8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have observed that at the meeting of the Farmers’ Union Conference an honorable member of this House suggested that certain other honorable members have “dropped the loot.” This “week has been one of recrimination, but, so far as I know, this is the first occasion on which one honorable member has accused another of having let anything go. I desire to know if the Acting Leader of the House has found out more explicitly against whom this act of negligence is alleged?
– No. I am not aware who is referred to; but if the honorable member repeats his question to the Prime Minister when he arrives, he will probably get an answer. He, I understand, is making some investigations.
– In view of the cabled reports appearing this morning to the effect that England, France, and Italy will oppose, for the present, the intervention of the League of Nations in the Turkish dispute, will thePrime Minister, on behalf of the Australian people, make direct representation to Mr. Lloyd George that the people of this country are anxious that the League should immediately intervene with a view to settling the dispute without recourse to war?
– It is almost impossible to answer the question without making a rather lengthy statement. In the first place, I do not know that the fact is as alleged.
– Assuming that it is.
– A man like the honorable member should not believe all that he sees in the newspapers. I do not accept the newspaper reports, and am guided in this matter only by the cabled information which comes to me. I have no information that what the honorable member says is correct. There has been no mention by the Secretary of State of any disinclination or unwillingness to submit the matter to the League of Nations, and I am informed by our High Commissioner that, before my cable reached him, Dr. Nansen, the Norwegian delegate to the League, and the Persian delegate submitted motions for the reference of the dispute with Turkey to the League of Nations, and that he, with every other Dominion represented, supported it. What is more, all the other Dominions joined with Australia in asking Mr. Lloyd George that the dispute should be referred to the League. As I have said in this Chamber,
I have sent only one cablegram to Mr. Lloyd George, but in it I made it very dear that Australia desired that this matter should be so referred. I think, however, that I should lay emphasis on this fact, which is of the utmost importance: All that Mr. Lloyd George asked us to do was to join with the other parts of the Empire and its Allies in maintaining the status quo - that is to say, the provisions of the Sevres treaty - until a conference could be held to reconsider its provisions. It is a conference with the Kemalists that Britain is aiming at, and this course must appeal to every civilized nation as the proper one. All that Britain says to the Kemalists is, “ It may be that the Sevres treaty is not just to you, as you allege. Let us have a conference. We will yield nothing to force, but everything to reason.” That is the position of Britain, and we are supporting it. I contend that the stand which the Empire has taken is a perfectly proper one, and I see nothing incompatible, but, on the contrary, everything to justify us, as a peace-loving nation, in what we are doing.
– Iask the Prime Minister if he has received any special intimation from the British authorities in reference to the conference at present proceeding in Paris between the representatives of the French Government and the British Foreign Minister?
– Yes. I received a cablegram on the subject this morning, and I take advantage of the right honorable member’s question, because the matter is of great importance, to enlarge on the position a little. On Tuesday, when I first brought the matter before the House, I said that the only information that we had received was the cablegram that reached me on Sunday afternoon. In my reply to Mr. Lloyd George, which I sent on Tuesday, I asked that full and precise information should be supplied, and, as I have said here, arrangements have been made at the other end to keep us informed; and that is being done. Since I spoke on Tuesday - that is to say, after my cablegram reached the British Ministry - I have received, perhaps, four cablegrams, not including that which came this morning, which deals with the matter about which the right honorable gentleman has asked. ‘Conversations are taking place in Paris, between Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Monsieur Poincare, and Signor Sforza I am not, aware that representatives of the Balkans are present; probably they are not. The subject-matter of the conversations is the holding of a conference between the three great Powers, Great Britain, France, and Italy, and the Balkan Powers. According to the 1 tost information I have received - and I era. only go-by that, because a situation like that we are discussing changes from hour to hour- I take it that the position is more satisfactory now than it was on Tuesday, that the rapprochement between France and Great Britain is more complete, and that an understanding, in effect, has been arrived at as to what ought to be done. I emphasize, once more, that nothing in the way of aggression has been contemplated. The policy of Great Britain has been to support the Sevres treaty, and, by force if necessary, to prevent its violation. At the same time, Great Britain has expressed its readiness, nay, its desire, for a conference to consider the treaty, in order that its i-ro* visions may be adjusted1 and modified, to make them more satisfactory to Turkey and the Kemalists.
– 1 understand that only one communication has been received and one sent by the Prime Minister on the subject of ‘the Wear East, and I thought that the purport of those cablegrams, not the cablegrams themselves, had been communicated to us last Tuesday. I now learn that they contained further information than was then disclosed, and I therefore ask the Prime Minister if he has any objection to the setting up of a Foreign Affairs Committee by the House?
– Yes, I have an objection to what the honorable member suggests. I« tell the honorable member, and the House, once more that I have no objection whatever to the Leader of the Opposition seeing these cablegrams, but I am not going to take the responsibility of running counter to the direct instruction
– That I have received from, the Foreign Office that these cables are not to be read by anybody. They are not read by my own staff, and I am not going to make them public. I cannot help thinking that the honorable member for Bourke has not put his question in order that he may see the cablegrams, but that he may find some political capital in them, or out of them. It would suit me very well if the cables were seen and made public ; but I am not going to make them public. Perhaps the honorable member had better leave the matter alone. He might bite off more than he could chew.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether I rightly understood him to say that the British Government were prepared to support the Sevres treaty by force of arms, and to maintain it. If so, do I gather that the Prime Minister himself takes the stand that he is prepared to recommend war for the purpose of maintaining that treaty in its present form?
– No; the honorable member did not hear me aright. As I feel quite sure that the honorable member has far more interesting thoughts than any which I could supply to him, it is obvious that anything which I might say would only be superfluous. I have already stated quite clearly what the proposition was; but the honorable member lives in a world of his own, where any watchwords which I possess are not recognised. Into that world I do not wish to enter.
ALLOCATION OF Grant
– Some time ago the Government allotted a sum of money to be distributed among the various States for the purpose of giving employment to returned soldiers and other men out of work. I wish to know if any allocation has been made to Tasmania, or whether application hae been made by the State authorities in that direction.
– Tasmania has concurred in the arrangement. The notification has been forwarded, but I intimated that I would require immediately a schedule of the works proposed to be undertaken by the Tasmanian Government in the expenditure of their allocation. That schedule has not yet reached me. When it comes to hand it will be considered. I assure the honorable member that there will be no delay.
Report ofchief Electrical Engineer.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral propose to lay on the table, before the conclusion of the Budget debate, the report of Mr. Golding, Chief Electrical Engineer to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department?
– Answers have already been given on two occasions to similar questions in another place. I then indicated, and now repeat, that it is not my intention to produce that report for presentation in Parliament, for the reason that it contains matter which ought not to be made public.
– In view of the plainly expressed desire of the House, as indicated in the course of yesterday’s debate, will the Prime Minister take steps to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry upon the lines of the adjournment motion which’ I submitted ?
– I have no intention of doing so. The honorable member knew that very well when he moved as he did on Thursday. I think that one could cover with a very small net the beginning and end of the honorable member’s intentions, sitting as he is, at this moment, just exactly where he is. The whole business concentrates precisely at the point where I am now looking. . I wish the honorable member success in his little effort.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any truth in the rumours and press reports to the effect that the shipbuilding yards at Williamstown and Cockatoo Island are to be sold, or that the Government desire to sell them, or that any one hasapproached the Government with a viewtopurchase?
-A questionof that nature wasasked me, atanyrate, concerning Cockatoo Island, only yesterday. I reply as I did then, namely, that there is no truth in such rumours.
– Order! Will the Prime Minister please resume his seat? Honorable members are continuously interjecting and persistently interrupting. If the practice of debating questions without notice, and of baiting Ministers in their efforts to answer them, is persisted in, I shall be compelled to call on the business of the day, so putting an end to honorable members’ opportunities for asking questions withoutnotice unless they be of a serious and urgent character.
Alleged Dismissals of Railway Workers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether it is afact that a number of men employed on railway repairs at Darwin have been dismissed by a Mr. Loftus for refusing to work with black labour in discharging the Biloela?
– The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner states : -
So far as I amaware, not any menhave recently been dismissed atthe Darwinwharf, but some men employed on constructing a cattle yardhad tostand down for a few days whilst thes.s. Biloela was being discharged. Further inquiry will bemade.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied when available.
– In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle(Mr. Burchell) on the 14th instant, relative to the wireless distribution of Australian press news for the information of overseas passengers, I promised to make inquiries. The wireless company which is now operating the Commonwealth Wireless ‘Stations advises me that arrangements are now being made which will provide for the distribution of Australian news to ships at sea.
– I have to inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor.General forthwith, at Government House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honorable members, will accompany me to present the Address.
Sitting suspended from 11.26 a.m. to 12.5 p.m.
– I have to report that, accompanied by honorable members, I waited upon His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and presented to him the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s speech on the opening of Parliament, agreed to by the House on 20th July last, and that His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply -
I receive with much pleasure the address which has been adopted by the House of Representatives in reply to the speech which I delivered on the occasion of the opening of the second session of the eighth Parliament of the Commonwealth; and desire to thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
Speech by Dr. Earle Page.
