8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz.: - Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Bamford, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Mackay, Mr. Mathews, and Mr. Parker Moloney.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, proposed -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz.: - Mr. Bayley, Mr. Fenton, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Prowse, and Mr. West.
.- I take no exception to the proposed personnel of the Accounts Committee, but I object to the giving of only two representatives to the Opposition, because of the unfairness of the arrangement, especially in view of the fact that our numbers were increased by the last election-
– How many representatives had the Opposition before?
– Three. It is not right to reduce our representation. No matter how they may protest, the members of the Farmers party constitute only the tail of the Ministerial party.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to members of the party to which I belong as the tail of another party?
– I assume that the honorable member did not intend to use the term offensively, but if it is so regarded, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I humbly apologize to the honorable members of the Farmers party; I was speaking metaphorically, I f it will please them better, I shall call them the “ head “ of the Ministerial party. Had there been a decrease in the strength of the Opposition party, I would not have objected to the lessening of its representation on this Committee, but we have, on the contrary, increased our strength. Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that after the 30th June next there will be only one Labour senator.
– “What was the Opposition representation on the Committee on behalf of the Senate?
– One member; but we cannot make a bus-horse of Senator Gardiner, by appointing him to every Committee merely to secure representation for the Opposition.
– Perhaps, then, it would be better to postpone the consideration of the motion, to see whether some understanding can be arrived at.
– I would like that to be done.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the consideration’ of the motion- be postponed until Wednesday next.
.- When the Works Committee and the Accounts Committee were first appointed, several years ago, the Opposition was given a representation of two on the Works Committee and of three on the Accounts Committee, and I told the “ Whip “ that it would not be fair on this occasion to give us only two members on the Finance
Committee. Even without the representatives of the Corner party, the Ministerialists will have a clear majority on the Committee, because they will have at least two Senate representatives.
– It must not be forgotten that we number thirty-eight, while you have only twenty-five members in your party.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– On “Wednesday next 1 propose to state the intentions of the Government regarding the adjournment of Parliament during the visit of the Prince of Wales, when I shall suggest that between then and the Prince’s visit we shall sit on Tuesdays. I make the intimation now, so that honorable members who, during the week end, may be going to their homes in other States, may have an opportunity to make their arrangements accordingly.
– Your proposition will be that the House shall sit next Tuesday week.
– There are some persons in Queensland who wish to be in Melbourne when the Tariff is under discussion. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister to look at the notice-paper before making a statement next Wednesday, so that he may then inform the House what business he expects to get through before he Tariff is discussed.
– I shall certainly do that. I have already informally consulted with the Leader of the Opposition on the subject, and I shall, as soon as possible, tell the House what we want to get done.
– Is it the intention of the Government to continue in force the provisions of the War Precautions Act, which, according to the wording of the Act itself, are to operate until three months after the declaration of peace? Is it intended that the Act shall have force until three months after peace with Bulgaria and Turkey has been declared?
The general understanding was that it would cease to have effect three months after peace with Germany was declared.
– The Act itself fixes the time for its determination as the happening of a certain event, which cannot be brought about by honorable members, and certainly not by me. It must remain in force until that event has happened, or until legislation has been passed to amend it. Whether the Government will apply its provisions is a different question; and it will be for the honorable member to draw attention to any exercise of the powers conferred by it to which he may take exception.
– I have given notice of my intention to move the formal adjournment of the House this morning, but at the desire of the Government, and in recognition .of the wish of honorable members generally that the Repatriation P>ill :hall be proceeded with, I shall postpone action until Wednesday next.
– In the letter which the honorable member has addressed to me, giving notice of his intention to move the formal adjournment of the House, he speaks of his desire to discuss a definite matter “of urgent public importance.” If action upon this matter can be postponed from day to day, some doubt may be thrown upon the urgency of it.
– I think that the consideration of the Repatriation Bill is the more urgent matter of the two.
– I do not know whether I shall be perfectly in order in what I am about to say, or whether I may not be anticipating the remarks of the Prime Minister, but I wish to draw attention to the fact that to-day there is being celebrated in Melbourne the landing of Australian troops on Gallipoli. 1 should like the Prime Minister to make some statement in recognition of that fact. As Parliament is sitting, members cannot join in the general celebrations taking place elsewhere.
– The anniversary of the day on which Australian troops landed on Gallipoli is commemorated- by the Commonwealth by the making of it a public holiday. In Victoria, however, it falls this year on the day appointed for the eight hours’ celebration, and as it was thought that the clashing of the two festivals might not conduce to harmony, and would not give the public a proper opportunity to express their appreciation of the deeds of the Anzacs, it was arranged to celebrate the landing to-day instead of next Monday.
– It has been privately suggested to me by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that we might pay our tribute of respect to the memory of the heroes who fell at Gallipoli by rising and remaining silent for the space of one minute. I had anticipated that the Leader of the House would perhaps have asked leave to move a motion. I will, however, ask honorable members to stand silent in their places for a few moments as a tribute to the memory of the gallant heroes who fell at Gallipoli, and as a mark of honour and respect to those who still survive that memorable landing.
Honorable members rose and remained standing accordingly.
– In New South Wales Anzac Day is to be celebrated on Monday. The master retailers have decided to keep their premises open on that day, and to ignore the celebrations. Has this Parliament or Government any power to say that they shall not be permitted to do as they intend upon the holiday?
– I do not know whether we have. I shall look into the matter.
Allowance Post Offices
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many keepers of allowance post offices have signified their intention of resigning, or have resigned, their positions since the 1st January, 1920?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Two hundred and fifty-seven. The greater proportion of the resignations was due to the occupants of the positions leaving the district and to transfers of businesses in conjunction with which the post offices are conducted.
The total number of non-official offices in the Commonwealth is 7,233.
– On 15th April the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) asked -
I furnished an interim reply on that occasion, and am now able to supply the following detailed answers: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Seeing that the members of the Naval Radio Service are not to receive the war gratuity, although they were engaged on important defence work in Australia during the war, is it the intention of the Government to grant them a war bonus, the same as received by other Commonwealth Government servants?
– The pay of the Naval Radio Service was fixed on 1st July, 19l6, and was revised on 1st July, 1918, and again on 1st July, 1919, having regard to the increased cost of living. In these circumstances it is not the intention of the Government to grant a war bonus.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether .there- is any travelling allowance made or are railway tickets provided for youths who have to attend compulsory drills?
– It is presumed that the above question refers, to trainees of Senior Cadet age. Railway tickets are not issued, nor are any allowances made, except in the case of Senior Cadets proceeding to rifle ranges for the purpose of musketry, when rail tickets are issued. Attendance at ordinary parades does not, in the great majority of cases, involve any travelling.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Revenue prom Absentees and Companies - Totalisator Dividends.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Memorials to Fallen
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The question of the erection of memorials to commemorate the deeds of the Australian Imperial Force is being considered by the Government, and it is hoped to make an announcement at an early date. The construction of the divisional memorials was, however, taken in hand whilst the troops were still in France, it being the desire of members of the Australian Imperial Force to take part in the actual work.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I would refer the honorable member to my reply to a similar question asked by him yesterday.
Distribution in Victoria.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, 3, and 4. Yes. 5.T he matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Are the employees of the Produce Branch of the Agricultural Department in Victoria employed and paid by the Commonwealth Government, or are they partly employed and paid by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Victoria?
– The employees of the Produce Branch of the Agricultural Department of Victoria are employed and paid by the State. The Commonwealth, however, reimburses the State a portion of these officers’ salaries in respect of work performed in connexion with the administration of the Commerce and Quarantine Acts.
– On , the 31st March, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked -
I am now able to supply the following particulars : -
Sale of Clips
– On 3rd March, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked the following questions: -
Will the Prime Minister also inform the House -
The quantity of wool re-sold, the amount received from re-sales with respect to each clip, showing - (a) the Imperial Government’s quota, and (6) the Central Wool Committee’s quota on behalf of the Austra- l ianwool -growers?
What amount of money has the Central Wool Committee in hand from re-sales of wool and otherwise for disbursement amongst the Australian wool-growers; when is the next disbursement likely to be made; and, approximately, the total amount and the amount per cent, to the individual growers?
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 50, 55.
Wool Clips- (Letter of Sir J. M. Higgins, Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, dated 10th March, 1920, respecting the cablegrams, &c, constituting the contract between the Imperial and the Commonwealth Governments regarding the purchase of Australian Wool Clips, and other matters connected therewith.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 22nd April, vide page 1478) :
Clause 24 - Amendment withdrawn and clause agreed to.
Clause 25 agreed to.
Each Board shall be charged with the duties of -
determining whether the death or incapacity of a member of the Forces in fact resulted from an occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the Forces, and in the case of incapacity the nature and extent thereof;
determining whether the death or incapacity of a person enlisted or appointed for active service in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations in fact resulted from his employment in connexion with those preparations or operations ;
– I desire to raise a question with respect to the phrase, “ in fact resulted from an occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the Forces.” I would like to see some more accurate description of the ground upon which soldiers may be entitled to pensions and benefits. Every honorable member must have received scores of refusals from the Department to deal with cases of merit merely because the injury to the party concerned was stated not to have resulted from warlike operations. With respect to this Bill, while the phraseology is a little different from that in the original Act, it appears that the interpretations of the officials will be much the same. There are many men who were accepted for service abroad, and who were apparently in fit condition. Under the strain of war service, however, disabilities developed, and, upon their return to Australia, they were unable to earn a living, or to earn as good a living as before their departure for the Front. In stating their case for relief, they are now met by the medical report that the injury or complaint which has developed is not due to warlike operations. The wording of the clause before us seems to make it much more difficult for them to obtain relief.
