3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- By way of personal explanation, and as a matter of privilege, I desire to refer to a deputation which yesterday waited on the Prime Minister within the precincts of the chamber.
– The honorable member may explain any statement of his which has been misinterpreted, or any action which has been misunderstood; but the right to make a personal explanation does not carry with it the right to comment on the statements of others.
– I wish to make a. personal explanation, and to raise the question of privilege, because my honour has been impugned by men who waited on the Prime Minister yesterday, and made statements which were absolutely without foundation - a stronger term would apply - concerning an action taken by me in this Chamber. I refer to the matter to clear myself in the eyes of honorable members and of the public. The charge has been made that I have tried to do something dishonorable and underhand, and I think that under cover of privilege I shall be allowed to make an explanation which will rebut the slanders and scandalous statements made concerning me. They occur in the report of a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister within the precincts of this chamber yesterday, published in both Melbourne morning newspapers.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to a personal explanation.
– It will be necessary for me to read the statement of which I complain. The Argus and Age reports are practically the same. The deputation comprised the Rev. S. P. Carey, Mr. W. B. McCutcheon, the Rev. T. B. S. Woodfull, and the Rev. A. Stewart). It waited upon the Prime Minister in connexion with my public action in moving in this House for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances leading to the prohibition, by the Postmaster-General, of the delivery of correspondence to the firm of Freeman and Wallace. The Rev. Mr. Carey, in introducing the deputation, said that -
The withholding of letters addressed to any firm was either a monstrous tyranny or an act of accentuated righteousness designed to protect the moral health of the community.
I take no particular objection to those words, but I take objection to what was said by Mr. W. B. McCutcheon, who, I am given to understand - as I think the public should be apprised - is not the Mr. McCutcheon who is a member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria. He is a solicitor - I do not know of what standing in the city - licensed by the Supreme Court to say in Court what he has no right to say within the precincts of the High Court of Parliament. He stated that -
The Council of Churches was unanimously behind him in the action which had been taken. The prohibition had been issued only after the fullest inquiry and consideration.
Every one knows that that is not correct -
And now it was proposed that the unbiased, impartial and public-spirited action of the PostmasterGeneral should be reviewed by a select committee, moved for by one who had brought his personal friendship and masonic influence to bear in favour of an unregistered medical man.
That is an absolute untruth. I challenge every member of the House, from Ministers downwards, to say that I have approached any one, or attempted to introduce Masonry in connexion with this matter. The only two Ministers to whom I have spoken about it are those particularly identified with the case - the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General. I challenge them to say that I have attempted to use Masonic influence with them, or posed as a personal friend of Mr. Freeman. For a pettifogging solicitor to come within the precincts of the House, where we daily, and properly, pray to be guided by the Almighty to do justice to all men, and make a slanderous statement like that, is a thing which I, at least, will not suffer. Who told this gentleman that I had used Masonic influence or personal friendship with Ministers to thwart justice? Who is he that he should make this charge against me? Unfortunately, there is not in existence a Committee by which the matter could be dealt with. Is it to happen within the precincts of this House that persons who are supposed to represent churches - though, to me, it seems an anomaly for a solicitor who is licensed to lie-
– I regard that as a very improper statement.
– Although the honorable member may explain his position - and following the usual practice I wish to give him the widest opportunity to do so - he cannot take advantage of the occasion to speak in terms of contempt of some person not a member of the House. I cannot allow him to refer, as he is doing, to a member of a deputation about whose statements he complains. He may state his own position, but may not use such language in condemnation of others.
– Surely honorable members are entitled to regard their honour.
– The honorable member is entitled to do that, but he may not impugn the honour of others.
– I say that this gentleman, and the Rev. Mr. Woodfull, who made a similar statement, told the Prime Minister a deliberate lie. I challenge them to prove what they said. If this House is to be abused under the cloak of holy religion - which every one ought to revere - for purposes of this kind, what are we coming to? All I did was done straightforwardly and openly. I asked for an open and just inquiry, so that justice should be meted out.
– The statement referred to is a libel.
– Yes ; there is no doubt about that. I will say no more about the matter now. but if either Mr. W. B. McCutcheon, who, I understand, is a solicitor, or the Rev. T. B. S. Woodfull, whose name is well known in the community as one associated with strife, have been informed that I have attempted to exert Masonic influence in this House, I should like to know who is their informant. At the present moment I do not even know whether a single member of the Cabinet belongs to the Masonic organization. In any case, I would not introduce such a great and holy principle as that underlying the Masonic doctrine into the politics of this country. In order that the public may have the fullest opportunity of investigating the case of Messrs. Freeman and Wallace, I intend to move that thewhole of the papers relating to it be laid upon the table of the House. I claim that my action has been perfectly open throughout, that I have never attempted to do what was suggested by the deputation to which I have referred, and I am prepared to stake my life’s record againstthat of either
Mr. W. B. McCutcheonor the Rev. T. B. S. Woodfull, from the stand-point of honest conduct. I have never attempted to uphold wrong, but before punishing alleged evil-doers my desire has always been to afford them an opportunity of rebutting the charges made against them.
.- This afternoon I took exception to certain remarks made by members of a deputation which, yesterday waited on the Prime. Minister. I was not then aware that those responsible for the statements of which I complained had any justification for them, but I have since learnedthat they saw a letter written by me to the Prime Minister, and that their slanderous statements concerning my action were based upon it. It is not among the papers which honorable members have had an opportunity to peruse, but I am informed that the PostmasterGeneral allowed Mr. McCutcheon and the Rev. Mr. Woodfull to see the file containing it. I shall not deal with this matter at length, nor with any other view than to put myself right in the eyes of the country.
– Why not wait until the Prime Minister returns?
– It is due to myself and to the House that I should take the first opportunity to prove my innocence. Those who are guilty of dishonorable conduct have no right to be members of the House. The statements to which I took objection were these, made by Mr. McCutcheon -
And now it was proposed that the unbiased, impartial and public-spirited action of the PostmasterGeneral should be reviewed by a select committee, moved for by one who had brought his personal friendship and Masonic influence to bear in favor of an unregistered medical man. It was understood that the member in question had. himself chosen the committee, and it was felt in the circumstances that the inquiry would not be satisfactory. Evidence in favor of the prohibition could be discarded, or not called; the public would not be represented and if the Council of Churches sent a representative it might be told to mind its own business.
Any one who would sit on a Commission or Committee and be guilty of conduct of that kind would be a dishonorable man. and un- worthy of a seat in this House. The Rev. Mr. Woodfull said-
In the circumstances, the use. of personal friendship and Masonic influence weredegrading to Parliament. . Other firms were doing a similar business, and the postal prohibition should be extended to them, for the evidence againstthemwas strong.
Speaking from memory, the prohibition on the delivery of the letters of the firm took effect from the last day of last year, and attention was called to it, in the first place, not by. myself but by others. Having seen the Postmaster-General on the subject, I wrote to the Prime Minister a letter which I shall lead, and which I ask the At gus and the Age to publish, because probably thousands .of their readers have already read the. charge of dishonorable conduct founded upon it which has been made against me. I am content to be judged by honorable members and the community in the light of the facts. 1 did not use the influence which I am charged with having used. My letter was as follows -
Dear Mr. Deakin,
I saw Mr. Mauger this afternoon in reference to the prohibition he has caused to be gazetted in reference to the firm of Freeman and Wallace Medical Institute, and requested him to grant Mr. Freeman’s request for an inquiry, when he would be enabled to disprove the charges that have been brought against the firm. This Mr. Mauger declines to do. I understand from Mr. Mauger that this action has been taken at the instigation of the State authorities. If this firm has done wrong and the State authorities were aware of it, why did they not take action. Mr. Freeman courts an inquiry, and I see no just reason why that should be denied him. It is a common act of justice that all accused persons should be heard in defence, and the fullest inquiries made into the charges before punishment is inflicted.
I have known Mr. Freeman personally for many years in Sydney, where he is held in high repute. J have associated wilh him in Masonic circles, where he is also held in high repute, and in which he holds some high positions, and I am loth to believe without clear evidence to the contrary that he would associate himself with any shady dr dishonest “transaction. There is some strong feeling in Sydney about the matters, and I have received communications from there to that effect. The holding of. an inquiry would’ elicit the real truth, and to show that Mr. Freeman has nothing to fear he courts it, and I sincerely trust you will be able to persuade Mr. Mauger to sanction it.
I feel some diffidence in writing you as I do not want you to feel that I am complaining to you of a colleague’s action in any unfriendly manner. I have a sincere feeling of friendship for Mr. Mauger. My sole reason for writing is that you might communicate with him on the subject. What possible reason can there be for refusing an inquiry ; it would cause no reflection upon the Minister or Department, and would be considered a mere act of justice to an. accused person by the public, who know nothing of the facts. I, therefore, trust it will still be granted, and if any wrong is proved I shall offer no further objection, as I do not desire to shield the guilty, but to give an accused person a fair chance to prove his innocence.
– The honorable member did refer to his Masonic connexion.
– Masonic influence was not brought to bear on the members of this Chamber.
– Masonic influence was not brought to bear on any member of the Chamber. I do not know whether any honorable member does or does not belong to the Masonic fraternity; I am ignorant whether the Prime Minister is or is not a Mason. I merely mentioned the fact that I had met Mr. -Freeman in Masonic circles, though I had never been in a lodge with him.
– I ask the honorable member not to. debate the matter.
– I shall not do so; but I ask the House to say whether -the letter shows that any attempt was made to use Masonic influence.
– I do not think so; but still the reference was an unfortunate one.
– If I am referring to an individual and desire to show that he is a person of repute-
– The honorable member is distinctly debating the question.
– Only in reply to interjections. I am. content to say that there is nothing in that letter to warrant the charge which has been made against me, or the. accusation that I had “ faked “ the Committee which it was proposed to appoint. The Minister knows perfectly well that, after I submitted the names of the members of the proposed Committee to him, some were struck out and others substituted with his approval. There is absolutely nothing to justify the statement that I would be dishonorable enough to sit upon a Select Committee and suppress evidence which told against the firm of Messrs. Freeman and Wallace. My whole desire has been to secure an open inquiry. If the truth would vindicate the action of the PostmasterGeneral I should not have had a word to say. I leave the matter in the hands of the House, and only ask the press, in justice to me, to publish the letter which I have read, which contains nothing of which I am ashamed. I consider that in asking that “trial should precede punishment I. was only discharging my public duty, and that was the only object which I had in view iri approaching the PostmasterGeneral.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to a letter which has been forwarded by the Cairns Harbor Board to oversea shipping companies, which reads -
My Board are endeavouring to obtain from the Government a remission of all port charges for oversea vessels. I am desired to point out that, as a special inducement for foreign vessels to berth at Cairns, my Board have made the berthage charges absolutely “free, whilst coastal’ vessels gay full rates.
Does not the Minister consider that this differential treatment of oversea and InterState shipping companies is opposed to the policy of the Commonwealth, and calculated to prejudice very materially indeed Australian trade? 1 also wish to know whether he thinks it is fair to ask the InterState shipping companies to practically pay the whole of the wharfage and other port charges, in order that deep sea companies may trade without contributing anything at all ? The Minister will notice that it is proposed to ask the Government for the remission of all port charges, in addition to free wharfage. If he can do something in this matter, will he take the necessary action?
– I have not seen the letter, but I shall bel glad to give attention to the matter, and see what we can do. It seems to me that if there is to be preference it should be to our own people, and that, at any rate, they should suffer no disqualification. It is desirable, as far as can be managed, that boats calling at the different ports should be placed on an equal footing in regard to facilities and charges. I shall be glad to look into .the matter and inform the honorable member.
– Some time ago a prohibition was imposed by the Governments of the eastern States upon stock coming from Western Australia. I understand that that prohibition in regard to horses has since been removed by the Governments of Victoria and South Australia, consequent upon the receipt of information that surri does not exist in Western Australia. But the .prohibition is still operative in New South Wales, and as a result shipping) companies are refusing to ship stock from Western Australia to Victoria or South Australia - where it would be admitted - upon the ground that the ship which carried that stock for a portion of the voyage would be quarantined upon its arrival in Sydney. I understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs has been looking into this matter, and I should like to know whether he can inform the House if New South Wales has yet fallen into line with the other States Governments, and if not, whether he can say when the prohibition in regard to the importation of horses will be removed?
– The honorable member made certain representations to me in regard to this matter some time ago, and I took prompt steps to have the embargo removed. Representations were made to the different States, and the Governments of South Australia and Victoria responded. Representations have also been made by the Prime Minister to the Premier of New South Wales, and I am expecting to hear almost any day that that State has also removed the embargo. If I do not receive word to that effect to-morrow, 1 shall ask the Prime Minister to give the New .South Wales Premier another reminder.
– “When will the Quarantine Bill be brought into force by proclamation ?
– It will be some time before a proclamation can issue, because we are anxious to get certain information before we take over the Department, and we are extremely anxious to work in with the States, so as to avoid the slightest friction and to obtain the best possible re-‘ suits.
Tasmanian Shipping Services - Telephone Bureaux, Sydney - Classification of Mount Gambier and Port Pirie .Post Offices - Wireless Telegraph : Flinders Island and New Zealand - Charges for Postal Orders and Notes
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he is aware that the loss of the steamer Orion deprives the large producing district of Stanley, Tasmania, of all communication with Melbourne and other continental ports, and also of the fact that the Union Steamship Company has become a dangerously exploiting monopoly through having secured a vyce-like grip of the carrying trade of Tasmania. Further, is he aware that the company perniciously refuses to call at such an important “ port as’ Stanley, though it is almost on the direct route to Melbourne, and that produce is often left to rot on the wharf ? Also that the company can charge whatever suits its caprice for the carriage of goods. In’ view of the foregoing indisputable facts, will the Government provide ways and means to establish a Commonwealth line of steamers between Tasmania and Australia, thus relieving the producers and business people from the grasping tyranny of a despotic pagan monopoly ?
– In reply to the first portion of the honorable member’s question, I may say that an announcement appears in this morning’s newspapers that another steamer has been purchased to take the place of the Orion, which has been lost, so that the difficulty to which he refers, has been overcome. As to the Union Steamship Company I have always found it a very good company.
– The Orion did not belong to that company.
– It did not. As far as the Union Steamship Company is concerned, I think that I was instigated upon a former occasion to speak to the manager in reference to the vessels of that company calling at Stanley, Tasmania.
– They have not done so since.
– I dare say that they will. The fault is not with the honorable member. The reply which I received was that it would be rather dangerous at times for the vessels to call there.
– Not at all.
– At any rate, that is the information which I received. I will again communicate with the Melbourne manager of the company with a view to seeing if it is not possible to. induce it to permit its vessels to call at Stanley, which is an important port in the northwest coast district.
– It will be a great convenience, if, at the Sydney PostOffice, the number of rooms at the Telephone Bureau were increased. There are thousands of people who desire to use the telephone weekly; and I wish to know whether the Postmaster-General cannot see his way to at least double the number of cabinets.
– The whole question is under consideration, and I hope that very much increased accommodation will be afforded before long.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is yet able to furnish a reply to the question which I put to him yesterday in regard to the reclassification of the post-offices at Port Pirie and Mount Gambier?
– As I informed the honorable member yesterday the matter is one for which the Public Service Commissioner is alone responsible. My Department has nothing whatever to do with the reclassification of the offices or the officers, but I. have forwarded to the Commissioner the question which the honorable member put, and have asked him for a reply. As soon as it isavailable I shall forward it to the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs.
– The PostmasterGeneral was good enough to say that he . would furnish . to the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs a reply to the question which I asked yesterday in regard to the classification of the Port Pirie and Mount Gambier post-offices I believethe answer is now available.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Post-office at Port Pirie has been classified in the grade above that of Mount Gambier, for the reason that the volume of business performed there exceeds that of the latter office. The statistics show that in almost every detair of postal and telegraphic business, including revenue, the Port Pirie office has the advantage.
– I wish to ask the’ Postmaster- General whether his Department has in contemplation any alteration in connexion with the running of thesteamship Oonah between the mainland and Tasmania? Is it intended that she’ shall call at Stanley, instead of continuing as at present to run direct to Burnie? ‘
– I am not aware of any request having been made for. such an arrangement, or of any proposal to make that alteration.
– I wish to ask the . Postmaster-General whether the charges made. for. postal orders and postal notes are uniform throughout Australia ?
– I believe that they are, but shall make inquiries on the subject.
– I have a question to put to the Postmaster- General without notice. According to the press, tenders are being invited, by his Department for a wireless telegraph service between Flinders
Island and the mainland, as it is thought that it would be too expensive to connect that island with the new cable running through the straits? I should also like to know whether it is the intention of the Minister to call for tenders for supplying and laying a cable direct from Flinders Island to Tasmania? The distance is very short.
– It is not the intention of the Department to do so at present. We are calling for tenders for a wireless telegraph service, it having been represented that we can in that way secure an effective service at a much lower cost than the laying of a cable would involve.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether the Government have in contemplation the establishment of a wireless telegraph service between Australia and New Zealand?
– We have not.
– I desire to know whether it is the intention of the Government to take over the Quarantine Departments of the States, and, if so, whether their properties have been valued, and are included in the list of those to be transferred ?
– Some time ago, I think, the Prime Minister said that it was the intention of the Commonwealth to take over the Quarantine Departments, but I am not in a position to say whether the properties are included in the estimate of valuations. Personally, I do not think that the properties will be valued until they are taken over ; but I shall make inquiries, and be prepared to answer the question tomorrow.
– In view of the calculations made last night by the honorable member for Flinders, indicating that, on the Treasurer’s own estimate, there would, in 1910, be a deficiency of something like £500,000, without any provision for oldage pensions, will the Treasurer make a statement before the House takes into consideration the Old-age Pensions Bill, in order that honorable members who desire to vote for old-age pensions may be able to do so unhampered by any idea that funds are not available? .
– I have no objection to, ‘ as early as I can, inform the
House regarding the figures. I may say, however, that the figures produced by the honorable member for Flinders last night are not correct, as, indeed, I proved at the time.
– Will the Treasurer lay a correct statement before the House?
– I shall give the House any information I can.
– The Treasurer made a statement on this point when delivering his Budget speech.
– I think I did, and honorable members know what the figures are.
– What I have in my mind is a forecast for the next two or three years.
– But any such forecast can, of - course, only be an approximation.
– That is so.
– I am quite prepared, however, to give all the information I can at the earliest possible moment. May I now, Mr. Speaker, make a personal ex-, planation. I have no desire to do the honorable member for Flinders an injustice. Last night, in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable member stated that, after he had made his speech some time ago, he came to be aware of other figures which were included in the Estimates laid on the table. I interjected that the figures were on the table at the time he made the speech, and I thought I was quite correct in saying so; but I find, on examination, that the honorable member for Flinders made his speech on the 29th March, whereas the Estimates were not laid on the table until the 3rd April. I may say, however, that on the 11th MarchI stated that additional Estimates for a considerable sum would be laid on the table ; and that is what I was thinking of when I interjected. I mav further point out that on the 19th March the Prime Minister stated that the honorable member for Wide Bay had anticipated by only two or three weeks a proposition regarding oldage pensions, and that on the 24th of the same month the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in the Senate, said that the financial proposals would be submitted, probably, within the next month, and would include a concrete proposition ‘ for old-age pensions.
– What was that date?
– The date of that speech was the 24th March.
– And on . the 31st March, when moving the .second reading of the Surplus Revenue Bill, the Treasurer did not say a word about old-age pensions !
– Perhaps I did not think it was necessary to do so.
– Perhaps the Treasurer thought it was’ not worth mentioning !
– I did not think anything of the sort. I have no desire, however,, that .there should be any misconception as to the fact that the Estimates were not placed on the table at the date the honorable member for Flinders made his speech.
-! desire to ask the Postmaster-General what has been the result of the representation’s made by a deputation of the Public Service Association of South Australia, as to the disabilities under which the members of the service labour there now as compared with the time when they were under State, control?
– The honorable member was kind enough to let me know he intended to ask this question, and the reply I have to make is as follows -
A statement of the grievances of the South Australian officers in connexion with the Public Service Classification was submitted to the Public Service Commissioner, and his reply was communicated to the officer’s ‘concerned. A further statement has been received from the officers in answer to the Commissioner’s communication, and has also been submitted to the Commissioner. A reply is now awaited. When ‘ the correspondence is complete, I am not aware there will be any objection to it being laid’ on the Table of the House.
– Some little time ago, Western Australian representatives made representations to the Postmaster-General on behalf of public servants on the. gold-fields who, under the new conditions, have not yet received the 5 per cent, allowance which has been given to officers in Perth. The Postmaster-General then expressed his belief in the justice of the claims made ; and I should like to know whether the Treasurer intends to give some consideration .to the opinion of his colleague, and make the necessary provision in the next Estimates.
– On all occasions I shall pay attention to any recommendations made by my colleague the Postmaster-General. The matter under notice has progressed to the stage that, at my request, I have received from the Public Service Commissioner the reasons for the report he made, and I have asked1 that gentleman to supply me with all the papers connected therewith, so that they may be’ laid on the Library table for perusal by honorable members.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I desire to ask the Treasurer whether, in dealing with the question of district allowances and 5 per cent, increases to public servants to meet the extra cost of living in certain parts of the Commonwealth, care will be taken to obliterate State boundaries, and to grant allowances or increases in Western Australia of any other State where the condition of affairs prevailing warrants their payment?
– I think that that is the present practice.
– Not in the case of the 5 per. cent, increases.
– In one or two cases, at all events, that has been done. The Public Service Commissioner informed me when I questioned him about the mat.ter, that the district allowances were granted, irrespective of State boundaries. I think that he showed me that grants had been made in respect of officers in certain parts . of . Queensland, and also in South Australia.
– That relates only to district allowances.
– I think that in some cases the’ same practice has been followed in regard to the granting of the 5 per cent, increases. State boundaries ought not to be taken into consideration, and so far as the Prime Minister, can give instructions they will not. Where the cost of living is high the officers, of the Service, if they are to have any consideration at all, should get the increase. .
-r- I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he regards the preferential trade treaty with South Africa as being still in existence, although it applies to the Customs Tariff Act 1902/ which has recently been repealed ?
– That matter is the subject of a Bill which has been circulated, and which, I presume, will be dealt with to-day or to-morrow.
– I understand that the Bill circulated this morning applies only to British preference. If that is not so, will the Minister of Trade and Customs point put the .clause in it which will continue the operation of the South African Preferential Tariff of 1906, notwithstanding the repeal of” the Customs Tariff Act of 1902?
– I refer the honorable member to clause 4, which is designed to bring the South African Preferential Tariff of 1906 into line with the new Tariff. Owing to the wording of the South African Preference Tariff, preference is given to some of that country’s goods on the basis of the 1902 Tariff, but clause 4 of the Bill will remove any difficulty.
– Will the Treasurer cause to be made available to any members of State Parliaments who desire it a CODY of the Official Year-Book of the Commonwealth. When the Year-Book was in the hands of the States authorities members of this Parliament were very liberallytreated ?
– I do not know what expenditure would be involved in giving effect to the honorable member’s proposal. I think, however, that it is very desirable, and shall ask the Prime Minister, within whose Department the matter comes, to make inquiries. I am sure that if it is possible to accede to the request he will dp so.
– Is the Minister of Defence yet able to lay on the table of the House the return for which I asked some months ago, and which he said yesterday he had in his office, showing the number of Crimean and Indian Mutiny veterans at present in the Benevolent Asylums of Australia ?
– I am able to supply the right honorable member with information as to the number of these veterans in each institution in Australia ; but I think ‘ that the question put yesterday by him went a little further. I was then asked what action the Government .intended- to take eventually with regard to ameliorating the condition of these men.
– That is- so ; but I asked months ago for a return as to the number in Benevolent Asylums in the Commonwealth.
– I shall supply the information in a day or two.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether the supply of up-to-date rifles of an approved type in the possession of his Department is sufficient to equip at an early date the large number of cadets recently enrolled throughout the Commonwealth?
– The rifles now in the Commonwealth or under order will be sufficient to do so.
– When will the supplies under order be here ?
– There has been considerable trouble in regard to the selection of an approved type of rifle, and all that I can do is to expedite the delivery. The Department, whoever may be at the head of it, is sure to have trouble with regard to the equipment of cadets, having, in view the way in which their numbers are increasing from time to time.
Bullying of Recruits - NonCommissioned Officers.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
If he .will lay upon the table of the House a copy of the statement of the trading account of the Eastern Extension Asiatic and China Telegraph Co. with Australia, as provided for in clause 11 of the agreement existing between that company and New South Wales, made 16th January, 1901 ?
asked the Treasurer, upon, notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions - :- 1 and 3. Total amount paid to each of the States in excess of three-fourths of the net Cus toms and Excise Revenue for period ist January, 1901,” to 31st May, 1968 -
Note. - This statement is approximate only.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I am informed -
Mr. MAUGER laidupon the table the following paper -
Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company Limited - Statements showing the total value to that company and the Cis- Indian Administrations of the Australasian traffic during the calendar years 1901 to 1907, both inclusive.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure gives legislative force to a principle which has long been in the platforms of the various political parties of the Commonwealth. The Government has consistently advocated the payment of Commonwealth old-age pensions, and has always determined to provide for it at the earliest opportunity. It is not necessary at this stage of our national development to support with arguments the need for a Commonwealth old-age pensions system. In every enlightened community the establishment of old-age pensions is regarded as an ideal whose attainment should be earnestly sought, it being felt to be a reproach to civilization that many persons whose lives have been spent in working for the advancement of the State should in their old age, through no fault of their own, be compelled to end their days in charitable institutions. The States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, pay old-age pensions to those who have resided within their borders for a certain period, but, in the remaining three States of the Union, no such provision is made for the declining years of those upon whom misfortune has fallen. The Bill provides for the establishment of a national system of old-age pensions. It recognises that our citizens must frequently move from State to State in pursuit of their various callings, and that it is unjust to base the right to a pension on continuous residence in any one State. We owe much to the labours of the Old-age Pensions Commission for formulating a national scheme. It took evidence, and presented an unanimous report, signed by members of every party. But it is not enough that this policy should receive the sanction of all political parties ; it must be. carried into effect by legislation. The provisions of this Bill are generous and just, and adequately meet the conditions of the Commonwealth. I am having prepared for distribution a table showing the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the scale of payments made by the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, and the scale of payments now proposed. The Commonwealth proposals are liberal- though not unduly so-and just. We propose that a pension of £26 per annum shall be payable, under certain conditions, to every person who has attained the age of sixty-five years, or, if permanently incapacitated for work, the. age of sixty years. We intend to make no deductions from the amount of £26 if thepensioners happen to be husband and wife, and are living together. But if a person is deriving an income from any source except that of a friendly society, or trade or provident society, there will be deducted from his pension one pound for every pound of income he receives in excess of £26. Thus, if a man is 65 years of age, and has an income of £30 a year from personal exertion, he will still get an old-age pension, but the amount will be reduced by the sum of £4. The amount of pension must not exceed £26 in any event, nor must it be at such a rate as will make the pensioner’s income together with his pension exceed £52 per annum. A second deduction is based upon the possession of property. A deduction of£1 will be made for every £10 by which the net capital of the propertyheld by a pensioner is in excess of £50. In the case of property being a home the exemption is extended to £100.
