8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers,
Assent to tho following Bills reported : -
Meat Export Bounties Bill.
Tasmania Grant Bill.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the consent of the Parliament of a State is an absolutely essential condition precedent to the Commonwealth Parliament forming a newStateby the separation of territory from an existing State, and whether the Prime Minister will introduce legislation for the formation of a new State, comprising the . territory known as Central Queensland, immediately the Parliament of the State of Queensland has announced its consent to the formation of the proposed new State!
– The answer to the first question is “ Yes.” I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of the second question.
– Is tho Minister for Trade and Customs aware that a moving picture show is displaying, in Melbourne, a picture in which a person known as “ Fatty “ Arbuckle is being featured, and will the Government take immediate steps to prevent this picture from being displayed anywhere else in Australia?
– I have observed that the picture is being displayed. I remind the honorable member that our powers relating to picture shows are limited, but as he has brought the matter under my notice I . shall confer ‘with the Chief Censor as to what should he done in the circumstances.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Repatriation whether he has received a communication from the Limbless and MaimedSoldiers Association of New South Wales with regard to the liberalizing of their pensions ; if so, what is the intention of the Government in the matter?
– The question was answered on notice a few days ago.
– As tho great national Agricultural Show is now being held in the capital city of the Commonwealth, I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Government will allow the [House to suspend the consideration of its important business, including the fate of “Fatty” Arbuckle, in whom an honorable member has expressed a not very friendly interest, in prder to enable honorable members, especially those from other States, who need educating, to see the exhibits?
– I should be very glad for the members who como from the State in which my electorate is situated to visit the Melbourne Show, because I am sure, if they did so, they would come away with the definite impression that the Sydney Show is a much better one.
– The best stock in the Melbourne Show is mostly from New South Wales.
– It is mot the intention of the Government to adjourn . the proceedings of the House to enable honorable members to visit the Melbourne Show, but as it is not proposed to sit next Thursday morning, honorable members will have an’ opportunity to visit it then.
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the great number of citizens who have applied for telephones -both for business and private needs, he will inform the House df the position is easier re. telephone appliances; also, if he can give an approximate date when the supply will meet the demand?
– The telephone position generally is improving. Presuming the honorable member’s question refers specifically to the Melbourne metropolitan area, the subscribers’ services now outstanding are held up principally on account of lack of cables and telephone switchboards. Large quantities of telephone cable are at present on order, . and will be placed into service as the material comes to hand. With regard to switchboards, a new exchange is about to be opened at Collingwood ; tenders have been called for new. exchanges at Ascot and North Melbourne; and the Public Works Committee has under consideration a proposal to establish a new exchange at South. Melbourne.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow. -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories,- upon notice -
– But how many motions for the adjournment of the House will there be?
– There have been very few such motions lately; and only the other day the honorablemember himself supported one. There only remain the Seat of Government Acceptance Bill, the Defence Bill, and the Air Defence Bill. If we take the list as it stands, it does not appear to provide work for more than two or three days.
– What about the Budget and the Estimates?
– We have between now and the middle of December at our disposal, if there is to be no election. Why does the Minister not take the House into his confidence and inform us whether there is to be an early election ? It is time we knew exactly what is taking place. We ought not to be kept in the dark. I say, without the slightest hesitation, that there will be an election not later than the 9th December, but we ought not to be left to guess about it, for we have a perfect right to be informed as to the intentions of the Government. Not only members of the House, but the public, should know if, and when, an election is to take place. Does the Government think that some advantage is to be gained by keeping such matters secret, and rushing the business through in two or three weeks? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) refused to give us full information - he refused to give us any information - in regard to the amendments of the Constitution which are so necessary. Those amendments ought to be before the House this week, and be sent to the Senate, if an election is to take place on the 9th December, or otherwise there will not be time for the necessary intervalof two months before their submission to the people. The Government have evidently made up their minds, and know exactly at what they are driving, and it is time that we, and the public also, knew. The party on this side wish to know whether these Constitutional proposals are to be gone on with, especially in view of the promise made by the Prime Minister at Bendigo, a promise which he has repeated in the House since. We are now asked to sit on Wednesday morning, although the business-paper, with the exception of the Budget debate, shows no more than a week’s work; though, of course, other measures may be brought in. Next week we may get to know that there is to be an election, and there will not then be time to give the Budget the consideration which it deserves. If there is to be an early election, members will desire to get away to their constituencies. We ought to fee told at once whether there is to be an election on the 9 th December, and informed what business the Government propose to bring forward, and particularly whether it is intended to submit any amendments of the Constitution. The Government, if I may so put it, is treating us in a discourteous way. We are just near the end of September, and, under ordinary circumstances, there would be still three months of the session to go. There is not enough business on the paper to keep us going one month, and yet we are asked to meet on Wednesday morning this week, and probably will be asked to sit on Monday next week. It is only fair that we should know the reasons which actuate the Government. I have no objection to an election; indeed, I should like an early election, but I desire the Constitutional amendments to be submitted to the people at the same time. I am prepared to sit on Thursday morning, and every other morning, in order to deal with those amendments, for they are truly a matter of urgency. Honorable members may ask as many questions as they like; but they can getno satisfaction from the Government in this respect. I would have no abjection to the House meeting on Wednesday morning if it could be shown that there was need, and if we knew that the Government intended to go to the country at an early date. Honorable members
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow :- ‘
– On 7th September the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) asked the following questions : -
I promised the information- would be obtained, and the following are the replies : -
– I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until II o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
– What is the hurry?
– The Government wish to get on with the work. Business is congested, and we have yet a great deal to do. We do not propose to meet at 11 o’clock on Thursday morning.
– A holiday for the Show?
– As I have already indicated, in answer to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), it is not the intention to sit on Thursday morning.
– We cannot see the Agricultural .Show in half a day.
– The honorable member has had an opportunity this morning to go to the Show.
– I tried to see the Show yesterday, ‘but could not get over it even in a day!
– On Thursday the honorable member will have another halfday in which to go to the Show. Of course, it is not possible to see the Show in half a day, but honorable members had the whole of Monday, when those interested in stock could have seen the judging; then there has .been half a day to-day, and there will be another half -day on Thursday. On the whole, we think that honorable members are given ample opportunity to see the Show. The Government desire to proceed with the business as rapidly as possible, and to that end I submit the motion.
– I have no objection to the motion, provided we are given some reason for its submission. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has failed to take the House into his confidence. As I said a week ago, and as I repeat now, if there is only the business’ on the notice-paper to be considered, there is no occasion for us, at this time of theyear, to meet on Wednesday morning.. Such a course is most unusual at thisstage of the session. From time to time, towards the end of a session, the Househas been called together on Tuesday, but never until approaching Christmas have- should not be obliged to question Ministers as to what is going to happen. The Government should indicate straight out what they propose to do.. They should take honorable members into their confidence as to whether the Constitutional amendments are to be considered or not. If we knew all these things we would know where we stood, and how to act.
. The business-paper does not indicate any necessity for the House to meet on Wednesday mornings at 11 o’clock. Unless the Government know considerably more than honorable members, there is no particular reason why we should sit tomorrow morning. I am prepared to concede a certain amount of prescience to the Government in connexion with the forthcoming election ; but not otherwise. It would appear that the Government are exhibiting indecent haste. Honorable members would have no objection to Wednesday morning sittings if we were going to transact genuine business for- the community; but so far as we can judge there is no urgency. If Parliament is to run its usual course there should be ample time for the consideration of all the measures on the business-paper. We members of the Country party are quite prepared to face our constituents, but have no desire to do that before we have completed the business which we were sent here to do, as far as the Government will allow us to do it. ThisHouse has become accustomed to being treated as though it did not count. This motion is only another instance of the treatment that has been meted out to honorable members of late. It is only fair that the Government should give some indication of their intention. The Royal Agricultural Show now being held in Melbourne is of such importance that honorable members should have time to visit it - they can well stand some education along thelines of primary production. It would be very much better if honorable members had more time to seriously and thoroughly consider the measures on the businesspaper. Before we finish I intend to bring- some proposals before the House in connexion with one particular Bill. It seems, however, that the Government are determined to rushbusiness, so that honorable members will have very little chance of dealing properly with any of the measures, including the Superannuation Bill, that are set down for con sideration. We would have no objection to meeting on Wednesday morning if the purpose was to look after the interests of the community. If the Government would only give some explanation as to why it is necessary we should meet on Wednesday morning, we would be satisfied. It will not be outside the merest statement of fact to say, of the Superannuation Bill, that not half-a-dozen members of this House can state definitely where that measure is going to lead us; but, like everything else, it is to be rushed through. The Government simply, come along and say,” in effect, that they are going to meet early, apply the guillotine, and destroy all opportunity which should be given to honorable members to safeguard the interests of the community.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [8.87].- I am disappointed at the action of the Government, and I feel that, on a vital question, I could almost be persuaded to vote against them, although, as every one knows, in the past I have given them a cordial, if somewhat discriminating, support, on the well-known principle that by sparing the rod you are likely to spoil the child. I was particularly disappointed with the answer which the Acting Leader of . the House (Mr. Greene) gave to my question as to the facilities to be given to honorable members to visit the Agricultural Show now being held in this city. It ill-becomes the honorable member for Richmond, and a Minister who is supposed to be the patron and protector of the primary producing industry, thus to contemptuously disregard this great agricultural achievement. His attitude, I fear, is likely to create for him a bad odour in his own electorate. I remind him, as a friend and a brother, that the Country party is making a “ dead set “ at him in New South Wales. With this introduction,I suggest to the Minister, in association with my Leader, (Mr. Charlton), that the House should be treated with a greater measure of respect than we have received from the hands of the Minister in moving this motion. If the Government desire to complete the session by a succession of applications of the “ gag,” of course, it is within their power to do so. But if they wish honorable members to have sufficient time to do the work we were sent here to do, then I suggest they should conduct the business of the House in a reasonable and orderly manner, and not, on the one hand, interfere with the arrangements that honorable members may have made by making changes from day to day in the hours of sitting, and on the other send candidates into the constituencies - and especially my own - in order to defeat them while they stand guard in this House to oppose the application of the “gag.” This aspect of the case, I feel sure, appeals to honorable members. I do not propose to submit with perfect docility to this proposal to meet on Wednesday morning. I am not clear whether the Government mean to sit every Wednesday morning, or if this motion Telates only to to-morrow morning.
– This Government are increasing the hours and reducing the wages.
– The honorable member for South Sydney has summed up in a few words what I have been endeavouring to say in a number of words. Therefore, little remains for me to say, but I must add that, although it is not generally believed that we are a hard-worked body of men, if we are to meet on Wednesday morning it will be impossible for honorable members to attend to their routine work satisfactorily. I protest against the habit that has grown up in this Parliament of rushing most important business at the end of the session. I am entirely at one with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) in this matter. We never have a session without a bunch of important measures being hurried through at the very end, when honorable members cannot have an opportunity to digest all the Bills ; indeed, it is very doubtful if they have opportunity to even thoroughly read them. That is very unfair to the House and to the country. Enactments that are passed in a hurry during the last days of the session are of as much importance to the people as are those passed with due deliberation in the early days of the session. Indeed, they are usually more important, because a discriminating Ministry, such as that now in office, usually selects the last days of the session for the most important work, especially that class of work which is controversial, and would in the early days of the session meet with a great dealof opposition. The Minister, having re ceived this kindly advice from me, he will, I hope, act upon it, and tell us when the election will be held, so that we may in a proper spirit of repentance order the remainder of our parliamentary lives and bend ourselves to the task that lies before us.
.- With one exception, the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) impressed me as being eminently reasonable. The exception was his statement that he would like an early election. That remark was not only exceptional; it was quaint.
– It was incredible.
– And probably it was an affectation by the Leader of a party who does not desire to disclose his distaste of the” prospect of an early appeal to the country. But, generally speaking, every word which the honorable gentleman urged is worthy of the consideration of the Leader of the House. Having already in the middle of September agreed to an additional sitting day, we would not be justified in ordinary circumstances in superimposing morning sessions on three of the four sitting days. If there is ground for urgency which demands the taking of this exceptional course three months before the session usually closes, the House generally should know it. I do not mean that the House should know the date of the election. The fixing of that is entirely the prerogative of the Governor-General, acting on the advice of his Ministers, but when we are asked to extend the sitting days in these exceptional circumstances - exceptional, at any rate, so far as the last eight or nine years are concernedwe should know what it is for, and approximately the programme which Parliament will be expected to deal with before it rises. If, for example, the Government declared their desire that we should leave these premises within a month, and that we should in the meantime pass the business already on the notice-paper and some other important measures to which allusion has been made, or noticeofwhich has been given, the House would be better equipped to decide whether or not it should pass this motion. I do not, and never did, believe in the adoption of secretive tactics by a Government in connexion with, an election. They do not win, they do not aid the Government or the House, and they have little or no value as a party move. Therefore, if the Minister in charge of the House feels embarrassed by the appeal of the Leader of the Opposition to indicate at this stage the pro- gramme we are expected to deal with, the House is entitled to have that information as soon as the Prime Minister returns. I think the Opposition has been more patient than most Oppositions have been in matters of this kind. The Country party, so far as I have been able to judge, has not urged anything, as it has a perfect right to do, as a separate entity in this House, to secure a declaration of the Government’s intentions, but both parties, as well as individual members of the House, are entitled to know as early as possible the programme we have to discharge, the reasons for increasing the sessional days and hours, and generally how long the House is expected to sit.
.- I support the motion, and shall be prepared to assist the Government in every possible way to sit as often as is necessary to enable them to deal with the business which they regard as important.
– But the honorable member will not vote for every measure which the Government will introduce ?
– Probably I shall not vote for many of the measures which the Government will bring down. But I shall certainly do my best to improve them, and, if necessary, to reject them. However, I do think that out of consideration for the producing interests of Victoria, and Australia generally, the House might have adjourned over part of ‘Thursday in order to enable honorable members, especially those from other States, to see the magnificent Agricultural Show. I hope that even at this late hour the Minister in charge of the House will consider the advisability of asking the House to meet at 7 p.m. instead of 2.30p.m. on Thursday, so that honorable members may make themselves acquainted with the very fine display of agricultural products which is to be seen at Flemington. It seems quits impossible to discuss a question of this kind without introducing King Charles’ head - the date of the election.
– Never . mind King Charles’ head, so long as you can save your own.
– If one can save one’s seat, what matters King Charles’ head? Many dates for the election have been suggested.; but not one seems to have met with favour from anybody. Everybody clamours for an election at the earliest possible date, except myself and perhaps one other. I know that my words find an echo in the bosom of my esteemed friend the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), who is in a position somewhat similar to my own. I am one of those members whose seat has been taken from him; I am to be torn reluctant from the arms of the most intelligent, brightest, and fairest electors the world has ever known.
– What are their names?
– In the Grampians their name is legion, and I refrain from making any invidious distinctions. I say candidly that I wish to postpone the date of this unfortunate mischance as long as possible, in order that I may remain the member for Grampians; but I am, however, prepared to suggest a date which in all the circumstances is likely to be most suitable.
– Will the honorable member guarantee that it will please everybody?
– I am not prepared to guarantee that it will please anybody; but I do suggest a date that is most suitable in all the circumstances, considering the nature of some of the measures that have been put before us. I venture to suggest that, as a fitting finale to this phantasmagoria of legislative futility, the Government should decide, as an appropriate date, that the elections should be held on the 1st April.
– I cannot say that I am very greatly impressed by the Government’s display of consideration for the rural community. First of all, they threaten to hold the election oh the 9th December, when harvesting operations will be in full swing, and in the second place they are not disposed to give honorable members half a day off to enable them to attend the Melbourne Show, one of the finest expositions in the southern hemisphere. I support the plea urged that the Ministry should at least postpone the meeting of the House on Thursday until 7 p.m. There would be little actual loss of time by that arrangement. All honorable members, particularly those on the Ministerial side, realize the necessity for educationon rural matters. The Show is held at a choice spot, in a choice electorate, and I desire the members of the House to see the display. I can assure the Ministry that nothing would be lost by submitting a motion to-morrow night that the House adjourn until 7 p.m. on Thursday.