– The provision in the clause is much wider than the wording of the Act.
– The clause provides that a member of the Forces must put his linger on an occurrence which happened during the period of his service in the Australian Imperial Force as something which has resulted in his present incapacity. But how can a man whose affection or disease has actually developed during his period of service with the Australian Imperial Force put his finger on any occurrence during that period of service as being such as to lead to the gradual growth of his infirmity ? The way ought to be made easy for relief to be obtained by any member of the Australian Imperial Force who has come back incapacitated because of the conditions under which he has laboured during his period of service.
– The existing Act provides for relief being given where” the incapacity or death of a member of the Australian Imperial Force -has resulted from his employment in connexion with warlike operations; but on occasions death or incapacity has been brought about, not as the result of anything in connexion with warlike operations, but as the result of happenings during the term of his period of employment. The wording of the clause is expressly intended to cover occurrences not necessarily in connexion with warlike operations. It really extends the provision in the Act. It will enable a pension to be granted in cases which the Act does not cover. Assistance is to be given where the death or incapacity of a member of the Australian Imperial Force has resulted from an occurrence happening during the period when he was a member of the Forces.
.- It is purely a matter of administration, but while we are discussing a provision of this nature it is well to let those who are likely to administer it gain some idea as to what Parliament desires. I had before my notice some time ago the case of a miner who, before enlisting, was quite capable of following his employment, but after spending a couple of years in the trenches in France, he returned to Australia absolutely crippled with rheu matism. The Pensions Department declined to give him any pension, on the ground that he had suffered from rheumatism before enlisting. That was an administrative act, and I do not see how we can make the Statute clearer, because the determining factor in every case must be the Board; but in this instance I had to do that to which I always take particular objection- I had to bring the matter under the attention, of the Pensions Department, and point out that surely thi., man’s incapacity must have resulted from his employment in connexion with warlike operations. Owing to my representations, he. received a small pension. However, that is not the way in which the Act should be administered.
– Once a medical officer has passed a man into the Forces, and certified that he is fit to go to the Front, should not the military authorities assume every responsibility for him?
– But we must leave a certain amount of discretion to the Board. I do not see how the wording of the clause can be altered with advantage, because we may throw upon the Board the onus of granting pensions to undeserving persons. However, it should be aware of the fact that Parliament desires this provision to be dealt with, not harshly, but humanely and sensibly.
.- I prefer the clause in the Bill to the provision in the Act, because it gives the Board greater discretion. Members of the Forces have lost their lives or become incapacitated, not actually as the result of warlike operations, but through accident. One man who was invalided home formed one of a party which left one of our base hospitals for a trip to Ringwood, but, owing to his incapacity, he wandered away from the others, and, as a result, met with his death. His widow was not able to obtain any relief from the Repatriation Board. Soldiers should not be put in the position of having to secure the services of members of Parliament to voice their claims for pensions. I know that quite a number of them are quite able to push their own claims, but others are more diffident, and we ought not to allow them to suffer on that account. I shall always vote for any amendment of this provision that will place all men in the position of being able to get fair treatment.
-Quite recently a returned soldier repatriated on the land committed suicide. It can be proved that he was suffering at the time - from the effects of his experience at the Front, but there is no provision in our legislation for giving assistance to his widow and family. “Will the clause provide that relief?
– Apparently it is one of those cases in which the Board may exercise its discretion. The honorable member refers to the case of a man who has received such injury resulting from an occurrence happening during the war as to destroy the balance of his judgment, and after his discharge from the Forces has committed suicide. I would not like to say that such a case is definitely excluded from the provisions of the existing Act. Once a member of the Australian Imperial Force has been discharged, he carries only the rights of an ordinary civilian; but the general intention is to grant relief in regard to occurrences happening during the period of the war. I shall submit the point raised by the honorable member for the consideration of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen).
– I move-
That in sub-clause 1, paragraph a, the words, “ in fact resulted from an occurrence happening during the period he was “, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu the words “ resulted from his employment as”.
If this amendment is agreed to, each Board will be charged’ with the duties of determining whether the death or incapacity of a member of the Forces resulted from his employment as a member of the Forces. I think the Government should assume responsibility for any injury which is suffered by a soldier through having enlisted, and that the competent Board which has power to investigate all cases should he able to deal with them on their merits. The clause as it stands does not cover the numerous cases of men who have been turned adrift unable to earn a livelihood, and whose applications for assistance are refused because the medical officers have determined that’ before enlistment they were suffering from the various diseases and affections which now incapacitate them. Thus these men are placed in a position entirely different from that which they would have occupied had they not gone to the Front, because it is undoubted that their diseases or affections have been aggravated by their service in the Australian Imperial Force. Every honorable member has met dozens of such cases which are not due to any specific happening during the period of employment in the Australian Imperial Force, but have been aggravated owing to the worry and strain of their service, or to shell shock occurring during their employment in the Forces. At present we are helpless to deal with such cases. I have not heard any one attempt to set up a claim that we should not regard the aggravation of complaints which results in reduced efficiency as being on the same basis as accidents ‘that occur during the time of a soldier’s service at the Front. Yet these cases are not covered either by the provision in the Act or by the wording of the clause now before us. We ought to clothe the Board with the fullest power to deal equitably with every case on its merits; but with the limitations imposed by the provision in the Act or by the clause before us, they will not be in a position to do so. My amendment would leave it open for relief to be granted in regard to everything that happened to a soldier during the course of his employment in the Forces. A man may have gone away apparently well, having had no difficulty in passing the medical examination, but because of the conditions under which he served, he may have returned inefficient and unable to do the work he did previously. My amendment would enable relief to be given to such a man. It cannot be given to him under the clause as it stands.
– In regard to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), I find on inquiry that the principle on which the Act is now administered is that if, as a matter of fact, the death of a soldier can be connected with injuries sustained while he was a member of the Forces a pension is granted to his dependants. I am not pronouncing judgment upon the honorable member’s case; I simply point out that it is merely a question of the application of the principle to the facts. Coming to the case stated by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), I learn that if the Medical Board certifies that a complaint from which an applicant for a pension was suffering has been aggravated by reason of his service a pension is granted.
– Many have been turned down because of the finding of the medical men. This gives no relief.
– They are not all turned down on that plea.
– I can only suggest that cases of the kind to which reference has been made should be re-submitted.
– In the earlier days of the Department the Act was not so sympathetically administered. I know of many cases where men have exhausted the whole of their resources in trying to cure themselves.
– I plead guilty to having re-submitted cases where pensions in the first case have been refused.
I ask the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) not to press his amendment, since it would really have the effect of restricting what we now propose to do. Under the wording of his proposed amendment it would be necessary for an applicant for a pension to prove that his incapacity was the result of his employment in the service; that is to say, he would have to prove that he was employed to do a certain act, and that in the performance of that duty he suffered a casualty. The wording of paragraph a of clause 26 is much wider, and is intended to meet cases of the kind that have been brought under notice. There was a ease in Queensland where a man, while on leave,, met with an accident which incapacitated him. Such a case would come within the meaning of this clause, since the casualty would be “ an occurrence happening during the period in which he was a member of the Forces.” We are going a long way towards meeting many of the cases to which reference has been made. There must be some one to determine the facts, and the Board will simply have to decide whether death or incapacity in fact resulted from an occurrence which happened during the period of the man’s employment in the Forces. The clause does not speak of incapacity sustained while acting in pursuance of a military order, but is much wider, since it covers occurrences hap pening to a man while a member of the Forces.
.- The wording of paragraph a of clause 26 is very wide, but it will be useless unless it is liberally interpreted. I do not think any words we could insert would cover all the cases that might arise; but if, as I understand, from the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), the attitude of the Department now is to construe thé words “ an occurrence happening during the period in which he was a member of the Forces “ in such s way that a man who went away with some slight disease which was aggravated by his war service would be eligible-
– How’ are we going to prove that he had a slight disease when he went away? Let every man who went away put in his claim without restriction.
– The Department is continually asserting that it knows of these cases.
– It is a very dangerous principle.
– If the Minister in charge of the Bill is going to take up the very attitude which I suggested the Department would take up, it is perfectly obvious that we must amend the clause. If he would hear what we have to say instead of taking up a hostile attitude before he is able ,to appreciate the point we wish to make, it might be possible to allow the clause to go. I know of cases where men were rheumatic subjects when they enlisted, and would probably have suffered no serious inconvenience from the disease, but that they went on service. In some cases these men have come back practically hopeless cripples. They are crippled with rheumatism as a result of war service. I understand from the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom)’ that the Department now takes up the attitude that the aggravation of the disease in such a case would be an occurrence happening while a man was a member of the Forces, and would deal sympathetically with it.
– Provided that the Medical Board certified that it was.
– Assuming, of course, thai the Medical Board certified that it had been aggravated because of his service. If that is a correct interpretationof the attitude of the Department I shall be prepared to accept the clause as it stands; but if, on the other hand, the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) has correctly indicated the attitude of the Department I am not prepared to agree to it.
– I was pleased to hear the explanation given by the Minister for Works anil’ Railways (Mr. Groom), but am not satisfied that the clause, as it stands, will meet cases such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). The fact that the men were pronounced sound and fit when they were accepted for service should be sufficient. When a man comes back crippled with rheumatism, and asks for a pension, he should ‘not be told, “You had a taint of rheumatism before you enlisted.”
– There might be cases of wilful concealment.
– That is so, but we do not want to be niggardly in this matter. If a man, after serving overseas, comes back crippled’ with rheumatism, the fact that he was accepted for service as sound and fit should be a guarantee that he contracted the disease while on active service. I hope that the honorable member for Dampier will press for a more definite statement from the Minister.