– Is that a new provision ?
– The principle is not a new one. It has been adopted in some of the States. Thus, if a man has accumulated property valued at £100, a deduction would be made from his pension of £5.
– The pension will be always kept at £26 a year?
– It is fixed at £26 per. annum, but liable to reduction as stated. I am assuming that honorable members ate familiar with the principle underlying these deductions. If a man has accumulated property, it is only fair that it should be utilized in supporting him, instead of being left to his descendants. In addition, the Bill proposes at some future date - presumably when our finances are in a better condition - to make a further concession which is not provided for in any of the States Statutes-. We intend to give women of the age of 60 years - whether they are permanently incapacitated or not - the full amount of the pension.
– I suppose the Government think that otherwise they would not acknowledge their age?
– Our statistical returns enable us to ascertain their ages. Another portion of the Bill deals with the question of invalids. We propose to grant pensions to invalids. At present the only State in the Union which grants these pensions is that of New South Wales. There they are granted upon the basis of about £26 per annum. In Victoria a qualified invalid pension obtains. But we do not propose to bring this portion of the Bill into operation immediately. We intend to give power to the Governor-General in Council to make it operative by proclamation at a future date.
– For financial reasons?
– Yes. It can be made operative immediately the finances will permit of that being done. Further, we do not propose to call upon relations for contributions. That plan was recommended by the Old-age Pensions Commission, but it is not the law in New South Wales or in Queensland or New Zealand. The only State in which the principle of contribution is recognised is that of Victoria. .
– And I am ashamed of it.
– There are very serious objections to be urged to it, but I do not propose to discuss them at this stage. I shall now give honorable ‘members a brief outline of the conditions that obtain in the various States at the present time. In New South Wales pensions are granted to persons on attaining the age of 65 years, or of 60 years in the case of the inability of the claimant from physical unfitness to earn his own living. There is also an invalid pension based on the same ground as that which is recognised under this Bill, namely, permanent incapacity for work by reason of accident or of being an invalid, provided that the person has attained the age of 16 years and is not in receipt of an old-age pension. In New South Wales the pension is £26 per annum, but in the case of husband and wife living together it is reduced to , £19 10s. each. That is the only State where this reduction takes place. A deduction of £1 is also made for every complete pound by which the income of a pensioner exceeds £26 per annum, or£19 10s. where husband and wife are both the recipients of pensions. There is also a reduction of £1 for every complete£15 of net capital value. In Victoria pensions are granted to persons on attaining the age of 65 years, and a kind of invalid pension is’ granted to those, suffering from permanent ill-health, the result of having been engaged in mining or any prescribed dangerous or unhealthy occupation. The pension is £26 per annum, but the income from all sources inclusive of pension must not exceed 10s. per week. But where a pensioner derives any income from personal exertion the sum of 2s. per week is not considered in reckoning income. In Queensland the pension is granted to persons, upon attaining the age of 65 years. The pension is £26 per annum, and a. deduction is made of £1 for every complete pound of income above £26 per annum. There is also a deduction of £1 for every complete £15 of net capital value.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral tell us what is the estimated cost of the scheme ?
– I shall come to that point presently. In New Zealand a pension is granted to persons on attaining the age of 65 years, but it amounts to only £18 per annum. There a deduction . is made of £1 for every complete pound of income above £34. per annum. Where husband and wife are both entitled to pensions, except where they are living apart, the total incomes and pensions must not exceed £78 per annum. A deduction of £1. is . also made for every complete , £15 of net capital value. If honorable members will compare the proposals of the Government with the conditions underlying the granting of pensions by the various States they will perceive that the Commonwealth is endeavouring to deal fairly and generously with the Australian people. From an Australian stand-point the great benefit to be derived from this scheme will be that if a person who has been resident in Victoria for seven or ten years, removes to Western Australia where he remains for three years, arid subsequently spends the remaining years of his life in Queensland helping to develop our national industries, he will still be regarded as an Australian citizen, and will be the recipient of the pension. The remainder of the Bill deals with administration, and is really a matter for consideration in Committee. But, perhaps, I may be permitted to give a general outline of its machinery provisions. In the first’ place we propose to appoint a Commissioner who will supervise the whole of the old-age pension system. A Deputy Commissioner will be appointed in each State, which will.be subdivided into districts.
– Will the administration of the Act be the sole work of the Deputy Commissioners?.
– Not necessarily. I presume that we shall appoint Commonwealth officers to act as Deputy Commissioners.
– Officers at present in the service?
– Yes. It is the intention of the Government, if the Bill should become law, to avail ourselves to the full of the services of Commonwealth officers for the purpose of administering it. There are many advantages to be derived from the adoption of that course. The officers are under our control, are subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act, and are part of a national system. A Registrar will be appointed for each district into which the States are subdivided. He will receive pension claims, and investigate and report upon them. They will then be submitted to either a stipendiary, police, or special magistrate whom the Commonwealth may appoint for the purpose. The claims will be examined by one of these officials in open Court if necessary, and he will- indorse his recommendation on the claims, which’ will then be returned to the Registrar. The Registrars will then make a report, which will be forwarded to the Deputy Commissioners, whose duty it will be to determine the claims. When he has done that a pension certificate will be issued to deserving claimants. Offices will be established in different parts of Australia, and a pensioner will produce his certificate at one of these offices and receive his payment. The pensions, in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, will be paid fortnightly. ‘ I may add that in this Bill there are complete powers given for the imposition of necessary safeguards, for complete investigation of every claim,’ for a reference back of recommendations, and for cancelling and reducing claims. In short, everything has been done to enable us to exercise . full control over the entire system. The scheme has been drafted in the light of the experience of the different States, and the fact has been kept in view that a national system is to be organized and developed. The Bill also provides for the imposition of severe penalties upon persons who obtain pensions by fraud, who make false statements, or who are otherwise guilty of improper conduct. I have been asked what the scheme will costAustralia.
– Pensions and administration.
– What does it matter what it will cost so long as we do justice?
– We must pay some regard to the cost of administration. . It is estimated that the cost will be about ^1,500,000 per annum.
– Including invalid pensions?
– .No: and that is becauseinvalid pensions are to be brought into existence at a later time, when the finances permit.
– The estimate is exclusiveof the cost of management ?
– It is not expected that the entire cost, including that of management, will be much above the sum I have named.
– The cost of management will be a mere bagatelle.
– The Bill has beenframed with a view to reducing, as far as possible, the cost of management ; and, instead of adopting the New South Wales expensive system of Boards, we have followed the simpler system adopted in Victoria and Queensland. Honorable memberswill get some idea of what will be thecost if they are told that in New South Wales the expenditure on management, in- 1906-7, was ^19,449, while in Victoria it was ,£1,746. The Victorian system has been found elastic and effective enough ; and the cost of management for the whole of the Commonwealth will be in the same proportion.
– That is not allowing anything for the extra, labour of the States’ officers.
– That may be so, but honorable members will see that, in any case, the cost of administration will be comparatively trifling, especially if we utilize our own officers. The Bill is to come into operation on the ist July, 1909; and, unless something of a very unforeseen nature occurs, we shall, out of the reserves created by the Surplus Revenue Bill, and out of current revenue, be able to meet the expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1910, and have a proportion for the time from the ist July to the 31st December.
– The weakness in our finances is that there is no permanent provision for old-age pensions.
– We are relying on .the revenue which it is estimated will be received during the years when this Bill will be in operation.
– Is there- any provision to ear-mark money for the purpose ?
– It is proposed to pay the money into a trust fund.
– The whole of it, or. only a portion ?
– The Treasurer will pay out of his revenue sufficient into the trust fund to meet the expenditure.
– That is not ear-marking.
– Probably not. All moneys raised by taxation under the Constitution must be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth. We can ear-mark, as it were, by creating a trust fund by appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue. The estimates of revenue I have given are on the assumption that the States continue their present systems of old-age pensions, or do not assist us in any way out of their three-fourths of the revenue. It would appear, however, from the resolution passed at the Premiers’ Conference, and the general tone of the discussions there, that, if we can come to a financial agreement, the States are quite prepared to permit of a deduction being made from their proportion of the Customs and Ex’cise revenue. We all’ hope and believe that the States will desire to assist us in creating a thoroughly national system.
– This is really an arrangement until the Braddon section expires?
– When the Braddon section expires, there will -be much greater elasticity in regard to revenue.
– In other words, the Commonwealth will then be able to do as it likes.
– But we have shown every consideration to the States all through ; and I am satisfied, from the tone of the discussion in all parts of this House, that the States will never be able to accuse the Commonwealth of dealing unjustly by them. Honorable members will see that, unless something unforeseen occurs, there will be sufficient funds to carry out this national system of old-age pensions. This is legislation which appeals to the sympathies of all honorable members ; and T am sure we have sufficient confidence in the powers of the Commonwealth to believe that we can. successfully finance the scheme. Mr. Howe, the member of the Federal Convention, who had the wise foresight, to move that this power be conferred on the Commonwealth, quoted Mr. John Morley as saying that the man or party who solved the question of preventing a man who had worked hard all his life - who had maintained a family, and been a good citizen - from going in his old age to the workhouse, would deserve more glory than that to be gained by winning great victories in the battle-field. These words are true , to-day ; and this Parliament, if the scheme be successfully brought into operation, will be able to look back to this as one of the greatest measures passed here. In our modern civilization, States- are beginning to realize the sense of deep national responsibility to every single unit in the community, and to feel that, if any single person in ‘the great industrial army meets with disaster in the course of his work, a duty is owing to him. A carpenter, in erecting some fine building for us. to live in, is, in his particular sphere, doing a national work; and we, as a nation, owe to him a duty, so that, if trouble or accident overtakes him, we should see that he is not sent to the workhouse or left to starve in the streets. That is the spirit and feeling which is more and more animating the legislation of the times.
– That is more charitable than just !
– It is justice, but it is not charity. Modern society is so organized that we all have our different duties to perform,’ some dangerous, and some less dangerous ; no man carries out his individual duty in life for himself alone. The carpenter I have mentioned does not build for himself, but is fulfilling his part as a citizen, in a distinct organism or corporation ; and we, as a nation, owe a responsibility to him,.
– Is the honorable member now speaking of invalid pensions?
– Can the AttorneyGeneral state what the cost of these pensions will be?
– The only estimate we have is that based on the estimate made in New South Wales when a scheme was introduced there, and it means, I think, about £60,000 per annum. We have no practical working on which to base an estimate ; but, in any case, the cost will be a comparatively trifling addition to that of the whole scheme, because, on the New South Wales estimate, it cannot exceed .£200,000 for all Australia.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral any figures to show how much is being paid per annum in the three States where such pensions are paid?
– I can only give the figures for New South Wales and Victoria, and the estimated cost for Queensland, where the scheme has not yet come into operation.
– The Commonwealth! scheme is more liberal than that of New South Wales.
– Slightly, but not so much as to seriously interfere with the estimate. ‘
– Has the fact been taken into account that’ there will be a larger number of applicants under the Federal scheme than under a State scheme?
– Yes, and that is why we adopt the New South Wales basis.
– Is it expected that the cost will exceed that of New South Wales?
– We are assuming that New South Wales, as a large portion of Australia, is normal in its conditions.
– But the qualification for a pension there is different.
– The New South Wales qualification approximates more than any other to that in the Bill. On the whole, honorable members will see that the scheme is a practical and essentially , just one, as it is also one which is nationally urgent.
.- We have arrived at a time of the Session when we should try to be as brief as possible in dealing with the public business; and I hope I shall show an example in the remarks which I propose to address, to honorable members. I must’ say, however, in the first place, that it is, in my opinion, unreasonable to expect us to do justice at this stage of the session to a Bill like this,, containing as it does fifty or sixtyclauses dealing with a subject of vast importance. If this Bill is to be rushed through the House in the hurried manner that is necessary at this stage, we cannot possibly expect to do credit to. ourselves or justice to the system. This is a matter on which there is not a semblance of party feeling. or opposition, and I would therefore suggest, for the consideration of the Government, whether, as the Bill is not to come into force until 1st July, 1909 - as it is not to come into operation for twelve months or more-
– Or less.
– Not at all.
– We have power under the Bill to bring it into operation at an earlier date.
– There is no intention of doing so.
– There is.
– What? To provide £1,500,000 for this purpose’ within the next twelve months? It is impossible.
– May I remind the right honorable member that the States which have old-age pensions Systems in operation may hand them over to us at any time with no disadvantage to themselves?
– We are all in favour of that, and I, with others, have been doing what I can to bring about such an arrangement. The subject is not new to me. I am very glad to hear now that honorable members anticipate the possibility of a friendly arrangement being made with the States. When I expressed such a hope last night it was ridiculed.
– I have never uttered a word to the contrary.
– To-day it would appear that an arrangement with the States in regard to this matter is becoming possible. I am glad to hear it, and hope’ that it will be made. I wish to express the strongest possible opinion that in this one respect the States Governments have, acted with a lamentable want of sagacity and discretion, and have prejudiced their position immensely in respect of a matter upon which they have right on their side. We have had a very brief time to consider this Bill. It is idle to say that any -one could have carefully considered it since it was circulated. I received a copy at about 1 o’clock this morning.
– I have not been able to read it.
– I suppose that many honorable members have not. ‘ The conditions under which we are studying the Bill are not in keeping with its importance, and do not enable us to do justice to the system to which it relates. Having taken such time as I could to go through the Bill, I propose very briefly to deal with one or two aspects of it; but before doing so, I wish to heartily commend its character, in so far as it removes any suggestion of an old-age pension being a charitable allowance. Such an idea degrades a system of old-age pensions. I should look upon a person who qualified under this Act to receive a pension as being just as fully entitled to it as is a CommanderinChief of the British Forces, or the Chief Justice of Great Britain, or of any other part of the Empire, to receive a pension under any other system. An old-age pension, in my opinion, is just as honorable as is a pension given under any other system to distinguished public servants. I am therefore glad that the Bill has not, as far as I can see, any taint or suggestion of charity in connexion with the system for which it provides. But the financial aspect of the measure must come home to us. Invalid pensions are not to come into force until a date to be specified by proclamation ; but old-age pensions, which are the larger consideration, are to come into force on ist July, 1909. To speak of bringing into operation twelve months hence a legal liability to pay something like £1,500,000 for the year 1909-10, when even the most reckless prophet of public revenues and surplus moneys would not dream of saying that we shall have the money available for the payment of these pensions, is to talk of wild and reckless finance. Are we going to commence this system, and to begin our operations in finance by landing the Commonwealth in a deficiency - by passing a Bill which, on the face of it, gives the old people of Australia a right to draw money, although there is no chance of the full amount required to pay all those old people being available? The Bill provides that old-age pensions shall be payable after ist July, 1909 ; but the moneys which are to go into the hands of the old people entitled to receive them can be paid only when an appropriation has been made for that purpose. If we have no money to appropriate that will be a bad start for this Bill.
– It is a bad start to talk of spending ,£50,000 in entertaining the American Fleet if we cannot provide money for old-age pensions.
– That, if I may say so without offence, is an unfortunate remark. Australia, whether Tightly or wrongly, has extended an invitation to the Fleet of the United States- ‘
– I am meeting the interjection made by the honorable member for Wannon. I know that my honorable friend is actuated by the best of motives ; but in view of the early arrival of the guests of the people of Australia such remarks are unfortunate. They do not strike a pleasant note. Coming to the subject-matter before us at the present time, I repeat that this proposal to establish a liability to pay £1,500,000 per annum as from the ist July, 1909, has no financial basis. Surely we are not going to begin a career of wild-cat finance in connexion with the Federal Parliament ! Even if we give the States the bare three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled, we cannot possibly be financial on the basis of this measure. This is a very important matter. We want to give the system an honest start, and if we do not, infinite mischief will be done to the reputation of this Parliament. Surely honorable members see before them a very serious conflict between the Commonwealth and- the States Governments - a conflict which must be submitted to the people of Australia. I hope that it will be averted by . a wise compromise before the general election comes round ; but if it is not, this will be a serious matter for the consideration of the masters of these Governments and Parliaments - the people of Australia. Are we going to prejudice ourselves by establishing a system that stands on a rotten financial basis? If the money is available well and good ; but if it is not we shall build upon a rotten foundation, and shall be unable, however excellent our object, to justify, ourselves before the people of Australia. I leave that phase of the question for the present, simply throwing out the suggestion that a Bill of one clause passed now would create the desired position under the Surplus Revenue Bill. By such a Bill we could provide for an appropriation, and lay the foundation for the operation of this measure. We do not want a Bill of fifty clauses to lay the foundation of a transfer of money to the trust fund.
– If .we do not pass this Bill we shall be unable to make arrangements with the States in the event of their being willing to come to an arrangement before the date named. We wish to be ready if the States are prepared to meet us in any way.
– The ‘next Conference of States Premiers will not take place until the beginning of the year, and all the arrangements for bringing this system into operation can be made next session, which will commence at the latest in September. I am not suggesting the shelving of the Bill. I am merely urging that it should stand over for more mature consideration by all parties. It could be taken as the first business of the session commencing in September next, and dealt with long before the Premiers’ Conference, which will meet in January or February next.
– Let us dealwith the Bill now.
– I do not want to press my objections. I am simply performing my duty by warning the House of the conditions under which this work is going to be done. There is no reason why the requisite appropriation should not be made this, session by means of a Bill consisting of only one clause, and this Bill dealt with sensibly and reasonably at the beginning of the next. I content myself with making these observations, which, I think, are well worthy of consideration.
– The numbers are against the right honorable member. His suggest tion is not likely to be adopted.
– One has a duty to perform, irrespective of calculations of that sort, and I am making the suggestion in the performance of my duty. I have seen enough of the Bill to be satisfied that it needs far greater consideration than we can give it at this stage of the session. I have seen enough of it to satisfy me that the scheme for which it provides will be overburdened by an excessive nicety of administration; that will do a great deal to create widespread discontent amongst the masses of the people . to be affected by its provisions.
– If the honorable member compares the scheme with those of the States Acts he will find that his . fear is exaggerated.
– I do not compare it with those of the States, because the latter afford no basis of comparison. There is a vast difference between an old-age pensions system spreading over the whole of the continent and one relating only to Victoria or New South Wales.
– This will probably involve an annual expenditure of at least £2,000,000.
– I do not wish to address myself to the financial aspect of the Bill to a greater extent than I have done. Whatever the scheme is to cost, we ought to begin on a sound, honest, basis of finance; we should have the money to pay for it. I do not wish to complicate the issue by raising the question of how much we are to appropriate. If this scheme is to cost £z, 000, 000 or- £3,000,000, let the money be provided before we tell the people of Australia that it is waiting for them. The curious position is that we have no money to pay them with.
– Does not clause 2 mean that the moneys must be found and appropriated? Is not that provision man,datory ?
– No; because there is a provision that the pensions are to be paid from funds appropriated for the purpose. There is no appropriation by the Bill.
– It is the same with every other Bill.
– I mention the fact in answer to a question. The Bill does not guarantee the payment of a penny.
– Does the right honorable member think that any Government would take the risk of not paying pensions if the Bill were passed?
– I am speaking of the Bill as it stands. Surely honorable gentlemen db not wish me to talk at random. Not one penny is appropriated by this measure.
Every pension to be paid must come put of money appropriated under ‘ some other Bill.
– Would it be possible ito make the Bill appropriate money?
– I do not say that it would not; I merely point out that the Bill does not appropriate. May I ask, however, how we can appropriate enough money to meet a liability of £1,500,000 within twelve months, seeing that our surplus is now only £400,000 or £500,000? We cannot use the Printing Office to issue bank notes for indefinite amounts. I am passing by provisions of which I approve, and addressing myself only to those to which I take exception; and think worthy of serious consideration. Clause 16 disqualifies, absolutely, aliens and naturalized subjects of the King naturalized within three years preceding their claim for pensions, both very proper provisions. We ought not to pay pensions to aliens, nor to persons who, having been living in the country for nearly twenty-five years as aliens, suddenly make themselves subjects of the King in order to obtain oldage pensions. It is paragraph c to which I direct, attention. While attaching the fullest importance to the principles comprehended in the phrase “a White Australia,” which Parliament has so fearlessly and firmly indorsed, I ask honorable members to consider whether we should carry the colour line so far as to provide that decent and reputable naturalized coloured persons, whether Asiastics, Africans, aboriginals of Australia, or members of one of the noblest races in the world, the Maories, shall not be eligible for pensions after living twentyfive years in this country ? The persons whom I have in mind came here under the laws of the States. They did not sneak into the Commonwealth.
– Some of them were brought here.
– Yes. I wish the House, in its sublime complacency and confidence in its sure strength, to remember that there are occasions when we should ‘ recognise the
Common humanity of all members of the human race. To put the argument on the lowest ground, is it worth our while to brand ourselves with the meanness attaching to a despicable action of this kind for the sake of the small expenditure on pensions which it will save?
– Would the right honorable member allow pensions to be paid to Chinese ?
– Yes; to all decent persons, of whatever colour or nationality, who have resided continuously in Australia for twenty-five years.
– There are a great many Chinese here.
– I would not single out any. naturalized person who has lived twentyfive years in Australia as unworthy of a pension. We may distinguish in our. charities as we like, but this is not a charity.
– What about the aboriginals ?
– Surely they ought not to be objected to?
– They are dealt with otherwise.
– So are some other classes of persons. Separate provision is made for those who are in asylums.
– Would the right honorable member give pensions of 10s. a week to the naked blacks in the Northern Territory ?
– Ten shillings a week is the maximum payment, subject to reduction by regulation. Let those who wish to do so draw this despicable distinction, and flaunt the insult in the faces of the millions who are not white ; it is foreign to the genius of a measure like this !
– Coloured persons cannot now enter Australia. The provision to which the right honorable member takes exception is exactly the same as that in the New South Wales Act.
– It is no answer to say that this despicable thing is done in one part of Australia. We wish to establish a just oldage pensions system for the whole Commonwealth. I am speaking of persons already here, who have been naturalized subjects of the King, not for a year or two, but for fifteen or twenty years. To exclude them from the benefits of the measure would be despicable, and it is not necessary in the interests of the great principles to which I have referred. We may draw as sharp a line as we please between ourselves and other nations, but we should draw no distinction between fellow citizens and fellow subjects. I deeply regret the insertion of the provision. Sub-clause 3 of clause 18 at first sight appears a very proper provision -
In. calculating any claimant’s length of residence in Australia any time during which he was in prison for any criminal offence shall be excluded.
That means that when an applicant’s claim for a pension is investigated, this question must be asked, “ Have you, during your continuous residence of twenty-five years, been in gaol “ ? Let me put a case to the House. An old man, aged 65 years, who has lived in Australia since he was 40, may apply for a pension. In his later life he has earned a character for honesty and decent conduct. But 24 years ago he spent twelve months in gaol. Is the stigma of his old, forgotten crime, which subsequent years of honest effort have removed, to be revived ? I hope that our old men and old women will not be subjected’ to such questioning.
– It would only mean that the applicant would have to postpone for another twelve months his claim to a pension.
– Does the right honorable member object to this provision?
– I do object to it. Such inquiry must occasionally have intensely painful results, and is unnecessary. We are thankful that our criminals are very few in proportion to the population.
– I had to answer a similar question twice when travelling from England to America, and from America to Australia.
– Fortunately, the right honorable member could answer that question without any trouble, but there are others who do not occupy that happy position. I do not desire to see questions of that sort upon any old-age pension paper in Australia.
– I suppose that the drafts: men have been misled by the Acts of New South Wales and Victoria.
– I merely point out the matter for the purpose of showing that it is one which ought to be carefully considered. I desire to separate provisions of the kind I have mentioned from a number of other provisions, which it seems to me, will involve an amount of unnecessary routine, which, in the aggregate, will be enormous. For instance, sub-clause 2 of clause 39 provides that under the circumstances enumerated in the previous subclause, the instalment of the pension, which may be payable at any particular period, shall be “ deemed to be forfeited.” That, I think, is altogether too drastic. The AttorneyGeneraI might, with advantage, make the provision read, “ shall be liable to forfeiture.” We do not want to make the title of these old persons unstable, especi ally in view of. the investigations which; accompany the granting of the pensions. Then clauses 42 and 43 contain provisionswhich I do not like, and which, I think, are neither necessary nor sensible, notwithstanding that they have been copied from State Acts. Clause 42 reads -
Whenever the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that, having regard to the age, infirmity,, or improvidence of a pensioner, or any other special circumstances, it is expedient that payment of any instalments of the pension be made to any minister of religion, justice of thepeace, or other- person, a warrant to that effect shall be issued by the Deputy Commissioner and transmitted to the person authorized thereinto receive payment.
Honorable members will notice that theeffect of coupling “ any minister of religion, or justice of the peace “ with “ other person,” is to make the clause refer to anybody. Why should we introduce a minister of religion, or a justice of the peace, in that conspicuous way, seeing that the words which follow make the provision applicable to any person? When we allow any person in the Commonwealth to do a certain thing, we do not need to specially mention a minister of religion, or a justice of . the peace. Honorable members will gather from the criticisms which I have offered, that I am in favour of the majority of the provisions of the Bill. I have not wasted time by traversing .them all, and’ saying that I approve of them. I have merely directed attention to one or two matters which might, with advantage, te considered. But when I come to the provisions relating to administration - and honorable members know that administration will play a very important part in the successful working of this system - I find that many of them will enormously, and unnecessarily, extend the course of administration, and will cause inconvenience to the individual claimants. I will mention one or two of these. For example, sub-clause- 3, of clause 15, provides -
No old-age pension shall be paid to any person who is under the age of sixty-five years unless and until his. claim is certified by a registrarpursuant to this Act, and is recommended in writing by a Deputy Commissioner, and approved by the Commissioner.
Surely our Deputy Commissioners will be persons of sufficient capacity to decide individual claims, which Can only amount to- £26 per annum. Surely there is no necessity for a double approval. Honorable members who have had official experience know that every additional approval required involves considerable delay. Con- sidering that the whole liability of the Commonwealth is limited, in the case of one man or woman, to £26 per annum, I contend that this double approval would make for intolerable delay.
