9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Inview of the great publicity being given by the Australian daily papers to various so-called picnics, and the repeated allegationthat the money of the taxpayers is to be wasted to enable a small number of honorablemembers in this House to go abroad during the recess for their health and recreation, will the Prime Minister inform this House, either now or before the session closes, of the actual arrangements, if any, made by or with the concurrence of the Government, for any trips both inside and outside Australia; and will he particularly give the House information of any projected touring excursion to Japan and the Mandated Territories, and state whether the Government intend to arrange and finance these trips, and whether the personnel of the parties is being arranged by the Government, and on what ground; and, finally, whether the Government will be able to give an assurance to the taxpayers that these trips will be worth the money spent on them, and in what way they will justify their expense?
– This question is not of such urgency that it could not have been placed on the notice-paper, but probably at this stage of the session it will be better to deal with it as urgent. I strongly deprecate the suggestion that any trips that may bo arranged to enable honorable members to visit parts of Australia or other countries are in the nature of picnics. Honorable members will make such visits as may be made, because of the great benefit to be derived by inquiring thus into some questions of national interest, or establishing friendly relations with the people of other countries. At present no arrangements have been made for a trip outside Australia except that to the Mandated Territories. Arrangements for that visit are not complete, but it was, I think, the will of the whole House that some honorable gentlemen should visit those Territories during the recess to see for themselves how Australia is carrying out her great and sacred obligations under the Mandate. The Northern Territory trip was to have taken place almost immediately on the rising of the House, but I announced the other day that, owing to other arrangements made by honorable members, that trip had been postponed.
-W ith reference to the proposed visits to Japan and other places, the following is a telegram I have received from Mr. Hume Ford, the director of the Pan-Pacific Union : -
Have cable from secretary House of Peers that Diet not in session, out if Australian parliamentarians visit Japan will be welcomed by Japanese officials and people.
– I find, on looking at the notice-paper, that the first six items have still to be dealt with, and in addition there is the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Bill, a very important measure, and additional Estimates. It will be very difficult to get through this programme to-day, and I suggest that the Prime Minister adjourn at train time until Monday, so thatwe might complete the business on that day. Failing that, and as the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Bill has not yet been introduced,and as it is necessary that honorable members should give an expression of opinion as to what the amount of the pension should be, an early place should bo found for the Bill in to-day’s proceedings. What action does the Prime Minister intend to take in this matter?
– The measures which the Leader of the Opposition has referred to, with the exception of No. 2 on the notice-paper, will not occupy this House very long, and there is no reason why our business should not be disposed of without adjourning and meeting again next week. Bub I am very anxious to meet the wishes of the honorable gentleman and his party, and the Government are prepared to deal with the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Bill immediately after the amendments made by the Senate to the Advances to Settlers Bill have been considered.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral lay upon the table of this House a statement of the legal and other costs concerning the wool agreements which are being dealt with under the validating Bill?
– There were no legal expenses or litigation relating to contracts. I shall endeavour later to inform the honorable member more fully of the facts.
– As the Prime Minister has not indicated whether the Northern Territory Crown Lands Bill will be introduced this session, and as certain restrictions have been placed on the granting of leases in the Northern Terri- tory pending its passage, I askwhether he will remove any restrictions which have been placed on the granting of leases in the Northern Territory in anticipation of the Bill being introduced this session, as many people desire to take up leases?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister at once.
– Recently the Commonwealth Government purchased certain diaries and other documents that belonged to Captain Cook that are of great interest to all Australians, particularly students of Australian history. Will the Government favorably consider the printing of these documents, to enable those who so desire to purchase them ?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will receive consideration.
– During the debate on the proposed railway from Mataranka to DalyWaters it was stated that an expenditure of £100,000 was required to construct a bridge across the Katherine River. I have been informed that this bridge is solely for railway purposes, and I ask the Minister to obtain plans from the Works and Railways Department of a bridge which will take any traffic?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister at once.
– Yesterday the Treasurer stated that the income tax returns would have to be rendered by the end of September. As the people of New South Wales have to furnish income tax returns at the end of December, is it understood by the New South Wales and the Commonwealth Governments that one return will be sufficient for both, and, if so, is’ the return to be rendered to the State or to the Commonwealth Department ?
– The exact date has not yet been definitely fixed, though it is understood that returns will be asked for at the end of September. The New
South Wales returns will be sent to the State office, and only one return will be necessary.
– For the information of taxpayers, will the Treasurer state whether they will be called upon to send in their returns before the 30th of September, and will he also submit a sample form of the return either to-day or tomorrow morning ?
– It is at present impossible to state the exact date, because the final arrangements concerning the issue of the returns have not yet been completed, but I think it will be possible to get a sample return for the honorable member’s perusal.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what procedure is being adopted to select honorable members to make the projected trip to the mandated territories?
– The Government proposes that nine honorable members, representative of the different parties, shall make the trip, and the party Leaders have been consulted regarding the personnel of the delegation.
– I hope that no restriction will be placed upon the honorable members of this House or another place who desire to visit the mandated territories. The Prime Minister has intimated that the party will be limited to nine, but as this Parliament is legislating for a territory about which we are profoundly ignorant-
– Order !
– Exactly. Does the Prime Minister appreciate the need for fuller knowledge of the territories? If so, will he withdraw the limitation upon the number of honorable members who may make the trip?
