such sources, should the taxation prove effective, must be a diminishing quantity. The poor we have always with us, and we must have a permanent means of assisting them in their old age. In the case of a progressive land tax the object is to break up the big estates, and the Tariff is designed to protect local industries ; and, therefore, as I have already said; the resultant revenue must be a diminishing quantity, if the taxation achieves its purpose. It has been suggested that special duties on tea and kerosene should be imposed for the purpose of old-age pensions. The honorable member for Kooyong, and the right honorable member for Swan, declare that these commodities represent legitimate sources of revenue for such a purpose, on the principle that those who receive pensions should furnish the funds. I contend that that is taking a one-sided view of the subject, because the idea underlying the principle of old-age pensions is that a certain section of the community are not getting what they earn - that their contributions to the general wealth are aggregating in the hands of a Few, while they them- selves are afforded a mere living. On that account’ we say that when those workers can no longer assist in the creation of wealth - and we know that all wealth is the result, of actual effort - the State shall say to them, “ You have done well in helping to build up the country, and you shall now be compensated in your old age for being unable to save anything from your labours when an able-bodied man.” . It is admitted that the workers are not able to live decently and lay by enough for their old age, but according to some honorable members it- would be a proper course to tax their tea and kerosene by means of which they are enabled to live and work, in order that when they are old and decrepit they may have a pension. To impose such taxation would simply make it harder for the people whom we set out to benefit, and on that ground I regard it as unfair and iniquitous. In my opinion there must be some stable economic source of revenue for such a permanent institution as old-age pensions, and, therefore, I at once turn to a tax on unimproved land values. It will be generally admitted that it is only in land values that the collective wealth of. the country is expressed. If those men and- women have worked all their lives in the country, the result of their labour can be permanently expressed only in the enhanced value of the land, and this, therefore, becomes a legitimate source of revenue for providing for their old age. It has been contended that such a tax would duplicate the functions of the States, but so far as I can gather, provision is made for the utilization of the State machinery in cases where the functions of the States and Commonwealth , Governments dovetail ; and therefore there should be no difficulty on that score. With all due deference to the Prime Minister, a proposal that a certain amount of State land revenue shall be handed over to the Federal Government on the latter undertaking to pay old-age pensions, is well worth submitting to the Premiers’ Conference. A nominal tax of £d. in the pound on unimproved values would return considerably over .£1,000.000. As I have said, it is only by actual effort that real wealth is created, though, of course, those who control and supervise add to values, and, by their very position, are able to appropriate the greater share;’ and it is for those who do not get. anything like the full value of their labour, that provision should be made. Therefore there is nothing of charity in the pension, although the honorable member for Echuca dwelt upon what he was pleased to regard as its charitable aspect. Charity, no doubt, is a very fine virtue, but, seeing that its exercise is possible only by reason of the suffering and want of those to whom the charitable dispense their largesse, it is doubtful whether its necessity is a blessing. As to . whether pensions should be given to all, or. merely to the needy, I cannot go with those of my confreres who advocate a universal pension system. I do not think that such a system is possible under our present social conditions. The inequalities resulting from the unequal distribution of wealth would make a universal pension system ridiculous. But when the Government controls all sources of wealth ; in other words, when we have a socialistic State, which will come when the people want it, a universal pensions system will be its natural complement. But the inquiries which are necessary under the more limited pension system with which I think we must for the present be contented, might very well be held in camera, to avoid needless publicity. That, I think, would remove all reasonable objections to it.
.- It is because I recognise that honorable members generally are in favour of old-age pensions that I have not yet taken part in the debate. All who have fought the last three elections know how important a matter’ this is. Every political party has now expressed a desire for the establishment of an oldage pensions system as early as possible. Undoubtedly the honorable member for Wide Bay, by his action this afternoon, has enabled us to make a step in advance in this matter; because I think the House will agree to his proposal, and the Prime Minister has promised to make every effort to give effect to it. But I object to the attempt on the part of the honorable member for Dalley to take the wind out of the sails of the Labour Party, and the further attempt of the honorable member for Kennedy to see how far the honorable member for Dalley will go. The effect of the amend.ments proposed by these honorable gentlemen will be to destroy the advantage to be gained by agreeing to the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay without modification.
– Is the honorable member afraid of the land .tax proposals of the honorable member for Kennedy?