– I rise to a matter of privilege. Last night the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) called attention to a report which had appeared in the Melbourne Herald of a speech at Ballarat yesterday by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and asked whether, as a fact, the honorable member had made the remarks attributed to him. The statement which the honorable member for Cowper is reported to have made is as follows -
The Country parties are now a powerful factor in politics, and have their uses, if only to switch on the light when the burglar is about. Light was turned on to certain ‘burglars in the Federal House lately, causing them to drop their loot.
Attention was called to those words last night by the honorable member for Capricornia, and later by my honorable colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), and, in reply, the honorable member for Cowper is reported in Hansard to have said -
That is not a verbatim report- of what I said, but I should like to put on record in Hansard the purport of my remarks. I was dealing with the position of the Country party in various Australian Parliaments. I pointed out that in some Parliaments they were controlling the Government, in others they were holding the balance of power, and that in this House and in the South Australian Parliament they were not able to do cither of those things, but were acting as guardians of country interests. Although they had not been able to do exactly what they wished in regard to the preservation of those interests which it was their special purpose to guard, yet they were able to act as a policeman does on beat, or as a householder does when a burglar is about, switch on the lights to prevent raids upon those interests in the way that certain Governments had done in the past. Whether or not I said it at Ballarat, I would like to say here .that the surcharge on the land tax, which was repealed to-night, is an instance of the inequitable taxation imposed on the primary industries of this country - a burden that would not have been imposed if there had been in the last Parliament a Country party able to make an effective protest on the floor of this Chamber.
It will be noticed that, although the honorable member says that the report in the Herald is not verbatim, he does not deny that he used the words attributed to him. I ask honorable members to consider those words, and what they must mean. It is idle for the honorable member to say that what he had in mind was the surcharge on the land tax, because what he said was that “the light had been turned on certain burglars in this Parliament, causing them to drop their loot.” Whatever may be said for or against the surcharge on the land tax, the honorable member should be the last to complain, because his party voted to a man for the imposition of the surcharge in 1920, and ‘therefore for whatever of wrong and loot there is about it, the Country party are partly responsible.
The reference to -burglars dropping their loot could not have applied merely to the surcharge on the land tax. For what purpose the honorable member made his remarks at Ballarat is best known to himself, but his reference to members who are his colleagues in this House is one that we cannot allow to pass. The honorable member either meant something, or he meant nothing. If his statement was empty bombast, he should, even at the expense of his dignity, say now, “I did not mean to charge any member in. this House with a crime ; I did not mean to impute dishonesty to any honorable member.” If he did not mean that, what did he mean?
– Perhaps he did not mean anything.
-! quite admit that, and if that be the case, let him say so. I ask honorable members to look at the words employed by the honorable member for Cowper. They do not concern me any more than they concern any other honorable member, because if the honorable member meant me in particular, he surely would have had courage enough to say so. I invite him to say to whom he did refer, because a duty rests upon any man in this House who knows that another is dishonest to say so, and not make allegations in this contemptible way, and then come out of the arena holding above his head a shield of vague generalities, and saying he meant only the surcharge on the land tax, when he knows that he and his friends helped to impose the surcharge on the land tax. He cannot have meant that. If he told the farmers that he had voted to impose a surcharge on the land tax, what would they have said? Either the honorable member meant something, or he meant nothing. If he meant nothing, he stands condemned as a man who, at a time of crisis, says nothing when he is called upon to say something. If he meant something, I call upon him to say now what he did mean. I have been in this Parliament as many years as the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has been in it months. It is my desire to defend the parliamentary institutions of the country, and I will defend them. No matter how bitter party conflict has waged, I have never been one to hurl charges against members of Parlia- ment, no matter to what party they belonged.
– What about your proGerman accusations against us?
– I rise to a point” of order. The matter to which the right honorable gentleman is directing his attention is not one of privilege, but is pure political propaganda’.
Country Members. - Hear, hear!
– It is purely a political dispute between the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Cowper, and I submit that the law of the land equips the right honorable gentleman with machinery for taking proceedings against the honorable member if he feels that he has been slandered. It is not a matter of privilege to come here and complain about something which the Leader of the Country party is alleged to have said outside about political loot.
– The honorable member for Cowper did not say “ political loot.” He spoke of “loot.”
– If, on every .occasion on which the right honorable gentleman himself has made scandalous, false, and scurrilous attacks upon the characters of honorable members on this side of the House we had taken up time in raising questions of privilege within these walls, the whole of the time of the Chamber would have been occupied in answering the false accusations made against us outside by the right honorable gentleman.
– I must ask that the honorable member b- called upon to withdraw the remark that I have made scandalous and false charges against honorable members of this House. He cannot say that of me.
– I was just about to ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark. He is not in order in making use of such an expression towards any other honorable member.
– If the forms of the House require a withdrawal, to that extent I withdraw the remark.
– With regard to the point of order raised by the honorable member, if the honour or integrity of Parliament, or of individual honorable members, are not matters of privilege to be brought up in the House, I fail to see what else can be. When the matter has been stated it will be for the House to determine what action, if any, should be taken.
– I shall not detain the House muck longer. The explanation given by the honorable member for Cowper last night cannot be accepted as an interpretation of the remarks he made at Ballarat, and I only rose to ask that he should say, first of all, whether he did use the language attributed to him by the Herald; and, in the second place, if he did use the language, what he wished to be inferred from his remarks. There is only one interpretation that I can place upon hia words, and I think it is that which would be placed upon them by nine out of ten people in this country, namely, that, owing to what he or some other people had done, certain honorable members in this Parliament had dropped “ loot “ ; that is to say, had dropped money or something of value which they had improperly obtained. In short, I want to know whether the honorable member really meant, anything when he spoke as he did at ‘Ballarat.
.- Apparently, this morning starts the process of the attempted extermination of the Country party, and I think the point of order raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was very apropos. I would be quite willing to go out if honorable members of this House were prepared to send me out, and I could not expect to have a better election cry than that which I have raised here. Last night, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), who, for some reason or other unknown to me, seems to have pursued me with personal rancour for the last few months, although I hold most friendly feelings towards him, stated that he had been given to understand that the report of my speech, as published in the Herald, was taken from my typewritten notes. I am given to understand by my secretary that the Herald did not have any typewritten notes of my speech, and, as a matter of fact, these, as the honorable member can see from the carbon copy of my notes if he chooses to glance at them, contained no reference whatsoever to this matter. The Herald report was not a verbatim or- correct report of what I said, but that which appeared in the Age next morning is substantially correct, and I am prepared to stand by it as being a true record of what I said, and as giving the actual facts as I recounted them last night in this chamber when I spoke after the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) had raised the matter. This is the report as it appears in the Age: -
In the Federal Parliament the members of the Country party were so few that they could act merely as faithful watchdogs of country interests. Still, they could do a lot of good. Their action was frequently like switching on the electric light when the burglar was about. (Loud laughter.) That made the burglar drop the loot. (Laughter.) That had been the effect recently with regard to the Budget. In that respect the Country party had forced the dropping of some of the loot.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), who was present at the meeting at Ballarat, will be able to corroborate what I said in the House last night, namely, that I had given specific instances, such as the remission of taxation, as shown in the Budget, which indicated exactly my meaning, showing that it is perfectly obvious it was merely a political illustration, and had no personal relevance whatever. In fact, ail those who were present at the meeting - Sir James Barrett was there, among others - took what I said to have had no personal application to members of any Government. There was no question of personal corruption. The matter under discussion was purely administration and legislation, and the reports appearing in the Age and in the Ballarat Courier are not merely substantially a true record of what I said, but also a correct representation of the facts of the case. The Ballarat Courier report is as follows: -
In. Victoria and New South Wales the country movement held the balance of power, and in Queensland was the Opposition. In the Federal House they were so few that they could be only watchdogs, just like switching on the light when the burglar was about, (laughter.) In the Budget they had an instance of what could be done. (Cheers.) A grazier had told him he was pleased with the Country party representatives, as they regarded them as real;, good, stud herds. (Laughter.) They must keep up the quality and secure recognition from the whole of Australia.
In this matter- there is no. question as to where I stand. It is common knowledge that the laws in existence, especially the Federal income and land taxation, inflict the grossest hardship and injustice on many members of the community, and particularly upon those engaged in rural industries.
– And upon the workers also.
– They fall heavily upon the people as a whole. “ Loot “ is denned as being “ the proceeds of force majeure.”
– “ Stolen goods.”
– If there is anything that can aptly be described as “loot,” it is the taxation that has been wrung out of the graziers and farmers of Australia during the last four or five years, and in this connexion I instance a remark made by Mr. Justice Starke on the Bench, when he said that the methods of the Taxation Department were often scandalous, and in private business they would be termed dishonest trickery. The following letter from an Armidale grazier explains exactly what has taken place v -
Their methods are not merely unfair to individuals, but are injuring the Commonwealth and accentuating the drift to the cities, because they are crippling farmers and graziers, who frequently are too heavily taxed to be able to effect improvements or employ as many hands as they would do normally.
