6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been drawn to a complaint made in this morning’s paper by a returned wounded soldier to the effect that on applying to the Defence Department for a clerical position, he was referred to the secretary of the union, and that on going to the secretary of the union he was denied the right to apply for an appointment until he had joined the union and paid an entrance fee ? I wish to know whether that policy is in accordance with the promise made by Mr. Fisher that returned soldiers would get the first chance of employment ?
– I should like notice of the question; and, if possible, I should like to be furnished with the name of the soldier in question.
– Very well.
– Following on a ques tion asked by the right honorable member for Swan a little while ago as to the inability of some transports to get full loading when returning to Australia, to which question the Minister for the Navy replied that Borne difficulty was occasioned by the Shipping Ring in England, will the Minister now explain to what extent the Shipping Ring interfered with our transports in the matter of securing back loading?
– The question is practically the same as that submitted by the right honorable member for Swan. A certain transport, with a capacity of 8,000 tons of general cargo, did leave England with 1,000 tons only. It appears that the owners of the vessel, which the Commonwealth Government had commandeered, said that they would arrange to procure back loading for her from England to Australia, but when the Commonwealth agents in London approached them, in accordance with the offer which had been made, the firm endeavoured to lay down certain stipulations and conditions that we could not accept. We were paying the owners a certain sum per day for demurrage, and yet they attempted to tie us down to a payment of £2 10s. per ton for general cargo, where they would receive £7 or £8 a ton, it being their intention to keep the difference. We objected to this proposal, and that is how the ship came back with such a small tonnage of cargo.
-As the managers of the Wheat Pool have promised that the farmers shall receive a further advance of 6d. per bushel on their wheat as soon as freight and banking arrangements will enable it to be done, can the Acting Leader of the House inform us when that 6d. is likely to be paid? I understand that an additional sale of wheat has been effected which should enable it to be done.
Also, can the Minister inform us as to the result of the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the authorities in London with respect to additional freightage?
– As I am not a member of the Wheat Board it would be difficult for me to give an answer off-hand, but if the honorable member will put a question on the notice-paper I shall see Senator Russell, who is the representative of the. Commonwealth Government on the
Wheat Board, and furnish an answer tomorrow.
– The Wheat Board say that they are waiting for the Prime Minister.
– But the matter of the advance of 6d. is quite different. However, as I am not a member of the Wheat Board, I have no wish to commit them by any answer of mine.
Eight Hours Day : Overtime
– Will the PostmasterGeneral explain why he has departed from the eight hours principle by not giving the employees in New South Wales a holiday on Eight Hours Day?
– I have not departed from the law which I have to administer, nor has the Public Service Commissioner departed from the interpretation of that law. I have already asked for an explanation with regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable member; in fact, on Saturday I ordered that it should be expedited, so that I could furnish a reply to the honorable member. The inference that I am doing something to undermine the Labour policy is not a fair one.
– In view of the fact that overtime ordered to be paid by the letter-carriers’ award is not paid for months, will the Postmaster-General instructhis officers to pay overtime within the month in which it is earned ?
– It will be done as far as practicable, but there are times when the officers do not furnish the information early enough to enable the Accounts Branch to do so. Whenever that information is supplied in time, I shall see that the men are paid their overtime, as the honorable member requests.
– It is reported that out of 1,229 men who offered to enlist last week in Victoria, only 628 were accepted, showing a rejection of a little under 50 per cent. Will the Minister for the Navy ascertain the reasons for this heavy percentage of rejections, in order that honorable members may form an estimate of the satisfactory nature or otherwise of the cause ?
– I shall be pleased to comply with the request of the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for the Navy have prepared for presentation to honorable members a return showing the number of men who offered for enlistment, the number rejected, and the reasons for their rejection, in all the States during last week ?
– I have no objection.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is correct, as reported in this morning’s paper, that the demands of the temporary clerks at Cockatoo and Garden Islands have been granted unconditionally, whether these demands have been before the Minister previously ; if they were fair and reasonable, why they werenot granted then; and, if they were not fair and reasonable, why they are granted now?
– Two weeks ago I sent certain instructions to the management of Cockatoo Island and Garden Island that the latest award for the clerks should be put into operation. Under that award certain clerks were to receive overtime after working 7½ hours in the day, which would give each clerk half-an-hour’s overtime each day. It appears that there was some dispute between the management and the men with regard to this time. The dispute was not because the conditions of the award had not been allowed by the Minister, because I had already sent word that the clerks were to be given what the award provided. There was practically no dispute between the Minister and the clerks. It appears that when the time-sheets were sent in some difference of opinion arose between the men and the manager. The secretary of the Clerks Union endeavoured to land at Cockatoo Island, in order to speak to the men during the luncheon hour. He was refused permission to land, and I think that was what precipitated the trouble. If the demands of the men were just, and I thought they were, it was my duty to grant them, and I did so.
– The Minister appears to misapprehend the point of the question. Why is it that these strikes are constantly happening at CockatooIsland because of the awards of the Court not being observed ?
– The awards of the Court are being observed.
– If the arbitration awards are always observed at Cockatoo Island will the Minister say why strikes are continuously occurring there ?
– I must again take exception to the attempt that is being continually made to found a series of interrogations on one question. I will not permit that procedure.
– I am sorry to appear pertinacious in this matter, but it is one of the greatest importance, and I therefore hope that you, sir, will permit me to ask a further question on the subject. Do I understand that the Minister last week telegraphed fresh instructions to the management at Cockatoo Island to make certain further concessions. If so, were those further concessions, on the basis of which the strike has been settled, in the terms of the award?
– Ever since I have been Minister I have had a recommendation before me from the management of Cockatoo Island to grant certain increases, over and above the award rates, to clerks who are doing special work. It was only on Saturday morning that I acceded to it, after receiving instructions from the Government to do so. I desire to state further that there was some difference of opinion between the management of the Island and the members of the Clerks Union with regard to what constituted a clerk. It appears that the registered rules of the Clerks Union include in the definition of “ clerk “ any person who is a tallyman,recorder, or provider working on the Island, because he is a member of the Clerks Union, and is practically doing clerical work. The management could not see eye to eye with the union in this regard. When I was in Sydney recently the Clerks Union waited upon me, and I agreed with them that those men who are performing this work could be deemed to be no other than clerks. Accordingly, I decided that they should come under the clerks’ award in regard to pay and overtime.
– Then what caused the strike?
– I have learned this morning that there was some difference of opinion between the unions and the man agement as to when the overtime pay should commence. The secretary of the Union had arranged to address the men during the luncheon hour, but the management would not allow him to land, and the trouble followed. Expressing the view of the Government, I sent the following telegram to the manager of Cockatoo Island on Saturday: -
As wired you last week, clerks’ award must be put into operation. Those clerks which you recommended for increase can be granted same. All other clerks to receive award rates only. Tallymen, recorders, and providers are to be treated as clerks.
When the contents of that telegram were made known to the union my conditions were accepted, and the trouble ended.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is correct that money has been borrowed at 4½ per cent, by the Government, and lent to the Commonwealth Bank at 3 per cent. ? Will the Treasurer inform the House of the history of that transaction ?
– No money has been borrowed during my brief time as Treasurer at 4½ per cent., and lent to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank at 3 per cent. The transactions in regard to the acquisition of the site on which the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney is being constructed, took place prior to my assumption of office, but I will make full inquiry into the matter, and let the honorable member have particulars at an early date.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong asked a question in regard to the purchase of insulators. I replied, giving portion of the information, and I have now fuller details of the transaction -
During the past twelve months the value of insulators imported into the Commonwealth has been as follows: - From England, £1,450; from Japan, £48 15s. In the latter case the insulators were of a special size. The tenderer who got the contract in the first instance supplied insulators which failed to pass the insulator resistance test. Fresh tenders were then called, and only two were received. Both were for insulators of Japanese origin, and goods to the value of £48 15s. had to be purchased under those conditions.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral done anything since he has been in office to abolish the Postal Department’s “ ice-cream carts,” which men are pushing like working bullocks about the city of Melbourne?
– The matter of transport within the Melbourne metropolitan area is now under special review, and I hope to receive a report thereon shortly, when I will endeavour to remodel the present system.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs been called to a report in the public press to the effect that the secretary of the Queensland branch of the Federal Clerks Union, while at a function or dinner at Ipswich, where there were Ministers and others present, refused to rise while the National Anthem was sung, and that since then he has been appointed by the Federal Government to take charge of the Bureau of Statistics in Queensland. If this be true, will the Minister take action to deal with this offender?
– I have not heard of any such occurrence, but I am very sure that if this gentleman were disloyal, a loyal man like Mr. Knibbs would never have appointed him. There may be a thorough misunderstanding in the matter. At the races sometimes, when I have been busy looking up a horse, I have not been able to get my hat off, and have, therefore, been thought disloyal, though I was not.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the War Loan Act 1914 and the War Loan Act (No. 2) 1915.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– Is it a fact that the officers of the Postal Department have taken upon themselves the right of censorship over the business of the Australian Letter Carriers Association, without consulting the officers of the Union, by ordering a rank and file member to tear down a business paper in regard to a notice of motion to be discussed at a meeting ?
– In an award of one association the chief officer of the State is authorized to remove any objectionable notice that may be placed on the noticeboard permitted to the employees in connexion with their union business. Another association, it appears, had placed the notice on the Board, which was deemed by the chief officer to be of an objectionable character, and, acting under the award, he removed it. In my opinion, if there be not some such power, organization and discipline will become impracticable in the Department.
– Will the Minister of
Trade and Customs supply the House with a list of all the freights under 100s. that have been refused by the Wheat Commission ?
– If the honorable member will put that question on the noticepaper, I shall consult the representatives of the Wheat Board. In my opinion, it would be very dangerous to make such information public, in view of the fact that the members of the Wheat Board are doing their best to get as cheap freight as possible.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral obtain the number of shifts and the times worked by the assistants in the various sections at the General Post Office, Sydney, and Central Square, Sydney? In view of the fact that overtime and holiday award pay under the letter carriers’ award is not paid for months, will the Postmaster-General instruct his officers to pay same within one month?
– Of course, I can supply the information, but it would mean expenditure of much time and money. At this time, the Department is at its wit’s ends how to make good the large number of competent men away at the front. All such work occupies time and prevents the Department giving that service to the public we desire. Of course, if the honorable member persists, and will ask for the information in the form of a return, I shall endeavour to get it for him.
– Has the Treasurer noticed in this morning’s newspapers a complaint by the president of the Employers’ Federation of the treatment meted out to that body in connexion with the War Profits Taxation measure, and suggesting that its passing should not be so hurried. I should like to know, in order to allay the perturbed feelings of those gentlemen, if it is the intention of the Treasurer to proceed at once with this legislation.
– I shall be very much surprised if Mr. Keep, and the other gentlemen who occupy such high positions in the commercial world, have not already given a good deal of attention to the question of war-time profits. I may say–
– The Minister must not discuss the matter now.
– I merely wish to explain the position.
– The honorable gentleman can answer a question without entering int o a lengthy explanation.
– As briefly as possible, I shall say that the community has a right to know, as Boon as possible, what the tax is to be, and, judging by the temper of the people in Australia, I have come to the conclusion that the longer the measure is delayed, the higher the tax will prove.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to call your attention to the Hansard report of a speech delivered by me on the first line of the Budget. In that report, there is a repetition of some portion of my remarks. This was due to the fact that the Minister of Home Affairs, to whose Department I was referring, came into the Chamber while I was speaking, and, for his information, I had, in some measure, to repeat myself. I should like you to give orders that, when Hansard appears in volume form, some intimation of the circumstances may be made, so as to explain the duplication.
– Last Thursday, certain statements were made in a newspaper, and on Friday the members concerned definitely and distinctly replied in this House. On Saturday, the same newspaper, after having published these replies, inserted a paragraph that I did not observe at the time, to this effect -
It is hardly necessary, perhaps, but it might be as well to say that the information we pub lished was given to us by members who were in the best possible position to speak of what occurred. The general accuracy of that information was confirmed yesterday by other members.
I contend that this matter has gone further than one between members and press, or Minister and press.
– The honorable member has not said whether he intends to make a personal explanation, or to raise a question of privilege. If the latter, the honorable gentleman must conclude with a motion.
– I shall put myself in order before I conclude. The question has now become one between the custodian of the rights and privileges of the House - of members on all sides - and the press itself. To you, sir, is delegated the authority to protect honorable members from any unjust aspersions which may be hurled at them by those who are privileged to report the proceedings of this House. The statement of which I complain was definitely denied by the Minister concerned, yet the Argus now repeats that statement, declaring that it is true, and that it can be proved.
– It says that it obtained its information from honorable members. That is merely a declaration, and there is a big difference between declaration and proof.
– It is a declaration that the Argus disbelieves the statements made by Ministers, and that it is entitled to deny the truth of those statements. If this sort of conduct is to be allowed to continue, no man’s reputation will be safe. There is no possibility of an honorable member taking upon himself the obligations of a Minister if the press is to be permitted to malign, misrepresent, and injure him.
– The Minister’s denial was published.
– That is nothing compared with what the press did to me.
– But the newspaper which attacked the honorable member went far enough to permit of him taking it to Court. I wish that the press would go that far with me.
– It would be rough on the Minister.
– In my judgment, this sort of conduct should be brought to a termination, and the newspaper concerned should either be asked to apologize for denying the truth of the statement which was made here, thereby repeating its offence, or to divulge the names of those whom it alleges were its informants. I therefore move -
That the Argus newspaper be called upon to divulge the names of its informants, or otherwise apologize for the offence it has committed.
On reflection I think that I shall give notice of my intention to move to that effect.
– I would point out to the Postmaster-General that he should have taken that course in the first instance. He led me to believe that he was going to submit a substantive motion, and accordingly I allowed him to go much farther than I would have permitted him to go had he been engaged in making a personal explanation. If this sort of conduct is to be permitted nothing but chaos will result. Our Standing Orders are very specific on the matter.
– Who is the Leader of this House ?
– Standing order 285 reads -
Any member complaining to the House of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege, shall produce a copy of the paper containing the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
If I did not take exception to the course pursued by the honorable gentleman there would be nothing to prevent another honorable member from rising on a question of privilege and after speaking for halfanhour, resuming his seat without submitting any motion whatever. I ask honorable members not to indulge in that sort of conduct.
asked the Minister for the
Navy, upon notice -
January, 1916, to the present date by the Naval Department for transport purposes?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether preference will be given to returned soldiers in temporary employment in the Commonwealth service, where qualified, irrespective of whether they are unionists or non-unionists?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
This has been provided for. Public Service Regulation 121 (13) reads : - “ Notwithstanding anything contained in this Regulation, preference for temporary employment shall be given to sailors and soldiers who have served abroad with satisfactory record in the Naval or Military Forces of the Commonwealth.” The following paragraph is contained in the circular instructions to heads of Departments in respect of the employment of casual labour : - “ Soldiers and sailors who have served abroad with satisfactory record in the Naval or Military Forces of the Commonwealth are to be given preference.”
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the appointment of an Enumeration Day for the purposes of the Representation Act 1905.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) .
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the War Pensions Act 1914-15.
It might be convenient to honorable members if I made the few remarks which I propose to make upon this Bill at the present stage, instead of on the motion for its second reading. I gather that honorable members are anxious to be extremely liberal in the matter of war pensions, and it is my duty to caution them against giving undue rein to their generous impulses. I observe that some honorable members are not satisfied with the Government proposal to increase the military pensionsby at least 50 per cent. We are proposing to increase the pension in the case of a private soldier from £1 to 30s. per week, but somehonorable members do not consider that enough. I hope that it will be agreed that I am as sympathetic as are most men to persons in distress, but it is my duty to caution the House as to the nature of our financial obligations. I thought it proper to postpone the estimate of our future obligations until presenting my next Budget statement, but from what I have observed it would appear to be necessary to inform honorable members that our wax loan indebtedness to 30th June, 1917, will be £109,000,000. The interest on that sum will be approximately £5,000,000. We have to contemplate the setting apart of a certain sum as a sinking fund for the extinction of the debt, and if we decide upon a sinking fund of per cent, that will involve an additional payment. Interest and sinking fund obligations to meet indebtedness on war loans to. 30th June, 1917, will amount to some £5,550,000 a year. Honorable members will discern that that will be new expenditure which must be met somehow either from revenue we are at present receiving or from additional taxation. We have again to remember that we shall have to pay interest on the money that must be borrowed to pay the Imperial authorities for their expenditure in maintaining and equipping our soldiers abroad. The probable amount of that indebtedness is not known because, although we have repeatedly made requests for information on the subject, the Imperial Government for some reason or another are not able to tell us how much they propose to charge us for the maintenance and equipment of our soldiers while on active service. We shall also have to meet an amount for interest on money which must be borrowed to pay the deferred pay which will be due to our soldiers at the end of June, 1917, and which will amount to about £9,000,000. The estimate of the amount due to 30th June, 1916, is £4,500,000, and we have in a rough and ready way doubled that amount as the estimate of what will be due for deferred pay at the end of June, 1917, but it may be more.
– The chances are it will be more.
– That is so, but it will be at least £9,000,000.
– Will that not be covered by the war loan money ?
– No; that will be . additional. We shall have to provide for’ the interest that must be paid on money borrowed for that purpose. There will further be interest to pay on the money which we will borrow to assist the States in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. At the Conference which was held some time ago the Commonwealth Government agreed to assist in the matter of the payment of interest on money borrowed for this purpose for a certain period. The amount of our obligation in this regard cannot now be estimated, but it will have to be met, and will be a charge upon our revenue. I therefore urge honorable members to be good enough to accept the proposals of the Government for the increase of military pensions. We have been quite sympathetic in the matter, and have proposed the increases which we thought ought to be made in view of all the circumstances. If at some future time the Commonwealth is so prosperous that we can afford to further increase the military pensions the present Government, if in power, will be quite ready to bring forward proposals for the purpose.
– We shall not do in times of peace what we are not prepared to do now in this connexion. When peace comes we shall forget all these things.
– I hope that honorable members will carefully examine the Government proposals. We propose to pay higher pensions than are paid in the United Kingdom or in Canada.
– It is not much to say that the Government propose to pay higher pensions than are paid in the United Kingdom.
– I take the case of a soldier of the lowest military rank.
– The honorable gentleman might give the Committee particulars in the case of a soldier totally incapacitated, and a married man with two or three children.
– What is the use of a single case? What we want is the whole proposition of the Government.
– In the case of a soldier of the lowest military rank, for man and wife the pension would be £2 5s. a week; man, wife, and one child, £2 10s. ; man, wife, and two children, £2 15s. ; man, wife, and three children, £3; man, wife, and four children, £3 5s. ; and man, wife, and five children, £3 10s. per week.
– What are wie relative figures in the United Kingdom 1
– In the United Kingdom a man receives 25s. per week, but apparently his wife receives nothing. Each child, however, is paid 2s. 6d. per week. In Canada the pension in the case of a man and wife is £1 lis. 6d. per week; man, wife, and one child, £1 16s. 4d.
– Has the honorable gentleman any figures for New Zealand t Mr. HIGGS. - I am sorry to say that I have not. I believe that action is being taken in New Zealand in the direction of making the pensions paid in that Dominion more liberal. I have given the pensions we are proposing in the case of a private soldier of the lowest rank. I shall give now the pensions proposed in the case of widows and children. Widow of private, £2; widow and one child, £2 10s.; widow and two children, £3. These are the amounts of pension to be paid per fortnight. It has been decided, for the sake of economy and the convenience of the Department and the recipients, to make all the payments fortnightly. I heard one honorable member complain that the pension of £1 per week to the widow was not high enough, but in most cases the widow of a soldier will probably be a young woman, and able to do something to earn her own living. Yet she will get £1 a week for all her life, except that, if she re-marries, the pension will he discontinued after two years. The rates increase, according to the rank of the deceased and the number of children, as the following table shows: -
It will be seen that the list is on a liberal scale.
– It is not liberal for the rank and file or their children.
– No doubt, in Committee, honorable members will have an opportunity to consider the details.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That. Mr. Higgs and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The principle of the Bill is to liberalize war pensions.
– Can the Treasurer say what will be the financial effect of these alterations ?
– Yes. The Government propose to increase the rate by 50 per cent., and we propose to make certain liberal amendments in the Act to give effect to this proposal. For example, in the case of a foster-mother who, perhaps, may have had care of a soldier from his boyhood upwards, and to all intents stood to him in the relation of a mother, under the existing law she could not be paid anything, but nevertheless she has been paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance, and the House by passing the Estimates, has agreed to all such payments in the past.. Under this Bill it is proposed that payments shall be made to a foster-mother in the ordinary way in future.
– Will a foster-mother of a lieutenant be able to get his pay just the same as a mother would?