– I am afraid of nothing. I object to the amendment because it places a limitation on the actions of Parliament. The Royal Commission on OldAge Pensions suggested as sources of revenue to provide an old-age pensions fund, a stamp tax, an absentee tax, a tax’ on unimproved land values, duties on tea and kerosene, the nationalization of the tobacco industry, additional duties on intoxicants and matches, and a tax on amusements, and I object, therefore, to confining Parliament to a sourceof revenue which may be utterly inexpedient and inadequate. As to whether old-age pensions should be given to all, or only to the poor, that is not a matter to be discussed now, nor is this the time, as the honorable member for Wide Bay pointed out, to discuss means of raising revenue to provide the funds necessary to effect what we have in view.
– Before we vote on the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy, I should like to know, in view of the loyalty of the members of the Labour Party to their platform, about which we hear so much, whether they propose to abide by their pledge that there shall be an exemption of £5,000 in connexion with any land tax proposed by the Commonwealth.
– The discussion on that matter goes far beyond the scope of the question before us.
– May I point out to you, sir, that it has a great financial bearing upon the question before us? If there is a £5,000 exemption, very little revenue will be produced by the proposed tax. I wish to show that either honorable members intend to disregard their pledge, or they are enacting a farce.
– I am loth to interrupt the honorable member, but as I shall have no chance to reply to him, and he is opening up fresh ground, I ask whether his remarks are in order.
– I fail to see how we can Intelligently vote on the amendment, unless we know whether the proposed tax will produce the necessary revenue.
-I would remind the honorable member of the terms of the amendment. It does not raise the question whether there should be an exemption,and, if so, what exemption.That is a matter for Parliament to deal with when a Bill is brought in. I cannot allow it to be discussed now.
– The exemption referred to is not a plank in our platform.
– The honorable mem ber must not interject.
– I say that it is, and therefore the proposal of the honorable member for Kennedy is farcical, and merely intended as a political placard, and not an attempt to advance the cause of oldage pensions. I make that statement deliberately, and say that any proposal on the part of the Labour Party to impose a land values tax without the exemption provided for in their definitely agreed upon platform is in my judgment - -
– I do not know that it is in our platform.
– I have made the statement that it is, and it is for the honorable member to disprove it.
– I have signed the platform and do not know that it is in it.
– A few moments ago I called attention to the fact that the honorable member for Barrier was making a running commentary on what was taking place. It is impossible in such circumstances for the honorable member addressing the Chamber to proceed. I have also ruled that a discussion as to whether or not this exemption was in the platform of any party at the last general election is out of order and I therefore ask the honorable member for Barrier not to raise the question.
– I regret that it should have been necessary for you, Mr. Speaker to speak to me a second time. But is it not usual forone honorable member to accent the assurance of another? I have said that I do not know that the exemption to which reference has been made is embodied in the platform of the Labour Party, but thehonorable member for Parramatta has stated that I am in error, and that it does appear in our platform. Is it not usual for an honorable member to accept the denial ofanother?
– It is usual for one honorable member to accept an assurance given by another but I understood the honorable member for Barrier to say that he was not quite sure whether or not the exemption in question was embodied in the platform.
-i said that it was not.
– The honorable member has told the House that he does not know whether the exemption is or is not in the platform of the party. That being so, how can I accept his assurance?
– I can assure the honorable member that it is not. I shall at once obtain for him a copy of our platform.
– I desire to say definitely that I shall vote against the proposition. .
– Against taking some of the “ legalized theft “ of the country?
– I do not know why honorable members should laugh. They have heard me say before, even during the brief life of this Parliament, that I shall vote against proposals for direct taxation. I had intended to quote a speech delivered by the honorable member for Macquarie when the Tariff was under discussion, but have lost the page. In that speech he told us that he would vote for direct taxation - and hoped to secure it - but as an alternative to revenue derived through the Customs. Since then he has voted for a Tariff which is yielding more than £1,000,000 per annum in excess of the revenue obtained under the first Federal Tariff.
– What quibbling. We have the figures before us, and yet the honorable member, despite the distinct statement made by him a few months ago, now proposes to vote for a land tax in addition to these tremendously heavy revenue duties which he declared he would oppose.
– I did not.
– The honorable member said he would not vote for revenue duties.