– And the Commissioner will have to act upon the recommendations of his deputies.
– Exactly. The Deputy Commissioners may safely be vested with this discretionary power. The effect of the provision in its present form would be to centralize details in one place in a vast continent. Under it no claim could receive the approval of the Commissioner until it had been approved elsewhere.
– A similar provision is contained in our Public Service Act.
– Yes. Clause 23 provides - The amount of an invalid pension shall in every case be determined annually by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, having regard to any income or property possessed by the applicant and the fact that his relatives contribute to his maintenance, and the fact also of his having received compensation from any source in respect of any injury.
Although it is not compulsory for children to contribute to the maintenance of their parents, the fact that they do so is to be taken into account. I do not object to that. I heartily approve of the action of the Government in declining to copy any legislation which compels children to contribute to the support of their parents. Surely the humiliation of some aged ‘man or woman whose” children are unnatural enough to refuse - instead of welcoming it as their highest privilege - to shelter their parents in their declining years, is sufficiently disgraceful without advertising them as the father and mother of such degraded specimens of humanity. I heartily approve of the elimination of such a proDOsal from this Bill.
– There is the saving to the revenue to be considered.
– That is provided for in the Bill. In cases where children voluntarily maintain their parents this Bill will not become operative.
– Where is that stated ?
– In clause 23, in reference to invalid pensions. I have the greatest pity for parent’s who are advertised as having been responsible for such a wretched offspring. I would prefer the latter to escape contributing to their support than that we should advertise the parents under such conditions. It will be observed that clause 23 provides that in every case the amount of the pension shall be determined annually. I would suggest that the majority of cases are so simple that there will be no need for a compulsory investigation. Consequently I think that it would be wise to substitute the word ‘ ‘ may ‘ ‘ for the word “ shall.”
– If children voluntarily assist tEeir parents their contributions will be regarded as ‘ ‘ income ‘ ‘ derived by the parents.
– The Bill does not regard such contributions as income. Assuming that a friend renders assistance to old persons, that is not regarded under this Bill as income.
– Look at paragraph h of clause 22.
– That relates to an invalid pension:
– I think that it ought to apply in both cases.
– That may be so. Clause 29 applies to both classes of pensions. It reads -
Upon the completion of his investigations, the Registrar - shall refer the claim - that means all claims - together with a full report of the result of the investigations which have been made, to a Magistrate.
Other clauses provide for an elaborate course of judicial procedure. The claimant has to receive notice to appear-
– Why cannot the Registrar be the final court ?
– Exactly. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the circumstances of the applicant will be such that, to put the Commonwealth” or the State - because probably the magistrates who hear the cases will be State magistrates - to the expense of a judicial investigation in every instance would be absolutely a waste of time. This is a matter which might well receive consideration at the hands of the AttorneyGeneral. In its present form the clause will throw an enormous amount of extra work on the inferior courts of the States, most of which will be absolutely unnecessary. We might provide that there should be a power of referring such cases to a judicial tribunal. But to make this part of the routine before a claim is recognised, seems to me an absolutely misconceived process. Clause 37 provides that every pensioner in Australia shall make an annual statement of the amount of income which he has received. Of course, in some cases, such a statement might be necessary, but, in my opinion, discretion ought to be exercised, seeing that the great majority of cases will be such as to make it a sheer waste of time. Many of these old people are infirm, and have few facilities for making official applications or returns; and they might be exposed to a vast degree of inconvenience, without the slightest necessity.
– The clause will be administered with great sympathy, I think.
– There must be supervision.
– I do not wish to say for one moment that the Registrar should not have the power to require such a statement, but, in thousands and tens of thousands of cases he might, after a few years of experience of the people, come to the conclusion that it represented a waste of time. The power is a very proper one to have, but to provide that it shall be exercised annually appears to be unnecessary. Clause 38 provides for the time of the payment of the pensions, and it probably follows Acts in force in the States. The clause says -
Each instalment of. pension shall be payable fortnightly at an office named in the pension certificate.
Just consider the enormous amount of. work this would- involve every fortnight !
– Pensioners prefer fortnightly to monthly payments.
– But I am going to make a suggestion which, while making the conditions better for the pensioners, will save an immense amount ..of work. The maximum pension is £26 a year, or 10s. a week, so that, at most, the sum due fortnightly will be £1 ; and, in order to pay this money, we must employ the officers of the States, because it would be ruinous to appoint officers of our own.
– We shall use our own officers.
– The Post Office again !
– It is a fortunate circumstance that in the Post Office we. have a network of machinery of which we can make use; but, may I suggest that, in the present state of the Department, we do not desire to unnecessarily add- to the burdens which the officials already have to bear.
– They are very good men.
– But from the point of view of the old people, why should we not endeavour to lessen the inconvenience of a fortnightly application, and also lessen the strain of work of an already hard-worked
Post Office staff, by paying the pensions monthly, and in advance?
– There are difficulties in . the way.
– There are very strong objections. I can assure my . honorable friend that mechanics I know, who are paid £2 a week in advance, are always short before the next payment comes round.
– It is as broad as it is long; if we start by paying in advance, pensioners can only get one month, or one fortnight’s, money. I do not know the rollicking habits of the constituents o’f the PostmasterGeneral ; but, when a man is about seventy years of age, he is not very likely to embark on any very desperate adventure. In any case, people of the sort indicated by the . Postmaster-General can always anticipate the receipt of money.
– There is a merit in paying the pensions weekly.
– - Give the pensioners a fair start, and, .in order to do that, pay them in advance.
– The trouble would be in the last part of the month.
– Serious trouble, too.
– That will always happen in some cases.
– The average working man’s wife is not a good treasurer, even under the best of circumstances.
– She must be in Victoria, if she can stand the Tariff which- the PostmasterGeneral has supported. I know that housewives in New South Wales have a keen knowledge and appreciation of the effects of our fiscal law on their housekeeping expenses, though, of course, the constituents of my honorable friend may differ in that respect.
– Take our postal officials ; they apply for weekly payments, because the expenditure of money, which comes in weekly, can be arranged better than money which comes in once a month.
– I should like-to consult the ‘ aged people in the honorable member’s electorate on the point whether they prefer to come every fortnight and get £1, or to come once a month, and get £.2 in advance-.
– I know which is best for them.
– The Postmaster-General may have, amongst his constituents, a number so frail in their moral fibre that payment in advance might be a great tempta- tion ; but I am talking of the average constituent. Of course, I know that the PostmasterGeneral visits other electorates, where he discovers alarming symptoms of the kind he has indicated. The honorable gentleman could not go into the robust mining community of Australia - which is as temperate as any in the Commonwealth - without discovering some alarming dangers. That sort of argument does not appeal to me at all; and I consider that the old pensioners ought not to have to attend twice a month, and, possibly, in many cases, travel miles to do so.
– Could the pensioners not attend once a month, in any case, if they chose to do so?
– Certainly ; but, according to the Bill, they have to come once a fortnight for their pension, after it has become due; and the inconvenience of being kept out of a few shillings for a month may be serious.
– But the money could be sent to them, just as the money is paid in the case of boarded-out children.
– If that be so, of course my objection is removed.
– It is only under exceptional circumstances _that money will be given to others than the pensioners.
– I think honorable members will gather from my observations .. that I have no desire to raise a number of objections against the Bill. I have dealt with only a few points which occurred to me on ‘ a first reading ; and I candidly say that to expect honorable members to be able to judge and criticise a Bill of this character on one perusal is to expect a great deal too much. Having discovered what I did on a mere slight examination, I warn honorable members to be careful as to the conclusions at which they arrive on the various provisions. There is no object to be gained by passing the Bill at this inconvenient stage of the session, seeing that an appropriation of surplus revenue would do the practical work of keepingthe money right; and it would be much better to deal with the measure when we meet again in September. But whether we deal with such a measure now or then, it has, as it has had at all previous times, my warmest and most cordial support.
.- The leader of the Opposition has delivered a critical, but very sympathetic, speech on the Bill. As tb his last suggestion, I cannot agree that it would be advisable to postpone the consideration or passing of this measure.
– That settles it !
– I do not think that anything I say here can “settle” anything, seeing that every measure we pass has to be approved of by another place.
– It is what the honorable member says outside.
– There are very important and obvious reasons why this Bill should pass at the same time as the Surplus Revenue Bill; and in the discussion of the latter, we heard a great deal about old-age pensions. It is a pleasure to myself and the members of my party - and, indeed, I should think, to the whole of the members of the Parliament - that we are able to deal with this question at the present time, and, in my opinion, that has only been made possible by the Surplus Revenue Bill. .
– If what is proposed can be done at all, I think it could have been done in 1902, just as well as now.
– ‘With all respect, I prefer to follow the opinion of other legal members, who declare that we had no power to deal with surpluses until practically seven years after the inauguration of the Commonwealth. That is an opinion which I, as a layman, expressed in a previous debate, and, although I was told by one of the leading newspapers of Melbourne that my contention was quite wrong, I find myself supported, as I have said, by eminent legal gentlemen. At any rate, if there has been longer delay in introducing such a measure than we could have wished, that is no reason for any further delay; and on that ground I claim the sympathy and support of the leader of the Opposition. ‘ It is a pleasure to know that Australian Parliaments have been the first to pass measures of the kin’d. In England, . less than two years ago, the Government appointed a Royal Commission of able men to inquire into the question, and a majority report condemned old-age pensions as we understand them.However, the only effect has been to arouse feeling and discussion in Great Britain to such an extent that the present Prime Minister has introduced an Old-age Pensions Bill.
– Old-age pensions are much more difficult there than here.
– I agree with that observation; but the fact shows the development of public thought’ on the question; and no greater compliment -was ever paid to the self-governing possessions of Great Britain. The most responsible men in the United Kingdom, including, as I” say, the Prime Minister himself, have introduced a measure which, though not so liberal as ours, is practically on the- same “lines. Our Bill is not so liberal as I should like to see it. It is only because we are trammelled by financial obligations and tied by the dead hand of the Constitution that I am prepared to accept this Bill.
– Not the dead hand of the Constitution. The Constitution will live for ever.
– I disagree with the right honorable member. Happily the Constitution is so framed that it may be amended by the people from time to time.
– -I think that I had a lot to do with that.
– I am glad that it is so framed, and that it may be amended from time to time by the people in order that it may keep “step with their intelligence and enlightenment. It is a matter for congratulation that the mother of Parliaments has seen fit, in respect to old-age pensions, to copy the example of her progeny in Australia, and that, although this Bill is not all that I or the party with which I am associated would like it to be, it is an advance upon any legislation of the kind passed in any other part of the world. When the opportunity offers we shall be able to extend its principles.
– Has the Bill been submitted to the honorable member’s party for its approval?
– When the right honorable member was Treasurer did he ever submit a Bill to our party?
– The right honorable member was a member of a Cabinet which received from the Labour Party the same support as it has extended to the present Government.
– I have simply asked a civil question.
– I have said before that on no occasion have I attempted to coerce the Government or any member of it to do anything that would be unbecoming to gentlemen of honour.
– The honorable member will not answer the question put by the right honorable member for Swan.
– There are Questions which ought not to be answered. I would take no part in passing a measure which I thought was likely to be impracticable. As time passes amendments of this Bill will be demanded to meet the views of the majority of the people, and I am confident that it will be amended from time to time as the people. become more enlightened and better educated on this question. It is not long since I, as a member of a State Parliament, found that it was most difficult to obtain anything like a reasonable vote on the principle of old-age pensions. What a change has come over the situation within a few years ! Practically every member of this Parliament to-day is. agreed upon the principle, and when one attempts to debate it one is met with the inquiry on all hands, “ Why waste time?” What has brought about this change? Is it not due to the better education of the people on this ( question? Parliament, after all, is only a reflex of the opinion of the people. The people believe in this principle, and will from time to time demand that it shall be extended. I was glad to hear the leader of the Opposition say that the Bill would convey no taint of pauperism to the recipients of a pension under it. Others may take a different view. It may be possible to make it even freer than it is from any suspicion of that taint, and I think that we shall be able to do so when we are financially free ; but the call which it will make on our finances will be as full as we can reason- . ably hope to meet when it comes into operation. I come now to what, from my point of view, is a very important matter - the fact that the Bill is to come into operation not later than ist July, 1909. That is a mandatory provision. At the same time, there is a proviso that if arrangements can be made to bring it into operation before July, 1909, the Government may by executive act do so.
– Has the honorable member any ground for anticipating that on rst July, 1909, there will be £1,500,000 available to meet the payment of pensions for the succeeding twelve months?
– Not on that date.
– In my view, as the result of good government and the careful husbanding of our finances, there will be enough.
– Even if we provide £250,000 for coastal defence purposes?
– Mv estimate is that, by that date there should be an accumulation of from 000,000 to ,£1,250,000 for this purpose. When the honorable member interrupted me, I was pointing out that this Bill may come into operation some time before ist July, 1909, and I .sincerely hope that on its passing the Premiers of the States will have a serious consultation with a view to arriving at an arrangement to enable it to be brought into operation by proclamation at a much earlier date. The Premiers of the States have the matter in their own hands, and even if the Bill is brought into operation before July, 1909, the States will not be more embarrassed than they would otherwise be.
– Does not the honorable member think that we ought to be able, by Act of Parliament, to shut them up in a room and keep them there till they come to an arrangement?
– I have never referred to the Premiers of States save in terms of the utmost courtesy. I recognise that they are the chief representatives of their several States, and supreme within their own provinces. At the same time, I agree with the leader of the Opposition that they have taken a short-sighted and misguided view of this situation.
– I should like the honorable member to explain why he thinks so.
– The New South Wales, Victorian, . and Queensland Parliaments have passed Old-age Pensions Bills.
– Queensland is not vet paving old-age pensions.
– The Queensland Parliament has passed an Old-age Pensions Bill which will come into operation on ist July next, and the provisions of that measure will be! honoured. Thus in three of the States, representing nearly seveneighths of the people of Australia, old-age pensions are being paid except to old people who, having passed from one State to another, are unable to comply with the residential qualification.
– Are there many so situated?
– A great many. But T agree with the view expressed by the late Sir George Grey that even if only one person were suffering an injustice which could be remedied by legislation that legislation should be passed.
– Nearly all the old people in Western Australia are so disqualified.
– There are many thousands of old people who have not the residential qualification required under the States Acts, and I hold that the Parliament which can deal in the most effective and just manner with the whole system should take it in hand. The Premiers of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland may agree to allow the Commonwealth to retain out of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue returnable to those States sums equivalent to the amounts they are already paying away in respect of old-age pensions. The Premiers of the other States may also enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth Parliament - or with a Commission if it be found necessary to arbitrate - to finance this scheme without a month’s delay.
– All that is needed is a little amicable feeling, but Bills of the character of Eat dealt with last night do not tend to anything of the kind.
– No one can complain of a want of amicable feeling on my part in respect of all the negotiations. I have never complained, nor do I intend, to complain, of the. action of the men at the head of the Governments of the several States.
– Those Who are behind the honorable member are constantly doing so.
– One reason why I am particularly anxious that we should proceed with this measure is that the action of several of our States Parliaments in passing Old-age Pensions Acts has been copied by the Imperial Legislature, and that this Parliament, on three different occasions, has been pledged to secure the passing of an Old-age Pensions Bill at the earliest moment. How can we get away from that pledge? How can we, as honest men, decline to carry out our duty? Shortly after I had the honour of being appointed the leader of the Labour Party, I submitted a motion drawing the attention of the Government to the urgent need of a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions. The only one to challenge my action was the honorable member .for Parramatta, who, with a great deal of assurance, said that there was nothing in it. He declared that it was a mere political placard; and that whilst the members of our party pretended to be in deadly earnest we were not. Experience has falsified that assertion. Within six weeks after the passing of that motion an Old-age Pensions Bill .has been presented to the House. That Bill meets with the concurrence, I believe, of honorable members generally, and in some respects is more advanced that any legislation of the kind ever passed.
– A better scheme was put forward 100 years ago.
– We are told that there is nothing new under the sun. I do not intend to debate the main question, since, like the leader- of the Opposition, I think that it would be a mere waste of time to do so. But I feel called upon to say that we as a party have justified the action which’ we took in pressing upon the Government the urgency of the question. I congratulate the Ministry on. having, at the earliest possible moment introduced this measure. I trust that it will be passed this session, because, if we are to have, as we ought to have, a sympathetic administration, no time should be lost in placing this Bill on the -statute-book, so that the necesBary machinery may be got ready for action. It will be of the greatest importance to secure the sympathetic administration of this measure, and if there is want of sympathy in administration while I have the honour of a seat in this House, I shall challenge the Government responsible for it. I acknowledge the force of some of the criticisms of the leader of the Opposition, and although the provisions of the Bill may lay the recipients of pensions open to taunts, sympathetic administration can provide for the payments to be made in such a way that the recipients will feel that they are receiving, not a dole, but something in the nature of a retiring allowance. The . wording of the preamble of the first New South Wales Act, outlining its purpose, is not merely significant and proper, but, in my opinion, beautiful -
It is equitable that deserving persons who during the prime of life have helped to bear the public burdens of the Colony by payment of taxes and to open up its resources by their labour and skill should receive a pension in their old age.
Those words express very beautifully what we have in our minds, and. if the administration is in sympathy with our desires, no one can complain that the receipt . of a pension subjects him to reproach.
– The officials can administer only as we provide.
– Yes; but the administration of any measure may be sympathetic or it may be hostile. I hope that an. arrangement will be come to with the States Governments which will enable the Commonwealth to pay pensions within a few months after the Bill is passed. I have explained in detail how that can be brought about.
– We shall meet the obligation unless there is an earthquake.
– Does the Treasurer refer to a recent occurrence?
– In speaking to anamendment which was recently carried on my motion, I said that the whole resources of the Commonwealth were at the command of the Treasurer to pay old-age pensions. Although I supported the Bill for the appropriation of certain revenues for this purpose, I do not rest my case on it. The Treasurer has the whole resources of the Commonwealth, and these pensions must be paid. I am thankful that we are so near to the- enactment of this measure, which I trust and believe will receive the unanimous support of honorable members.
.- I listened with great attention to the speeches of the three honorable members who preceded me, whose sympathetic tones are, I am sure, echoed by every honorable member. From my first election to this House I have declared myself in favour of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme. It has seemed to me inconsistent that the citizens of some of the States should be entitled to old-age pensions while others are not, and that the conditions under which old-age pensions are paid should vary. I am, therefore, glad that trie Bill has been introduced, particularly since its provisions in the main adopt the unanimous recommendations of the Royal Commission which investigated the subject. Without wishing to show disrespect to the other Royal Commissions which have been appointed under Federation, I say that none did its work more carefully, or gave a more thoughtful consideration to all the phases of its subject, than did the Royal Commission- on old-age pensions. At the same time, I recognise that the manner in which this Bill has been presented cannot be regarded as justifiable or the time at which it is introduced as opportune, except by those who are prepared to take great risks. It has been stated that for the payment of old-age pensions under a Commonwealth system £1,550,000 will be needed, together with 2 per cent, to cover the cost of administration - a total of £1,580,000. But, according to the excellent work of the Commonwealth Statistician, which, I am sure, has been read with interest and edification by honorable members, about 4 per cent, of the population is sixty -five years of age or over, and of that proportion 40 per cent, is eligible for old-age pensions. On the basis of the census of 1901, and the computations as to increase since, there are now 168,000 persons eligible for old-age pensions, and I have calculated that, to meet their claims and cost of administration, about £1,750,000 will be required.
– Without making provision for invalid pensions? k
– Yes. As this is not a charity dole, many persons who would not take charity will probably feel entitled to apply for pensions. Taking the New South Wales experience, 2 per cent, is a very conservative estimate of the cost of administration, especially as it is proposed to distribute the money every fortnight. I am favorable to a fortnightly distribution, however, and hope that an arrangement will be made whereby the pensions will be paid through the Post Office with the least trouble to those- who are tq receive them. At the present time the Postal Department is .considerably overweighted, and, no doubt, the staff will have to be increased ; but if this increase and other charges cost less than 2 per cent, on the sum distributed, the administration will not be proportionately dear. Some time back the leader of the Labour Party took the business of the House out of the hands of the Government, and moved a motion directing Ministers to bring in this Bill. He now points out that within six weeks, notwithstanding the lateness of the session, the Surplus Revenue Bill and this Bill have been introduced to do what was demanded.
– I said that I impressed on Parliament the urgency of the matter.
– At any rate, those who sit on the front Ministerial bench accepted their instructions. I submit that, notwithstanding our desire to give effect to a Federal scheme of old:age pensions, we are at the present stage taking a most unbusiness-like step. Surely before submitting a Bill of this character we ought to have had an authoritative statement of our financial position. To me it’ has been a matter of surprise that the States Premiers have not recognised that the question of old-age pensions was one with which they might have dealt at the various Conferences which ‘they have held. It is a difficulty which they might have assisted the Commonwealth to solve.
– It was dealt with at the Hobart Conference of Premiers.
– But no satisfactory conclusion was arrived at. Surely a scheme involving an expenditure of £1,500,000 should have formed part of the question of the financial relations of the States to’ the Commonwealth, which we should consider as a whole. With these new proposals we are practically expending our full onefourth share of the net Customs and Excise revenue, and honorable members know that there are many urgent undertakings for which financial provision must yet be made. If it is contended that that financial provision must be made out of revenue, I hope that the public will understand that our share of the Customs revenue will not be sufficient. It has been hinted that if no agreement be arrived at with the States Governments before the end of 1910, we. shall then encroach upon the’ three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which “the States are at present constitutionally entitled. But I would point’ out that it is just as important that we should safeguard the financial interests of the States as it is that we ‘should safeguard those of the Commonwealth. I do not suggest for a moment that the necessities of the Commonwealth should be ignored. We are entitled to expect that the electors will provide this Parliament with the necessary funds to enable it to discharge its just- responsibilities. But I protest against being asked to consider a great’ financial question at the close of a session when we have not a fair opportunity of ascertaining its effect upon the whole policy underlying our national aspirations. So far as this Commonwealth expenditure is concerned, the States Premiers have not very serious cause of complaint, because the question has been a live one for some years past, and they have not in this regard co-operated with the Commonwealth in the way which might have been expected of them. I think that the fault of the Commonwealth Treasurers has been that they have met the States Treasurers from time to time with a cut-and-dried financial scheme which they have asked them fo either accept or reject. In this connexion honorable members will recollect that a few years ago I suggested that it was desirable that accredited representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth should meet to formulate a scheme for the adjustment qf our future financial relations. Such a gathering might have solved many of the difficult problems with which we are confronted. But, owing to the delay which has occurred, the time has passed when we can deliberately consider the taking over of the States debts in conjunction with the revenue of the Commonwealth. These two questions will now have to be separately considered. The longer their consideration is delayed the more complicated will they become. I agree with the suggestion of the leader of the Opposition - who is in full sympathy with this Bill - that it would be wise to withhold it until such time as the Premiers again meet in conference. A solution of the financial problem might then have been arrived at.
– The Premiers will hold another Conference before this Bill becomes operative.
– I am aware that they propose to meet at the beginning of next year. But I would suggest that the next Conference ought to be held at the invitation of the Prime Minister. Then, if some mutually satisfactory arrangement be not arrived at, the Commonwealth would, to an extent, be relieved of responsibility for the resulting position of affairs. It is only right that provision should be made for those who have assisted to build up this country, and who have fallen upon bad times. The proposals of the Bill follow very much the recommendations of the Royal Commission which investigated the question of old-age pensions, and therefore commend themselves to me. In Committee one or two suggestions for improving the measure may be made, but upon the whole the provisions of the Bill are such that under better financial circumstances they must have commended themselves to the House. I shall not oppose the second reading of the measure.
– I congratulate the Government upon having had the courage to bring forward this Bill instead of deferring action - as some of the members of the Opposition would do - until most of the old persons in Australia who are now suffering have been buried. The question of old-age pensions is not a new one in this Parliament. It was the subject either of the first or second notice of motion given in this House. It is not a question which was brought forward for ‘ the first time during the past month. On the contrary, it has been perpetually dis cussed here. Up till 1904 it was before us almost every session. Upon the 9th May, 1901, I gave notice of the following motion -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable, in the interests of the deserving aged poor, that the Government, without any unnecessary delay, formulate a national scheme for the payment of old-age pensions, and that this motion, when carried, be an instruction to the Honorable the- Attorney-General to draft the necessary measure.
Upon 2nd August of that year I had the honour to submit that motion. At that time the Barton Government thought the financial position of the Commonwealth would not enable an Oldage Pensions Bill to be. placed upon the statute-book. Later on, the question was before the House on several occasions; and in December, 1904, I asked the Prime Minister whether he could set apart a day. for the discussion of this question in. order that some relief might be afforded to the aged poor of the Commonwealth. The Government of the day did not see their way to grant my request, and subsequently I had the pleasure and honour of moving -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable, in the interests of the aged poor, that the Government should, without unnecessary delay, formulate a national scheme for the- payment of old-age pensions, and that this motion, when carried, be an instruction to the AttorneyGeneral to draft the necessary measure.
In submitting that motion I outlined a complete scheme of financing the system, and on page 7 115 of Hansard for 1904, that scheme, will be found set out. Then, as reported on page 1296 of Hansard for I9°3> the following question was asked, and the reported answer given -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether in view of the large surplus of the Commonwealth revenue, as shown by him yesterday, he will immediately bring in a Bill establishing a system of national old-age pensions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The surplus mentioned by the honorable member has been distributed among the several States, as mentioned by me yesterday; and it is believed that without it, embarrassment to their finances would have taken place. Moreover, if the large sum mentioned could have been withdrawn from the above purpose and applied to the carrying- out of a system of old-age pensions, it is more than doubtful whether it would have proved sufficient to pay throughout the Commonwealth pensions an the lines adopted in New South Wales and Victoria.
This question of old-age pensions is by no means a new one ; but people are now beginning to wake up to its importance. Five years ago, if the Labour Party had received assistance in placing an Old-age Pensions Act on the statute-book, thousands of old, honest, hard-working soldiers of industry who have passed away would, perhaps, have been living now, or would have died surrounded by a few of the comforts of life. However, it is not necessary to discuss the matter further - old-age pensions are accomplished. I do rejoice that some invisible power has spoken to the souls of the lethargic members who have hesitated to help us all these years.
– It is the honorable member’s Bill.
– This reform has been brought about by the Labour Party, of which I am only a unit - that great party which is eventually to rule the destiny of this country. Can it be pretended that this great country of Australia, with its 4,000,000 of the richest people and most resourceful on earth, with 3,000,000 square miles of territory, and its immense natural wealth, cannot finance an old-age pensions scheme? I am prepared to finance such a scheme if honorable members will help me to institute a national postal banking system, the profit’s of which throughout Australia, and at half the rate of interest now charged to the people of the country- -
– And every pensioner a depositor !