– The medical men examined volunteers for active service under very troublesome and difficult circumstances. The Defence Department foolishly rejected an offer made by Dr. O’Hara to place at the disposal of the medical officers examining volunteers in Melbourne his consulting rooms, where they could’ have been examined under the best conditions. As it was, the men were examined at the Town Hall, and the noise caused by passing trams made it very hard to listen to heart and lung sounds. Two men from the Hospital for Incurables here actually volunteered, and were passed for active service, and in face of that fact the Government are wise in trying to secure that justice shall be done, while at the same time protecting themselves from unreasonable claims. It was very unwise for the Government to make a grant of £4,500 to the dependants of a certain officer, since it raises in the minds of the public a suspicion that those in high positions, with influence to aid them, can obtain what those in more lowly positions are unable tosecure.
.- I shall not be satisfied unless this clause is sufficiently wide to include every man who volunteered, and who contracted a disease while on active service, or developed it as aresult of his service. Whether a man had the germ of a disease or not when he enlisted, if that disease developed while he was a member of the Forces, his case should come within this clause. I am prepared to admit, with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), that it is quite possible that, owing to the difficult circumstances in which the examinations were made, in some instances men were passed who ought not to have been accepted for service. In dealing with thousands of cases, the doctors, no matter how efficient they might have been, were bound, on the law of average, to pass some who should have been rejected. Long before he enlisted, a man might have had in his constitution the germ of a disease, or might have had some slight complaint which did not interfere with his industrial efficiency. Under active service conditions that disease might have been aggravated. The wonder to me is that every Australian soldier who spent any time in Europe did not come back troubled with rheumatism. Is the Board administering the Department to callously shelter itself behind’ the paltry excuse that a man is disentitled to a pension because, although crippled with rheumatism on his return from the war, he had the germ of the disease in his constitution when he volunteered? That would be a barbarous attitude to take up.
– The answer to such a plea would be that, even if the man had the germ of the disease when he volunteered, he was accepted and used.
– Yes; I have no doubt that many of these men rendered just as effective service as those who have come back sound. The Act will be regarded as a barbarous instrument if it allows men to be treated in the way described simply because some one can say that before they enlisted they had the germ of the disease which developed during their period of service, and led to their incapacity.
.- The Government should consider whether this clause can be satisfactorily administered. It throws upon each Board the onus of inquiring, not merely into a man’s war service at the Front, but clearly also into his condition of health before he went to the Front. That opens a very wide field for investigation ; and, as there will be six separate Boards making investigations, and probably coming to decisions not in consonance with one another, we may expect a crop of injustices to result. There is an immense difficulty once you begin to make limitations as to who shall -benefit and who shall be excluded from benefits, and it would almost pay this country to throw the door wide open and allow everybody who can prove incapacity within a certain period of the close of the war to share the benefits of this legislation. Otherwise we shall have some men receiving benefits under the law who, perhaps, are jot as much entitled to them as are men who have been excluded. It is not as if there was to be one body dealing with all the cases. There will be six Boards or Commissions, and the common experience of those accustomed to juries is that a verdict given by one set of men would be scouted by another set. Different bodies of men look at things from different angles, and draw different conclusions from the same facts. The Government would, therefore, be wise to withdraw the clause for further consideration, because as it stands it will undoubtedly lead to an immense amount of trouble and; which is worse, work out unjustly.
– The Bill has to go through to-day.
– Not necessarily! The sun will not stop in the heavens if it is not passed to-day.
– The desire is that the pensioners may get their money quickly.
– Make it retrospective.
– That is the idea; and then no hardship will ensue.
– You surely do not suggest that everybody who went to the war should be a participant?
– I recognise the difficulty the Minister had in drafting a clause that would operate quite justly; but it should1 be possible to frame a clause which, while not opening the door to everybody, would, at any rate, make for a greater amount of justice than this clause is likely to do in its present condition.
.- I hope the Government will accede to the honorable member’s request. The men who volunteered for the Front had to submit to medical examination. They were passed by medical men as fit for active service. _ In some cases, they were on active service for four years or more. They come back, and ask for certain benefits under Acts that we have passed; and then it is discovered, under medical examination, that they have some constitutional defect which, the doctors say, originated prior to their enlistment. Because of that, they or their dependants are not to be entitled to the benefits of this measure. That is a most cruel way to deal with men who have served just as faithfully and well as have any others. In the medical and other professions, differences of opinion arise, and it is not easy to assign an actual date to the beginning of a disease in the human body. Medical testimony will be found equally divided in many cases as to whether the trouble originated in the pre-war period or during the war. If there is any doubt, the benefit of it should be given to the returned soldier and his dependants.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to-
That the word “active”, in paragraph 5, be left out.
.- Paragraph c charges the Board with the duty of “ determining the extent to which persons alleged to be dependent upon a member of the Forces were in fact so dependent.” Under the principal Act, the pension was assessed upon the average earnings of the soldier during the twelve months prior to his going to the Front. Many boys of eighteen enlisted, whose earnings prior to enlistment were probably nil. Applications were made by the mothers of those boys who were killed at the Front. The applicants were told that, as in many instances the boys had earned nothing during the year prior to enlistment, only the minimum pension of 7s. per week could be granted. When those boys went to the Front, they did men’s work. I know an instance of a boy who enlisted on his eighteenth birthday, was four years at the Front, and was killed. When his mother applied for a pension, she was asked what his average earnings were in the year before he went away. As he had been at school, she had to tell them that his earnings were nil. I have not been able to read this Bill carefully, and do not know whether a similar provision is contained in it. I cannot find anything of that nature in it, but we must make it absolutely clear that the same pension mustbe paid in the case of every boy who went into the firing-line as is paid in the case of a man. The provision to which I refer was one of the greatest anomalies in the old Act, and I sincerely hope it will not be perpetuated in this Bill.
.- The position is that the widowed mother in the case the honorable member for Dampier speaks of gets the full pension where the boy has been killed.
– She did not do so.
-She gets now the full pension, whether she was dependent or not.
– I can give the Minister a case where the mother cannot get it.
– I assure the honorable member that that is the case now, under a provision passed some time ago. I think that the payment of the full pension depends on whether she is in certain necessitous circumstances.
– The case I have in my mind is one in which the hoy, before he went away, was not living at home, and the mother was getting nothing from him.
– If he was killed, then she gets the pension.
– She has not got it so far.
– Then I do not know why. She should get it under the Act as it stands to-day.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Failure of pensioner to attend at review of assessment or determination).
.. - The clause provides that where any assessment or determination in relation to the pension payable to a member of the Forces is required to be reviewed’, the Commission may cancel the pension if the member refuses or fails to attend at the time and place fixed, or by his default makes it impossible to review the pension. Many of these men in the outback portions of Australia will be very hard to get at. One case was brought under my notice when I was away up the other side of Thargomindah. A letter was sent to a pensioner, care of the post office at Cunnamulla, where he used to draw his pension. He had left Cunnamulla and gone further out west, and consequently did not get the letter. Afterwards, when he came into the town he found that his pension had been stopped, because he had not turned up for the review. It appeared that the officer in charge of the Pensions Department had ordered him in the letter to go to the nearest Board for review. He came in from 170 to 200 miles for that pension, and when he got there he found himself absolutely stranded, and I had to get him Government rations.
– There must be some penalty for a man who deliberately refuses to attend.
– The most damnable indictment against the whole of this Bill is that honorable members are legislating for the towns, and not for the country.
– Surely in a case like that, where the man’s explanation was satisfactory, the pension would be restored, and he would receive back pay.
– The gentlemen sitting in their offices in the metropolitan centres do not know the conditions.
– The boys will soon appeal if they do not get fair play.
– By the time the appeal reached the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) from the places I am thinking of, the man might be dead and buried. The honorable member surely has sense enough to know that there are no railways, telephones, or telegraph facilities in the outback portions of Queensland. I do not wish men to escape review, but I want them protected in case they are unable to attend.
– Do you think that Senator Millen, with his knowledge of Australian conditions, would treat a man in such a position harshly 1
– No ; and when I brought the case under Mr. Gilbert’s notice, he ordered the man to be paid at once, until he could attend for review. But if I had not met the. man when he found that his pension had been stopped, there is no telling what he might have done. Honorable members know that in manycases a bushman would use the good old Australian adjective, and say, “ Well, you can keep it.”
– The Department will always restore back pay, but the difficulty is that the man does not turn up.
– But you make it imperative on him to turn up.
– It must be imperative. It is only fair to him. The pension would not be cancelled without giving him an opportunity of being heard. If he does not take advantage of that opportunity, the Department takes action, but if later on he comes in and shows that he had good reason for not attending, the matter is re-opened.
– Has the Board or the Commission power to re-open or review the case?
– The power exists.
– I do not believe that any hardship will arise under this clause, but it is well that the question has been raised, so that the Commission and Board’s may know that honorable members are concerned to insure that no disabilities are suffered by men who are in the outlying portions of the Commonwealth. Many of the boys will be scattered in distant parts, and I hope that those who are charged with the administration of the Act will realize their responsibility to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 30 and 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 33 to 35 agreed’ to.
Clause 36 (Pension to de facto wife of a member).
.- I should like an assurance from the Minister as to how far this clause affects the rights of a wife when her husband has left her, and is living with another woman.
– The rights of the legal wife are not affected.
– This clause merely reenacts section 10 a of the existing Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 38 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 -
The provisions of this Act shall extend to the case of any soldier of the Imperial Reserve Forces called up for active service. . . .