This man then shows that, though his net profit over a period of seven years was only £19,282, he had paid in Commonwealth and State taxation and in shire rates no less than £48,027. Yesterday, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) told the House of a case in which the income tax charged was greater than the revenue earned. In the case of wool-growers, some persons have paid in taxation more than they actually derived from the clip. The price-fixing of meat, as carried out by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene) was nothing more than straight-out robbery.
– It was done at the request of the farmers.
– Nonsense ! Five thousand farmers came down to Melbourne and filled the Auditorium in protest against it.
– They did not want price-fixing; they wanted a subsidy.
– They did not ask for that, and in any case it has nothing to do with the question. In the opinion of many thousands of people, the price-fixing policy was nothing but plain, downright robbery. Because certain Go vernments in power were able to enforce their will on the community, the price of butter was fixed at a rate at which it could not be purchased. I do not wish to delay the House further than to say that there is no intention on my part to make an abject apology or anything of the sort. I stand absolutely to what I said. I see no reason whatever why I should be asked to withdraw anything. I have made no reflection of a personal character on any member of the House, nor have I made any charge of personal corruption against the Administration. What I said was that the general tenor of the Administration was such as to cause practical robbery of the producers of this country, and that the action of the Country party, in continually calling attention to the state of affairs, had resulted in certain remissions. The grossly unfair and extortionate charges made upon the producer, in my opinion, completely vindicate anything I said.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was, I think, justified in bringing this matter before the House, though it is not quite clear as to what the honorable gentleman really intended. How.ever; after the statement of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page),, there appears to be very little in the complaint of the Prime Minister - it was “not loaded.” Apparently, what the honorable, member for Cowper meant was that, since the Country party came into existence, the members of it have acted as the “ watch-dogs “ of the people, and, in consequence, have safeguarded the interests of the farmers, settlers, graziers, and country people generally. I remind the Leader of the Country party, however, .that on almost every occasion when any action has been taken likely to imperil the Government, the members of the Country party, have either voted with the Government or so. divided their forces as to insure that the Government shall remain in power. In this connexion I would like to draw attention to one occasion in. particular when there was a- question before the House that affected, nobody but the people whom the Country party ar»e supposed to represent,, namely, the- farmers, and graziers. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr.
Cunningham) submitted a proposal to remit taxation on the natural increase of stock until the holder had realized. This proposal was made with a view to getting over a difficulty from which country people were suffering, but only half of the Country party voted on the question. The members of the party did not support the proposal, although it vitally affected the interests of their own people. It is idle for the honorable member for Cowper to take credit to himself and his party, when we are approaching an election, with a view to securing support, and to do so on the ground that they are the “watch-dogs” of the country people and have been the means of bringing about a reduction of taxation. As a matter of fact, the surtax on land was supported by the Country party; and it is just as well that the country should know the facts. No person or party should sail under false colours in- connexion with the forthcoming fight; let us, at least, be fair and straight in regard to what happens in. this House. I had occasion recently to move the reduction of the Defence Estimates by the amount of the estimated deficit, and where did we find the Country party on that occasion ? We found them voting with the Government who, they said, were looting the Treasury. I do- not wish to refer to every occasion on which the Country party has taken similar action, although there are quite a number. These instances can be cited at the proper time and in the proper place. I may say that immediately after my motion was defeated the honorable member for Cowper himself submitted a proposal on the same matter; and when the division was taken, in order that there anight be no danger to the Government, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) crossed over. Such has been the conduct of the Country party all through, and I wish to make the position clear to the country. That party is either for or against the Government, and when an election is pending, it ill-becomes its Leader to talk in a general way of “ looting.” I do not know to whom the honorable member refers - it may be to anybody, even to myself. However, after the explanation we have heard, there does not appear to be much importance in what was said, and I merely take the occasion to remind ,the House of how the Country party has consistently done its best to keep the present Government in power.
– I feel quite certain that what the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said at Ballarat did not reflect on the honour of the House in any degree. I was present at that gathering of some 500 delegates, and I heard the speech. I did not hear one word of what has-been alleged until I arrived in Melbourne this morning. I may say, further, that seven leading Nationalists of Bendigo, who also heard ,the speech, agree with me, and honorable members have read the report of it in the Ballarat Courier. It seems to me that if the Government undertake to chase every report in the press, and thresh it out until they find the truth or untruth of it, they have a big contract on hand. When the honorable member for Cowper referred to “ loot,” he specified exactly what he meant; he said that the “loot” dropped was the duty on wire netting, fencing wire, and traction engines, and, I believe, the land tax. I am certain nobody in that great audience re,garded his remarks as any reflection on members of the Ministry, or on this Parliament.
– I should like to say a few words in regard ito .this matter, because
– I think the Prime Minister should move a motion to put this discussion in order.
– I was just about to remind the House that no motion has been moved, and that, in the absence of a motion, further debate will be irregular. While it was competent for the Prime Minister )( Air. Hughes), or any other member, to raise the question, and for the honorable member who is principally concerned in it to make an explanation, it is not in order to have a general debate unless a motion is going to be moved. It is my duty to stop further discussion at this stage, unless that is going to be done.
– Standing order 28’5 relates to this matter -
Any member complaining to the House of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege shall produce a copy of the paper con- taining the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
– I am fully aware of that Standing Order, which, the honorable member will note, refers , to a statement by a newspaper. What is before us is an alleged libel by an honorable member of the House, so that the cases are somewhat different.
– It is a libel reported in the press.
– A newspaper is not charged with having made a libellous statement, and an honorable member of the House is referred to specifically in that connexion. The proper course if the matter is to be debated is for some motion to be moved if the explanation by the honorable member is not considered satisfactory. Unless a motion is going to be submitted the matter can proceed no further.
– In view of what the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has said - that no reflection was made on the honour of any member of the House or of the Government - there is no need to press the matter further.
Debate resumed from 21st September (vide page 2590), on. motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- In discussing this measure, I desire to obtain from the Minister (Mr. Groom) some information as to certain aspects of it as affecting public servants who were taken over by the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth was initiated, but who are still under State laws with respect to their superannuation contributions. I have received several communications from people who are thus interested in the Bill, and in one of these, from public servants in New South Wales, there are the following statements -
I take the liberty of penning you these few fines to ask you if you will do something in the interests of the old subscribers to the Superannuation Fund, now that a new Act is about to be passed. The subscribers to the
Superannuation Fund before the Commonwealth took over the control of the Post Office were still left in the hands of the State Government, and are compelled to contribute 4 per cent, of salary. In 1917 the State passed a new Superannuation Act, but the interests of the old Commonwealth servants were entirely neglected, and did not derive any benefit. A few facts will, no doubt, help you, and they are as follows: -
it is compulsory to contribute 4 per cent, of your salary to the old fund, the 4 per cent, being deducted from your salary.
If a contributor dies before the age of sixty, the thing dies with him, and his dependants receive nothing, although he is contributing 4 per cent, of his salary since he entered the Service.
If a contributor to this fund leaves the Service, or is dismissed, he gets nothing.
You are not allowed to cease contributing to this fund, but still compelled tocontribute.
Trusting you will do your best in this matter, and that yourself and family continue in good health, and you arc still spared to tight in the interests of our class.
– The honorable member may state his case now, and I shall deal with it when we reach clause 50in Committee.
Mr.CONSIDINE.- I wish the Minister to take steps to safeguard the interests of those who are complaining of injustice. These public servants desire that the Bill shall be so framed as to protect interests which have not hitherto been safeguarded.
Another phase of the question, on which I have also received a communication, is presented in the case of people who are insured in private companies. I understand that steps are taken in the Bill to provide that they shall not suffer any loss. I am told that if they are not protected, as a result of being compelled to make forfeit through inability to keep both insurance premiums and superannuation contributions, lower paid servants will suffer considerable loss.
– A public servant may hand over his policy to the fund if he choses.
-Without suffering any loss?
– The honorable member will see that, in clause 59, specific provision is made for the transfer of policies to the Board. The clause provides that, where a transfer is made, the Board shall pay the premiums, and, on the maturity of the policy, shall pay any sums received on the policy, less the amount of the premiums paid by the Board, “with- compound interest.
– I am satisfied, then, that an employee will lose nothing by so transferring his insurance policy. I have further comments and criticisms to offer, but shall reserve them for the -Committee stage.
– This measure is -one of vital importance, not only to employees of the Commonwealth, but to the public at large, who will be called upon to make heavy payments in connexion therewith. If I do not offer any strenuous objection to the Bill it is because I view it as a beacon light to citizens generally. There should be one form of national insurance, to extend to the whole of the people, whether inside or outside of the ‘Government Service. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) will, perhaps, recall that in the State Parliament I took much interest in obtaining figures pertaining to the pensions paid to Victorian public servants. I ascertained that this little State paid more in that direction than was disbursed by the remainder of the people throughout the continent and Tasmania, in addition to those >of New Zealand.
– Hear, hear!