– And I did not. I voted for protective duties.
– The revenue which the new Tariff is yielding is at the rate of more than £1,000,000 per annum in excess of that obtained under the old Tariff. Yet the honorable member now proposes, in addition to the heavy Customs impositions for which he has voted, to vote for direct taxation.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Will the honorable member for Macquarie resume his seat? Is it the desire of the honorable member to make a personal explanation?
– It is, sir. When the” Tariff wasunder consideration, I made my position absolutely clear. I said that I should vote as a protectionist, and not as a revenue tariffist. I did not care if the Tariff ceased to produce anything like the amount- -
– Is this a point of order?
– I want the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw his charge that I am going back on my former attitude. I claim to have been absolutely consistent, and I ask the honorable member for Parramatta, who has grossly misrepresented me, to accept my statement.
– I propose now-
– Had notthe honorable member concluded his speech when the honorable member for Macquarie rose?
– I had not, sir.
– I should not have allowed the honorable member for Macquarie to make a personal explanation when he did hadnot the honorable member for Parramatta resumed his seat.
– I resumed my seat, sir, because I thought that you asked me to do so.
– I certainly understood that the honorable member had concluded his speech, or I should not have allowed the honorable member for Macquarie to rise.
– I heard you say, Mr. Speaker, “ Will the honorable member resume his seat, and thinking that you were addressing me, I did so. I do not want to do the’ honorable member for Macquarie an injustice. Here is the statement which he made -
I am of opinion that duties should be imposed upon goods which can be produced within the Commonwealth, so long as their local manufacture is properly regulated ; but I am opposed to mere revenue duties. If more revenue is needed, I should like to see adopted a form of taxation which will be bitterly opposed in some quarters, but which I think we shall have to resort to in justice to the community at large, and so forth. The honorable member made his point very much clearer in the latter part of his speech.
– I did not expect the Tariff. to produce revenue.
– The honorable member cannot in that way extricate himself from the position in which he finds himself. The fact is that the new Tariff is producing more revenue than did the old one.
– And therefore the honorable member seeks to impose this direct taxation, not as a substitute for revenue duties, but on the top of revenue duties. That is what the honorable member says he told his constituents he would not do.
– I am not seeking for excuses.
– Will the honorable member for Parramatta do me the justice of reading the platform of the Labour Party which he now has before him?
– I must ask the honorable member not to interrupt so continuously. It is impossible for the honorable member for Parramatta to make any headway with his speech. The honorable member for Macquarie has made a personal explanation, and if he desires to make another, no doubt the House will allow him to do so. I ask him not to make a running commentary on the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I believe that I have now before me the platform of the Labour Party.
-“ Believe “ !
– I have not yet looked at the newspaper cutting handed to me, but since the honorable member takes up that attitude, I decline to have anything more to do with the matter.
– Is the honorable member discussing the question ?
– Yes, sir. I am prepared to discuss it with the honorable member in a fair way, but decline to be baited. He is trying to bully me. That ends the matter, so far as the reading of the platform is concerned.
– The honorable member backs out.
– I was preparing to read the printed platform put before me, but since the honorable member for Barrier interjects as if I were a baby there is an end to the matter.
– The honorable member will not withdraw his statement.
– I say at once that if I have misrepresented the platform of the Labour Party, I do withdraw.
– The honorable member has misrepresented me.
– And the platform of the Labour Party.
– I must now appeal to the honorable member himself. If he will proceed with his speech, no trouble will be experienced, but when he constantly refers to a platform, henaturally provokes interjections.
– With a revenue exceeding that which was collected last year by more than £1,000,000, I say that any taxation of land values in addition would be a gross extravagance.
.- By way of personal explanation, I should like to read the planks of the Labour Party’s platform, with a view to showing that the statement which I made just now was correct. I do not know whether the honorable member for Parramatta desires me to read the objective of our party.
– Yes. Let us have the objective.
– Very well. The objective reads -
The fighting platform is as follows -
The general platform includes -
Navigation laws, to provide - (a) for the protection of Australian shipping against unfair competition; (b) registration of all vessels engaged in the coastal trade ; (c) the efficient manning of vessels; (d) the proper supply of life saving and other equipment; (e) the regulation of hours and conditions of work; (/) proper accommodation for passengers and seamen ;
It will be seen, therefore, that in respect of the taxation of land values, our platform contains no reference whatever to a £5,000 exemption. In the face of this evidence, the honorable member for Parramatta might well have accepted my assurance. I should like to ask him whether, upon one occasion, he did not describe the land values as legalized theft.