– Yes. How is it that, in Victoria, the cost of administering old-age pensions is under £2,000 a year, while in New South Wales it is £20,000 a year? The explanation lies solely in good business management in the case of Victoria ; and it shows how superior in business capacity Mr. Bent’ is to those politicians who have been running New South Wales.
– In New South Wales there is three times the amount to pay, and three times the territory to pay it over, that there is in Victoria.
– The present Treasurer introduced the Bill in New South Wales.
– I look on the conversion of the present Treasurer to the old-age pensions policy as one of the greatest the world ever saw. However, in Victoria, those who have the administration utilize whatever facilities offer, whereas in New South Wales the payment of the pensions was handed over to a great banking institution, which, of course, required to be well paid. The financing of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme would be very simple, with a national postal banking system operated by Australians for the benefit of Australia, utilizing the collective power of the Commonwealth, and acting as a clearing-house to the people of Australia. With such a bank controlling the interests of Commonwealth, States and municipalities, we could not only finance old-age pensions, but successfully manage the business in connexion with the public indebtedness. But we have never had the courage to tackle this question of instituting a national bank, and thus get rid of the dominating tyranny of those great institutions which prevent their employes from marrying unless they have £200 a year. Why, the working man marries on £40 and £50 a year, and rears sons who run the country. Nearly every prominent man in Australia has risen from the ranks of the poor; as Roosevelt pointed out the other day, the sons of wealthy men are nearly all fools. However, these matters are not worth talking about. I rejoice that we have now reached the time when old-age pensions are assured; and I shall have the greatest pleasure in the world in voting for the Bill.
– - I do not propose to detain honorable members more than a few moments; because, I presume, it is the general wish to pass the second reading at the earliest possible moment.
– And also the Committee stage.
– Any Bill with which the Treasurer is connected requires’ to be examined, at the Committee stage, in order to see that no mistakes have crept in) perhaps without the knowledge of the gentleman who drafted it. I presume, however, that, even in the Committee stage, discussion will be curtailed to the utmost possible extent. What has struck me this afternoon as a somewhat jarring note in the general tone of rejoicing over this measure is the claim by members of the Labour Party to have been the sole originators and founders of the legislation.
– The Labour Party has done good work in this respect, both in New South’ Wales and Victoria. “
– What other party had old-age pensions as a plank in their platform?
– The question which concerns me at the present moment, since I have been challenged on ‘.he point, is to whom the introduction of the Bill this session is due. Is it to members of the Labour Party exclusively ?
– It is not so long agoonly on the 19th March - that the honorable member who interjects said that it would be impracticable to pass an Oldage Pensions Bill- this session.
– Oh, no.
– I have no desire to do the honorable ‘ member an injustice ; and, therefore, I shall quote his words.
– After all, what does it matter ?
– The Postmaster-General now asks, “ What does it matter? “ I do not blame the Labour Party for seeking credit for this measure, because, no doubt, the public will give credit where credit is due; but when the party seek to claim exclusive credit, and I endeavour to show that the credit is not all theirs, the PostmasterGeneral asks, ‘ ‘ What does it matter ? “ The remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle appear in Hansard of this session, page 9331 -
I should agree with the object of the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley - that was the amendment to bring old-age pensions into operation this session - if it were practicable at the present time, but we all know that this session is not intended to last much longer.
– The honorable member must be fair, and admit that there was. then no thought of the Surplus Revenue Bill being passed this session.
– That is “quite true ; and, when the leader of the Labour Party movedhis pious expression in favour of old-age pensions - a motion which every honorable member could cordially welcome
– It was a motion of urgency.
– It was a motion which every honorable member could cordially welcome; but I presume that the leader of the Labour Party, when he submitted it, did not anticipate an Old-age Pensions Bill this session - in fact, I know that he did not.
– Will the honorable member read the amendment that I moved?
– Later on ; I have no desire to do the honorable member an injus tice, and I shall deal with one interjector at a time. The honorable member for Wide Bay did not anticipate the introduction of this Bill during the present session, because when the honorable member for Dalley was urging that it should be introduced, he interjected -
Does the honorable member suggest that the matter should be dealt with during this short session ?
That is the only reference by the honorable member which I can find during the course of the debate to the introduction of the Bill this session.
– It was quite a proper question.
– I am not blaming - the honorable member ; but obviously he did not think then that the Bill would be introduced this session. I have shown the attitude he took up when it was suggested from this side of the House that it should be.
– The honorable member for Dalley was the only member of the Opposition who supported us on that occasion.
– I want to show the honorable member for Wide Bay that he is doing honorable members on this side of the House a grave injustice when he makes that statement.
– Is this another evidence of the honorable member’s objection to oldage pensions?
– I have given no evidence that I am opposed to them. The honorable member’s interjection is merely an insinuation that is worthy of him. The honorable member for Wide Bay has declared that the honorable member for Dalley was the only member of the Opposition who gave the Labour Party - the would-be pioneers in this movement - any support.
– In connexion with the Surplus Revenue Bill before the House last night?
– When the Surplus Revenue Bill-
– That Bill is now before another place.
– And has nothing whatever to do with the question before the Chair. What we are now discussing is the challenge of the leader of the Labour Party as to who is responsible, if responsibility rests anywhere, for the introduction of this Bill’ this session. . As a further amendment to that moved by the leader of the Labour Party on the motion to go into Committee of Supply to consider grievances, the honorable member for Dalley moved -
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 to such expressed will of the people during this session.”
We divided on that question.
– Who voted for it?
– The honorable member voted against it.
– I find that the honorable member for Kennedy moved a further amendment dealing with the ever-present graduated land taxation proposals of the Labour Party. Then the honorable member for Newcastle moved what I should describe as a watering-down amendment of the amendment. He proposed that instead of the amendment reading -
This House is of opinion that the Government should give effect to such expressed will of the people during this session, it should be amended by the omission of the word “give” with a view to the insertion of the words “ take steps towards giving.” That was ‘how he signified his burning desire for the immediate adoption of a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions !
– That was the only practical way of dealing with the question.
– The Government were to take steps” - to make, perhaps, a .preliminary investigation, but not to give expression to the people’s will this session !
– If the honorable member were not a baby in politics he would know that the preliminary investigations had already, been made.
– What was the object of the honorable member’s amendment of the amendment? It was to water down the amendment in order to save the Government. The whole object of it was to allow the Government to refrain from bringing 5n an Old-age Pensions Bill this session. And yet certain honorable members ,’have the temerity to rise in their places and claim for the Labour Party sole credit for the introduction of this Bill at the present stage ! But the pages of Hansard clearly disprove the self-advertising pleas put forward by them. The idea of bringing the Bill before the House this session originated with an honorable member of the Opposition j but, at the same time, I wish to give credit to some honorable members of the Labour Party for accelerating this proposal. For many years we have had in the Australian Parliament a Labour
Party supporting the Government. I think that that party has either been on the Treasury benches or supporting the Government for some six and three-quarter years out of over seven. During all that time, we have it from the leader of the Labour Party, they had not until recently urged or attempted to coerce the Government they were so faithfully supporting to bring, in the Bill upon which they are now laying such stress, and of which they claim to be the sole originators.
– The reference to coercion is governed by the word “ improperly.”
– I do not wish to do the honorable member an injustice.
– I supplied the honorable member with an uncorrected proof of what I said on the occasion in question.
– And the honorable member could not cavil at anything I said on that occasion. In that proof it was shown that the honorable member for Illawarra interjected in the course of my honorable friend’s speech, “ What about the dirteating complained of by Sir George Turner?”
– Does the honorable member think that that matter has any relation to the Bill?
– It relates solely to the question of who should take most credit for the Bill being before the House to-day. If you think that it is not advisable that I should read from Hansard a quotation bearing on that point I shall bow to your ruling.
– I ask the honorable member not to read it.
– I was only endeavouring to substantiate the statement that I made with regard to the honorable member for Wide Bay ; but I shall dismiss the matter by referring honorable members to page 9936 of Hansard. I wish, as I have said, to give ‘credit to certain members of the Labour Party for having forced on this measure. The general tendency of honorable members of the Labour Party is apparently to blindly support the Government in the hope that some crumbs will be thrown to them. It is well known, however, that some six or seven honorable members of the Labour Party grew tired of that constant process of “ smoodging “ under the mesmeric influences of the Prime Minister, and that they recently rose in revolt. It is only since that revolt took place - since the labour boot was shown in a very threatening manner to the business end of the Ministry - that they have climbed down and brought in this Bill.
– Then the Labour Party are responsible after all for the introduction of the Bill at this stage?
Mr.KELLY. - Six or seven honorable members of that party are, but the honorable member is not. I remember the fiery indignation with which those six or seven honorable members were greeted by their own colleagues when they said that the time had gone by for quiet acquiescence in Government cajolery ; and that the time had come for the Labour Party to try to give some proof . to the electors that they recognised that they had been sent here to do something more than to act as the mere tools of the Ministry. These six or seven took up that attitude, and, I think, have considerably accelerated Government action in this regard.
– Did the honorable member help them?
– I was not present at the squabbles in the caucus room, but I understand that they lasted a considerable time, and that it took the party a whple week to get pn living relations again.
– The honorable member knows he is making an absolutely incorrect statement.
– The honorable member knows that caucus meeting after caucus meeting was held about the time I refer to-
– Wrong again.
Mr.KELLY. - The newspaper reports at the time prove me right.
– I do not think that has anything to do with the Bill.
– I am sure that it has not, sir, and I do not wish to be led off the track. I merely rose to point out the danger which must confront any honorable member who endeavours without due cause to take to_himself exclusive credit of which he is not deserving. I have done no more. I think that- the speech delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for Wide Bay was most ungenerous, and that he must now agree with me that it was not justified. The first honorable member to suggest the introduction of this Bill this session was a member of the direct Opposition. Those who accelerated its introduction were the six or seven honorable members of the Labour Party, who revolted from the complaisant leadership of the honorable member for Wide Bay. It was such actions, andsuch actions alone, that forced the introduction of the Bill, and not the actions of certain honorable members, who are anxious to gain credit for all things, even for the very rain from heaven, and, who, in this particular instance, have no reason to congratulate themselves on the part they have played.
.- We have now readied’ a stage when we might briefly review the action which has already been taken in regard to the payment of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth. It’ is not inappropriate to mention at this juncture the name of the man who was instrumental in placing in the Constitution the provision which gives the Parliament the power to legislate in respect to old-age pensions - the Honorable Mr. J. H. Howe, of South Australia. He brought the matter forward early in the Melbourne session of the Convention.
– I think he proposed it’ first during the Sydnev session.
– I am not able to say, but my recollection is that the speech which he made at Melbourne contains no reference to an earlier proposal. On the 21st January, 1898, he moved the insertion of a new sub-clause, and twenty members of the Convention voted for it, while twenty-five voted against it.
– Read the division lists.
– Those who voted for the proposal were - Sir Graham Berry, Sir Edward Braddon, Mr. H. Briggs, Dr. J’. A. Cockburn, Mr. F. T. Crowder, Mr. A. Deakin, SiF John Forrest, Mr. P. M. Glynn, Mr. J. H. Gordon, Mr. J. W. Hackett, Mr. A. Y. Hassell, Mr. (now Sir) F. W. Holder, Mr. J. H. Howe, Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Isaacs, Mr. W. H. James, Mr. C. C. Kingston, Mr. (now Sir) W. J. Lyne, Dr. (now Sir John) Quick, Mr. V. L.. Solomon, and Mr. B. R. Wise. On the other side were - Mr. (now Sir Edmund) Barton, Mr. N. J. Brown, Mr. J. H. Carruthers, Mr. H. Dobson, Mr. Adye Douglas, Sir J. W. Downer, Mr. S. Fraser, Mr. C. H. Grant, Mr. A. H. Henning, Mr. J. Henry, Mr. (now Mr. Justice) H. B. Higgins, Mr. G. Leake, Sir J. G. Lee St’eere, Mr. N. E. Lewis, Mr. (now Sir William) McMillan, Mr. W. Moore, Mr. (now Mr. Justice) R. E. O’Connor, Mr. (now Sir Alexander) Peacock, Mr. G. H.. Reid, Mr. (now Sir Josiah) Symon, Mr. W. A. Trenwith, Sir George Turner; Mr. H. W. Venn, Mr. J. T. Walker, and Sir W.
– By ‘ twenty-six votes to four.
– The attitude of members of the Convention to Mr. Howe’s proposition is no indication of their views on the broad question of old-age pensions.
– I admit that Mr. Howe’s proposition was opposed chiefly, if not wholly, on the ground that the States could do the work. better than the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable gentleman took the contrary view. He said that this was a national matter.
– Yes. I said -
I arn of opinion that this question of old-age pensions has not yet become a very pressing one in Australasia, and I am very glad to be able to think that that is the case. There is no doubt, however, that, 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 ill its own particular way. At any rate, I am of opinion we should give the Federal Government power to deal with the question in this Constitution. . . I do not believe in one Colony doing the thing in one way, and another Colony doing it in another way. I can see no reason why the Federal Parliament should not deal with the question just as effectively and quickly as a State Parliament. In fact, I think that the Federal Parliament will be able to deal” with it in a far better and more just way, and for that reason, if it goes to a division, I shall, vote with- my honorable friend (Mr. Howe).
Those of us who voted, like myself, to give the Parliament this power, and who have always been in favour of old-age pensions, should not be subjected, as I was yesterday, because, on constitutional grounds, I opposed the Surplus Revenue Bill, to the gibe of being opposed to the payment of old-age pensions. As I said, I honestly believe the Surplus Revenue Bill to be ultra vires, and a breach of faith, and the Attorney-General recognised the propriety of my criticism. Because one objects to the introduction of a measure that he thinks is unconstitutional, he should not be told that he is opposed to the object which it seeks to achieve. So far as this Bill is concerned, it has been hurried forward most unreasonably, seeing that a new session will begin in three months’ time.
– I have been told by a member of the Labour Party that Parliament is to meet again early in September, after the departure of the American Fleet. As the Government’s existence depends on the support of the Labour- Party, the members of that party are, no doubt, told long before members like myself of what will take place. The action of the Government in rushing the Bill through Parliament deserves the strongest censure. I admit that it is convenient to provide, in regard to a measure of this kind, that it shall not come into force until a date to be named, because that allows the machinery necessary to carry out its provisions to be prepared and made ready. Without such a provision the law might have to remain inoperative for some time.
– I hope that the States will meet us in this matter.
– I may have a word or two to say about that. As this measure does not come into force until ist July, 1909, there can be no hurry about passing it. Six months would surely suffice to prepare the necessary machinery.
– That would not be long enough. I speak from my New South Wales experience.
– In New South Wales they had to commence the system from the beginning ; we have now the advantage of their experience and also that of Victoria. Were it not that some honorable members are acquainted with the working of legislation of this kind in the States, it would be even more ridiculous to ask us to deal with the Bill at a few hours’ notice. The Attorney-General, who, at short notice, owing to a sad bereavement which has befallen the Prime Minister, was intrusted with, the moving of the second reading, made only a short speech, and did not give us the information which we should have in dealing with this matter. To ask us to pass the Bill to-night is an extraordinary demand, seeing that there is no urgency. Probably the Government wishes’ to allow’ the Labour Party to go to the Brisbane Labour Conference in July and boast of what it has done.
– We have not boasted.
– Is it not time that we did something?
– I admit that the honorable member’s party has not done much sp far except mischief. As Ministers apparently desire to deal with this measure expeditiously, they might have treated those who sit in opposition to them in the same way as the members of the Labour Party are treated. Why was the leader of the Labour Party furnished with a copy of the Bill long before other members ?
– Because he drafted it.
– Who says that he was so furnished ?
– I understand that he was given a copy last night.
– So was the leader of the Opposition.
– Very probably the. Bill was framed with the assistance of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and may have been discussed iri caucus for all I know.
– It was discussed there this morning.
– Before other members had seen it.
– We received our copies by the first post this morning, as, no doubt, the right honorable member did too.
– It is a pity that members likely to take a prominent part in the debate were not supplied with copies earlier, if it were not possible to supply all at one time. I should not complain were plenty of time being allowed to consider it ; but we are asked to pass the Bill before we have been even able to read it. This being mail day, I have been so busy with my correspondence that I have not been able to do more than glance at the marginal notes. Notwithstanding that we have been treated in this exceptional way: - in a way different from that in which supporters of the Government have been treated-
– The right honorable member has not been treated differently from other honorable members. I do not know of any honorable member who received a copy of the Bill last night.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay says that he received, one. Why was not a member of the Opposition corner favoured with a copy?
– Immediately the Bill was laid upon the table, as a .matter of courtesy, a copy of it was handed to the leader of the Opposition, and to the. leader of the Labour Party.
– Why was not a similar courtesy extended to some member of the Opposition corner?
– Very few members of the Opposition corner were present during the evening.
– We were present until a very late hour. The fact remains, that we have not been afforded an opportunity of seeing the Bill, whilst other honorable members- have been.
– We could not give any member of the Opposition com* a copy of the Bill, because it has no leader.
– The AttorneyGeneral could have handed me a copy of it. We all know that this Bill has been hurried forward practically by the Labour Party. They have told the Government, “ If you do not introduce it, out of office you must go,”, and, in reply, the Government say, “ Do not shoot, Colonel, and we will come down.”
– Did the Labour Party, ever say anything of that kind to the honorable member?
– When the honorable member was leader of the Labour Party the Government knew very well what he wanted.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 -p.m.
– I- now desire to say a word or two in reference to the financial position of the Commonwealth. I confess that I have not been afforded any opportunity of preparing myself to discuss the question. This Bill has been brought forward without notice, and it seems to be the desire of the Government and their supporters that we should pass it without comment, taking it for granted that everything is right. But I should like to know whether in its preparation the Government have sufficiently considered the financial position of the Commonwealth “and of the States. It is easy for us to pass Bills which appropriate large sums, but those sums have to be found, and the effect of finding them both upon the Commonwealth and the States requires to be well considered and understood. In that connexion we have had nothing placed before us. But apparently a calculation has been made that we shall have a surplus of so much this year and of so much next year, and that the aggregate amount will be sufficient to enable & system of old-age pensions to be inaugurated. But the effect of obtaining that surplus upon the financial position of the States, which, under the Constitution, we are bound to safeguard, has evidently received no attention whatever at the hands of the Government. We have been told that the scheme proposed under this Bill will cost £1,500,000 annually. What effect it will have upon the projects to which we stand committed and upon the revenues of the States we have not been told. Further, it seems to me that the moment any honorable . member dares to advocate the claims of the States he is assailed with the cry that his attitude is anti-Federal. He is told that this House ±>as nothing whatever to do with the States - that the Senate was specially created to safeguard their interests. Of course such remarks are founded upon in- experience and want of knowledge. Those who make them forget that this Chamber has been specially intrusted with the control of the finances. No expenditure can be initiated except by this House. The assertion that the Senate has been specially created to look after the interests of the States is not founded upon the Constitution. I intend to protect the interests of the States as well as those of the Commonwealth. The question of old-age pensions is one which particularly affects the finances of Western Australia. At the present time that State has a considerable deficit on current account, and the fact that it will receive no revenue from Customs and Excise for the month of June will probably increase that deficit by £50,000 or £60,000. If the- scheme outlined in this Bill costs £1,500,000 annually, Western Australia will be charged £100,000 per annum to provide old-age pensions - not for her own people, but to a large extent for the residents of other States. I have not accurate information upon the subject, but I venture to say that under this Bill e her expenditure upon old-age pensions will be twice as much as would be required To provide for such pensions in that State. Of course honorable members do not care whether Western Australia is obliged to pay more than she would be required to pay for old-age pensions to her own people. They are indifferent as to whether she is called upon to pay £50,000 to provide old-age pensions for other States. It is not generally understood that Western Australia contributes £3 12s. per head of her population towards the Commonwealth’s one-fourth share of the net Customs and Excise revenue. At The beginning of our Federal history, she contributed as much as £5 per head, whereas the other States contribute only ,£2 per head.
– But the expenditure per head ‘ in the different States is being very rapidly equalized.
– No doubt the amount payable per head by Western Australia has declined considerably since, the inception of Federation, although during the past two years it has remained stationary. But my point is that Western Australia is contributing .from £3 12s. to £3 1 6s. per head towards the funds used by the Commonwealth, whereas most of the other States are paying not more than £2 per head, and Tasmania less than £2 per head. Upon that account the revenue of Western Australia is depleted to a very large extent. Then the expenditure of that State upon benevolent institutions, both indoor and outdoor, aggregates . about £40,000 annually. Of that sum £10,000 represents outdoor relief. Now, the question naturally arises, “ How much of that £40,000 will Western Australia be relieved of by the passing of this Bill?” I should like to think that she will be relieved to a material extent, but I am afraid that she will not.
– She will be relieved iri the same proportion as the other States are relieved.
– I am aware of that. I think that possibly Western Australia will be relieved of about one-third of that amount. In that State there is a large number of persons who are inmates of benevolent asylums, and who are not able to look after themselves.
– I think, that experience will show that we shall not lighten- the expenditure of the States very much in that direction.
– I regret to say that I am inclined to think that we shall not. I have calculated that we shall reduce the amount by one-third, and, therefore, there will still be £28,000 per annum to pay on account of the present benevolent asylums. This will bring the expenditure on these asylums and old-age pensions up to £[127,000 a year, which is £87,000 more than we are paying, at the present time. Western Australia has an immense territory to manage, and the Government have great responsibility in encouraging immigration, and settling people on the land ; and, as a matter of fact, there is a deficit already. But Tasmania is in a much” worse position, because that State has not so many established industries, or such large resources as has the western State. The representatives of Tasmania cannot regard with much equanimity the fact that, under this scheme, there will have to be provided in that State some £60,000 a year. The honorable member for Bass knows the position of his State ; and I do not’ think he will be received with many flags or triumphal arches if he supports a measure which will involve extra expenditure.
– Tasmania will always ‘ provide for her aged poor.
– But under this scheme they will have to provide for the aged poor of other States. Does any one suppose that’ the honorable member for Darwin has given this financial aspect of the question much thought? As to the Bill itself, I agree with the leader of the Opposition, that it most objectionable to have to ask a person applying for a pension whether or not he has been imprisoned. At the same time, I remember that, when crossing the Atlantic to America, I had to sign a paper giving similar information, and, further, that, when I was returning from America to Australia, I had, I think at the instance of the New South Wales authorities, to declare that I had not been convicted or imprisoned. Although such questions are objectionable, this is a matter which we must deal with in a practical, common-sense way. Otherwise, a. man, who had spent half his life in gaol, might travel to one part of Australia, and there obtain a pension, although, as I understand, this Bill is intended for the aged and deserving poor, and not for gaolbirds. I see that according to clause 21 amongst those not qualified to receive an invalid pension are aliens and Asiatics, or aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the Islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand. I think, however, that it is not very easy to define “Asiatics” nowadays - there are Asiatics and Asiatics, and it certainly is not clear what is exactly intended by the clause. In clause 22 it is provided that no person shall receive an invalid pension unless - h is relatives, namely, father, mother, husband, wife, or children do not either severally or collectively adequately maintain him.
I do not think it is intended that, in cases where an invalid person is maintained by his family, he shall also be able to draw a pension. I .take it that if a man is adequately provided for, it is unreasonable that he should also “have the benefit of a pension ; and, in my opinion, there ought to- be a similar provision in that part of the Bill which deals with old-age pensions only. If a man is not adequately provided for by his relatives, he can make out a case, and, on the other hand, it would be absurd for a man, who is kept in comfort, or even luxury, to’ be able to also claim a pension-
– Such persons would not get a pension under this Bill, because they would already be in receipt of an income.
– Then why is there this provision in one part of the Bill and not in another?
– The words are intended to make the Bill more explicit.
– At present it would seem that what is proposed to be law in the one case will not be law in the other. From the little attention I have been able to give to the Bill, I think that it has been carefully drafted. I hope the idea that the maximum pension is to be only 10s. per week will not influence the minds of honorable members; because we must remember that this means an expenditure of £1,500,000 a year. We have many responsibilities ; and I am quite sure that we have not yet found the means to provide old-age pensions. I only hope the Labour Party will not have the administering of this Bill ; because they do not seem to regard the financial aspect of the question seriously.
– The right honorable member would not like to see the Labour Party administering anything !
– That is not so; I am not so unreasonable. But the Labour Party seem to desire old-age pensions on the most luxurious scale, without regard to the fact that it is a most difficult problem, to face in providing for the financial stability of the States. Whenever any money is wanted for any purpose, we hear the cry, “ Tax the land, and burst up the big estates.”
– A good idea !
– The idea seems to be to make life a burden to any one who hits land, ov any other possessions. It seems to- me that the members of the Labour Party pretend to have no regard for those who possess anything - that they seem to pretend to care only about those who have nothing.
– People who have somethin % Can take care of themselves.
– The people who have made this country, what it is are those with thrift and enterprise. How- ever, I am not finding fault; I am only expressing a feeling of regret at the disposition displayed when money is required for any purpose.
– Will the honorable member suggest any other course than that proposed ?
– I shall before I sit down. I do not desire to say anything that is harsh, but this is a subject which must be dealt with in a serious manner, and for which money must be found ; we must not think that we can vote money for all sorts of enterprises, without a day of reckoning coming. I do not think that the people of Australia desire to be taxed more than they are at present.
– Then shall we abandon the idea of a transcontinental railway ?,
– That would only be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. It is difficult for me to speak in the way I have, because of the interpretation that is always placed on such utterances. One would think that sympathy with the poor and distressed was confined to members of the Labour Party.
– Nonsense !
– There is much said by them that leads to that conclusion. We all remember the story of the man who was very sympathetic, but who was pulled up with the question : “ Howmuch are you sympathetic ? ‘ ‘ And those who are always talking about our duty to the poor, how much do they, individually, do for them ?
– Proportionately as much as the right honorable member.
– If that be so, I can only say that I do not make such a song’ about the fact as do the honorable member and his colleagues.
– Bishop Gibney, when giving evidence before the Old-age Pensions Commission in Perth, said that the poor give in greater proportion than do the rich.
– That was an ex parte statement which my good friend, the Bishop, might not have sufficiently thought out.
– I think, however, that the fact is generally admitted.
– I do not know about that, but no one should claim that he has a monopoly of sympathy for the poor.
– Perhaps the right honorable member gives anonymously.
– The .kind man is always in good condition.