– You could move an amendment to that effect.
– I would like some indication of the view of the Government.
As to the proposition now before the House, how is all; the business to be disposed of, even if such a motion is carried ? As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has stated, the majority of the matters on the notice-paper could be disposed of in a very short space of time ; but, in addition, there is a sheaf of business to be dealt with before the session closes. Practically the whole of the Budget debate has yet to engage our attention. If there is one item more than another on which the House should apply itself with, industry and intelligence, it is on the financial statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce). Yet this subject, apparently, is to be left until the eleventh hour, when the Budget will be forced through, Department by Department, by use of the guillotine. If the Government indulge in tactics of that nature, they will brand themselves before the electors as a Ministry and a party who are not prepared to give serious consideration to the great financial problems that confront us. It is all very well to say, “ We shall remit these questions to the electors.” The Treasurer has presented a most important statement, and it should be discussed in all aspects. In my opinion the Budget contains many items that ought not to be in it, and there are many matters missing from it that ought to be included. The Ministry would do well to give ample opportunity to the House to discuss it in detail. I feel disposed to vote against the present motion-, and I hope that honorable members on the Ministerial side will take the same view. To simply blindly vote with the Government’ would be supporting a policy of “ hurry up “ and “ hush up.” I oppose the motion.
.- There is one thing for which we can admire the Government, and that is the consistency of- their policy. ‘ The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) stated, by interjection, that the Government had increased honorable members’ hours and reduced their wages. I suppose that, for the same reason that actuated the Government in bringing about a reduction in honorable members’ salaries, they now propose to increase their hours of labour. I am not personally favorable to the suggestion to adjourn the House to enable honorable members to attend the Agricultural Show, because there is ample opportunity for any member, who wishes, to visit it, just as members can absent themselves from the House on other occasions. If they wish to go to the Show it is their own affair, and there is no reason why the business of the country should be hung up. If I desire to see the Show I can go to it, and do the same as many honorable members do - arrange for a pair in my absence. I do not see why the importance of the fixture from an agricultural point of view should weigh with honorable members in the matter of the adjournment of the House. The necessity for increasing the hours of labour in Parliament does not seem to be very apparent.
As has been stated by previous, speakers, the date of the election is wrapt in mystery. Various newspapers have essayed to fix the probable time. Some say it will be held on the 9th December, and others predict the 16th December. We are told, also, that the election may possibly be held on the 25th November. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) stated that it was for the Governor-General, on the advice of his Ministers, to fix the date, and the honorable member expressed the opinion that it was not desirable to acquaint honorable members with the date. I believe that the people most concerned ought to be informed on the point, and no body of men can be more concerned, with the exception of the electors, than honorable members themselves. I fail to see what the Government have to gain, or what possible party advantage there is, in adopting this policy of concealment. The Government appear to have developed the habit of keeping interesting inform- lion secret. If the election is to take place in December, it is possible that the Ministry are anxious to rush through the legislation in hand in order to reach the recess. There has been no official statement by the Ministry as to when the election is to take place. The only official announcement made so far is that it is to be held as early as possible. It may be that the Government, taking advantage of the fact that honorable members are anxious to return to their electorates, thinking that the people are to be consulted speedily, intend with the help of the guillotine to put their programme through in a thin House. But even then there is no guarantee that an election will take place immediately after the House adjourns.
– Do not put bad notions into Ministers’ minds.
– I am not doing so. I am merely crediting the Government with being more reasonable than I thought they were. One honorable member has suggested that the consideration of the Budget is to be left until the closing hours of the session, when experience shows that the attendance of honorable members is very poor; and when the Government get the Appropriation Bill through there will be no necessity for an election before this Parliament runs its full time. That may be the policy of the Government, or the newspapers may be correct in their surmise that an early election is to be held, but in any case it is quite evident that there is no need at the present time for an increase in the sitting hours. The Government have given no indication of their intentions other than what we find on the businesspaper to-day. As they have brought forward no reason for prolonging the hours of sitting by meeting at 11 o’clock in the morning, I shall vote against the proposal.
.- The Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members who have spoken against the Government’s proposal have based their calculations on the business as it appears on the business-paper, but have lost sight of quite a number of pronouncements made by the Prime Minister from time to time as to measures the Government intended to submit for the consideration of Parliament. If honorable members will turn their minds back for a moment to the Financial Statement made by the Trea surer, they will remember that mention was made of a long list of Bills, which, with the exception of two quite insignificant ones, have not yet been dealt with, and which it will take a considerable time to dispose of. The Income Tax Assessment Bill and the measure for dealing with the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers are two which will take a good deal of discussion, and that very unpleasant measure relating to the remuneration received by honorable members will also need consideration. There is a notice on the business-paper dealing with a Bill for the unification of the railway gauges which is likely to cause a considerable amount of debate. Each of these measures I have mentioned will occupy a considerable time if it is to be dealt with in detail. There is also the Defence Bill, upon which the Senate spent five or six weeks. It is a lengthy measure, containing a great number of details, and if it is proceeded with will involve a great deal of debate. If all these measures are to be cleared up in the ordinary course before the House rises much time will be taken up in dealing with them.
Honorable members have suggested that further time should be given on Thursday, so that they may have the opportunity of visiting the Victorian Royal Agricultural Show. I am quite aware that the exhibition at the snowgrounds is a valuable one, and I dare say that many honorable members visiting it would learn a great deal more than they know at present. All I can say in regard to the point is that the matter will be given consideration. We might meet on Thursday at a later hour.
Before the Government ask for any further time to be given this session other than that which is referred to in the motion, I trust it will be possible for us to give honorable members further information as to the actual details of the business the Government propose to have considered before the House is asked to rise. At any rate, I can promise on behalf of myself and the Prime Minister that if the motion submitted to-day is carried, before any similar motion is discussed asking for further extended sitting hours, the Prime Minister will announce exactly what business it is proposed to complete before tho House rises.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Message, recommending further appropriation to meet amendments to be moved by the Attorney-General, reported.
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Attorney-General to a Bill for an Act to provide superannuation benefits for persons employed by the Commonwealth and to make provision for the families of those persons.
It is necessary to increase the amount of the appropriation because of the proposed amendments which have been circulated in regard to lower-paid and other employees.
.- I presume that, as the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has announced that his amendment will increase the expenditure provided for under the original resolution, he will, when he moves the amendments, explainby how much they will increase the appropriation.
– I shall indicate that as we proceed.
– There should . be noobjection to that being done, so that we can measure the additions made to the Minister’s original calculation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 22nd September, vide page 2635) :
– I move -
That sub-clause (3) be left out.
This is merely a question of definition. I shall bring down a definition clause at a later stage which will define the phrase “ the maximum age for retirement,” wherever it occurs in the Bill.
.- I am not quite certain regarding the application of this clause. A man in his 65th year would have to make 26 fortnightly payments at the highest rate in . order to obtain 2 units.
– Such an employee would be entitled to take 2,21/2, 3, or 4 units. He would be over the age of 30. If his salary were £450, and he took 4 units, he would pay at the same rate as if his age were 30.
– A man who has reached the age of 65 years’ is, by comparison, in a very much better position. Would he not be given 4 units without paying any contribution?
– In the case of the man who has not quite reached the age for leaving the Service, what would be his position?
– He would have to pay a contribution, and if he increased his option to take increased benefits beyond the limit he would have to pay according to the scale.
– It seems to me that there is too big a distinction between the two men. I know that we must draw the line somewhere. When a man has reached 64 years of age, but is not 65, it seems hard that he should be denied benefits that another gets without paying any contribution.
– The salary of an. employee who has gone out of the Service has ceased; but that of the employee who has not yet reached the retiring age is still being paid to him; and, therefore, he has something out of which to make his contributions.
– How far back is it proposed that the provisions of the Bill shall apply in the case of employees who have gone out of the Service?
– To the 31st December, 1920.
– That makes the position of those who are just about to be retired all the harsher.
,- The more one looks into this clause the more is one impressed with the suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the Bill should be put into the hands of a Committee for close examination. If honorable members were now being called upon to amend the Income Tax Act. for example, their actions would not be regarded as final; that is to say, the incoming Parliament, or any other, which may follow, would be able to amend our present legislative, work. With re spect to the Superannuation Ball, however, when it shall have been put into operation it will be like the marriage bond, an established fact, for good and all. The measure is being dealt with precipitately. This Parliament is a Federal one; we should legislate Federally. There are many persons who will be called upon to contribute- according to the terms of clause 12 for whom contributions should be made. The people of Australia are: seeking for some system, of national insurance under which contributions shall be made both by employees and employers. I have received a communication from the Australian Natives Association, in Western. Australia, urging the institution of a national insurance scheme.
– The honorable member’s remarks will be more appropriate if they are made when he is discussing the next clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 -
Subject to this Act, contributions by an employee shall be in respect of units of pension as defined in section 28. (4)An employee who is, at the commencement of this Act, not less, than thirty years of age, shall not in any case be compelled to contribute for more than two units,but may, within three months after the date notified in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 12 of this Act, elect to take the benefit of this subsection, and thereupon the following provisions shall apply to him: -
Provided thatthe total number of units contributed for under this sub-section by any employee shall not exceed the number of units prescribed for tie salary-group to which, according to the scale contained in sub-section (1) of this section, he belongs.
– I -move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - (lA.) An employee whose salary does not exceed Two hundred and eight pounds per annum may elect to contribute additional units or half units to make up a total number of two and a half, three or four units.
This is one of those provisions which, if it is agreed to, will have the effect of increasing the amount involved by the Bill to a sum over and above that contained in the original Appropriation message. However, it will not increase the estimated amount which I put before honorable members when presenting the report of the actuaries. ‘ In the original draft of the Bill, as placed before the actuaries, there appeared a clause which proposed to give greater privileges to employees in respect of taking up additional units. The sum thus involved was included in the estimates of the actuaries. I have now been advised that my proposal willnot increase the total. The actuaries were unable to provide me with the specific sum; but it was undoubtedly allowed for in the general estimate. The provision of the new sub-clause is intended to meet the case of employees in the lower ranks of the Service. The Bill, as originally drafted, placed the pension rate for these at about £78 per annum - a sum which, on th© face of it, would be only about equivalent to the receipt of old-age pensions by husband and wife. However, there is now offered this opportunity to secure a higher pension, in addition to which there are the rights of pension in cases of invalidity. If an employee who has been the prescribed period in the Service takes advantage of the new subclause, and becomes invalided shortly after making his first payment, he will receive a pension during the whole period of invalidity. Then there are the further privileges to be bestowed upon the widow and children in the case of his death.
.- I am hot quite satisfied with the pro visions of clause 13. Upon the second reading I pointed out that this measure might bear harshly on a great body of those employed in the Public Service. Perhaps, half the total of our public servants have no hope of ever rising beyond the £208 stage. Their opportunities of promotion from the General to the Clerical Division are remote, quite apart from their ability or otherwise tei pass the necessary examination. The trouble is that there are not sufficient openings in the higher division, and the position has become even more acute since the war. Only a few months ago about 400 returned soldiers passed their examination for entrance to the Clerical Division. Two hundred have already been appointed, but if the other 200 are not placed within six months or so, they will not be eligible, as the regulations provide that a person who has passed an examination qualifying him for entry into the Public Service must be appointed within a certain period after passing an examination. There are so many returned soldiers awaiting appointment that men already in the Service have little hope of entering the Clerical Division, no matter how qualified they may be, because there will be many returned soldiers who, under the present policy of the Government, will have preference. These men must be first absorbed, which means that the general body of applicants will not have any opportunity. If that is so, and we provide that public servants must contribute from 1 to 4 units, some in the Service whose salaries do not exceed £208 per annum will take up four units, which ia the maximum, and will receive £104 per annum as a pension on retiring. It will mean that they will have to contribute approximately £7 or £8 per annum from, the time they enter the Service until they reach sixty-five years of age, which will represent a fairly substantial sum. When such officers retire, either in consequence of having reached the age limit or through any other cause, they will get only £104 per annum, whereas if they did not contribute to the Superannuation Fund at all, when they reached the age of sixty-five years, if married men, they would be entitled to the oldage pension, and their wives would also be entitled to a pension, which would amount in all to £78 per annum. Should Labour be returned to power after the next elections, the pension rate will be increased to 20s. per week; the man and his wife would then receive £104 per annum. It will be seen, therefore, that although a public servant contributes from £7 to £8 per annum in order to obtain the benefits outlined in this Bill, he may not be any better off at the expiration of forty or forty-five years if payments have been made from when he was a youth than the ordinary citizen who makes no provision at all.
– I hope there will be a system before long under which every one will contribute.
– I hope so, and that is a point which I intend bringing before the electors during the forthcoming campaign. We have, however, to consider the position that confronts us to-day. and realize the benefits public servants are to derive under this Bill. If, after contributing payments for forty or forty-five years, a public servant will not be any better off than if he had not contributed anything, the measure is unjust and we cannot expect public servants, particularly those in the lower grades, to accept this proposal without protest.
– Which proposal?
– That the lowerpaid members of the Service should come under the provisions of this measure. I do not know what effect it may have upon the actuarial position, but I intend to move later that the words “ who is at the commencement of this Act not less than thirty years of age and for more than two units “ be deleted from subclause 4 of clause 13. ‘ The clause would then read -
An employee shall not in any case be com pelled to contribute, but may, within three months after the date notified in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 12 of this Act, elect to take the benefit of this sub-section, and thereupon the following provisions shall apply to him . . .
It would then be optional for public servants to contribute.
– Does the honorable member intend moving in the direction which will make the scheme optional instead of compulsory ?
– I want it to be optional for those in the lower grades of the Service, because I do not think that they will derive any benefit from the scheme. I cannot imagine a man who has to contribute £7 or £8 per annum for the whole of the time he is in the Service, and who receives a pension on retirement of only £104 per annum, being any better off than an old-age pensioner. I have already shown that a public servant who does not contribute anything at all would receive an old-age pension which would be worth £39 per annum when he reached sixty-five, and that a similar amount would be payable to his wife without making any contributions at all.
– Provided he does not possess anything.
– Yes ; but a man receiving a maximum salary of £204 per annum would not be able to put aside much for a rainy day when the cost of living is so high, particularly if he has to pay rent.
– Is not the honorable member losing sight of the fact that a public servant’s contributions to the fund would provide an insurance which would be of benefit to his wife and family in the event of his death ?
– Some public servants have already made provision in that direction.
– A public servant might die before he reached the retiring age.
– I admit that; but we have to consider whether it would not be cheaper for a public servant to take out an insurance policy instead of paying such a heavy premium to a Superannuation Fund. I have nothing to say against the Bill, but I wish to leave it optional to those in the Service to come under it.
– That would break down the actuarial basis.
– It is on that point that I wish to hear the Minister. ‘ I have had regard, in what I have said, to those who live to the age of 65 years. I say that they would not be better off on reaching that age, notwithstanding their contributions to the Pensions Fund, than old-age pensioners who had made no contribution to a fund; indeed, if the oldage pension were increased to £1 a week - which would be £104 per annum for a man and his wife - they would be much worse off.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Charlton) proposed -
That after the word “ employee,” sub-clause (4), the words “who is, at the commencement of this Act, not less than thirty years of age,” be left out.
.- The effect of the amendment would be to destroy the whole basis of the Bill. The measure contemplates the compulsory contribution of all permanent employees of the Service; its essence is compulsion. If the scheme were a voluntary one, many of those who are healthy and strong would exercise the option which the honorable member wishes to give, bydissociating themselves from it, and chiefly the sickly and weak would come under it. If you make the entry or withdrawal of contributors voluntary, you load the scheme with bad lives. The basis of the scheme has been fixed after an actuarial investigation which has taken into account the strength of the Service and the data available in mortality tables and the like. The larger . the area to which calculations thus made are applied, the nearer the average computation is approximated.
– As in all schemes of the kind, the young properly carry the old.