– The point raised by the right honorable member is fully appreciated by the Government. There is no limitation upon the number of honorable members who may go to the territories and obtain all the first-hand information they desire. But with regard to the particular party for which special arrangements are being made, it is considered that if it were too large its object would probably be defeated. Certain facilities must be placed at the disposal of the visitors in order that they may gain some knowledge of the territories, and if the party were over-large it would not be possible for its investigations to be as complete as they otherwise would be. For that reason, it was proposed that the number of honorable members should be limited to nine, but up to the present time we have not been able to find even that number who are prepared to leave on the proposed date.
– If the Government is not prepared to honour the definite election promise made by the Leader of the Nationalist party at the last election, that the transport and quarantine charges upon stud stock imported for the improvement of our herds would be paid by the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the importation by the Commonwealth of fifty of the best bulls that can be procured in England or America, so that they may be distributed to the agricultural colleges and other centres throughout the States, and’ their services made available to small dairyfarmers and graziers?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– For the sake of many thousands of returned soldiers and other members of the community who are suffering from tuberculosis, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will; when in England, if Sir Neville Howse should report f avorably upon the Spahlinger treatment, regard the matter as one of urgency, and authorize the expenditure of whatever sum is necessary to acquire the Australian rights in the treatment for the Commonwealth?
– As I told the House some time ago, Mr. Lawson, Premier of Victoria, and Sir George Fuller, Premier of New South Wales, inquired into this matter when they were in England recently. They attended an important medical conference, and at my request both have furnished me with inf ormation, which is now under the consideration of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health. The question is also being fully investigated by the British Health authorities, and it appears likely that some definite decision will be arrived at. even before Sir Neville Howse has an opportunity to consider the matter.
– An Australian doctor who rendered very good service in the war, and specializes in orthopaedy, is now travelling to England at his own expense to gain further knowledge and experience, particularly in regard to amputation cases and artificial limbs. As this doctor is highly qualified, and engaged in important investigations, will the Prime Minister advise the High Commissioner to give him all possible facilities for his inquiries while he is in England?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with the name of the doctor, I shall be only too pleased to ask Australia House to give him any assistance he may require ; but as he is an Australian, he will, as a matter of course, receive such facilities and assistance as the staff at Australia House can offer.
– Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister whether he would consider the advisability of making a substantial contribution to the Imperial! Cancer Research Fund. Has the. Government arrived at any decision upon this matter? If not, will it deal with the matter as expeditiously as possible?
– I regret to say that the matter has not yet been dealt with, but in the near future there will be more opportunities to consider this question than there have been during the past few weeks.
– Having regard to the present stagnant condition of the Central Queensland marble industry, and the inability of the Minister for Trade and Customs to come to a decision regarding the application of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act to that industry, will he pay a visit to Central Queensland during the recess, and afford me an opportunity of showing him the marble quarries there?
AUSTIN CHAPMAN-. - I intend to visit Queensland ; but I gave the honorable member a definite answer regarding the marble industry yesterday. He has made half-a-dozen inquiries upon the same subject, and I have replied to all of them.
-I rise to make a personal explanation. During the discussion on the. Land Tax Assessment Bill, I mentioned the firm, of Baillieu Brothers amongst a number of. corporations and individuals that owe many thousands of poundsin land tax to the Commonwealth.
M r. W. L. Baillieu has taken exception to that statement, on the ground that he and his family are not affected by the provisions of the Land Tax Assessment Bill. If I was in error in any statement I made, I do not hesitate to make the necessary apology. Further inquiries support my original statement that among the large leaseholders who owethe Government thousands of pounds for land tax are Messrs. Baillieu Brothers; but, in the circumstances, I deem it my duty to say here that Mr. W. L. Baillieuhas informed me that he and his family are under no financial obligation to the Commonwealth.
– Three weeks ago, I asked, the Treasurer for, a list of the names of big pastoralists and squatters who were affected by the proposed remission of taxation in respect of Crown leaseholds. The honorable gentleman promised to have the information prepared. Does he intend to honour that promise, orhas he changed his mind now that those persons have”dropped the loot;”?
– Order! The word “ loot “ was ruled out of order yesterday.
– I have previously intimated to honorable members that there is not in the Taxation Department,a list- of the amounts owing by individual taxpayers. The preparation of the information which the honorable member desires is being expedited as much as possible; but I am informed by the Commissioner of Taxation that it will not be practicable to supply the information for some time.
– Is there not, in the Taxation Department, a record of the pastoral companies and individuals who paid £690,000 of land taxation in respect of leaseholds from the Crown during the three years 1914-1916, or are those records also lost ?
– All the records are in the Department, but there are about 17,000 payers of land taxation from freehold and leasehold which are mixed together, and. the Commissioner assures me that the whole of the files will have to be searched in order to get the information that is desired. The figures which the honorable member for Bourke supplied last week were a surpise, not only to me, but also to all the officials of the Taxation Department,as nobody can have such information.
– As rumours are being circulated in Sydney that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) owes the Taxation Department £1,800, representing; £300 per annum for the last six years, will the Treasurer inform the House of the actual amount due from the honorable member to the Treasury?
– The statement is not true.
– The Government has no record of amounts owing by individual pastoralists, and, therefore, it is not possible for me to give the honorable memberthe information he seeks.
– Arising out of the previous questions–
– Questions arising out of other questions are not in order, but as this appears to be the last, or last but oneday of thesession, I have relaxed the rule to some extent. I hope that the indulgence will not be abused.
– Not arising out of, but in connexion with previous question on the subject, I was about to ask if the amount owing by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) can be deducted from his parliamentary allowance.
– Will the Treasurer inform honorable members whether it is a fact that the Taxation Department has each year assessed Crown leaseholders, and placed a footnote on the notice reminding them that they need not pay the amount due? If that has been the practice, how is it that there is not in the Department a record of those assessments?