– She would be able to do so to the extent that she had been dependent upon him for support for twelve months prior to enlistment. We have also introduced a provision fixing the date of applications, and it is provided that a claim for payment of a pension under this Bill shall be made -
– Will the Act be made retrospective in the case of fostermothers ?
– To be fair we must make the whole operation of the Act retrospective. It has been found, in the case of a civil servant entitled to a retiring allowance on becoming incapacitated, that whatever allowance he got as a civil servant was set off against his pension. That is to say, if a man in receipt of £240 a year enlisted, and became incapacitated, and received £80 a year as a superannuation allowance, he would not get the benefit of a war pension. If that civil servant had not enlisted he would probably have had a long period of service at £240 a year, and at the end of his time, would have received a much higher retiring allowance than he would obtain by enlisting and subsequently becoming incapacitated, because under the existing Act the superannuation allowance is set off against his pension.
– Will this Bill debar an old-age pensioner from receiving any benefits ?
– That is a point that requires discussion.
– We will be able to discuss that matter in Committee.
– Unless it is raised at the second reading stage it might be difficult to discuss it in Committee.
– I do not think the Government will take advantage of the House in that respect.
– No. We have also liberalized the pensions in the case of children. In the case of a child whose mother is alive the payment is fixed at 5s., so there is no alteration there, but where the mother and father are dead a child will receive, up to the age of ten years, 10s. per week; from ten to fourteen years of age, 12s. 6d. per week; and from fourteen to sixteen years of age, 15s. per week. The Government considers that when a child reaches the age of sixteen years it should be able to earn its own living.
– But if a child sixteen years of age is unable to earn its own living will the Commissioner have power to continue the pensions ?
– Yes. A widow who remarries will be able to retain her pension after re-marriage for a period of two years.
– Why limit it to two years?
– Because we apprehend that when a man marries he should be in a position to do something towards keeping his wife. All these details could, I think, be dealt with better in Committee. The second schedule contains particulars of pensions to be paid for partial incapacity. For the loss of a leg or a foot a soldier will be paid the maximum rate for six months and thereafter three-fourths of the maximum rate. The provision that the maximum rate shall be given, no matter what the nature of the wounds may be, is inserted because, owing to the nature of the wounds received in modern warfare, it is difficult to decide exactly the real condition of the injured soldier. For instance, it is very difficult for nerve specialists to decide as to the extent of the injury caused by shock. A man who has suffered from shock may appear to a layman to be perfectly well and fit to do work, whereas he may be very ill. Therefore the Government propose to pay the maximum rate of the pension for a period of six months, and if, in the meantime, the man can get work, good luck to him - it will not disturb the amount of his pension. In regard to the loss of one eye, or both legs, both arms, and so on, the provision in the Bill is an endeavour to approximate the injuries and the compensation that ought to be paid.
– The provision in the proposed new sub-section 4 of section 8 that the rates shown in the schedule shall be paid “ unless otherwise prescribed “ should be explained.
– The soldier may become quite well, and able to earn very good money. Some men have been able to earn as much as £3 3s. a week. We have endeavoured to ascertain the compensation that should be paid to men who lose an arm or an eye, and so on. The Workmen’s Compensation Acts of Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania contain schedules in which an endeavour has been made to estimate the amount of compensation that should be payable in such cases. We provide for paying the maximum rate for at least six months. Thereafter the rate is “ subject to reduction to seven-eighths of the maximum rate if and so long as the member is capable of earning at least 6s. a week.”
– I ask the Treasurer not to go into details at this stage.
.- There are one or two matters of principle I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer. I do not think that the Act has been administered in accordance with, the wishes of honorable members, or the intention of the House at the time it was passed. On that occasion, I spoke very strongly in favour of the pension becoming the absolute property of the indivi- dual to whom it might be granted. I held that it was simply the country’s acknowledgment to the individual who had served his country, and suffered loss in doing so; and that, however inadequate it might be to compensate for that loss, whatever pension was granted should not be disturbed by any circumstances which might arise. But we find that if a pensioner, who has been granted a partial pension for the loss of a leg, or an arm, or both legs, has some other means of support, increasing his total income, with the pension, above the maximum amount of the pension that a soldier may get, the pension is reduced. I do not think that this should be the case, though the Act is so worded as to enable it to be done, because it will close a very large number of avenues of employment to our returned soldiers. There are many occupations which partially incapacitated men may take up for which they may get small pay. For instance, they may have charge of allowance post-offices. There are scattered throughout Australia many small communities where the people would be only too happy and willing to provide a returned soldier with a couple of acres of ground, and build him a small cottage, and where the person controlling the allowance post-office would be only too willing to hand over the control of it to him. In such cases the returned soldier would be earning from £40 to £60 by running the post-office, and with a free home and his pension, he would have a comfortable living among people with whom he has been reared, and by whom he would bo respected for the rest of his life. I do not see why that principle should not be carried out very largely in Australia. Again, there are many railway gates throughout Australia requiring keepers, and very often post-offices are conducted by these gate-keepers. Billets such as these will be eminently suitable for our maimed soldiers, particularly where they are provided in districts where the mert have been bred and born. But, as the Act is now administered, if a man is granted a partial pension of £30 a year, should the post-office allowance and the rent of the cottage together amount to £50 a year, he would get no pension. The war pensions are administered, to all intents and purposes, on the same principle as the old-age pensions. I do not care what the position in life of a returned soldier may be, or what his income. If he has suffered loss, he is entitled to his pension, irrespective of all other considerations. The pension should rest on his services to the country and the loss he has sustained. There might be cases where comparatively wealthy men, would be entitled to the pension, if the Act were amended as I suggest, but if those men claimed the pension, the probabilities are that they would be only too glad to hand it over to some institution, which may be created in our midst, to help returned wounded soldiers who are in indigent circumstances. I do not think the drain on the Treasury would he very great, hut if pensions were drawn to any extent by men of substance, some of the money would probably be used as an additional means of sustenance for those who were not in such fortunate circumstances.
– In any case, a returned soldier who is able to work to-day may experience incapacity later.
– Yes, and the time may come when a man, who is comparatively wealthy to-day, will be poor. The pension of a soldier who has fought for his country should be an inalienable right. There is no justification for taking away that pension, unless it had been granted for ill-health, which subsequently disappeared. Temporary invalidity is the only circumstance in which the pension should be withdrawn. I hope the Treasurer will accept some amendment in Committee which will terminate the present unjust system.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier) 11.54~].- Whilst I agree with a good deal of what the honorable member for Richmond has said, I differ from his statement that the
Bill has not teen administered according to the intention of Parliament. When we were discussing the present Act I contended that the officers could not administer the Act according to the intention of Parliament, except in so far as that intention was expressed in the Act. My own experience has been that the officers are most sympathetic in their administration of the Act, but it would be unfair to ask them to administer it other than according to its actual terms.
– My desire was to point out that the Act did not express our intention.
– That was the fault of Parliament.
– That misunderstanding arose owing to a promise by the Minister that the Act would have sympathetic administration.
– We desire the Act amended so that it will lay down definitely the principle which the honorable member for Richmond has advocated. I was pleased to hear the statement of the Minister that foster-mothers will rank equally with natural mothers. There was in my own constituency a case of a woman who had looked after a young fellow from the time he was eighteen months old, and who was to all intents and purposes his mother. Prior to leaving for the front as a lieutenant, he was her sole means of support, but when he was killed, and she applied for a pension, the request was refused, because she was not the natural mother of the deceased. I brought the matter under the notice of the Treasurer, who was good enough to deal with it under his advance account. But even then the woman was granted, as a matter of courtesy, only the pension provided for a private, although her foster son had held the rank of lieutenant.
– That was a narrowminded view to take of her position.
– The honorable member must recollect that Parliament had not provided a penny for this woman; the Treasurer acted more generously than Parliament had done. However, it is satisfactory to find that the Treasurer proposes to amend the law in that respect. When the original Act was before the House, honorable members discussed _ at some length the desirableness of placing a widowed mother on exactly the same position as the soldier’s wife. A wife is entitled to the full pension, irrespective of her position and circumstances in life. Many of us hold the opinion that a widowed mother should be entitled to the same treatment, but this Bill leaves her in the same position as under the original Act. I hope that when we are dealing with that portion of the Bill in Committee the Minister will raise no objection to the inclusion of widowed mothers amongst those who are classified as dependants. Under the existing law a widowed mother has to prove that previous to the war she was dependent on the person who was killed, and she has also to state the extent of her dependence. The case was brought under my notice by the honorable member for Gippsland ; and it appears that a mother, who had a little dairy farm, was helped in the management of it by her son, but it could not be proved that she was in any way dependent on him, as she received no money from him. The son was killed, and the mother refused a pension. I hope that, in view of these facts, the Government will be good enough to yield on the point. I am glad that the honorable member for Richmond raised the question, because I feel very strongly regarding it. Whether a man, on his return, can or cannot do any work ought not to be taken into consideration.
– The pension ought not to be on a charity basis.
– Quite so. The question ought to be whether a man can earn the equivalent of what he was able to earn before he went to the war. In the Riverina electorate, a young man who, prior to going to the war, was receiving £3 to £3 10s. a week as a chaffcutter, came back minus a leg, and, while it is certain he will never again be able to earn £3 10s. a week at his old occupation, it has been decided that he is to receive a pension of only 10s., although thus handicapped for life. We ought not to rely on our good intentions, but have all the conditions set out in the Act itself. The House, I am sure, is very anxious that this measure shall be worthy of Australia. The Treasurer very rightly keeps a keen eye on the expenditure, but we might reasonably ask what would have happened to Australia if none of these young fellows had volunteered for the front?
– I wish to impress on the Government the importance of dealing equitably with widowed mothers. I do not charge the Government with not liberally interpreting’ the Act in many instances. As a matter of fact, the Government are not so much to blame, because when the question of war pensions was originally before us, the gravity of the position could not be thoroughly appreciated, and it was felt by all of us that the measure would have to be amended in the light of experience. In one case, in my electorate, a widowed mother was given the magnificent sum of 5s. a week, and the manner in which the amount was arrived at is somewhat curious. She was a widowed mother with two sons, ohe single, and one married with a small family. Those with any knowledge of the working classes will agree that, however willing a man may be, he is not always able to assist his mother if he has to do justice to his own wife and family. The single son, before he left for the front, was paying his mother £1 a week; and the authorities calculated that, as it would cost the mother 15s. per week to keep him, she was dependent on him to the extent of only 5s. I represented the case to the authorities, and managed to get the pension increased to 10s., though I must say that I was like a beggar pleading at the gate. This young man, before he left for the front, was employed as a check clerk on the wharves at Adelaide; and as he was very often away from home at night, and had to purchase food outside, it really could not have cost his mother 15s. a week to keep him. Is this the sort of position the Government of Australia should take up 1. There are two other cases in my electorate that I might cite, and they certainly show that the view taken by the authorities is a very narrow one. Of course, I do not blame those who have to administer the Act, for they must interpret the law as they find it; and when I was interviewing the authorities about the case of the widowed mother, I was referred to the Act as it was passed by Parliament. If the life of this young man had been spared, it is very possible that he might, in the future, have been able to give his mother considerably more than £1 per week. There is no doubt about the feeling of the House in the matter; and if the Treasurer would make the concession asked for much time would be saved.
.- I desire to see proper provision made in this Bill for widowed mothers, because several cases of hardship have been brought under my notice. In one home a son was paying his mother 15s. a week, and two sons at the front allowed her £1 7s. 6d. per week each. This woman let one of her rooms at 10s. a week, bringing her income up to £5. One of her sons was killed on service, and this reduced her income to £3 12s. 6d., including the 10s. for the room. The rent of her house is £1 per week; and when she was asked why she did not go into, a smaller house, she, motherlike, replied, “ The house in which I live is just comfortable when my boys are at home, and I do not think I should be asked to break up my household because they have gone on active service.” Now, because her income is £3 12s. 6d. a week, she has been refused the pension. Personally, I do not think that, under any circumstances, the 10s. she received for her room should have been taken into consideration in view of the rent she has to pay. Many of the youths who have gone Lo the front were paying their mothers £1 a week for their board, and the view taken by the authorities, if such a lad is killed, and his mother applies for a pension, is that 5s. a week is sufficient to allow her, because she was previously under an expense of 15s. per week in providing for her boy’s keep. That is the system which has been in operation. I do not blame those who have been administering the Act. The officers with whom I have come into contact have been perfectly fair. The entire responsibility should rest on the members of this Parliament. When the War Pensions Act was under consideration in this chamber, sufficient attention was not paid to it. We ought to remove all responsibility from the administrators of the Act, and shoulder it ourselves. We ought also to make tha intention of this Parliament perfectly clear. There is just one other matter to which I’ desire to draw attention. It is the case of a young man who had intended to enlist for active service. He wag a member of the Citizen Forces, and just prior to the period when he contemplated enlisting, he was requested by the authorities to accept a position in the base hospital. It waa at the time of the outbreak of meningitis. He was warned of the danger that he -would run by accepting the position, but this knowledge did not deter him from doing what he conceived to be his duty. At that time the authorities were experiencing a great difficulty in securing attendants for the hospital. This lad was the son of a widowed mother who was resident in the Prahran district. He accepted the position and entered the base hospital, where he discharged his duties for a period of four months. Finally, he contracted meningitis and died. The circumstances of his case justified his mother in applying for a pension. The authorities, however, practically refused consideration of her claim on the ground that ‘ her son had not enlisted, and, therefore, had not been on active service. I am of opinion - and I believe a majority of honorable members will agree with me - that this young man in undertaking to nil a dangerous post of that kind, with a view to serving his country, was just as much entitled to consideration by this House as is a man who loses his life in the trenches. As- a matter of fact, I think that in accepting the position which he did, he incurred a greater risk than is incurred by men at the front. This particular case was brought under the notice of the Minister. It was submitted to the Department presided over by the Treasurer, and finally the mother’s claim was rejected, it being held that as the lad was not on active service at the time of his death she was not entitled to any pension. I held that provision should be made in this Bill that mothers similarly placed in the future shall receive some consideration.
– Was the lad sworn in?
– He was on home service.
– He was a man well suited for the work which he was performing?
– Will this Bill provide for such cases?
– No. Clause 2 provides that “dependants” means: -
The wife or widow of a person who is or has been a member of the Forces whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations.
A person engaged upon home service will not come under that provision.
– Surely the base hospital has something to do with warlike opera tions. The authorities have placed a very narrow interpretation upon the Act.
– At any rate, that is the interpretation that has been placed upon it, and this Bill in its present form will not provide a remedy. Quite a large number of cases have been brought under my notice in which injustice has been inflicted upon widowed mothers. I believe that the difficulty would be overcome by inserting in the provision which I have quoted, after the word “person” the words “ or widowed mother of an unmarried person.” The honorable member for Gippsland has suggested that that amendment would cover the case of widowed mothers. I hope that the Treasurer will see his way clear to agree to an amendment which will deal effectively with this difficulty.
.- I desire to compliment the Government upon having brought forward a Bill to liberalize the War Pensions Act. But I would point out that the schedule to this measure provides that a man who has lost both eyes shall receive the maximum pension for a period of only six months. I understand that in the different States there are blind institutions which are anxious to obtain control of blind soldiers, and to allow them 16s. per week for making baskets, &c. I am strongly of opinion that every soldier who has lost both eyes should receive the full pension without any qualification whatever. When he returns, to this country we ought not to compel him to enter a blind institution and learn a trade. If he learns a trade, he should have all he can earn at it in addition to his pension. I hope we shall agree to no pension system which will force blind men on to our streets to beg. We should not degrade in that way our men who come back from the front. A man who has lost his eyesight at the front should be given the maximum pension without any qualification at all. There should be a provision in the Bill to prevent trafficking in pensions.
– There is such a provision in it.
– Clause 13 provides that the pension shall be inalienable.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope that, in Committee, the Treasurer will be prepared to receive suggestions from honorable members so that we shall make the Bill as liberal as possible.
.- We all appreciate the difficulties of the financial position as placed before us by the Treasurer. He is the custodian of the public funds, and it was his duty to lay before honorable members the financial position, and to let us know what we are committing ourselves to. m the way of expenditure due to the war. But no financial obligation to which we have been committed so far, or are likely to be committed during the next twelve months, should prevent us from doing our duty to the soldiers who have fought for us who have stayed at home. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond in the contention that men who have been to the front, and have suffered the injuries specified in the second schedule should, in no circumstances, have their pensions reduced. There is a clause to provide that, in the case of such men earning certain sums, there may be a reduction made in the pension paid to them. I think that that provision should be struck out of the Bill, do not know whether the second schedule specifies all the forms of injury which would warrant a soldier getting the full pension, but certainly those who suffer the injuries which are specified should suffer no reduction of the maximum pension proposed in such cases. I presume that, in framing the clause to which I take exception, the authorities considered the possibility later on of unfair competition by a soldier in receipt of a pension with a man who had to depend entirely upon his earnings from similar employment. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond that the full pension proposed in such cases, three-fourths of the maximum, should be paid permanently to these injured men as something the community owes to them. One part of the Bill provides for payments to children, and I suppose that one of the most pathetic cases is that of a child whose father has been killed at the front, and whose mother has died. The Bill provides that a child shall receive 15s. per fortnight up to a certain age, and then on from” 25s. to 30s.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the details of the Bill.
– I wished to direct attention to what I consider the inadequacy of the provision made in this con nexion. I hope that when the Committee stage of the Bill is reached some increase in the pensions payable for children will be provided for. I cannot conceive the possibility of children being brought up on these small payments in the way in which the children of our soldiers, who die for us at the front, ought to be brought up. We should make adequate provision to give them as good a chance in life as is enjoyed by the children of any other person. Many instances in addition to those which have already been mentioned in this House of the position of the widowed mother of the soldier have been brought under my notice, and I am disappointed with the provision that is made in this Bill to meet such cases. I think that she should he placed in the same position as the widow of the soldier and the pension »should be granted to her permanently. She is fully entitled to it and ought to have it. The many discussions which took place when we were considering the original Bill, and the definite promise of the Minister in charge that the case of the widowed mother of the soldier would receive sympathetic treatment, have not resulted in as satisfactory a provision for such cases as was anticipated.
– The honorable member will recognise that a widowed mother, if without adequate means of support, will receive a pension.
– I do not wish to quote particular instances now, but I know of a case where a widowed mother was receiving reasonable assistance from her son’s earnings to keep the household going before he went to the war. When he went to the front he made an allowance of as much as he possibly could to his mother to provide money for the housekeeping during his absence. He was killed at the war, a,nd the result is that the mother is left with a sum from another of £1 per week, nearly the whole of which is absorbed in the payment of rent, and which is excluded from the Government pension. She has now to turn out to work, which she had not done for many years before, because her son provided the means for her support. Many such cases might be quoted, and it is disappointing to find that they have not been given greater consideration. I realize that the financial position cannot be overlooked, but I agree with the opinion expressed’ by some honorable members that if we do not now decide to treat in a liberal way our soldiers and their dependants, they are unlikely to receive the same measure of sympathy after the war is over.
– It is commonly urged that if there is anything wrong or unfair in the provision of a Bill after it becomes an Act, that is the fault of Parliament, but there are many difficulties in the way of getting things done in Parliament. The Minister has heard a good deal from honorable members, and I think he should tell us whether he intends to consider any of the suggestions which have been made.
– In Committee on the Bill I shall be glad to do so.
– There are some difficulties with which honorable members have to contend in Committee. If an honorable member desires some provision of the Bill to be altered he may have to sit here hour after hour. One little matter may be discused for three hours, and when it has been dealt with a number of clauses may go through in ten minutes. A member who wishes to make some amendment in a Bill may leave the chamber for a smoke and find when he comes back that the Bill in which he was interested is through. He has of course to take the blame for that. When a soldier gets a pension it should not be taken away from him, no matter what his financial position becomes afterwards. If he loses both eyes, and the Blind Institution teaches him to earn a wage, the 30s. per week pension ought to be paid to him still, because he was disabled fighting for his country.
– Still you would encourage men to get their own living as well ?
– It is not much encouragement to do that to take away a man’s pension as soon as he begins to earn money.