.- I take no exception to the extension of the benefits of the Act to British reservists. The Government of which I was a member decided that British reservists who had made Australia their home, and were called up for service with the Imperial Army, should be placed on the same footing as members of the Australian Imperial Force. I wish to make an appeal, however, on behalf of another class of men - Australians who were abroad at the outbreak of war, and enlisted in England, Canada, and elsewhere in order to avoid the delay of returning to Australia for the purpose.
– Those who enlisted in England will receive the Imperial pension.
– But I do not think that the Imperial repatriation benefits are as liberal as our own.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– This clausedeals only with pensions.
– The Imperial pensions may not be as good as those paid by the Commonwealth. There were also many men who could notpass the severe medical test that was prescribed in the early days of the war, and who either worked their passage or travelled steerage to England in order to enlist there.
– I am informed that the Imperial Act is almost as liberal as our own.
– If there is any doubt about it we ought to make sure that those men are not penalized. I am not appealing for the men who were not able to work themselves up for a commission in Australia, but had sufficient money to go to England and buy one there, but for those other men who enlisted in England either because they were there when the war broke out or because they were rejected in Australia on medical grounds.
– Some of them were denied permission to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in England or to transfer from the British Forces to the Australian Army.
– We do give all those men repatriation assistance.
– What I am asking is that if the British pension is £1, and the Australian 25s., the. men who enlisted in England should receive from the Commonwealth .the difference.
– So far as pay is concerned we do make up the difference. If the honorable member will allow the matter to remain in abeyance for the time being I shall make inquiries into it.
– The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is very important to many men in Australia. I do not know the number of men who are affected, but five cases have been brought under my notice. One was that of a man who was resident in the Argentine Republic when the war broke out, and who paid his passage to England in order to enlist. He was not allowed to join the Australian Imperial Force. Of course, his pay, his pension, and all his privileges were considerably less than they would have been had he joined that Force. In another case which came under my notice only last week, a soldier who was rejected in Australia paid his passage to England, where he enlisted in the Imperial Forces, with which he served for a period of about three years. He was then given a free return passage to Australia. 1 recently made application on his behalf
– For what did the honorable member apply - a pension or repatriation ?
– I broadly applied for any privileges which may be granted to Australians who, after being rejected here, went to England, and there enlisted in the British Forces. Nobody can discriminate between the individual who, having been rejected in Australia, paid his own passage to England, and the volunteer who enlisted in Australia.
– If any discrimination is to be made, it should certainly be in favour of the man who went to so much trouble to enlist.
– I think that the Minister will admit the correctness of the honorable member’s interjection.
– The man also lost a large amount in pay owing to the difference between the rate paid to members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Imperial rate of ls. 2d. per day.
– I am quite sure that that difference in pay has been made up.
– Not in this particular case.
– Has the honorable member received a reply to say that the man is not entitled to that difference between the two rates of pay?
– I have not. But that is not sufficient. The admission by the Minister that this man has some claim to the difference between his Imperial rate of pay and the rate paid to the Australian Imperial Force puts him on an equality with the members of the Australian Imperial Force. If he is entitled to be placed on an equality with the Australian Imperial Force in regard to pay, he is certainly entitled to be similarly placed in regard to pensions. I have here an amendment, which I drafted some time ago, but I would prefer that the Minister himself should move it. I would like to insert after the word “ service “, the words “ and any soldier who enlisted in the British Forces.”
– The honorable member must make his amendment much wider than that. He must employ almost the same phrasing as is employed in paragraph c of clause 46, which reads : - “ is serving or has served during the present war in the Naval or Military Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions other that the Commonwealth.”
– I am sure that the Minister recognises the justice of the claim which I am urging. The Government, in their policy, have done so, and ] ask the Minister to incorporate in this clause the words employed in paragraph c of clause 46, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has directed attention.
– The Minister has promised to look into the matter.
– With all due respect, it is scarcely fair treatment for the Minister to promise merely to look into it.
We require to know his decision. Seeing that he will not move in the direction suggested, I am obliged to take action myself. I therefore move -
That after the word “ service “, line 3, the words “ and any Australian who is serving or has served during the present war in the” Naval or Military Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions “ be inserted.
The adoption of my amendment will make it quite clear that no person who is not a bona fide resident of Australia will be qualified to receive the pension.
– If I understand it aright the amendment means either one of two things. If we adopt it we shall have to assume the obligation of providing pensions for these men, and in so far as we do that we shall relieve the Imperial Government of their responsibility to pay pensions which they are entitled to pay to those who enlisted in their service. On the other hand, it is just possible that these men may obtain a pension from the Imperial Government and also a pension from the Commonwealth. There is only one legitimate claim which can be made on their behalf, namely, that we shall make up the difference between the Imperial rate of pension and our own rate.
– That is all right.
– But the amendment will not achieve that result,
– Cannot the Minister get an amendment drafted that will?
– There are legal men in this Committee, and they have not drafted such an amendment. I ask honorable members to allow the clause to remain as it stands. I well remember the late Charles Cameron Kingston’s advice to a Minister - “ Stick to your Bill. When you get away from its provisions you cannot tell where you are going to be landed.”
– I have no doubt that the Minister is at heart kindly disposed towards these men, but we have had many promises by Ministers equally sympathetic - promises to which no effect has been given. Let me add to the cases of hardship which have already been cited. 1 know of a young Australian who was in China when the war broke out. He was very anxious to serve his country, and, being offered an opportunity of securing a passage to Eng land, he accepted it, and went to the Old Country. Upon his arrival there he immediately approached those in charge of our Australian troops, with a view to enlisting, but they refused to accept him. He then enlisted in the Imperial Army, with which he served for three years, afterwards returning to Australia, his passage being paid by the Imperial Government. In such cases surely a reciprocal arrangement can be made between the oversea Dominions and the Old Country.
– Does the man draw a pension ?
– Not so far as I know. He is an Australian, who wishes to be placed, if possible, upon an equality with the members of the Australian Imperial Force. I do not know what precluded an Australian officer in Britain from accepting a man coming from China or from some other part of the world. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) stated that one of the men whose case he mentioned came from the Argentine.
– But the adop-tion of the amendment would give rise to possible complications.
– The cases of this kind are so few that I feel sure some reciprocal arrangement could be made.
– Suppose that & man had been absent from Australia for ten or fifteen years before enlisting in the Imperial Forces?
– That would be an extreme case. I do not desire to see any man drawing two pensions or enjoying two sets of privileges. But the amendment would apply to so few cases that the Committee may very well adopt it.
– I would suggest to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that it would be wise for him to phrase his amendment in such a way as to preclude the possibility of any man drawing two pensions.
– Paragraph c of clause 23 will prevent that.
– I think honorable members generally are of opinion that an Australian who went to considerable trouble to enlist should, at any rate, not ‘be placed in a worse position than other Australians. We should so -provide that if an Imperial or Dominion pension is. less than our own it may be raised to an equal amount, though I recognise that it is difficult, on the spur of the moment, to frame an amendment with that effect.
– I am prepared to postpone the further consideration of the clause until later in the day.
Clause 46 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 47 -
The Commission may make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations providing for the granting of assistance and benefits, not being in the nature of pensions as provided for in Part III. of this Act-
the mothers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers -
who are widows and were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them, or
the incapacitated fathers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers who were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them, and
the mothers or step-mothers (being either widowed, divorced, deserted, or unmarried) of Australian soldiers who were born out of wedlock;
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That the words, line 4, “ in the nature of “ be left out, with a view to insert in- lieu thereof the words, “ payments or allowances in the nature of, or supplementary to,”
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That in sub-paragraph (iii), after the word “ mothers “ the words, “ or step-mothers “ be inserted.
.- I have had brought to my attention some sad cases for which, unfortunately, no provision is made. A mother lost her only son through illness while he was on active service. When the boy enlisted his father was alive, but he died shortly after his boy’s death, largely, I think, as the result of the loss of this, his only son. The mother of the dead soldier was now left absolutely penniless, and, under the existing Act and regulations, she is entitled to no assistance in the way of pension, simply because her husband was alive at the time of the boy’s death.
– I think that is altered now.
– So far as I know, a case of this kind is not met by this Bill.
– If at any time a mother is without adequate means of support after the death of a son, assistance is granted.
– If the mother applies for a pension,she will be given one straightway.
– I am glad to know that; because, up to the present, a pension has been refused.
.- I should like to know from the Minister (Mr. Poynton) whether some cases I have in my mind are such as may be dealt with by the Commission. In one case, two young fellows before going to the Front had had some experience in engineering, and when they returned after some years’ fighting they started a motor engineer’s business in partnership. They are careful, steady men; but when they applied for assistance, the answer they received was to the effect that it was not within the scope of the regulations, on the ground that, prior to enlisting, they had not owned and conducted a similar business. It is true that, before enlisting, they were not in business for themselves, but were learning as paid employees. Why should young soldiers who are enterprising enough to start business, but who have not sufficient money to provide all the necessary tools, be debarred from advantages enjoyed by other members of the Forces? In another case, two young fellows, before enlisting, had been engaged on a newspaper for years, and the owner of the paper has stated that if they had not gone to the war they would have been made partners”. Since their return to Australia, these young men have been offered, by a sleeping partner, an interest in this newspaper. The matter was brought before a member of the Cabinet, who told me that the men would be able to get assistance; and on that assurance they purchased the interest offered. For any advances made, they are prepared to give the full security of this interest, and also their gratuities; but they are informed that, under the existing Act and regulations, assistance cannot be given them.I should like to know whether if this Bill passes, there will be vested in the Commission power to give assistance in cases of this kind; if not, it is my intention to move an amendment.