– The file for each individual taxpayer is kept separate; the amounts owing by leaseholders have never been brought together on any list or in any ledger. I am told that to get information of the amount due by individuals it would be necessary to go through the whole series of files. The details are almost inextricably mixed. Practically every person who is taxed on a Crown lease is also taxed on freehold property, and it would mean an immense amount of work to analyze the records.
– If the Treasurer has no records in the office of the amount the different leaseholders owe to the Government, how was he able to tell the House the total amount outstanding?
– If the honorable member really desires this information he should have allowed me to speak when I intended the other night; but honorable members opposite kept on interfering with me by rising to points of order.
– The Treasurer was prevented from speaking by his own guillotine.
– The position is that the amounts are taken out of the details each year, and recorded as totals in the report of the Land Tax Commissioners. The details are not recorded separately.
Defence Retirements Act Compensation
– Some little time ago I addressed to the Minister for Works and Railways about the longest letter I have ever written in my life, respecting the claims of certain naval staff officers to compensation under the Defence Retirements Act. As he seems to have survived the perusal of that letter, I would like to know whether he can tell me what has been done with regard to the claim, and whether I may expect an answer to my letter before the House rises?
– I have a recollection that a reply was sent to the honorable member.
– I had a reply that the matter would be submitted to Cabinet. Has Cabinet yet considered it?
– Not yet. As soon as it has been considered I will let the honorable member know the decision.
– Will the Treasurer consider the publication of a special issue of the Government Gazette to give the names of all individuals and companies who have been detected in trying to defraud their country by making their income tax returns inaccurate to the extent of £1,000 and upwards? I have stated that figure to save the departmental officers a great deal of clerical work.
– I shall be glad to give the matter consideration.
– In view of the large discrepancies - to use a mild word - of sometimes £15,000 and upwards, in the amount of income tax payable, as calculated by the Department and calculated by individuals, I ask the Treasurer whether he will consider, during the recess, the advisableness of amending the Act so that all persons found guilty of improper practices in that respect shall be sent to prison.
– I will look into the matter.
– Repeated complaints have appeared in the press, particularly in Sydney, about alleged overcharges by the Telephone Department to telephone users. I understand that the Postmaster-General, some time ago, instituted inquiries into the matter. Can he inform the House whether he has obtained any definite results?
– We are making special inquiries into that matter at present.
– Can the Prime Minister give honorable members some indication of when he expects to return from England?
– My reply to the honorable member is “ at the earliest possible moment,” which will probably be towards the end of February.
Retirement of Female Employees
– Formerly, under the Public Service regulations, a girl, on her retirement, was given three months pay. That practice has been stopped. I ask whether the Government will consider the advisableness of restoring it?
– When the Public Service Bill was before this House I think there was no thought in any honorable member’s mind that the practice would be altered. Apparently, a ruling has been given against it. The matter has been referred to the Public Service Board for reconsideration.
Mr. Balsillie’s Position
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow. -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will place on the table of the library the departmental file dealing with the appointment and recommendations for the promotion of Mr. Jack Mortby, teller, 5th class,. Cashier’s Branch, Taxation Department,. Adelaide?
– I shall place on the table of the library a copy of the departmental file.
Use of Styx River Coal
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the proved suitability of the Styx River coal from Central Queensland for use by the Australian Navy, will he see that further shipments of this coal are used by the Navy as frequently as possible?
– Five hundred tons of Styx River coal were taken by the fleet recently, and the seagoing tests are not yet available. Loading facilities at the nearest shipping ports are bad. Further use of this coal will depend largely on the results of the present tests, and upon improvement in loading facilities.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The’ honorable member has put -a hypothetical ease. If he has any concrete instance I can hare inquiries made into the cose.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Ordnance CORPS. Mr. .SCULLIN asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether there is any truth in .the rumor that it is proposed to form an Ordnance Corps consisting of employees in the Ordnance Branch’ who hove not been brought ‘under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board?
– The formation of an Ordnance Corps is a matter which has been under consideration for a number’ of years. Sections 31 and 148 of the Defence Act contain the necessary authority for raising and officering such a Corps, but no approval for its establishment has yet been given.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Ship 48 : Electrical Fittings. Mr. BRUCE.- On the 14th August the honorable member for ;Cook (Mr. “C. Riley) asked the following questions. -
Whether it is a fact that tenders have been called for the supply,, erection, and installation of electric - lighting, power, - bells, and telephones in ship ‘No. 48, now under construction at Cockatoo Island?
If so, will he state what the reasons are for inviting such ‘tenders, in -view of ‘the Government’s determination to appoint a Shipping Board to control ‘Cockatoo Dockyard and- other activities?
Does he not think that the letting of tenders for the above work to outside ‘firms is likely to prevent ‘continuity 6f employment and cause slackness of work, at Cockatoo Island, and thereby place the proposed Shipping Board at a great disadvantage in the .management of the Dockyard?
I am now able to ‘furnish the following replies : -
yea. 2 and 3. As a result of my inquiries in*’ this matter, I have . given instructions that no further action be taken in connexion with these tenders, ‘but that the matter v he .left over .for attention by the Shipping ‘.Board when. appointed,
Application bt Convicted PERSON.
– As promised, I have made inquiries into the matter referred: to by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green)- the remand in the Croydon Police Court of a man charged with theft, to enable him to emigrate to Australia. The case alluded to was first raised in February last, when the High Commissioner, London, advised that this man had made an application for an assisted passage months before he was charged in the Court. The immigration authorities in London investigated his character, and criminal charges having been ‘traced against him, his application for an assisted passage was immediately rejected. I may mention that this action was taken before the Police Court proceedings were instituted.