– When the scheme is in full working order, each man will carry his own burden. The benefits to be conferred are on ‘the basis of contribution. No doubt these benefits are not what the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) would like them to be, but we must provide, not in accordance with our individual wishes, but in accordance with the actuarial computation of what we can give. It must not be forgotten that for every £1 contributed to the Superannuation Fund by a public servant the Commonwealth Government pays another £1. What chance would a man on a small salary have of buying from an insurance society benefits equivalent to those given by the Bill? A man whose age is 30, and whose salary is, say, £157, will be entitled to contribute for 4 units of pension, for which he will pay according to the prescribed scale, and the benefits to which his contributions will entitle him are these: First, a pension on attaining the age of 65 years, or, should he be called on to retire on reaching the age of 60 years, the actuarial benefits then accruing. Should he be retrenched, he will get certain allowances. Should he, having been in the Service for the prescribed time, die, even within twelve months of the payment of his first contribution, his wife will get a pension of £52 a year for life, or until she remarries, and for each child under the age of 16 years there will be an allowance of £13 a year until it reaches that age. The knowledge that, should anything happen to himself, his wife and children will be provided for, must be of great comfort to any man. At the present time an officer such as I am speaking of, who has been earning for a comparatively short* time only, has probably not yet begun to pay for a home, and certainly not saved very much money, so that in the event of his death his wife and children are without resources.
– Will the child’s allowance be paid on the retirement of a father through illness?
– No; because the parent will draw a full invalid pension. It must be remembered, too, that the Bill does not interfere with any compensation that might otherwise come to a man who meets with an accident. Should a man beretired on the ground of invalidity,he would draw a pension until the date of his death.
– Is any provision made in the Bill for those who might voluntarily retire before reaching the age of sixtyfive years?
– Yes, if over sixty years; but they cannot expect to get the full pension. Clause 39 provides that if a contributor resigns, he shall be paid the amount of his actual contributions, but without interest. That is provided because up to the. time of his retirement the officer was covered in respect of certain risks.
– Supposing a man elects to retire on reaching the age of sixty years?
– In that casehe is entitled to the actuarial equivalent of his contribution.
– It is compulsory on every permanent public servant, whether above or below the age of thirty years, to contribute to the fund ?
– Yes; with one or two minor exceptions. Every permanent member of the Public Service must contribute for at least two units of pension.
– What is the meaning of the words “ who is at the commencement of this Act ‘thirty years of age “ ?
– Officers who are in the Public Service at the date of the commencement of the Act will be divided into two classes; those then under thirty years of age, who will be treated as persons joining the Service will be treated ; and those over thirty years of age, to whom special concessions will be made.
– An officer over thirty years of age is not compelled to contribute for the full number of pension units for which persons who reach that age subsequent to the commencement of the Act will have to contribute ‘(
– An officer already in the Service who is thirty years of age is not compelled to contribute for more than two units of pension, but officers under the age of thirty years must increase their contributions with the increase of their salaries, according to a prescribed scale, and until reaching the age of forty years; after which they need not contribute for additional units. The objection to the proposal of the honorable member for Hunter is that if public servants were allowed to contribute to and withdraw from the Pensions Fund as they liked, the whole scheme would be destroyed. Naturally we wish to be as liberal as possible to the public servants who are receiving least pay, but we cannot go beyond what is actuarially sound. We are making an exemption in their favour, and, under the circumstances, I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
.- I have served my purpose in moving the amendment, namely, to place on record the fact that, in my opinion, this clause is not quite so lenient as it might be towards the lower-paid public servants. Prior to the statement by the Minister (Mr. Groom), I had thought that the amendment might interfere with the actuarial computation, and the Minister has now definitely shown us that it would so interfere, and’ would mean the wrecking of the Bill. I have no desire to wreck the Bill; on the contrary, I am in favour of it, but I wish to improve it as much as possible in the interests of the lower-paid men. It is a pity that the measure as it stands will press hardly on those who are in receipt of small salaries, and who really have no hope of advancement. I know good men who have been in the Service for years, and who, so far as promotion is concerned, are practically at a dead-end. It was in the interests of those men that I submitted my amendment. However, in view of the statement by the Minister, I propose, with the concurrence . of the’ Committee,’ to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- On this clause I wish to make a final appeal. We are dealing with a great measure which will, probably, be in operation for generations.
– It cannot - it will break down!
– If the scheme were on a sound actuarial basis it would last for centuries. But we have as a guide the experience of Victoria and New South Wales, and we know what 1 became of the Victorian scheme, and how the New South Wales scheme has come short of success.
– Do you say that a scheme exactly the same as this was abandoned in Victoria?
– According to Mr. Ley, the State Minister for Justice in New South Wales, the basis of the New South Wales scheme was faulty.
– I have already pointed out more than once that this scheme is entirely different from that of New South Wales.
– I suppose that the Victorian Minister, when introducing the State scheme, said it was actuarially sound, as no doubt the Minister in New South Wales did also. Members of Parliament then knew very little about the matter, and had to swallow what was told them, the public being left to pay afterwards. That is just what I think will happen with the scheme now under consideration. Various nations of the world have attempted similar schemes, Germany leading with one, not to deal with the public servants, or any particular class, but with the whole of the people. I have no objection to benefiting the Commonwealth public servants, but I desire an insurance and superannuation scheme for the whole people. The Minister (Mr. Groom) described the public servants as “ our servants “ ; but we are the servants of the people, and trustees for the people, and we have no right to extend to the public servants greater privileges than are offered to other citizens.
The TEMPORARY -CHAIRMAN (Mr. Watkins). - A general reference to that phase would be quite in order, but the honorable member must realize that he cannot discuss an insurance policy for the whole people on one clause of a Bill providing only for the Commonwealth public servants.
– No doubt we shall arrive at a clause on which I can discuss that phase. The scheme, so far as concerns clauses 12 and 13, may be right or it may not. The Committee is not in a position to know, because there has not been sufficient investigation to enable us to form a sound opinion. Under the circumstances, the Minister ought not to unnecessarily hasten the passing of the measure, for we shall have a long time to repent if it proves to be wrong. Both the Government and the public servants admit that it will be necessary to appoint three gentlemen to inquire into the whole subject periodically in order to put the scheme on a. business footing.
– It . was referred to three actuaries, who investigated the whole scheme, and their report is here.
– This scheme is to apply to the Public Service, which the Government admits needs revision. Immediately we pass this Bill the benefits will apply to all servants employed by the Commonwealth, whether those servants are required or not.
– There is an actuarial revaluation every five years. -Mr. PROWSE. - I am aware of that. We cannot discharge a man for no fault cf his own, and deprive him of the benefits for which he has contributed.
– The Bill provides for the case of a man who is retrenched to be dealt with in a certain way.
– The Government is burking the investigation that ought to be made into a scheme that is to last for generations; and, by-and-by. when the scheme fails, honorable members will be told that they supported it and passed it. I suppose I am as competent as the next man in this Chamber to investigate a matter of this kind; but I do not feel competent, under the circumstances, to arrive at a decision in regard to the scheme. I have not had time to thoroughly investigate it, and I again ask the Government to refer the Bill to a Select Committee in order to insure that it is on a sound basis.
.- No opposition to this measure will come from me. I can assure the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) that the action of the late Sir George Reid and his party, when in power in New South Wales, was most disastrous to the public servants and the superannuation scheme of that State. With that the honorable member agrees; but, unfortunately for him, if I may say so without being offensive, he is a misfit, so far as this measure is concerned. For twenty-five or thirty years the Labour party has been in favour of insurance under the Government. I am like Pussyfoot J ohnson, the prohibitionist, who said that if we wish to deal with a great measure we must go to the “ breeding ground “; and I regard the Bill before us as the “ breeding ground “ for the insurance of others besides public servants under Government supervision. I invite the honorable member for Swan to go on to the platform with me and seek to return a Government which will promote a scheme of general insurance.
The clause before us is based on actuarial investigation, and the three actuaries appointed to make the investigation well know their business. Under, the circumstances, I pin my faith to them, for we are not competent to go into such calculations. I remember that once I undertook the job of finding a basis for superannuation and insurance in connexion with a friendly society, and after working on it for two years I found that the cost would be too great for any persons to contribute without some assistance. The late member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), in the early days of Federation, was a consistent advocate of a superannuation scheme for the Commonwealth public servants, and in this he was supported by members of the Labour party. I am now somewhat following in that gentleman’s footsteps; and I think we should do well to make no attempts to hinder the passing, of this measure at the present time. All Acts of Parliament, after they ‘have been in existence for a period, disclose anomalies which call for an amendment of the law; indeed, it is not possible to test an Act except in actual operation. No doubt in the future we shall find that some amendments are necessary, but I think the Government are doing well in introducing this Bill now, after the promises made to the public servants and the length of time they have been waiting for it. I am a member of the Opposition, but merely because of that I do not feel called upon to oppose a measure which I personally approve.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words ‘”’ for which he is entitled to contribute, having regard to his rate of salary,” sub-clause 4 (i), be left out.
.- Last week I took exception to the fact that the Government were not going to meet their obligations - that they were prepared to enter into obligations which would fall, not on themselves, but on their successors in future years. The Minister has told us, as he told us last week, that this Bill has been examined by actuaries, who report that it is actuarially sound. But was that guarantee by the actuaries given on the basis of immediate payments by the Government, in accordance with the payments of the public servants, or was it on the basis as now disclosed in the Bill? If it was given on the supposition that the Government would pay their share as the scheme went along, just as the contributors to the fund will pay, it is on an utterly different basis from the proposal before us. On what basis did the actuaries give their report? I have here the opinion of a very competent actuary in New South Wales.
– Who is the actuary?
– He does not wish his name made public, but I shall give it to the Minister privately. He writes as follows : -
The Commonwealth Superannuation Bill forecasts what appears to be a perfectly Bound scheme assuming that the country is prepared to pay the cost, with one exception. The exception is the provision that the Commonwealth is not to pay its share by periodical payments, as will dts employees. It is to meet its liabilities by paying one-half, or, in the case of employees entering the fund over thirty years of age, more than one-half of the pension payments, ais and when they become payable. That is to say, in the case of a young man of twenty-five, he will make substantial payments, which will be accumulated, less certain subsidiary payments, at interest for forty years if he lives to enter on his pension at sixty-five, while the Commonwealth will pay nothing until the end of forty years, but then becomes liable for half the pension payments.
That is the case just as I stated it last week when speaking on the second reading of the Bill. The actuary goes ‘on to state -
In other words, this section of thu Bill means that the Commonwealth undertakes to grant ‘ils employees pensions of equal or greater amounts to those purchased by their own payments without making any provision for them
That is the whole trouble. There will be such an accumulation of liability that it needs no prophetic sight for one to foresee that the scheme will break down of its own weight, and bring disaster on the Government that has to meet the demands on the fund. The actuary continues further -
It is reported that the Prime Minister .has stated that, if the proper payments were made, the yearly cost to the Commonwealth would be £500,000.* In the future, therefore, an appalling annual cost will be laid upon the Commonwealth by these yearly payments bema withheld. For this £500,000, less certain items*of outgo provided for in the Bill, if paid and accumulated at interest, would amount to a huge sum in the period between now and the time when the heavy charge for pensions arrives. If this sum were then in hand to pay the pensions falling due, the Commonwealth would only require to continue its yearly contribution to provide for other pensions falling due in .the then future. If no provision is made from the commencement of the fund (£500,000 per annum, or more or less), the ultimate call on the public exchequer may well be many millions annually.
There is no doubt about that. This is exactly the fault that I found with the measure last week. I should like to know now how the matter stands, and if this position was placed before the actuaries.
– I explained in my second-reading speech that the actuaries (had reported on the scheme contained in this Bill. I may mention that the Actuarial Committee comprised Messrs. H. M. Jackson, Actuary to the Temperance and General Mutual life Assurance Society; C. H. Wickens, Common wealth. Statistician, and F. W. Barford, of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Their report on this scheme states -
The proposal to amend the original scheme so as to provide for the Government payments to the fund to be made in arrear instead of being made in advance was carefully considered, and the Committee is of opinion that such a proposal is actuarially sound. The scheme so amended may be said to provide in general for a contributory scheme supplemented by a £1 for £1 subsidy by the Government, to be made as the allowances accrue; special concessions to be made by the Government in respect of all officers aged thirty and upwards at the initiation of the scheme.
Besides stating that the scheme was actuarially sound they furnished tables showing the position of the Commonwealth for the next forty years on the basis of the present numerical strength
of the Service. The position hasbeen thoroughly investigated by them. I am afraid that some of the actuaries, whose comments have been quoted by honorable members, have based their calculations on incorrect information, though I have no doubt that some of them are endeavouring to assist the Government.
– Are the Government making any provision to meet these payments?
– -Yes. The object of the scheme is to provide for the payment of certain sums from the Consolidated Revenue each year. The original scheme would have required an immediate payment by the Commonwealth of about £770,000 to meet future obligations. The actuaries after investigation of the proposal in this Bill, declared it to be actuarially sound. New Zealand has a somewhat similar scheme in operation.
.- I do not pretend to set my opinion against that of the actuaries mentioned by the Minister (Mr. Groom); but I have had some experience of superannuation funds,’ and I know there is always a tendency to postpone payment of to-day’s liabilities till to-morrow, and then increased amounts may be required to meet a deficiency in the fund. I have some doubt as to whether it is actuarially sound to postpone Commonwealth contributions to this Superannuation Fund. The simpler way, and one that would appeal to an ordinary man, would be for the Government to make contributions to the fund in the same proportion as any public servant. But the Minister has told us that this is financially impossible, and that this scheme is actuarially sound. I cannot say. I have some doubt, but I atn willing to accept his assurance and the opinion of the actuaries. I realize that they know a good deal more about figures than I do, although my experience is that actuaries, like other experts, will argue both sides of the question.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further amended consequentially, and agreed, to.
Where an employee satisfies the Board that adequate provision has been made for himself and family, the Board may exempt him from contributing foT more than two units of pension.
.- I listened with a good deal of interest to the remarks of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) upon this provision of the Bill. 1 think it should be struck out. A public servant may have a thousand and one reasons why he should not be required to contribute for more than two units of pension, but in his own interests and in the interests of his family he should be required, by means of this scheme, to make adequate provision for the future. He should have due regard to his family obligations. An employee, at thirty years of age, may have a family of only two children, and on that basis he may persuade the Board to exempt him from contributing for more than a minimum of units; but if his family increases subsequently his pension privileges will then be quite inadequate. In such circumstances, if, unfortunately, the head of a family is taken, the widow and children will suffer severely. There should be no exemption. Every public servant should contribute to the fund according to his salary.
– Usually I am in agreement with the financial proposals of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), but I hope the Government will not listen to his suggestion for the negativing of this clause. Many public servants, having lost hope of a superannuation scheme being brought into being to benefit them, have already undertaken heavy obligations in order to make provision for their future. If the honorable member’s suggested amendment were carried those men would be further burdened by being compelled to take four units in the superannuation scheme. I would prefer that it should be optional for the officer to come under the scheme or not, according to the other provision he has made for his old age, but, failing that, this clause is necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 19 agreed to.
– The Attorney-General did not deny last week my statement that this Bill was based on the New South Wales Railway Superannuation Act. That scheme is in a very parlous condition at the present time.
– The conditions governing theNew South Wales Railway Superannuation Fund are essentially different from those set out in this Bill. The former involved a contribution of 11/2 per cent, of salaries by employees and an inadequate contribution of 1 per cent, of salaries by the employers, making atotal contribution of 21/2 per cent, of salaries. The Commonwealth scheme involves a contribution on the part of the employee of about3 per cent, of his salary if he commences to contribute just before his twenty-first birthday and 41/2 per cent, if the contributions commence after he is thirty years of age. Moreover, the Commonwealth, instead of paying into the fund a fixed percentage, undertakes to supplement the contributions of the employees on a £1 for £1 basis as benefits become due. The New South Wales scheme fell into arrears because of the inadequacy of the contributions provided for. The scheme was not placed upon a proper basis in the first instance. The Commonwealth scheme is to be placed upon a definite actuarial basis, and in arriving at that basis we have had the experience of the working of the New South Wales Railways Superannuation Act to guide us. This has given us a good guide for making the estimate of future commitments.