– I would reply ‘ to those who interject that in -Western Australia - in my own State, where I arn best known - I have as many friends among the poor as the members of the Labour Party have in the States from which they come. I’ have always been the friend of the poor people. I am their friend, and hope always will be. But I would remind honorable members that it is very easy to be generous with other people’s money. It is an easy matter to agree to all sorts of beneficent proposals so long as one has not to put one’s hand in one’s own pocket to pay for them. I heard the honorable member for Darwin say this afternoon - and I dare say that it was a mere lapsus Ungues - that he had known plenty of poor people to go to bed hungry. I should be ashamed to allow any man to go to bed hungry if I had the wherewithal to supply him with a meal.
– The honorable member is not here to reply.
– My contention is that we should be at least as careful in our expenditure of the public funds as we are in dealing with our own money. The right honorable member for East Sydney compared the position of those who receive ola-age pensions with that of the Chief Justice of Great Britain or. the CommanderinChief of the British Army, who, after years of service, retire on a pension. That was very strong language to employ. What is the position of a Chief Justice? He assumes office under a contract with the State that he shall receive a certain salary, and, upon retirement, a certain pension. A definite contract is made, and the~ State observes it. Then, again, let us consider the position of the Commander-in-Chief of a victorious army who returns to his country with the plaudits pf a grateful people ringing in his ears - the plaudits of a people grateful to him for having saved their country from danger and possibly from disaster. I would not insult the poor old-age pensioner by comparing his position with that of either a Chief Justice or the CommanderinChief of an army. What is the basis’ of these pensions? Clause 17, paragraph g, provides that no person shall receive an old-age pension unless he is unable to maintain himself ; in other- words, the pension will be payable only to the aged and deserving poor. An old-age pensioner may be one who has worked hard all his life ; who, perhaps, has made and lost a competency, and who, when the battle of life is almost over, finds it impossible to maintain himself. In such circumstances this humanitarian Bill, in effect, says to him on behalf of the Commonwealth, “ You have been a good citizen ; you have not been able to secure a competency for yourself, and we are not going to allow you to go unprovided for to eke out a miserable existence in your old age. We intend to take care that you shall enjoy at least some comfort during the years that remain to you.” That is what, in effect, this Bill declares ; but is it not humbug to compare the position of this - deserving poor man to that of a great warrior who has served his country on the battlefield, or of a learned Judge who has administered justice for years under a contract ‘ that on his retirement he shall be granted a pension? Let us deal with this matter as practical men, called upon to face a great national difficulty. It must be a source of regret to every one that in this young land of ours, comprising a vast area and possessing infinite resources, there should be so many who, after fighting the battle of life, find themselves in their old age unable to provide for their needs. One would think that such would not be the experience in this new land in these early days. “Unfortunately, however, even men who have been frugal find themselves in many cases in this predicament. It is certainly a matter for regret that in this new country, with a population of a little over four millions, it should be necessary to provide for a national system of old-age pensions costing £1,500,000 a year, apart altogether from the work done by charitable and benevolent efforts, through whose agency large expenditure results. I hope that the poor, instead of increasing, will diminish. I have a hope that the young Australian will be able to strike out to greater advantage than did those who came here from the Old World and had not the experience of settlement to which he has been born. Although I can hardly believe that he will be more self-reliant than those who have preceded him, I trust that the young Australian will by some means or other be able to avoid becoming a burden, in his old age, upon the country. I sincerely trust that he will have good fortune, and be able to provide for himself in his declining days. Turning for a moment from the humanitarian side of this great question, I wish to deal briefly with its financial aspect. The honorable member for Flinders showed last night that he had given more thought to that side of the question than have most honorable members, and he pointed out that two years hence we should have a large deficit. Even if his anticipations are not realized the position will be serious. It must mean increased taxation, and I fear that even if we provide, as I am sure we shall be able to do, for the aged poor of the Commonwealth, our co-partners - our friends of the States - and more particularly the smaller States - will find themselves face to face with a decreased revenue. That in turn will lead to a reduction in expenditure and a consequent reduction in the progress and development of- the public estate of Australia. If the States have not the means to develop Australia we shall not be able to do so. The power to carry out great public works, to provide means of transit, and to engage in many undertakings designed to encourage production from the soil, and to establish an industrious people upon the land, is vested in them. If we managed our finances successfully only at the cost of bringing disaster upon the States, the position would be very serious. Personally, I have no fear about the future. I have no fear as to the resources of Australia. I have never been a pessimist, and I hold that we must work out this problem in a practical and business-like way that will insure success.
– Does the honorable member think that old-age pensions should be granted as a matter .of charity or as a right of citizenship ?
– I have pointed out that under this Bill no one is to receive an old-age pension unless he is unable to maintain himself. That provision means that old-age pensions are to be paid to the deserving poor who have served their country we’ll, and whom Australia will not cast aside, and neglect in their old age. To return to the financial aspect of this question, I would urge that the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States should be faced in a business-like, practical manner. I am not thinking of the scheme with which my name is associated any more than I am thinking of the scheme with which the name of any other honorable member has been associated. But I will say that the proposals that I made when Treasurer met with the approval of the States Premiers, and that even if the Government were not prepared to carry out that which they had agreed to a few months before, they might at least have done something in that direction. The reason why they were not prepared to carry it out was not because the proposals were not complete.
– Was the right honorable member’s scheme submitted to the States with the approval of the Cabinet?
– Yes ; it was put before the House with the approval of the Prime Minister arid the Cabinet in the Budget speech.
– The States refused to accept it.
– They agreed to the financial proposals that. I made on behalf of the Government, but were not willing at the time to consent to the transfer of the. debts of the States to the Commonwealth. Every one knows that the re-adjustment of our financial relations and the taking over of the debts of the States are absolutely distinct matters, though it will be very convenient to deal with the two questions simultaneously. The Government, on the plea that the arrangement had not been completed, withdrew my proposal, and submitted another. They did so, not because they disapproved of my scheme - for they had approved ot it - but because the Labour Party were not prepared to keep them in office if they carried it out.
– That is not a fair statement.
– It is, I submit, absolutely true and fair. It is well-known that the then leader of the Labour Party, the . honorable member for South Sydney, was not in favour of the scheme, which the Government had submitted to the House, and which had been approved by the States Premiers at the Brisbane Conference. It was not persisted in, not because the Government did not like it - because the Prime Minister had agreed to it, and we had worked the scheme out together in a most friendly manner - but because the Labour Party would not support it.
– Has this anything to do with the Old-age Pensions Bill?
– A discussion of the financial measures for carrying into effect the provisions of the Bill must, I submit, be relevant; but I shall not refer to the matter at greater length. What we shall require before the measure comes info operation on the 1st July of next year is a financial adjustment which will determine the relative positions of the Commonwealth and the States. The scheme of the Government, for which I was primarily responsible, would have succeeded had I remained in office, unless the Government had had to go out on it. That consideration even would not have deterred me from pressing it.
– The scheme was condemned by every financial expert in the community.
– The Prime Minister approved of it, and submitted it to the’ Premiers in Melbourne, while I subsequently submitted it on his behalf to the Premiers’ Conference in Brisbane.
– They refused to adopt it.
– They adopted absolutely in every particular the financial arrangements submitted by me on behalf of the Government. However the Government is responsible for what has been since done in this matter. Before any satisfactory conclusion can be arrived at, we shall, I think now, have to summon to our aid persons possessing experience in finance and actuarial knowledge. If two or three expert financiers were associated with half-a-dozen public men understanding the question, a scheme could be formulated which would suit the Commonwealth, and would insure the financial stability of the States. I deny that every financial . authority condemned my scheme. But what can be said for that of the honorable member for Hume? Where did he get the financial knowledge necessary to deal with an important’ question like this? At the present time, chaos exists, and we seem no nearer a settlement of the question than we were years ago. We are at loggerheads with the States, and a great deal of mischief is being done.
– Does the right honorable member mean that?
– The Government has broken faith with the States, and brought forward a scheme which has not been well thought out. ‘ I can only hope for the best. I do not believe in haphazard finance; but unless other steps are taken, I see no chance of an amicable and satisfactory arrangement being come to. I have already complained that I have not had sufficient time to properly consider the provisions of the Bill. Apparently the Bill has been carefully drawn, ‘and indorsing as I do the principle of the measure, I can take exception only to one or “ two -matters of detail. There is no reason, however, why, instead of the Bill being rushed through now, it should not be made the first measure of the new session, which is to begin in September, were it not that the Labour Party wishes to go to Brisbane in July with this measure to show that it has done something. We all desire, I feel sure, that there shall be placed on the statute-book a great humanitarian measure such as this, with the object of providing some comfort for the old age of those who, through misfortunes in the battle pf life, are not able to maintain themselves.
.- The time for argument in respect of a Bill of this character has passed, and I trust that the House will show, by a unanimous vote, that when a measure involving humanitarian interests is under consideration, there is no room for any exhibition of party feeling. I very much regret the speech of the honorable member for Flinders, which consisted entirely of arguments in favour of delay. He desires action in connexion with a Federal system of old-age pensions to be deferred until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States have been determined. If we wait, till then before doing anything, we shall wait till the Greek kalends. Similarly, the right honorable member for Swan argued for delay. I challenged one statement which he made in reference to a friend of mine, who is a member of this House; and upon whose words he had placed a wrong construction. I can assure the right honorable member that the honorable member for Darwin is as good a man as any in this House, and I am perfectly certain he would not allow even a four-footed creature to go hungry if he could prevent it. Again, the right honorable member was in error in declaring that only members of the Labour Party are crying out on behalf of the poor. From an experience gamed by leading the unemployed over a period of ten years, I know that men and women of wealth contribute to every one of the unemployed movements. But my reply to his statement that most of the funds come from the rich, is that the widow’s mite weighs heavier than *he millionaire’s gold. If he will study Booth’s work upon the masses of London, he will know that Mulhall’s statistics show that every year 200 persons .die of starvation in London alone. In Ireland, during 1879, no less than 3,700 persons perished from absolute starvation, according to the verdicts returned at coroners’ inquests. In this connexion, I may, perhaps, be pardoned for quoting the words of Professor Pepper - he, who won more gold medals than any other man at the London University -
If a man is so starved that recovery ‘is hopeless, but in staggering along a street he picked up a cabbage stump or any like refuse and eat it, that would be found in the stomach, and the death would be said to be by want and privation, not by starvation.
When a verdict of death by starvation is recorded, no food must be found in the intestines. Consequently, if we included those who die from actual want and privation, they would number thousands. I also take exception to the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan, iri reference to paragraph c, of clause 17. That provision declares that no person shall receive an old-age pension unless he is of good character, and is, and has been, for the five 5’ears immediately preceding his application, leading a temperate and reputable life. I take the same view of that aspect of the question as I did when the Old-age Pensions Bill was before the Victorian Parliament. Of the dead, it is said we should speak nothing but good. But I say that, before speaking good of the dead,’ we should speak the truth. I have in my mind’s eye two men, one of whom - Sir Andrew Clarke - for three years eight months and nine days’ work here drew a pension totalling ,£22,327 7s. 7d. If an old-age pension is not to be granted” to a man who drinks, let us also deny it to the pensioner who draws £20 a week. . However, I am prepared to accept the Bill as it stands. It has always been my practice, if I could not obtain a whole loaf, to take a bun. I have read every Old-age Pensions Bill that has been introduced into European Legislatures, and, speaking from memory, I know of no measure which can equal that under consideration from the stand-point of the splendid principles which it enunciates. I take it that every honorable member will have a special interest in this Bill, and I hope that the decision of the House in regard to it will be unanimous. The other case of pension which I had in my mind’s eye was that of Mr. C. E. Childers, who drew a pension aggregating £17,288 16s. 9d. Whilst in London, an aged Australian couple waited upon him, and he told them that he had nothing more to do with Australia. Had I known that at the time, I should have published the fact in the London newspapers. We had nothing to thank him for. Why do I object to the arguments which have been advanced in favour of delay? I will tea honorable members. On 10th of January, 1898, Ann Kent, 90 years of age, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment because she was Christ-like in her poverty. According to the Argus, of the nth of April, of another year, Ann Davis, 74. years, was similarly sentenced, and she had already served a year in gaol. I may also recall, as indicating the poverty which exists, what used to be known as the “ 8 o’clock rush,” in Bourke-street, when a Portuguese - a splendid native of Portugal - used to feed over forty men nightly. I may add that the Victorian Government did not even pay him the compliment of making him a magistrate. I also recollect the case of an old lady whom 1 found in front of my door, in West Melbourne. She was’ 78 years of age, and- had been in Australia for forty-nine years. She had applied to the Ladies’ Benevolent Society for assistance. I believe that there are some of God’s own women identified with that society, but, at the same time, there are women belonging to the “other fellow” associated with it. Unfortunately, I came across some of them. This woman was sent from one lady to another till no less than thirteen messages had passed respecting her, and, with the exception of one lady, the distressed old creature was not asked whether she had had a meal or possessed a tram fare. After all these negotiations,, what did this Benevolent Society give? The magnificent sum of is. 6d. per week. However, it was an instance in which the poor helped the poor. A room was provided for the old woman in addition to food - I will not say by whom. She died in the Melbourne Hospital, murmuring her thanks to the one good woman who had assisted her. It is these circumstances which cause rae to resent the suggestion of delay. I would further point out to the right honorable member for Swan that if we would only provide more money to keep men honest we should not have so many in gaol. According to the Year-Book for 1893, the cost of the maintenance, of a prisoner in Pentridge is £56 a year, and his earnings represent about £26, thus leaving a loss of, approximately, £30 per annum, or considerably more than we propose to grant as an old-age pension under this Bill.
Perhaps the right honorable member is not aware that in England 1,300,000 persons never know where they will obtain the next meal or the next night’s bed.
– If one gave many of them the price of a meal in the morning, they would spend it in drink before lunchtime.
– I dare say the honorable member speaks from his own experience, and I can only pity him. But the great majority of people are God’s people, and it is their surroundings which make for misery. In the great city of London, one person out of five dies in a lunatic asylum or other public institution, and yet the British nation votes £80,000,000 a year for war armament. Can there be a more pathetic story than that told by a Sundayschool teacher about the little child who, when given a card or map to hang up in its home, said, “ We have not a wall “ ? When inquiries were made it was found that the poor little mite belonged to the family that slept in the middle of the room, the four corners having each its family. To blame God for poverty is blasphemy - poverty is caused only by the injustice of the laws. Burns’ words ought to be written over the door of every school, “ Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” I should like to read the following extract from the London Daily Mail -
The East End “ Lord Mayor’s “ Banquet.
A little girl of ten, pallid-faced, but happy, . stood up in the Great Assembly Hall in Mile End Road at seven o’clock last evening’ and gravely announced to as many of a huge gathering as could hear her : “ I am quite full.”
She was hastily pulled into her seat and reproved by her mother. But the men and women around only smiled at the mother’s correction, for they guessed it was the first meal the little girl had had that day ; and they knew quite well it was the day’s first meal for the mother. A good many of those around were in the same position, and they knew the symptoms.
It was the East End Lord Mayor’s Feast for the out-of-work poor. The Great Assembly Hall had its floor and its galleries ‘packed with poor people glad of a meal. There were 2,500 of them altogether ; and, with the light and warmth and food together, they were in the seventh heaven. Outside on the pavement marshalled by police, were a thousand more all hungry, but without the . lucky ticket of admission. They stood there in stolid, hungry misery, men, women, and children, watching their fortunate neighbours go in to the feast, and each one hoping against hope that there might be a vacant place.
Each year, on November g, Mr. F. N. Char- rington organises a feast for the poor, the funds for which are generally provided, as they were this year, by the new Lord Mayor and the
Sheriffs. Here is the menu of the East End “ Lord Mayor’s Feast” : - One meat pie. one cake, one small loaf, two apples, unlimited tea.
And remember that this chance arises only once a year.
There were no plates and no knives and forks at this banquet. The apples, the bread, the cake, and the pie were all put together in a paper bag, and the bag was then handed to each guest. Some of the people had had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours. They began to open their bags in .some cases before they reached their seats.
But if there was a disregard of manners, there were also deeds of; heroic self -repression and self-sacrifice. One thin-faced workman who, under pressure, admitted that his last meal was taken some time on the previous day, ate exactly a quarter of his meat pie and put the remainder back in the bag with the other things. “ I’ve got a wife and seven little ones at home,”- he said.
One middle-aged woman, with high cheekbones, was clasping the bag of food tightly to her breast, untouched. She drank the tea which was given, but ate nothing. When inquiry was made of her, she resented it with the fierce pride of the poor. “ I’m not hungry,” she snapped. “It’s my bag, ain’t it? I can take it away, I suppose. I don’t want any food. I tell you, I ain’t hungry.”
It was found out afterwards that she had five little children at home and an out-of-work husband. There were scores of similar cases.
Yet in face of such facts we are asked to delay old-age pensions. If there be sacred rights of property, then more sacred are the duties of property, and still more sacred the rights of human life. In this land, with its countless millions of acres, land should be so free that human beings may rest on it; and that is one reason why we are prepared to accept this Bill, although it may not be perfect. To those who mav take exception to the provision for invalid pensions, I may point to the case of a man who. at works in Footscray, suffered arsenical poisoning through working amongst iron pyrites, and also to a statement in the British Lancet that, in a certain trade in England, the average working life is only seven years, and that the women who work in it never, bear a child again - that those workmen and workwomen who wash themselves with water pre, as it were, pockmarked by the action of the acid.
– Where was that?
– In the Midland counties of England, where the chemical works are. I am only giving such examples to show the necessity for a pension in case of incapacity by injury, even if the person be only sixteen years of age. We have been urged to consider what capital has done for this country and the world generally ; but I invite honorable members to, for one moment, turn their attention to the reward which has been given to men of genius, to men whose names shine like the stars in a summer night, but who have all died paupers or in want. In this list of brilliant men who suffered are Homer, Spenser, Cervantes, Dryden, Terence, Sir Walter Raleigh, Bacon, Butler, Paul Borghese, Tasso, Steel, Otway, Bentivoglio, Chatterton, and Savage, while Goldsmith’s “Vicar of Wakefield was sold for a trifle to save him from the grip of the law ; Fielding lies in . the English burial ground at Lisbon’ without a stone to mark his head ; Milton sold Paradise Lost for ^41 8s., and finished his life in obscurity; and Camoens ended his life, it is said, in an alms-house. And what was done by the capitalists in the case of the great inventor of the linotype? When Mergenthaler was dying in almost absolute poverty in Chicago, they endeavoured to rob him of the honour of his splendid invention. I could speak for hours in this direction, but I shall not detain honorable members further than to say that if Parliament does nothing more than pass this Bill, it will justify its existence. In placing such legislation on the statutebook, we not only provide for those who have borne the brunt of toil in the past, but we offer an example to European countries. As an Australian, I glory in the fact that every European nation has its eye on ‘Australia and New Zealand-. I have no desire for one moment to convey that I think the honorable member for Swan would prevent the payment of old-age pensions, but I do wish that he had the ardour and sympathy which pulsated within him when he was traversing the trackless wastes of Australia. When the right honorable member’s heart was young, and his brain was fresh, he would not have asked for delay, but would have said : “ Let us pass the measure, and trust the people to find the means.” I am convinced that the Australian people would not mind being taxed for such a cause. If wi- look through the list of contributions to the various -charitable institutions, it is astonishing to find the same names repeated. It is true that amongst those names are those of a great number- of wealthy people, but there are a great many more wealthy people whose names are not on the lists. What more glorious reason could we have for imposing a little more taxation? I have no doubt of Australia’s future, and of the care which will be taken of her poor ; but I am sorry to say that we are most neglectful of our best immigrant - the Australian-born baby. At the Waitara Foundling Home, near Sydney, and in a lesser degree iri Victoria, not only are unfortunates shown a greater care than is bestowed in the older lands, but there are to be found foundling homes where the mother can be protected until she can earn some means of support, and the child is given a chance of living. There may be need for child pensions in our midst, and possibly by next session, with the experience wo shall have gained, we may find it necessary to do something for the young and helpless, as well as for the poor and aged.
– This is one of those great humanitarian questions which, when under discussion in any House of Legislature in any part of the world, always hushes to peace our warring party factions. I do not propose to yield to the temptation offered by the leader of the Labour Party in his gibe concerning my action .a few weeks ago; the honorable member is Quite welcome to make what he likes out of that occurrence, because the records are there to stand for themselves. I should like to say that I do not think we need discuss the question whether Australia can afford to pay old-age pensions; it does not matter what our land system is, or what is the law of property, in connexion with a question like that under discussion. We may well leave these problems for some other time. I listened with some pleasure to the honorable member for Swan, but I think he rather marred the effect by his criticism of the leader of the Opposition. Why the right honorable member should go out of his way to use the strong language he did, I cannot understand. The leader of the Opposition, I am informed, made some reference to the fact that the receipt of these old-age pensions was as much an honour, as was the receipt of a pension by a Chief Justice ; and if that be the statement to which such exception is taken, I have not the slightest hesitation in associating myself with it. I know of no more meritorious heroism, shall I say, than that which is practised in the lower ranks of industrials in Australia and elsewhere. The real heroism of ‘ life is represented by those men with large families, who have to deny themselves from the beginning to the end of their career, in order to maintain themselves and their depen dants in tolerable decency and comfort ; and I venture to say that hereafter, when account is taken of all things human, those men, who, day by day, are undergoing these privations and sufferings - these mental tortures - will be found a high place amongst the heroes of the’ race. Such men ought to receive pensions from the State. They have earned them just as honorably and are just as much entitled to them as the highest in the land. I make that statement without the slightest hesitation, and hope that the day will never come in our democratic Australia when any other sentiment will prevail. I do not regard old-age pensions as charities in the slightest degree. I regard them as the merest modicum of justice meted out to men who, during a long and honorable career, have tried to build up the industrial life of the community.
– But apart from the general question of old-age pensions does not the honorable member think that this Bill is something in the nature of a dole?
– While I shall support this Bill most cordially so far as it goes, I want to say at once that I do not much like its character or that of any other Old-age Pensions Bill which has been passed in Australia. There runs through them too much of the vein of charity. 1 do not approve of such a notion. I rather look upon an old-age pension system in the light of a national scheme of insurance, in which the insurers are all men who contribute to the upbuilding of the country, and the insured those who ‘ need money and take it in the shape of pensions. That is the broad view I take. I regard old-age pensions very much as al form of national annuity given to men who are entitled to demand it as a right, and not as an act. of mercy or charity. That is the only real basis on which the system can rest.. In considering this matter I dismiss from my mind the question of doling out pittances to keep alive what may be called human derelicts who have fallen by the wayside in our industrial struggles. The tragedies of life consist of those cases where a man’s overrefinement results in his becoming indigent. There are scores, nay thousands, of such men in all civilized communities. The higher the degree of civilization* the more such cases multiply. We find thousands of men, over refined, over sensitive, overstrung, and therefore unable to get that rude grip of life that will enable them to fill an honorable career in the community as, say, labourers. Those are the tragedies of life - men who, because of their texture, shrink from the rude contact with the world which is necessary to enable them to meet fully their obligations and responsibilities. Such cases are in no degree to be associated with charity. It is the right of such men as human beings - in many cases highly developed and sensitive human beings - to come and ask that they may not fret out their old age without the bare necessaries of life. As to our being able to finance old-age pensions, I do not think we ought to discuss that question for one minute except in so far as the immediate financial arrangements are concerned. I think that with our thousand millions of national wealth, with our national income averaging as I believe it does, over £204 per family, and our aggregate property averaging as it does, I believe, from £1,100 to £1,200 per family, there is no need to discuss that phase of the question. With these figures at one’s finger ends, with the knowledge that our national production represents £150,000,006 per. annum, and our commerce £120,000,000 to £130,000,000 per annum,, we can have no doubt as to the ability of the nation to provide these pensions for all who are compelled to take them. But that does not take us away from the immediate financial arrangements which have to be made in order to put this scheme upon a sound and lasting basis. Those who try to burke those arrangements and to leave them to the future to unravel are no friends of the old-age pension system. When we are called upon to deal with a large national question like this we ought to have -some definite arrangement as to the fund from which the scheme is to be financed. And moreover, it seems to me that of all the occasions when we should be discussing a question of this kind the present is the most inopportune. For six or seven years we have had booming surpluses which we have not known how to spend, and we have been returning them to the States to inflate their revenues. The revenues of my own State in particular have been swollen in that way to a degree which I think is positively wrong, having regard to the position of the taxpayers of the community. All these booming years of revenue have been allowed to go hy, and we are now called upon to consider this question in the first year of straitened financial circumstances that the Commonwealth has known. What are the prospects? The next year or two I venture to say will find us with our finances still more straitened. Our revenues have already fallen, and I am afraid that they are destined to fall in the immediate future. This year we are spending up to the limits of our possibilities. And this is the time we have selected for financing a national scheme of supreme importance - a scheme that goes To the very root of our obligations of citizenship. Then again, the time is inappropriate and inopportune for another reason. Already in Australia three States are paying old-age pensions. When one looks into the figures closely one finds that we have a population of 4,197,000, of whom 3,358,000 are living under old-age pension conditions.
– Do not disgrace the name of old-age pensions Cy saying that Victoria has such a scheme.
– It has none the less an old-age pension system.
– And a very valuable one.
– I think so. At all events, Victoria is . better off in that respect than the other States which have none. We find that 3,358,000 people in Australia are already living under old-age pension conditions, and that only 838,000 are at present outside the range. That being so, we are going deliberately to incur a financial responsibility amounting to £1,750,000 per annum to provide old-age pensions for three States with only 838,000 of the population of Australia.
– How can it be said that we shall incur that expenditure when already a very large sum is being paid by the States by way of old-age pensions - a sum which we shall deduct from the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue returnable to them?
– That is the point. We are not entitled under our present financial .arrangements with the States to deduct one penny. Here is the anomaly of the w;hole position: That whereas £1,000,000 a year is already being paid by the States for old-age pensions, we are going to duplicate that system, so far as the- financial arrangements are concerned, over three-fourths of the whole of the population of Australia. Does not that point to the wisdom of some arrangement being arrived at between the States and the Commonwealth before this scheme becomes the law of the land?
– The honorable member would not object to the Bill being passed to enable arrangements to be made?
– I am not going to object to anything in this Bill. The Government must be responsible for whatever defects it has. I am going to support the principle of old-age pensions.
– And also the recognition of that principle by Statute?