– On . 22nd August the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked for certain information as’- to the. salaries amid. allowances payable Conferences. I. promised to hove a) ta members) of. the: Australian Delegation statement prepared setting out the desired to the forthcoming Imperial and Economic particulars, which are as follow
In addition, to ‘the- foregoing! -
The following papers were presented.: -
Factories- Commonwealth GovernmentReports on - Acetate of Lime, Clothing, Cordite; Harness, Saddlery, and Leathercoutrements .’ Small Arms. - Reportsyear ended 30th June 1923.
Munitions Supply Board.- First Report, from 13th August, 1921, to 30th June, 1922.
Railways. - Report, with’ appendices, on the Commonwealth Railways for 1922-23.
League of Nations.- Selection of Papers relating to the Mandatory System (especially those relating to “ G “ Mandates), 1920-21 (compiled in the Prime Minister’s Department) .
Superannuation Act.-First Report of the Superannuation Fund Management’ Board for period, ended’ 30th June, 1923.
Rowan Collection. - Report of. Committee on.
Ordered, to be printed.
Naval Defence Act. - Regulations Amended-r?
Statutory Rules 1923; No. 106. War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired at
Manly, New South Wales.
In’ Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to. When the Bill was under consideration in Committee, an amendment submitted by, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr, Maxwell) was adopted. The effect was to create in the Treasury a Trust’ Account to be known as the “Advances to the States for the benefit of Settlers’ Trust Account.” Following upon that there should have been a consequential amendment in clause 4 by the elimination, of the words, “ Advances to settlers,” and in clause 5, dealing with advances to the Northern Territory which will be administered by the Board to be appointed, it is necessary to delete the word, “Administrator of the This is the effect of the amendments made by the Senate in the Bill.
– The Bill now means that the advances will be made to the States and to the Northern Territory.
– Yes; that is the effect of the second amendment.
Motion agreed to. Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee : (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) .
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to - That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend sections 17, 24, 26, 31, 45, and 47 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1920.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted. Ordered -
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do pre- ‘ pare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
– I move - That the Bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to give effect to the Government policy outlined in the Budget speech that the invalid and old-age pensions should be increased, and that, in addition, pensioners should be permitted to add to their income without incurring loss through deductions from their pensions. The Bill also authorizes other liberalization of the conditions, which will be explained to honorable members. In introducing this measure a brief outline of the trend of invalid and old-age pensions legislation in Australia may be of interest to honorable members. Prior to the introduction of old-age pensions, the only prospect for the aged who were without means, and whose friends were unable to provide for them, was accommodation in benevolent asylums and charitable homes. The main objection to these institutions was the taint of pauperism, it being considered that they were replicas of the poor-houses in Great Britain. Many children who desired to have their parents Avith them were unable to, because of their own needy circumstances. Families thus became separated, not through lack of filial affection, but through the unfortunate compulsion of poverty. In Australasia the lead in providing oldage pensions was taken by New Zealand, which commenced the payment of pensions in April, 1898. Victoria followed in January, 1907. New South Wales also brought in similar legislation later in the same year, and in July, 1908, Queensland copied the example of the southern States. In the interim the Federal Government had appointed a Royal Commission to consider the whole subject. The chairman of that Commission was the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), whose pioneer work in connexion with the payment of pensions in New South Wales before he entered this Parliament, and in the Commonwealth since his entry in this Parliament, are well known to honorable members. As a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission referred to, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act of 1908 was introduced by the Deakin Government, and on 1st July, 1909, the State pensions schemes were taken over and the Commonwealth became entirely responsible for the pension payments. The original Act provided for the payment of old-age pensions not exceeding 10s. a week or 20s. per fortnight to all persons who complied with the . statutory requirements as to age, residence, &c. The rate of pension was governed by the income and property of the claimant, the limit of income, together with pension, being fixed at £52 per annum. The possession of property exceeding £310 in value was sufficient to disqualify a claimant. The Act also provided for the payment of invalid pensions, but the actual payment of these pensions was not brought into effect until December, 1910. The first liberalization of of the pensions law was made in December, 1912, by the second Fisher Administration. Up to that time contributions made by children to their parents constituted income. As a result, many persons were debarred from the benefits of the Act merely because their children maintained them in their old age. By the 1912 Act contributions from children towards the support of their parents were exempted from computation of income. The same Act also provided that the value of the pensioner’s home should be exempted from the calculations of property. That has been the law ever since. The value of the homes of invalid and old-age pensioners is exempted altogether. It is worthy of notice, however, that no increase was made in the rate of pension, although the statistician’s figures showed that the sum necessary to purchase a certain’ amount of food, groceries, and housing had risen from 20s. in 1909-10 to 23s. 5d. in 1912-13, an increase of nearly 20 per cent. The abnormal conditions which obtained immediately following the outbreak of war pressed very heavily upon all sections of the community, and undoubtedly the burden was felt very severely by persons in receipt of invalid and old-age pensions. Nothing in the way of ameliorating their lot was done until September, 1916, when the .second Hughes Administration increased the rate of pension from 10s. to 12s. 6d. per week, and the limit of income from 20s. to 22s. 6d. It may here bo noted that the sum necessary to provide food, groceries, and housing had increased from 20s. in 1909-10 to 27s. 3d. in 1916-17, so the rate of pensions was still rather behind the cost of living. In addition to providing for an increase in the rate of pension the 1916 amending Bill also authorized the payment of 2s. per week to pensioners in benevolent and