– Is the honorable member making a personal explanation ?
– Cannot I also speak to the amendment ?
– The honorable member is at liberty to do so if he has not previously spoken to it.
– I should like to ask the deputy leader of the Opposition whether he has not described land values as legalized theft, and whether it is extravagance on the part of this Parliament to devote a portion of that legalized theft to such a humanitarian purpose as the payment of old-age pensions?
.- I am very pleased that the honorable member for Kennedy has loaded my amendment.
– I was never removed from a magistrate’s bench.
– I was, because I. fought for the people of this country.
– The observation of the honorable member for Parramatta is -a mean and contemptible one. I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Parramatta in order in addressing to the honorable member for. Barrier the remark that he was never removed from a bench of magistrates?
– Any remark across the Chamber is out of order, and such a remark as the honorable member has indicated is most certainly out of order. If the honorable member for Parramatta made such an observation he must withdraw it.
– But it is perfectly true.
– I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Kennedy has intimated that he is quite prepared to support a Federal scheme of old-age pensions which will be financed out of the revenue derived from Customs taxation. He has also intimated that he believes in the taxation of land values without exemption. I intend to support his loading of my amendment. I desire to see the early establishment of a Federal system of old-age pensions, and I believe that such a scheme can be financed out of the revenue collected through the Customs. This afternoon the leader of the Labour Party emphasized a general principle, but his proposal was so much blank cartridge. The same remark is applicable to the amendment outlined by the honorable member for Parramatta. I happened to have a bullet in my possession, and with it I loaded the cartridge. The great awaken- ing that has taken place to-day is simply marvellous. Every honorable member now professes himself in favour of a Federal scheme of old-age pensions. If the amendment which I have submitted is impracticable, I contend that the original proposal was much more impracticable. I trust that honorable members will support my amendment, with the further amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy.
– I shall vote for direct taxation, but only upon the understanding that I shall respect the pledge which I gave to my constituents to exempt estates up to a value of £5,000.
.- The right honorable member for Swan said that there had been no demand from Tasmania for old-age pensions.
– I said there had been no demand by the Legislature or by members, except the honorable memberfor Darwin.
– I may point out that during the discussion on the last Budget I urged that it was time we had given up talking about old-age pensions, because we were only leading the poor old people to erroneously believe that old-age pensions were about to be established. In my opinion the poor people of Australia do not care whether the Labour Party, the Opposition, or the Government take steps so long as relief is afforded. I intend to vote for neither the proposal of the honorable member for Kennedy nor the proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta, because I believe it is the duty of the Government to find the ways and means of carrying out a resolution of the House. If I thought the Government were not in earnestin the question I certainly would not support them. I intend to vote for the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay, which I regard as reasonable, and a direction to the Government to hasten with legislation.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Irritated ‘by the honorable member for Barrier, I made an interjection which I should not have made under ordinary circumstances. But the honorable member has persistently, day in and day out, made reference to some statement I made fifteen or sixteen years ago. Of course, I sometimes smart under these constant irritating thrusts, when they are viciously made, as in this case ; and I could not help feeling that he has said many foolish things in his time.
– I say foolish things now.
– But I should have put -up with the annoyance, and not made an interjection which I greatly regret.
. -It is unfortunate that we arebuilding up a composite motion the interpretation of which will depend very much on individual inclination. I find myself personally in a position of difficulty. Should the resources of the Customs and Excise prove insufficient, I should ultimately, if I were a private member, advocate before my constituentsthe adoption of atax on unimproved land values; in preference to any other form of taxation ; but,as a matterof fact, I was returned at the last election on the distinct understanding that this proposal was not to be raised or supported by me during this Parliament. I gave that undertaking not so much in my individual position, but as representing the policy of the Government.If the addendum of the honorable member for Kennedy is to be read as applying only to future Parliaments I am at perfect liberty to vote for it, but, if it is taken as applicable to the present Parliament, as is possible, I must vote against it. A certain number of my colleaguesare in a similar position to myself, and consequently it will not be possible to regard this as a Ministerial question. Personal pledges have been given, or, as in my own case, an announcement of policy was made, which binds me, although, under othercircumstances, I should take another course if the circumstances made that necessary.