– .So extensive were our payments that, although New South Wales counted a population of 200,000 more than tEe ‘total of the residents of Victoria, we paid £2 by way of pensions for every £1 paid by the people of New South Wales; and then we were £50,000 to the bad. The pensions list in Victoria was possibly the most burdensome to the community generally of any pensions system in the world. Public servants of the Commonwealth will .-appreciate my position. I have been pledged for thirty years against any form of pension, save one. And that should be for our old folk. I would have an -age prescribed at which every man and woman in the community could enter into unquestioned pensions rights. If a direct vote .could be ta’ken in this House upon the question of increasing old-age pensions from 15s. to 20s. a week, I doubt if any member would oppose it. If I may make a personal reference, I have undertaken, from my augmented stipend, to increase the doles of twenty old-age pensioners up to 20s. a week. This gift, I may add, is in addition to what I had previously undertaken. I do not know how many of our old people continue to exist in these days.
The ‘Commonwealth has not acted justly with respect to increases of rent rates perpetrated during the war period. These were out of all -proportion to any oliver form .of increase that I know of. I repeatedly, but unavailingly, asked the Government to endeavour .to bring some pressure to bear upon landlords. In all my experience -of landlords in this city I know of only one - =a Jewish gentleman - who .did -not raise his rents during the war. That man will not permit me to mention his -name; but, as indicating what I think -of him, I can only say that he is one of those for whom I shall ever pray. Honorable members will realize, perhaps, the measure of his generosity when I add that it extended to about thirty-five dwellings in Melbourne.
I would impress on every public servant of the Commonwealth that this Bill should stimulate and inspire them to advocate the extension of the same principle to every member of the community. National insurance reached its then highest stage of perfection, in Germany, during the years prior to the war. The system was extended and made far more beneficial under the British Act. That Statute, I understand, has fallen mote or less into abeyance owing to the exigencies of the war, but I hope that ere long it will be fully re -imposed.
I trust that, whatever Government may be in office next year, they will take this superannuation measure as a starting point from which to extend its splendid benefits to embrace the whole of our people. I regret, indeed, that it does not go so far as I could wish. I hope that every beneficiary under this Bill will become an advocate of the advantages of a national pension system. In that manner he may help his fellow citizens w”ho, in many respects, are -not so beneficially placed. Public servants should not forget that they enjoy regularity of employment, and that their hours, and their payment for overtime, are fixed and assured. On the other hand, their chances of achieving wealth and the higher places in the land may not be so great as those of persons outside the Service. I recog- nise that if the same attention to duty and concentration of brain power were exercised in the pursuance of private interests, many public servants would attain to high place and secure more than a sufficiency of “ filthy lucre.” At the same time, they are now to be provided for upon reaching old age ; and they must not forget what an enormous advantage that confers upon them.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the luncheon adjournment the Prune Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) made an attack on the Country party, and, whether inadvertently or not, misrepresented the actions of its members. I rise, therefore on a question of privilege, to show exactly what has happened in connexion with the imposition of the excess land tax.
– The honorable member cannot discuss on the question of privilege something that has been said in the House; but if there has been a misrepresentation which affects him individually, he is entitled to set matters right by making a personal explanation.
– I am concerned individually because, although the attack of both honorable members was directed more particularly against my leader (Dr. Earle Page), it affected every other member of the Country party. As a personal explanation, I wish to state that the excess land tax was first proposed on 19th November, 1918, and, on a vote being taken upon the proposal, thirtyfive members voted for it and six against it. Those who voted against it were Mr. Bruce, Mr. Jowett, Mr. Pigott, Mr. Rodgers, Mr. Gregory, and Mr. Leckie. The only three members of the Country party who were then present voted against the measure.
– The Country party was not then in existence.
– What I should have said was that the only members of the present Country party who were then in the House voted against the imposition of this tax.
– How did the honorable member himself vote?
-At the time I was away at the war.
Mr.Considine. - Is the honorable member in order in making a personal explanation about something which he says happened when he was away, and in which he took no part?
– A personal explanation can be made only with the indulgence of the House; but the honorable member is entitled to make such an explanation if something that has been said reflects on him, or misrepresents him in any way.
– I was here when the matter was dealt with in subsequent years. The imposition of an excess land tax was again proposed by Mr. Poynton, who was then Honorary Minister, on 15th October, 1919. No division was taken, though Mr. Tudor found fault with the course proposed, and two interjections were made, one by Mr. McWilliams and the other by Mr. Jowett, both against the proposal. Those members showed by their remarks that they were opposed to the re-imposition of the excess land tax.
– The honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation now. He may not deal with matters affecting the Country party as a party; his explanation must be confined to matters affecting himself personally. If he has been misrepresented, he is entitled to correct the misrepresentation, but he may not open up a general discussion.
– Passing on to the following year, this is the Hansard report of what happened on 10th November, 1920-
– I ask leave of the House to introduce a Bill for the Imposition of the land tax rates for the year.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) promised the Leader of the Opposition before he left the chamber that no more business would be taken to-night.
– This is quite a formal matter. It is the little Bill which it is necessary to pass each year for the imposition of the land tax rates.
– Very well.
In Committee of Ways and Means:-
Motion(by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That in addition to the land tax payable under the provisions of the Land Tax Act 1010-1914 there be imposed for the financial year 1920-21, and each financial year thereafter, an additional tax equal to 20 per cent, of the land tax payable under those provisions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
The resolution was reported under those conditions. That shows the part taken by the Country party in the imposition of this excess land tax. In no case did any of them vote for it.
– I said last night that, so far as my recollection served me, the Country party, with one exception, voted for this proposal; but what was really in my mind at the time was what took place in 1918, when, I think, two of the present members of the Country party voted against it. Some of them, I understand, were for it.
– Not one of them voted for it.
– “Well, I have not turned up the record of the division. In 1920, after the formation of the Country party, when the watch-dog was presumably awake and the burglar was about to collect the loot - to use the metaphor of the Leader of that party - not one of its members voiced even a word of protest against the imposition of the tax for all time.
– We were misled. Sir Joseph Cook said that the motion was merely a formal one, whereas it made provision for more than members thought was intended.
.- I shall not detain the House long, but there are a few observations on the vital principles of the Bill with which I must trouble honorable members. Ministers appear to have made up their minds that the Bill shall pass this session, and I suppose it is useless to urge delay or reconsideration. The House has had as plain an intimation as a Government can give that there is to be an election in the near future, and therefore members naturally have their attention directed more to what may happen in the constituencies than to the merits of the measures that it is proposed to pass before the session closes. So far as this Bill is concerned, that is a very unfortunate thing, because there is involved a radical departure from our previous legislation, and a heavy loading of the revenues of future years. This loading of revenue is so great, as I shall endeavour to show, that members should scan with great care and thoroughness the provisions of the measure. A statement has been circulated to show what the passing of the Bill into law is likely to costto the Treasury, and I think the figures contained in that statement are sufficiently large to make all parties pause before giving an unqualified assent to the measure. If we accept the most generous table, the cost of the scheme, based on the present strength of the Service, will be in the next forty years between £13,000,000 and £14,000,000, according to my calculation. That basis, however, is unreliable for the measurement of our future commitments. The actuaries employed to make an estimate of the cost have clearly had not much time to give to the work. According to a report signed by Messrs. Jackson, Wickens, and Barford, their investigation originated in a letter sent to them by the Minister for Works and Railways on 16th August, 1921. If the clauses of their report are read carefully, it will be seen that there are many things which they have had to take for granted; that there are many assumptions which, to the lay mind, are eminently arguable, and much data taken for granted without complete investigation. The most important figures in the calculation concern the strength of the Service and the number of prospective pensioners to be provided for out of the revenue. The actuaries worked on the figures giving the strength of the Service at the time they began their calculations, but they did not make an allowance for an increase in the numerical strength of the Service. The figures we have had given to us apply tocommitments in respect of the present number of employees of the Commonwealth who are permanent, and make no provision for an increase. The Minister has, however, given us a revised calculation, based on the strength of the Service on the 18th September, 1922. This shows that between 30th June, 1920, and 18th September, 1922, the number of persons likely to become recipients of pensions had increased from 23,032 to 24,759, an increase of 1,727, or about 7 per cent, in a couple of years.
– A good many of those appointments are due to the fact that positions had hot been filled during the war, but had to be filled subsequently.
-If the Service is to increase alt that rate during the forty years covered by these calculations, the sum that will be payable out of the Treasury, even if Parliament is not asked to be more liberal in its appropriations for the pensions fund, will be very large’ indeed, and probably twice or three times as great as that estimated. The calculation is based on an average pension of £104 per annum. The officers who have investigated this matter have expressed the view that it is unlikely that the average pension will exceed that amount; but they do not say how they arrived at that probability, though the matter is a very important one. If, instead of being £104, the average pension were £114 or £124, the figures that have been put before us will be utterly useless.In clause 17 of their report the auditors say, dealing with supplementary officers -
As these supplementary services consist entirely of male officers, an estimate based on the ratio of the total numbers therein to the number of male officers in the “ Public Service”has been prepared. The figures so obtained furnish a rough indication of the extent of the liability of the Government in respect of the services mentioned.