.- The proportions’ contributed by the Government and the . railway servants under the New South Wales Railways Superannuation Act are approximately the same as the proportions to be contributed by the Commonwealth and the public servants under this Bill. Under the New South Wales scheme, with 41,448 contributors and 2,029 present annuitants, it is estimated that the State will, within a year or two, be paying £1,000,000 in benefits. The public servants who will come under the Commonwealth scheme will number more than 41,000.
Mr.Groom. - The number of men in the Commonwealth Service is 24,759. There are some other Departments, such as Navy, Defence, Railways, and Parliament, with not more than 4,000 employes, making a total of, possibly, 30,000.
– At the present rate of increase what will the total be twenty years hence?
Mr.Groom. - The rate of increase has been 2 per cent., corresponding to the increase of population.
– The Civil Service should not increase as fast as the population. In running a private business the proportion of overhead charges should decrease with the output.
Mr.Groom. - Included in the increase are employees of some Departments which have been transferred from the States - the Navigation Department, for instance.
– Even though the officers are merely transferred from the State Government to the Commonwealth Government, a liability in respect of them will exist under this Act. I am anxious that this scheme shall be placed on a safe basis for the sake of the Public Service, and also on account of the tremendous burden that may be imposed upon the people in future. The Minister quoted the New South Wales Railways Superannuation Act as affording a good basis ‘ upon which to work ; but he said that the rate of contribution originally fixed was much too small, and that the fund got into difficulties in consequence. I repeat that although the contributions from both the employees and the Government are to be higher under the Commonwealth scheme, the respective proportions will be much the same as under the New South Wales scheme. The number of contributors to the State scheme is not as great as will be the number under, the Commonwealth scheme twenty years hence ; yet the State authorities can foresee a liability of £1,000,000 per annum. That information comes to me from one of the best actuaries in New South Wales. The AttorneyGeneral has said that the New South Wales scheme has broken down of its own weight. We do not wish the same fate to befall the scheme we are now considering, and the Minister would be well advised to look further into the matter.
Mr.Groom. - I assure the honorable member that before the actuaries were appointed Treasury officials were working on this scheme for months.
– Whatever may be the opinion of the actuaries, all the superannuation schemes of which we have experience have broken down, and the proposal now before us seems to resemble too closely those others which have failed.
– What does the honorable member say of the British scheme, which requires no contributions from the public servants ?
– It is useless to compare what is done in the Old Country with what is done here, where the conditions are entirely different. England is a country of accumulated wealth. The Commonwealth is undeveloped, and we require all the money that is available for the improvement of our property and the increase of production. Too often I have heard arguments in this chamber based on similar false premises. If a man has a complete property, with all improvements made, he may do what he likes with his income; but a man whose property has to be improved and made productive has to conserve his resources. In this country, which is awaiting development, we would have to be more careful with these schemes than has an old country with a vast amount of accumulated wealth. If the Government are basing their scheme on what has happened in England they are looking for trouble. The past experience of superannuation in Australia is such as should make us extremely careful. I urge further investigation, not because I wish to do any disservice to the public servant - on the contrary, I desire his future to be made secure - but because I do not wish the future development of the country to be hampered by liabilities under a badlybalanced scheme.
– I understand that the contributions from the Commonwealth and the public servants will be paid into a fund.
– The contributions by’ the public servants will beraid into a fund, and as benefits fall due the Commonwealth will subsidize £1 for £1 the amounts paid out from that fund. The Commonwealth will not in . advance pay a large sum of money into the fund to accumulate.
– Is the money contributed by the Public Service to be invested ?
– There is no doubt that members of friendly societies in Australia are paying too much, according to English actuarial calculations. All societies, except those dealing only with miners, are accumulating enormous funds. If the payments to the fund are as high as they would be according to English actuarial calculations, they should be quite sufficient, judging by my experience of friendly societies. It is to be expected that actuaries who have not been consulted would differ from . those whose advice has not been obtained.
– I do not know that any other actuary has said that the Government’s proposal is actuarially unsound.
– I know people who have taken that objection. In the light of past experience, surely the Government and the officials advising them would not trust to the actuarial calculation on which the New South Wales Railways Fund was based. We should also remember the peculiar position that arose in that State in. connexion with the Police Pensions Fund.
– I regret that critics of the scheme have not paid attention to the South Australian system. I am familiar with the Act that applies to the Education Department in that State. I know more about that system than any other, because at the time the superannuation scheme was introduced in Tasmania, Mr. Neale, formerly of the South Australian Education Department, helped us in every way. He suggested to us - I thought at the time that his advice was wrong, and I think so now - that no Government money should be paid into the fund, because . then the Government would not have power to retire officers when they came on the fund. The Tasmanian Government, unfortunately, acted on that advice, and consequently officers in the railways service do not receive very large pensions. I have not made special inquiries, but if the Tasmanian Railway Retiring Fund had broken down from an actuarial point of view I would have heard of it. Nor has the South Australian Superannuation Fund proved actuarially unsound. The Commonwealth Government have had actuarial calculations made, and they are prepared to subsidize the fund to be established under the Bill. I fail to see how it could break down from an actuarial point of view, because it is eminently sound. It is quite a correct policy for the Government to refrain from contributing to the fund imme- diately. It would be most unwise to spend a huge sum in subsidies, because money might be invested in such a way as not to give a good return. The Government will be able instead to devote the money to reproductive works, which will result in increased population, and when Australia has been more fully developed it will be easier for the Government to contribute their share to the fund. Honorable members and people outside who have criticised the Bill fail to appreciate the benefit the measure will afford to the Government and to the country. It is simply a case of helping men who are willing to help themselves. Quite a number of private firms are adopting exactly the same course. An obligation rests on the Government to look after the interests of the Public Service, and the fact that officials will have provision made for them on retirement will be an inducement to them to remain in the Service. It is often said that there are men in the Service who could do much better for themselves in private employment.
– There are many who would like to be in the Service.
– But what sort of men are they? If the honorable member ever becomes Treasurer, he will find that, notwithstanding his business training, he will need to rely to a very great extent on the services of officials who have had many years of training in that particular Department. If our public servants arc worthy of the salary paid to them, by reason of the responsibilities intrusted to them, the Commonwealth should be prepared to remunerate them adequately, and part of that remuneration should take the form of provision for superannuation. I know of ii case where an official who was receiving £300 a year in the Government service was induced to leave it because a large Melbourne firm offered this officer £500 per annum. This firm appreciated tho value of the service given. Government in Great Britain has not the same ramifications as in Australia, where railway and other’ highly technical services have to be conducted, and where the most efficient officers are needed. Take the great British firm of Brasseys, contractors, Do they throw their employees upon the world when their services are no longer required? Have Lever Brothers, Cadburys, or Frys taken that attitude? Not one of them. I do not look upon the Bill as a proposal to give a pension to an officer on retirement. The payment to -be drawn by the officer at the end of his term should be regarded as portion of his salary and part of the inducement offered to him to serve the Commonwealth. The people of Australia are relieved of a great responsibility by this measure.
.- I am not opposed to superannuation in regard to the Federal Public Service, but I do not want to provide it for the, Service only.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Watkins). - The honorable member’s remark is more applicable to the second reading of the Bill than to the - clause under consideration.
– The rate of contribution to superannuation funds has occupied the attention of almost all countries, and not many of them have acted similarly. Countries like the United States of America and France have found that they could not devise any compulsory scheme which they could regularly maintain. Very few countries have aimed at the establishment of a scheme for any particular section of the community. Germany devised a plan, which Austria, and other lands to a greater or lesser extent, copied, to superannuate all its people. Great Britain, acting on the experience of other parts of the world, drew up a scheme which made certain provision for unemployment, accident, or sickness, and it had the wisdom not to’ permit the contributions to remain in the exchequer. The administration of the fund was conducted with the assistance of friendly societies, which for centuries had had the handling of such work. I maintain that the provisions of the Bill will not fit in with a national system of superannuation. I do not think that delaying the present Bill for the purpose of introducing a national scheme would handicap. * the Public Service. If this Bill is to be delayed with that object in view, T should like the Public Service to be assured that it will not bo the loser thereby.
Clause verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 21 agreed to.
The contributions of contributors shall be deducted from their salaries at each payment of salaries, and shall be paid, without deduction for postage, forwarding, or exchange, to the Board.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked me whether in the event of a person being sick we could make some provision to lighten his burden in regard to the payments. I move, therefore -
That at the end of the clause the following proviso be added : - “ Provided that where a contributor is on leave of absence through illness, either without pay or at less than full pay, the Board may, upon his application, permit the contributions falling due during his absence to be paid by him in such smaller sums, and at such periods, as the Board approves.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23, amended to read as follows, and agreed to : -
Every contributor shall be entitled to a pension on his retirement on or after attaining the maximum age oE retirement.
Clause 24 -
– I move -
That sub-clause (2) be left out.
It is proposed to embody in a new clause a general provision dealing with the determination of questions of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform duties.
.- There is quite a number of these amendments, and it is not fair to the Committee that they should be brought down in this way. Honorable members are placed at a disadvantage through not having the opportunity to peruse them.
– They have been on the table for some time.
– But members have not had time to look into them. We may do something in this hurried manner which is not in the best interests of either the Public Service or the Bill itself. Honorable members should be allowed the time to give the amendments proper consideration.
– I shall draw the Committee’s attention to any amendment of. an important character. Nearly all of these are drafting amendments.
– Does “he” apply to “she” throughout the Bill?
– Yes, except where there is a separate scale of contributions for females.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 25 (Retrenchment and discharge).
– This clause provides that -
The compulsory termination of the service of a contributor for the reason that his service or position is not necessary, or for the reason that the work for which he was engaged is finished, or for the reason that the quantity of work has diminished and has rendered necessary a reduction in the number’ of employees -
shall be deemed to be “ retrenchment “ if the contributor has been in the Service for not less than ten years ; and
shall be deemed to be “ discharge “ if the contributor has been in the Service for less than ten years.
I have not had the time to read the other clauses to get a proper grip of the meaning of this provision; but I would like to know what effect it will have upon public servants who are retrenched. Will the money they have paid into the fund be returnable, or will they receive any compensation whatsoever?
– At this stage it is perhaps advisable that I should refer to a number of related matters. I have already spoken of the case of the man who’ retires at the age prescribed by law or when he is called upon to do so. Clause 31 provides that the pension is payable to the widow and children of the man whose employment may be terminated by death. Clause 30 provides that the contributor who has been, in the Service for at least ten years, and is retired on the ground of invalidity or physical or. mental incapacity to perform his duties is entitled to the full pension if the invalidity or incapacity is not due to his own fault, or to a pension which is the actuarial equiva- lent of the contributions made by him up to the time of his retirement if the invalidity or incapacity is due to his own fault. Under clause 38 the man who is retrenched is entitled to receive the contributions paid by him, and the actuarial equivalent of the share of pension payable by the Commonwealth, and within one month after his retrenchment may choose to take such equivalent in the form of a lump sum payment, or as a pension. The case of the man who is discharged - he has not been in the Service for ten years - is covered by clause 39. He will receive the amount of the actual contributions paid by him.
– Without interest ?
– That is so. The scheme is like an insurance policy. It covers the employee during the whole period ofhis service.
– But a man who is insured draws bonuses.
– It is all a question of actuarial calculation. If bonuses are drawn the person insured is entitled to them. He pays premiums which allow of it.
Clause agreed to.
Compulsory termination of the service of a contributor, however expressed, other than -
retirement on pension as provided in this Act ; or
breakdown retirement; or ( c) retrenchment or discharge, shall be deemed to be dismissal.
– I move -
That the words “ breakdown retirement “ be left out, and the following words inserted in lieu . thereof : - “ retirement through invalidity or physical or mental incapacity.”
The words “ breakdown retirement “ were adopted from the New South Wales Statute but it is considered preferable to use the words “ retirement through invalidity or physical or mental incapacity “ throughout the measure.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Under clause 39, a member of the Public Service who is dismissed or discharged will have paid to him simply the amount of the actual contribution paid by him. In quite a number of cases men have been dismissed from the Public Service for very small reasons.
– Would men be dismissed for trivial causes? .
– Yes. The matter is entirely in the hands of a man’s superior officer. The honorable member has been fortunate if he has not had brought under his notice during his par-, liamentary term many complaints of dismissal from the Public Service for very small matters. Pew honorable members have not had a list of complaints in this respect brought under their notice. A man dismissed in these circumstances may have been paying into the fund for a lengthy period, and may have been looking forward to the time when he would be called upon to retire. He may have given thewhole of his life-time to a certain occupation in one Department, and it may have physically handicapped him from taking up any other class of work. And his only compensation is the return of his contributions to the superannuation fund. There are very few men in any avocation who go through their service without making a small mistake at one time or another. But, because a man happens to incur the displeasure of certain people in control, he may be dismissed and deprived of all the advantages that would otherwise accrue to him under the superannuation scheme, except the repayment of the contributions he has made to it. Most likely, not being fitted to follow any other occupation, he is placed at considerable disadvantage. I do not know whether ‘ anything can be done in the Bill to meet the case, but I draw the Minister’s attention to the case of dismissed men. It should be pointed out to those in control that- unless some big mistake has been made by the officialhe should receive fairly lenient consideration. He should not be dismissed from the Service because of merely a small offence.
– Officers would not be dismissed in any case for a small offence.
– But they are. Quite a number of such instances occur in our Public Service, especially inthe case of employees in receipt of less than £200 a year. We hear of such cases in connexion with letter deliverers, and in other branches of the General Division of the Post Office. When a little thing goes wrong the man concerned is dismissed, and such dismissal is hard upon a man who has given the best part of his life to the Service, and has arrived at fifty-five or sixty years of age. At that age he is of no use for any other occupation, and has, no doubt, been living in the hope of coming under the provisions of this Bill in a tew years, but without any prospects he is thrown upon the world. I hope the Minister will take steps to see that reasonable treatment is given to such men.
– I would remind the honorable member that members of the Commonwealth Public Service are not dismissed for light or trivial reasons. Even under the present law an employes can only be dismissed for a very serious offence. Section 46 of the Public Service Act says that “ If the Chief Officer considers the alleged offence to be of so serious a nature that an investigation thereof should be made by a Board of Inquiry, he may forthwith suspend such officer,” but dismissal, can only be ordered by the Governor-General. First, there must be a report by the Board, which must go to the Public Service Commissioner, and then a recommendation is made to the Governor-General. Dismissal is only ordered in very serious cases. Under the Bill it is not proposed that an employee dismissed shall forfeit any of his rights in the sense of forfeiting what he has paid into the fund. He may have been guilty of gross misconduct, but even in that case he would not forfeit his payments, but they would be refunded to him. All he would lose would be the benefits that he would have received under the Act if he had continued in the Service and paid all his contributions.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 -
Subject to this Act, a contributor shall, upon retirement, be entitled to receive a pension according to the number of units for which he was contributing at the time of his retirement:
Provided that any contributor -
– I move -
That the words “ age of sixty-five paragraph a, be left out with a view to. insert in lieu thereof the words “ maximum age for retirement “.
At a later stage it isproposed to insert a definition to cover the phrase ‘ ‘ maximum age for retirement”.
.- I do not entirely approve of this section in so far as it affects senior officers of the Service. Under the Public Service Act the Public Service Commissioner has the right to call upon anybody to retire after he has reached the age of sixty. If an employee has been in the Service for many years, and has paid into the Superannuation Fund for twelve or eighteen months, or two years, and is then called upon to retire through no. fault of his own, he would not get a pension, but would be limited, apparently, to an actuarial amount calculated on the amount he has actually paid in. It seems to me to be most unfair that some senior men should be treated in this way, while others are put on a much more favorable footing. A man who is sixty-five, or who has retired within the last year or eighteen months, will receive the full benefits of the fund, but a man who is under that age may, because the Public Service Commissioner sees fit to retire him before he is sixty-five years of age, be limited to an altogether inadequate pension calculated upon the payments that he has made to the fund in two,’ three, or four years.