– That is so. An intimation from the Treasurer that he will meet us on these points will save a lot of discussion. If not, there is no chance of the House rising to-morrow. I have no wish to encourage malingerers, and no doubt plenty of men think that the fact that they went to the front makes the roads belong to them, but I am sure that 99 per cent, of the fellows who have returned would never dream of looking for the consideration that this small minority seem to demand. There will, doubtless, be malingerers, who will profess to have sciatica or other complaints, which no doctorcan disprove. We are bound to get malingerers if we make the pension too liberal, but I would rather allow a small percentage of them to succeed than have theknowledge that one or two genuine cases had been unfairly treated. A youngwidow without children gives her country much when she gives her husband, and £1 per week is no solace to her, but it is not intended as a solace. It is intended topay her way, and with £1 a week she can make herself fairly independent, but if she has two young children going to school it is impossible for her to live on 30s. a -week and keep the children properly. If she takes rooms even with relatives, she is soon made to feel that she and the children are in the way, and we must face the fact that it is the duty of this country to keep her and her children properly. We have no right to expect creches and kindergartens to take chargeof the children. The cost of living is going up, and the proposed rates foicases of that kind are too low. A man totally incapacitated is to get 30s., and his wife 10s., but with the present prices of commodities and rents - and they arenot likely to go down under our present economic system - husband and wife cannot live on £2 a week in Australia, and’ should not be asked to do so. My proposals will, if accepted by the Government, place large obligations on the country, but the country will have to shoulderthem in justice to the people who havefought for it. At recruiting meetingsvolunteers are lauded to the skies, and I have even heard speakers promise that due provision will be made for themaimed and invalided, and for the wives and families of those who fall, and weought to live up to those professions. The increased rates proposed by the Government are not adequate to meet the situation. Picture the case of a man totally disabled.
– Why not say outright that we must keep him. That is what ourparty will say.
– Unfortunately, I cannot condemn the Treasurer, who liasmuch to do; but I can assure him that a lot of time will be saved if he will tell theHouse the utmost that the Government can do.. I intend, in Committee, to try to have the amounts raised. Take the case- of a man who’ has lost an eye or an arm. Almost every man to whom that has happened is unable to go back to his old work, yet the proposed pension in such cases is 15s. a week, which is not enough. I could not go back to my trade if I had lost an arm, and the same applies to most members on this side of the House. The honorable member for Batman would be an exception. Although the cost of adequate pensions will he enormous, our disabled soldiers, if they are saving the country as we say they are, ought to be kept on their return. I trust everybody will assist these men to get fair consideration for any injuries they receive. Now is the time to dp this. There- may be a chance next session to alter the Act; but if the war comes to an end this year, two years hence our heroes will have been forgotten.
– Forgotten by everybody but their mothers.
– Yes ; they will have been forgotten by a new generation with new responsibilities, and. their deeds will be regarded merely as a glorious page in the history of Australia.
– These- remarks will discredit recruiting.
– I want to see full provision made for our soldiers, and I maintain that we- are not doing it in the schedule before us, though we will have an opportunity to alter that in Committee. I think, however, that the Treasurer should state how much further he can. increase the pensions payments, so as to save time in Committee.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, and I am pleased to find that the tone of the House is distinctly in favour of liberalizing it. It is, I think, also the attitude of the country towards the Bill. It is our duty, as legislators, to prevent gross scandals such as came to light in the administration of the War Pensions Act of the United States. But, on the other hand, we need to be careful that, in fixing limitations to prevent excesses of that kind, we do not leave too much power of modification to those who may be charged with the administration of the law. It is desirable that we should provide for those cases which even this mea sure, liberal as it is, will not embrace. All who have had any experience of the administration of old-age pensions will agree with me when I say that every now and again cases crop up in which distinct hardship is inflicted upon worthy persons because those charged with its administration have little opportunity to go beyond the literalism of the Act. I should like, therefore, to suggest to the Treasurer the desirability of introducing some clause to provide for distinct cases of hardship; to empower the Commissioner, or some other authority, to determine a case on its merits. Only in this manner will we be able to incorporate in the Bill that spirit of liberality which we propose it should embody. In view of the failure of similar legislation - I refer particularly to old-age pensions - to cover all possible cases of hardship, I think some such provision should be inserted in this Bill. I agree with other honorable members that we should lay it down distinctly that pensions paid under this Bill should not be dependent upon certain considerations; that a war pension should be absolute. Above all, I object very strongly to the idea that there should be a reduction in proportion to the ability of the individual to recover from his disablement. That is altogether a false principle. Again, referring to the old-age pensions by way of illustration, I would point out a serious defect in our legislation. Practically, we have established a premium on thriftlessness. We do not want to do that in connexion with this Bill. We do not want to say to a man, “ We will give you the maximum pension if you are a lazy and thriftless individual; but if. you get over your disablement, and can apply yourself to some useful and profitable employment, you will get correspondingly less.” We ought to get as far away from that as we can, and say to a man, “ Here is the pension to which you are entitled under all circumstances.” I do not go so far as to say that if such an individual be left independent subsequently by receiving a legacy, he should be allowed to draw his pension; but I do say that the pension should not be modified in an inverse ratio to a man’s own exertions. I hope that when we get into Committee these matters will be attended to, so that we will be able to make the measure more completely a reflection of popular opinion and- popular sympathy.
– Many of us are very much concerned about how our men are to be provided for when they return from the front; and I believe all are sympathetic towards the inauguration of some scheme to provide for them. How much more so is ‘it incumbent upon this Parliament to provide in a most liberal fashion for those who come back so maimed or afflicted as to be disabled from performing their ordinary work? It is also incumbent . upon us to provide for the dependants of those who fought at the front. I am not going to supplement what has already been said by other members of tue House. Almost all the speakers have given illustrations, and have shown that if we are to frame the Pensions Bill so as to meet the wishes of the House, it will be almost essential for the Treasurer to withdraw the present schedule, and to redraft another more in consonance with our opinions. If there is one thing on which members, independent of the side they sit on, are agreed upon; it is that we should provide for those who fight their country’s battles. Can we be too liberal? I say no.
– We should be as liberal as the finances of the country will admit.
– I go further, and say that even if the Treasurer told us that the finances of the country were in a deplorable condition, it would be absolutely essential for us to make ample provision for those who have fought the country’s battles. The wealth of Australia is practically untouched as yet, and notwithstanding the burdens imposed by the war, such burdens as were never anticipated, we must stand by those who have gone to fight for us at the front. The Treasurer read out the list of pensions granted in Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa, but he did not quote New Zealand, a country that is on all fours with Australia, and which, therefore, should have been quoted. The Treasurer may not know that the New Zealand pension scheme is far more liberal than that presented to us in the Bill before us to-day, and I ask him to have an analysis of the New Zealand schedule made, so that Australia may come up to the standard set in New Zealand.
– The New Zealand measure has been amended recently in order to liberalize its application and administration.
– The New Zealand Bill fixing the schedule was assented to on the 5th August, 1915. The following, paragraphs from the definition of “dependants “ show how far-reaching it is’ in extending the benefit of pensions -
A woman who becomes the wife of a member at any time before the expiry of twelve months after the date of his discbarge, and who satisfies the Board that at the date of the departure of the member from New Zealand there was a binding contract to marry subsisting between the member and such woman.
A woman who becomes the wife of a member of the Forces at any time before the expiry of twelve months after the date of his discharge, and who satisfies the Board that she is the mother of a child born to the member before the date of her marriage; that such child was born either before or within ten months after the departure of the member from New Zealand, and that the child was living at the date of her marriage to the member.
Many young men have left the country saying good-bye to sweethearts, and promising that if God spared them to come back they would enter into the bonds of matrimony. If within twelve months of his return or within twelve months of his discharge, a New Zealand soldier marries a young woman to whom he was engaged prior to leaving for the war, the wife, if subsequently widowed, is entitled to receive a pension. Our Bill actually reduces some pensions. The widow who now receives. £56 will, by the system of fortnightly payments, receive £55 .18s. The widow who now receives £64 will receive £63 14s. by the system of fortnightly payments. It is now proposed to pay to the widow £2 a fortnight, whereas in New Zealand she receives £2 10s. a fortnight. If we compare the two schedules, the New Zealand and the Australian, we find that there are certain gradations in the former which enable the dependants of well-paid officers to draw much higher pensions than we propose to pay, though I prefer our schedule in that regard. Our maximum pension is about £156 per annum to the widow, and a certain amount . for each child. In New Zealand the highest pension which a widow may draw is £3 5s. a week. I advise the Treasurer to compare the two schedules. We give the totally in-, capacitated soldier £3 per fortnight; New Zealand gives him £3 10s. per fortnight. We give the widow £2 per fortnight; New Zealand gives her £2 10s. per fortnight. I have not had the time to ascertain what number of soldiers New Zealand has sent to the war in proportion to her population, but some time ago her Minister of Defence, in comparing New Zealand’s effort with what has been done elsewhere, said that she had done better than any other of the overseas Dominions. If that be so, or even if New Zealand has done a little less than the other parts of the Empire, when a country with a population of just over a million gives 10s. per fortnight to the widow or totally incapacitated soldier more than we pay, it is time that we brought our schedule of pensions up to its standard.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) (2.30].- This is largely a Committee Bill, and I do not propose to occupy much time in discussing it at this stage. I welcome a measure which makes a more generous allocation of funds for the purpose of making the pension scheme a success. The figures quoted by the Treasurer this morning show very clearly that the increase in payments which is proposed, taken by itself, stands very favorably in relation to the war pensions of the United Kingdom and Canada. That is as it should he. We can better afford to be generous in these matters than can the people in the United Kingdom, and, having regard to all the social surroundings of our soldiers, a marked increase in the actual amounts of money devoted to pensions is only what we might expect. Just as our workmen are paid a much higher rate of wages than are those in the United Kingdom, and just as the corresponding social obligations in Australia are in greater degree than those in the United Kingdom, so Ave should expect to find in any scheme propounded for meeting those obligations the more liberal provision which is made in this Bill. A comparison of the rates mentioned by the Treasurer shows that that standard is kept in view. Accordingly, I find that the Treasurer is introducing an increase of 50 per cent, on the pension of the lowest paid in the schedule. After all, that is lie unit of the whole scheme.
– We are still behind New Zealand, which pays 5s. per week more than the Commonwealth proposes to pay.
– Under the stress of great political excitement.
– It is time we had some political excitement here.
– A New Zealand soldier -‘who is totally disabled gets 35s. per week, and his total pension for himself, his wife, and three children is £3 12s. 6d.
– In many ways New Zealand takes a more generous view. But, after all, we must look at this matter from every point of view; we must consider this scheme in relation to the general finances of Australia at the present time.
– And have regard also to the cost of living.
– The honorable member will find that, on the whole, the cost of living is lower in Australia than in New Zealand.
– A widow and three children under our scheme will get £3 10s. for a fortnight.
– A totally disabled soldier will get 30s. per week, plus 15s, for his wife, and 5s. for each child. A widow with three children would get only £1 15s. per week, but she would not have her husband to keep and nurse. Those rates cannot be called a povertystricken pension. Sacrifices have to be made in war, and this pension is far more liberal than the Canadian or Imperial one. As the Treasurer is proposing a 50 per cent, increase on the existing rates, I suggest that we might abide by that proposal. fl his is not a law of the Medes and Persians, for it can be altered at any time if it be found insufficient. We hope, however, that, at the close of the war, the cost of living will revert to something like its old proportions, in which case the pension provided in. the Bill would not be regarded as inconsiderable. We ought to treat these men as liberally as we possibly can, but, on the other hand, we should have some regard for the financial commitments of the commonwealth as a whole. The Treasurer’s proposal for a 50 per cent, increase represents a substantial advance.
Some of what I call the basic principles in connexion with pensions are not being altered very much. I remember when the original measure was before the House stressing the point that a pension should not be regarded as a charitable allowance. I did not get much support, even from members on my own side, and the Minister of the Navy, who was in charge of the Bill told me plainly that he must stand by his Bill. I still feel that this pension ought to have no stigma of charity attached to it, that it should be a return by the nation to the pensioner for the suffering and deprivation he has undergone, and is destined to undergo even after the war is over. Accordingly, the Pensions Bill must be considered in relation to other things that will be taken into account with it when assessing the pensions. For instance, every other allowance has to come within the purview of the Pensions Commissioners, and these proposals, standing by themselves, may turn out to be not so generous as they would appear on the surface. An attempt has been made in the Bill to introduce a principle of the Workmen’s Compensation Acts of the various States, but the Bill does not go the full length of the State laws in that respect. For instance, under the Workmen’s Compensation Act there is provision :for commuting a pension and paying a lump sum in cases in which it is thought that the lump sum would be better for the pensioner than the weekly pension.
– I think that would be ^inadvisable.
– If it would be unadvisable in this Bill it is unadvisable in the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Under the latter a man may bt given £750, and there is a complete quittance of. the pension obligation. That enables the recipient in some cases to set up in business ; but, of course, if he were of improvident habits the amount would be spent and the man would become as destitute as before. There is a good deal to be said on both sides of this question. On the whole, as the Commonwealth is taking the wives and children of soldiers under its own care, there is much to be said in favour of a weekly pension instead of a commutation. Very large powers of discretion are given to the administrators of the Pensions Act, and the administration again differs from the Workmen’s Compensation Act in that there is no appeal. If a man thinks he is not dealt with fairly, he has the processes of the Courts by which to obtain what he considers just. In our case, the Commissioner has the final say in the matter; and there is much to be said for the finality provided in the Bill. With the multiplicity of cases, I am afraid that we should have continual litigation if we adopted in their entirety the principles of the Workmen’s Compensation Act. I find there is some relaxation in the Bill in regard to the marriage of soldiers’ widows. I remember that when a previous measure was before us, some honorable members attacked me rather ferociously, but I held then, and I do not know that I have changed my view, that if a widow is left by a soldier, the pension is hers by right whether she marries or not. It is true that in the Bill the principle for which I contended is recognised, but only in a very tentative and gingerly way. The widow, I think, ought to take the pension with her as hers by reason of the fact that she has lost her husband.
– She has the pension for two years, in any case.
– If the pension helps to find a woman another husband, as some have said, can there be a better thing for the population of the country?
– What about the younger girls ? Give them a chance.
– The elderly representative of East Sydney appears very interested in the young girls. I have heard no explanation from the Minister why this pension should cease on remarriage after having continued for two years. Why two years?
– The husband might discover how he could keep the lady himself.
– Then this provision is made in order that the husband may find out whether he can keep his wife.
– That is, if he has not discovered it before.
– I should imagine he ought to discover it before he takes on the additional responsibility; and, as I say, the Treasurer has given us no explanation of this seemingly anomalous proposal. ‘ However, taking the measure by and large, it represents a very substantial advance on what obtained in the original measure. Regarding our finances as a whole - and we are not through the war yet by a long way - I cannot help feeling that we ought not to press the Treasurer, at this time, to make the Bill a great deal more substantial than it is. Some anomalies have already revealed themselves in the valuation of pensions. I see that the Treasurer proposes to follow the valuations of the Workmen’s Compensation Act. I have no doubt these tables had the fullest consideration by the State Governments, but, in my opinion, some of these injuries ought to be rated much more highly. For instance, if a man loses his hearing altogether, it is regarded as only a comparatively slight disablement, and so with the loss of a right arm.
– The right honorable member must not discuss details at this stage.
– I merely desire to illustrate the principles of the measure; but perhaps these matters could better be discussed in Committee. Above all, everything depends on the administration, and this may turn out to be much less generous than the Bill, on the face of it, would lead us to expect. I do not know whether any change is proposed in the administration - whether it is still to be left to one Chief Pensions Commissioner. If so, I am afraid the administration will be very rigid, as it is at present, and give rise to a whole crop of anomalies.
– The administration may have seemed rigid, because of the maximum allowance.
– What I am referring to is the relation of the soldier to his dependants, and so on. Many cases have cropped up in which the decisions seemed to have erred on the side of rigidity rather thanotherwise. It is difficult, I know, to ascertain just what the amount of dependency is; and it seems to me that there is in the Bill a lack of proportion which, I am afraid, may cause a great deal of trouble. In my judgment, the pensions ought to adhere to certain dependants by right, no matter what the surrounding circumstances may be. Give the Commissioner the fullest possible discretion and range of judicial action within the principles laid down in the Bill. But the measure ought to be framed on such lines as to make it perfectly clear that the pension is tied to the soldier and his dependants, to be theirs under any circumstances that may arise hereafter. As I have said, when a woman marries again, she ought to have the pension because she has earned it - because it has been left and given to her. Having regard to the great needs of population in the country in the future, we ought to give every encouragement to widows to marry again and produce offspring in the land. However, we ought to support the Treasurer in the attitude he has taken up, and agree for the time being to regard this measure as a very just, as well as a generous, addition to the scheme as originally propounded.
.- I cannot say that I am altogether pleased with this effort of the Government to do something generous and kind. The Leader of the Opposition appears to be “ straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel,” inasmuch as he is anxious that, when a widow finds some one to take the responsibility of finding her a home, she shall continue to receive a pension earned for her by her first husband. It must be observed, however, that this provision applies, not only to widows, but to other dependants, and it may be a daughter or other relative who receives the pension for two years after marriage to another who has sworn at the altar to provide for them. This is a proposal that I opposed on the last occasion, and I shall oppose it again. However, the generosity of the Bill is shown in the second schedule, which raises the pension of the soldier from £1 to £1 10s. a week. If a man returns so incapacitated as to be a drag on his wife, she will get 50 per cent, of the pension, and an allowance for her children; and, no doubt, this is an increase. But will the Treasurer, or any one else, point out where there is any increase in the other schedule ? How much increase is granted to the widow who has no husband coming home, but who still has children to keep? I cannot regard it as generosity to give a woman with one child 25s. per week. The movement which I support claims a living wage for the worker; and when the head of the house is removed by death or disablement a living wage ought to be given to his dependants. No one will say that 25s. per week is even approximate to a living wage. There is going to be much poverty as the result of the war, and it is the poor widow who will suffer. It ought to be kept in mind that this is an industrial measure - that 90 per cent, of those who get the pensions will be drawn from the industrial section of the community, and that the amount paid in their case is the lowest. If I thought I were powerful enough to get a following, I would lump the whole of this expenditure together, strike a general average, and provide pensions on a flat rate, so that the worker’s wife or widow should not be handicapped as compared with the officer’s wife or widow. As I calculate, such a pension would come out about £1 15s. a week. At any rate, the Bill is not sufficiently generous to satisfy me. We hear plenty of talk about generosity to our soldiers; but what will be the lot of a widow with three “ kiddies “ on the magnificent sum of £1 15s. per week ? It is not even as much as the sum usually granted in ex-nuptial cases, coming out at about half-a-crown less for a child.
– But that responsibility terminates at the age of sixteen.
– Another part of the Bill provides that children without parents are to be allowed 10s. per week, so that a person who receives them will receive twice as much as the widow with a child. Why this difference? In my opinion, there is no reason for it, and much reason why it should not be permitted. When the previous measure was before us, many honorable members fought strenuously for more generous treatment for widowed, mothers; and I, for one, was then, and I. am now, convinced that, once a widowed mother has proved her dependency, there should be no question as to how much shall be paid. If a soldier has earned a* pension for his widowed mother, it is hers by right. As a matter of fact, a widowed mother is at a disadvantage, because there are hundreds of soldiers who have married and left for the front without a chance of there being any issue of the marriage. She is to be granted a pension for two years after she has married again. Yet the mother of a son who is killed in action is to have her pension whittled down in the manner that has been stated by honorable members upon this side of the House. I hope that the widowed mother will be granted the full pension that has been earned for her by the son whom she has lost. I am not pleased with the generosity of this Bill. I shall never be satisfied until the nation has fully discharged its debt to our soldiers who have fought the battle of the Empire. I submit that, neither they nor their dependants should be dealt with on a charitable basis, whilst the patriots who will banquet our boys when they return, who will wave flags and wear buttons, are allowed to draw 4£ per cent, upon the money which they subscribe to our war loans. The Treasurer has stated that the £9,000,000 required for deferred pay will be an additional burden. Evidently we have not got to the end of our borrowing orgy yet. He also stated that more money will have to be raised to enable the State’s to settle soldiers on the land. I say that the time is coming when the workers will curse those who led us into this war. But now that the war is with ns the least we can do is to see that the proletariat, who will be the chief sufferers by it, receive decent pensions for the sacrifices which they have made.