– There is no doubt in my mind that the Commission will be vested with the power indicated by the honorable member. The regulations made by the present Commission will lapse with the appointment of the new Commission, and the latter will be empowered to consider all such cases, and make recommendations. I wish to make it clear, however, that the recommendations of the Commission will be subject to Ministerial approval - a necessary provision for the protection of the finances.
– This Bill grants larger powers than are exercised under the present Act?
– Yes. I cannot see any reason why such cases as have been mentioned should not be assisted by the Commission. It would be very unwise, however, to stipulate in the Bill what particular classes of business shall be assisted. Quite a large amount of money will be involved in tie administration of this Bill, and it is only proper that the Commission should consider each case. There is no need, of course, why the new Commission should follow in the footsteps of the previous Commission-
– It may do so.
– Of course, it may; but we cannot in the Bill specify the Commission’s powers in regard to particular businesses. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) may rest assured that the Commission will have the power he desires.
.. - I hope that the Commission and the Boards will interpret the Bill in the generous spirit suggested by the Minister (Mr. Poynton). There is no doubt that under the present Act there are cases of very grievous harship. Men desire to be established in the businesses which they would have been following if they had not gone to the war, but under the present Act are unable to get the assistance necessary to enable them to do so. Many men who previously worked for their fathers or others in a variety of businesses would by this time have been partners had they not enlisted ; but simply because they were not actually established in the businesses before they enlisted they are refused the benefits of the Act. I am glad to hear that the Commission and the Boards will be enabled to take a wider view in the administration of the Act, the whole spirit of which is more generous than that of the old Act. According to this clause, the Commission is given power to make recommendatons for the granting of assistance to - the incapacitated fathers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers who were, prior to the enlistment of the soldier, dependent upon them.
It seems to me that unless this provision is very widely administered it will fall far short of what is desired. I am prepared to admit that to strike out the words “ who were prior to the enlistment of those soldiers dependent upon them “ might lead to some cases of imposition, but I draw attention to ‘the limitation imposed by the word’s. ‘ There are cases such as that mentioned by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) a few moments ago, and his remarks apply not only to mothers, but to fathers. I think that an incapacitated father, although he may not have been dependent on the soldier before enlistment, ought in certain circumstances to come within the scheme, and the Government ought to make certain that such cases will be met.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That the words in sub-paragraph iii(a) “ widows and were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them,” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ either widowed, divorced, or deserted.”
That the word “ and “ in sub-paragraph iv. be left out; that the words “ or step-mothers,” in sub-paragraph v., be left out; that the following new sub-paragraph be inserted : - “and (vi.) any person who was, prior to the death of an Australian soldier, recognised as his wife, although not legally married to him.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Clause 48 amended to read as follows, and agreed to: -
The executive of a Local Committee shall have, and may exercise -
Clauses 49 to 52 agreed to.
Clause 53 -
The books and accounts kept -
by a Local Committee, or
in connexion with any repatriation fund raised prior to the passing of this Act, shall be subject to audit as prescribed.
.- I have on more than one occasion brought before honorable members the need for the more thorough auditing of public accounts. Under the Bill as it stands, the auditing of the accounts of the Local Committees may be done by some person not under the control of the AuditorGeneral. In my opinion, that officer is the sole authority . who can properly satisfy Parliament and the country of the correctness of public and quasi-public accounts. As one who a few years ago took a great part in forcing the Government to be more particular in requiring the auditing of the accounts by the Auditor-General’s Department, I suggest that in this clause the words “ as prescribed” should be left out, and the words “by the Auditor-General” substituted for them. I do not wish to say anything about discrepancies that have occurred in the past in connexion with war funds. The Committee is aware that the auditing of the Wool Committee’s accounts is done by a person who is not under the Auditor-General. I have nothing to say against outside auditors, but the accounts of that Committee and of all similar bodies should be audited by the Auditor-General’s Department. I have positive evidence that some of the outside auditors have not been as careful as they might have been. Had all the accounts of the kind I have in mind been subject to audit by the Auditor-General, many improper transactions would not have continued as long as they did, because under the Audit Act there would have been a constant supervision, whereas actually the auditing was done when accounts were being closed, or upon an annual statement. Nothing can be better than the prevention of crime, and the Minister in charge of a Department, who cannot be supposed to over-! look every detail of administration, has a guarantee, when provision is made for the auditing of accounts by the AuditorGeneral, that the money which he obtains from the Treasurer will not be wasted. Parliament should be very jealous for the proper accounting for moneys expended at its direction. The magnitude of our expenditure is in itself a special reason for very careful auditing, and the Auditor-General should control the auditing of all accounts of Government expenditure. After all, the purpose of the audit is to satisfy the Government that the accounts of these Committees are properly kept, and the moneys handled by them devoted to the proper purpose.
– It is proposed that the audit shall be as prescribed.
– That is what I am objecting to. That would give the Repatriation Department latitude to consent to the appointment of an outside auditor.
– The honorable member should remember that there are 700 or 800 of these Committees scattered all over the Commonwealth.
– That is but a greater justification for adopting the course I suggest. The operations under this Bill will cover a very large area, and a very large amount of public expenditure will be involved by them. There is nothing in our laws, Federal or State, to prevent any man who pleases putting up a brass plate and describing himself as an auditor. I am sure that if the Minister will seek advice in this matter he will realize the wisdom of the amendment I suggest.
– At the present time, wherever any Commonwealth expenditure is undertaken by these Local Committees, it is subjected to Government audit.
Mr.WEST. - I am again justified by what the honorable gentleman has said in urging that it should be made imperative by this Bill that these accounts shall be audited by the Auditor-General.
– What I have said shows that there is no necessity for what the honorable member proposes.
– I would remind the Government that the adoption of the amendment I suggest would not prevent the Auditor-General appointing some person in any particular locality to act for him, and submit his audit to him. That is permitted by the Audit Act. No Government Department should, in a matter of this kind, be placed outside the supervision of the Auditor-General. It is said that figures do not lie, and, while that is so, our experience at election times shows that the persons who handle figures are often the greatest liars on earth.
– Those lies would not be approved by an auditor.
– But auditors have often been shown to be wrong in their audits. That is not to be wondered at when any man may claim to.be an auditor. Are the Government prepared to adopt the suggestion I have made?
– No; the clause is all right’ as it is.
– Everything is right so long as Ministers get their own way, but it is of no use for us to discuss any measures if the Government are always to have their own way. I have given sufficient reasons for the amendment I have suggested, and I therefore move -
That the words ‘ “ as prescribed “ be struck out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ by the Auditor-General.”
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 54 to 56 agreed to.
Clause 57 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Postponed clause 45 -
The provisions of this Act shall extend to the case of any soldier of the Imperial Reserve Forces called up for active service who at the commencement of the present state of war was bona fide resident in Australia, as if that soldier were a member of the Forces as defined in this Act:
Provided that a pension shall not be payable under this section to any person who is not bona fide resident in Australia.
Upon which Mr. Blakeley had moved -
That after the word “ service “ the following words be inserted : - “ and any Australian who is serving or has served during the present war, in the Naval or Military Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions.”
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
, - I move -
That all the words before the proviso be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following : - “ The provisions of this Part shall extend to -
any soldier of the Imperial Reserve
Forces called up for active service during the present war; and
– Exactly what is implied by the phrase, “ domiciled in the Commonwealth “ ?
– “ Domiciled “ is a legal term, in this instance implying that Australia is the man’s permanent home.
– I was away from Australia at one time, working for some months in other countries, but I take it that throughout that period I wag a bond fide Australian.
– Had the honorable member abandoned his Australian domicile?
– Then it is a question of fact in each such case.
.- Would the provisions of this measure apply to an Australian-born who had lived here for many years, and had gone to some other country within the Empire, and who had served in the war, and subsequently returned to Australia?
– Those whom we desire to assist by the provisions of this Act are all those Australians who were bona fide resident within the Commonwealth, and domiciled here when the war broke out. If a man has been away from Australia for a few months that does not affect his domicile. Rut suppose that a man had abandoned Australia as his domicile and was living in another Dominion, as a bond fide citizen of that Dominion, from which he had enlisted, and in whose Forces he had served, he would have no claim on the Commonwealth.
– I know of an Australian who served in the South African war, and became domiciled in Rhodesia. Soon after the late war broke out he returned to Australia and enlisted as a member of the A.I.F.
– He will be covered by the Bill as a bond fide member of the A.I.F.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to-
That the following new clauses be inserted: - “ 56a. The Commission shall furnish to the Minister annually, for presentation to the Parliament, a report of the administration and ‘operation of this Act.” “ 56b. Where prior to the passing of this Act a local fund for the repatriation of Australian soldiers has been raised in any district, the control of that fund shall, subject to the regulations, be vested in the trustees for the time being of the fund.”
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 47a. The Commission shall have power to assist soldiers in establishing industries on a co-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, wool-scouring, fellmongering (and Kindred industries), saw milling, and other enterprises.”
Very many of our returned men have been placed upon the land. I have no fault to find with the land settlement policy of the Government; on the contrary, I hope it will be liberalized extensively. But I think some provision should be made for men who have no tradeor calling, and my special object is to make it possible to do something for them.
– Do you want these cooperative enterprises to be beyond the control of the Minister?
– They might be subject to the authority of the Minister or not. A man who goes upon the land is entitled to £2,500 worth of land, and is further assisted to the extent of £625. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) pointed out recently that it would cost this country £1,500,000 to repatriate 500 men by means of land settlement, and only £125,000 to repatriate the same num.-‘ ber of men by the establishment of cooperative woollen mills for their employment; in other words, that it would cost £3,125 to repatriate one man upon the land, and only £250 in providing him with employment in a co-operative woollen mill.