– If he were retired for incapacity he would get the full pension under the incapacity clause.
– He may be in good health and perfectly fit. Any man who is over sixty years of age in the Public Service is liable to be called upon to retire, whether he is fit or ill. When he has reached sixty-five years he must retire. It is a question of age, not of disability. If the Public Service Commissioner calls upon him to retire he is put in an altogether false position, because he cannot get the full benefits under this Bill. If, on the contrary, a man continues in the Service . for any special purpose after he is sixty- five years of age, Le will not, under section 23, which we have just passed, draw any pension so long as he remains in the Service. A man who is sixty years of age, and is compelled to. retire, can only receive a pension fixed actuarially upon his payments for a limited time. Another question also arises in relation to a man who wishes to retire at the age of sixty because he feels that he is not fit for the work. I was going to suggest to the Minister (Mr. Groom) that such a man should be allowed to pay in a lump sum equivalent to what he would have- paid if he had continued in the Service until he was sixty-five years of age, and, if he did that, he should be entitled to the full benefits of the scheme.
– A clause passed already enables that to be done. We give as much as we actuarially can. The clause I refer to is clause 12, which says -
Provided further that a contributor who elects, or is called upon, to retire on or after attaining the age of sixty years and prior to the maximum age for retirement may contribute, in a lump sum or in such smaller sums, and at such periods, as the Board approves,’ the actuarial equivalent of the amount necessary to complete his payments to the fund up to a later age (not exceeding the maximum age for retirement) .
– We give him the privilege of contributing whatever the actuarial amount may be. The point I am trying to make is that actuarially, if he has only just come under the fund, he may be called upon to pay a very large amount in order to bring his payments up to a sum which would entitle him. to a. pension at sixty-five years of age.
– It would be an enormous amount.
– It would, but if the Government would treat him as though these payments had been made up to sixty years of age, and say to him, “ You would pay under the scheme so much, but because you are drawing a pension so many years earlier you ought to pay a little more.” That might not be a very large amount actuarially, but if we take the amount which is actuarially necessary to make his payments, which cover only a few years, up to , an amount which would entitle him. to a pension at sixtyfive years of age, it would be a sum which it would be impossible for him to pay. We can compel a man to leave the Service at sixty years of age, and under this Bill we may pay him only a trifling few pounds a year, equivalent to the amount which he would be entitled to as a contributor to the fund for a few years. I do not think that is fair, and some provision ought to be made to meet such cases. The Minister ought to leave out the words, “ called upon to retire be_fore attaining that age.” If a man chooses to retire before the age, he has himself to blame to some extent ; but if we make him retire I think the least we can do is to give him the same privileges that we give to the men who have already retired, or have nearly reached the age of sixty-five.
– Benefits can only be given which are actuarially, sound. Any benefit a man gets must be according to the actuarial basis of his contributions. The scheme is based upon the general provision in section 73 of the Public Service Act, which says -
Every officer, having attained the age of sixty, shall be entitled to retire from the Public Service if he desires so to do; but any such officer may (unless called upon to retire, as hereinafter provided) continue in the Public Service until he attains the age of sixty-five years.
There are two things we could have done. We could have made the retiring age for all members of the Public Service sixty years. If we had done that we would have had to do two other things. We would have had to increase the amount of the contributions, because contributors would automatically fall upon the pension scheme five years earlier, and would contribute for five years less. That would have increased the payments very greatly, as happened in New South Wales. The provision in the Bill was the proper course to take. It is only in exceptional circumstances that a man is called upon to retire at sixty years of age. The provision relating to the retiring age is in the Public Service Act in the interests of the public. It is the rare exception* and not the rule, for a man to be retired at sixty years of age. All that we can do is to estimate actuarially the value of a man’s pension, and take into account the number of years he has been in the Service and the amounts he has contributed. We cannot create an exception and say that a man called upon to retire at the age of sixty years shall get greater privileges and benefits .than if he continued in the Service until he had attained the age of sixty-five. If a man is retired because of invalidity he will get his pension. If we alter the basis of the scheme in oartain cases we must alter its whole basis. It is impossible to tell whether a man will be called upon to retire thirty or forty years hence. We have, in fact, given him a concession in the clause to which I have referred the honorable member. There are two factors to be considered in connexion with a pension, and they are the age at which a man is retiring and the amount of the pension. The second proviso to sub-clause 2 of clause 12 makes provision for him to get an increased pension. All we ask him to do is to make contributions up to an amount not exceeding that specified for his age, which will give him an increased pension.
.- I. still maintain that those who have been for a very long period in the Service should receive more generous treatment than that to which they are actuarially entitled.
– They will be given the pension to which they are actuarially entitled.
– If a man is retired before he has reached the age of sixtyfive he is thrown right back upon the actuarial basis. He is entitled only to that which is the actuarial equivalent of his contributions. On the one hand, this measure treats an officer, if he remains in the Service until he is sixty-five, with greater generosity than his contributions actuarially entitle him to receive; but, if for any reason he goes out of the Service before reaching the age limit, he is thrown back upon the actuarial basis, pure and simple, and that is not fair. Further, if an officer is incapacitated because of invalidity, he is entitled to the full pension. The only reason which I can conceive for a public employee being called upon to retire between the age of sixty and sixty-five is that he has become incapable of continuing in the performance of his duties. There may be those who, while not in an actual condition of invalidity, have so deteriorated in general capacity as to be no longer fit to carry on. In the interests of the Service they ought to be retired at that stage rather than be kept on until they have reached the age of sixty-five. In such circumstances, however, they would be penalized as I have indicated. There are not many such cases, I am sure, but the least the Government can do is to treat them in the same way as if they were entitled to come under the invalidity clause. I stress the view that these older men should be entitled to the full pension if their services must be dispensed with after they have reached the age of sixty.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) to sympathetically reconsider this phase of the Bill. The Government should be in a position to know how many public servants are likely to be involved.
– I have been assured that there are very few.
– I admit that an employee’s faults must be very glaringbefore he is discharged. But I have known of certain peculiar cases. For example, I have heard of the spleen of a superior officer being responsible for the retirement of an old servant who has got beyond the stage of giving his best, but has not yet reached the retiring age. It is possible for an officer to remain in, the Service for very many years, paying his contributions right up to the age of sixtyone, and a little longer, and then to be told that, for some cause over which he has no control, his services are to be dispensed with.
– In such circumstances, the public servant would have his pension worked out actuarially, and he would receive what he was entitled to get. He would be given the full value of his contributions.
– I understand that such would be the case ; but that .would be of little consolation to the unfortunate officer. The Government should carry such a person on for the brief period up to the age of his retirement, seeing that he has possibly paid his pension contributions for forty years and longer. The aim of the Government at all times should be to secure a contented Service. This provision will not have that effect.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 30 -
Where a contributor, who has been in the Service for at least ten years, is retired on the ground of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform his duties, he shall -
if the invalidity or incapacity is not due to his own fault, be entitled to the full pension for which he was contributing at the time of his retirement ; and
if the invalidity or incapacity is due to his own fault, be entitled to a pension which is the actuarial equivalent of the contributions made by him up to the time of his retirement.
.- I consider that theperiod of ten years is too long. The clause does not bear fairly on persons who, through the very nature of their work, have lost their health, or who have met with an accident necessitating their retirement. Why should they be cut off from the benefits of the superannuation scheme merely because they have not been in the Service for. ten years? It should not be forgotten that, before any one may join the Public Service, he must undergo a searching medical examination. He is not accepted unless he is certified to be constitutionally sound. There must be some limitation, of course: but I suggest that the period be five years.
– I shall look into the matter sympathetically, at the same time investigating the question whether any alteration may seriously affect the basis of the Bill.
Sitting suspended from, 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– Before the adjournment, the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked me if I would consider the desirableness of reducing the period mentioned in this clause from ten to five years. I promised that I would give the matter sympathetic consideration, and I now move -
That the word “ ten “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word seven.”
.- Although the amendment moved by the Minister (Mr. Groom) does not do all I would like to have done, I recognise that he has endeavoured to meet my wishes as far as possible without upsetting the actuarial basis of the scheme.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 31 (Pension to widow and children on death of a contributor).
.- This clause provides that on the death of a male contributor before retirement, a pension equal to one-half of the contributor’s pension shall be paid to his widow during her own life, and that in respect of each of her or the contributor’s children a pension of £13 per annum shall be paid until the age of sixteen years has been attained. I do not know whether the Minister (Mr. Groom) is prepared to liberalize that a little; because it will be noticed at once that , if a public servant is entitled to four units his widow would receive only one-half, which would be £52. If she received £13 for each child she would require a family of four in’ order to bring the pension up to £104 per annum, which is a very small sum to have at her disposal for maintaining herself and children. I should like to know whether the Minister could not provide that the total amount to be paid should be at least equal to the amount which would have been received by the contributor if he had reached the retiring age. It should be possible to provide for the payment of an amount not in excess of thatwhich woluld be payable to the pensioner. If the Minister were to agree to a payment of £20 instead of £13 for’ each child, the clause would be more liberal.
– Would the honorable member recommend that the amendment should apply in the case of death before retirement even if an officer had been paying for only a few months?
– Yes, I think it should apply in either case.
– If an officer dies, the widow’s pension begins.
– I am speaking of the case where an officer dies before reaching the retiring age, in which’ case his widow and children would receive the amount.
– If he is a pensioner his widow gets the pension. A male contributor is one who is in the Service: after he -retires he becomes a pensioner:
– Supposing an officer dies before he reaches the retiring age, would his widow then get the pension ?
– She would get one-half the , amount.
– I think that what I have suggested ought to apply in all cases, and so far as I can see it would not cost the country any more than it would if a contributor lived.
– This is a very liberal clause.
– I am not saying that it is not fairly liberal. Supposing a man pays into the fund for thirty or forty years, and’ . dies before he reaches the age of sixty-five when he would have retired on’ a pension, is there any reason why we should not ‘allow the widow and children to get at least £104 per annum? If a widow had only two children she would receive £52 plus £26, which is £78, and I am suggesting that we should allow a little more in the case of each child so long as the total amount does not exceed £104, which would be the amount that would be received by the pensioner.
– If the honorable member’s suggestion were adopted it would immediately interfere with the actuarial calculations.
– Not if you did not pay more.
– But we would have to pay more. Supposing it is intended to pay £104 per annum to a pensioner, the widow would receive one-half of that amount, namely, £52. If she has two children she would receive an additional £26 a year, making £78. The honorable member suggested that she should receive more. If she has more children she would receive additional benefits.
– If she has only three she does not.
– That is so.
– How can it interfere with the actuarial basis if it will not cost the country more?
– The whole matter has been adjusted on average lives, average families, and average invalidity, and the tables have been worked out on that basis in determining the benefits and in adjusting the contributions. If we increase the benefits we should have to revise the basis of contributions. We would like to make the provision more liberal; but I do not see how we can do so without upsetting the actuarial basis of the scheme.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 32 and33 agreed to.
Clause 34 (Refund of contributions on death before retirement).
– It will be noticed that on the death of a female contributor before retirement a sum equal to the actual amount of the contributions paid by her to the fund shall be paid to her personal representative; but I cannot see where provision is made for the amount due to a male contributor to be paid to his mother or a near relative who may be depending upon him.
.- The scheme does not contemplate the payment of amounts to personal representatives of male contributors. We have to regard them as men coming into the Service, and who will probably marry, and who may, in the event of death, leave a widow and children, all of whom are covered by his contributions. In the case of a female there is always the probability of her resigning in consequence of some happy event which may occur in her life before she reaches the age of sixty-five. If she does not marry we provide that the money shall be paid to her representative.
– Supposing a female contributor has children.
– When she marries she leaves the Service.
– Yes, always.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 35 -
An employee who–
.- Clauses 35, 36, and 37 contain retrospective provisions, and, in accordance with the promise made to the Committee, T intend to move an amendment later which will have the I effect of slightly increasing some of the. pensions. Officers under the Defence Act ‘ are compelled to retire at an age earlier than’ sixty-five years, and these officers are, therefore, not in the same position as other members of the Public Service who retire at sixty-five. We are there-, fore proposing to provide in this clause that officers of the Defence Department who are compelled to retire at an earlier age than sixty-five years, instead of receiving pensions of four units, shall receive the actuarial equivalent. The object of the amendment is to place them on the same basis as other public servants, having regard to the longer period for which the pension, in their case, will be payable.
– That is for officers who retire after the passing of the Act.
– The clause deals with officers who have been at least ten years in the Service and who have reached the compulsory age, and I intend to move an amendment to leave out the words “ com- rmencement of this Act,” and to insert in lieu thereof the words “ date notified in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 12 of this Act.” Otherwise there would be a hiatus between the commencement of the Act and the date on which contributions would begin. . After the Act is nroclaimed a notification has to be published in the Gazette fixing a date for the com mencement of the payment of contributions, which is really the commencement of the fund.
– Do any officers who have already retired get the’ benefits of clause 35?
– There are three classes.
– I am referring to clause 35.
– (Et will apply to officers retiring after the passing of the Act, which means the date when the Act is assented to. Between the passing of the Act and the date fixed for the making of contributions, any officer retiring will get the benefit of clause 35.
– The clause deals with officers’ retiring after the passing of the Act and before the date its commencement is proclaimed ?
– Before the date fixed for the payment of contributions.
– Will the provisions of clause 35 apply to the widows of men retiring within the period named?
– Yes. If an officer dies, his widow will get half the pension which would have been granted to him had he remained alive. I move -
That the words “ age of sixty-five years “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ maximum age for retirement “.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words “ commencement of this Act “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ date notified in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 12 of this Act”.
.- The meaning of the clause may be perfectly clear to the Minister (Mr. Groom), but although I have read the Bill somewhat carefully, and have listened to the honorable gentleman’s explanation, I am in doubt as to the effect of this provision as it is proposed to amend it. I understand that the clause is primarily intended to cover the cases of men who, having been ten years in the Service, and having attained the statutory age - which, in the case of naval and military officers, is less than sixtyfive years - retire after the passing of the Act and before the Superannuation Fund is established.
– Before the date fixed for the beginning of the contributions to the fund.
– It is necessary to provide for the pensions of men retiring in the interval that I have spoken of, and the clause, I understand, requires the payment of such pensions out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund pending the establishment of the Superannuation Fund.
– The pensioners provided for will not have made any contributions to the Pensions Fund.
– The Consolidated Ee-
Venue Fund is to be levied on in these cases, because there will have been no contributions from the pensioners, and there is no other fund from which the money could be drawn. There may be a hundred of these cases. Will those one hundred pensions always be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund?
– Has the Government in view the retirement of any definite number between these two critical dates?
– It is estimated that the cases will number 116, or thereabouts.
– That will mean an obligation of about £12,000 per annum, which is a pretty large sum. If we liberalize clauses like this, we shall upset the calculations that have been given to us.
– The payments of these pensions is allowed for- in the actuarial estimate of cost.
– Was the Government in a position to let the actuaries know how many men were likely to- come under this provision? I cannot imagine that in 1920 Ministers were in a position to furnish reliable figures, and I am inclined to think that we should find, if we could make an accurate calculation, that we were loading the scheme very much beyond expectations. I do not feel disposed to liberalize any of these provisions if the Government intends to keep to its main scheme. I would sooner have the stitches . taken out of the Bill, and have it referred to a Committee, should that bo at all possible, for the ascertainment of the actual cost in which , we are involving the country. The Minister should give us an estimate of cost whenever he proposes an alteration of the scheme.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by. Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the following proviso be added to subclause (1) : - “Provided that if the maximum age for retirement is less than sixty-five years, the pension payable under this section shall be the actuarial equivalent of such pension payable as from the age of sixty-five years.”