charitable institutions. No further amending legislation was introduced until October, 1919, when the second National War Government submitted a measure to increase the rate of pension from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week, and increasing the limit of income from 22s. 6d. to 25s. per week. It will be noted that in all these increases the limit of income was increased by the actual amount of the pension increase. In this Bill the Government propose to depart from that principle, and make more liberal provisions. It is proposed to make the limit of income 5s. higher than previously, although the increase in the rate of pension is only 2s. 6d. When the 1919 amending legislation was introduced, the sum necessary to provide food, groceries, and housing had increased from 20s. in 1909-10 to 33s. lid. In July, 1920, special legislation was introduced by the second National War Government solely for the benefit of blind persons. That Act authorized an increase in the income limit, enabling a blind pensioner and his wife to have between them an income of £221 per annum, including the pension. In the measure now before honorable members it is proposed to increase the maximum rate of pension from 15s. to 17s. 6d. per week, and, in addition, the amount which a pensioner may earn without affecting the rate of pension will be increased from 10s. to 12s. 6d. per week. This will permit a pensioner to have a total income of 30s. per week At present the limit is 25s. Only about 6 per cent, of the total number of pensioners supplement their income in this way, so that any reduction in pension payments must, be due to property disqualifications or something of that nature. The increase in the amount which the pensioners will be able to earn is estimated to increase the expenditure of the . Commonwealth by £150,000. Honorable members will see that this increase has not proceeded in regular steps, and if the provision applied to the whole of the pensioners the increase it would: involve would amount to £250,000, because so many more would be brought within the operation of the double rate. Although the rate of pension has already been increased on two occasions, this is the first instance - with the exception of the occasion upon which the increase to blind pensioners was provided for - in. which provision has been made to allow the pensioner to earn a little more money without affecting the rate of the pension, A single person under this Bill will be able to enjoy an income of pension and earnings up to 30s. per week, whilst the total income of married pensioners may be as high as £3 a week. The latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician - and I had them checked when I introduced the Budget - showed that the cost of food, groceries, and housing, which was 20s. in 1909, is now 34s. 3d. per week. The rate of pension in 1909 was 20s. per fortnight, and, as a result of the passing of this Bill, it will be raised to 35s. per fortnight. Numerous modifications of the Act are proposed, which will very materially improve the position of the pensioners. This is the first time in which any increase has been made really consistent with the increase In the cost of living.
– Does the estimate of the cost of living include the cost of clothing ?
– I believe, subject to correction, that the cost of clothing is included in the estimate. It will at once be clear to honorable members that the Government proposal is a generous one. Notwithstanding that the cost of living has increased since 1910 the rate of pension will, under this Bill, for the first time be proportionate to the needs of the pensioners. Originally the Act provided that the pension should not be paid to a person possessed of property to the value of £310 or over. Although the limit of income has been increased on two occasions, no corresponding increase has ever been made in respect to the value of property which the pensioner may possess without losing the right to a pension. The Government proposal is a most sympathetic one, and is as generous as it possibly can be in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth at tho present time.
– Does the Bill propose any relief to parents who are keeping an invalid child?
– On that subject I may say that a ruling was in existence which limited strictly the amount of the income of parents allowed to draw a pension for an invalid member of the family. One of the first executive acts of the present Government was to liberalize this rule, and many of these cases have since been reviewed and pensions have been granted which previously were refused.
– If I have an invalid son or daughter and am earning £5 or £6 a week, will that income be held to justify the withholding of the invalid pension f
-I say that before the advent of the present Government to office there had been an Executive ruling to the effect that in such cases the invalid pension should not be paid where the income df the parents was, I think, £4 5s. per week. The present
Government has decided that the matter shall be at the discretion of the Commissioner of Pensions, after an investigation of the whole of the circumstances of each case.
– Unfortunately, it is likely that the Commissioner will adhere to the old rule.
– That is not so. I am able to say that many cases that have come under my own notice have been reviewed, and pensions have been granted in cases in which they were previously refused because of the rigid way in which the provisions .of the Act had been interpreted.
– What is the limitation now. placed on the earnings of the parents in such cases?
– No maximum amount has been fixed. The circumstances of each case are reviewed. This is a matter which requires a certain elasticity of administration, and the object should be to insure the proper attention and treatment of the invalid. I was saying that originally a person was entitled to hold property to the value of £310 without losing the right to an oldage pension. The first alteration in this connexion was made in 1912, when the value of the old-age pensioner’s home was excluded from the amount of property which might be possessed. The Government in this Bill continues that pro- , vision, but proposes to raise ‘the property limit from £310 to £400.
– What provision is made in the case of money > which a pensioner may have in a bank’?
– That is included in estimating the value of the pensioner’s property. Under this Bill, the total amount of property the pensioner may hold without losing his right to the pension will be £400, instead of £310, as at present. The pensioner will still be entitled, as in the past, to a special exemption of £50 before any reduction is made in the pension. In this connexion, the same rate will be applied as in the past, which is £1 a year for every £10 of property, and under this Bill a pensioner having property of the value of £390 will still be able to obtain £12 or £13 a year in pension, despite the fact that he has property of that value in his possession.
As honorable members are aware, there is a large number of pensioners in bene- volent asylums, to whom the Commonwealth pays a pension of 2s. per week each. These pensions are paid for the pensioners’ personal use, and it is proposed by this Bill to increase die amount of such pension .to 3s. per week.
– -It should be 4s. ner week.