.- So far as this Bill provides more liberal pensions for the dependants of our soldiers, I heartily welcome it. At the same time, I regret that we should be compelled to deal with it in a hurried manner when there is absolutely no necessity for it. We are not now at the end of the year. There is plenty of time before us. In other circumstances, we could have discussed this Bill leisurely, and with a view to doing even-handed justice all round. I have not yet had time to read the measure and to compare it with the pension schemes that obtain in other countries, or with our old-age and invalid, pension schemes, and with the machinery that is provided’ in those measures. The honorable member for Parramatta has complained of the rigidity with which our war pensions scheme is administered. That is due to the fact that no discretion is vested in the Commissioner. Some time ago I brought under the notice of the ex-Treasurer the case of a widowed mother, and, in reply, he said that the Bill would be administered sympathetically. I need hardly point out that the amount of sympathy with which it is administered depends entirely on the discretion that is vested in the Commissioner. If he is permitted no discretion, lie can extend no sympathy in respect of any claim. I repeat that this is a Bill which we should have had ample time to consider, with a view to formulating amendments for the purpose of improving it. It is perfectly true - as has been pointed out by the Treasurer - that we must study our finances. But we have something which we ought to consider before that. Our primary consideration should be to provide for those who have suffered and died for us, and who have left dependants behind them. Whatever allowance we may make to them or their dependants will be abundantly justified if we come out of this war safely. That is the point of view from which I shall always view this pensions scheme. I should be prepared to vote for any extension of it within reason. It is our duty to see that no soldier who is incapacitated, and no widow or children of a deceased soldier, are left very much worse off from the financial stand-point than they were previously because of the losses which they have sustained. That is the least which the’ country can do for them.
– What about mothers who were dependent upon sons who have been killed or incapacitated ?
– Exactly. I very much regret that, in the face” of “the strong expression of opinion in this chamber last year in connexion with the widowed mothers of unmarried sons, the Government have not provided for such cases in this Bill. This matter would not have “been got oyer without a division if I had been present the night it was dealt with after it had been hung up for two or three weeks.
– Let us insert the requisite provision in this Bill.
– We can do that only with the consent of the Treasurer, because a private member cannot move to increase the burdens of the people. The Government have made no provision for the widow of an unmarried son, although they have included in the measure a provision that the widowed dependant of a soldier shall have her pension continued to her for two years after her re-marriage. That was not sought by a majority of this House. I hope that the Treasurer will accept the expression of opinion by honorable members upon this subject, and gracefully concede what should have been already embodied in the Bill.
– Like the honorable member for Gippsland, I very much regret that a Bill of this character has to be hurried through the House. It is one of those measures with the purposes of which we are entirely sympathetic. But we naturally regret that we have not more leisure in which to consider it, with a view to improving and enlarging its scope. It seems to me that one of the directions in which it might be improved is by providing that dependants of soldiers, other than widows, should be eligible for a pension. I have in my mind at present -some cases in which widows entirely dependent upon the earnings of their sons, who have been either killed in action or incapacitated, have been reduced to the lowest condition of penury, and have been un able to obtain any relief. I submit that cases of this kind should be considered in connexion with a Bill of this character. They are really in the worst position of all dependants, especially where they have young children to look after, and are in such a condition of ill-health as to be unable to provide by their own labour for their offspring. Several instances of this description- have come under my notice, and it has been a sad experience to me to be unable to hold out to them any hope of inducing the country to recognise that they are the victims of this cruel war. I sincerely trust that in Committee any suggestions which may be made with a view to liberalizing the provisions of the Bill will be sympathetically received, by the Treasurer. Unfortunately, our experience has been that whenever amendments’ - no matter how innocent they may have been - have emanated from the Opposition side of the Chamber, they have almost invariably been regarded either as open or covert acts of hostility towards the Bill itself or towards the Government. I hope that in considering this measure the Treasurer will dismiss any suspicion of that kind and recognise that the whole House is entirely in sympathy with its objects, and is only actuated by a desire to improve its provisions.
.- I congratulate the Ministry upon bringing forward this Bill, although it does not go as far as I would like it to go. Only on Friday last I brought one or two instances under the notice of the House - instances in which the pensions scheme is operating harshly on soldiers who have returned from the front. In Wollongong, for example, there is a young man named Annet-
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss details. He will have ample opportunity of doing that in Committee.
– Then I would like to compare the provisions of this Bill with those of the New Zealand measure, with a view to showing that the latter is of a much more democratic character. In the first place - as was pointed out by the honorable member for Maribyrnong - the pensions scheme in the latter country is much preferable in that it provides that the wife of a private, a gunner, a lancecorporal, a sapper, or a drummer who is killed, should receive a pension of 25s. per week and 5s. for each child, whilst the maximum pension of a widow and her children has been fixed at £3 per week. The second schedule to that Act sets out that a wounded private - and here I would stress the fact that the measure does not discriminate according to the nature of the injuries received - should receive £1 15s. per week, and that his wife should get 12s. 6d. per week and each child 5s. per week, or a maximum of £3 12s. 6d. This shows that New Zealand has gone further than we have.
– That applies to total disablement.
– The New Zealand Act does not say total disablement. There is nothing in that measure discriminating between the loss of an eye and the loss of two eyes, or between the loss of an arm and the loss of two arms. I would like the Treasurer to bring his Bill into conformity with the New Zealand Act by abolishing all discrimination. A man who loses an arm may have been an artisan. He is no longer in a position to follow his usual occupation, and the chances are that our meagre pension of 10s. a week will send him on to the streets begging. When our soldiers were asked to volunteer it was not the intention of the people of Australia that they should be compelled to go out on the streets and beg. Then take the case of widowed mothers. At present they have to prove that they were solely dependent on their sons, but I think that they should be placed in the same position as the widowed wife. A widowed mother who has given her son or her sons, on whom she was dependent, has a right to full consideration and full compensation. For that reason I shall support those who will move in Committee to amend the Bill in this direction. Further, I think that the portion of the measure referring to the second schedule should be deleted.
.- If the Treasurer will notify that it is the intention of the Government to place the widowed mother in the same position as the widowed wife, I have no more to say ; but I wish to put forward one or two potent facts. There is always the possibility of the young widow being able to supplement her pension by earnings, or she may re-marry, but when an aged mother in her declining years has the news brought home to her that her only breadwinner has been killed, the blow is a great one. The time during which she would be on the pension list would be very short. The Treasurer would be meeting the wishes of both sides of the House if he granted this request, and removed from widowed mothers a great deal of anxiety, and, possibly, suffering.
– I am sorry that I cannot give way in everything to those honorable members who have pressed for more generous consideration.
– Cut out the bribe to the wasters, and give the money to the widowed mothers.
– I ask honorable members who plead that the Bill should be made more generous to remember our financial obligation’s, which will be very heavy after the war, and, indeed, during the war. For the information of those honorable members who were not in the chamber this morning, and who are pressing for more generous treatment in the matter of pensions, let me say that the war loans will amount to £109,000,000 by June, 1917, and we cannot see the end of the war yet. In fact, each year the war lasts we may anticipate having to borrow £50,000,000, which means an additional annual charge of ‘£2,500,000 for interest to be made up out of taxation. Even ‘ after the war ends it will take two years to bring our soldier’s back, during which time we shall have to pay them. Therefore, we shall need to borrow money after the war ends, and we shall have to pay interest and sinking fund on that further borrowing; and as that interest and sinking fund will have to come out of our resources in some way, to that extent there will be further taxation. I ask honorable members to look at these figures, and look around for possible sources of revenue.
– Our complaint is that you gave way in regard to a less deserving case.
– Honorable members have mentioned the New Zealand Act, but I am informed that the New Zealand measure was altered just immediately prior to an election, when honorable members on both sides were competing with one another for votes.
– We shall have to do that next year.
– We are all prone to do that. Let me give honorable members an example of the democratic nature of the New Zealand Act. While a colonel receives £2 18s. a week, the widow of a colonel, probably a healthy young widow, receives £3 3s. a week. What is democratic about that provision?
– It must be borne in mind that the colonel’s wife also receives £1 9s. a week, and in respect of each child 5s. a week.
– I have had an opportunity of consulting the Government in regard to the second schedule, and we have decided that the cases mentioned there shall receive the maximum rate permanently, with no deduction whatsoever. The question of the widowed mother is very difficult. It is not so easily settled as honorable members would appear to think. If the widowed mother can prove that she is without adequate means of support, she can get a pension.
– Thanks for nothing.
– There is a period of five years in which the parent must apply for that pension, if she is without adequate means of support, but if honorable members wish to extend that term the Government are willing to fix the period at ten years, but they cannot see their way clear to provide that a widowed mother who happens to be well off shall have a claim for the pension. If a widowed mother can prove that she was dependent on the soldier for twelve months prior to his enlistment, she will receive the allowance to the extent of that dependence. A suggestion has been made by some honorable member that the Pensions Act has not been administered sympathetically, or that it has been administered in too rigid a manner.
– That is not the general feeling.
– The honorable member for Barrier knows that the Act is being administered sympathetically.
– Did I not say that it was being administered sympathetically - according to the Act?
– Mr. Collins, the Commissioner of Pensions, and his officers administer the Act sympathetically. The Commissioner administers it under the control of the Treasurer, and he has been in the habit of deciding that a widow who received £ 1 per week from her son received 15s. of that amount for board, in which case the mother could not get as much pension as, perhaps, she ought to get. We undertake to see that in such a case 10s. shall be set down as the amount for board, and the mother will get the balance as pension. I do not think that there is anything else that I can say on the second reading. We shall be able to deal with details in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 2 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the definition of “ Dependants,” and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “’ Dependants ‘ means -
the wife or widow of a person who is or has been a member of the Forces, whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations ;
the parents of any such person who are, at any time within five years after the occurrence of the event resulting in his death, without adequate means of support;
Section proposed to be amended - “ Dependants “ means the wife or widow and children or ex-nuptial children of a member of the Forces, whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations, …..
.- I move -
That after the word “ person,” in paragraph (a) of the proposed new section, the words “ or the widowed mother of an unmarried son” be inserted.
I cannot see why the Government should draw a hard-and-fast line at the exclusion of the widowed mother. In the last amending Bill they dispensed with the provision that the widow could get a pension only when she was dependent on the deceased soldier, because they saw that widows would rebel against having to prove their dependence, and against having their financial affairs inquired into; and so they agreed to give her the pension as a right. The House agreed unanimously. The effect was that many welltodo widows were entitled to claim the pension as a right; hut honorable members agreed that, no matter whether a woman was rich or not, her position as a widow entitled her to a pension as a right. Now we seek to give the same right to the widowed mother of the unmarried son. If the widow is entitled to a pension, surely the widowed mother of an unmarried son is ‘ equally entitled to one. The party bringing forward this Bill was the party which brought in the Maternity Allowance Act. Under that Act, the Government pay a maternity allowance to a woman whether she be as poor as Lazarus or as rich as Croesus, provided that she has gone through the act of motherhood. And the Government) do not propose to abolish that pension, despite all the financial difficulties of which the Treasurer has spoken. I think they did right in making that provision in the Act; but if motherhood is recognised in that way in one Act, surely when a mother has spent many years of care and trouble in rearing a boy, who has become endeared to her, and between whom and herself no other woman stands, and she gives her son to his country and he is killed - surely, I say, she ought to have the same right to recognition as his widow would have had had he been married, especially as in the majority of cases the mother would be much older than the widow. The widowed mothers must be fewer than the widows, and the length of time for which they would claim pensions would naturally be shorter. It is extraordinary that, notwithstanding the burden of loans and war expenses, the Government propose to continue the pensions payable to a rich female dependant, even for two years after she has married another man. The attitude of the Government on this question seems to be inconsistent. This, matter was discussed so warmly last year that I thought the Government might have been prepared by this time to tell members how many unmarried sons of widowed mothers have joined the Forces, so that we might judge of the possible effect upon the finances of the amendment I am proposing. I hope the amendment will be allowed to go to the vote, and if the Committee is prepared to make the suggested provision the- Government will be absolved from any responsibility for the consequences. My own view is that, no matter what the financial responsibility of the country may be, we should deal justly and generously with every person who suffers by this war, and every woman who makes a sacrifice by the loss of one who is near and dear to her.
.- The widowed mother does not receive the consideration which is her due. I mentioned to the Treasurer this morning the case of a widow who has two sons serving at the front, each of whom was making her an allowance of £1 7s. 6d. per week. She has another lad contributing 15s. weekly towards the up-keep of the home, and she receives an additional 10s. per week for a room which she lets. Her whole income while the two sons at the front were alive was £4. One son was killed, and her income was thus reduced by £1 7s. 6d. per week, leaving a balance of £2 12s. 6d., out of which she had to pay £1 per week for rent. Her net income was then £1 12s. 6d. per week, upon which she was expected to maintain herself and other children who were dependent upon her.
– Was that money paid by the sons after they enlisted, or had they been- contributing prior to enlistment.
– They had both been living with their mother, and subscribing to the up-keep of the home.
– If she could prove that she had been dependent upon those sons prior to their enlistment, she would be entitled to a pension.
– The figures I have quoted should be sufficient proof that the comfort of herself and the younger children was partly dependent on the contribution of the son who had been killed ,. and that her remaining income was not sufficient.
– I am sure there must be a mistake.
– There was no mistake. I appealed to the Treasury Department, and received the same reply as the widow had received, namely, that she was not entitled to a pension. If a widow in those circumstances is not entitled to a pension under the existing Act an amendment is necessary. It is the duty of Parliament to lay down its intentions in this respect, and not throw the responsibility of deciding such cases upon the officers who have the duty of administering the Act. There are numbers of these cases throughout Australia. Knowledge of one case of this kind in a street does more to injure the voluntary system of enlistment than does anything else of which I know. People ask, “ Why should we allow our sons to go to the front if we are to receive the same treatment as So-and-sohas received.” I have said to many people that, whatever anomalies exist in the present Act will be removed when Parliament has the opportunity.
– I am sending across to the Treasury for particulars of the case at once.
.- According to the terms of the present Act, and I believe the Commissioners have interpreted it accurately, the amount of the pension granted depends entirely upon the financial position of the dependant. That should not be so. The pension should be claimed as a right. On the 29th July, 1915, when the Pensions Bill was under consideration in this chamber, I moved an amendment to clause 7 which, in my opinion, would have met all these cases -
In assessing the rate of pension due to a dependant, the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner shall assess it at a rate not less than the amount contributed by the member for the support of the dependant during the period of twelve months prior to his death or being incapacitated, provided that such assessment shall not exceed the amount specified in column 2 of the schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member.
If that amendment had been adopted, it would have obviated many of the difficulties that confront us at the present time. On a previous occasion I mentioned in the House the case of a clergyman who enlisted and was killed. When his widow claimed a pension, she was, I understand, denied any rights, on the ground that she was receiving another pension from some clergy provident fund, equal to the amount claimed from the Commonwealth. The position, I take it, under the existing Act is that, supposing a soldier is killed and his wife, through the kindness of some friends and neighbours, is set up in a little business–
-The honorable member is now discussing the Bill.
– I am discussing clause 3.
– There is an amendment before the Chair.
– I am discussing the clause on which the amendment is moved. If the amendment be carried, the principle which I am endeavouring to lay before the Committee will apply to it in exactly the same way as it applies to dependants under the Act.
– The honorable member would be in order in discussing the clause as proposed to be amended, but not the whole clause as it stands now.
– What I wish to say is that a widowed mother will be in exactly the same position as any other dependant if the amendment is carried. At present, if the neighbours and friends of a widowed mother put her into a small business, sufficient to bring her in £1 a week, that widowed mother loses her pension rights altogether. This I do not think is right; nor do I think it was the intention of honorable members when the Act was passed. Personally, I wish to see the pension made the right of the . individual, apart altogether from financial standing.
– There is the same trouble we have to-day in connexion with old-age pensions.
– Quite so; and we desire to get away altogether from the idea that this is a charitable dole. So far from being a dole, it is a right which the country owes to those people who have made sacrifices so great. No monetary payment could in any sense recompense them for those sacrifices, and the least the country can do is to make the best recompense possible. It would save much discussion if the Treasurer would inform the Committee whether or not it is the intention of the Government to go on operating the Act in this way. If so, we shall know exactly where we stand, and can make any alteration we desire. If, however, it is the intention of the Government to alter the administration of the Act on the lines suggested, I shall be very glad to know the fact.
– I agree with the proposed addition to the clause, because I have long thought that some amendment of the kind is absolutely necessary. Many cases in point have been mentioned this afternoon, and I have one in my mind which is typical of numerous others. A widowed mother had three sons, each of whom contributed £1 per week to the upkeep of the home. One, a school teacher, went to the war, and was killed; and when the mother made application for a pension she was told that, as there were two other sons still contributing to the home, her claim could not be recognised. I may say that this case was on all-fours with another, of which this woman had heard, and in which a pension had been refused, and she was at first reluctant to make any application. However, she was persuaded to do So, with the result I have stated. Is that a state of things which meets with the approval of the Treasurer? Are we to perpetuate an Act which can have such results? If so, it will spoil an otherwise liberal recognition of the services which these gallant men have given the country. I take it that such instances as I have given might be multiplied a hundredfold; but I do not wish to dwell on the matter, because I think the Committee is pretty well agreed regarding it. We give a maternity allowance to a mother who brings a child into the world, as a recognition of motherhood ; and shall we refuse that mother a pension after she has reared her boy to manhood and given him to the country1) I am quite in agreement with the honorable member for Richmond, who urges that these pensions should not be regarded as charitable doles. It will be a pity if such a thing enters the mind of the community. A pension of this kind is a solemn pledge and duty that the Government of a country owe to the mothers who have given their sons in the national defence. It is a bounden obligation on the Parliament and the country to duly recognise the sacrifice that these mothers have made. As I have said, if something of the kind suggested is not done, an otherwise good Bill will be spoiled. The position now is that the Treasurer is quite willing to give a soldier’s widow a pension for two years after her re-marriage, although she may marry a millionaire. If that provision were cut out, I fancy we should be satisfied. The Treasurer has spoken about our financial position, but if the Treasury is in straitened circumstances here is a direction in which money could be saved and devoted to the better purpose.
– When the previous measure was before the House, I asked the Government to give sympathetic consideration to a proposal similar to that now made, and I hope the Treasurer will now see his way to accede to it. The trouble in
Bills of this kind, and clauses of this kind, is that they are apt tq be regarded as measures of poor relief, and this is not as it should be. This is a Pensions Bill, and its provisions ought to be made with the object of pensions in view. If the receipt of a pension is to be made contingent on the ‘poverty . of the person receiving it, the whole character of the pension is destroyed, and I have complained frequently about this blot om our old-age pensions scheme. I should be very sorry to see the blot perpetuated in this Bill, now that we have the chance to remove it, and the clause might be amended in the direction suggested, with great improvement to the measure. Such an amendment would certainly have the effect of inspiring confidence in mothers who have sons eligible for service, but who, in the fear that they may be thrown on the charity of the world, withhold their consent to their sons enlisting. There is no doubt that the absence of some provision of the kind acts as a very serious deterrent to some young men who, anxious as they may be to serve their country, yet are fearful to offer, in case, should any accident happen to themselves, their widowed mothers may be reduced to circumstances of penury, and become dependent on charity. As I have said previously, cases have come under my notice in which comparatively young and delicate mothers, between thirtyfour and forty-five yeaTs of age, with small families to support, have sons, mere youths under twenty, at the front, who, before joining, were contributing to the support of the household. The death of sons in such cases has deprived the mothers of support, with most harrowing results. I have sent one or two of the cases on for the consideration of the Department of Defence, but I am sorry to say that I have not even received any acknowledgment of my letter, much less an assurance that anything will be done. This delay of course, may be due to the pressure of business, and much correspondence of a similar nature. Now, however, we have presented to us an opportunity to make legal provision for instances of the kind, thus rendering it unnecessary to write resultless letters to the officers of the Department, whose time at present is taken up with cases of hardship that should be provided for when such measures as this are before us. I hope that the Treasurer will sympathetically consider the amendment.
.- Surely the Treasurer cannot stand out against the wish of both sides of the Committee in a matter of this kind ? He must have too great an opinion of his position in connexion with the functions of representative government to oppose the unanimous wish of honorable members. The honorable gentleman talks about the great obligation that we are incurring in regard to the war, and, of course, that is a very natural view for a Treasurer to take. He ought to remember, however, that these pensions represent one of the very smallest obligations that we are likely to face. The number of such pensions will be very few indeed, and I can suggest to him a way in which he could find the means to finance them - a very ready method of finding the necessary money. The Ministerial motor cars represent an expenditure of about £2,000 a year.
– We are not now discussing Ways and Means.
– I am pointing out a Way by which the proposal made to the Committee may be financed.
– That question cannot be discussed now. There is a proposal before the Chair to amend the clause by the insertion of certain words. The discussion must be confined to that.
– I was merely replying to a difficulty which has been raised by the Treasurer. However, I do not wish to pursue the subject any further. I have given the honorable gentleman the cue if he chooses to follow it up.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the words “ within five years,’’ in paragraph (e), be left out.