Adding this rough estimate to that already furnished in paragraph 12 above in respect of the “Public Service” the total liability of the Government is estimated as follows: -
These capable and efficient men admit that they are asked to deal with rough indications and give rough estimates. Having tried to understand superannuation schemes by some reading of their history in various parts of the Commonwealth, my own judgment is that even with the most elaborate calculations, which in former times were insisted upon by other Parliaments, the expectations of the Governments and Parliaments that sanctioned schemes of this kind have been, without exception, vastly exceeded. That is an uncomfortable fact to remember when we are called upon to deal with data roughly compiled, based upon assumptions that are not explained to honorable members, and calculated for the purpose of realizing our possible future commitments, upon the present strength of the Service, and not upon the increase, probably large, which seems to me, in the light of past experience, to be inevitable. If it were not for the haste to conclude the session which is being exhibited by the Government, and naturally by honorable members also, I believe we should be justified in referring this scheme to a Committee. I speak of it as a non-party proposition, to be investigated by representatives of all sections of the House. Such a Committee would be able to interrogate the examining officers, and possibly employ additional strength, so that the calculations on which honorable memberswere asked to judge this measure would be authentic and reliable, and would show as closely as possible the inevitable commitments of the Commonwealth for the next 10, 20, 30, or 40 years.
– How many millions of pounds does the scheme involve?
Mr.WATT.- According to the estimate of the actuaries, based upon the present strength of the Service, between £13,000,000 and £14,000,000 would be taken from the Treasury in forty years.
– As against the anticipated increase in the strength of the Service, should we not set off an estimated increase in the population?
– That, too, should be calculated. If we could believe that the employees in the Commonwealth Service would increase merely in proportion to the increase in population, the danger would not be so great; but our experience does not lead us to expect that. If we cut out the war period and note the number of new projects upon which the Government have embarked during the last five years, or even since the end of 1919, and realize the increases that have occurred in the Public
Service, we cannot but come to the conclusion, not only that the increasing numbers of the people have demanded greater strength in the Postal and other Departments, but that the ambitions of Governments and Parliaments have added to those inevitable increases. That fact must be taken into consideration. I believe we are proceeding on loose data without realizing all that this commits future Parliaments and future generations to.
– Would a Parliamentary Committee make a more effective inquiry than the actuaries have made?
– If the honorable member will study the report of the Actuarial Committee, he will see that they acknowledge, impliedly, I admit, that they have not had time to deal with this matter as a matter of this importance should be dealt with. For instance, in paragraph 23, they say -
In conclusion, the Committee desires to stress the fact that, owing to the necessary absence of adequate data for the estimation of the cost to the Government, the figures contained in paragraphs 12 and 17 respectively have been based on assumptions which appeared to the Committee to be appropriate.
The Committee do not tell us what those assumptions are, except that they have assumed the average pension to be £104. They continued-
As a result of this, the figures referred to are submitted as measuring the approximate extent of the payments to be made by the. Government rather than as furnishing a forecast of the amounts which will actually be paid in the several years.
We have a right to assume, from the position which these gentlemen occupy, that they are competent actuarial experts, and, if I were dealing with this matter outside Parliament as a purely business proposition, I would not be satisfied to embark on the project when the responsible recommending officers deal so indefinitely with the vital features of it. We ought to remember the experience of other sections of our own people in legislating for superannuation schemes. Victoria decided to establish a pensions scheme. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who, while in the State Parliament, spent many ‘years in investigating these problems, declared,’ with peculiar force and propriety, that Victoria was more liberal than all the rest of Australia put together in the superannuation provision it made for its retiring public officers in years gone by.
– Did the officers contribute to that scheme?
– The origin of the scheme dates back almost to a time before some of us were bom, but speaking from memory it was calculated that the pensions would cost the Victorian Government a maximum of between £50,000 and £60,000 per annum. I was Treasurer of the State for some years, and, speaking without any resort to recent figures, five or six times the original estimate had to be paid out of the yearly revenues of the State in order to meet the superannuation liability. I think that this little State alone had to find out of its public revenue between £300,000 and £350,000, and it had launched that scheme on calculations by competent advisers that it would not cost the Government more than £50,000 or £60,000 per annum.
– Is the honorable member referring to the scheme of 1882?
– No; the scheme which was abolished in 1882. The police pensions of the State were placed upon a different footing. The police were supposed to be dealt with more liberally, but they, themselves, contributed a considerable sum towards the fund, and the £350,000 which the Treasurer had to find each year was apart from what the police themselves were finding for their own superannuation scheme. The result was that, after consideration in the electorates, and in Parliament, Victoria deliberately cancelled that scheme of pensions, and if honorable members had time it would be very interesting to read the debates that took place when the abolition of pensions was sanctioned by the Victorian Parliament. The police pensions were preserved, for two reasons, if one may judge by the debates. The first was that the police were subject to personal risks in the discharge of their duties. They were liable to injury leading to invalidity, or actual death, and Parliament agreed that if the Service was to get good men they must be protected against risk, and compensated when injury overtook them. A second reason was that the police themselves contributed heavily to the scheme. That fund was the only one that escaped the general storm of indignation that swept through the colony of Victoria during the abolition period in the early eighties. When pensions were abolished the Victorian Public Service Act was amended to compel, as the Commonwealth Public .Service Act does, the public servant to insure his life, and that was supposed to provide more or less adequately for the retirement period.
– But ‘ actually it did not pah out in that way.
– No, largely because the endowment arrangements made at the time were not sufficient. However, that is the law to-day in Victoria, as it is in the Commonwealth, and at one time it was the law in New South Wales. But the Mother State determined to embark upon a pensions scheme, and I read in the Argus of the 26th July the following statement, which had been received by telegram from Sydney: -
Disclosures of large overpayments and the intolerable burdens imposed on the administration of the State Superannuation Fund, are made in a report submitted to the Cabinet by the Minister for Justice (Mr. Ley). . . . The State was induced to enter into the contract on a grossly mistaken estimate that it would cost between £190,000 and £200,000 a year, while the actual cost is now £439,000, exclusive of £75,000 paid by corporate bodies.
In other words, what was estimated to cost between £190,000 and £200,000 per annum is now, after a comparatively short time, costing the State over £500,000.
– That scheme is fundamentally different from that contained in the Bill. The same development could not occur under this Bill.
– The New South Wales scheme provides for contributions in certain cases only - not, as this Bill does, by all public servants.
– The New South Wales Government planked down their contributions at the same time as’ the public servants paid theirs. Under the scheme now before the House the Government will contribute .only at .the time when the liability occurs.
– I quite realize the principle of this Bill, but what difference will it make?
– The New South Wales Government were called upon to pay beforehand larger sums than were anticipated.
– I prefer the provision in this Bill that the money should be paid by the Commonwealth when the liability occurs, and no doubt that is a convenient arrangement for the Government, because no heavy commitments are immediately involved. Even though the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) pointed out the difference between this scheme and that in New South Wales, the statement that what was expected to cost from £190,000 to £200,000 is now costing the State of New South Wales £439,000, gives this House little confidence of being able to compute the future liability to which the Commonwealth is being committed. The Minister for Justice (Mr. Ley) proposes the closing of the fund against new entrants to the service, and the reversion to the compulsory insurance principle.
– I do not think that is the announced policy of the “Government of New South Wales.
– It may not have been announced yet, but that is Mr. Ley’s recommendation to Cabinet. Two States, the largest on the Continent, containing between them over 70 per cent, of the population of the Commonwealth, have tried superannuation schemes, although they were not, it is true, on all fours with ours, involving huge commitments by their respective Treasuries, and have abandoned them in the one case, and in the other recommended confirmation of the policy which is now in force in the Commonwealth Public Service, namely, compulsory insurance. In addition, the Commonwealth Government had this question examined in 1920 by Mr. McLachlan, formerly the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner, who strikes me as being the mo3t competent man in Australia to deal with the problem. I have not seen his recommendation for a long time, but I think it will not support the proportion of contribution by the Commonwealth which is embodied in this Bill. My recollection is that, after spending many months in dealing with the whole question of the history of superannuation schemes in Australia, for the purpose of guiding the mind of the Government of which I was a member at the time, as to whether a superannuation scheme should be established by the Commonwealth, and, if so, as to the principle which, should be embodied in it, he recommended the establishment of a superannuation fund, and that the contributions of the Commonwealth employees should be supplemented by the Commonwealth to the extent of one-fifth of the total amount. I speak subject to correction, because I have not looked at the recommendation recently. The scheme in the Bill before us purports to supplement the employees’ contributions by at least half of the total amount, and I am afraid it will be much more than half. How much more we cannot ascertain. There will be quite a number of cases in which the cost of paying pensions to the officers who retire within the next few years will fall heavily upon the Commonwealth. In the case of the retirement of officers who cannot, because of their advanced ages, expect, to buy an annuity, such as this measure provides, the Commonwealth will have to make up the amount. In other cases, where the pension calculated in accordance with this Bill is less than the prescribed minimum, the amount necessary to bring it up to the minimum is to be paid by the Commonwealth to the fund in addition to the sums payable by the Commonwealth under Division 4 of the Bill. If honorable members had time to sit down and put a microscope on this Bill, I venture to say they would extract from it a variety of cases where the Commonwealth, particularly in the early stages of the scheme, but also in the latter stages, will be obliged to supplement considerably the pension fund in order to give benefits which we here promise to pay on behalf of the community.