– The Government’s proposal is all that these pensioners themselves have asked for. They asked that the amount should be raised from 2s. to 3s. a week. This will enable old people iia these institutions to have a little more money at their disposal for their personal needs. It is further proposed to provide for the payment of a pension of 2s. per week to a certain class of people who have never before been in receipt of pensions. At the present time there are many inmates of benevolent ‘ asylums throughout the Commonwealth who are not in receipt of any .pension. They are not entitled under the existing law to the pension unless they leave the institution. These have been in such institutions, in some cases, before the establishment of the Commonwealth, and in many cases before the institution of the Commonwealth oldage pensions system. The Government is correcting .this anomaly by proposing in this Bill to put these persons on the same footing as persons who have received pensions and who are inmates of institutions. These people will in future receive 3s. per week pension, .just as they would have done if they had been in receipt of a pension before they entered the institutions in which they now are.
– Will they be given the pension for the whole of the time they are in the institutions?
– Yes. The Government has regarded the fact that no provision for the -payment of pensions to these people is an anomaly under the existing Act. It has operated very harshly. The absurdity of the existing position is clear when I say that if they went out of the institutions in which they now are for a month or six weeks and received the old-age pension to which they would be entitled, they Would, on returning to those institutions, :be eligible for the pension it is proposed under this Bill to give them. This provision will take effect from the date of the passing of the Act.
– Will these persons ‘require to make application in the ordinary way, as they would have to do -if they were outside institutions, in .order to secure the pension of 3s. per week?
– I think it would be wise for them to send in applications. All these .cases will, of course, require io be reviewed. The fact that the earning capacity is being raised under this Bill will mean a higher plane throughout ‘the whole scale of old-age pension allowances. Many applications which have ‘been rejected .or modified during -the last year or so will, under this Bill, be treated in a different way, and my advice to the people in these institutions who .are ‘not now eligible for pensions is :to make application for pensions immediately, when they will be placed on the same footing as1 persons who were in receipt of pensions prior to their entering one of these institutions.
– The pension of those who are now -receiving ‘2s. will, I suppose, be increased automatically to 3s. 1
-Yes ‘and in the same <way the pensions of those who are now receiving full pension will be automatically raised under this Bill from 15s. to Its. ‘6d. per week.
It is also intended to make provision for pensions for inmates of hospitals “who remain in them for more than twentyeight days. As the law stands, a pensioner who enters a hospital -receives no pension while he remains in the institution; but if he remains in the hospital for twenty-eight days or longer he is, on . ‘his discharge, paid his pension for twentyeight days.
– Will the Bill’ cover pensioners entering hospitals for the treatment of mental cases ?
– No. The Act has never included mental cases, as patients in mental hospitals are directly looked after by the States. It is proposed under this Bill to pay the pension at the rate of 3s. per week to a pensioner during the whole of the time he is in a hospital, and in addition he will receive, as under the existing law, twenty-eight days’ pension on his discharge. So that pensioners entering hospitals will be in a better position than they have hitherto occupied.
It may be of interest to honorable members to compare the cost of old-age pensions at the present time with their cost when the system was first introduced. When the Commonwealth took over the payment of invalid and old-age pensions in 1909 there were 41,116 pensions in force, involving a liability of £946,000 per annum. On the 30th June, 1923, fourteen years later, the pensions in force numbered 147,453, and the annual liability Avas increased to £5,518,000, or more than five times the amount which was paid fourteen years ago. It is expected that the liberalization of the provisions of the Act will lead to an increase in the number of pensions claimed, and the expenditure will, of course, be correspondingly greater. In my Budget speech I made provision for an increase during the present financial year, of which there is practically ten months to run. This will mean an increase in the expenditure for tho balance of the present financial year of £1,065,000. The total estimated expenditure for old-age pensions for 1923-24 is £6,490,000. The total additional expenditure when the whole year is considered will be between £1,300,000 and £1,500,000. The additional amount is somewhat difficult to estimate, because when the conditions arc liberalized many people who before did not think it worth while to bother about the old-age pension send in their applications for pensions immediately. From the figures I have given honorable members will see that the cost of invalid and old-age pensions represents a heavy burden on the taxpayers, and consumes a substantial proportion of the total revenue of the Commonwealth. The expenditure will, of course, continue to increase as the population increases, and the burden upon the taxpayers will become greater.
– The Treasurer has said nothing of the amendment I suggested to him.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and other honorable members informed me of the anomalous position of certain invalids who have been in Australia for many years, and owing to their arrival here at an older age than three years they were not eligible for pensions. The Government propose to adopt an amendment which will permit of the payment of invalid pensions to persons with a de finite disability after twenty-five years’ residence in Australia.
– It is a long period.
– If it were a short period, invalids might be dumped here indiscriminately to obtain a permanent pension. The present Act provides that if they arrive here over the age of three years they are not entitled to the benefit of the invalid pension.
– I suggested twenty years’ residence.
– With that alteration, the Government accept the amendment. Despite the considerable expenditure involved, the Government have fully met the position by liberalizing the pension conditions to enable the aged and infirm, to live in decency and comfort for the remainder of their lives. The Government realize that the provision now being made does not really conform to the needs of the nation, and, if possible, they would have increased the pension to £1. But this would have involved an alteration of the whole scheme of old-age pensions, and as there was no certainty that that high rate could be continued even if, as has been suggested, it were paid for a year or two out of surplus revenue; the subsequent state of the finances might have forced a reduction. The time has arrived when tho whole question of providing for, not merely old ago and sickness both temporary and permanent, but also for accident and unemployment, should bc considered in a comprehensive way and placed on a satisfactory and permanent basis, to. remove altogether the taint of pauperism that might bo attached to the operation of this measure. The Government feel that the pioneers of this country arc entitled to a pension arrived at on a proper basis. It is proposed to appoint a Royal Commission, consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament, to inquire into the whole question of sickness, accident, old age, permanent invalidity, and unemployment, to obtain the data available from all parts of the world, and to submit as early as possible, probably next session, a comprehensive scheme. The names of the members of the Commission will be given either this afternoon or to-morrow morning. By this means a practical scheme on a much more liberal basis than is the present provision will be evolved, and information obtained to enable them to ascertain whether a scheme providing for unemployment can be satisfactorily instituted in Australia at present.