I consider that no disqualification should be placed upon the parents of men who are serving at the front. The clause under review provides that, in the event of parents falling into indigent circumstances within five years after a son has been killed in battle they shall be entitled to a pension, but that beyond that period they shall not be eligible to receive it. To my mind, that is a very serious handicap to impose on the parents of lads who are serving with the colours to-day. We all know that some families Bave two or three sons at the front. Only yesterday I received a letter from a parent who has three sons there. He has to maintain at home three or four other children who are unable to support themselves. These are dependent upon the father, who is in indifferent health, but who is still able to follow his employment; bub from all appearances he may not be able to continue in his occupation for any great length of time. Should his health remain good for five years after one of his sons has fallen at the front, he will be disqualified from receiving a war pension. Now, considering that this pension is considerably more than either the old-age or the invalid pension, why should the parents of sons who have served their country and fallen in battle have to depend upon those smaller pensions? To what will the provision in> the Bill be likely to lead ? When it becomes known to aged fathers who have lost a son in the war that they will not be able to secure a pension unless they apply for it within five years after the death of that son, will they not say - “ I could continue working for a year or two and qualify for the old-age or invalid! pension; but considering that if I cease work now I can obtain the war pension, which is two or three times as much. I intend to do so.” That is not a proper position in which to place parents. After they have reared- sons who have done everything possible to serve the Empire, and who have sacrificed their lives at the front, surely we ought to say to them, “ We will, at least, assure to you that when you are unable to support yourselves, you shall have the option of applying for the war pension.” In the case of parents who have two or three sons on active service, it must be remembered that those lads probably left a wage of 10s. or 12s. per day here. The parents in many cases were just receiving the benefit of those wages. They were in a position to save something out of their son’s earnings; but if one of those sons has the misfortune to lose his life at the front, they will have been deprived of thos© earnings. Consequently, it is a fair thing to say to them, “ We have deprived you of the opportunity of putting aside something for a rainy day. We realize that we owe you a debt, and we are prepared Co discharge it to the best of our ability. You shall have a right to apply for the war pension.” There are cases to-day in which the father of a family is struggling to support four or five children younger than thosewho have gone to the front. He is unable to save anything. Surely, when he is prevented from enjoying the money that would have come into the household if his elder boys had not enlisted, he should be eligible to receive the war pension.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Amendment of section 3).
.- I should like to see the contribution of a soldier to his dependants accepted as proof of their dependency. At present if the recipient of any allotment of money by a soldier on active service is in receipt of other moneys the sum of which is greater than is the pension to which the dependant would be entitled, that dependant is disqualified from receiving a pension.
– And also any separation allowance.
– Yes. The fact that while a soldier is at the front he is contributing a portion of his pay to any individual ought to be regarded as proof that the latter is a dependant.
– There are a lot of men who have enlisted, and who have given1s. a day out of their pay to barmaids. Some of these barmaids are getting as much as £4 a week from our soldiers.
– But a barmaid would not come under the definition of a “ dependant.”
– According to the honorable member’s argument, she would.
– No; because the definition clause sets out who are dependants. It clearly wipes out cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable member.
– And the honorable member wishes to wipe them in again.
– Nothing of the sort. But there is a number of persons who may fairly be regarded as dependants of soldiers. Where such persons during the period of the soldier’s service have been in receipt of an allotment from him, that fact should be sufficient proof of their dependency. It should be a title to the pension.
– The honorable member says that the fact that a soldier allots money to any individual should be re garded as proof that that individual is a dependant.
– It should be regarded as proof that the individual is a dependant so long as that individual comes within the definition of a dependant. I have no desire to widen the application of the Act so far as dependants are concerned. At present if a widow is in receipt of £52 and the total pension allowable under the Act is £52, she is entitled to no pension. I do not wish to see the Act operated in that way. The dependant’s monetary position should not be taken into consideration.
– Private income is not taken into consideration. A widow will receive her pension no matter what her private income may be. I cannot satisfy the honorable member in regard to the other point he has raised. A soldier may have allotted his pay to this one or to that one - to his girl or his friend.
– I have not asked for anything in that regard.
– I understood that the honorable member’s claim was that the measure of dependence should be determined by the allotment of the pay.
– No. There is a limitation on dependence provided in the Bill. I have not asked that we should go outside that limitation.
– If persons other than the widow or children claim dependence, they must prove to have been dependent on the soldier for twelve months prior to his going to the war. We cannot open the door any further in that regard.
.- Paragraph (iii) of sub-section 1 of section 8 provides that all dependants except the widow and children must have their pensions assessed by the Commissioner. A widowed mother will be included in this category, and I consider it distinctly unfair. The mother who has reared a son only to find that he has become food for bullets may have had great possibilities from that son had it not been for this war. He may have risen to great things. Therefore I hope that the Treasurer will be generous, and that he will delete this restriction on widowed mothers, and not leave her pension to be assessed by the Commissioner.
– We shall amend section 8 to bring it into line with the amendment to the definition clause. The widowed mother of an unmarried son will be put on an equal position to that of the widow, and will receive a pension in accordance with the second column of the schedule.
– We should be fair all round. There is a percentage of women whose husbands have deserted them, leaving them to rear families. Many have secured divorces, but many are what are commonly known as grass widows. They have all the responsibilities of widows, and no stretch of imagination is required to place them on the same footing as widowed mothers. In my opinion, they should be treated just the same as widowed mothers in the matter of pensions. Many of them are worse off than widows, because they are not free to remarry, and there is always a certain amount of stigma attaching to their positions. I trust that the Treasurer will be able to place them on the same footing as widowed mothers in regard to a claim to a pension.
.- I thought that the Treasurer would have made some statement with regard to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The woman whose husband has deserted her and who has had to bring up a family should not be treated any differently to the widowed mother. At any rate, these women should not be placed in a worse position than they were before the war, which is the basis of our war pensions scheme. Honorable’ members should give some consideration to devising means by which justice can be done in this direction. I hope the Treasurer will be able to intimate that the justice which has been secured for the widowed mother will be extended to the mother whose husband has deserted her.
.- The honorable member for Perth made a suggestion this morning with which I heartily concur. There are for ever cropping up the cases of deserted wives and others who have claims equal to anybody else enumerated in the Bill. We might cover all such claims by inserting in the Bill a clause giving discretionary power to the Minister or the officers administering the Act to consider sympathetically any such case.
– We cannot make the regulations too wide.
– I admit that.
– Let us include wives whose husbands have deserted them.
– Even if we do that, probably when this Act again comes forward for consideration there will be a crop of other cases of hardship before us, and all those people will have to suffer between now and any further amendment of the law. A discretionary clause such as I suggest would meet all cases of hardship.
– We cannotleave the matter to officials.
– There is constant complaint that, owing to the rigid framing of the Act, officers have not been able to do justice in some cases only by actually violating the terms of it. I do not think the Committee wishes to place officers of the Department in that invidious position.
– Your suggestion would open the door to all sorts of political pressure.
– Under the Old-age Pensions Act, even after the Deputy Commissioner has been pressed to his limit, we have the right to appeal to the Treasurer.
– But the Treasurer is bound by the Act.
– Nevertheless, pensions have been granted to people by the Treasurer even after the Commissioners had dealt with them.
– That involves only a question of judgment.
– Yes; but discretionary power is allowed to the Minister, which no man can say has been used to the detriment of the country. If such discretionary power could be allowed in one Act, it could be allowed in another.
– Let us provide for all we can now, and have a discretionary power in addition.
– I do not object to that. My point is that the Act should be elastic enough to cover all cases of hardship. Amongst the men who have enlisted are some who have certain rights under old Defence Acts. By enlisting they have forfeited those rights, whereas if they had remained in Australia and met with an accident in connexion with their duties they would have been entitled to a greater recompense than the war pensions will provide. Will the Treasurer say whether the wording of this clause will preclude any claims of the kind being submitted in the future ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section 8 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “ the Schedule “ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ The First Schedule “ ;
by omitting the words “ Thirteen pounds per annum “ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ Ten shillings per fortnight”;
by omitting the words “ Fifty-two pounds per annum “ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ Two pounds per fortnight “ ;
by omitting sub-section (2) and inserting in its stead the following subsection : - “ (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section the maximum rate of pension payable to a child in the following cases shall be as follows : -
to a child whose mother is dead and whose father is totally or partially incapacitated, Fifteen shillings per fortnight;
to a child both of whose parents are dead -
up to ten years of age, One pound per fortnight;
from ten to fourteen years of age, Twenty-five shillings per fortnight; and
from fourteen to sixteen years of age, Thirty shillings per fortnight “ ; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - “ (3) The amount of pension granted and payable to a member of the Forces shall not be reduced within the period of six months from the date of the commencement of the pension.
Any member of the Forces who is incapacitated by reason of a disability specified in the Second Schedule shall, unless otherwise prescribed, receive the rate of pension shown opposite to the description of the disability in that Schedule.
If a member of the Forces who is unmarried or whose wife is either dead or a permanent invalid is incapacitated to an extent which necessitates the constant services of an attendant and the member has not the means to pay for such services, the rate of his pension may be increased by a sum not exceeding One pound per fortnight.”
Section proposed tobe amended -
- (1). The rates of pensions payable under this Act shall be as follows: -
Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member, and
to each child, the rate of Thirteen pounds per annum, and
to the other dependants such rates as are assessed by the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, as the case may be, but not exceeding in the aggregate the rate specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member plus Fifty-two pounds per annum:
Provided that the maximum rate of pension payable to any one dependant of a member shall not in any case exceed the amount specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member.
In case of the total incapacity of a member of the Forces -
to each child of the member, the rate of Thirteen pounds per annum, and
to the other dependants such rates as are assessed by the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, as the case may be, but not exceeding in the aggregate the rate specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member plus Fifty-two pounds per annum:
Provided that the maximum rate of pension payable to any one dependant of a member shall not in any case exceed the amount specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member.
In case of the partial incapacity of a member of the Forces, such less rates than those referred to in paragraph (B) as are assessed by the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, as the case may be, having regard to the nature and probable duration of the incapacity.
.- If this clause is permitted to pass in its present form, many soldiers will get a reduced pension after six months. Schedule 2 provides that in the case of the loss of a leg or foot, the maximum rate of pension shall be payable for six months, and thereafter three-fourths of the maximum rate; in the case of loss of hand or arm, the maximum rate for six months, and thereafter threefourths of the maximum rate; loss of one. eye, half of the maximum rate; loss of both legs, or both feet, or both arms, or both hands, or of arm and leg, or of hand and foot, or of both eyes, or of one eye together with loss of leg, foot, hand, or arm, the maximum rate for at least six months, and thereafter subject to reduction to seven-eighths of the maximum rate if, and so long as, the member is capable of earning at least 6s. a week. It is not fair to provide that a man who suffers the loss of an arm or leg should not get his pension for all time. So far as the second portion of the schedule is concerned, will anybody say that there should be any reduction of the pension to a man who has lost both legs or both hands, or both eyes? Why should his pension be reviewed after six months ? If there is any man who should receive the maximum pension, it should be one who has suffered in that way.
– The reduction of pension takes place only if the pensioner earns money.
– If he can earn 6s. a week, his pension is reduced.
– May I explain that in cases of loss of both feet, or both arms, or both eyes, or of one eye together with a loss of a hand or arm, the Government will propose an amendment to strike out of the second schedule the limitation as to time, so that the schedule will read that the pensioner shall be entitled to the maximum amount without any diminution. In regard to the first portion of the schedule, honorable members must have become acquainted with many cases in which a man has not been greatly disadvantaged by the loss of one eye. Many people use only one eye because of the other being slightly defective or untrained. Therefore, the loss of an eye does not totally disable a man from earning his. living. The Bill provides that in such a case the man shall have half the maximum pension for the rest of his life. The arguments of the honorable member for Hunter are not so strong in regard to that portion of the schedule as in regard to the cases in which there has been a loss of two limbs.
.- Even if the schedule is amended as suggested, the position will be very much the same, because proposed new sub-section 3 provides-
The amount of pension granted and payable to a member of the Forces shall not be reduced within the period of six months from the date of the commencement of the pension.
Why should the amount of pension be reduced at all ? Though we may amend the schedule, it will be open to the Board atany time to review any pension, so that, even if a man were permanently disabled, he might find his payments reduced. What is required is an amendment providing that, in the case of recipients who are incapacitated by reason of the disabilities specified in the second schedule, those disabilities shall be deemed to be permanent, and the full pension paid.
– I assure the honorable member that if the amendment I propose does not meet the case, our legal advisers shall go through the Bill, so that provision may be made, when the Bill is in the Senate, to insure that soldiers are entitled to the rights specified in the second schedule.
– I accept the Treasurer’s assurance.
.- In my opinion, the allowance in the case of children is quite inadequate. It is noticeable that, while the pensions have been increased for the soldier, there is no increase so far as the widow is concerned. An amendment puts the widowed mother in the same position as the widow, and, therefore, I suppose my chance of getting any increase in the case of the widow is reduced.Under the circumstances, I think we might well take into consideration the advisability of increasing the allowance on account of children. It maybe that a widow left without children, andreceiving £1 per week, is not so badly off, though, personally, I think she is underpaid ; but where a widow has children, an allowance of 5s. each week is almost contemptuous. It means that a widow with two children is paid 30s. on which to keep them and herself. I shall at the proper time move an amendment in the direction I have indicated.
.- When an amendment was made in a prior clause, the Treasurer promised to improve the position of widowed mothers, and pointed out that the proper place was in the clause now under consideration. It is here, I think, that we require to insert words placing the widowed mother in the same position as the widow.
Amendment (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to-
That after the word “ amended,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “ (aa) By inserting in sub-section (1) after the word widow ‘ the words ‘ or the widowed mother of an unmarried son’.”
.- I think the proposal to make an allowance of 5s. per week for each child is a contemptible one. I therefore move -
That the word “Ten” in paragraph (b) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Twenty.”
– I would point out that, as the effect of the honorable member’s proposal would be to increase the cost of the measure, it is out of order.
But the honorable member might move the omission of the word “ Ten,” and if his proposal were carried it would then “be regarded as an instruction to the Government that the Committee desire the amount to be increased.
– I accept your suggestion, sir, and will, therefore, move -
That the word “ Ten “ in paragraph (b) be left out.
The spectacle of a widow endeavouring to support a child on an allowance of 5s. per week would be a pathetic one.
.- I hope that the Treasurer will lend a sympathetic ear to the proposal of the honorable member for Batman. In speaking previously, I pointed out that in another portion of the Bill quite a different value is placed upon the maintenance of a child. The measure provides that in the case of a child of ten years of age the allowance shall be £1 per fortnight, in that of a child fourteen years of age it shall be 25s. per fortnight, and in that of a child between fourteen and sixteen years of age it shall bo 30s. per fortnight. If it be necessary to make these allowances to fostermothers, who have other barrels to their guns in the way of income, is it not more essential that a widow with a child should be granted a little more than the paltry allowance of 5s. per week for the child’s maintenance? I ask the Treasurer to put himself in the place of a widowed mother with three children. She has to provide all that is essential to make them tidy for less than it is proposed to grant to an outsider. I hope that the Treasurer - even if it necessitates the raising of another loan of £50,000,000 at 4½ per cent. - will see whether it is not possible to do as much for the widows of our soldiers who have been left with children as he proposes to do for fostermothers.I hope that the amendment will be adopted.
– I think that the Treasurer ought to endeavour to meet the honorable member for Batman in the proposal which he has submitted. If he cannot accept the amendment in its present form, he certainly should agree to increase the allowance that it is proposed to make in the case of children. I have in my mind the case of a widow of a soldier who was killed at Gallipoli, and who has been left with one child five or six years of age. I need hardly remind the Committee that a child of that age needs the constant attention of the mother. As a result, this widow is handicapped very severely. If the Treasurer cannot see his way to increase the allowance to 10s. per week in the case of a child, he might at least make it 7s. 6d. per week. I know that he is just as sympathetic with the dependants of soldiers as are the rest of us, but he has to look at all proposals from a revenue stand-point. It is, however, possible to pay too much attention to considerations of revenue. I should have liked to have seen an increased pension granted to the widows of soldiers who died at Gallipoli. But, of course, the hardship imposed as the result of losing the bread-winner of the family is not so great in some cases as it is in others, and if we started to make allowances on a graduated scale, we should not know where we should end. However, I am of opinion that an increased grant should be made in the case of children.
.- If the Treasurer cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Batman, I hope that he will compromise on the matter by agreeing to an allowance of 15s. per fortnight being paid in the case of children. That is the amount usually awarded by the State Courts where they are called upon to assess the cost of the maintenance of children.
– The case mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner is scarcely on all-fours with those which we are now considering. An unfortunate girl who is compelled to sue for the maintenance of her child has also to earn her own living. I hope that the honorable member for Batman will not press the amendment, because in the very great majority of cases we have to assume that the widow of a deceased soldier will be a healthy young woman. Now a. heal thy young woman who. is left with one child will receive a pension of 25s. per week, and I think it is reasonable to expect that she will be able’ to do something to augment that income. Her whole time will not be devoted to the care of her child. The amendment, if adopted, would involve a very great deal of alteration, which I am not prepared to agree to. I have asked honorable members to accept the proposal of the Government as a tentative one. If we find that injustice is being done, we will endeavour to remedy it. I would remind honorable members that a prominent plank of the platform of the Labour party is widows’ pensions.
– It is a long way off.
– I do not think so.
– The compromise suggested by the honorable member for Hindmarsh might be accepted.
– I will promise that the matter will be taken into consideration. The Bill has to go to another place, and, if the Committee will permit it to pass in its present form, I will consult the Government with a view to seeing whether we cannot arrive at some symmetrical scheme to meet the views of the honorable member.
– We were told that on the last occasion.
– And we have carried out our promise by bringing forward a measure which provides for a 50 per cent, increase. I hope that honorable members will appreciate the conciliatory spirit in which I have met them this afternoon.
.- If the Government intend to give this matter consideration, it has occurred to me that there is a good deal of difference between the cases of women who are left with one or two children and women who are left with six children. What I mean to convey is that the cumulative effect of the pension in the case of a woman with six children will be greater than it is in the case of a woman with two children. A woman with only one child will probably have to pay the same amount for house rent as will a woman with six children. Some expenses of a household do not depend on the size of the family. There is lighting, for instance.
– More rooms are required for larger families.
– Many families of small children are reared in small houses. My point is that we might give consideration to a scale of allowances for children, say, 17s. 6d. a fortnight instead of 10s. for the first child; 15s. a fortnight instead of 10s. for the second; and 10s. a fortnight for each other child. In the actual household arrangements it would work out more equitably. There are some expenses which are just as great whether the household be large or small. The accumulative effect of the pension will be greater as the families grow larger. I ask the Treasurer to take the matter into consideration.
.- I support the proposals to increase the allowance for children. It seems to me that the Government are generous in every respect but the most vital of all. No dependants are necessarily dearer to those who have gone than the children they leave behind, but there is an additional fact to recommend special treatment for children - as the child grows up the pension will be a vanishing quantity from the Treasury point of view; it does not go on for the whole of the child’s life, and is provided merely for the purpose of tiding the most helpless of the dependants over the critical, stages of their existence. If generosity is required anywhere it is in regard to children. No one with the responsibilities of a family on him should hesitate about giving them the best possible treatment. I commend the amendment, and I hope that something will be done to carry it into effect.
.- Knowing that the Treasurer and his advisers are the best judges of the financial position and of the strain the financescan stand, I ask the Minister whether the proposed repatriation scheme will’ make any provision for wives and children, because, if that were so, it might ease honorable members’ minds. For instance, in the scheme with which I am associated, it is provided that widows and children shall have the first call on the funds raised. Their cases are dealt with before those of the returned soldiers are considered.
.- I am much obliged to the honorable member for Wannon for reminding me of the fact that, not only are the returned soldiers and those dependent on them and the dependants of soldiers who have been killed looked after by this Bill, but also there are many Red Cross and patriotic funds which will be available.
– They have to go on their hands and knees to get assistance from those funds.
– There is also the Government scheme. I am not able to outline what will be done by the Repatriation Fund trustees who will be appointed by Act of Parliament before we rise, but I have no doubt that cases of necessity will meet with favorable consideration. I cannot subscribe to the angry exclamation made by honorable members with regard to the various funds. If honorable members say that the ladies and gentlemen who administer those funds are to be considered as being in the same position as some workhouse superintendent in the Old Country in days gone by, I do not believe it. I think that times have changed a great deal since those days of which we have read when Oliver Twist asked for his second plate of porridge, and I am sure that those who are administering these very largely subscribedto funds will not turn a deaf ear to any appeal. The funds they are administering must be considered as an addition to the war pensions.
– I ask the Treasurer to consider the unanimous opinion of honorable members that the proposed allowance to children is not sufficient. A widow with one child has to pay at least 10s. rent for a room. What, then, is left to support her and her child? I would rather see other allowances cut down and more given to the children. In regard to what the Treasurer has said, we must do our duty here, irrespective of what funds are raised outside. If people can get assistance from other funds, it will bring a little more comfort and cheer to the home; but we have our duty to perform, and I would allow 10s. for each child. If we cannot persuade the Treasurer to agree to that amount, I hope that he will consider the question of making the allowance 7s. 6d.