– Then we ought to sit down and make that study.
– There is no time to sit down and do so. If the Minister could allow us a fortnight it might be done; but when it is suggested that Parliament should rise in a fortnight, as is now rumoured, how would it be possible to have this work done as conscientiously as such important work should be undertaken ? I recommend honorable members to study Mr. McLachlan’s report. It contains, from my recollection of what I have read of it, the clearest analysis of the position of the public servant that, I believe, has been presented in recent years for the guidance of Parliament.
The scheme before us provides, I think, too little for the lower-paid men of the
Service. I do not say this to encourage the belief that these men can get more, because the scheme is based on the unitary system, but I do not think that a number of the men who will retire on .the lower rates of pay will have much more than old-age pension rates.
– Some of them will not have any more.
– Not if the Labour party gets into power. We shall increase the old-age pension rates.
– That, of course, is not the point at issue now. But are we to debar the man with family responsibilities and the other responsibilities which age brings from, getting an old-age pension because he also happens to be receiving a superannuation allowance of £52 ? Or are our Public Service employees, particularly those in the General Division, to be persuaded that this Bill gives them quite enough to protect them in the future, only to find, when they come to face the realities of that future, that it does not give them sufficient for board and lodging for an individual, apart altogether from clothing and the amenities of civilization? A more leisurely survey of this position by critical minds in the House, irrespective of party, would correct that particular defect without^ extra cost, because those on higher rates of pay in the schedules could1 be asked to contribute more for fewer benefits without suffering injustice. If we are to give security for the declining years of the lower-paid men of the State we should, at least, give them enough to exist upon without expecting them to knock at the door of the Old-age Pensions Commissioner’s office for that supplement which they, like other citzens, should be entitled to draw.
– They would be debarred from drawing the old-age pension.
– The question of instituting a. superannuation scheme is not arguable on one side only. There are a multitude of reasons advanced by those experienced in administration why some such provision should be made for the later years beyond the statutory maximum age of those who do the work of the State. But an almost equal number of reasons1 can be advanced’ against such a scheme from the stand-point of the general community. I have drawn up a few on both sides for the information of honor- able members, which. I .think are worthy of debate before this Bill emerges from this Chamber.
– Did not the Victorian Police Force suffer an injustice to their scheme owing to their being deprived of the large amount to which they were entitled ?
– I think that in some cases they did suffer an injustice, but the trouble was; cured to some extent by heavier appropriations from the Licensing Fund, and further appropriations from the Treasury. There were considerable complaints as to the actuarial solvency of that particular fund, and its capacity to bear and supply the benefits originally promised. When the State seeks to encourage what I regard as one of the greatest of social movements, which has taken such a deep root in Australia - I refer to the Friendly Society movement - it appoints actuaries, and officers, and guardians of the society’s funds whose duty is not to hold those funds but to watch their solvency. Organizations that offer Friendly Society benefits are compelled to levy a scale of contributions which actuarially ia sufficient to guarantee the solvency of their funds. Unfortunately, no such provision was made in the case of the Victorian Police Superannuation Fund, and the State Government has had to make up the difference, as will be the case in connexion with the scheme now before this House, apart altogether from actuarial correction or not.
I propose now to give some of the reasons which should induce Parliament to give consideration to a proper, superannuation scheme for the Public Service.
The salaries paid by the State are not based on the value received from the individual. Rather they are based on an arbitrary classification which assumes that officers in a specified division or class are giving service of equal value to the State. Such a classification is an essential of a large service.
The machine-like remuneration does not attract to the Service the best men, and it is suggested that in order to counterbalance this a superannuation scheme or a deferred-pay system should be instituted, making the Service more attractive and its personnel more contented, an ideal at which all Administrations should i aim.
With advancement in age, as a general rule, there ia an increase of responsibilities both official and domestic. It is in the best interests of the State that the public servant’s official duties should receive his concentrated attention. In that , wa.y we would increase the efficiency of the Service.
The loss of position, plus loss of rights on retirement, is a more important deterrent against irregularity or misfeasance than the loss of the position alone. A proper superannuation scheme which would tend to give sufficient reward would thus serve to remove the public servant from temptation in the discharge of important administrative duties.
Departments hesitate to retire men incapacitated for service when it is known that they have insufficient or no means of subsistence afterwards. In the absence of
These are admittedly arguments to be considered in the establishment of a proper superannuation scheme. But the community has other arguments in opposition to offer, and I propose to give some of them. Men, it is said, join the Service with the knowledge of its disadvantages as well as its advantages, and the institution of a pension scheme on top of salary remuneration for services is only correct if the salary rates have been fixed on tho assumption that the officers are not expected to make provision for the period of inactivity during their old age. That is why the Public Service Acts of the Commonwealth and many of the States, including Victoria, compel the life assurance of individual members of the Service.
From the economic and social point of view it may be fairly urged that definite provision for incapacitated officers is not conducive to frugality. It is admitted that the widows and families of pensioners are generally worse off than are those of men who have been compelled by circumstances to make capital provision for their old age.
The arguments in favour of making allowances to the widows and young children of civil servants can and ought to be used with equal force in support of a national scheme of pensions for widows and their children.
– The Labour party has had that proposal on its programme for some time past.
– I am not endeavouring to steal from the shop window of the
Labour party, but I am endeavouring to trace the relationship of one phase of this matter to a political measure of au important kind.
The Constitution Act does not provide for a pension scheme for civil servants, their widows and children. Section 84, which preserves the rights of officers transferred to the Commonwealth, specifically refers to the retention of pension rights, and sets out the basis for apportioning the costs between the Federal and State Departments in a manner, which, 1 think, operates fairly to both sets of Government. No mention is made of increasing the rights and privileges of such officers under our Constitution. All that the Constitution fox which, the people voted does is to safeguard those rights already existing.
– But that fact does not preclude us from, doing more.
– No; I do not think it erects a barrier to a scheme of this kind, but it is clear that it does not contemplate superimposing a scheme of this kind on the existing rights of transferred officers. There is another phase to which I wish to direct attention. This policy, in some of its features, was embodied in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the last general election as a ,plank in “the Government programme. I propose to read the two paragraphs that deal with Public Service promises in the Bendigo speech in October, 1919. They are as follow : -
Economy in expenditure is as essential as increased production. We must produce more and spend less. The Government intends to introduce into the Departments of the Commonwealth a Board of Management, as recently recommended - by the Economy Commission. This, we believe, will promote economy and efficiency, and a higher level of administration. We desire also to give hope and encouragement to the employees of the Commonwealth, and we therefore propose to establish a system of contributory superannuation for the Public Service, supported by a reasonable and maximum payment from the Treasury.
The promise (was that the Government were going to introduce a contributory scheme which had to be reasonable in the contribution of the Treasury, and there had to be a maximum. ‘There is no maximum in the scheme before us; there is an undefined, indefinite, and inevitably ever-increasing suan to be paid, but no maximum. I venture to think that if any of us had undertaken at the last election to introduce a scheme of superannuation fori the Public Service of ‘ the ‘ Commonwealth which would cost at least £13,000,000 or £14,000,000 in forty years out of the public revenues, it would have been a very dangerous proposition to our electoral chances. The community, I venture to think, alt any rate in this part of Australia, with which I am most acquainted, would have indignantly declined to support the proposition. 1 hope that the government, before the Bill passes, will keep that phase of the promise, whatever it does with the contribution arrangements, and will place a maximum amount in the Bill as promised at the last election.
I have done with the Bill- itself, except to say that it is. not. merely the finances and heavy obligations of this measure that concern me. The time and manner of bringing the Bill in embarrasses Parliament. We might as well be quite frank about the matter. The honorable member for- Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) knows as much about the pensions question as any man in the House;’ he made important declarations on it long before I was in Parliament, and he is against pensions. Yet there is put on him the responsibility, at this stage, of saying, “I am going to vote against the Bill,” and then immediately contesting a constituency with a large Public Service vote in it.
– (Does not the honorable member for Melbourne believe in universal pensions?
– Yes, the honorable member for Melbourne has said so, but the embarrassment which sits on honorable members in this House is just as plain as the nose on the face. It is not proper to bring down this Bill and go straight to an election on it - -to compel those who voice their conscientious conviction about it, to take, as >a result of their opposition,, the odium of those men who expect benefits from the measure.
– This Bill has been promised for years.
– The Government pro- .mised a superannuation scheme at: the last election three years ago, and it is brought down at the last moment. Al- though acquainted with the examination conducted by Mr. McLachlan I have >not had time to compare the propositions in the Bill with his recommendations. I do not think it is fair to Commit the taxpayers of the country to such schemes in a hurry just because we wish to go to the country in a hurry.
– If the thing is fair and just, what does that matter?
– I have endeavoured to show the honorable member that I think the cost on the Treasury is too big, and that the people will rebel against the payment. The mere fact that the cost is not much .this year or next ought not to salve our conscience, for we are trustees, not only for this (period, ‘but for futurity. We do things that other men may find it hard to undo, and we should realize the responsibility of those who commit future revenues. That is all I am asking the House to do.
– That is the difference between a politician and :a .statesman - :the statesman looks to the future.!