.- Honorable members agree that this Bill is very necessary,, and I am very pleased that the Government have introduced it before the close of the session. Provision is made for many changes in the old-age pension conditions, and in many respects they are liberalized. The important feature of the Bill is the increase of the pension itself. I have persistently urged in the House, and I believe I have the support of many honorable members on the other side, that the amount should be increased to £1 instead of 17s. 6d. per week. When this matter was previously discussed in the House I asked that the order of leave be made sufficiently wide to enable such an amendment to be moved, but at this stage the order of leave does not permit of it. I understand that if the House is tested and a majority is favorable to the increase of the pension to £1, the Government will offer no objection.
– The Government have already intimated that the finances cannot stand an extra expenditure of nearly £1,500,000.
– Two or three weeks ago the Prime Minister informed me that the order of leave would be sufficiently wide to enable the House to decide whether the pension should be 17s. 6d. or £1. 1” later questioned the Treasurer, and he said that the Prime Minister had already given me that promise.
– I said that the Prime Minister had staged that he would give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– I understood from the Prune Minister that if the House agreed to the increase the Government would accept it. Honorable members are entitled to know whether that is so, and if not, I shall take action on the second reading. If possible I intend to curtail the debate on the second reading and to deal with this matter in Committee, but only on the assurance that I received from the Prime Minister this morning. The Treasurer now seems to: object. It seems now that an amendment cannot be moved.
– It would be rather an extraordinary action on the part of the Government.
– The Treasurer has shaken my confidence, and I ask the Prime Minister to let the House know the position. In view of the present state of the finances, I conscientiously believe that the increase to £1 per .week could be made. The Treasurer stated that the increase of 2s. 6d. per week and the raising of the earning capacity to 25s. per fortnight involved an expenditure of £1,136,000. In 1923 there were 107,389 old-age pensioners and 40,064 invalid pensioners, making a total of 147,453. By making the increase 5s. the amount of £1,136,000 would not be doubled, but would be £1,916,889, inasmuch as the figures relating to the earning capacity and other matters would already be included in the 2s. 6d. increase, and therefore would not affect the further increase. A further increase of 2s. 6d. would add £958,444 to the amount of £1,136,000, making a total of £2,094,444. I see no reason why a .larger increase of the oldage and invalid pension cannot be provided from the large surplus which the Treasurer has in hand. The honorable gentleman stated that, in comparison with the time when the pension was first granted, the purchasing power of the sovereign to-day is only 14s. 3d., and. I understand that the latest statistics show that the cost of living increased by 3.6 per cent, during the last quarter. In view of the constantly increasing cost of living there is every justification for enlarging the pension. I shall not move any amendment on the second reading. I am purposely deferring my action until the Committee stage, in the hope that the Government will permit the House to express its opinion as to whether the pension should be increased to 17s. 6d. or £1. I wish it to be distinctly understood that any vote upon that issue will not be regarded by the Opposition as vital.
.- The Leader of the Opposition asked me some time ago to have the order of leave for this Bill so framed that it would not preclude the moving of , an amendment to increase the pension beyond’ the amount which the Government is proposing. The Government has Laid ample notice1 from the Opposition that’ it desires to deal with that’ point; and, in view of that fact, the Government: will certainly not refuse to permit a vote to-be taken regarding a: larger increase’ in the amount of the pension. The Government has no desire to restrict the pension to 17s. 6d. if Parliament considers that the amount should be £1, but it is only, giving, to the House an opportunity to express its opinion, and it must be clearly understood that if the House takes the. view that the Government’s proposal’ is- wrong, and carries an amendment that., will completely alter its financial arrangements, such action can only be interpreted: by the Government to mean that, it: has not the, confidence of the House and. of, the -people. Finance is the, main plank in the Government’s, policy* The. financial statement delivered by the Treasure!, indicated how, in the opinion of the Government, the finances, of the. country’, should be managed during the current! year, and that is the- Government’s greatest responsibility. Its proposals havebeen submitted to Parliament after thafullest and most mature consideration,1 and it. is, recommending to the . House that the. pension be increased- by 2s. 6d. perweek, and that the regulations, be .liberalized in certain respects. But if the .House, resolves that the Government, must, find ; another £1,500,000 over and- above. the estimate submitted by the Treasurer- when = presenting his Budget, that decision ‘must: be interpreted as, meaning that the’ Government has not handled the finances- to the, satisfaction of the House Such-., a. decision could not be accepted by any Government., Ministers will, certainly, take no advantage of a- technicality to prevent the House expressing its opinion^ but the. Government must reserve to -it* self the right to determine what the decision of the House means4 and regulateits future actions accordingly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 - (1), This Act may ibc cited as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1923.
In ord’er to immediately test the opinion of the - Committee whether the pension should.’ be; 17si 6d. or £1 per week, J move-
That the word “may” be omitted.
The amendment is not moved in. any spirit: of hostility to the Government, or with the desire to embarrass it in any way* I am seeking only an expression of opinion by the Committee. If the-, amendment should be carried, the Prime Minister: will, of course, place his own construction upon the Committee’s decision, but I wish him to understand’ that the Opposition does not regard the amendment as hostile or vital.