.- Seeing that these pensions are not based on contributions to the pensions fund, the proposal of the Minister (Mr. Groom) does not seem to me equitable. Of course, in the case of contributors, a larger pension would be payable to those who had’ been in the Service from the age of thirty to that of sixty-five years than that payable to those who retired at the age of sixty years; but in this case, we are not concerning ourselves with contributors. All the money for these pensions has to be found by the Commonwealth. I hold that, as the Commonwealth calls on its naval and military men to retire at the age of sixty years, it. should provide, for those men a pension of four units,, just as it provides that pension for the men who have been permitted to stay on in the general Public Service until, at , the date of the commencement of the Act, they have reached the age of sixty-five years. It seems to me that the Minister’ acts ungenerously in this case, comparing what is to be given to officers of full age. retiring from the general Service with what is to be given to naval and military men retiring at sixty years of age.
. - Generally speaking, those who are called upon to retire at the age of sixty years will be a burden on the Fund five years longer than those who retire at the age of sixty-five years, and will have paid five years’ less contributions.
– But it is not a case in which contributions have been paid.
– We are putting these officers in the same position as they would have been in had the Act been passed two years earlier. It would hardly be fair to treat them more liberally than others will be treated later, on retirement, after having contributed to the fund.
– The principle governing this clause is practically the same as that governing clause 12.
– Yes. .
.- According to the definition clause, an employee is a person employed in a permanent, capacity in the Public Service. In the Military Forces the colonels, majors, captains, and other commissioned officers are permanently employed, and will come under the Bill, but there is a doubt whether the instructional and warrant officers in the artillery and other branches of the Service will come under it. They are men who are permanently employed, although their engagements are for three-years periods, which are constantly renewed. I ask the Minister to see that these men are included.
.- The Bill covers officers employed in a permanent capacity. In the Naval Forces, the naval ratings engage for a certain period of service, and can then re-engage. I think these periods are twelve and eight years, and many of the men do not serve longer than twelve years. In the Military Forces the non-commissioned officers, I think, enlist for five years, and may engage for three years, and then re-engage until they have reached the age of fifty-five years. These men do not come within the Bill. This scheme is based on the regular contributions of a permanent service. Obviously, Navy ratings could not come within this scheme, because the men are there for only short periods. We could not include a body of men whose periods of employment do not exceed twelve years, and give them all the privileges enjoyed by men who contribute to the fund up to sixty-five years of age. Therefore, the actuaries recommended that Navy ratings should not be included.
– That applies to warrant officers?
– Yes. This matter has given the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) and the Government some concern. We feel that these men ought to receive special consideration, but they do not fit in with this scheme. Many of the men engaged for five years go out at the end of that period, and we could not think of giving them the same rates of pension as are given to permanent men who contribute over a long series of years. However, we are looking into the matter, and, in consultation with the actuaries and others, are trying to devise some legislation to enable us to meet the case.
– When do you propose to do that?
– The matter is being considered now.
– Will the legislation be brought down this session ?
– If opportunity offers.
-. - Will the legislation cover those men who are permanent?
– They are members of the Permanent Forces, but they are really not permanently employed. Their case, as I say, is entitled to consideration.
– Generous consideration.
– We shall try to be just.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom), has told us that legislation will be introduced if we have time this session. It is remarkable that in all legislation affecting the military there is no doubt about the treatment of the officer class - they are always well, treated. Here, again, is the case of the non-commissioned officers - warrant officers, sergeant-majors, and so forth - who are willing to be permanently employed, and who are permanently employed today, but cannot obtain from the Government an engagement for a longer period than three years. Some of these men have worked from ten to twenty years and longer for the Government, and worked much harder than many of the officer class. The Minister calmly says that he realizes the justice of their case, and that in the far distant future, if the Government are lucky enough to be returned to power, they will be justly dealt with. No indication, however, is given that the necessary legislation will be introduced this’ session.
– I know of a number of such men who have been employed at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, for twenty years and over, and who cannot get an engagement for a longer period than three years. At the end of that time they have to be, what is called “ re-enlisted,” though, it has to be noted, the men never leave their positions. These men are, to all intents and purposes, permanent, and have been anticipating coming under this Bill. With all due respect to those in the higher positions, the most important officer is the warrant officer, who does the training of even the officers themselves. I am surprised . that they are left out in the cold.
– If ‘we interpret the word “ permanent “ in a narrow sense we shall exclude from the benefits of this Bill a number of men who perform most valuable functions in the defence of this country. I know of no body of men, if we are to have military training here, who perform more valuable work than the area officers, some of whom, I believe, are permanent, though most of them are not, but are on a threeyears’ basis. At the end of the three years they are re-employed, and they may be continuously employed for over thirty years; yet, according to the interpretation of the Minister (Mr. Groom), they are excluded from the operation of this Bill. This seems to be making a very invidious distinction, one likely to create, in certain circles, a feeling that ought not to exist. I wonder if the Government have considered that aspect of the question. Of course, under any scheme cer- tain hard cases occur ; but here we have a number of officers whose positions are practically assured, and whose duties are important. It is cruel to deny them the benefits of this legislation.
– I am quite in accord with the two previous sneakers. It will come as a shock to a good many men in the Military Forces to learn that they are not to have the benefit of this superannuation scheme. It is quite true that a number of these men have been practically permanently engaged in the Defence Forces over long periods. I have in my mind one man who has been engaged for over thirty-four years, and if he is denied the privileges of this Bill there will be trouble so far as he is concerned. Men so situated ought to have some consideration from this House when we. are devising a superannuation scheme: and I hope that before the clause is passed the Minister (Mr. Grrom) will give us an assurance that it is the intention of the Government to deal justly with them.
.- If thestatements of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), the honor able member for East Sydney (Mr. West), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), and the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) are correct, as I assume they are, I do not think they constitute an argument against thig Bill or against this particular clause, but rather an argument against the system which is pursued by the Department of intermittent engagements of certain classes of employees. It would be quite wrong to endeavour to give the benefits of a superannuation fund, whether contributory or otherwise, to men with only three, five, or seven years’ engagements.
– How could it then be contributory ?
– It would have to be very heavily contributory if the periods were short.
– They are paid less than is paid in any branch of the Service.
– That is not the issue at present. I suggest that when the Minister (Mr. Groom) is considering this class of case he might well consider, in conjunction with the Minister for. Defence (Mr. Greene), whether this system of engagement should not be altered, and thus automatically, if thought proper, bring every class of employee who, under the present system would be debarred the advantages of the Superannuation Fund, within its reaches.
– We could not do that; but I think there’ is a means of getting those who have been in the Service over a certain period within the fund.
– That may not embrace the whole of the cases, I imagine there may be warrant officers, sergeant-majors, and gunners, to a limited number, who may be regarded as the nuclei of the Land or Naval Forces we will keep up, and whose engagements might be of longer duration. The system we are pressing here springs out of the British Army and Navy system.
– No member of the Permanent Forces, unless an officer, can be employed for a longer period than three years.-
– The object of that is to prevent a standing army, with accruing privileges, growing up in the country; and that is precisely why Britain provided for short-term engagements in the past. However, whether the nuclei of the
Defence Forces on land or sea, or a substantial proportion of them, can be engaged for longer periods- is a matter for the consideration of the authorities.
– The men will not sign on for over a certain period.
Mr.WATT. - I am supposing that the honorable members to whom I have referred have represented the case correctly, and that the men are anxious for longer terms.
– It is a life-long profession with many.
– I can imagine that there are men in the Defence Forces, just as there are men in the civil branches, who desire to remain there as long as they are’ able to do the work. If that be so, I recommend the Minister not to alter the scheme, but to see whether some safe system can be devised to give the benefits of the Bill to the lower ranks referred to. It appears to be invidious that officers should get the advantage of this scheme and the men who do valuable service under them should not. That, however, is not the fault of the scheme, but the fault of the system of engagements under which the Defence Department operates.
.- ‘ The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) seems to have touched the real crux of the question. At the same time that will hardly satisfy those men who have been doing good work, and who are, according to the Minister (Mr. Groom), temporary men. They are temporary men belonging to the Permanent Forces, and they have their terms renewed in such a way as to practically make them permanent. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is quite right when he says that some of these men have been employed by the Government for many years, and look upon themselves as permanent employees from the day they were appointed, and make their plans accordingly. To describe them as temporaryemployees is, strictly speaking, correct, but, as has been suggested, the description rests on a mere technicality. They go into the Forces believing that their positions will be as permanent as those of the officers, and in many cases they are so. Of course, they are not bound in precisely the same way as are the officers, but they join, with the intention of making the work their life-long calling; and something should be done for them. If the Minister (Mr. Groom) cannot see his way to meet the case, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) may possibly be able to do so. We are, as it were, leaving these men “ between two stools,” and we ought to have some definite expression of opinion from one or other of the Ministers.
– This matter has engaged my own attention, and the attention of the Government, for some time past. The difficulty that we were faced with was to weave these men into this scheme. It is true that they are members of the Permanent Forces, but honorable members know that they are engaged for five years, with the right of a further period of employment, because, in many cases, they will not enlist for an indefinite period.
– They would if there was a pension hanging to the positions!
– In the Permanent Forces, if a man, after five years’ service, doss not show -thathe is competent to go on to the next rank, the probabilities are that he will not be re-engaged. The system is so worked that the best men are enabled to pass to the higher noncommissioned ranks, and so we get the best men with the longest service.
– And the worst-paid service in the Commonwealth.
– I am only pointing out that under the present system the best men, and consequently those with the longest service, are enabled to attain to a certain rank, and provided their conduct is good they can go on from year to year, to all intents and purposes permanent men. If we allowed every man who enlisted to became permanently enpaged in the Service, the probabilities are that we would get a very inefficient Force.
– But you make the officers permanent. Does your argument apply to them too?
– Our officers must be graduates of the Duntroon College. They have to pass a very severe examination,. and in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred it is certain that incompetents would be weeded out in the initial stages of their work. Their position is altogether different from that of the rank and file. However, the Government propose to try and get a scheme that will enable those men who go on in the Service to secure some of the benefits of these superannuation proposals, but we must make special provision forthem. Without definitely committing myself at the moment, I think it can be said that once they reach the stage of being regarded as permanent officers they will be entitled to these advantages. In all probability they will be called upon to contribute from the date of their enlistment, and if they pass out of the Service before a certain stage is reached their contributions will be returned to them. There may be some difficulty as to our obligation in respect of widows and children, but I have no doubt that this problem can be actuarially met. I want to make it clear that it is the intention of the Government to do something in this direction as soon as possible. So far as the Naval ratings are concerned, I cannot see how we can do other than what the actuaries have already suggested, and that is to leavethem out. It may be possible to include a certain number, but with respect to the majority, that is, those who enlist for twelve years and then pass out of the Service, or these who enlist for one term and then an extra period of eight years, I think we shall have to rely upon the system of deferred pay. I am afraid it will be impracticable to include those men in the superannuation scheme, but we are looking into the whole question, with every desire to help these cases, and I feel confident that, at all events, in regard to those men who have long service to their credit, it will be possible to find ways and means of bringing them in.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That sub-clause (4) be left out.
Following this clause, I propose to move to insert a new clause conferring benefits, on the widows and children of public servants who die after 31st December, 1920, and before the date for the commencement of contributions.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 36- (.1) An employee who, on or after the 31st flay of December, -1920, and before the passing of this Act, has been retired, or permitted to retire, and who at the time of his retirement -
was of or over the age of sixty-five years, shall he entitled to a pension in accordance with salary as set out in section 13 of this Act, but not exceeding four units, without paying any contribution to the fund.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words “ was of or over the age of sixty-five years” he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words,” had attained the maximum age for retirement.”
.- Myremarks will be directed more to the clause than the amendment. The clause is retrospective in that it provides that pensions shall be paid to employees who, on or after the 31st day of December, 1920, and before the passing of this Act, have been retired, or permitted to retire, or who, at the time of retirement had been in the Service for at least ten years, and were of or over the age of sixty-five years. I amwondering , if there is to be provision for the widow and children of an officer retired between 1920 and the passing of this Act and who had since become deceased.
– A new clause dealing with that position has been prepared.
– Then there is no need for me to stress that point any further. During the debate on clause 35, it was pointed out that officers below the rank of warrant officers would not come under the provisions of the Bill. What is troubling me is the fact that recently we passed a measure to provide for the payment of compensation to’ certain individuals . who were compulsorily retired from the Defence Forces. Will they get pensions under this scheme after having received compensation under the other measure?
– The Defence Retirement Bill precludes them from benefits under the superannuation scheme.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) very briefly explained the amendment, but did not explain the reason for fixing the date in the clause itself at 31st December, 1920.
– I think I explained that on an earlier occasion.
– Somewhat indifferently, I take leave, to say, because honorable members have had representations made to them about the effect of fixing the date at 31st December, 1920. Like all retrospective proposals, where you draw the line arbitrarily you include some men that are grateful and exclude others who are disappointed.
– In this case, retrospection hits the older men harder.
– That may be so. Some excellent retired officers have made representations to honorable members on this point. They have just as meritorious a case for consideration as those officers who were retired after 31st December, 1920. They want to know why they are going to be left out, and why that date was fixed. That is the vital point. Clearly it is not the date that was first suggested, because the Bill was promised away back in October, 1919, when the Government announced, as an act of policy, that they were bringing in a superannuation scheme. Will the Minister tell us how the Government arrived at this date? Was it to cover some obligation, or was it merely an accident of circumstances when the Bill was first prepared ?
– The date fixed was, as nearly as possible, the date of the closing of the first session following the general elections of 1919. It is true that the scheme was under consideration before the general elections of 1919, but it was only definitely promised, during that election, as part of the Government’s policy. ‘ Owing; to certain circumstances, it could not be dealt with in the first session. Naturally, members of the Public Service expected it to be in operation not later than a year after the general elections of 1919, and so the Government fixed the date in accordance with expectations.
– Blessed are they that expect nothing.
– In this case the Commonwealth public servants were expecting something.
.- As I stated, by way of interjection when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was speaking, the choice of date will operate more harshly upon the older men in the Service. I think any reference to the date should be excluded altogether. The condition is that the officer shall have been at least ten -years in the Service and shall have attained the age of sixty-five years. It follows that persons who retired prior to 1921, upon having attained the age of sixty-five < year3, and are still in the land of the living, are old men whose merits are quite equal to those of the men who are to receive the pension, but they will he excluded. It follows also, from the weight of years that persons have to carry in order to win this pension, that their num-i bers will be small. I am not in a position to say to what extent the omission of the date would add to the appropriation, but I have been reminded that I would not be in order in moving an amendment to that effect. I do propose, however, to test the feeling of the Committee by’ asking honorable members not to accept the clause in its present form. The Minister (Mr. Groom) may have information before him which will enable him to say how much would be added to the appropriation by including all those who had attained the age of sixty-five at the date of their retirement and had been in the Service at least ten years, but who are excluded from the benefits under the Bill because they were retired before the 31st December, 1920. One feels inclined to go a little further, and say that the age of sixty-five years is too high. But, hopeless of having that view accepted, I think the Committee should seriously consider the extension of the benefits of this pension scheme to persons of the class I have mentioned. In its present form, the clause is unjust and arbitrary, and presses most harshly on older persons, who, so far as I can see, have an equal claim with others to participate in the benefits of the scheme.
.- The Defence Department recently asked a number of surplus officers to retire from the Service. Some took the Department at its word, and retired; others held on totheir positions. Will this clause have any effect upon those men?
.- I had purposed moving an amendment in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), but discovered that any amendment which would increase the appropriation would be out of order. Having agreed that this is a just measure. I do not see why weshould deny justice to men who retired before the date mentioned in the clause. We do not suggest that such men should be paid’ retrospectively, but only that they should begin to draw a superannuation anoyancetogether with those who have retired since 1920.
– Without having contributed?
– Certainly. A number of persons will be provided with pensions who have not contributed to the fund, and if they are to receive that benefit simply because they retired since 1920, I see no logical or just reason why those who retired before the date mentioned should be excluded from it.
– Following up that argument, there can be no logical reason why the benefits without contributions should not extend to those who retire in the future.