.- I was surprised to hear the Treasurer say that these people should go to the repatriation funds.
– The Treasurer did not say so.
– The Treasurer said that they should go to these funds for what they needed. I have known several people who have had to seek assistance from these funds. They experienced considerable trouble, and had to apply four or five times. In the case of one widow, a Vigilance Committee had to apply four or five times before it could get anything from the Australia Day Fund, and then all that they received was another 5s. a week to supplement the 5s. which the widow was already receiving. We should not drive these dependants from pillar to post. We should recognise the sacrifice that our soldiers have made, and the greatest sacrifice of all is that of the married man who has left wife and children behind him. We should, at least, see that his children are well provided for, and, goodness knows, a payment of 7s. 6d. per week is little enough. I should like to see it 10s. ; but as the Treasurer is very obdurate and will not bend, I am willing to compromise the matter and agree to 7s. 6d. a week. As the honororable member for South Sydney has pointed out, many of these women have to pay from 10s. to 12s. a week for a room; and as a womanwith one child receives only £1 for herself and 5s. for the child, she has only 13s. to 15s. a week on which to provide food and clothing and educate the child. The. Treasurer has said that a woman can do some work ; but if the child is very young, who is to look after it? As a matter of fact, we should not ask these women to work. Having asked the husband to fight for us, we have a right to provide for the children if the father falls. I hope that the Treasurer will consider the matter, and give at least an additional 2s. 6d. for each child.
– I hope that the Treasurer will concede what the Committee desires. Our object should be to raise a happy and healthy race of people, and the only way in which that can be done is by treating the young well when they are young. Children are a splendid asset to the nation. As each is worth £300 to the community, according to the estimate of the late Hon. Richard Seddon, an increase in the allowance would be money well spent if it would enable the mother to provide proper nourishment and clothing for the children and permit them to live under proper conditions during their most critical age. After this war, no country will be able to neglect the young. Children are of more value than money, and that country is the wealthiest that nourishes the greatest number of healthy children. Therefore, from an economic point of view, the Minister would do well by making the allowance 10s., or, at least, 7s. 6d. a week. I am astounded to hear very reputable honorable members say that these women are being charged 10s. a week for rooms in which to live. I wish it were possible to have published throughout Australia the names of the landlords who make this charge. I wish we could get at those who are bleeding the unfortunate women whose husbands have gone to the front to fight. I will not say any more now, because I am anxious to get away from the atmosphere in which we have to work in this chamber. It is poisonous. I cannot understand how the officials of Parliament are able to continue working in it.
.- If I had the time, I should like to give the Treasurer a lecture on economy. When one starts to keep a home, the first charge - I refer to rent - is just as great for two people as it would be for four. There should be a grade or scale in the allowance for children, with a high payment for the first, a lower payment for the second, and a fixed payment of 5s. for others. As a matter of fact, £2 should be the minimum pension to a woman with children. The first charge, of course, is rent, and there is little difference in that regard with an increase in the number of children; but the cost of food certainly increases with the larger family, and there is no getting away from the fact that the cost of clothing also increases with the larger family. I am certain that no woman with two children can manage on 30s. a week.
A woman cannot keep herself and rear a family of two on 30s. per week. If she started with a minimum of £2, and then received 5s. for each child she might be able to manage. I ask the Treasurer to agree to pay a higher pension, say 7s. 6d . , for the first two children, and 5s. for each other child.
– Why give preference to small families?
– I am certain that the first charge of house rent is just as heavy for a woman who has two children as for one who has more.
– No father of a family would admit that.
– Does the honorable member know that Canada pays only 4s. lOd. per week for each child ?
– And New Zealand, of which we have heard so much this afternoon, only 5s. ?
– The present Government in Canada went into office on a jingoistic cry, and, compared with them, even the members of the Opposition in this Chamber are dynamitards. Therefore the Canadian Parliament is not likely to consider the matter of pensions as generously as a Parliament such as this. I am confident that for a mother with one or two children 5s. per week each is not sufficient. The Treasurer should remember that the payments on account of the children gradually diminish as the children grow older, and finally they will cease. Therefore we can afford a little liberality in that respect. I do not like to threaten the Minister, but I believe the majority of members are opposed to him.
.- The Minister has been sympathetic, and, consistent with his trust as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, has endeavoured to meet the wishes of the Committee. I am sorry that he is not equally sympathetic in connexion with the amendment now under consideration. A mere promise that something will be done later on will not satisfy the Committee. We should take care that the children of soldiers who have lost their lives in the war are given a chance in life. To feed, clothe, and educate a child, 7s. 6d. is the minimum amount that Parliament should provide, and even with that sum a mother will require to exercise the most rigid economy if she is to do justice to the child. The Treasurer might accept the suggestion to make the amount 7s. 6d. for each child, and he may be sure that the increase will benefit the rising generation, who should not be made to suffer more than is necessary through the deaths of their fathers in the defence of their country.
.- The request made on behalf of the children is very reasonable. Women who have lost their breadwinners at the front have suffered quite enough already. In many cases mechanics who have gone to the . front have surrendered a wage of £4 10s. per week, and even more, leaving their wives and children with 6s. per day. After all the sacrifices these men and women have made, we in this House are bargaining as to whether we shall pay 7s. 6d. or 5s: to the children whom our dead comrade has left behind him. It is our duty as a Commonwealth to stand in the place of the father who has fallen and be a husband to the widow and a father to the children. Ten shillings per week for each child is little enough.Rents and the cost of living have risen throughout the Commonwealth since Parliament fixed 5s. as the pension for each child. If we wish to encourage recruiting amongst the fathers with two or three children, we can offer no better incentive than an increase in the pensions for the children, because men will know that if they fall their wife and children will be provided for. In New Zealand a widow with one child will receive £1 10s. per week, and in the Commonwealth only £1 5s.; a widow with two children in New Zealand £1 15s., in Australia, £1 10s. ; a widow with three children in New Zealand £2, and in Australia £1 15s. Is not the Commonwealth able to be as generous as New Zealand to the dependants of its fallen soldiers? We as a Parliament would be recreant to the trust reposed in us if we did not do our best for the children. The men at the front left our shores with the belief that there was a Commonwealth Parliament which would stand behind the widow and child of those who fell, and I consider that 10s. is the least that we can offer for the upbringing of a child. If there is one section of the community that needs our care and attention it is the children. They are the most valuable asset we have, and expenditure incurred in their education and in ensuring their physical welfare would be well spent. Let us stand by the women and children, and guarantee them against the necessity of having to apply to us later on for help. What can a widow with one child do on 25s. per week in these times of high rents and high cost of living? She must hand her little one over to the care of a neighbour while she seeks employment in order to earn sufficient to increase her income to an amount that will keep herself and her child. I desire to obviate the necessity of a soldier’s widow coming to members of Parliament and saying, “ You allow me £1 a week and 5s. for each child, and, as I cannot make ends meet on that, will you help me to find some employment?” I know of no more degrading position for all concerned, and, therefore, I contend that there ought to be 10s. for each child. In New Zealand a widow is allowed £1 5s. per week, while we allow only £1; and if we were to allow 10s. for each child the mother with one child would only be on an equality with her sister in New Zealand. The Treasurer very rightly regards himself as the custodian of the public funds, but I am certain that, as a father of a family himself, who has gone through many vicissitudes, he knows the struggle it is to make ends meet even on a fair income in normal times. Now that struggle is much greater, and I rely on the Treasurer to respond to the appeal made by a majority of the Committee.
.- I sympathize very much with the Treasurer in his difficult position. I am sure that, personally, his sympathies are all in one direction, and that it is simply his official duty which causes him to take up such an unbending attitude. We have been told of cases of men with six or seven children going to the front; and I, for one, certainly regret that such a thing should have been allowed. So long as we had single men without any family responsibilities, it would have been very much better to prevent married men, with almost an exaggerated sense of loyalty, going to the front.
– They went because the others would not.
– That is undoubtedly the case, and it is most regrettable. Nevertheless, there is the position, and we must face it. We have not yet been told what the cost of this proposed pension to children is likely to be, and I quite realize the difficulty of making even an approximate estimate. It occurs to me, when we are talking in terms of fifty and sixty millions of expenditure in connexion with the war, that we might very well increase the allowance for children from 5s. to even 10s. with the consciousness that we were not adding very materially to the total cost. Even if we gave the maximum increase suggested, it would amount to only a few thousands, and these a diminishing figure. I quite agree with honorable members Who emphasize the’ advantage of being reasonably generous in a matter of this kind, and with those who remind us that, of all the assets of a nation after a. cruel war, the most precious is that of the children. We should be failing in our responsibility to the widowed mothers if we denied them the means to make their children useful citizens of Australia.
– I heartily support the proposal that has been made, for,’ whatever happens, we ought to look after the “ kiddies,” who are the most deserving of sympathetic consideration. I sincerely hope that the Treasurer will pay due regard to the requirements of those innocent little victims of the “unfortunate national peril which has deprived them of their bread-winners. It would be some comfort, at any rate, to mothers to know that their children will be provided for rather more generously than hitherto, and it will be only in accordance with a desire of honorable members if the Treasurer could say he will liberalize the provision made in this regard.
– I feel disposed to adhere to the principle of 10s. for each child, and I hope that those who are of the same way of thinking will not give way. The Treasurer has said - I think I quote him correctly - that he thinks a mother might be able to “ earn something.” The only proper way to regard a mother who is left without a breadwinner -is as being unable to earn anything.
– Years have passed in industrial life, and breadwinners have been lost, but widows and children are left for whom no provision is made.
– But in the case we are considering the mothers and children have made the supreme sacrifice in the interests of their country. We are all agreed that if we lose in this war our everything is gone - everything we hold dear. If we are not going to lose, who will have to be thanked but the mothers who have sacrificed their bread winners - sacrificed all that is nearest and dearest to them? It would be simply awful if we were to allow these mothers to be dependent upon the world for a crust. We ought not to look for examples from New Zealand or elsewhere, but, on the contrary, set an example to the rest of the world. I suppose that £3 per week may be taken to be the average wage of an artisan in this country, and a wife, and one child with that income have hitherto felt assured of it so long as the husband was alive. When that husband gives up his life for his country, we shall, unless some alteration is made, reduce that woman’s income to 25s. per week, and ask her to regard it as a return for the noblest and greatest sacrifice she can make. It is all very well to talk, with our tongues in our cheeks, about the noble sacrifice these men and women are making, but how can we possibly turn round and tell such a woman that we propose to reduce her income by 35s. per week? I hope the Treasurer will adopt no half-way course, but set an example to all other countries.
.- I have much pleasure in identifying myself with honorable members who are endeavouring to induce the Treasurer to increase the children’s allowance to 7s. 6d. if 10s. is not obtainable. In common with other honorable members I have attended various send-offs to soldiers who were leaving wives and families behind, and always the men, almost with tears in their eyes, have spoken of the children they were leaving behind. These men ought to be fully assured that their children will be well looked after; and it is incumbent on every one of us to use his influence with the Minister.
– And to use his vote.
– I have sufficient confidence in ‘the generosity of the Minister to think that we shall not come to a vote. The proposed difference of half-a-crown a week only means an additional annual .expenditure of £6 10s. for each child. I do not believe in letting our soldiers go away with “ three cheers “ and “ For he is a jolly good fellow” ringing in their ears, only to be forgotten the next moment. Above all, let us look after the little children.
.- The Treasurer must be satisfied that every honorable member is in favour of an increased amount in the case of the children, and I am sure we should all be satisfied if the Treasurer would promise to bring the matter before the Cabinet, with a view to making such an amendment in the Bill in the Senate as will insure an allowance of 10s. a week for each child.
– I said I would promise Cabinet consideration. I cannot promise an increase.
– If there are 10,000 children to be provided for, the increased allowance will mean only £260,000, an amount which every year must diminish. Already the Government have raised some £54,000,000, and propose to raise another £50,000,000. I do not know the number of children who will be likely to have a claim on the fund. At the same time, I do not believe that there will be anything like the loss involved in the adoption of this proposal that some persons imagine. I am sure that if the Treasurer will bring the matter before the Cabinet, that body will not interpose any obstacle to giving effect to the wishes of honorable members. The people, too, will recognise that this Parliament, in deciding to increase the allowance in the case of each child to 10s. per week, merely discharged its duty.
.- I did think that the Treasurer would have acceded to what is obviously the unanimous wish of this Committee. But he is, apparently, obdurate. I would remind him that we have a mandate from the people to see that the wives and children of our soldiers who fall fighting for the Empire are properly cared for. To my mind, we are not treating them as we should do. We are not respecting the promise which we made to our boys that we would stand by their dependants.No honorable member would be discharging his duty if he did not endeavour to alter an allowance which is obviously a blot on the Bill.
.- It must be apparent that it is the unanimous desire of honorable members that the proposed increased allowance in the case of children should be granted. All parties recognise that our soldiers are fighting for us, and it is incumbent upon this Parliament to provide for the widows and children of those who fall at the front. It is true that the Treasurer has promised to consult the Ministry on the question, but we would like something more than that - we would like an assurance that the extra allowance will be granted.
– Ten shillings a week ?
– Yes. I have said over and over again on public platforms that we can never make up in money the sacrifices which our boys are making for us. If we do not make the requisite financial provision now, we shall have to do so later on, and it would be a great comfort to those who are about to proceed to the front to know that their dependants have already been adequately provided for.
Question - That the word “ Ten “proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I promised honorable members that if they would allow the clause to pass in its original form I would consult the Government, with a view to ascertaining what could be done to meet their wishes. I can do no more now. I will consult my colleagues, and ascertain from them how far we can meet the wishes of the Committee.
– The Committee has given a direction to the Government.
– The Committee has indicated its mind on this question, and I am looking forward to the time when I shall get some assistance from honorable members in respect to the question of taxation. If they will helpme, and I can tell the Government that they will–
– We will give the honorable gentleman all the assistance that he requires.
– I know that my honorable friend will do that; but what about honorable members opposite? In the circumstances, I intend to report progress.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reportedthe receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– By leave, I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The War Loan Act 1914 and the War Loan Act (No. 2) 1915 contain a provision requiring that the moneys raised shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The purpose of this Bill is to provide that all moneys raised by way of loans shall be paid into a Loan Fund. This will prevent confusion in the Treasury books and lead to greater clarity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a. message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
That the message be taken into consideration in Committee forthwith.
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the appointment temporarily of an Acting Public Service. Commissioner.
This motion is necessary in order to provide the money for the payment of the salary of an Acting Public Service Commissioner. While Mr. McLachlan was in the position of Public Service Commissioner his salary was merely voted from time to time; but, as Mr. Edwards, who has been appointed Acting Public Service Commissioner, is to hold that position from the 4th May last until a permanent appointment is made, it is necessary that his salary shall be provided. Following upon the adoption of this motion, a Bill for the purpose of confirming the appointment will be introduced. It will not appoint Mr. Edwards permanently, nor will he receive the salary of £1,500 per annum that was paid to Mr. McLachlan. The salary will be £1,200 per annum, which was the remuneration at which Mr. McLachlan commenced. The object of this Bill is to tide over, in a legal way, the interregnum between Mr. McLachlan’s retirement and the appointment of a new Public Service Commissioner.
,- I have no objection to providing the payment for an Acting Public Service Commissioner during an interregnum.
– That is all that the motion proposes.
– But why should there be any interregnum? I am a strong believer in having a Public Service Commissioner on the old lines, and I wish to know whether the Government intend to appoint one. If they do, then I wish to know how long the interregnum will last?
– Why should there be any interregnum?
– Before this money is granted we should have some information from the Government as to what they intend doing. Mr. McLachlan took the four months’ leave of absence to winch he was entitled, and the Government must have known that at the end of the four months some person would have to be appointed in his place, unless they intended to adopt a different policy. If they do intend something drastically different; if they propose to interfere considerably with the Public Service Act, the House should be made aware of it, at any rate, before the Bill is passed.
– The Bill merely leaves matters as they are.
– Why has not the House been told the reason for this long interregnum? If a Public Service Commissioner died suddenly, or something similar occurred preventing the Government from making an immediate appointment of a successor, I could understand the delay, but they have had four months in which to act, and there has been no intimation from them as to whether they intend to appoint another Public Service Commissioner or adopt some other course. The Acting Commissioner has already filled the office beyond the four months, and this Bill is necessarily a validating one, and no one would object to it on that account, but it is. only fair to honorable members that they should be made acquainted with what the Government propose doing. If they intend to do away with the position of Public Service Commissioner and appoint a Board, or if they propose to allow Ministers to make appointments to the Public Service, it is only right that honorable members should know it. I trust that before the Bill leaves this chamber Ministers will give us a statement of the position. It might expedite the passage of the measure.
– I do not think so. t think that honorable members will talk upon the Bill, no matter what is said.
– If the Government announce that they intend to continue the position of Public Service Commissioner and leave the Act practically the same as it is now, and to appoint a new Commissioner as soon as they have had the opportunity of picking a man, the Bill can be passed at once, so far as I am concerned.
– But others would object.
– There is too big a principle at stake for honorable members to be left in the dark, I wish to know why, after a four months’ interregnum, the Government have not appointed a new Commissioner ?
– They have been too busy.
– If they say that they have been too busy, and that they intend to make an appointment shortly, I am prepared to accept the explanation, but in a big matter like this it is due that honorable members should know what the Government intend to do.
– For the last thirty or forty years the control of the Public Service in Australia has been vested in Public Service Boards or Commissioners, instead of the system which previously prevailed, namely, political patronage. As honorable members know, the Government have intimated on various occasions that it was their intention to amend the Public Service Act and other measures, but, in order to preserve the status quo, we intend to appoint Mr. Edwards to act temporarily as Public Service Commissioner until a permanent appointment is made. The honorable member for Barrier wishes to know why the appointment was not made when Mr. McLachlan retired on the 4th January. I shall give the reason why no action was taken. The Public Service Commissioner is under the control of the Prime Minister, who is out of Australia. The appointment of a successor was found to be a difficult matter, and, after applications for the position had been called, Cabinet, with the consent of the Prime Minister, decided to postpone the consideration of them, and have the matter readvertised, and, in the meantime, to appoint Mr. Edwards to act during the interregnum.
– But do the Government intend to institute a different policy in regard to the appointment of the head of the Public Service?
– That is a matter for consideration. I have no intention of intimating what the Government’s proposals may be in regard to having a Public Service Commissioner or a Public Service Board. A Bill will be introduced! to amend the Public Service Act in many particulars. In the meantime, the Bill to which this message refers will leave matters as they are’. If, under cover of this Bill, honorable members wish to have a debate on the Public Service Act, they can have it to-night, instead of considering the War Pensions Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
That Mr. Tudor and Mr. Higgs do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Tudor, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8Jr5 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
When presenting the message, I informed the House of the nature of the Bill, and I do not think that it is necessary for me to go into details now. It is merely a stop-gap measure temporarily placing Mr. Edwards in a position similar to that in which Mr. McLachlan, the late Public Service Commissioner, started as regards salary. The temporary appointment does not give Mr. Edwards any lien on the position. If war had not broken out, no doubt the position would have been filled before now. The Public Service Commissioner is in the Department of the Prime Minister, and, he being absent, the Government have not attempted to fill the vacancy .
.- I hope the Government have no intention at the back of their minds to abolish the position of Public Service Commissioner. If we had that assurance, I feel satisfied that there would be no opposition of any kind to the Bill.
– This measure leaves things as they were.
– Mr. Edwards has been temporarily acting as Public Service Commissioner for four months.
– The Prime Minister is away.
– But the Government are here, and in a matter of this kind, if they have not decided on the man they intend to appoint - and no one would object to the appointment being deferred until the Prime Minister’s return - there ought to be a definite assurance given, in view of the length of time that has elapsed since Mr. McLachlan retired, that it is not the intention of the Government to alter the present method of controlling the Service. The alternative is political patronage, and if the Government propose to return to that system in connexion, with Government employment, they will be treating the community unfairly, and in.* p OS] 11^ a burden on individual members in the form of wire-pulling for the purpose of getting our own constituents installed in the Government Service. In other’ words, we shall be adopting the Yankee methods of “ spoils to the victors,” and I am certain, if I understand tue temper of the House, that that system will not be tolerated. I desire only an assurance that the Government have no idea or desire at the present moment to change the system of control, and if I can get a statement to that effect I shall be satisfied to allow the Bill to pass.
– I, too, have been looking with some concern at the contents of this Bill. With other old members, I am rather anxious about a measure of this kind, and if I thought it would create any lien over the position, or would iu any way prejudice the chances of any candidate-
– On behalf of the Government, I can assure the House that the Bill will not create a lien for any one.