– Does the honorable member suggest how the scheme could be carried out as a co-operative enterprise, howmuch capital would be employed, and so forth?
– I suggest that £250 be advanced per head of those employed in the proposed co-operative enterprise. According to the honorable member for Corangamite, this sum would be ample. There may be some doubt as to whether a woollen mill run on these lines would be profitable; but the Inter-State Commission’s report showed that the net profits made by the woollen mills of the Commonwealth during the first three years of the war, actually exceeded by £50,710 the total of capital employed in 1914. The capital invested in that year in woollen mills producing blankets, flannels, &c., was £536,639, and the profits made in the three years 1915-16-17 totalled £541,135, while the capital employed in mills producing tweeds, serges, &c, was £607,746, and the profits during those three years amounted to £655,960, showing a total capital investment of £1,144,385 and profits £1,195,095.
– That was because of war conditions.
– The mills were working three shifts a day.
– The requirements of the people to-day are such that a co-operative woollen mill run by soldiers could also be worked three shifts a day and be quite as profitable.
– Many of the mills did not work three shifts a day because they could not get a sufficient number of employees.
– I am not here to defend the great proprietary companies. I am here to put a word in for co-operative enterprises. It goes without saying that the profits can still be made, not only by woollen mills, but by co-operative boot factories, fellmongering establishments, tanneries, wool-scouring works, saw-mills, and other similar establishments; and I would like to see some of those profits distributed amongst the rank and file. If honorable gentlemen sitting on this side of the House are deeply interested in the welfare of our returned soldiers, they now have an opportunity of proving it. I hope they will support me to the hilt, and that something will be done for those of our returned men who do not go upon the land. Will the Minister accept the new clause if the proposed enterprises are made subject to the approval of the Minister?
– I would like to have the proposal discussed before I express my opinion.
– During the last two or three years a large amount of sustenance money has been paid to our returned soldiers. I do not wish to indulge in recriminations, but in my opinion this problem should have been tackled two or three years ago, and instead of paying sustenance money and keeping in idleness those men who did not want to go upon the land and had no qualifications for land settlement, they should have been placed in the Commonwealth Woollen Mills or other private concerns to learn a trade and been paid a living wage, so that by the time they had become proficient, factories would have been erected and machinery installed.
– Men are being trained already.
– I am aware of that, and there is good reason why we should continue training and employing these men by means of co-operative enterprises. If these industries are established, I hope that they will be set up as far as possible in country towns, with a view to bringing about decentralization. Honorable members opposite must recognise that the population of our capital cities is quite out of proportion - the disproportion is growing to an alarming extent - and we should be only too pleased to receive any support in the movement towards decentralization.
– The honorable member has referred to what he describes as a fearful waste of money in connexion with the payment of sustenance to returned soldiers.
– I did not say that the money was wasted. I maintained that it could be better employed.
– When we realize that the average payment of sustenance to each soldier has been £8 5s., hardly exceeding a period of three weeks, it will be seen that expenditure in this direction has not been extravagant, especially when it is compared with the services the men have rendered Australia. The bulk of this money has been paid during one of the most troublesome periods we have had in Australia for many years past; that is to say, during the influenza outbreak and the seamen’s and marine engineers’ strikes. Not only have we been obliged to sustain returned soldiers who were thrown out of employment because of these industrial troubles, but we have also had to provide relief for thousands of people in the State of Victoria.
The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) must know that the Repatriation Department can only train as many men as the trade unions will permit.
– No trade union would object to the employment of 100 men in the CommonwealthWoollen Mills.
- It was only last week that the Castlemaine moulders objected to the employment of one trainee to every six journeymen. They would not allow more than one trainee to about thirty journeymen.
If the Government had come down with this proposal, it would have been described as one of the most Socialistic ever put forward. Three men, over whom we have practically no control, are to be allowed to commit the country to the expenditure of millions of pounds without any check upon them.
– I am willing to include the words “ subject to the approval of the Minister.”
– In any case, the clause is unnecessary, because the Repatriation Commissioners will be perfectly entitled to give consideration to such projects. The proposed new clause would make it mandatory on them to accede to them. The honorable member has put forward a simple illustration in regard to the establishment of a cooperative woollen mill, with, perhaps, a capital of £1,000,000; but his proposal covers not only woollen mills, but also boot factories, clothing factories, canning factories, and, in fact, it is so worded as to cover almost any, enterprise under the sun. The Government cannot agree to any proposal which would commit the country in this way to the expenditure of scores of millions of pounds.
– We have not sufficient returned soldiers to absorb scores of millions of pounds.
– Thereis no suggestion of any limitation as to’ the number of factories. If we start a woollen mill in Geelong, why should not one be started in Bendigo or Ballarat, or any other centre? If we establish a factory in one State there would be a call upon us to establish similar factories in other States. In the circumstances,I cannot consent to the honorable member’s proposal as it stands.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is quite willing to have the words “ subject to the approval of the Minister “ inserted in the clause. When the first Repatriation Bill was before this House, I pointed out that the man on the land was to be treated in an infinitely better way than the man who was engaged in an industry in a city. I consider the proposal of the honorable member a step in’ the right direction, because I hold that every man should be placed on the same footing.
Mr.Fenton. - What is the difference between providing money for a woollen mill and finding it for a man who is anxious to go on the land?
– There is no difference whatever. The proposal of the honorable member for Echuca is on the lines of that put forward by the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse), and Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), for the establishment of cooperative concerns by returned soldiers utilizing their war gratuity bonds. They are already doing this in Geelong. The Minister says that the proposal before us is socialistic; but surely we have all got beyond being frightened by that name, as applied to any project. If this new clause will provide an opportunity for returned soldiers to co-operate for the purpose of doing something for themselves and Australia, we shall be taking a step in the right direction by including it in the Bill.
.- The object of the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr.. Hill) is to make provision for those men who, prior to the war, were not engaged in farming or in some business calling. A man who was a farmer before the war is placed on the land on his return; the man who was in a small business before he went to the war is placed in business again on his return, and the man who wielded a pick and shovel before he went overseas is given a pick and shovel on his return. The farm labourer who worked for a weekly wage is, on his return, put on the land, and placed in a position to become his own employer, but what is done for the man who, before enlisting, worked for a sawmiller for a weekly wage? He is sent back to the sawmill under the old boss who was having a comfortable time while his employee was away fighting. In his remarks, the Minister (Mr. Poynton), as is often done by honorable gentlemen on the front bench, dealt with details, getting quite away from the vital principle at issue. We admit that there are obstacles in the way of the adoption of our proposal, but we are quite prepared to agree to any safeguard the Minister may think fit.
These returned men should be given an opportunity, and I shall give an illustration of what I mean. When I was in the country the other day, I was in conversation with a number of men wearing military badges who were working at a saw-mill at a railway siding. They were engaged by an employer at a weekly wage, and I asked them whether, if provision were made for an advance from the Repatriation Department to enable them to purchase an engine, a bench and a few drays, they could not run a plant of their own. They replied emphatically in the affirmative, and said they would be only too glad to undertake the work on their own account if they could obtain the necessary capital. It is to cover such cases as this that we are endeavouring to incorporate this amendment in the Bill. We do not desire the measure to be amended in such a way that any one could come along and ask for an advance to launch some wildcat scheme, and we are quite agreeable to accept any reasonable safeguards. The bulk of the men . in the Australian Imperial Force before they went to the war were working for others. What have the Government done for the bulk of them? That is a question I desire the Government to consider, and I also appeal very strongly to those honorable members in this Chamber who are wearing military badges to support this reasonable proposition.
.- I trust the Government will see their way clear to deal with the amendment in a sympathetic manner, as the proposal is a reasonable one and cannot be regarded as a communistic experiment or anything of that nature. The proposal in the amendment is confined to cooperative businesses, which, after all, are voluntary associations of men carrying on industries for the benefit of themselves and the whole community. It is to be regretted that the co-operative system has not become more widely established in Australia. Objections may be raised to this proposal, and although the amendment may not be in the form the Government desire, the principle is a perfectly sound one. Criticisms have been made concerning the Repatriation Department or the administration of the Act, because proper (provision has not been made to advance money to soldiers who desire to start in business. Although many of the men who went to the Front were employees before they left Australia, as stated by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), there are many who would by now have been in business on their own account if they had not gone abroad in the interests of Empire.
– Would it meet the wish of the honorable member if the Government agreed to insert’ after the word “ shall “ the words “ subject to the approval of the Minister”?
– I understand that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is prepared to accept the Assistant Minister’s suggested amendment.
– I am willing to do that.
– But we will want something done.
– I am indebted to the Acting Minister for Repatriation for his offer, and I trust that the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca will have the unanimous support of the House.
– I agree entirely with the object of establishing co-operative concerns, but I do not want the soldiers and the taxpayers generally to believe that we are providing for something which will not really exist.
– I hope we are sincere, and that this is not to be regarded as a sham.
– I hope the honorable member is sincere. This is entirely a financial question.
– It will be subject to the approval of the Minister.
– I object to placing placards, supposed to embody principles, on our statute-book when they are not on a sound basis.
– Is not land settlement on a sound basis?
– Yes, and I shall tell the honorable member why.
– The Assistant Minister has already agreed to the proposal.