– That is a different matter. The Bill provides that anybody who has retired since 1920 shall receive a pension without contribution. There cannot be many of those who retired at sixty-five before 31st December, 1920. By way of illustration I shallmention the circumstances of one man who has come to me. This man joined the Service in the days before pensions were abolished by the State Government. With a number of others he was retired on “ Black Wednesday “; he was subsequently re-engaged about two months after the pensions scheme had been can celled, and before compulsory insurance had been introduced. He is what is known in the Service as a “ Twilighter.” He has neither the advantage of a pension under the old Act nor compulsory insurance under the modern Act, and he will be denied benefits under this Bill. I do not think it would add much to the cost of the scheme if he and a few others who retired before the 31st December, 1920, were included in the scheme, and given a small pension for the few remaining years of their lives. At any rate, I ask the Attorney-General to investigate the number of such persons who will be affected, and the probable cost of their inclusion in the scheme. I think he will find the numbers and cost so small that he will agree to make this concession. The persons for whom I am appealing must be over sixty-seven years of age now, and they must have been ten years in the Service ; there cannot be many of them.
– Their widows and children will have to be considered also.
– However that may be, I still say that consideration should be given to those old men who retired before thearbitrary date mentioned in the Bill.
.- Those persons who, having reached the age of sixty-five years, and retired since the 31st December, 1920, are to receive a pension without contributing to the fund will be on a better footing than will those other officers who will be obliged to contribute. Deductions from the pensions of the non-contributing beneficiaries should be made on an actuarial basis equivalent to the amounts that they would have paid into the fund in ordinary circumstances.
– The officers to whom the honorable member- refers are to receive only the small pension of £104 per annum, and if from that is deducted the actuarial equivalent of what their contributions would have been, the pension would be so’ reduced as not to be worth while. I would not care to reduce the pension below the amount proposed in the Bill.
– What about the man who is retiring next year ?
– His position is different from that of the man who has already retired. The latter is over sixty-five years of age,- and is out of the Service; his salary has stopped, and he has no income from which he could contribute to a Superannuation Fund. The other man is still in the Service, and drawing an income from which he can contribute. His salary may be £1,000 per annum.
– And he can buy himself an excellent annuity.
– But what chance has a man with an income of £156 or £200 per annum of saving at the age of sixty-five years to buy an annuity ? If the pension is to be reduced below the amount provided in the Bill it would be better to leave it out altogether.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) did not suggest that the officers who have already retired should actually pay anything into the fund ; what he proposed was merely that the actuarial equivalent of what they have not paid into the fund shall be deducted from their pension. And that is the most equitable policy that could be adopted. The Minister may claim that it is an uncharitable policy : but he places a wrong complexion upon the suggestion when he says that it is a proposal to ask these old men, who have no salary, to contribute to the fund.
– If we deduct the actuarial equivalent of contributions from a pension of £104, how much will the man have to live upon ?
– The deduction might be toogreat; but it is not right to say that the honorable member for Swan is proposing that these officers should be asked to contribute.
– I desire an assurance from the Minister that the widows and children of officers who retired since the 31st December, 1920, and died later, will be provided for.
.- The Bill provides for a pension of £13 for each child, and £26 for the widow of a retired officer. I understand that what the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) has in mind is that the pension payable to the widow would be granted to the children in the event of her death. That is what, should be provided. A payment of £104 a year to an officer will mean a pension of £26 for his widow, and £13 for each child. In the event of the death of both father and mother, the children should receive the benefit of the contributions that the father has made.
– No. We are now dealing with non-contributing members. Even in the other cases, children only get the children’s benefit. Do you - suggest that the children should get the widow’s pension?
– That is not the intention.
– The sum of £26 is a very small payment to the widow.
– Plenty of people in Broken Hill would be glad of it.
– That is quite true, but I do not wish to see children deprived of the pension to which the widow of. an officer was entitled. The fact that there are many people in Broken Hill who would be glad of a pension of £26 a year is a reflection upon the Government.
.-I would like to see the pension made retrospective to the time when the superannuation scheme was promised to the Service in December, 1919. If the Bill had been dealt with earlier in the Parliament then elected it wouldprobably have been made retrospective to an earlier date. I know a retired officer who has had fortyfive vears in the Service, and he will not come under the scheme, although within a few months of the time limit fixed. I hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will see his way clear to postpone consideration of the clause, in order to make inquiries as to whether the number of officers embraced by the scheme would be very materially increased by making the measure retrospective for a further twelve months.
.- -The Bill was definitely promised in the election campaign in October, 1919, and had it been dealt with at the beginning of the next session the earliest year in which the measure could have been brought into operation would have been 1920. The Government have tried to fulfil the election promise as soon as they could. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has referred to a retired officer of forty-five years’ service who will be deprived of the benefit of the scheme. I know another official who retired in 1919, after having given forty-seven years’ service. He was one of the most capable and selfsacrificing public officers we have had in Queensland. It has been found necessary, however, to draw the line somewhere.
.- There is much to be said in favour of the argument advanced by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and honorable members on this side, that the Bill should be made applicable to all aged servants of the Commonwealth. The clause is governed by the fact that the person to receive the benefit must be sixty-five years of age on retirement. We propose to make the measure retrospective for two years, meaning that officers sixty-seven years of age would come under it. It is unfortunate that other men who have rendered good and faithful service should be deprived of the benefit of the scheme simply because they happened to retire a few years, or perhaps only a few weeks before the date on which the Act is to come into operation. I am acquainted with men who have given good service in the Commonwealth, and who retired three or four years ago. At present they are not in very good circumstances. Probably the Minister (Mr. Groom) will urge that the cost of the scheme would be increased too much by extending the benefits to all old employees of the Commonwealth. It is obvious that, by adopting that course, the cost would be increased, but there cannot be a great many retired officers for whom the Bill does not provide. Not many of us pass the allotted span of three score years and ten, and from the- point of view of equity, I think we ought to make the measure retrospective, to embrace all officers who have given service to the Commonwealth up to the age of sixty-five years.
-There would be quite a number of them.
– There may be a fair number, but the question is whether we should not do justice to them.
– Some of them are drawing State pensions.
– That would reduce the number of whom the Minister speaks. It is not the fault of these officers that they have been left without provision; it is the fault of Parliament. Had they remained in the service of the States, they would have been well provided for under the State Acts. Simply because they were transferred to the Commonwealth, and the Federal Parliament has made no legislative provision for their superannuation, many of them now have to depend on old-age pensions. I know men who have served up to the age of sixty-five years under the Commonwealth, and they are now drawing those pensions. The Government ought to be ideal employers, setting an example to private employers. The Minister would be well advised if he gave a little more consideration to this provision. If he postponed the clause for the time being, to enable him to look into the question raised, it could be dealt with at a later period. I do not think any very great additional cost would be involved by extending the benefits of the Bill to all those officers who have served up to the age of sixtyfive years, and are not in receipt of a State pension.
– We have weighed that aspect. The whole matter has been very carefully considered, and we cannot see our way clear to extend the Bill.
– I do not desire to move an amendment, but there seems to be a consensus of opinion that something more should be done to meet the case of these officers The Minister would gain by agreeing to the suggestion for the postponement of the clause, because it is quite possible the other clauses will go through very quickly.
– It is a dangerous practice to introduce the retrospective principle into legislation.
– - But we have already incorporated it in the Bill we are discussing.
– It is very generous.
– It could be a little more generous. The benefits should be made to apply to people who have given good and long service to the Commonwealth. Their number cannot be great. Many of them are already provided for by State Acts.
– Many of those who have retired in the past have drawn good retiring allowances.
– To what extent?
– Six months’ pay.
– The honorable member must be referring to officers in the Postal Department and other branches of the Commonwealth Service who have drawn pay in lieu of furlough to which they were justly entitled, and which could not by any means be regarded as a retiring allowance. Many private firms give pay in lieu of holiday allowance. That principle is followed in the Police Force in many of the States. As a matter of fact, many of the Commonwealth officers who have retired were actually entitled to two furloughs according to their period of service, but only drew allowance for one furlough. During the war many of our public servants did additional work without extra pay, and did not take the holidays to which they were entitled.
– While others were away offering their lives.
– That is no argument for the honorable member to advance against men who were doing good work for their country in their proper sphere. In any case, those who would be affected by the present proposal were over the military age. It is very unfair for the honorable member to speak as he has done concerning men who have given good and faithful service to their country, possibly just as much as the honorable member himself rendered during the war.
– Do not get your back up !
– One cannot help doing so at such a reflection upon men in our Public Service who gave extra time to their country to assist during the war, and did all they could in their sphere of work. However, I appeal to the Minister, to give this matter a little further consideration, and see if he cannot meet the wishes of the Committee by postponing the clause. By doing so he might get the rest of the Bill through at this sitting. It is the only clause which seems to give honorable members concern. Quite a number on both sides of the Chamber think that the provision should be made more liberal.
.- The Attorney General (Mr. Groom) has suggested that the people to whom the Committee is anxious to extend the bene fits of this clause will have paid nothing, but I recall his mind to the fact that the late Sir Samuel Griffith was given a pension of £1,750, although he had not contributed anything towards it out of his salary of over £3,000 per annum.
– I do not think the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) intended to reflect upon the Public Service in any way; in fact, I am sure he would concede, as readily as any other honorable member would, that during the period of the war the Commonwealth Public Service was true and loyal.
The question with which we are now dealing was given a good deal of earnest consideration, and I am assured that if we were to do as has been suggested, namely, to sweep away all restrictions, and make the benefits of the scheme apply to all persons, it would mean a very considerable increase in the Commonwealth expenditure, especially during the next two or three years.
– Has the Minister any idea of what the additional cost would be?
– I have not the figures here, but I can assure the Committee, without troubling them with the details, that the additional cost would be considerable. At any rate, if we were to sweep away all restrictions as regards the old men, why should we not also do so in regard to the men who have been retired on account of invalidity, many of whom are, perhaps, more in need of assistance than are those over the age of sixty-five? If we start nibbling in the way suggested, the whole scheme will get out of gear. A logical date has been set down to which we should adhere. For one thing, our actuarial estimates have been based upon it. Naturally we would all like to be generous and vote money out of the Consolidated Revenue. It would be very nice to dispense moneys in this way, but we have a responsibility to undertake.
– Hear, bear!
– The scheme is just, and 1 ask honorable members not to try to extend it so as to exceed what is a reasonable anticipation of possible expenditure.
.- There might appear to be something almost sinister - I hope there is not - in the fact that the Government are always in opposition to any proposal from this side of the House to benefit the aged people. We have more than once moved to extend the benefits of legislation to the old and the infirm in respect to oldage pensions and other matters. We have before us to-night a very simple case referring to a very limited and vanishing number of cases of old and deserving people, not people at whom the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) should sneer and laugh as he does.
– I am not laughing; I am thinking of how your sins will find you out when you get on the Treasury bench.
– Because the honorable member is no longer associated with the Labour party, and has become associated with the respectable Nationalists, he should not forget that he at one time was also a protagonist for the aged and infirm, and those least able to help themselves.
– The honorable member is now taking advantage of me to getsomething into Hansard for the forthcoming election.
– It is perfectly true that the honorable member’s presence in this House is in itself a standing advertisement of the need for an election.
I hope that the Minister (Mr. Groom) will not expect the Committee to be affected by the sophistries he tenders as argument. For instance, he declares that if we extend the benefits of this measure to the limited section of old and faithful servants of the Commonwealth we seek to have included, there will be no logical reason for not extending it also to those who through illness or infirmity retired in the years gone by. I would not be afraid to support an extension of the scheme to those particularly deserving public servants, but the Labour party to-night have been more moderate in their request, and have asked the Minister to meet the argument we have put up on its merits, and not suggest that there are many other equally deserving people who might be benefited. So far, our contention has not been met. The persons concerned must, as has been said, be at least sixty-seven years of age. In fact they must be more than that, because this pension will be payable only, under this clause, from the passing of the Act, and will carry widows’ and children’s benefits in accordance with the Act. As the Minister was looking for what he as a lawyer would recognise as ad captandum arguments, I am surprised that he did not point out that if we were to accept the proposal which I made when first speaking on this clause, it would also involve additional expenditure in making provision for widows and children. We would like to put the acid test on the Minister in this way. If he is not prepared to give the benefit of his suggested amendment to others, such as those who have retired through invalidity, or if he is not prepared to extend it to the wider area involved in applying it to widows and children, we ask him to bear in mind that there are a few old and faithful servants of the Commonwealth, limited in number and very advanced in age, who have an unanswerable claim to a pension - in fact a better claim than persons to whom he proposes to give it. We claim that the pension should be given to this small number of persons, unless the. Ministercan advance some reason other than the miserable pretext of expense why it should not be done. I would like to soothe those who laugh when I use the words “miserable pretext of expense,’” by assuring them that I do not ignore the matter of finance in connexion with this question. I realize that it must be taken into consideration, but I claim that it must not be used as an argument in support of palpable injustice. In a matter of this kind, we should have the courage to do right in scorn of consequences, namely, by extending the benefits of this measure logically to those for whom honorable members of the Committee on both sides of the Chamber have made a plea to-night. The Minister has not even promised to reconsider the clause. He tells us that he does not even know to what extent it will involve an extra expenditure of public money. He admits that he is not informed of the effect of the proposal.
– Why should he bet
– Why should he not be? He made some inquiries, but they were not adequate inquiries. He has some “ impressions “ as to the cost. If the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) insists that the Minister is ignorant on the point, he can have his way. i do not know that the Minister has ever done anything that I have asked him to do. In that regard, however, it is never too late to begin. I beg of him not to prejudice his mind by the fact that I have put the case for these men, but I ask him to consider their, case on its merits, without regard, if he prefers that, to my advocacy of it. When he has considered their case on its merits, the only thing that will remain for him and his Government to do will be to grant the request. Honorable members on the Government side of the House will no doubt see that there are . not many votes involved, but though the votes are few, and though they cannot influence the electorates very much, still, on their merits, they are entitled to succeed. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted one instance, and I could quote others, of men who have given, not only good, but distinguished, service to the Commonwealth, and who justly hoped and believed that they would participate in this pension scheme, but who are now excluded. I can see that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) is anxious to rise and justify himself for his sneering attitude to these old people, and I will make way for him to do so as far as he can, because I realize the difficulty of his position.
– I do not need to justify my position. I have no desire to kill this Bill. I am most anxious ‘that it should go through. There are two ways of killing it. One is to go outside the ambit laid down by the actuaries iri their calculations, so that when the Bill goes to another place it may be shown that it is quite unworkable. I have watched the attitude of some honorable members who pose as friends of the Public Service, and I have come to the conclusion that they are doing their utmost to kill the Bill. I cannot understand why the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Brennan) is now putting in so much time in his place in this House. On other nights we do not find him here after a certain hour. He has spoken about me being in my electorate. 1 would remind him that I took up an electorate where there was hard fighting to be done. I did not go to a place where ;I could get a selection, ana my seat would be assured for life, without any further fighting. I can explain my position by saying that I do not desire to do anything on the floor of this House that will jeopardize the Bill. I notice how attentive my honorable friend has been to his duties since the announcement of the candidature of Sir James Barrett, who is about to oppose him. Sir J James Barrett has succeeded, at least, in keeping the honorable member for Batman in his place in this House. The announcement of Sir James Barrett’s name as a political candidate has been of great service to a section of the Public Service. If the Minister changes his mind on this subject it will not be because of the speech of the honorable member for Batman, but the thanks will be due to Sir James Barrett. I have rarely seen the honorable member here at this hour of the night. One generally sees him making a beeline for the St. Kilda tram or train at night long before the House rises.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith). I wish to explain that the only reason why I am not found in this chamber late at night is that I always go home when the House rises. I think I should say, in justification of myself, that when the honorable member for Denison says that he has frequently seen me in the train, it seems to be conclusive evidence that he also was in the train. I can imagine no other means by which he could assert with positiveness that he had seen me in the St. Kilda or any other train. While the honorable member accuses me of going home early, I make no such accusation against him.