– Does this proposal refer to this Parliament ?
– I think it does not, but that interpretation might possibly be placed upon it. It might be read as meaning that, unless we could derive from Customs and Excise a sufficient sum, there must be an unimproved land tax. The practical answer to that is that it would take two years after we begin before any revenue could be received. The legislation would have to be framed and passed, the machinery created, the assessments made, and appeals heard, before any payments were made.
– And in two years the Brad don section expires.
– That is the point. I am well aware of it, and if I were prepared to shelter myself behind any such consideration, I could do so; but it is best to be frank. Having put before the country the Government policy, if this question goes to a division I shall be found voting with the noes, and shall ask my colleagues to act in accordance with any pledges which they may have made.
– Did the Government pledge themselves against an unimproved land value tax?
– The Government policy was not to propose direct taxation during the present Parliament.
– I desire to move a further amendment on the amendment of the honorable member forDalley.
– Under our Standing Orders it is impossible that any further amendment can be moved at the present time.
.- Then I shall merely indicate that the amendment I desire to move is to provide that, in the event of sufficient funds not being forthcoming from Customs and Excise, those States which already pay old-age pensions shall be invited to hand the money over to the Commonwealth for distribution.
Amendment (by Mr. Wilks) proposed -
That the following words be added to the words proposed to be inserted : - “ And further, this House is of opinion that the Government’ should give effect tosuch expressed will of the people during this session.”
Amendment (by Mr. McDonald) put -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word “that” the words “in the event of sufficient funds not being available from Customs taxation, the necessary funds shall be raised by direct taxation on the unimproved value of land, and “.
The Committee divided.
Majority … ‘ 3’
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Watkins) proposed -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the word “give” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ take steps towards giving.”
Question - That the word “ give “. stand - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words “ take steps towards giving,” be inserted - resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. Wilks’ amendment, as amended, and Mr. Fisher’s amendment, as amended, agreed to:
The party pledged itself to an’ exemption of £5,000 of unimproved capital value of land, and pledged itself further that the tax should not exceed an imposition of 4d. in the £1 on the largest estate’s. The main object of the tax was to burst up the. large estates, and it was of little moment if the small man escaped for the time being, through estates under£5,000 in value being exempt.
Several Honorable Members. - No
Question, as amended, resolved in the ‘ affirmative.
That, whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of Old-Age Pensions, and whereas the State Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania have made no provision for the payment of Old-Age Pensions this House is of opinion that the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty; and further, this House is of opinion that the Government should take steps towards giving effect to such expressed will of the people during this session.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the practice followed to-day in removing a notice of motion from the businesspaper without application being made to the House for permission to do so. Is that in accordance with the practice of the House or with the Standing Orders? If so, it is altogether opposed to the practice that I have been accustomed to.
– On several occasions previously- I cannot for the moment quote the exact cases - the same thing has been done. When honorable members have desired not to proceed further with a matter, either on account of its coming on in’ some other way, or because of its being superseded, they have dropped the notice of. motion from the paper. The Standing Orders provide, however, that once a question has been put from the Chair it is thereafter the property of the House, and cannot, without the permission of the House, be withdrawn. But no power’ of the House can compel an honorable member to move a motion of which he Has simply given notice.
– He can ask leave to withdraw it.
– It is not necessary for him to withdraw the notice. It is the daily practice of every Parliament that, a notice of motion having been put upon the paper, the member exercises his own choice as to whether he will rise and move the motion or not. Nothing can make him move it unless he chooses to do so. He does not need to withdraw it, because it is not in the possession of the House until Mr. Speaker puts it from the Chair, but once that step has been taken no honorable member can take the question out of the consideration of the House without the consent of the House itself. On the further point of order, which the right honorable member mentioned a few minutes ago, no more surprise is sprung upon the House by following the method to which he refers than is constantly sprung upon it on similar occasions on which grievances may be discussed. On “ grievance day,” any honorable member can bring up any matter he likes without notice at all, and has an absolute right to discuss it. The House was no more taken by surprise today than on every other day when the opportunity for ventilating grievances arrives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080319_reps_3_44/>.