– I do not care, and I appeal to the honorable member for Grampians, who knows something about business, to say whether this is not the crudest proposition ever conceived by a responsible Parliament. I desire to know whether we have any authority, as representatives of the people, to assist in undertakings under the crude proposal before the House. It is an impossible proposition when considered from the financial aspect. Let honorable members who are so keen to include this provision in the Bill interview the heads of any financial institution and ask them if they are prepared to advance money on the basis of the proposal now before us. My entire sympathy is with the movement, but it must have some foundation. Comparison has been made between land settlement and the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca. While there is arisk of losing perhaps hundreds of thousands, or even millions, sterling in connexion with land settlement, the risk under this proposition is ten times greater.
– I say it is. The land is there and cannot be removed. Land settlement is totally different from entering into businesses of various kinds and competing with commercial undertakings that have been established for years and are under highly-efficient control.
– The Government will look after that.
– I am sure my honorable friend knows that in connexion with our land settlement problem there are painful instances where men who have gone on the land and have accepted advances from the Department have been all right while the money was coming in, but when that ceased they have walked off their holdings and told the Department to take the land. I urge the Committee not to raise false hopes, by introducing into the Bill a scheme involving an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, which is not on a sound basis.
– It will be the fault of the Commissioners if any mistake is made; they will have power to investigate every case.
– Everything will depend upon the class of Commissioners we secure. Surely honorable members are not going to behave like school children, and put forward a scheme that is not likely to be a credit to the Parliament.
.- The attitude of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), who has just resumed his seat, reminds me of the old couplet -
Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
But why did you kick me downstairs?
The Minister has said that the average sustenance allowance extends over three weeks. That means that each individual receives £6 6s., and as 300,000 men have returned, a total of over £1,800,000 has been paid by way of sustenance. Can any one say that there is anything to show for the money thus expended?
– Does the honorable gentleman agree with the payment of sustenance money ?
– I do; but not in the miserable way that has been followed by the Department. I am glad that this amendment has been moved by the honorable member for Echuca. When a number of poor fellows, most of them maimed, were earning a few paltry shillings a week at the Anzac weaving school, the wonderful Department of Repatriation used to deduct from their sustenance allowance of £2 2s. a week the paltry 15s. a week that was accruing to the men by way of pension. That was not done in Sydney, where the industry is carried on under the auspices of the Red Cross. But for the Repatriation Department, and the influence of Flinderslane, there would be in Victoria to-day 1,000 men engaged in the Anzac tweed industry.
Amendment of the amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed? -
That after the word “shall,” line 1, thewords “ subject to the approval of the Minister “ be inserted.
.- I am not at all pleased with the way in which this question has been discussed, since there has been, on all sides a display’ of bitterness, that we have no desire to arouse. I am a staunch believer in. co-operation, and as the result of twenty years.’ experience of it in Victoria, I am able to say that it has been attended with splendid results. I am. associated at the present time with six very successful, cooperative enterprises, with, a turnover of £250,0.00 a year. I visited, the Repatriation. Trades. School,, Wirth’s Park,, a few days ago, and saw. with interest what is being, done- in . the vocational training of returned, men.’ The work is a distinct credit to , the Minister. Many of them, are rapidly becoming efficient, and, in the near future,, will be splendid tradesmen. A man. who is learning the trade of a blacksmith, after four months’ experience, was turning out work equal to that, of an apprentice, of two years’ standing. The amendment simply proposes that these men 9hall go on earning for themselves instead of making profits for employers. We feel that there is ample room for a very wide extension of the principle of co-operation, and that, under the wise guidance of the Minister, there is no likelihood of waste and extravagance. If the Minister cannot supervise cooperative ventures such as we propose, then how will it be possible for him to supervise other enterprises involving a considerable expenditure for which provision is made in this Bill. I hope that the amendment ‘ will not be dealt with in a party spirit, but that a united effort will be made to give these men real, sound, practical assistance through the channel of co-operation.
.- The Minister has practically agreed to the amendment, subject to the -insertion of the words “subject to the- approval of the Minister.” I am inclined, to think that the- word’ “Commissioners” instead of “ Minister “ should be employed.
– All of these projects will involve an expenditure of over £5,000, and must therefore be referred to the Minister.
– This -is> not a. Socialistic; movement. It is. simply, a. scheme to enable returned soldiers in certain, districts to combine so that they will secure the same help that is given to those who go on the land. Every man will then have a chance of entering into some concernthat will be of advantage to himself: The honorable member- for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) referred to what is being done in the way of vocational training at Wirth’s Park. Very fine work is being done there, simply to enable these men to become servants of other men-. We want to make them masters, not servants’. I am surprised at. the attitude’ of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.- Foster), who waxed very eloquent on behalf of vested interests1. If these men- are given- an opportunity they will form themselves- into little companies, which will be an absolute success; The Government never had a better opportunity than -the present, to enter into this undertaking in- the- proper spirit. Little groups- of men trained at Wirth’s Park could be given contracts for some of the houses being built to-day. They are actually building those houses, but are only getting wages- out of them, while somebody else is reaping- the profits. There are scores of saw-mill hands working in forest areas who only need to be advanced about £250 each, instead of the £2,500 advanced in other cases, and then the Government can let them as many contracts as they like to cut timber for the housing scheme. That decidedly should be done. The men are absolutely efficient, and know the job of saw-milling quite as well as the men who run the mills. These are some of the small schemes which this measure should be passed to promote. We should give returned men facilities to establish manufacturing undertakings in some of the decadent mining towns, and by that means the whole of the. existing housing problem could be solved. The houses I looked at the other day are costing about £700 each. The Government could obtain houses equal to them for half, or even a quarter, of the money in some of the mining districts. Those centres are admirably suited for small co-operative companies run by returned soldiers. I hope . the Government will see to these things, which are necessary in the interests of the men who cannot possibly go on the land. Tie honorable member for Wakefield spoke of the men on the land. The Government are placing £650 worth of improvements on 60 acres of ground. The result is to bring up the value of that ground by £10 per acre.. In some cases the land is not worth it when that £10 per acre improvement is placed upon it.
Amendment (Mr. Poynton’s) agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
First Schedule -
General Pensions Rates.
Scale of Pensions payable to Widow or Widowed Mother on Death of a Member of the Forces, or to a Member, or to the Wife of ‘a Member, upon his total Incapacity.
Where the rate of pay of a member of “the Forces exceeds a rate .shown in column one of this schedule, and ‘.is less’ than the next higher rate in that column, .the rates of .pensions payable ‘for the purposes of columns two and three shall “be computed by adding to the rate of ‘pension .shown in those columns .opposite to the next lower rate of pay the sum which bears to the difference between that rate of pension and the next higher .rate of pension shown in those columns ‘the proportion which the -difference between the rate of pay received by the member and’ .the next lower rate of pay shown in column one bears to the difference between the next lower and the next higher rates of pay in that column.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to - ‘
That after the word *’ payable,” line 2, the words “ subject to the provisions of the Third Schedule “ be inserted.
.- I have racked’ my brains to “understand the meaning of the concluding paragraph of this schedule, but have not been able to do so. I do not know how those who will need to use the Bill ‘will fare unless it is put in simpler form. Will the Minister explain what it means?
– The paragraph expresses the existing law. In the first column of the schedule certain rates of pay per day of the member of the Forces are set out, and in the other columns are set out the corresponding pension rates. This paragraph simply provide^ that where a rate of pay existed between any of the amounts set down in the first column, the rates of pension in the other columns shall be assessed proportionately.
Schedule, as ^mended, agreed to.
Rate fob Special Pensions - £8 feb Fortnight.
The Special Rate of Pension may be granted to members of the Forces who have been blinded as the result of War Service, and to members who are totally and permanently incapacitated, (i.e., incapacitated for life to such an extent as to be precluded from earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage).
The Special Rate of Pension shall not -be payable to any pensioners who are maintained in an establishment at the public expense.
In the case of a member who has been granted the Special Rate of Pension, the wife of such member shall not be entitled to receive a pension exceeding the rate specified in column five of the First Schedule opposite the rate of pay of the member.
; - I shall mot propose the amendment ulrich I have circulated, but instead beg to move -
That after the first paragraph the following new. paragraph be inserted: - “ The Commission may grant “a pension not exceeding the special rate of pension to any member of ‘the Forces who is suffering * from tuberculosis and who has been for at least six months an ‘inmate of an establishment for persons so suffering, and has been discharged from that establishment. Provided that this paragraph shall not authorize the grant of a pension to such member of the Forces unless upon his discharge from the establishment the medical officer in charge of that establishment has certified that such discharge is not a menace to public health.”
– I accept the amendment.
.- The amendment provides that a person suffering from tubercular disease has to be discharged from the ^establishment before he can receive the pension. He may be a married man, and the special .rate of pension would, of course, be for the benefit of his family. It would be dangerous to grant it only if the man was discharged. We should not encourage persons suffering f.Tom this disease to be discharged amongst the community. While I have as much sympathy with these .sufferers as has any other honorable member, I believe it is recognised by the medical authorities that they are a menace to the public health :unless properly looked after. It is far better for them and for other people that they should be kept in a sanatorium.
– The patient has to get a certificate from the medical officer that his discharge is not a menace to the public health.
– The amendment is a rephrasing of the original one of which notice was given by the honorable member for Illawarra. It is dangerous to compel the men to be discharged from the sanatorium. I understand that if the pension is paid to men while they are inmates of an institution, the bulk of it is retained by the institution. In Victoria, the Department has adopted a very bad policy by sending the men who were at Mont Park, where tubercular cases were treated, to the Austin Hospital for Incurables, and placing them in the Kronheimer wing, which is the finest part of the institution. It is bad for the soldiers to be kept amongst incurables, and the policy is bad for the people, because it prevents other incurables from obtaining admission. The hardships experienced overseas caused many of our men to develop tubercular troubles, and I believe in doing everything possible to help them. I approve of paying the pension to them, but I do not like the provision that they shall not get it until they are discharged from the institution. It is better for them to be in a sanatorium, because they have a better chance of recovery, and are not so much a menace to the community.