.- I am somewhat disappointed at the reply of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) on this question. The request was very mildly put forward by members on this side of the House. There is nothing to answer in the speech by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), and when I listened to him I wondered why he rose to speak at all. The Minister has said that the adoption of the proposal would cost a lot of money. I asked him if he could give an estimate of the cost, and he said he was not prepared to give even a rough estimate. In the absence of any such estimate I do. not accept the statement that the adoption of the proposal would cost a lot of money. These are men who retired at sixty-five years of age two or more years ago, and, therefore, many of them entered the Service just after the payment of compensation was abolished in the States. When I hear honorable members, particularly those of the Corner party, who seem to be very anxious about the cost of anything relating to the working section of the community, speak of the cost of the proposal, I am reminded of the wonderful support which the Government has received from the Corner party, and the slavish following it has had from members like the honorable member for Denison, in reducing taxation to the rich. When members on this side of the House come forward with a proposal to do justice to old people who have served this country faithfully for many years, and have reached the evening of their day, we arc met with questions of cost, just as we were when the payment of old-age pensions was before the House. It was only last week that the Government passeda measure to remit £400,000 of taxation from the large land monopolists of this country. On that occasion the Government were supported by the honorable member for Denison. Other proposals for remitting taxation were outlined in the Budget speech.For the benefit of the big Flinders-lane warehouses of this country, and all big businesses, there is to be a remission of income tax amounting to 10 per cent. The Government are proposing to remit something like £3,000,000 a year from the taxes paid by the big landed interests and the big businesshouses. The point at issue is whether this country can afford to do justice to these old people. If we are so bankrupt that we cannot find a few pounds to pay these people £2 a week for the remaining days of their lives, we are not in a position to remit £3,000,000 of taxation to the richest people in the community. I am surprised that the Minister should come down with a statement that the cost would be too heavy in the face of what has been happening in this House during the last week: It is a pity that the Minister has not been able to find a sounder argument. As for the statement of the honorable member for Denison, that members of the Opposition are doing their best to kill the Bill, I repudiate that suggestion. He knows it cannot be true. There is no party in this House, and there are no honorable members in this House, who have done more to assist the Minister in getting the measure through than have members of the Opposition, and I believe the Minister would support that statement. The speeches made in this House have been of a minimum length, and the criticism from this side of the House has always been helpful, and it is, therefore, most unjustifiable for the honorable member for Denison to try to make abit of cheap political capita] out of the situation by saying that our object is to kill the Bill.
– The honorable member did not hear the attack that was made, upon me by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He was absent from the Chamber then, and, having now come in, he is playing a lowdown game.
– I was in the House, and heard the whole debate on the clause. I heard the speech of the honorable member for Batman.
– Perhaps the honorable member also heard the honorable member for Denison sheering at me when I was speaking.
– I did, and I felt that the remarks made regarding the honorable member for Denison were a wellmerited rebuke. Even if he did rise in his place to answer another honorable member, that would not justify him in accusing the members of the Opposition of desiring to kill the Bill.
-I said nothing about the Opposition. I said “ some members.”
– And the honorable member at the same time gave a sweeping glance around the benches on this side of the House. I would point out to the Minister that the cost of adopting the proposal would be a mere bagatelle to this Commonwealth. I regret that we cannot test the opinion of the Committee by moving an amendment on the clause to wipe out the limitation as to date. Such an amendment would be ruled out of order, as it would involve an increase in the appropriation. I believe that ifsuch an amendment were put to the vote, the sense of justice of the Committee would prevail, and these aged men and women would get their rights. This measure has been promised to them for many years, and, because they have been denied justice in the past, that is no reason why we should not start now to do justice to them. If others are to get the pension without making any contribution, then these men are not less entitled to it. This measure does bare justice to the lowerpaid men in the Service, while it deals generously with those in the higher branches, I agree with the principle that the Government should contribute half of the fund to be provided. On the one hand, however, certain persons in the Service who have been drawing high salaries will be able to retire on a pension of £400 a year; while, on the other, the great mass of retiring public servants, who have been receiving low salaries, will be entitled to only a small pension. Officers who have been in receipt of big salaries are to be handsomely treated; but when honorable members ask for pensions of £104 a year for officers who have reached the age of sixtyseven years, and even seventy years and more, the Government reply that the cost would be too great. I can only urge that the argument is a weak one.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That after sub-clause (1) the following proviso be inserted: - “ Provided that, if the maximum age for retirement is less than sixty-five years, the pension payable under this section shall be the actuarial equivalent of such pension payable as from the age of sixty-five years.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 37, 38, and 39 verbally amended, and agreed to.
Clause 40 -
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words “may suspend”, twice occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ shall discontinue “.
.- Why does this clause insist upon . deserted wives being required to obtain an orderof a Court? In an analogous case, in connexion with the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act, it is necessary to obtain an order of a Court for maintenance, or to secure some form or deed of separation, before a deserted wife may obtain the benefits of a pension. Considering that a Board is to be established to administer this measure, why should the Government insist upon the injured party being put to the necessity for taking the very public and painful proceeding of going to a Court, apparently for the purpose of obtaining an order for maintenance?
– It would seem to be an unnecessary expense.
– Yes ; I do not know what Court of jurisdiction other than a Police Court a deserted wife would be able to approach for the purpose of making a claim for maintenance. Naturally, most wives so unhappily placed are reluctant to publish their sorrow in a Police Court. I should have thought that the Board would be competent to say when a wife had been so far. deserted as to render herself qualified for this ameliorative treatment.
– As- a matter of fact, this measure follows the precedent of the New South Wales Act. But, in addition, there is the practical side to be considered. The Board will be called upon to administer this Act. One of its members will be a full-time officer. The others may or may not be; but the operations of the measure will cover the whole of the continent. How can the Board, sitting here in Melbourne, be expected to take evidence and hear cases which may arise all over the country ? Some tribunal must be provided. The Courts are accustomed to deal with maintenance cases, and the procedure is well known. It is objectionable, of course, for any person, in any circumstances, to be called upon to make such use of these tribunals. The point is, however, that this measure will deal with continental conditions, and that there must be a tribunal available in the neighbourhood where the person concerned resides.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 41 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 42 agreed to.
Clause 43 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 44 to 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 -
Except where otherwise provided, this Act shall not apply to employees who have a vested or contingent right to a pension or retiring allowance under any other Act or State Act.
.- - I ask the Committee to negative this clause. I intend, later, to move for the inclusion of a new clause, as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, an employee who has a vested or contingent right to a pension or retiring allowance under any other Act (not including the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- 1.921) or State Act shall not be required or permitted to contribute for units of pension under this Act, except in pursuance of the provisions of this Division, nor shall pension under this Act be payable to or in respect of any such employee except in pursuance of those provisions.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) raised the question whether the pensions of returned soldiers, for example, would be affected under clause 50. Such was not intended, and the clause will not be so applied. My purpose is that the intention shall be made perfectly clear.
.- I should like the Minister (Mr. Groom) to give attention to another phase of the question. The clause which he has moved to omit provides that the Act shall not apply to employees who have a vested or contingent right to a pension or retiring allowance under any other Act or State Act, which means that no one who comes under a State Act can derive any benefit from this particular measure. In New South Wales they have a similar Act, under which many public servants pay 4 per cent, of their salary in order to participate in the scheme; but no provision is made for their widows and children. In the event of an officer dying, his widow or children do not receive any pension, and I would like the Minister to give that phase of the matter consideration in connexion with the proposed new clause. It is hardly fair for them to be placed in a different position to other public servants, and I would like the Minister to make provision, in the event of death of such servants, that the widow and children should, at least, be in the same position as the widows and children of officers who will benefit under this scheme.
– I think the case mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is covered by clause 52.
– I am glad, to know that provision has, apparently, been made to meet such cases.
– Speaking off-hand, I think it meets the point raised by the honorable member, but I shall look into the position more closely.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) was good enough to explain the reason for deleting this clause, but owing to the conversations which were proceeding at the time it was difficult for me to follow him closely. I understood him to say, however, that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) raised the question of returned soldiers, and I would like to know if the soldiers’ rights have been fully protected.
– Yes,, they have.
Clauses 51 and 52 verbally amended, and agreed to.
Any employee referred to in section 50 of this Act who, at or after the passing, and before the commencement, of this Act -
Sub-sections (2) and (3) of section thirtysix of this Act shall apply to any pension payable under this section. (5)This section shall come into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal assent.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the words “ and before the commencement of this Act,” in sub-clause (1), be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ of this Act, and before the date notified in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 12 of this Act.”
That paragraph (a) of sub-clause (1) be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following new paragraph: - ” (a) has attained the maximum age for retirement, or is an invalid, or is unable, by reason of physical or mental incapacity, to continue to perform his duties; and”
That after the word “four” at the end of paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1), the following words be inserted : “ Commencing at the age of sixty-five years.”
That the words “ but in no case shall the pension under . this section exceed half the annual rate of salary paid at date of retirement,” at the end of sub-clause (1), be left out.
That after sub-clause (1), the following proviso be inserted: “Provided that, if the maximum age for retirement is less than sixty-five years, the pension payable under this section shall be the actuarial equivalent of such pension payable as from the age of sixty-five years.
That the words “ thirty-six,” in sub-clause (4), be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “.thirty-five.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 54 and 55 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 56 -
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the words “ less the actuarial equivalent of the contributions made under the last preceding sub-section “ be added.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 57 (Employee having right to refund or gratuity under other law may exchange his rights for an equivalent under this Act).
– I understand that this clause has been introduced for the purpose of protecting the rights of public servants who were transferred from a State to the Commonwealth Service. When certain Tasmanian State public servants were transferred, an Act was not in force; but they came over with certain rights which were to be preserved to them. It was understood that they were to receive one month’s pay for the first year of service, and one week’s pay for every year of subsequent service; and I would like to know whether those rights have been protected.
– This raises the question of the rights of public servants who came over to the Commonwealth, and concerns not only. Tasmania, but, at least, one or two of the other States. The Bill provides that where there isan existing right by virtue of a Commonwealth or State Act, a public servant is not to receive the benefits provided under this measure. The officers who came from Tasmania have not any legal right, and their position is peculiar. A resolution was passed in Committee of the Tasmanian Assembly in the following terms : -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to any civil servant who after four years’ continuous service retires from the Civil Service through sickness or is retrenched, and one week’s additional leave of absence on full pay be granted to any such civil servant for every year’s service performed in addition to the said four years’ service, provided that in no case shall such leave of absence exceed twelve months.
It was further resolved -
That if any civil servant died while in the service of the Government, the Governor in Council be authorized to pay to his widow, family, or legal representative a gratuity equal to one month’s pay and emoluments, providing such civil servant has completed two years’ continuous service, and also to gram one week’s pay for every year’s service or portion of one year’s service performed in addition to the said two years’ service.
Those resolutions have not been embodied in any Act, and the payments made under that authority are not a legal right, neither are they retiring allowances within the meaning of the Constitution. In order that the officers transferred to the Commonwealth should not, by reason of their transfer, have to bear the loss of these gratuities, it was arranged with the State Governments that the payments should, from time to time, be made ‘by the Commonwealth as an act of grace, subject to the State Government first concurring before any payment is made. The officers who are getting these payments as a matter of grace are entitled to the benefits of the Bill, but it is doubtful whether the Treasury will continue them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 58 and 59 agreed to.
Clause 60 -
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the words ” as prescribed ‘ by employees” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ by employees in the manner specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette.
– I should like to know whether the members of the Board will be compelled to devote themselves entirely to the duties of their position?
– -Under clause 66, the President of the Board must devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office, and he will have a staff, which must include a secretary and an actuary, or a secretary who is an actuary. The other two members of the Board may or may not devote all their time to its work. In New South Wales the three members of the Board devote all their time to its work, but inasmuch as the cost of administration will have to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, there will be a natural desire on the part of the respon sible Minister to keep down expenditure as much . as is reasonable, and the two members of the Board other than the President may be asked to devote only a portion of their time to its work.
– But one of them must be an actuary.
– The actuarial member of the Board need not devote all his time to its work. He could be paid by fees for devoting a portion of his time to it, should that be a satisfactory arrangement to make. The Minister in charge will, no doubt, make the most economical arrangements possible, consistent with efficiency.
.- I agree with the Minister that it is necessary to economize as much as possible in the working of the Act, but I am doubtful whether the member of the Board who represents the employees of the Public Service may not be prejudiced both as a member of the Board and as a departmental officer, if he is asked to give two or three days a week to the service of the Board and the rest of his time to the duties of his departmental office, with a substitute filling his place during his absence at the Board meeting. It mighthappen that exception might be taken to an officer employed thus intermittently in two offices^ and that he might thereby incur some damage. The drawing up of regulations will entail a great deal of work on the members of the Board.
– The public servants’ representative will probably be chosen from a number of nominees recommended by the Public Service.
– Possibly halfadozen names may be submitted, and the officer chosen may be one occupying a very important departmental post. Such an officer could not give satisfaction both as a member of the Board and as a departmental official, since in the latter capacity a substitute would have to do his work for much of the time, and the public interests might suffer in consequence. It seems to me that it might be advisable to require the members of the Board to devote all their time to their duties, though I would not wish for that arrangement to be made if there were not sufficient work to justify it.
– A great deal of the work will be routine work.
– In the beginning there will probably be a large amount of foundation work to be done.
– Yes; but later the work may be much less.
– The point will be considered fully.
– I do not wish to move an amendment, because, if I did, I could not carry it. I hope that the Minister may devise a means whereby this matter may be satisfactorily dealt with.
, - I can assure honorable members that the point raised will not be overlooked, though nothing definite has as yet been decided. I consulted the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) some time ago, but he has quite an open mind on the matter, and we shall know better as soon as . the Act is proclaimed and the President of the Board is selected. The Treasurer will certainly take into consideration the question whether an officer will be injured by devoting a portion of his time to the work of the Board.
.- I have long had a feeling that this Government has in the past been noted for the number of Boards it has created, thus adding considerably to the expenditure of the Commonwealth.I do not like (he manner in which the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) has placed this matter before us to-night. I cannot see that there will bo any large amount of work for this Board to do, because public servants who retire each year will not number many thousand. Certainly the whole administration will call for considerably less effort than that involved, for instance, in the payment of old-age and invalid pensions. The great trouble with Boards is that they have a tendency to grow in size and cost as they get older, and I think we are entitled to a little information before we consent to this clause. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I have been more than astonished at the fever there seems to be in the Departments to have Boards appointed, and, as I say, the cost is alarming. Only to-day I received , a letter from an important association - not a Labour association - asking for a list of the Boards appointed since the present Prime Minister. (Mr. Hughes) took office, and, fearful of giving that association a shook, I wrote back to-day giving only a few. What will be the effect on the association when I tell it of the cost of the various Boards, I do not know. What does the Minister really intend by the appointment of this Board, with its chairman at £2,000 a year, its members at proportionate salaries, with its clerks, messengers and lady typistes?I suppose, however, that the appointment of these Boards finds positions for some people. At the present moment, we have not an idea within £5,000 of what this Board will cost ‘ per annum, and in my opinion the clause ought not to.be passed until we have further information’ in order that we may safeguard the public purse. I am not the only member of the community who is concerned at the enormous increase in the public expenditure.
– I should, like to know from the Minister (Mr. Groom) whether the employees’ representative on the Board will be a “ full time “ member of the Board for seven years. I ask that question because there is a doubt in the minds of some people, and in my own mind, as. to whether that is the case or not. As the public servants will pay about £300,000per annum into the fund, they should he represented on the Board by a permanent full-time member. In the earlier stages, there will he a great deal of administrative work to do, and, therefore, the Minister should consider the expediency of making the appointment on the lines I have indicated.
– It is impossible, at this stage, to say whether the work will be of. such a character as to require the appointment of whole-time members. The Minister responsible for the administration of the Act will have to take that matter into consideration.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
I think it is fair that the House should now adjourn. We have to meet at 11 o’clock in the morning, and we shall be sitting four days this week. I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
Clauses 61 to 66 agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220926_reps_8_100/>.