– That follows. Now that we have taken the work in hand, we’ must see it through. I am pointing out, however, how unfortunate it is that we have to take it in hand without some arrangement being first made between the States and the Commonwealth. Is it not strange also - and I cannot help feeling that some one must take the responsibility for this condition of things - that just when we are on the point of enacting a measure like this - just when we most need to have amicable relations with the States - there should be a degree of irritation greater than has ever been known in the history of Federation. It is under such conditions, and at such a time, that we choose to bring forward this scheme. It sets out on its career under circumstances calculated to prejudice it; under circumstances calculated to retard its usefulness. I hope that it will triumph over those obstacles, become the law of the land, and meet the condition of things with which we desire to deal. There is reason for a Federal old-age pensions system. But what we are going to do practically is not so. much to enact an old-age pensions system as to take over the oldage pensions systems of the States.
– That is never mentioned by many honorable members.
– We are going to take over those State services, but unlike what has been the position in connexion with all the other functions that we have taken over we are not going to take over at the same time the funds necessary to meet them.
– Then why do the “States squeak over what we are doing?
– I have not heard them squeak.
– That is what the honorable member is doing now - he is supporting, the States in their opposition to our proposals.
– I am afraid that the honorable member, with his usual intelligence, is unable to follow me. If he were, he would not make such a remark. If we enact this measure, as we propose to do, and no arrangement is made with the States, it will be nothing more nor less than disgraceful. It would certainly be wrong to relieve my own State in particular of the amount now paid by it in respect of old-age pensions. So far as that State is concerned with its overflowing revenues, it ought readily to give us as much as will finance that’ part of the scheme which will apply to New South Wales. I believe they would really do so. But there is no arrangement for that to be done. I am afraid that the Bill which the Government pushed through this House in such haste last night, and are now hurrying through the Senate, is not calculated to bring the Premiers of the States into the frame of mind in which they should be during the discussion of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. However that may be, it is the duty of the Prime Minister and of the Treasurer to meet them in the fairest and best spirit.
– We are prepared to do- so any day, but not to go cap in hand.
– What need is there’ for that phrase? The spirit which prompts its use” is embittering our relations with the States. Last night we were treated to a diatribe, in which the honorable member declared that those on this side were always supporting the enemies of the Commonwealth; disgraceful language to apply to the States authorities. One would think that the States have no interests. Our duty is to consider the welfare of the citizens from both points of view. This problem could be easily solved if the States authorities could be got to look at the matter as they should.
– If they could !
– Does the honorable member assume to himself all public virtue, and allow none to the States authorities? He forgets that the State Parliaments represent the people whom we represent, and the fact that the State Governments are supported by large majorities should lead us to try to’ understand their position as they should try to understand ours.
– We see their position, and try to meet it ; but they- will not listen to us.
– Every time the honorable member meets’ the States, he offers them something less. I do not blame the Government entirely ; I know that there is a wrong spirit abroad concerning the Commonwealth. Personally, I think that the States are letting slip golden opportunities for making good terms, and that the longer the settlement of the financial question is delayed, the worse it will be for them. If they do not let us take over their debts, I am afraid before very long we shall have spent the necessary money to pay the interest. We shall certainly spend it if the present Treasurer remains in power. The States, instead of regarding us ‘ as wishing to trench upon their rights and to take away their privileges, should be ready to make any fair arrangement in regard to the debts, since in the near future this Parliament will have sole control of the revenue from Customs and Excise.
– But we must preserve the solvency of the States.
– Yes ; at all costs.
– The tension has. been so great that now, when we offer to relieve the States of their debts, they seem to think that we wish to take something from them. A wrong state of opinion exists, and a curiously inverted view on both sides. I urge the Treasurer to sink any feeling that he may have, in order to bring about a settlement.
– I have none.
– Having waited for seven years for the establishment of old-age pensions, with reciprocal arrangements among all the States, we have a right to remove disabilities which press most hardly on the old pioneers of Australia. Those who have, ventured most, who have travelled from one State to another, to open up the land, are now dependent on charity, while those who have stayed at home are receiving pensions. I hope that the measure will be passed as soon as possible. The Government must take responsibility for the financial side of these proposals. We can only hope that it may come to an arrangement with the States which will make’ the burden of oldage pensions as light as possible. I hope that the States will place at our disposal the money with which they now pay oldage pensions, of the responsibility for which we shall relieve them by the passing of this measure.. If that arrangement is come to, a Commonwealth’ old-a.ge pensions system ought not to. and would not, hurt Australia. We shall be able to pay what will be, not a charity dole, but a’ State insur ance. Our old-age pensions scheme will not be such as befits the resources and dignity of the Commonwealth, until it rests on a proper basis. But I shall not put the slightest obstacle in the way of this scheme.
Mr.HEDGES (Fremantle) [9. 34].- I am not opposed to the Bill, and have, on several occasions, expressed myself in favour of the payment of pensions to the indigent aged. So far back as September last I told the House what stand I would take in regard to a measure of this kind. I think, however, that we should have had at least two or three days in which to study the Bill. Some proper means should have been devised to meet the heavy expense which will be incurred in paying the proposed pensions. Our present system of finance will not quite suit the requirements of the Bill. The sum needed will be much larger than probably many honorable members realize. We ought to have created what might -have been called an Australian provident fund, to which all could have contributed small amounts out of their wages or earnings. No doubt, nearly £2,000,000 will be needed to pay the proposed pensions, because many persons will claim pensions who would not ask for charity. I think the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney, that the pensions should be paid monthly, in advance, is a splendid one, and I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong, that the States Premiers should have acted in this matter. No doubt they would have acted had they received, encouragement; but they have been treated all along as enemies of) the Commonwealth. Had half the tact that was shown at the Imperial Conference been shown in dealing with them, our Relations with them would now be very different. It must, be remembered that the State Parliaments control a much larger expenditure than we do. It will not be until the Commonwealth is much larger that this Parliament will control as big an expenditure as is now controlled by New South Wales or Victoria. I suggest a Conference at the earliest moment between the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States, for the settlement of the financial problem.
– There has just been a Conference.
– Nothing could be determined at that Conference, because the Premier of Queensland had to hurry away to England. The honorable member for
Melbourne has pictured some very pathetic scenes. He has told us of persons dying in want here in Victoria.
– The same thing has happened in Sydnev, and elsewhere.
– Western Australia has been spoken of as if her Parliament had done nothing for her aged poor. As a matter of fact, they have been considered.
– What has Western Australia expended upon them?
– I will tell the honorable member presently. From the statements which have been made in this House, one would think that the aged poor receive consideration only in New South Wales and Victoria. That is not so. To my own knowledge, the sum of from £30,000 to £40,000 has been expended by the Western Australian Government during the past two years in an endeavour to make these persons comfortable. One charitable institution, which occupies a beautiful site on the banks of the Swan River, contains 332 inmates, and its conduct by the State authorities involves an annual expenditure of £10,000. The male inmates enjoy the utmost freedom. Boats have been placed at their disposal, and they are practically at liberty to go where they may please. Clause 46 of this Bill reads -
If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum, or other charitable institution, the pension shall become payable as from a date not more than twentyeight days prior to the pensioner being discharged from or leaving the’ asylum or institution, but no payment on account of pension shall be made to him so long as he is an inmate of the asylum or institution.
To my mind, the States Governments which provide for the maintenance of these institutions are entitled to receive an amount equivalent to the pensions which would become payable to the inmates upon their discharge. Surely we shall not ask the States to turn these creatures out upon the mercy of the world ? In the institution located upon the banks of the Swan the inmates are provided with every possible comfort.
– Is the honorable member referring to a State institution?
– Yes. The right honorable member for Swan was unjustly taunted by the honorable member for Melbourne with not being in favour of old-age pensions. May I point out to him that this very institution was established at the instance of the right honorable member for
Swan ? The average cost of each inmate is £24 12s. 6d. per annum, or 9s. 9½d. per week. That approximates closely to the amount of the pension which is con templated under this Bill. In my opinion, the honorable member for Melbourne was grossly unfair in his references to the right honorable member for Swan. In the Federal Convention, I find that the latter supported the inclusion of old-age pensions in the thirty-nine subjects upon which the Commonwealth is empowered to legislate. The matter was brought forward by the Honorable J. H. Howe, of South Australia. Why did . the honorable member for Melbourne talk to the gallery, and why did he attempt to depreciate the work of the right honorable member for Swan ?
– He did not.
– My ears are just as good as those of the honorable member. The honorable member for Melbourne should remember that others in the world besides himself have performed kind acts.
– I did not say that I had performed a kind act.
– I would further point out that, in connexion with our charitable institutions in Western Australia we have not differentiated between nationalities. In those institutions there are 251 persons who hail from England, 160 from Ireland, 54 from Scotland, 34 from Western Australia, it from Germany, 5 from India, 6 from America, 5 from Wales, 10 from New South Wales, 14 from Victoria, 2 from France, 11 from South Australia, 2 from Austria, 3 from Norway, 3 from New Zealand, 1 from Switzerland, 4 from Tasmania, 3 from Italy, 1 from Malta, 1 from Queensland, 1 from Chili, 1 from China, 1 from Newfoundland, 2 from Prussia. 1 from British Guiana, 1 from Bulgaria, and 7 whose birth-places are unknown.
– How long has the system alluded to by the honorable member been in vogue?
– To my knowledge for fifteen or sixteen years. The inmates of these institutions who are 50 years of age and under number 73 ; those between 51 and 60 years number 83 ; those between’ 61 and 70 years number 176 ; those between 71 and 80 years, 206 ; those between 81 and 90 years, 50; and those between 91 and 100 number 2. By incurring an expenditure of £2,000,000 in connexion with the old-age pensions scheme proposed under this Bill we are. assuming a responsibility which is equivalent to increasing our national indebtedness by £50,000,000 at 4 per cent.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the scheme ?
– No; I am in favour of it. But I contend that we have not devised the right means of collecting the money with which to defray its cost’. We cannot afford to take the necessary funds for the purpose out of revenue. I fear that in a very few years we shall find ourselves in serious difficulty in attempting to finance the undertakings to which we are committed, especially if we take over the Northern Territory and go in for a scheme pf naval defence.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the scheme should be financed ?
– I told the House several months ago that it should be done by means of a provident fund. If we have in Australia 1,600,000 persons who are earning their livelihood, surely it would not hurt them to contribute 6d. each per week to such a fund ? That would provide more than sufficient money to pay these pensions. It would encourage our people to be thrifty instead of inducing the feeling that, no matter how they may . squander their substance when they are young, they will be provided for when they are old. I think that the day will come when honorable members will acknowledge that we should have devised some sounder means of financing this scheme. I support the Bill, but, while we are on the right track in providing for the old people, I think we are on the wrong track so far as the financial proposals are concerned.
.- I desire to congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill, which, of its kind, is one of the best, if not, probably, the best old-age pensions scheme in the world. Personally, however, I am sorry that the Government and Parliament have not been courageous enough to afford an opportunity to-day for the discussion of an old-age pensions scheme in the truest and best sense of the word. The leader of the Opposition, in the course of his remarks, expressed a view which, I think, is shared by us all., namely, that there ought not to be the slightest element of charity in connexion with the scheme. I venture to say, however, that, unless old-age pensions be made universal - unless they apply to rich and poor alike - there must be a tinge of charity.
– What would be the estimated cost in that case?
– Even if the cost were £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, the money would be here.
– The money would be “in the country”?
– Quite so, and we should have national insurance in the best sense of the word. If England is in a position to pay millions per annum for her Army and Navy, and. for interest on a big national debt - which is different from the interest we pay, seeing that we have large assets-
– And £12,000,000 or. £15,000,000 besides for the poor.
– Quite so; if England is able to do all that, it seems to me that Australia could maintain a scheme of universal old-age pensions. I should have been a great deal more delighted to be supporting the Government in passing such «. scheme as I have indicated, but, strong as my personal regret is in this connexion, I am taking the view adopted, I believe, by the majority of honorable members when I say that it is the better policy to accept the Bill as it is, and endeavour to carry out our wishes more satisfactorily hereafter. I cannot help saying, however, that I think we are now losing a golden opportunity in accepting the measure as presented. When we reach the Committee stage, there are one or two amendments I should like to see made. I understand the Bill provides that, if a person drinks or leads a disreputable life, he shall not be entitled to a pension. I have very little sympathy with the drinking habits of the people of Australia, or of any other country, and, as a total abstainer for many years, I should like to see all the, people of this country take a similar view. But, having said that, I am opposed to any one being deprived of an old-age pension, even if he spent the whole of it in drink. I hold that an old-age pension belongs to the person to whom it is paid ; and, while we cannot remove every tinge of charity under the present proposals, we ought to go as far in that direction as possible. A pensioner is entitled to spend his pension in any way he deems fit, because, though it would be regrettable if he spent it in drink, the money is his.
– That would apply to a universal scheme, but not to a limited scheme like the present,’ under which the money is granted.
– If the money does not belong to the pensioner, then there is an element of charity.
– - Would the honorable member extend his liberty to the years before the age of. sixty-five?
– Yes; we are not here to deal with people’s characters, but to judge them worthy of old-age pensions on the ground of citizenship, service, or taxpaying.
– Under a universal system, the honorable member would not have any inquiries made?
– -Decidedly not. I recognise, however, that . at present the temper of the House is against a universal scheme, on the ground, amongst others, that we should wait for that until the Braddon section ceases to operate. My own belief, however, is that it is not necessary to wait until then. I quite recognise that, if the whole of the money for universal pensions had to be collected from Customs and Excise, the poor would be paying, not only their own’ pensions, but a portion of the pensions for -those who are in better circumstances ; and the corollary is that a large portion of the money should be derived from direct taxation.
– Why pay pensions to those who have already received the reward for their work?
– In the first place, because it would remove any element of charity. There may be people in fair circumstances to-day who will suffer reverses, and would be glad of assistance if it were free from the tinge of charity. The right honorable member for Swan asked who it was that had made Australia the country it is to-day. He said it was the industrious, the sober, the steady, the provident, and the thrifty, or used words to that effect, but under this Bill we are not necessarily giving pensions to those who have been thrifty or provident, because if a person has been able to accumulate, through his own energy and thrift, property to the extent of- £400, he is to receive no pension at all, but if he has accumulated £310 worth, he will be entitled to a pension. On the face of it, therefore, we appear to be giving a premium to those who have not been thrifty. Whilst I am not a strong advocate of the gospel of thrift - I do not know that I ever have been - I am not anxious to support a premium on thriftlessneSS.
– Surely it is a nobler ambition not to spend all one’s’ money, and to be independent of an old-age pension.
– There again the honorable member is looking on the old-age pension as though there was a tinge of charity about it. I do not know that the Judge’s of the Australian States object to receive their pensions. This House has refused to grant pensions to the Judges of the High Court, but I think that in all the States the Judges are entitled to pensions, and have not thought it derogatory to draw them. I have outlined the old-age pensions scheme that I should have liked to have an opportunity of supporting. I am glad the Bill has been introduced even in its present form, and I should like at this stage to .pay my tribute to the Honorable James Howe, of South Australia, whose name deserves to be mentioned here in connexion with a Federal old-age pensions scheme. There are a number of others to whom some credit is due, but there is no other man in Australia to whom greater credit should accrue than to Mr. Howe for the fight he put up to give the Federal Parliament the right to legislate with regard to old-age pensions. I hope that in Committee one or two of the clauses will be altered. Whilst I congratulate the Government upon introducing the Bill, and shall be glad to know that even this measure has been passed before the present session ends, I regret that a universal scheme was not brought down, and that I have not to-night an opportunity of supporting it.
– I had intended to make some remarks on the second reading of this measure, but considering the lateness of the hour, the position of matters in another place, and the desire to end the session, I shall not make some of the criticisms that I intended, because I could only make them on the second reading; not that I am against the proposal or the measure as a whole - I am quite in’ favour of it - but I think it is open to criticism in one or two directions. Any details to which I wish to call the Minister’s especial attention, I can, of course, deal with in Committee. With a desire to help honorable members to close the session as early as possible, I - shall allow mv opportunity of speaking on the . second reading to go.
.- I wish chiefly to emphasize the view put forward by several honorable members that the financial position should have been placed accurately before the House before we were called upon to vote so large a sum of money as is involved in this measure. After the telling, searching, and trenchant criticism of the finances, as put forward by the Treasurer a few days ago, by the honorable member for Flinders last night, it was due to the House for the Treasurer or some other Minister to make a rejoinder, and lay what the Government consider to be the true financial position of the Commonwealth before us. That was not an unreasonable request, and compliance with it would have enabled honorable members to vote for the measure with that enthusiasm which its character deserves. Nothing should have been done by the Government that would interfere with the hearty and enthusiastic support which I am pleased to know that the Bill is receiving from all parts of the Chamber. The honorable member for East Sydney was correct in stating that it was treating the House rather cavalierly to ask it to deal with and pass the Bill on the day on which it was placed before us. This is too vast a question to be decided in one sitting, and it would have been only reasonable and fair to allow the House breathing time to consider a measure that not only involves a very great expenditure, but strikes right down to the economic foundation of our legislation. The House is sufficiently unanimous to preclude the necessity of any general discussion on the question of old-age pensions. The system has been adopted in various parts of Europe. Denmark has probably a more liberal scheme than we have in Australia, but, in view of the ideal of this country to have a universal system of old-age pensions, the House should have had the opportunity of considering not only the proposals ,p.ut forward by the Government, but others that might have been introduced by honorable members with the object of improving the Bill. Owing, however, to the way it has been introduced, and the short notice given to honorable members, the House has really been placed at the mercy of the Government in the consideration of the subject. .All the Old-age Pensions Commissions that have presented reports to the Imperial Parliament have recommended the payment of pensions out of the general revenue, That system has been followed in various parts qf the Empire, where old-age pensions are being paid: It has been decided in all those cases that no special provision should be made for them. But it seems extraordinary that we of the British Empire, who pride ourselves on being in advance of other nations- in our economic progress, have never taken properly into consideration the great German system which has worked so satisfactorily, and which, so far as I know, is the nearest approach to a universal system to.be found in the world. I think it was Prince Bismarck who, in 1881, introduced and passed the first measure of old-age pensions in Germany, which approximated to some extent to the systems now in force in the British Dominions. That measure was afterwards superseded by the scheme of compulsory insurance that is in operation in Germany to-day. It is a fund to which employers- and employes contribute. The employer is responsible for the payment of the. insurance premiums, and the Government, when a man reaches the age qualifying him to receive a pension, subsidizes tlie fund by the payment of a certain amount per annum.
– How does that cover the case of people who are neither employers nor employes ?
– So far as I can understand, they have, to provide an old-age pension for themselves by compulsory insurance. It is not a universal scheme, but it is the nearest approach to one that is in operation. It may have some defects, but that may be said of all legislation. I think that the House in connexion with an important proposal of this kind should have been afforded an opportunity to consider the possibility of improving the measure by drawing on systems in operation in other parts of the world.
– Has not our Royal Commission considered all those schemes, and reported upon them?
– I am aware that this Bill is based on the recommendations made by that Commission. I have read its report, but I presume that it does not contain all the wisdom that can be shed on old-age pension schemes, and that it might be possible for this House to improve on the excellent .measure now before us. This Bill crystallizes in a very effective way the various .schemes in operation in the States. It is certainly a great improvement on the Victorian system, the weakness of which is that under it men who have a hard struggle in many cases to bring up their own families respectably may be haled before a Court like crimi- nals, and required to satisfy the bench that they are unable to contribute to the maintenance of their parents.
– I am told that’ the result of that provision is the collection of only £4,000 per annum.
– According to the report of the Royal Commission, the claims for old-age pensions in Victoria have been annually decreasing for that reason.
– There is a decrease of 17 per cent.
– I do not wish to suggest that those who are receiving oldage pensions under the Victorian Act are not thoroughly deserving, but I have no hesitation in asserting that, for the reason I have named, many of the most deserving refrain from making application for pensions to which they are entitled by reason of their citizenship, .and their services to the community.
– At the same time those who will not help their parents deserve to go to gaol.
– In certain cases that may be so. I know, however, of a good many people who have been given a fair education, and brought up respectably by their parents, but who, having gone into the world and married, find it as much as they can do to rear their families respectably, and to pay their way.
– Many who could contribute to the support of their parents do not do so’.
– Such defects will be found in connexion with every system that may be mentioned. Notwithstanding the objections which I think may be urged to the Bill, and the paucity of the information put before us with respect to the financial situation of the Commonwealth at the present time, I am not prepared to offer any opposition to it. Unfairly -treated though we have been by the Government, both in regard to their failure to put before us more details in respect to the financial situation and the attempt to rush the Bill through the House without giving us an opportunity to devote to it that mature consideration which its great importance demands, I shall nevertheless record my vote, as I am sure every honorable member will do, in its favour.
.’ - I desire to congratulate the Parliament on the opportunity now offered to it to pass this measure, and the Commonwealth on the opportunity to obtain the advantages which it will confer. So far as I can see, the Bill represents a very considerable advance upon existing legislation. A number of the defects in the New South Wales Act with which representatives of that State are familiar are absent from it. That being so, it will certainly be an advantage to the aged poor’ of that State, as well as of Victoria, and a very . great advantage to the aged poor of other States where old-age pensions schemes are not in operation. Very great credit is due to the honorable member for Wide Bay, to whose suggestion the financial proposals upon which this measure is based, are mainly due. It is a singular commentary upon legislation and legislative methods that the measures which find general acceptance amongst all parties are those with which the seashore of politics is littered. It is generally those measures upon which only one party has made up its mind that find their way upon the statute-book. Seven years after the establishment of Federation we find ourselves considering a Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Bill, and whilst I admit quite freely that circumstances have lately been more favorable to the passing of such a measure, I cannot help thinking that, having regard . to the fact that the obstacles in our way were never insuperable, it is a reflection upon us that it has not previously been dealt with. The honorable member for Barrier had something to” say about the failure of the Bill to make provision for all, without any qualification other than residence and age. He was quite right ; but although a thing may be very desirable, if you have not the necessary funds, it is useless to discuss it at length. Perhaps, however, we shall be able before very long to do what he wants. But as to the) cost of such a scheme, I would remind honorable members that although rich and poor alike can share in the benefits of free primary education for their children, not all elect to take advantage of it. Similarly, if old-age pensions were available to all, there would be many well-to-do persons who would make no claim on the fund. Another matter to which I dra’w particular attention is this. Paragraph c ‘ of clause . 17 provides that applicants for a. pension must be .of good character, having been for five years immediately preceding the date of application leading a temperate arid reputable life. We have nothing to do with what these applicants have been, so long as they have resided in the country continuously for twenty-five years, and have not been in gaol within a certain period of making their application. Of course, the pensioner who wastes his money in drink- ought not to be allowed to continue to abuse his privilege, because, whatever allowance may be made for such, conduct, the State ought not to be asked to pay twice for his maintenance,’ which it would be called upon to do if he squandered his pension. ‘ Who is to decide what good character means I do not know. If we can believe the Treasurer and the right honorable member for Swan, neither possesses that attribute. We have a right to expect pensioners to conduct themselves with reasonable propriety; but the Bill provides that a magistrate may, if he thinks a claimant not a person to whom he can safely intrust pension money, commit him to a benevolent asylum. If, however, a man is of good reputation and has complied in other respects with the requirements of the Bill, I think he should have a pension. In my opinion, therefore, all the words in the paragraph following the words “good character” should be struck out, and I shall move that amendment. I am glad that the measure has been introduced, and I hope that it will be of service to the unfortunate aged, who have been too long neglected.
– - I anl 1101 at a’l satisfied with the provisions of the Bill, which” I regard as inadequate for the requirements of Australia and not creditable to us. It perpetuates the charity system administered by various institutions throughout the Commonwealth, but provides that, instead of goods, the needy shall be given the equivalent. No man, however, is to be eligible for a pension if !he has been improvident, or intemperate, or has deserted his family, or is not of good character - conditions which are insisted upon now in regard to charitable relief. I hold that the fact that a person has lived and worked for over sixty years, and in the struggle for existence has failed to make provision for” old age, should entitle him to be provided for in the time of need by his country. In Australia, wealth to the extent of £t, 000,000,000 has been accumulated. In the struggle for existence, men and women go under. As a result of the stress of the existing competitive industrial system, men’s lives are shorter than was formerly the case, and I claim that the country should not permit its citizens to want in their old1 age. The system proposed in this Bill does ‘ not comply with what I regard as the requirements of such a measure. In Australia, where there is, perhaps, greater ‘ wealth in proportion to population than in any other country, better provision for the human derelicts, who are to be found in every country, should be made than is provided for in this Bill. I find that under this measure marriage with an aboriginal or coloured alien is to be a bar to the- receipt of a pension.
– I do not think that is so.
– Yes; the honorable member will find that marriage to an aboriginal or a coloured alien, even though the person should become an invalid, is a bar to the receipt of a pension under this Bill. That is a provision which should not appear in any .Invalid and Oldage Pensions Bill. If a person on other grounds is deserving of an old-age pension, marriage with an aboriginal, New Zealander, or a coloured alien should not be a bar to its receipt. It is unfortunate that,’ perhaps, the most important measure that could be introduced should be submitted to Parliament almost at the close of the session, and that we should be asked in an hour or two, not only to pass the second reading of the Bill, but to put it through Committee. In the circumstances, sufficient time is not given for its consideration. I hold the view that any system of invalid and old-age pensions should be based upon direct taxation, and should be universal, and that all contributing to the fund necessary for the purpose should be credited with the amount of pension due to them, and deducted from the amount of tax charged against them.
– What form of direct taxation would the honorable member recommend ?
– I believe that the most equitable form of direct taxation for this purpose would be a tax upon the unimproved value of land. I think that the upkeep of an old-age pensions fund should be a charge upon the unearned value of the land, and that the land-owner should be credited with the amount of the pension provided for. The- small land-owners who would not require, or who would not, under present conditions, accept, a pension would, under such a system, have to pay very little. I have suggested an old-age pensions system, which I think would be more generally ac- ceptable than that provided for in this Bill, under which people who must depend upon old-age pensions in their old age are called upon to contribute enormous sums through the Customs to provide the funds for the payment of those pensions. Moreover, the genteel poor, who silently suffer, will, under this system, pay towards a system which their independent spirit will not permit them to accept a pension as public charity. I should be disposed to regard ‘ any system of old-age pensions as unsatisfactory if it were not based upon the direct taxation of the unimproved value of land. However, as half a loaf is better than no bread, I shall vote for the system proposed in this Bill, with a view to its future amendment. A somewhat similar system is in operation in certain of the States at the present time, and it should not be difficult for the Commonwealth Government to make arrangements . with the Governments of the States to permit the amount which they now devote to the payment of old-age pensions to be deducted from their share of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue which is payable to them. In that way, the proposed system might readily be made effective, but, even when it becomes effective, it will not, in my opinion, give entire satisfaction to the people of Australia. I regret that we should be called upon to deal with the question so hurriedly, and without having first provided ways and means. But, as the Government have a majority behind them, and are determined to put the Bill through this session ; and believing, as I do, that the session ought to be brought to a close, I shall not further prolong the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
There shall be a Deputy Commissioner for each State, who shall, subject to the control of the Commissioner, have the powers conferred on him by this Act.