– So far, so good ; but on looking into its terms one wonders what is the meaning of the words, “ Until the appointment o.f a person to be Public Service Commissioner or until the Governor-General otherwise directs.” I hope that the Minister will give the House an assurance that the position will not bo prejudiced in any way.
– I assure the House that it will not.
– I am glad to have that assurance. There are in the House a number of honorable members who have not had experience of the old political system. If they had, they would watch a Bill like this with the greatest possible keenness and anxiety.
– There is nothing to fear in thi3 Bill.
– So loose are the terms of the Bill that under it the Government could appoint anybody they chose, or do almost anything else. I suggest that in Committee its provisions be tightened up. However, we have the assurance of the Minister that there is no intention to interfere with the system of non-political control.
– I do not think he said that.
– In my reply I will make the position as clear as I can, and honorable members can then do what they like with the Bill in Committee.
– I understand the Minister to say that this is a temporary measure, rendered necessary by the absence of the Prime Minister, and I infer, therefore, that as soon as the Prime Minister returns the Government will proceed to fill the vacancy. If there is anything more than that intended, the Minister should let the House know at the earliest possible moment.
– There is nothing more than that in the Bill.
– Have the Government any idea in their minds that there is to be a change in the present method of control of the Public Service by a Commissioner?
– I have stated that it is the intention of the Government to propose an alteration of the Public Service Act.
– In relation to control by a Commissioner.
– The Government have not decided upon any alteration of the system.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope they will not decide upon any change, for of all things I should dread a return to the old political conditions.
– I think the Government would decide nothing without consulting Parliament.
– We do not intend to decide anything without consulting Parliament.
– I warn honorable members against a reversion to the old political system, in the interest of themselves, as well as of the Public Service. Whatever troubles honorable members may have because of the present nonpolitical control, they are as nothing to what they would be afflicted with if they reverted to the old, bad system which we abandoned years ago. I rely on the assurance of the Minister that the Government have nothing of the kind in contemplation, but are introducing this Bill to tide them over the period until the return of the Prime Minister, when I hope an appointment will be made of the best man who can be got. I do not desire to mention names at. this stage, but there is one man with outstanding qualifications, whose appointment would give the greatest possible satisfaction to the Service.
– I think I can guess to whom you refer.
– I think the honorable member can, and so could other honorable members. However, the Minister having given an assurance that no change of policy is in contemplation, the Government may have the Bill, so far as honorable members on the Opposition side are concerned, with the greatest possible pleasure.
.- Like the Leader of the Opposition, I have my doubts as to the necessity for this Bill.
– If we do not appoint some one, the whole thing will lapse.
– Let it lapse. It has been allowed to lapse for a long time.
– No, it has not.
– It has been allowed to lapse since the beginning of the month; and, if the Government can carry on for that time, surely they can carry on, if Parliament does not interfere, until a permanent appointment can be made. I shall be frank with the Government, and tell them what is in my mind. I have an idea that the intention is to do away with the Commissioner altogether.
– That cannot be done under this Bill.
– It can be done under this Bill. No one knows better than ourselves the evils of political control in the Public Service; it was a godsend when Mr. McLachlan was appointed. From the first day of this Parliament honorable members were pestered as to the rights and wrongs, qualifications, merits, and demerits of men in the Service, and so much influence was brought to bear that honorable members were not able to refuse to do something. The Commissioner did away with all that; and I am glad of his appointment, although I do not believe in all that the Commissioner has done. If honorable members have only been saved as much trouble as I have by the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner, they must be thankful; and I am sure that none of us would revert to the old condition. It is said that the present system has done away with political patronage and political control; but there is something worse in the Commonwealth
Public Service to-day, and that is social influence. Many good men in Queensland have applied for positions advertised in the Gazette, and have not had a chance, although their qualifications were much better than those of the men appointed. For positions vacant in Melbourne a man has no chance unless he is on the spot and is recommended by the head of the branch or Department.
– Then the Commissioner is only a figurehead?
– He uses his discretion in many cases, and “turns down” the recommendations.
– No, he does not.
– This is casting serious reflections on the Commissioner.
– It is all very well to say that, but I am telling the truth, as every honorable member knows.
– Then the Commissioner should not be there.
– What better system would the honorable member substitute?
– It is a very serious indictment against the Commissioner.
– This goes on every day of the year. The advertisements in the Gazette are so much bunkum inserted only to comply with the law, as heads of Departments will tell you. Before ever an advertisement appears it is known who is going to get the appointment ; and we see this year in and year out. In one case, several men in Queensland asked me whether they should apply for an appointment that was advertised, and when I saw the Commissioner he told me that every one’s claims were considered, and that the men should send in their applications. I said to him, “ These men in Queensland have told me that it is already cut and dried”; and the Commissioner replied, “ I can assure you, Mr. Page, it is not.” Then I said to the Commissioner, “ I shall enclose the name of the man who has been mentioned as designed for the post into an envelope, which you may keep until the appointment is made, and then you will see whether I am right.”
– And the honorable member wants this system to be continued ?
– Of course I do - “One swallow does not make a summer.”
– But the honorable member said that the present practice is right.
– Honorable members around me are like a lot of jackdaws ; but I do not mind.
– What happened ? Did the man get the appointment?
– Of course; and he was a Tasmanian.
– Was he a good man ?
– The man was good enough, and he occupies the position today. Why go through the farce of advertising positions and getting people all over the Commonwealth to apply, when they have no more hope of success than they have of flying without a machine or wings? Every honorable member knows that what I say is true. A man who is assistant postmaster in a country postoffice in Queensland had to leave his wife behind in Melbourne on account of her health, and he has applied during the last two or three years for every position advertised in the Gazette; but he sometimes received the same reply that his application was “ under consideration.”
– Has he any social standing ?
– I do not know, but he drinks tea of an afternoon. It would appear, though, that he does not drink tea with the right people, or, otherwise, his claims might be considered. But bad as all this is, it is nothing in comparison to our experience when we have no Commissioner.
– Would you like to see the Minister of a Department in a position to make appointments?
– I should not like to be the Minister under such circumstances, for his life would not be worth five minutes’ purchase. He would be worried, not only by members of Parliament, but by all the social darlings in Melbourne and Sydney. It is, of course, within the power of Parliament to alter these conditions; but for goodness sake do not let us do anything whereby any Government - never mind this Government - might do away with the Commissioner, as I think there is power to do under the last words of the second clause in theBill. Those words give the Executive this power, and I should like to see them struck out.
– It does seem peculiar that during this session - I do not know I have ever seen it before - there should be an evident desire to pledge the Government not to do something; and this has occurred, not only in this case, but in others. The emphatic promise of the Minister in charge that the present system will not be altered without presenting the alternative to Parliament ought to suffice. To-night, of course, the Ministry are in a very unfortunate position, seeing that they appear to be in a very large minority. As I say, it is peculiar that an endeavour should be made to extract a promise that the Government would not do anything under any circumstances; and it is not a fair position into which to put a Ministry. I believe we ought to have a Public Service Commissioner, though I do not say there is nothing in the Act, or in the powers of the Commissioner, that ought not to be reconsidered.
– The great thing is to keep free from political appointment.
– Exactly ; and God help members if political appointments were again the practice ! As it is, I have many “ patients” in a day, but I should then have them a hundredfold. These efforts to extract a promise are not made by members of the Opposition, but by members of the Government side. I do not think, myself, that this Bill gives power to do away with the Commissioner, but, even so, we ought to be satisfied with the assurance that nothing will be done in this regard without consulting the House.
.- The Leader of the Opposition is nothing if not astute; and I do not wish to allow to pass without comment that honorable member’s closing sentence, wherein he said that he was happy to have the assurance of the Leader of the House that it was not proposed to alter the practice of having a Commissioner. I think I am correctly interpreting the Leader of the House when I say that he did not commit himself either one way or the other in regard to the policy of the Government. I do not propose, under this Bill, to discuss the standing of the Commissioner, because I think that is irrelevant to the measure. The Bill is designed to continue the present position, with the exception that the Public Service Commissioner has retired, and that we have to appoint an Acting Commissioner until Parliament otherwise decides. I have quite strong views as to the Commissioner and what his status ought to be, but I shall not discuss the question on this occasion. There is much to be said against the introduction of political influence, and also much to be said against a Ministry, or any governing body, trying to shelve responsibility on to some other autocrat. Much might be said on both sides, and I shall be glad when the principal measure is introduced. I wish it to be distinctly understood that the Leader of the House has given no pledge that he will continue indefinitely the present system.
.- I am quite satisfied with the reply of the Minister of Trade and Customs, but I regret that the interregnum has been so long. The reason given is that the Prime Minister is absent in England; but surely the Government of the country has to be carried on ! We are pleased that the Prime Minister has gone to England, has had such a reception, and has been able to accomplish so much good; but, at the same time, are we to assume that the rest of theMinistry cannot, amongst them, appoint a Commissioner ? For the sake of the Service itself, there ought to be placed at its head as soon as possible the very ablest man available; and if Mr. Edwards is capable of carrying on the work, he should be made Commissioner, instead of merely an acting official. I know Mr. Edwards a little, and I believe him to be a capable man; indeed, I do not think that otherwise he would have been appointed as assistant by Mr. McLachlan. Candidly, however, Mr. Edwards is not the man I should choose as permanent Commissioner. It is a pity that a definite appointment has not been made, and, in my opinion, the absence of the Prime Minister is not an adequate reason why such, action has been delayed.
.- I wish to know the import of this Bill, because I do not like the look of it.
– Was the honorable member present when I spoke just now ?
– No; but I heard that the Minister of. Trade and Customs did speak.
– Well, move the adjournment of the debate, and we will get on with other business.
– All right.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Carr) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from this day, vide page 8310) :
Clause 5 (as amended) -
Section 8 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “Thirteen pounds per annum” (wherever occurring), and inserting in their stead the words “- shillings per fortnight.” “ (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the maximum rate of pension payable to a child in the following cases shall be as follows: -
to a child whose mother is dead, and whose father is totally or partially incapacitated, Fifteen shillings per fortnight;
to a child both of whose parents are dead -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: -
Any member of the Forces who is incapacitated by reason of a disability specified in the Second Schedule shall, unless otherwise prescribed, receive the rate of pension shown opposite to the description of the disability in that Schedule.
– Before the sitting was suspended, the Committee took up a very determined attitude in favour of an increase in the pensions to be paid to children. I have since given effect to my promise to consult the Government on that question. The Government are sympathetic to a degree. They are influenced by the arguments which have been used to the effect that a widow with one child may have to rent a house, and that consequently she is entitled to a greater measure of consideration than is a widow with more than one child. Consequently, the Government propose to make the payment in the case of the first child, 10s. per week; in the case of the second child, 7s. 6d. per week; and in the case of the third and succeeding children, 5s. per week each.
– Rot! The Government ought to be ashamed of themselves.
– I therefore move-
That the blank in paragraph (b) be filled by the insertion of the word “twenty,”’ and that after the word “ fortnight “ the following words be inserted : - “ for the first child, fifteen shillings per fortnight for the second child, and ten shillings per fortnight for the third and each subsequent child.”
– Before I proceed to put the amendment, I am bound by the rules of the House, as well as by established customs, to point out that this Bill is founded upon a message from the Governor-General. It is an unbroken rule of Parliament that we cannot increase the burdens of the people in the manner that is proposed, viz., by the filling in of a blank.
– The Treasurer is moving the amendment.
– In my opinion, the Treasurer has no more power to increase the burdens of the people than has any private member. But Ministers have power to obtain a further message from the Governor-General; and if they intimate to me that it is their intention to bring down an amending message covering the Bill before it has passed its final stage, I shall have no objection to accepting the amendment of the Treasurer. I am loath to intervene, because I am not here to give expression to my own feelings in a matter of this kind, but to give effect to the rules of the House, and to establish precedent.
– We have not overlooked the point to which you, sir, have referred, and it is our intention, before the Bill passes its third reading, to bring down an amending message to cover it.
– On a point of order, I wish to be perfectly clear on this matter, because, although I am one of a majority in the present instance, any alteration in our Standing Orders will govern, not only the present emergency, but so many others that may arise in the future, that we ought to be very careful that we do not sacrifice any of our rights. I wish to know if it is competent, under our Standing Orders, to vote for an increase of taxation prior to an amending message being received from the GovernorGeneral. If it is not, it would be wise on the part of the Government to postpone the further consideration of this Bill until to-morrow morning, and to bring down the amending message in the meantime. You, sir, said that it was an unbroken rule of Parliament that no increase of taxation could be authorized by the Committee unless a message from the GovernorGeneral had first been presented. I think that the departure proposed will constitute a very bad precedent and honorable members may find, in the future, that, in their anxiety to pass this Bill, they have sacrificed a principle for which they will be sorry.
-I think that the amendment is quite in order. The very purpose of setting up a Committee is to enable us to alter any provisions of any Bill, care being always taken to cover it with a message comporting with the altered conditions made in it. It is one of the functions of the Committee to review, not merely the message itself, but the provisions of the Bill.
– I appeal to honorable members to preserve order. It is not only usual, but absolutely necessary, that, when a point of order is being taken on a matter affecting our procedure, the occupant of the chair should be permitted to listen to the arguments adduced without any interruption.
– There is no doubt that, in the absence of an amending message, we should have no power to make a final alteration in this Bill. But in Committee we can alter its title, scope, and intention.
– But we cannot appropriate money.
– We shall not appropriate money until the final act of appropriation is completed by the Bill being read a third time. At any stage up to that, there has not been a complete appropriation of public money. My opinion is that we can alter the Bill in any way that we deem fit, always provided that we have a message commensurate with the scope of the Bill as so amended before it finally passes the House.
– When I intimated to the Committee what appeared to me to be the proper course to pursue, I received an absolute assurance from the Leader of the Government that an amending message would be brought down before the Bill passes its third reading. As I stated just now, I am of opinion that amendments of the character submitted by the Treasurer may be made in Committee, always provided that such a message is brought down prior to the final stage in the consideration of this measure. It will then be for Mr. Speaker to determine whether the Bill shall pass if the message be in accordance with the Bill as amended by the Committee. Consequently, I rule that the amendment is in order. Should any similar occurrence arise in the future, I should feel obliged if the Minister in charge of the measure under consideration would pay me the courtesy of intimating his intention in regard to the matter.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to-
That in proposed new sub-section 2 the following words be left out: - “in the following cases shall be asfollows: -
to a child whose mother is dead, and whose father is totally or partially incapacitated, fifteen shillings per fortnight.
to a child-“ and that after the word “ dead “ paragraph (b) the words “shall be” be inserted.
.- I move -
That after the word “ Second “ in the proposed new sub-section 4, the words “ and Third” be inserted.
I cannot say that I am pleased at the acceptance, by the Treasurer, of a suggestion from a Labour man, whose reward, I trust, lies in the days that are to come, to whittle down the proposal by a graduated scale, and I am surprised at the Committee accepting it when there was a chance of securing a fair thing for the dependants of a deceased soldier.
– The honorable member wanted to get money by setting up a printing press and issuing a lot of paper.
– If the Treasurer thinks that that is my idea, let him go to a Labour conference and tell them that such is the platform of the Labour party, for in the attitude I take up I am backed by that platform. I do not wish to get money by means of a printing press, but I do not wish to pay 4½ per cent, interest on the money required for paying the expenses of the war. As we are dealing with a Bill that will affect probably from 85 to 90 per cent, of the working classes of the community, it is my desire to get the best for them, and the best that we have been able to get, so far, is not a full measure of justice to them. My object in moving the amendment is to insert a third schedule in the Bill, in order to provide for persons who have lost both eyes, both arms, both legs, or both hands. I do not want persons injured in this way paid £1 a week for six months and then obliged to go out on the streets bearingplacards announcing that they have lost their eye-sight or their limbs in France or Gallipoli.
– The Treasurer has already promised to take out that reduction.
– The Treasurer has promised something in that direction, but I wish to go further. It is the wish of the Committee that we should be extremely generous to those men who are sacrificing their lives on our behalf. I cannot conceive a greater handicap than the loss of both arms. A man so maimed will need to employ others to do everything for him, even to feeding him. The loss of two hands is only slightly less than the loss of two arms. Soldiers injured in this way should be given a living wage for the rest of their lives. It would not put a great burden on the finances. It would not be necessary to turn a printing press to meet the expenditure required, for I hope, devoutly, that very few will come back so maimed, and the Treasurer could take into consideration the question of paying them 10s. a day for the rest of their lives. One honorable member, speaking on the Estimates, said that our soldiers should he paid 10s. a day or a living wage. If we are prepared ‘to do that, we can do something better for those who have come back maimed in the direction I have indicated, at least we can provide them with a living wage for the rest of their lives. Otherwise, Australia will not be living up to the name it has earned.
.- I trust that the honorable member will not press his amendment. The schedule provides that a soldier who has been totally incapacitated shall receive £3 per fortnight. The honorable member seeks to increase the allowance to £6 per fortnight, but I feel sure that the Bill, with the amendments to which I have already consented, will prove to be a very liberal measure without the alteration which the honorable member suggests.
– What does the Treasurer propose to do with regard to the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Hunter?
– It is proposed to strike out any deductions. Disabled soldiers embraced by the second schedule will receive the maximum rate of the pension.
Amendment (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to-
That in line 3, of the proposed new subsection 4, the words “ unless otherwise prescribed “ be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Extension of Act to British reservists).
.- The New Zealand Act places the wife of a soldier, who marries on his return from the front, on the same footing as the wife of one who was married prior to enlistment. Has the Treasurer made provision for such cases?
– It will be the case under this Bill.
.- I am concerned to know the position under this clause of those soldiers who, having returned to Australia, some of them invalided, have re-enlisted for home service. There are many in that position, and they are still wearing the country’s uniform; but 1 understand that they are excluded from the benefits of the Act, and if injured in the course of their work will have no claim to compensation under this Act or under the Commonwealth Workers’ Compensation Act. They may be engaged in the home service for the next three years if the war lasts so long. They are excluded from all benefits under any local Act, and I think that provision ought to be made for them in either this Act or the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
.- If a man returns from the front injured, and comes within the operation of the schedules of this Bill, he is entitled to whatever benefits Parliament prescribes under the War Pensions Act ; but if he should re-enlist for home service, he will draw from the Department full pay. While he is drawing full pay for home service, surely Parliament cannot be expected to give him also the benefit of the Pensions Act. According to the honorable member for Batman, if an accident occurs to him whilst he is engaged in home service, he will not be entitled to any benefit under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. If the War Pensions Act makes no provision for him in the event of an accident occurring whilst he is engaged on home service, it would be reasonable to bring him within. the scope of the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– He is expressly excluded from that Act.
– That is not fair. On the other hand, if he retires from home service after the war, he automatically returns to the enjoyment of the pension provided in this Bill. The Treasurer might inform the Committee why returned soldiers who are engaged on home service are purposely excluded from benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
– A soldier who returns from active service partially incapacitated will get a pension, and if he obtains employment in the home service his pension will not be diminished. In regard to the point raised by the honorable member for
Henty, I shall propose an amendment on recommittal to insert in the definition of “ member of the Forces “ after the words “ ship of war,” the following: - “ or enlisted or appointed for service in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations.” That amendment would enable those who have enlisted for home service, and who have the misfortune to be injured, to get relief under this measure.
.- Is there any provision in the Bill that will deprive returned soldiers who are entitled to benefits in friendly societies, or from some private or semi-private provision supplemented by the Government, of the full benefit of the pensions provided in the Bill ? Will such other benefits in any way reduce the right of a pensioner under this Bill ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 -
– I propose to move -
That in column two, fourth paragraph, the words “for at least six months and thereafter subject to a reduction to seven-eighths of the maximum rate if and so long as the member is capable of earning at least Six shillings a week.” be left out.
That will mean that those soldiers who have lost two limbs will receive the maximum rate of pension without any deduction.
– What does the Treasurer propose in regard to the first portion of the schedule 1
– That it is to remain as it is.