– I wish it were so, and that all looked to the next ten or twenty years, instead of only to the present moment. It is not proper to bring a Bill like this before the House immediately before a general election. The responsibility for the submission of the Bill, the manner of its conduct through >the House, and its effects, financially and otherwise, is on the Government. If it increases the popularity of the Government, well and good. Some of us will argue that point on the platform and subject ourselves to unpopularity. It is an unfair thing that the Government propose to do with the money of future taxpayers.
.- We all admit that some provision should be made for the declining years of people, whether they are in the Government service or outside. That is an idea which is becoming practically universal throughout all civilized countries. One of the principal causes of industrial unrest is the uncertainty of employment and the uncertainty of the future when people become too old to work. The Government, in introducing a Bill of this kind, should consider not merely public servants, whose tenure is as permanent as possible, but also those whose work is more ot less casual, and whose opportunities for making provision for their declining years are meagre or nonexistent. Any scheme introduced now’ should be so framed as to render it easily adaptable as an integral part of a national insurance scheme to operate equitably throughout the general community.
I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) in protesting against a measure of this magnitude and importance being introduced at the present time, when an election is practically within sight, and we are told that if we do not get certain measures through in a certain time the “ gag “ will be applied. There have been numberless schemes of superannuation in various countries. The history of Australia is not a long one, but it is strewn with the wrecks of schemes of the kind - schemes which were badly conceived, and which, at the time they should have functioned best, broke flown. The scheme before us, the stated object of which is to improve the conditions of the Public Service and render it more attractive to the best men in the community, presents those very features which led to the failure of several of the State schemes. As I have said many times before, the Public Service of this country needs a thorough re-organization. At the present time hundreds, if not thousands, of men who enter the Public Service find it a “ dead-end “ ; they may rise to a certain salary, but, after that, they have to wait for the death of others in order to get promotion. Because there is no proper devolution of responsibility throughout the Service, men who feel themselves quite capable for their jobs go outside, where higher prizes await them. Thus men with family ties, or men who are afraid to face the outside world in open competition, become in time the larger portion of the Service. Yet we hope, under such conditions, to successfully conduct great public activities. We do not offer the best inducements for the creation of an able and efficient Public Service; certainly the scheme before us does not offer them.
The provisions for the Government contribution are not the same as those adopted for the national insurance scheme in England. There the Government pay contributions just as do other employers, and this renders the scheme actuarially sound from beginning to end whatever may happen. According to the Bill the Government is going to pay a certain unstated sum year by year. After the “ big slump “ in New South Wales, when the State finances were in a very precarious condition and it was difficult, indeed, to raise revenue, the Government practically decided to declare the State superannuation scheme insolvent. This was done at a time when the affairs of everybody in the, State were depressed. The public servants were invited to take the risk of’ obtaining a small part of the fund that had been left as a result of their 4 per cent, contributions, or to leave those contributions in the fund to be returned later on. Practically 90 per cent, of the younger men in the Service determined not to take any risk about the superannuation, but to transfer to some outside insurance institution as more satisfactory. In the case of the Railways Superannuation Act in New South Wales the method suggested in the Bill before us was adopted, only in New South Wales the employees’ contribution was limited to 1$ per cent, on salary or wages, and the Government has to pay up whatever is necessary. This Fund, after running for ten years, was valued at £30 6s. 2d. by Mr. Teece, and although his report has not yet been published, it is common knowledge that, so far from an annual subsidy from the Government of £20,000, representing at the utmost £600,000 capital value at 4 per cent., as promised in Parliament when the Bill was before the State House, the present value of the Government’s liability is many millions. That position has been brought about because the State Government adopted the fatal course of not meeting their share of the liability by yearly payments. If those payments were the correct amount, they would enable a reserve fund to be built up in the days when the pensions were few to meet the strain when the calls on the fund were heavy. That same vicious principle is found in this Bill, though not to the same extent; and ultimately there must be trouble and embarrassment. It amounts to placing payments which we should meet ourselves on the shoulders of future taxpayers, who will have problems of their own. And, as such, the scheme is economically and actuarially unsound. The sole reason for this procedure is that it will hide from Parliament the exact nature of the obligations which the Bill entails.
– What are we hiding from Parliament ?
– I say that the fact that we have not now to provide all this money merely diverts attention, from our obligations forty years hence.
– Honorable members have been supplied with detailed information of the financing covering the whole period.
– Then I will say that the liability to which we are committed is being disguised.
– The figures of the actuaries assume a stationary Service.
– They are absolutely worthless. They do, indeed, deal with the Service on the basis of its being practically stationary. Putting on one side a trading Department, such as that of the Postmaster-General, also diverting attention for the- moment from the Defence and Navy Departments, and concentrating only upon those concerned in the actual conduct of government, the increase in the numbers of employees has been something like 250 per cent, over the past ten years, while the population of the Commonwealth has increased by only 22 per cent. An actuarial statement which admits that it is rough and incomplete forms a very unsatisfactory basis upon which to hurriedly present a Bill to Parliament. In the circumstances it would be wise if the Government were to defer consideration of the Bill in Committee for at least another week, so that independent actuarial investigations might be conducted and data furnished to enable honorable members to adequately deal with the Bill. There are, for example, certain pensions which are to be provided without any cost to the beneficiaries. Parliament is entitled to know the exact number of those beneficiaries and the precise amount of liability entailed in respect of them. The figures could be, and, therefore, should be, furnished in detail. We should be informed, at any rate, of the exact proportion of our first year’s liability in that respect alone. While we are being given full information as to those who have reached the retiring age, and will be gratuitously pensioned, we should be prepared to put others, who are approaching the age of sixty-five this year, on the same basis. In the scheme there is no such provision for them. I shall not oppose trie Bill; but I suggest that time be given for a far more thorough consideration than is suggested. This is essentially a Committee Bill. In Committee we should be able to bring about such alterations and improvements in its construction as to permit the Bill to be the first part and parcel of an ultimate scheme of national insurance. Its broad base is one which can be applied to such a system; but, as to the financial commitments, honorable members should have far more facts. They should be in a position to know exactly where the country stands, and will stand, from year to year. In New South Wales some two and a-half years ago Parliament agreed to a scheme which was similar to this measure. To-day, a responsible Minister in that State announces that the Government must debar all further entrants from- that scheme; if they do not, it will become top-heavy, and will be incapable of being put into effect. From the point of view, not merely of the public - who are entitled to know exactly to what they are being committed - but from the view-point also of the Service itself, the Government should undertake - despite the fact that this Parliament will very shortly end its days - that the Bill will not be dealt with in Committee, at least, during next week. Meanwhile, all further possible information should be placed at the disposal of Parliament, either by means of a Parliamentary Select Committee - and thus consideration would be facilitated in another place - or by the employment of independent actuaries. I shall agree to. the second reading in the expectation that all this further information will be furnished. Finally, I would remind the Government of the dissatisfaction which has followed the introduction of many such schemes in the past, in order that they may do everything possible to obviate such feeling in the future.
..- -The attitude of honorable members generally has been in support of the Bill. One of the number of points to which I desire briefly to reply has to do with the repetition - perhaps due to the fact that a certain circular has been issued - of the circumstance of overpayments in New South Wales. The fear has been expressed that, owing to lack of information, a similar situation might arise in respect of this measure. The New South Wales Act provides, as I am informed, as .follows: The Board may enter into an agreement with an employer for the payment of the employer’s contributions in respect of such of his employees as at the commencement of the Act were over thirty years, by equated payments over a series of years. It was originally intended to equate these payments over a period of sixty years, which would have meant a contribution of about £225,000 a year by the Government; but the Board, without an agreement being made, called upon the Government to provide funds which would have tile effect of equating the payments over twenty years. The Government, therefore, paid, in three years the sum of £1,105,877; whereas, if the payments had been equated over sixty years, it would have paid in the three years only £675,000 - a difference of £430,877. The measure before the House make’s no such provision. It provides for payments only as benefits fall due. Therefore the criticism, as applied to the New South Wales Act, is inapplicable. With regard to the New South Wales Railway measure, a certain contribution was required which was found to be inadequate. Such cannot be the case under this proposal ; its basis is entirely different. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) conveyed the impression that the actuaries had based their report on rough estimates only, and on inadequate data. In respect of certain figures they were compelled to work upon estimates. These were as definite and accurate as they possibly could be. But the honorable member is under a misapprehension if he is of opinion that the “ rough estimates “ are applicable to the whole 6f the data on which the actuaries worked. The actuaries were given as complete information as was available at the time. They had the full benefit of the knowledge and experience derived under the New South Wales Act. They were provided with all the data which had been compiled for the working out of that scheme ; they were fortified by the reports of the actuaries who had been employed thereon.
– There are two distinct Acts in New South Wales.
– I am referring now to the superannuation measure on which this is based. The reference of the hon.orable member for Balaclava to “ rough estimates” is misleading) and, indeed, cannot be justified. As a matter of fact, the figures set out by the actuaries, in paragraph 12 of their report, were not a rough estimate. They were based upon actual figures supplied by the Public Service Commissioner.
– But the actuaries admit that they had only an assumption to work on.