.- I should like to hear from the AttorneyGeneral some explanation of the scheme of administration proposed. I take it that, whilst we are agreed that proper safeguards should be provided, we desire that there should be as little red-tape as possible associated with the administration of the law. It seems to me that if we. had a registrar for each State, with the power to finally determine what persons within his jurisdiction are entitled to a pension, that should be sufficient. It might be assumed that in each case a competent officer will be appointed. I do not quite know what the scheme of the Bill is, but it seems that there is to be a Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner for each State. Further, there are to be registrars, and under another clause the decision of a magistrate is required.
– We have adopted the simplest procedure we could devise in this case. There must be a central officer to exercise a general supervision over the scheme for all Australia. But the determining officer in each State is the Deputy Commissioner. With the object of decentralizing the scheme, each State is divided into districts. There will be a Registrar in each district, who will receive the claims. He will be, in the main, an administrative officer. The claims are to be investigated by magistrates. Further on, I intend to propose that the investigations shall be in private. The magistrate will send the claims to the Deputy Commissioner who will issue his certificate.
– Must all the claims go to the central Commissioner ?
– No; the central Commissioner will exercise supervision over the system generally, so that the Minister under whom the Act is worked may have a knowledge of what is being done. The intention is to preserve uniformity of administration. The principle of the scheme, however, is that the Deputy Commissioner is to be the deciding officer in every State. Of course, in matters involving the application of a general principle, the Deputy Commissioner will have to refer to the Commissioner for. decision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
No person who has been summoned to appear as a witness before the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner shall, without lawful excuse, and after tender of reasonable expenses, fail to appear in obedience to the summons.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.
.- Although the penalty of £50 is the maximum, I think that it is excessive. The matter involved is merely disobedience to a summons.
– If the honorable member will propose to reduce the ‘penalty to £20 1 will accept the amendment.
– I move-
That the word “fifty,” line 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ twenty.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
Provided that this sub-section shall not, after proclamation under the last preceding sub-section, apply to women.
– There is in this clause the provision that the Governor-General may by proclamation extend the system of pensions, so as to make them payable to women over sixty years of age. That is to say, it is proposed to depart from the age of sixty-five,as fixed in other parts of the Bill, and to give the Governor-General power by proclamation to pay pensions to women who have attained the age of sixty. I think that such an extension ought not to be made by proclamation. A resolution of both Housesof Parliament ought to be requisite. It has to be remembered that no definite statement has been made as to the sources of revenue from which pensions will be paid. It is recognised that the object in view cannot be accomplished until the finances are sufficiently favorable. That means that we are to leave the matter to the Government to decide. It would be much better to allow Parliament to express its approval of a definite proposition. Surely if Parliament is willing to extend the pensions to women at theage of sixty there will be no difficulty in obtaining its consent. If, for financial reasons, Parliament is not willing such an extension should not be permitted.
– But the Minister is responsible.
– In one sense the Minister is responsible for every thing that occurs under the Bill. But if that principle were acted upon we need pass no details in an Act of Parliament, but might simply leave everything to the Minister.
– The Government are responsible for the finances.
– Parliament is responsible for the finances ; and we have no right to give power to Ministers to extend the pension system at their sweet will without consulting Parliament. If Ministers we’re to issue a proclamation in the terms of this clause, there would be very little chance of its being withdrawn. Parliament would practically be committed. It would be impossible to disturb the hopes and expectations of large numbers of people after they had been created by a Government without the authority of Parliament. If Parliament is agreeable to the extension of the pension system it will readily give its consent. If Parliament is not agreeable Ministers have no right to create such an extension by proclamation. Further, we ought not to try to bind future Parliaments. The matter may not affect the present Parliament, but we ought not to restrict the freedom of action of future Parliaments by a provision such as this, which means a serious increase of expenditure. Parliament may have no opportunity of expressing its opinion until after the proclamation is issued, and then it will be too late to take action, even though it may be generally considered that what is done is a mistake. We have taken this precaution even in connexion with minor matters in the Tariff.
– But the Tariff is much more important than this.
– In the case ofminor matters in the Tariff we objected to the Minister taking power to do things by proclamation, and retained the authority in our own hands, as I think we ought to do in this case. It is not likely to do any injury if we do. The House has shown itself, as I have no doubt future Houses will do, only too willing to assist in this matter as far as it possibly; can. The only thing which would prevent the House from agreeing to a serious extension of the principle would be a financial difficulty. Otherwise, the Ministry - and it might be a dying Ministry - might commit the Parliament to that which, if consulted, it would not approve of. To give sucha power as is proposed . to any Ministry - not merely to a Ministry with a large ma- jority, but to a Ministry dying and almost going out of office: - is, I think, objectionable, and I for one cannot support the proposal in this clause.
.- Although the honorable member for North Sydney has reasoned admirably on the principle of Parliament retaining full control of the finances, still I do- not think that he has made out a good case regarding this particular proposal. He pointed out that even in the case of a small Tariff matter we declined to .allow the Minister to issue a proclamation, and decided that it must be brought before Parliament. That is, I think, quite right in the matter of a Tariff item, because it imposes a tax. This is a tentative measure. Members of the Oppostion have stated that it is not the Bill which they desire, and a similar statement has been made by members of the Labour Party and members of the Government. But here is an attempt to provide the machinery necessary to make a better system when the finances will allow. I cannot conceive of a single instance where a dying Government, simply for the sake of gaining kudos, would do what has been suggested.
– A dying Government ! They will live for ever, with the honorable member’s help.
– The right honorable gentleman has furnished the best possible reason against making an alteration of the clause. If there is no dying Government no danger can arise. There is an advantage in leaving the clause as it is, because at any moment after the Bill has become law the State Premiers may rush to the Prime Minister and say that if the Commonwealth Government will put the law into operation they will agree to subsidize the fund to the extent of the amount which they are paying for old-age pensions. I hope that the honorable member for North Sydney will allow the clause to pass.
– I regret that the age of sixty-five years was fixed in the clause. That I think has been one of the blots on the New South Wales scheme all along. I had hoped that in this measure the Government would haw fixed, the age at- sixty years.
– I am getting on to sixty-five years of age, and does the honorable member think that I want an oldage pension?
– If all men were as hardy and as strong as the honorable. gen tleman, especially when abuse is heaped upon him, they might not need an old-age pension until they were seventy-five years of age. But I think it is a pity that we should wait until a man is virtually about to die before we dole out to him a few shillings a week. If the limit were reduced from sixty-five to sixty years therewould be no need for the next sub-clause, and it would simplify the matter very much. I indulge in the hope- that in the near future we shall be able to lower the a,gd to sixty years all round. Like the honorable member for Barrier, I think that a very much better scheme will be evolved some day.
– The age limit does come down to sixty years if persons are permanently incapacitated.
– Yes, it does in the case of invalid pensioners, and that, to some extent, removes my objection to this provision, which, after all, I understand, is dependent upon the question of finance.
– On this clause, I desire to ventilate a subject, . which I purposely refrained from discussing on the second reading, because I, with others, want the Bill to go through without undue delay. Ever since I have taken an interest in this question - and that has been for a considerable time - I ‘have thought that in the States, the old-age pension is very little better than an ordinary charitable outdoor allowance. The whole tenor of this Bill shows that a person must be practically in. a state demanding assistance, before an old-age pension will be granted. .
– What does the honorable member want?
– i should like to see introduced into the Commonwealth a system,- drafted on the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Germany. I consider that in Australia, 10s. a week is a very small amount to give to a person who has no other means of livelihood.
– Many persons would be glad to get even 10s. a week.
– I know that they would, and that is why I am supporting the Bill. I do not want to throw the slightest obstacle in the way of its passage, but I think that we can evolve a very much better system. I believe with honorable members that this Bill is being passed as a spasmodic effort to secure the principle of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme, and that almost immediately a very much more complete and substantial measure will be evolved. I would compel every young man, on attaining the age of eighteen years, to make a small contribution weekly, no matter what his position might be.
– He has to make his personal contribution to the general revenue.
– I would compel every such person to make a direct contribution to. the State insurance fund, as in Germany, and if that fund were subsidized in the same way as the State insurance fund . is subsidized by the German Government-
– Order. I ask the honorable member to address himself to the clause.
– I think that in this clause a provision should be inserted to compel the recipient of a pension, after a time, to make a contribution, and to prescribe the conditions under which the pensionshouldbe granted. If that were done, we could reduce the age limit to sixty years. And then, instead of giving an exceedingly meagre allowance of10s. a week, every person on attaining the age of sixtyyears could obtain at least£1 per week. An insurance agent, who has given this matter some consideration, has assured me that I am considerably under the mark.
– Order. I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the clause.
– The clause deals with the persons who should receive an oldage pension, and I am suggesting the insertion of a provision which would restrict its payment after a definite period to those who have made a certain contribution. The system, if adopted, would work admirably, and the recipient of a pension would not feel that he was eating the bitter bread of charity. On the contrary, hewould know that he was receiving in his old age a provision which he had made in his youth and strength. To persons who are sixty-five years of age, I would grant a pension from the date of the Bill coming into operation. I believe that a personal contribution is the basis of a sound system of old-age pensions.
– Does not a man personally contribute to the revenue through the Customs ?
– But I wish to insure that the pension which is granted to him shall be something which he himself has provided.
– I would point out. to the honorable member that he is now discussing a matter which ought to have been dealt with upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– I am pointing out the persons to whom pensions should be paid. I contend that after a stated period they should be limited to some extent to those who, during their youth, have made a proper contribution to a fund created for that purpose, but, in the meantime, the pensions shouldbe paid to those reaching the specified age. However, I realize that the Committee are not prepared to deal with’ such a question at the present time. A majority of honorable members has decided to pass this Bill as a temporary measure, with the idea of subsequently amending it with a view to making it more effective.
.- I disagree with the limitations imposed by this clause in respect of the persons to whom pensions may be granted. I think that it should be made much wider in its scope. I realize that the cost of the scheme embodied in the Bill will be about £1,500,000 per annum.
– I must ask the honorable member not to deal with the financial aspect of the matter.
– I do not intend to do so. I recognise that if pensions were granted to all persons in the Commonwealth who have attained the age of sixty-five years without qualification, we should require to expend about , £4,000,000 per annum.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that phase of the question.
– I have no wish to do so. I merely mention that fact as a reason why I do not intend to press for an enlargement of the scope of this clause, which limits the number of persons who are eligible to receive pensions. I wish to make it clear that I regard this measure merely as a tentative one, and that I look forward to placing a more liberal Act upon the statute-book in the near future. I trust that at the earliest opportunity the Government will see that a proclamation is issued under which women ofsixtyyears of age will be able to take advantage of the scheme.
– Mr. McDonald-
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain why the provision in reference to the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General has been inserted’ in this clause?
– The idea is that as soon as we are in a position to appropriate the necessary money for the purpose, a proclamation shall be issued by the Governorgeneral, so that the Act may be brought into full operation.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in favour of women of sixty years of age receiving a pension?
– Then it is merely a question of finance?
– It is primarily a question of finance. I move -
That the wqrds “ and approved by the Commissioner,” sub-clause 3, be left out.
The leader of the Opposition very properly pointed out that the retention of these words would lead to centralization, and in that respect I am of opinion that his criticism was just.
– Every honorable member must feel as I do that, although he may be in favour of old-age pensions, the Bill has been brought in at so late a period of the session, and has to be considered in such, haste, that there is no real opportunity of proposing what might be considered necessary improvements. Personally, I should prefer to substitute the power of Parliament for the power of proclamation, not with the object of reducing the usefulness of the measure, but simply to preserve the power of Parliament as it ought to be preserved. I recognise that this consideration of the Bill is, however, merely a sham one. Further on there are’ some amendments which I think, would improve the measure in the direction in which the Government want to go, but they cannot be properly discussed at this hour of the night, and with another place waiting for the Bill. I shall, therefore, not move the amendments, but shall simply leave the Government to take the responsibility of the Bill.
– That is the best thing to do.
– The honorable member knows that I have always tried to improve his . measures, even in_ the direction in which he wanted to go, if I agreed with that direction. I am sorry that this measure, which ought to go out its perfect as possible, will not do so. It is of no use attempting to discuss it, or to get members here to hear the discussion, or to try to amend it. I shall leave it to the Government to pass the measure as they see fit.
– Every honorable member seems anxious to extend the scope of the Bill, and a number regard it as only a tentative proposal. A much bigger proposal ‘ will be necessary before very long, in order - to give old-age pensions worthy of Australia. Nothing short of universal old-age pensions and a reduction of -the age will be worthy of this country. However, we accept this Bill as a big instalment, as compared with the present system of destitute relief, of an efficient old-age pensions scheme. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that it is a bad plan generally to have legislation by proclamation, but this is not legislation in the ordinary sense. It is merely a question of giving the Government power, as soon as the finances permit, to reduce the age at which pensions shall be given to sixty years in the case of women. That is purely a financial matter, which the House will have the fullest opportunity of dealing with. If it disagrees with the action of the Government, it can express its disagreement when the money is asked for on the Estimates. There is no way in which the Government could bring this alteration of the law into effect without the approval of both Houses.
– Any Parliament would hesitate to refuse to vote the money after the Ministry had raised the hopes of people by making an announcement of its intentions.
– The same argument would apply if we provided that the Government must move a motion or secure the approval of both Houses before issuing a proclamation. It would be rather difficult to get a majority of the House to withhold its approval. Whilst I agree with the honorable member generally as to the inadvisability of legislating by proclamation, this is a case in which no possible harm can result.
.- Since the Bill -got into Committee, I have heard for the first time the statement that it is to be regarded only as a tentative measure. We heard nothing of that from the Attorney-General or during the secondreading debate.
– Oh, yes.
– The Attorney-General characterized the Bill “ as extremely .liberal. If we are to increase the number of beneficiaries under it, we may bring about a condition which will result in disaster and cause the. system to break down by its own weight. In view of the number of persons who are to receive advantages under the Bill, it will cost us not much less than £[2,000,000 per annum. I repudiate tn idea of its being merely a tentative measure, as it appears likely to meet’ the case for some years to come.
.- A woman of the age of sixty corresponds in maturity, on the average, to a man of sixty-five.
– The reverse is often the case.
– I think it will be found that, according to life assurance tables, the expectation of the life of a woman at 60 years of age is not as great as is “that of a man of 60.
– At 60 it is greater in the case of a woman.
– I venture to differ. I regret that the word “ woman “ appears in this sub-clause, for I think that we might well bring down the age to 60. In Australia people mature earlier than in .England. The Commonwealth stretches almost into the tropics,, and men age here more quickly than they do in the Old Country.
– The honorable member will find that under the annuity tables women pay less than do men.
– Not after the age of
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension, namely : -
. - I should like to know whether the AttorneyGeneral is agreeable to amend the wording of paragraph c. I fail to see why Asiatics should be associated in it with aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand. They ought to be dealt with in a separate paragraph, and a definition of Asiatics should also be given.
.- I move - ;
That paragraph c be left out.
Aliens or those who have been naturalized for less than three years are debarred under the remaining paragraphs of this clause from receiving an old-age pension, and .1 do not think it is necessary to go further than to limit the granting of pensions to naturally-born and naturalized subjects of the King. I have no desire that aboriginals as such should be debarred. In perhaps ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it would be absurd to give pensions to aboriginals, but we have in South Australia some aboriginals who are farmers, who cul.tivate their land and live precisely as Europeans do. .They are fairly well educated.
– How many are. there ?
– Not many; but they should not be debarred, on the ground that they are aboriginals, from receiving an old-age pension. I do not ask that the system should be extended to aboriginals generally, but I repeat that we ought not to debar a man from receiving pensions simply because he is an aboriginal. Apart altogether from paragraph c it is provided that pension claims shall be investigated, and that an old-age pension shall not be paid unless the claim is certified by the Registrar, recommended in writing by a Deputy Commissioner and approved by -the Commissioner. Where the Commissioner certifies that an aboriginal is a “person to receive- an old-age pension he should not be’ shut out from the benefits of this measure. I do not wish to appeal to the sentiment of honorable members, but the fact that the Australian aborigines are a dying race is rather a reason in favour of our not excluding them from the provisions of this Bill.
– They might die more rapidly if they were granted pensions.
– Will the honorable member reply to my argument that where the Commissioner certifies that an aboriginal who farms his own land and is well qualified for the duties of citizenship is entitled to a pension it should be granted to him ? I take up the same position with regard to Asiatics. If we permit them to come in - if we naturalize, them and call upon them to bear taxation exactly as we do every other member of the community - we should not refuse them a pension under this Bill. I have never given a vote to deny to an Asiatic after he has been admitted and naturalized any privilege that we give the rest of the community, and I do not intend to do so. A man should not be debarred from receiving a pension on the ground of nationality alone. From the financial point of view my proposal is a mere bagatelle; but the corollary of this provision is the exemption of Asiatics from, taxation.
– A man must have been resident in Australia for twenty-five years to be entitled to a pension.
– Exactly; and must have been naturalized and certified by the Commissioner to be a proper person to receive an old-age pension. Every barrier of this kind that is placed in the way of those whom we admit to citizenship reduces their position in the community and gives rise to much bitterness on the part of other nations. To use a well-known colloquialism, “the game is not worth the candle.*’ There is no reason why we should not give an old-age pension to an Asiatic who complies with all the other provisions of the Bill, just as we should give it to a European.
Mir. SPENCE (Darling) [11.34].- Whilst the proposal to grant old-age pensions to aboriginals and Asiatics sounds very well, we must not forget that one of the difficulties of administering such a system is in regard to obtaining proof of age. In New South Wales the State records of births do not go back further than’ 1856, and consequently the officials who have to administer the Pensions Act have often to rely on their judgment, and to accept proof other than the production of the cer- tificate of registration. Aliens, however, come from countries where there is no registration of births. As for aboriginals, it seems to me that when they become aged or incapacitated from earning a living they could be better provided for than with a pension of ros. a week. I agree with the honorable member for Boothby that naturalized Asiatics who have lived for twenty-five years in the country should receive pensions ; but is it ‘ worth while to amend the Bill, seeing how few there are, and how many difficulties will attend the granting of pensions to them? Furthermore, the existence of thousands of aboriginals in Central Australia and . in Northern Territory may create troubles which we do not foresee as the result of this proposal.
.- I know of families of half-castes engaged in farming on land given .to them by the Government, who are bringing up their children respectably, and have lived foi twenty years in a district with which I am acquainted. Apparently they would not be entitled to pensions.
– A half-caste is not regarded as an aboriginal native.
– Would such persons be entitled to old-age pensions? These 1 speak of are good citizens.
– They would be entitled.
.- The leader of the Opposition, in speaking on the second reading, criticised this provision of the Bill severely. I asked whether he thought that the naked aboriginals of the Northern Territory should be eligible for pensions, and I understood him to reply in the affirmative. According to the Year-Book there are 150,000 aboriginals in Australia.
– Only a- small proportion would be over the age of sixty-five years.
– It seems to me that the right honorable member’s criticism of the Bill was the height of absurdity. Would a naturalized Asiatic who had lived in the country for twenty- five years, and had complied with the requirements of paragraph b, be eligible for a pension,
– No Asiatic is eligible.
– I do not think that we should encourage Asiatics to come here. I would encourage them to go away. But an Asiatic who is naturalized, and who has lived for twenty-five years in the country, possessing electoral rights, should be eligible for an oldage pension. We should not permit persons to assist in making our laws, and deprive them of the benefits of our legislation.
– We do not naturalize Asiatics now.
– But. there are naturalized Asiatics in the country.
– Asiatics cannot obtain the benefit of any State Old-age Pensions Act.
– If a wrong has been done in the passing of a State Act we should not perpetuate it in the Commonwealth Act. When I recently visited the Northern Territory one of the most deplorable features I noticed was that a very large number of Chinese were rearing Chinese children in Australia. I speak now of native-born naturalized subjects of the King, who might be Asiatics. The child of Asiatic parents is excluded from the benefits of this Bill, although nativeborn. He would have the right to vote for a member of this Parliament, to influence the legislation of the country, and I believe, to be elected as a, representative of the people, yet he is not to be allowed to receive an old-age pension. I have said that I should be prepared to do all I could, not only to keep these people out of Australia, but to encourage those who are here to leave, but I still think that nativeborn Asiatics who have lived twenty-five years in this country should not be excluded. I am not prepared to go to the extent of including every aboriginal in Australia, as suggested by the leader of the Opposition, or to the extent mentioned by the honorable member for Boothby, but I believe that bare justice requires that nativeborn and naturalized Asiatics should not be excluded from the benefits of this Bill.
,- Is the Minister prepared to give the Committee :i definition of an Asiatic? Would the term, for instance,’ include a Jew ?
– Yes, if he were an aboriginal native of Asia.
– Asia is certainly the original home of the Jews. I am reminded by what the honorable member- for Cook has said of the fact that we’ nave three Chinese practising at the Victorian bar. We have men of Asiatic races who are native-born Australians and members of the Australian Natives Association. Such men should not, I think, on the ground of race be excluded from the Bill. Aliens admitted since 1884 have not been naturalized, but those admitted before that date have been given all the rights of an ordinary British-born citizen of the Commonwealth. I think that in order to meet the special cases referred to, the number of which would be very limited, the Minister might agree to accept an amendment inserting the words ‘ ‘ except as prescribed “ after the words “ New Zealand.” I shall be prepared to move in that direction.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Corio, and if the Minister will agree to it I shall ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Amendment (by Mr. Crouch) proposed -
That after the words “ New Zealand “ the words “ except as prescribed “ be inserted.
– The object of the clause is to disqualify certain ‘ individuals from receiving an old-age pension. Honorable members appear to be agreed as to aliens and subjects of the King who have not -been naturalized for three years pieceding the date of a claim for a pension, but there appears to be a desire to give some Asiatics or aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific or New Zealandia claim to an old-age pension.
– Who are not aliens.
– Who are Australian-born citizens.
– In the first place, I may inform honorable members that none of the people referred to are entitled to old-age pensions under any of the States Acts. I do not say that that is enough to settle the question, but it shows that the States systems are based upon the exclusion of such persons. Under the Queensland Act, which was passed only this year, Chinese or other Asiatics, whether British subjects or naturalized or not, and aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific or New Zealand, are excluded. Under the New South Wales Act Chinese or other Asiatics, whether naturalized or not, and aboriginal natives are excluded. Under the Victorian Act Chinese or other Asiatics, whether British, subjects or not, and aboriginal natives of any State of the Commonwealth or of New Zealand are excluded.
– What are the grounds for imposing the bar to these people?
– The reason for imposing a barrier generally is that the intention of the Bil] is to provide pension’s for those who have contributed proportionately to the development of the Commonwealth.
– Has the honorable gentleman any doubt that some of the naturalized Chinese have helped to develop the Commonwealth? Some of them Have saved the lives of miners.
– Some of. them have been useful citizens; but, generally speaking, persons of this description are not such as this Bill is intended to benefit. The Old-age Pensions Acts , of the States have been drafted on similar lines to this, and I propose to maintain the existing system.
– That is a very poor argument.
– What claim does the honorable member make? Simply because Asiatics come here and their children are born here he wishes them to share the benefits pf this Bill, although their parents are excluded from our naturalization laws.
– An Asiatia born in Australia has equal rights with the AttorneyGeneral and with me. He has the right to vote for representatives in this House.
– Still I cannot see any reason why we should extend the scope of the Bill as proposed. The only claim is that some persons of Asiatic parentage may be born in this country.
– I made no such claim. This Bill would extend its privileges to a Greek, Turk, or a Macedonian. Why, then, should we bar the child of an Asiatic born in this country?
– The general intention of our legislation is not to encourage Asiatics to remain in Australia. It would encourage their continuance in the country if we paid old-age pensions to them. As to aboriginals, I do not ‘see how we could extend the Bill to them, although personally my sympathies are in that direction. Indeed, I should like to see the Commonwealth take over the administration of aboriginal affairs throughout Australia.
– What good would that do?
– We could then treat all the aboriginals just as they . are being treated in Queensland now.
– We should not be able to treat them better than the States are doing.
– The insertion of the words “ except as prescribed “ would make the Bill vague and indefinite, whereas our intention is to lay down a clear and definite policy. I prefer to stand by the clause as it is.
– I do not think that any one will contend that Australia has been built up by the Chinese. An old-age pension is supposed to be a reward to those citizens who have helped to develop the country. A Chinese who comes here generally makes money, with the object of taking it away with him as soon as he can. I think that there are very few cases of Asiatic children being born in the country, and it is not worth while to change the scope of the Bill on their account.
– I wish to give an instance of the way in which the New South Wales Old-age Pensions Act applies. 1 know personally of the case of a man born in Canada of fullblooded South African parents. He is now living in New South Wales, and is in receipt of an old-age pension. That instance shows that the restriction imposed by this Bill does not exist in New South Wales.
– This Bill is . drawn according to the wording of the New South Wales Act.
– I have personal knowledge of the case to which I have referred, and it shows that the New South Wales Act, in regard to a naturalized coloured subject, is more liberal than this Bill is. We . want to leave it within- the power of the administrator of the measure to enable a pension to be paid where good cause is shown. Unless an amendment is made injustice may be done.
.The Attorney-General must, as the leader of the bar of Australia, know that there are in every State able practitioners who are Chinese by birth. These Chinese barristers are not briefed by Chinese only, but they take up general causes.
– Are they native born ?
– Yes. Some were educated at the Melbourne University. There are also clergymen. They are qualified to vote and to become members of this House. In one case such a man has been VicePresident of an Australian Natives’ Association. Yet it is proposed to bar him under this Bill.
– Does not a man cease to be an Asiatic if he is born in Australia?
– No. The honorable member would not ‘ say that because kittens are born in a stable they become horses. The Attorney-General admits, I understand, that persons are still Asiatics, if the children of Chinese parents, although they may have been born in Australia.
– Yes, that is so
– Recognising that a good deal of feeling exists in regard to Asiatics, I thought that I was getting the Attorney-General out of a difficult position by making the suggestion that I have done. Perhaps we might achieve the purpose by inserting the words “except those born in Australia,” after the word “Asiatics.”
– I will not accept an amendment to that effect.
– I do not expect the Minister to be able to draft an amendment without time for consideration.
– No ; it is an important matter to amend a qualification clause.
– That is why I suggest the insertion of the .words “ except as prescribed,” and of course the Department’ need not prescribe until a particular case arises. I think that the Minister might wisely give way here.
– “Asiatics born in Australia” is a good phrase to adopt.