– The position as it has been explained to me is that any inmate of an institution who is able to obtain employment can leave at any time and mix with the general community without restraint, whereas men who are unable to obtain employment must remain in the institution or starve. The object of the amendment is to give to them an opportunity of returning to their homes for the purpose of continuing the treatment. It is admitted that the institutions are conducted in the best possible way, but the inmates say that they are continually coming in contact with people similarly afflicted, and they can never forget that they are tubercular cases.
– That is why I object to their being put in the Austin Hospital.
– That will be altered shortly; the Department will provide effectively for such cases being treated in the country under different conditions. The object I have in view is to enable tubercular patients who are not able to work to get the same attention as they would be able to get if they were living at home amongst their own people, if in the opinion of the medical officer of the institution there was no special danger to the community in allowing them to return to their homes. The reason for the provision that patients must remain in an institution for six months is that in that period they may learn how to avoid spreading contagion to others. I am assured by the Medical Superintendent that it is quite safe for these patients to mix with other people so long as they have been properly trained to look after themselves. At any rate, whether or not there is a danger in what is proposed, the present position is that the man who has money may go to his home, whilst the man dependent upon the low rate of pension at present paid has to remain in the institution, and in his own judgment has not the same chance to recover as he would have if he could join his own people in his home.
.- 1 approve of the amendment, which is an improvement upon the present practice, but I do not understand why we should compel an invalid to remain in an institution for six months if, at the end of one month, he is fit to be discharged. However, I am willing to give the proposal a trial, and if we find that it tends to counteract the benefits conferred by the clause, we ought to be able to amend it.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Class of person eligible for pension.
Rate of pension payable.
– In order to meet the case of widows, or unmarried mothers of members born out of wedlock, I move -
That the following paragraph be inserted - “ Widowed or unmarried mother of an unmarried member who was born out of wedlock and who was brought up by her.” “ The rate specified in column two of the First Schedule, provided that, in the case of a widow, she became a widow, either prior to, or within three years after, the death of the member.”
.- I have in mind the case of an unmarried mother whose son went to the war. At the time of his departure for the Front he was not living with her, and she cannot prove her dependence upon him.
– The question of dependency does not arise. If she brought up the boy she is in the same position as is a married mother.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Fourth Schedule -
Any member of the Forces who is incapacitated by reasonofa disability specified in the first column of this Schedule shall receive the rate of pension shown in the second column of this Schedule opposite the description of the disability……
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to-
That all the words after “disability” (second occurring) be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following schedule: -
For the purposes of this Schedule a leg, foot, hand, arm or eye is deemed to be lost if it is rendered permanently and wholly useless.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. “Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) [3.47].- I move-
That the Bill be now recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clause 22, with a view to inserting before the word “ In “ at the beginning of the clause the words, “This part of this Act be administered by the existing Pensions Department.”
– That question has been fought out.
– I am adopting this course because the matter is one of great importance. The Bill seeks to create a new and unnecessary Department, and I do not wish the occasion to pass without honorable members being afforded an ample opportunity of saying whether or not they approve of this undesirable course. The present Pensions Department has already done threefourths of this work, and has done it exceedingly well. The only reason which the Minister has assigned in favour of the creation of a new Department is that it will effect economy in the matter of time. From my stand-point, it will have precisely the opposite result. It is proposed to take from a Department which has all the necessary machinery at its disposal work which it is now performing, and to give it to a Department which has no machinery whatever. The Government say they are pledged to economy; this retrograde step is the very antithesis of their promises to the electors.
.- In seconding the amendment, I congratulate the honorable member for Hume upon the course which he has taken, particularly in view of the importance of the principle which is involved and of the very close division which took place in this Committee last evening. In the majority which the Government commanded on that occasion were included two members of the party who, so far as this country has been informed, stand for economy - I refer to the Deputy Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett)- and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). I particularly call attention to this fact, because it is not the first occasion upon which I have noticed that certain members of the Country party make it convenient to see that the Government obtain a majority whenever the latter are in a tight corner. Now an opportunity will be given them to say whether they really stand for economy or not. The honorable member for Hume put the position very clearly when he said that in this Bill the Government propose to establish two Pensions Departments where only one existed previously. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
– The Government will oppose this amendment, because the issue that is involved in it was definitely decided last evening in a full Committee. Upon that occasion the argument was advanced - just as it has been this afternoon - that the Bill provides for the creation of two Departments. It does nothing of the sort. The position is that there are a number of officers of the Old-age Pensions Department who are charged with administrative work in connexion with soldiers’ pensions, and because of difficultieswhich may arise in affording all kinds of relief to soldiers and their dependants, these officers are about to be placed under the control of the Repatriation Commission.
– There is to be only one set of records and one correspondence branch.
– Exactly, and an important aspect is the medical side of the question. The activities of the Defence Department in this connexion are about to cease, and instead of creating a new Department, as has been alleged, we are merely transferring certain officers in order to insure efficient and economical administration. Those honorable members who have been taunted with failure to keep their pledges by insisting upon economy in our public Departments, have shown that they are the truest advocates of economy. That, however, is a policy which is entirely foreign to the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Ryan).We have had constant complaints from outside. Persons who are granted war pensions are under the impression that these represent all they are entitled to ; and the desire is that pensions and repatriation assistance shall be granted at the same time by the one body.
– Why “ stone-wall “ your own Bill?
– I am not “stonewalling “ the Bill ; but I refuse to permit the public to be misled by statements which are grossly inaccurate.
– The public will not be misled.
– If they take the honorable member’s statements at their face value they will be misled. I do not say that the honorable member desires to mislead, but that he is under a misapprehension as to the actual facts.
– I am satisfied to leave that to the judgment of the public.
– Under the circumstances, I have every confidence in asking the House to reject the motion.
Question - That the Bill be recommitted (Mr. Parker Moloney’s motion) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom), proposed -
This this Bill be now read a third time.
,- Before the. BUI leaves the Chamber I desire to say a few words in reference to a particular class of returned soldiers. The newspapers tell us. every clay- that men. have returned from the war physically wrecked and mentally deficient. I cannot speak of other States, but in Queensland there is no place to which these men can be sent, in order that they may be restored to health and made the reputable citizens many of them were before they left for the Front. Many of them are drinking about the big cities, .and I should like the Repatriation Department to provide an asylum to which they can be committed, instead of permitting them, as at present, to bc sent to gaol. It is the wish of. every honorable member; and of all the people of Australia, to do the right thing by these men. It grieves me to think that soldiers, who. have made this country safe for. us all– and but for whose services things might have been very different to-day– should, in their broken state, be sent to gaol. The police magistrate in Brisbane was very pained when Impleaded for a man who, after four years’ fighting, had been arrested as a vagrant. He said, “ There is nowhere else for me to send- this, man but to gaol.” Of course, the man was down and out. He was .covered with vermin, and a complete human wreck. It behoves us to do what we can for .these men. I know that those at the head of the Repatriation administration, both in the States and in the Central Department, are < sympathetic, and I appeal to them to.. get to work as early as they can, to save this human wreckage, and, if possible, bring it back to normal civil life. If these men could be sent to a military hostel, where they would enjoy a certain amount of freedom, but be kept from the cursed drink, some of them. would be reclaimed, and .if only 5 per cent, of them were thus saved, it would.be a good thing for them and for the country.
– I am sure that what has been said by the honorable member - for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) makes an appeal to every one of us. The Department is taking action in each of the States on the lines that, he wishes to have followed, and at Mount Gravatt, in Queensland, an establishment is being created to meet, the cases to which he has referred. Instructions have been given that the man whom he has mentioned shall not be sent to gaol, and shall be properly cared for.
– In my opinion, it is desirable that the Government should establish some sort of soldier force - not policemen exactly, but welfare men - whose business it would be to go about the cities, and get hold of soldiers before their state became, so. bad. as to bring them into the hands of the civil police. Nothing hurts me more than to see uniformed men being taken by civilian policemen to a lockup. A force such as I suggest would look after these men in the fraternal way that their mates would care for them, and, no doubt, prevent many of them from getting- into trouble, brought about by the strain of war work, from which they have not yet recovered.. I suggest some voluntary or paid organization for the service of those who have done so much for us.
.- I am glad that .the honorable member for Maranoa has raised this question. Cases like that which he mentioned have occurred in all the States, and members on both sides must have come into contact with a great many of them. In some cases, the men are mental as’ well as physical wrecks.
– That is nearly always so.
– We should provide homes for these men, where they might be subjected to a certain amount of wholesome discipline, and protected from themselves. Even when the hotels of this city were closed during a large part ?f the day, or altogether, as during the influenza outbreak, those people whom the Prime Minister has designated harpies and sharks often got- hold of soldiers, and deliberately drugged some of them, I believe. I trust that what the Minister
Rays is being done in Queensland-
– Similar action is being taken in all the States.
– The Department could not do better than try to assist in every way .these men who are broken in mind and spirit by the strain of war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Granville Ryrie) read a first time.
The following paper was presented -
Northern Territory - Ordinance of 1920, No. 1 - Tin Dredging.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The business at present on the paper; I cannot now say the exact order. One of the first matters to be considered is the Senate’s message regarding the War Gratuity Bill. A motion to enable Parliament to record its appreciation of the services of our soldiers in connexion with the recent war will be submitted early next week, and there will be motions referring works proposals to the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200423_reps_8_91/>.