– No; but there were such branches of the Service, as the Defence and Navy Departments, in which there have been changes and reductions. The utmost that the actuaries could be given was an estimate, most carefully based, by .’those in the best position to know. I gave three sets of figures. One of these was based on the total of employees in the Public Service as on 30th June, 1920,. and the number was 23,032. Then there was a further total of 4,191, which was the estimate in respect of such other Departments as those of the Navy and Defence. I emphasize that these were, of necessity, the only, and the most authoritatively accurate, figures available respecting those Departments at the time. It should not be forgotten that the numbers of employees therein are likely to be reduced rather than increased’. The third set of figures which I gave were based as on the 18th September, 1922, and’ the total was 24,759w The honorable member for Balaclava used the expression, “rough estimates,” as though it were applicable to the whole of the data on which the actuaries had made their calculations. He inferred that their investigations had been rough and ready. As a matter of fact, they calculated upon actually known figures.
– Do I understand aright in thinking that the payments under this scheme will reach their peak forty years hence, and will then have totalled £420,000, and that, thereafter, the payments will decline?
– Assuming the total constant strength, of the Service to be 23,032, there will be a gradual advance until forty years hence, when the annual cost will have reached £403,000. ‘ B&- yond that period, the actuaries have- not made estimates.
– But the- amount of payments thereafter will be less?
– That was as far as the actuaries felt that they could estimate upon the basis of the Service as constituted to-day, with its present strength, and under the conditions now governing it.
– Is the total of £403,000 the maximum relative to the numbers of those in the Public Service?
– The annual cost for a Public Service consisting of 24,759 Would reach £433,000 in forty years, But, in- addition, of course, there are those to be included from the Navy and Defence, and certain other Departments, which will furnish a total in excess of that number. The right honorable gentleman complained- that the actuaries had- not made an estimate of the strength of the Public Service for some years hence ; but it would surely have been unreasonable to ask them to say what will be the probable growth of this country and of its Public Service during future years. The honorable member quoted figures which showed that the (Service had grown from 23,032 to 24,759 in two years, and suggested that the rate of its growth exceeded that of the population. I find, however, that the Commonwealth population has, over a period of some years, increased at the rate of about 2 per cent, per annum, and that the increase to the Public Service during the last three years is also at the rate of about 2 per cent, per annum, so that, recently at all events, the one rate of increase has kept level with the other.
– But there is no relation between them.
– I do not think that there is. No’ one can say what future Parliaments will do. All that we asked the actuaries to estimate, was what would the pension scheme we proposed cost, assuming that the Public Service would continue as we know it. They were given accurate data, and went into the whole matter, most carefully. The right honorable gentleman seemed to think that because the Constitution makes the Commonwealth liable for a proportion of the pensions which some of the transferred officers are enjoying,’ or will enjoy, as an accrued right at the time of Federation, it was not intended that Parliament should pass a pension scheme of its own. As a matter of fact, however, we are given an absolutely, free hand in the matter, and it would have been strange had we been put in a position in which we could not do justice to our public servants. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) referred to Mr. McLachlan’s scheme without committing himself to it. I would remind, honorable members, however, that Mr. McLachlan abstained from making more than a general recommendation. He said that the question was too wide and farreaching to be gone into in the time at his disposal, involving as it did a long study of existing conditions and the consideration of questions of a technical and complex nature. The right honorable member for Balaclava invited consideration of scheme under which the public servants would contribute four-fifths of the cost and the Commonwealth one-fifth. But under such a scheme the benefits that we now propose would be too costly to the recipients. We did not bring this matter forward until after most careful investigation of all available data. Paragraph 24 of the actuaries’ report will show that in regard to that the mortality calculations were based on the rates disclosed by the Australian life tables, which it is fairly safe to work om, and the invalidity tables on rates disclosed by the New South Wales railways and tramways experience. The actuaries say, too, what the other data were on which they worked, and they have certified that the scheme which we have proposed is actuarially sound.
– Will the Government contributions to the scheme have to be voted annually by Parliament?
– No. The Act appropriates the sums necessary, though the annual amount required will appear in the Budget-papers in connexion with the Estimates. The right honorable member for Balaclava indicated .that too little is provided for the lower-paid men, and proceeded to show what a small pension was given to the officer retiring at the age of sixty-five years. I have,” however, circulated notice of an amendment which will enable contributors whose salary is not in excess of £208 per annum to contribute for further amounts so as not to exceed four units of pension in all, which will increase their pension by £26 a’ year, ,or the allowance to their widows by £13 a year for each additional unit of pension. It must not be forgotten that the scheme does more than provide pensions to those who retire on reaching the age of sixty-five years. It is more important to many public officers who find it all they cam do now to keep their homes going to know that, should anything happen to them, their wives and families will not .be left penniless, than to know that they will receive pensions on reaching the age of . sixty-five years. Under this scheme, if a man dies at the age of, say, twenty-seven years, after having paid only one contribution to .the fund, his widow will draw a pension until her death or re-marriage, arid each child will receive an allowance of £13 a year until reaching the age of sixteen years.
– If the children are orphans will they get more?
– No. They still get only the allowance provided for children who are left with a widowed mother. The scheme will give a great sense of security to our public servants. They will be better off under it than they are under the present Commonwealth insurance scheme.
– What is the nature of the present arrangement 1
– Speaking subject to correction, an officer has to insure his life for £200 or £250, to commence with, increasing the amount as his salary increases. The honorable member knows that such amounts would not purchase a large annuity.
– Will the amendment that has been circulated increase the Commonwealth liability ?
– Yes, but it will not interfere with the estimate that has been given, because the scheme submitted to the actuaries contained certain provisions which are not in the Bill, and these are a set-off against the cost of the proposed amendment. Before circulating the notice of that amendment, I submitted it to the Commonwealth Statistician, who was one of the actuaries who investigated the whole scheme, and he has informed me that its adoption will not materially affect the estimate that I have put before the House. The right honorable member for Balaclava objected that the Commonwealth would have to pay more than pound for pound in its contribution to the pensions fund. That is true to a certain extent, because of the provision made for. pensions to officers who have retired within the last two years at the age limit, who will not contribute to the fund, and. also because of the special concession in respect of contributions to all employees over the age of thirty at the commencement of the scheme.
– Can the honorable member say what amount the Commonwealth contributes for each pound paid into the fund by the Public Service?
– No; I have not the exact figure.
– It is only during the early years of the scheme that the Commonwealth will contribute more than pound for pound.
– Yes. On the inauguration of any scheme like this, public or private, there are men of advanced years to be provided for from whom contributions cannot be exacted.
– Under this scheme some of the older men are much better off than others. A man who has reached the age of sixty-four years is very badly off. It will take the greater part of his salary to pay his pension contribution. On the other hand, the man who has just retired at the age of sixty-five years will get a pension for nothing.
-Why is the scheme made retrospective?
– Because it was promised in the Prime Minister’s Bendigo speech, which was delivered in October, 1919.
– Although provision is made for officers who retired at the end of 1920, none is made for those who retired at the end of 1919.
– Whatever limit we might fix, there would still be some with agrievance. We went back to the 31st December, 1920, so that effect could be given to the Prime Minister’s promise as from the end of the first session of the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmataive.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Quinquennial investigation by an actuary).
– I request the AttorneyGeneral to postpone the Committee stage for a week, in order that we may have an independent actuarial investigation of these proposals.
– I cannot consent to the course suggested by the honorable member. The Bill has already been circulated for a week, and has been fully discussed. The scheme has been investigated by three independent actuaries, and I do not feel justified in agreeing to any further postponement.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Commencement and cessation of contributions).
– Will the Attorney-General explain to the Committee what will be the position of a public servant who will be due for retirement within a few months of the commencement of the Act. Would he be required to contribute twenty-six fortnightly payments, or would the Government assist him in any way? A man over sixty-five years of age will not contribute anything at all, and it would appear hard that because a man is just under that age he should be required to contribute a huge sum towards the Superannuation Fund.
– Any man who is in the Public Service must contribute to the Superannuation Fund, but an employee who is over thirty years of age, and is in the Service at the commencement of the Act, will have the right to contribute at the lower rates prescribed in the schedule for men who are not less than thirty years of age. Let us take the case of a man who is nearly sixty-five years of age, and is receiving a salary of £450 per annum. He will be entitled to take up four units at the reduced rates prescribed for the age of thirty years, namely 8s. 5d. per fortnight, but he must make twenty-six payments. He will also have the option of taking up four additional units for which he must pay according to the scale, namely, £20 9s. 8d. per fortnight. For a total of eight units he would pay per fortnight £20 18s.1d., or £543 10s. 2d. in the twenty-six payments. If he takes up four units at the concession rate he will get a pension of £104 per annum for a fortnightly payment of 8s. 5d., and if he takes up an additional four units at the schedule rate applicable to his age, he will get a pension of £208 per annum for. a total payment of £543 10s. 2d.
– If an officer has reached the age of sixty-five does he have to pay that amount?
– If his age is sixty-five next birthday.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Message received from the Senate that tho amendments made in the Bill by the House of Representatives had been agreed to.
House adjourned at 4.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220922_reps_8_100/>.