.- The Treasurer has met the wishes of the Committee to a large extent, but there is still room for further amendment. If the alteration proposed by the Treasurer is made, the schedule will still provide that a soldier who loses a leg, or a foot, or a hand, or an arm, may have his pension reduced by 25 per cent, after six months, and in the case of the loss of one eye he will get only half of the maximum rate. The majority of persons who return from the front minus a leg, or a foot, will not be able to get any occupation, because there are only a limited number of positions that men with only one hand, or one foot, are capable of filling. . The majority of men who have gone to the front have been accustomed to hard toil, to working with their muscles, and they lack the education and training necessary to fit them to apply themselves to any mental occupation in future, if they are unfitted for manual labour. Yet the schedule proposes to penalize these men by reducing their pension after the first six months. To do that would be to work an injustice on a large body of men, because, in many cases, men who have lost their right arms will not be able to fit themselves for any other occupation. If they cannot earn a livelihood, why should they be deprived of a portion of their pension ‘J Then, a man who has lost a leg might be willing enough to work, but there are only certain occupations to which he could apply himself, generally of a clerical character. But how many of the miners, navvies, and other working men could take up such work or fit themselves for doing so, especially if they have reached the age of forty or forty-five? A man who goes to the front runs tlie risk of losing his life, ‘ and if he loses a limb, the least the country can do is to give him the full pension. If such a man can earn anything in addition to the pension, good luck to him j it is our duty, as legislators, to make ample provision without any discrimination. Sometimes a man with one arm is quite as badly placed as a man with one arm and only one leg; it depends on circumstances. There is no doubt that this war is going to be protracted, and there are already some thousands of men permanently maimed, with a likelihood of that number being largely increased. The Treasurer would do well to reconsider the matter, and I am sure the people of Australia would support any Parliament prepared to make adequate provision for all who are maimed at the war. No one would contend that a man who has lost an arm or a leg is not permanently disabled so far as his future is concerned. If that be admitted, the least we can do is to make the pensions uniform so as to avoid, amongst other things, bad feeling in the ranks of the men themselves.
– No one who knows me would charge me with being unsympathetic with any people, especially with those who belong to the class from which T came. In my judgment, what honorable members are endeavouring to do tonight will eventually recoil on us, and in saying that I do not wish to be misunderstood. From the records that I have seen, France, in this regard, is rising to the occasion; but, seeing that she has hundreds of men for every unit in our ranks, she could not attempt to provide, as we are doing, for those maimed at the front. The French authorities are furnishing the men with artificial limbs and other scientific aids of the latest and best design, and are educating their disabled men, in many special schools all over the country, in trades of which they previously had no knowledge whatever. The men are thus enabled, not only to earn a living, but to compete with others with their full set of limbs. We have something more to do than provide our disabled men with a perpetual pension. A man of energy and strength, who has suffered for his country, is always anxious to do work of some kind, and the War Committees have made arrangements to meet the cases of such men. As in France, artificial limbs and other aids will be provided to the utmost possible extent; and it may surprise honorable members to learn that with an artificial arm it is possible to write, thread a needle, and perform other operations in a manner simply marvellous.
– Suppose the arm is taken off at the shoulder?
– It is still possible to use the muscles of the shoulder to move the mechanical arm; what can be done in this way is almost unbelievable. I urge upon honorable members who are contending for an amendment to look to the future a little. To-day we are on a wave of artificial prosperity, the result of which will be to mortgage the country for many years to come. When the war is over will come the aftermath - the inevitable reaction. Employment will be scarce, and if disabled men with pensions are available for work without restriction we shall find them being engaged under the standard rate of wages.. They will enter into competition, and the unionist standard and .principles will be undermined. In my opinion, the Government, in this Bill, are not only liberal, but magnanimous, though I do not say they are too liberal. Are my honorable friends reckoning up the cost of what they propose, or are they taking a leap in the dark? They must remember that it is easier to raise pensions, and payments of that sort, than it is to reduce them, lt is as important, if not more important, to educate men who are disabled, to trades as it is to provide pensions and keep them in idleness, for idle men are a curse to any country. If we create a class of men who may live in ease without making any effort on their own account, we shall undermine the standard of the race.
– In New Zealand the pension is £1 15s.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral think that ‘a man can get much ease on £1 a week ?
– I am thinking of the future. In New Zealand the Government had a majority of one, and the Opposition, with a view to defeating the Government, proposed that the pension should be increased over the amount provided in the Bill before Parliament. The Government, of course, did not wish to go out of office, and, to safeguard their position, increased the amount themselves. That is how the pension came to be £1 15s. in New Zealand.
– The New Zealand Bill was the result of the deliberations of a Joint Committee from both sides of the House.
– The fact remains that the circumstances were as I state. Personally, I think that a man who is totally disabled is not as helpless as a man partially disabled. A man maimed to such an extent that he can do nothing for a living is entitled to as much as we can give him, but a partially disabled man is much better employed in any work that he can be educated to fulfil. The two classes of men cannot be put on the same basis, and I ask honorable members to consider the equity underlying the question. If wo give the partially maimed men the same pension that we pay to the totally disabled men, we are not dealing fairly by the latter. The Government have listened to the appeals made, and have made certain compromises, and I think this fact ought to be taken into account by honorable members who are urging a change.
.- It is not a question of concessions granted by the Government to the Committee, but one of the equitable treatment of our soldiers who have been at the front, who are at the front, and who are going to the front. Every honorable member has declared that in case of disablement our soldiers will be well provided for.
– So they are.
– How can the PostmasterGeneral say that, seeing that a man who loses a leg or an arm is to have his pension reduced by 25 per cent, after the first six months ? On the other hand, the Bill provides that a woman who has been married just prior to the departure of her husband for the war should, if he should fall at the front, receive the full pension for two years after she re-marries. I hold that the money which will be absorbed in providing pensions for widows for two years after they re-marry would be ample to provide full pensions for men who are unfortunate enough to lose an arm or a leg. The PostmasterGeneral stated that he did not approve of perpetual pensions being granted.
– I did not mention perpetual pensions.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance. He then went on to say that the Government intended to .provide our maimed soldiers with, artificial arms and legs. If they do so, they will be rendering good service to these men.
– The War Committee decided that matter long ago, and the Government have agreed to its recommendation.
– But even if the Government do provide artificial limbs, that is no reason why a man who has lost a limb at the front should not receive the full pension as well as the dependant of a soldier who has sacrificed his life. The Postmaster-General spoke of the cost of this scheme. There is not an honorable member who does not think as much about its cost as he does. We all recognise that Australia will have a big load to carry in the future. But that fact does not justify us in refusing to do what is right for the men who have gone to the front. Whatever load it may be necessary for this country to carry, the people are willing to carry it. We all speak with pride of the achievements of our boys on the battlefield, and I venture to say that if the people had a voice in this matter they would decide by an overwhelming majority in favour of granting full pensions to our maimed soldiers. I move -
That in the second column the following words he left out : - “ The maximum rate for six months, thereafter three-fourths of the maximum rate,” twice occurring, be left out.
– I sincerely hope the honorable member will not press the amendment.
– I certainly will.
– I would invite the attention of the Committee to what I think is a reasonable sense of proportion in this matter. A man who loses both eyes at the front must surely be much worse off than a man who loses only one eye. Consequently the Government propose to grant the former a pension of 30s. a week, and the latter a pension of 15s. per week. In the same way, a man who loses a hand, an arm, or a foot, will receive a pension of 22s. 6d. per week, I was hopeful that honorable members, having succeeded in beating down the Treasurer in theway that they have done, would be satisfied. I am sorry that some of them are not. I cannot accept the amendment, and I hope that the Committee will support me in this matter.
– Although the Treasurer may not be in a mood to yield-
– Honorable members have made great demands upon me.
– And I am glad that some of those demands have been partially satisfied. But I can quite conceive of a man who has lost his right arm being in a worse position than one who has lost his left hand and his right foot. Yet, under this Bill, the latter will be entitled to the full pension for all time. I hope that some discretion will be allowed to the officer charged with administering the Act in the matter of determining the amount of the pension to be granted. If the Treasurer will assure me that the Commissioner will be vested with some measure of discretion I shall be satisfied, otherwise I intend to support the amendment.
.- There seems to be a doubt in the minds of some honorable members as to the pensions which will be payable to men who have lost a leg, a foot, a hand, or an arm. Will they be regarded as permanently incapacitated ?
– They will get the pension permanently.
– And will their wives be entitled to 50 per cent, of the amount, and each of the children to £13 per annum ?
– A man who loses a leg or an arm will, I presume, receive a pension of 22s. 6d. per week for life.
.- The Treasurer has assured the honorable member for Fawkner that a man who has the misfortune to lose a leg or a foot, a hand, or an arm, will come under the provisions of the clause which entitles his wife to receive 50 per cent, of the amount of his pension, and his children to £13 each per annum. But I would point out that the Bill provides that these allowances should be made only in cases in which soldiers are totally incapacitated. Consequently I maintain that they will not be payable to the dependants of soldiers who have lost only a limb.
.- I would not have spoken had it not been for the interjection of the PostmasterGeneral that, in the New Zealand Act, the provision of £1 15s. per week, with 12s. 6d. for the wife and 5s. for each child was brought in with the object of defeating the Government, which had a majority of only one. The Minister, in introducing the measure in the New Zealand House, said that the Bill was not his, but that of the Committee which had considered the matter.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the amendment?
– I wish to show that the Postmaster-General is wrong in what he said.
– The PostmasterGeneral spoke prior to the submission of the amendment.
– We did not expect that any man would give his arm for the country, and when a man had made that sacrifice, we should compensate him for his loss. A young man in my electorate who lost an arm at the shoulder, was told that he would get £1 for the first six months and 10s. a week afterwards. By this Amending Bill he will now receive 15s. a week, but it will not be adequate, as he has an invalid mother whom he was maintaining prior to going to the war. When I wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions concerning this case, I was informed that the young man had a position as night watchman to go to, and that his payment for this work together with the pension of 10s. would provide sufficient for his requirements,while the invalid mother could apply for an invalid pension. If she did so, it would probably debar her, later on, from getting a pension under the War Pensions Act. It is our duty to see that these people are well cared for. The Postmaster-General has said that they can fill certain positions, but it is for the very purpose of safeguarding against their taking other men’s positions that we should keep them in decent comfort now.
Mr.RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) [10.35]. - The Government have shown a very praiseworthy liberality, as the Bill is a distinct improvement on the previous measure, but I wish to point out that, financially, the country is facing an unknown quantity.
– We have promised the last shilling as well as the last man.
– I know it, but it is useless to promise more than the last shilling. There has been praiseworthy evidence of sympathy in discussing the Bill, and in accepting the increased liabilities, but there should be some measure of financial prudence. I believe, with all my heart, that when we have done all that is possible, we cannot do too much for the men who have come back maimed or absolutely incapacitated, but this Bill is not the last word. Later on, when we come to understand the liabilities for which the country is responsible, we can do something more, and I feel sure that Parliament will show the greatest possible generosity in doing so, and the people will be behind them. But let us advance prudently. We may be prepared to risk the last shilling, but we cannot go beyond it. It is better to leave well alone for the moment, and later on allow Parliament to go further if the case demands it.
– And have men with one leg cracking stones at 3s. a day!
– There are one-legged men in this country who have been as successful as men without any such physical handicap. Surgical appliances have been so improved that a man with one leg can be fixed up to be almost as sound as any other man. I ask honorable members not to be unfair to the Government. I have the deepest sympathy for the Treasurer. I compliment him. I know that he would give the utmost, but I think it unfair to put on him, and on the Government, a strain of such a character that we cannot possibly estimate it at this moment. Later on, when we may be in a position to approximately estimate our liabilities, we can extend our generosity.
– I have yet to learn that Australia is so terribly poor that the people cannot afford to pay the money required in connexion with a pensions scheme. If we go down the streets of our cities at night we see hundreds of motor cars waiting for people who have been enjoying themselves. Yet I am told that Australia cannot afford to pay decent pensions to the men who are out endeavouring to save the Empire. Some men are prepared to give the last man in this fight, but they are not prepared to give the last shilling. We have had our Postmaster-General making an impassioned speech, begging honorable members not to ask for this concession for the men who come back maimed and with nervous systems shattered. Who can tell the condition of these men who have been under fire ? They deserve our utmost consideration. Yet we find honorable members saying that Australia is not in a position to pay them a pension of £1 a week for any length of time. I am informed that it was on the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta that we provided that widows who marry again should receive the pension for two years after their second marriage; yet the unfortunate man who comes back deprived of his limb is to look for work, and compete in the world with strong people who have remained at home. Of course, we shall send the last man and spend the last shilling, but until the Treasurer can show that Australia is on the verge of bankruptcy I trust that we shall hear no more of such speeches as that I was surprised to hear from the Postmaster-General - he who claimed to be the only Labour man who had been so lone; in the party, who claimed to be a philanthropist, who in Opposition, and even when sitting behind the Government, told us of the great generosity he would show if he ever got to the front bench. Now he has got there and we hear from him a speech worthy of the greatest Tory opposite. He tells us that Australia is not in a position to give the pensions for which we are asking, and he asks where the money is to come from. Let him go to Williamstown or Newport, or along our railway lines and see the wheat stacks and the products of this great continent in the bottoms of vessels that are leaving our shores, and then let him tell us that Australia cannot give the pensions that they should to those who are making it possible for our people to grow wheat and ship it, and making it possible to hold the Empire as it is. I hope that ‘ we shall give these men what they deserve so that others will be encouraged to go to the front. How can we conscientiously ask men to go to the front when we know that if they come back maimed we shall not look after them. I trust that these men will get a fair deal.
– I do not think that the honorable members who are moving for increases in the rates understand the exact position. Do they know how much a partially incapacitated man with a wife and two children would receive?
– I can assure the honorable member that if a man returns partially incapacitated, and, by the use of artificial limbs, he is able to get some employment to earn a livelihood, his1 wife and children will get no pension.
– Paragraph c of section 8 reads - in ease of the partial incapacity of a member of the Forces, such less rates than those referred to in paragraph (B) as are assessed by the Commissioner or tlie Deputy Commissioner, as the case may be, having regard to the nature and probable duration of the incapacity.
Then this Bill enacts that, notwithstanding anything contained in section 8, “ any member of the Forces who is incapacitated by reason of a disability specified in the Second Schedule shall, unless otherwise prescribed, receive the rate of pension shown opposite to the description of the disability in that schedule.” That schedule provides that a returned soldier who has lost an arm or a leg shall receive for himself 30s. per week for the first six months, and thereafter 22s. 6d. per week; for his wife, lis. 3d. ; and for each child, 3s. 9d.
– For how long?
– For as long as he is incapacitated.
– If, after his pension has been reduced by 25 per cent. , he is able to earn £2 or £3 per week, the Commissioner will decide that he is not entitled to any further pension, because he is able to support himself.
– Early in the day, we decided that, in assessing the pension, no regard should be had to what a man is earning. That is to say, if a man returns blind, and is taught a trade by some institution, his pension will not be interfered with by reason of his earnings.
– That is so.
– A man who returns with the loss of an arm or leg will get £2 10s. for life, if he has a wife and two children.
– He will not get that sum for life, because, when the children reach the age of sixteen years, the pension on their account stops. But for himself he will get 22s. 6d., and for his wife lis. 3d., making a total pension of £1 13s. 9d. for life.
– That is the law and the practice.
– And if he marries on his return, his wife will get that pension.
– I venture to say that, as soon as a man earns £3 per week, his pension will be reviewed.
– I assure honorable members that a soldier who returns after the loss of a leg or an arm will receive a pension of £1 2s. 6d. per week for life.
– On what is that statement based ?
– On the Second Schedule. If he has lost a leg, he will get the maximum rate of 30s. for six months, and thereafter three-fourths of the maximum rate, £1 2s. 6d. per week. His wife will get half of that maximum rate, lis. 3d. At the present time, the Commissioner, under the section read bv the honorable member for Melbourne Porte, fixes these rates in cases of partial incapacity on the basis of the pensions provided for total incapacity; and the wife of a member receives 50 per cent, of the rate received by her husband. That is the Commissioner’s practice. The same plan is pursued with regard to the children, and under the revised rates, the first child will get 7s. 6d., being threefourths of 10s.; the second child 5s. 7d., or three-fourths of 7s. 6d. ; and the third child, 3s. 9d. This means that a soldier incapacitated, and having a wife and three children, will receive £2 10s. 7d. I ask honorable members to accept my word on this point; and I am sure that the measure will stand the test of experience.
.- Am I rightin understanding that if a soldier, after coming back incapacitated, marries in Australia, his wife will get a pension ?
– Yes, and the children too.
– Will that be so if the soldier marries after he has received his discharge?
.- The Treasurer has already given an assurance that this amount will be paid; but, in the past, the trouble with other Bills has been that the administration has east quite a different complexion on the legislation.I venture to believe that this will be the case in assessing a pension in the event of a man making money sufficient to keep himself. I think the Treasurer has been very liberal this evening, and I look to him to see that no reduction is made in the amount paid. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to-
That in the second column the following words be left out : - “ for at least six months, and thereafter subject to reduction to seveneighths of the maximum rate if and so long as the member is capable of earning at least Six shillings a week.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the re consideration of clause 3.
In Committee (Recommittal) -
Clause 3 (Definitions), vide page 8294.
.- I move-
That the following new paragraph be in serted : - “ (aa) By inserting in the definition of member of the Forces,’ after the words ‘ship of war,’ the words ‘or enlisted or appointed for service in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations, and “
This is to meet the case of men who engage for home service and are wounded.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment.
Reports, by leave, adopted.
Debate resumed from this day (vide page 8315), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It appears to me that by this Bill we are setting up an undesirable precedent. It lays it down that when the Chief Officer is removed by effluxion of time, the officer next in charge shall take his place. Personally, I do not believe in the system of placing a Public Service Commissioner in charge of the whole of our Public Service. The principle, to my mind, is wrong; and I am not disposed to contribute in any way towards its continuance. Although this may be only a temporary measure, the temporary arrangement has a distinct suggestion of becoming permanent.
– That point has been made quite clear.
– Has it been made quite clear that this is not to be a permanency? Is there any definite term fixed? However, if I distinctly understood that the arrangement is only to remain in force until Parliament can legislate, I am satisfied, but I wish to be very emphatic regarding this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Debate resumed from May 17th (vide page 7931) on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not rise to debate the Bill - indeed, I am not ready to do that - but to ask the Government to postpone its consideration for the time being. I have received quite a shoal of applications from people chiefly interested in this matter all over Australia, asking for time to consider the Bill before it receives final assent, in view of the fact that it is a Bill of much complexity and difficulty. I must say at once that no suggestion has reached me that it is not a fair principle to approve, and I wish that to be quite clear. As to the principle of the Bill there is no question, and a postponement cannot affect the financial position for the year in any way. Australia is a very large place; many business people have not seen the Bill, and know very little about it, and it might very well stand over until we resume our sittings after the recess. There is no intention, so far as I know, to oppose the principles underlying the Bill.
– Or to evade the tax ?
– I do not see how the tax is to be evaded. I have never heard anybody suggest that the principle is not a sound one in war time. It will take some time for the measure to travel throughout Australia, and come within the ken of those interested, and, under the circumstances, I ask for a postponement and for leave to continue my speech on another occasion.
– By leave: I hope that, although the request of the Leader of the Opposition is granted, the public will be under no misapprehension in regard to the Bill. The Government have announced that the tax will be collected during the accounting periods which end after 30th June, 1915. There must be no hope in their minds that the postponement will mean our foregoing the collection of the tax during the accounting periods.
Order of the Day called on for the resumption of the debate adjourned from 10th May (vide page 7767) on motion by Mr. King O’Malley -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works having reported to the House the result of their inquiries into the proposed alterations and additions to the Customs House, Sydney, and the Minister having obtained estimates of cost, £51,481 7s.11d., tabled herewith, more closely calculated than those upon which the Committee reported, involving virtually double the Committee’s estimate of cost, £29,000, the House resolves that their report be remitted to the Committee for further consideration, and report as to the expediency of the work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, Townsville, Queensland - Half-yearly Report from 1st July to 31st December, 1915.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Works Committee Act - First General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 11, 13, 27, 35, 38, 39, 40, 42, 46, 49, 53, 62, 82, 96.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
– In moving
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that the first business tomorrow will be the Representation (Enumeration Day) Bill. Apart from the Supply Bill, which will be necessary to carry us over the period for which it is proposed to adjourn, that is, I think, the only measure which has to go to the Senate. After these Bills have been dealt with, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund Bill, the War Precautions Bill, and the Patents Act (Partial Suspension) Bill will be dealt with, and the remaining measures will follow in the order in which they appear on the businesspaper. In addition, there is, of course, the third reading of the War Pensions Bill.
.- In regard to the modification of the coal embargo which was introduced last week, I have here a copy of a cable from the Old Country to Messrs. Nelson and Robertson, of Sydney, which reads -
No chance obtain tonnage for nitrate to Australia unless authorities grant licences for coal. Neutrals now seek avoid Australia owing restrictions.
Does the modification which has been adopted permit of neutral ships coming here to load coal? Will it permit of vessels in foreign waters coming to Australia for that purpose, and bringing the nitrate of which the cable speaks?
.- Yes. The modification of the embargo will permit of neutral ships bringing nitrate here, and leaving our shores with cargoes of coal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160522_reps_6_79/>.