– Yes, but it will not meet the case of South Africans who, after having received a pension under the New South Wales Act, are debarred by this measure.
– Can -we take away anyright which they have?
– Once we pass this measure, the Parliament of New South Wales will no longer make an appropriation, and virtually it will deprive certain men in that State of the pension which they have been receiving. Do I understand that the Attorney-General will accept any amendment ?
– No, I prefer the Bill in its present form.
– If we insert the words “ except as prescribed,” the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister who administers the measure can consider the matter deliberately. Has the honorable and learned gentleman any objection to the insertion of that phrase?
– Yes. because it is too vague and indefinite.
– I shall press my amendment.
– The Attorney-General can urge no ground for debarring Asiatics from getting a pension, except’ that it has been the practice under the State Acts. We have to legislate for all Australia, and the question of excluding Asiatics is in our hands.
– Whom does the honorable member want to bring in?
– I refuse to debar any one simply on the ground of race from getting an old-age pension. If we are going to admit Turks, and to allow the scum of Europe to benefit under the measure, why sshould we debar an Asiatic, certified by the Commissioner as a proper person to ‘ receive an old-age pension, merely because of a prejudice existing against Asiatics? As a matter of policy we keep them out of the country ; but since we admit them, and call upon them to pay taxation, and, if naturalized, to join in the defence of the country, I shall not be a party to debar them-from receiving an old-age pension’.
– The honorable member must not spoil the frame of the Bill.
– What is the. good of the Treasurer talking in that way? In his estimation we should spoil the frame of ..the Bill if we left out a comma.
– We should not spoil the frame of the Bill if we had the numbers.
– No. From a financial point’ of view it will not make any difference worth speaking about.
– Does the honorable member think it worth while to bother about the matter?
– Is it not worth while to remove any unnecessary stigma which is put upon a race? Here is a method in which we can do absolute justice without increasing the number of these persons or encouraging them to stay here. It .must be remembered that they must be naturalized or natural born, and resident here for twenty-five years, before they could claim a pension. To debar, merely through racial prejudice, persons whom we have admitted into our country, and allowed to .become citizens and- taxpayers, is, in my opinion, to do an act of which the Committee ought not to be guilty.
– I know of persons, who will be debarred a pension unless the clause is amended. I am second to none in tha desire to maintain a White Australia. But these people are here. In my electorate there are fifteen or sixteen African blacks, who, in the truest sense of the term, are the whitest men I have met.
– They may have been born here.
– No. These men are married to white women, are rearing families, and are good citizens in every sense of the term. From my stand-point, they are the best unionists whom we ever meet. They exercise the franchise, take an interest in politics, and behave themselves properly. I think that the Attorney-. General might easily agree to a simple provision whereby they could be brought under tb” operation of the measure.
.The words “except as prescribed” meet the position. This is not a time for an exhibition of obstinacy on the part of the Government. We are all here to help them to try to pass the Bill. I thought that my amendment would be a way of saving them from defeat, but, apparently, the numbers have gone up. This should not be allowed to become a mere question of numbers. Surely wecan afford to be generous in this matter. These persons have been naturalized here, and have assisted us to develop this country. Yet because they are unfortunate enough to be descended from coloured parents, they are to be debarred from participating in the advantages of this scheme. I regard theproposal as a scandalous one.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Crouch’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to move -
That after the word “ Asiatics,” paragraph c, the words “except those born in Australia” be inserted.
– The honorable member will not be in order in submitting that amendment now.
– Perhaps I may inform the Committee that an opportunity will be afforded for the insertion of those words in the clause relating to in valid pensions. I shall agree to the. recommittal of this clause with a view to inserting them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
No person shall receive an old-age pension unless-
– In my opinion, a slight alteration is required in paragraph b of this clause, which provides that no person shall receive an old-age pension unless upon the date when he makes his claim he has resided continuously in Australia for twenty-five years. To my mind that is a cruel provision. The Commonwealth has taken over the administration of Papua, and a Bill is now before Parliament under which it is proposed to take over the administration of Norfolk Island. Australians have been sent to Papua to govern it, and if seems to me a monstrous proposal that persons who have gone there voluntarily, such as timber getters and miners, should be debarred from participating in this old-age pensions scheme.
– That difficulty is covered by the language of the Acts Interpretation Act.
– I do not think so. Papua cannot be called Australia. I move -
That after the word “ continuously/’ paragraph b, the words “ in Australia, or in any Possession or country under the rule of Australia” be inserted.
Is Papua part of the Commonwealth?
– The Bill is not intended to apply to the Territories of the Commonwealth.
– Then a grievous wrong is being done to people who go to open up a country like Papua, and perhaps injure their health there, after residing in Australia for many years. It is said that the money which would be paid for old-age pensions will not come from Papua. But the money that is developing Papua is coming from Australia. It would be scandalous to shut those Australian settlers out from the benefits of the Bill. While there are men in this Chamber who stick up for the Asiatics, I am going to stick up for the white men.
– This scheme of Commonwealth old-age pensions in intended for the six States of the Australian Union. We provide a complete scheme of administration for the Commonwealth itself. The Territories of the Commonwealth are governed under ordinances and laws of their own making. We subsidize a Territory, but it raises its own taxes from its own people, and makes its own laws. It is a complete legislative unit in itself. The Territories have complete self-government within themselves.
– So have the States.
– Yes ; but in their case the question of concurrent legislation comes in. We do not propose in this Bill to take revenues from anybody in a Territory. The people of a Territory will not contribute anything to the revenue of the Commonwealth. The raising and spending of their own money is a matter entirely within the Territory itself.
– The Minister loses sight of the important point that, while the Bill ought not to be applied to those who have been born and reared in the Territories, there are sent from Australia to the Territories officers connected with the Commonwealth, who, if they have not been resident in Australia for twenty-five years, cannot get the pension. The same applies to settlers who go from Australia to develop the Territories. These, men, perhaps, endanger their lives or health, but the break in their continuous residence in Australia debars them from getting “the pension. It would be only fair to provide that any one who has resided in Australia for twenty years, and puts in another five years in Papua or Norfolk Island, should be still eligible.- We are glad to see Australians go to our Possessions to develop them, and they should not be penalized. If the honorable member for Fremantle will frame an amendment to meet that difficulty I shall support him.
.I strongly favour the idea of the honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Hindmarsh that no one who leaves Australia in its service ought to be debarred from drawing a pension. That difficulty might be met by an amendment of clause 18, which deals with- continuous residence in Australia. All that is necessary is to provide that time spent abroad in the service of Australia shall be counted as residence in Australia. If, for instance, a man spent ten or twelve years in London as High Commissioner for Australia, and subsequently returned and fell .on evil days, with the result that he required an old-age pension, that period of service in the Old Country should be regarded, for the purposes of this Bill, as residence in Australia. And so with General Agents, who are being sent to the East and elsewhere on behalf of the States. I hope that the Attorney-General will be prepared to make such an amendment as I have indicated.
– I am surprised at the proposal that an amendment shall be made in the interests only of officers who have served, abroad. We have been carried from Papua to England, and have been told that the time served by a High Commissioner in London should be regarded as residence in Australia for the purposes of this Bill. I understand that the proposal now made is not designed to benefit those who go to Papua or Norfolk Island for a few years to ‘assist in developing those Territories,, and I enter a protest against our discriminating in favour of officers who receivefairly good salaries. It would be betterto allow the clause to pass as it stands. We are seeking to provide for the ‘agedpoor of the Commonwealth, and those whogo to Papua or elsewhere do so at their own .risk. ‘Papua may ultimately have an independent old-age pension scheme, and
I do not think it desirable to make the proposed amendment.
– Like the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I do not think that we should amend the clause. The honorable member for Fremantle has very properly drawn attention to this question, and his action may pave the way to the extension of the principles of the Bill to those resident in Papua and other Territories which ‘we may take over. It will be many years before the conditions prevailing in Papua and Norfolk Island will approximate to those on the mainland of Australia, and when that .development takes place there will be no difficulty in extending the provisions of this Bill to P.eople resident there.
– In the administration of the law we shall discover in what respect, if any, it is weak, and an amending Bill may have to be introduced.
– I agree with the honorable member for Darling that it would be better to leave, the clause as it stands.
– We have taken over Papua, and may have to send there troops to protect it. I should like to ask honorable . members whether it is reasonable that men sent there on duty should lose th’eir rights as citizens of Australia.
– They will not.
– I contend that they will unless this clause be amended. Then, again, many miners have gone from Australia to Papua, and are helping to develop the Territory. Why should they be deprived of their rights. They may read of our doings; but they have no one to speak for them here. It should be the desire of every honorable member to protect them in their absence.
– We can legislate for them in the future.
– Under the clause as it stands, an injustice will be done to them, as well as to officers who are sent out of the Commonwealth on- duty. Mr. Staniforth Smith, formerly a senator, is now in Papua.
– He is not worrying about 1 os. a week.
– About half the questions asked, in this House during one week related to Papua, and surely we should give some consideration to Australians who have gone there.
– I hope the honorable member for Fremantle will consent to withdraw his amendment. I am in favour of doing what he wants to do, but I think that the object can be better achieved by an amendment of clause 18. That clause provides that continuous residence in Australia shall not be deemed to have been interrupted by occasional absences not exceeding in the aggregate one-tenth of the total period of residence. That means that to prove continuous residence it shall be necessary to show that the claimant has not resided out of Australia for more than z years. We can amend that provision by saying that continuous residence shall not be deemed to be interrupted by residence in any Australian possession. Then an Australian who has lived five, ten, or even twenty years in Papua would still be entitled to a pension, but eligibility . for a pension will not be secured simply by residence there.
– I am willing to withdraw my amendment if the end in view can be better achieved in another way.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the words “ and is, and has been for the five years immediately preceding that date, leading a temperate and reputable life,” in paragraph c, be left out.
It seems to me that if those words are retained, a pension will have something of the flavour of charity. The Bill contains sufficient safeguards . without them.
.- I think the whole paragraph should be struck out, unless the ‘ words ‘ ‘ good character “ are defined. There are enough safeguards in the Bill without this provision. Persons may accidentally come within the reach of the law, and ought they to be debarred from receiving pensions? In my opinion, the paragraph may cause hardship. ‘
– I ask the honorable member not to move the omission of the paragraph. We must have power to deny pensions to criminals and persons of bad character.
– Is not that power given under another clause?
– I would point out that if these words are left in, hardship will be done. Only one applicant of bad character in a thousand will be found out ; the others will get their pensions. I object to this discrimination.
– How is it to be prevented ?
– It costs the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to protect its citizens from criminals. We only occasionally discover about one criminal in fifty, and then only if he has committed about twenty crimes. It was stated by a late superintendent of Scotland Yard that about seventy criminals were responsible for all the great crimes committed in London, and yet scores of thousands of pounds are expended there for the protection of the public. The fact is that the clause has been badly drafted, and should include a definition of “good character,” though I admit that it would be very hard to define satisfactorily.
.I think that the amendment which has been proposed, and to which the Minister is prepared to agree, represents a’ very good compromise. I do not think that there is much in the objection of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that many people of bad character are not found out. In practice, it will be found that a very charitable view will be. taken of the claims of applicants for old-age pensions, and very few will be refused on the score of bad character. There was some objection to the other words of the paragraph, which seem to be inconsistent with the object of the Bill, which, after all, is to give pen-, sions to persons who have attained a certain age. To strike out the whole of the paragraph would be to leave those called upon to determine claims in a helpless position, and to prevent the refusal of a pension in a case in which it would not be deserved. That would do no good to the individual ‘ or to society,, because it might, perhaps, be wicked to grant -a pension at all. There must be some safeguard, and I think the provision with respect to good character might very well be accepted, and that we can safely leave it to those who will have the administration of the Act to see that no real injustice is done under it.
– I was quite prepared to withdraw my objection to the words “he is of good character “ when the Minister assured me that that would be the only safeguard that would be left. I find, however, that clause 50 contains some very drastic provisions for the cancellation of pension certificates.
– That is where a man has been guilty df an offence after a pension has been granted to him.
– I admit that, but it seems to me that it is pettifogging to propose investigations into the character of an applicant, when, after all, the pension should be given because it is needed, and when, under the Bill, if, after a man has been given a pension, it is found that he is not of good character, power is reserved to take it away from him.
Amendment agreed to.
– It is provided, under paragraph e of this clause, that no person is to receive an old-age pension unless - the net capital value of his accumulated property, whether in or out of Australia, does not exceed Three hundred and ten pounds.
I want to tell the Minister that it would be difficult to find a habitation in South Australia of the value of less than £310 that was not a hovel. The provision might be reasonable enough where houses are built with wood, but in the metropolitan area of Adelaide such a thing as a wooden house is hardly to be seen. It is impossible to get in Adelaide a house for £310 that is worth living in. The consequence of this provision will be that if a poor woman is left with a house worth £500 in Adelaide, she will be. just as poor as a person in Victoria owning a wooden house worth only £310. She will have to sell her little property, or else be debarred from obtaining an old-age pension.
– Make the limitation of the value of £1,000.
– I do not. think that that would be too much.
– Or £5,000.
– There is a reasonable limit. A house similar to one worth £310 in Balmain, Sydney, could not be obtained in a suburb of Adelaide for less than £500. As we cannot do all that we should like to do iri this Bill, I merely call attention to that fact, and point out that there is a discrimination between the . residents of one part of Australia and another which I hope will be remedied in the near future.
– I move -
That paragraph g be left out.
If there is any provision in this Bill which stamps the old-age pension as a charity dole, it is paragraph g of this clause. . It is totally unnecessary. If it were’ an essential provision affording some safeguard to the country I could understand it; but there is an ample safeguard iri clause 15, which provides that an old-age pensioner must be sixty-five years of age, or incapacitated at sixty. Further, in clause 17, there is the safeguard as to good character and residence in Australia.
– I will accept the honorable member’s amendment. The other parts of the Bill are sufficient, and’ I do not think that the provision is necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 18 -
– I am sure that the AttorneyGeneral will recognise that an amendment of this clause is required. The Bill provides that a person who is absent in Europe or in the Home land for two and a half years shall not be deprived of an old-age pension. It must be the desire of the Government not to deprive an Australian citizen of his pension rights if he happens to have lived for some time in an Australian Possession. I desire to see Papua developed, and I wish to insert words to protect the rights of a person who goes to Papua or to any other Australian Possession just as we provide for a person going to Europe. I therefore move -
That after the word “by,” line 2, the following words be inserted : - “ residence in any Australian Territory for a portion of the period of residence or.”
.I think -that we should also include a provision to cover the cases of persons who happen to be for a term of years out of Australia in the service of the Commonwealth. Such a period of absence should not be counted. Suppose a man is sent to
England as a clerk to the High Commissioner. Though he is out of Australia for ten years he should not be debarred from claiming an old-age pension. The period or’ absence ought to be counted as if he were in Australia.
– I am afraid that, we shall make a bad law if we. try to cover all these cases.
– There cannot be a large number of persons employed out of Australia by the Commonwealth or by States Governments.
– I do not think that the amendment is necessary.
– I intend to move one.
.- I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh not to press his amendment. In the first place, it is very vague and indefinite. A person, in order to get a pension, has to be resident in Australia for twenty-five years. .The honorable member proposes that a person may be resident outside Australia for a portion of the term. Under that proposal, a person might reside outside Australia for twenty-four years.
– Why should he not, if he is in a Territory of the Commonwealth?
– He will be working under the laws of the Territory to which he will be entirely subject.
– He will be working for Australia all the time.
– He will be working for the Territory, and for himself. I hardly think that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Barrier is necessary. Who are the persons likely to do service outside Australia ? There will be only two or three persons who will go out of” Australia, and they will probably receive very good salaries’.
– A man with an income of £10,000 a year may lose it after a while, and if he has £310 at the age of sixty-five years, he will get no pension.
– I think that the honorable member will realize that such absences as he has mentioned, are not likely to be many. The Bill allows an absence for two and a half years, and, in addition, if a person’s home is here, he will not be counted as absent. I ask the honorable member not to press the proposal, seeing that we have made the Bill as liberal as possible.
– I intend to press my amendment. At the present time, there are quite a number of miners in Papua, which is, and will continue to be, a very unhealthy place until malaria disappears. We cannot expect many persons to live there for more than five or seven years, and to prohibit a person from getting an invalid or oldage pension simply because he has resided in or has lost his health in an Australian Territory, is most unfair. I do not suggest that any one should be allowed to go outside Commonwealth territory, and to preserve his right under this measure. I hope that the Minister will see that my proposal is most reasonable, and is not likely to injure Australia to any extent. It will not extend the scope of the Bill, and involve the Government in the payment of some thousands ayear. It can only entail an expenditure of . £200 or£300.
Amendment (by Mr. J. H. Catts) agreed to -
That sub-clause 3 be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19. (Invalid pensions - Commencement of this part.)
.- I desire to ascertain the intentions of the Government with regard to this part of the Bill, dealing with invalid pensions. It is of great importance to the blind, who have been looking forward to a Federal old-age pension, to obtain a little relief. Is it intended to bring this part of the measure into operation soon after the part dealing with old-age pensions is applied ?
– The intention is to apply this part of the measure as soon as we possibly can, but that, of course, will depend upon the financial position. We all sympathize with the blind.
– It would apply to them?
– Yes. The honorable memberfor Yarra will find that, in some instances, the blind are capable of maintaining themselves; but our desire is to give them every assistance that we can.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an invalid pension, namely : -
No woman having married one of the persons disqualified by this section shall, in consequence only of such marriage, be or become disqualified to receive a pension.
– In accordance with my promise to the Committee, I move -
That after the word “Asiatics” the words “except those born in Australia” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 -
.-. According to the definition clause, the word “ relatives “ means -
The husband, wife, or children of a claimant or pensioner, as the case may be.
If a man is receiving from a brother or sister - from anybody, but the limited class stated - an income, the Minister will see that that need not be accounted for.
– Oh, yes.
– Either the words are surplusage or the clause does not go far enough.
– It indicates the nature of the inquiries to be made. The term “ relatives “ is defined in the definition clause. Whatever a. pensioner receives from any other source will be income. .
– I would suggest the substitution of the word “ may “ for “ shall “ in the second line of sub-clause 2.
– The examination will require to be made annually.
– Let us suppose that a man is totally blind. Surely in that case an annual examination will not be necessary.
– In such a case the examination would be a very perfunctory one. The provision is merely in the nature of a precaution.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 -
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the words “from all sources” be left out.
Clause, as amended,, agreed to.
Clause 25 (Assessment of value of accumulated property).
.Paragraph d of this clause provides that, except where a husband and wife are living apart pursuant to a decree, the net capital value of the accumulated property of each shall be deemed to be half the total net capital value of the accumulated property of both. Surely that provision should apply only if both are pensioners.
– We must leave something to the registrars.
– But the registrars must. act within the provisions of the Bill.
– I promise the honorable member that I will look into the matter, and if necessary I- will have an amendment made in the Senate to meet the case.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 agreed to.
Clause. 2; (Pension claim).
.Where limitations such as are contained in this provision are imposed, we usually have to extend them. Instead of the sub-clause providing that the declaration by the claimant may be made before a State school head teacher, why should it not be made before a teacher?
– We must have a responsible person before whom it can be made.
– Why should it not be made before a pupil teacher? Any young woman in charge of a country school can describe herself as a head teacher, and as such will be regarded as a responsible person, whilst a pupil teacher in charge of a class would not be so regarded. I suggest that the word “ head “ be struck out.
– I would point out to the honorable member that some pupil teachers are only 15 or 16 years of age, and it is rather important that the declaration should be made before a responsible person, because it would be the foundation of a very serious liability in the case pf an individual who made a false claim. Besides, we have power to prescribe any other person whom .we think fit.
Mr. -Poynton. - The provision is surely wide enough.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Reference to Magistrate).
– I suggest that the words “ Deputy Commissioner “ be substituted for “ magistrate.”
.- In a State like that of Queensland the Deputy Commissioner will probably be located in Brisbane, and our desire is that the investigations under this Bill shall be conducted on the spot by the magistrates charged with that duty
– There is provision for confidential reports to -be made and objections lodged against an applicant for the pension, and there is then to be a hearing of the case before a magistrate, but there ought to be some provision whereby the applicant could have the points of objection stated to him, so that he might be able to put his case fairly.
– We can arrange that bv regulation.
– If the Minister will promise that, I will accept his word for it. .
– I will endeavour to provide for it.
Clause agreed- to.
Clause 30 -
– I am of opinion that’ the investigations should be made privately, in any place desired by the magistrate, to suit the convenience of the claimant. I therefore move -
That the word “unless” be left out, and the word “ if “’. inserted in lieu thereof, and that the words “ to sit in private “ be left out.
The general rule will then be to hold all the investigations in private, but if the magistrate thinks it necessary in the interest of justice, they can be held in open Court!
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 -
.There is no need for the appeal to go to the Minister, seeing that he only refers it back to the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner for final decision.
– These powers will be delegated by the Minister.
– The appeal must go, in every case, . from the magistrate to the Minister.
– Under clause 14, the Minister may delegate any of his powers under the Bill.
– The Minister cannot delegate the right of the claimant to appeal to him. A claimant at Wyndham, dissatisfied with the decision of a magistrate, may appeal to the Minister at Melbourne or Dalgety, who then refers it back to the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner at Perth. It would be much better for the appeal to be made direct to the man who will’ finally decide it. The system proposed by the clause is most cumbrous.
– The Minister may decide the appeal if he so desires.
– The Minister cannot go into all the questions of proof or disproof. It is a red-tape proposal that should not be adopted. I move -
That the words “ Minister, who may cause an investigation thereof to be made by the “ be left out.
– The clause says that the claimant “ may in the time and in the manner ‘ prescribed ‘ ‘ appeal to the Minister. We have, therefore, power by regulation to prescribe the manner of appeal, and the Minister has power to delegate his functions. The clause will not have the effect that the honorable member for Corio fears. It will not work any hardship, because there are full powers given to refer a claim back. It is only in the ultimate resort, or in some group of cases, that the claimant will have the ‘ right of appeal to the Minister.
.The regulations cannot alter the Act, and therefore the appeal must go to the Minister first. The Minister will find these appeals a great nuisance. I speak from an experience of the Victorian Act. Every person who does not get his pension is dissatisfied, and writes at once to any one that he thinks can use influence on his behalf. The Committee must see that a provision that the Minister must be appealed to in every case, and then send the appeal back to the Commissioner in the district for” final decision, will be subsequently amended.
– I take a different view from the honorable member for Corio. Under this Bill, the final Court of Appeal should be the Minister.
– That is provided for in clause 36., sub-clause 1.
– Under this clause, it is very well set out, as well as in a preliminary clause. As has been pointed out, a series of cases may arise on one particular point, and the Minister would be the proper person to deal with those groups of cases.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 33 -
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That after the word “ Commissioner “ the words “ or Deputy Commissioner’’ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 36 agreed to.
Clause 37 -
.- I move -
That after the word “ district,” line 6, the words “ unless exempted by the Registrar “ be inserted.
The object of the amendment is to meet cases where the registrar knows a person sufficiently well to Tender it unnecessary to call upon him to file a declaration every year. It will facilitate the procedure under the Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 38 agreed to.
Clause 39 -
.- I would suggest the desirableness of substituting the word “ Registrar ‘ ‘ for the words “ Deputy Commissioner.” The question involved is not of great importance.. It simply relates to the position of a man who has not applied for his pension within twenty-one days after its due date, and it should not be necessary for the Deputy Commissioner to deal with such a case. In some States it would be impossible to reach a pensioner from the central office within twentyone days.
– I agree with the honorable member that the amendment is desirable.
Amendment (by Mr. Crouch) agreed to-
That after the words “ Deputy Commissioner “ in sub-clauses 3 and 4 the words “ or a Registrar “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 -
.The honorable member for East Sydney drew attention to the presence of the words “minister of religion,” appearing in this clause, and they seem to be an unnecessary assertion of the rights of the clergy.
– I am agreeable to the omission of the words “ any minister of religion, justice of the peace, or other.” .
– I move-
That the words “ minister of religion, justice of the peace,. or other” be left out.
– We should- consider this proposal carefully.
– The regulations will deal with’ the conditions of the payment of instalments.
– A man in receipt, of a pension might reside in an out of the way place, and apply to the Deputy Commissioner to allow payments to be made in his- behalf to’ some other person. It is desirable to take care that . that person shall be one who will make a proper use of the money handed over to him.
– That will be dealt with by the warrant of -the Deputy Commissioner as well as by regulation.
– This will throw a lot of unnecessary labour and trouble on the- central ‘ office.
– A clergyman or. a justiceof the peace will not be excluded by the omission of these words.
– It is necessary that we should provide that some person in authority shall receive instalments, of the pensions on behalf of the pensioner, as a protection to the recipient. It would be well to pass the clause as it stands.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 43 to 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 -
.I am not sure that this clause expresses the intention of its framers. Offences against many- municipal by-laws render the offender liable to . a fine, or, in default, to imprisonment for more than a month, and under this . provision a pensioner found guilty of such an’ offence may be called, upon to forfeit “ any one or more of the instalments, of his pension,” which may mean the taking away of his pension altogether.
– It is a purely discretionary power.
– If the Minister thinks that the clause expresses his intention, I have no more to sav in regard to it.
– I move -
That the words “of drunkenness, or” be left out.
I should not object to a man who has been sentenced to a month’s imprisonment on conviction for drunkenness being required to forfeit one or more instalments of his pension, but, as the clause stands, great hardship may be done. . The provision seems to make the drops of charity as bitter as possible. I know of one or two cases in which pensioners of habitually good character have taken a glass too much,, and having been convicted of drunkenness, have been temporarily deprived of their pensions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 55 agreed to.
– I move -
That the’ following new clause be inserted : - 34A. Any person who at the commencement of this Act is the holder of a valid certificate entitling him to an invalid or old-age pension under a State Act may, instead of sending in a pension claim, deliver up his State certificate to the Deputy Commissioner, and the Deputy Commissioner may, subject to the regulations, if he is satisfied that the person is entitled to a pension under this Act, issue a pension certificate to him.
This clause will allow State pensioners to draw a Commonwealth pension without going through the vexatious formality of presenting new claims.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and, on recommittal, with a further consequential amendment.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill - Order of Business.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish, in doing so, to say that’ the Government are exceedingly grateful to the Opposition for the course they have taken in permitting the Old-age Pensions Bill with which we have just dealt to pass through all its stages without delay.
– Will the Minister say what business is to be taken this afternoon?
– There are two small measures to be, dealt with first, and we shall then take the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, or the Bill to appropriate , £250,000 for defence. It will be necessary for the House to go into Committee of Supply to deal with that measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.7 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080603_reps_3_46/>.