– I quite understand that, but the honorable member must see that the effect of the carrying of the amende ment will ‘ be what I have stated.
– The increase of the pension by 5s-. instead of 2s. 6d. will’ not’ increase the burden on the Treasury, by £1,500,000, as the right honorable gentleman has said, but only by £958i444v If members of the Committee think that1the pension should ‘ be increased to £1, I ask them to vote according to their convictions, and’ not be influenced by any other consideration, especially as’ I have given the assurance that honorable members on this side have no other object in moving the amendment than to get- a. little” more- money for’ the old people. Having-regard tb the large surplus which the Treasurer’ has in hand, the’ time seemsvery opportune for increasing the pension to £1. If, at the expiration of this year,, the Government found that the finances, were in an unsatisfactory condition, no doubt it would1 have to take- action a& cordingly, but’ at the present time every thing seems favorable to the granting of a substantial increase. Of the surplus; £2’,’500,000 has- been carried to a Defence Reserve Fund: That money is’ not likely to be required this year; two months of* which have expired. Defence expenditure will depend to- a great extent upon what- happens at the Imperial Conference. Any decision of the Conference, must be referred to this House, and as. Parliament will’! probably not: resume before March, no- portion of. that reservefund will be expended during the current) financial1 year: Therefore^ the financial arrangements’ of the- Government would not be interfered with if the extra, ex*penditure of £900,000, which the carrying of the amendment would entail were taken out of- the Defence Reserve Fund.
,- I’ regret that the Prime Minister hasannounced that the carrying of the amendment will be regarded by the Government as a vote of want of- confidence. Of course^ I recognise the right of the Prime Minister to take that view. He assures us that the Cabinet has most carefully considered the whole question, and that the provision made in this Bill’ is an integral ‘ part of its financial policy. I’ have already expressed the opinion that, the pension should be increased to £1, but I am; placed in an awkward position. In the main, I. have confidence in the financial arrangements and general policy of the Government, and I am not prepared to vote for the amendment, if the carrying of it would mean the ousting., of the Government. I am gratified, as’ I believe- every honorable member is, that the pension, has been liberalized to a large extent. Many of
MS1 would like to see it made much, more liberal, and I again, express my regret that whilst I am strongly in favour of increasing it. to £1, r cannot vote for the amendment, because of the effect which the carrying of. it would have upon the Government.
– The attitude taken up by the honorable member for Fawkner will not commend itself to the Committee. The Prime Minister was- not right in announcing that this amendment would bc regarded by the Government as vital. The honorable member for Fawkner has said that the right honorable gentleman’s announcement places honorable members on- the Ministerial side in an awkward g position, but it should not do so. The Government was prepared to remit £1,300,000 of taxation that was due to the Commonwealth from the wealthy leaseholders. We, on this side of the House, stopped that. We think it only a fair thing that the money saved’ should be devoted to helping the old-age and invalid pensioners. It seems to me that the position of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is cowardly.
– The honorable member, for Fawkner was responsible for the amendment that saved’ that money.
– The matter was raised first of all on this side of the’ House by the honorable member.’ for
Yarra (Mr. Scullin). Cbe honorable member for Fawkner would not have said’ a word about it had it not been raised by the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Yarra raised the point at the earliest possible moment that it could have been raised. No one else, had a chance to raise it.
– We consider that the money so saved to the Commonwealth should be applied to the purpose of. this amendment. The honorable member for Fawkner knows that’ sympathy is not of much good to pensioners or anybody else.
– I am quite aware’ of that.
– Then let the honorable member give us his vote if he wants to help the pensioners.
.- I desire that the old-age pensioners should receive £1 a week, but if that is not’ possible, we must get the best we can in the circumstances. I have supported £1 a week before to-day, and would be very- glad if the Government could see its
Way to> make the pension up to- that amount. If this Bill is not passed the pensioners will continue to get only 15s. a week. The Government has promised to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of pensions and other like matters of national importance. In the circumstances, I shall vote for the clause in the Bill and against the amendment. I am glad that the Government intends to pay a pension to those who were inmates in asylums and institutions- prior to the passing of the original pensions Act. I understand, also, that the value of property which a pensioner may hold without interfering with his pensions’ rights is to be increased to £400. That will be of some assistance to a few people. In voting for this clause and against the amendment I believe that I am studying the interests of the pensioners, because if the amendment should be carried, the Bill, will be shelved and the pensioners will have no hope of any increase in their pensions, for a good. many, months.
. -The Committee finds itself in a. most peculiar position. In the last few weeks the Government has introduced a number of measures to give financial relief to wealthy sections of the community, and yet it tells us now that it cannot increase the pension to the aged and infirm. The only word that can be applied to these circumstances is “ disgraceful.” Why has the Prime Minister bound his supporters to vote in a certain way? Is it because he is anxious, on the eve of his departure for Great Britain, to obtain some kind of a vote of confidence? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. F. Francis) tell us that they are pledged to support a pension of 20s., but because the Government intends to make this vote a vital matter they arc willing to vote against the amendment.
– I am not pledged to vote in favour of making the pension £1.
– I consider that it is cowardly for the Prime Minister to compel his supporters to vote against the amendment. His supporters are also cowardly in allowing the Prime Minister to dragoon them. Why should they weakly and supinely submit, to such treatment? It is high time that the pensioners were afforded some relief from, their sufferings. They have been starved during the last few years, because of the high cost of living. It is despicable of the Government to withhold payment of the increased pension until lilli September. It should be paid as from the beginning of the financial year. I ask the Government to look at this matter from a humane point of view; and I ask those supporters of the Government who are favorable to increasing the pension to £1 to show a little Australian pluck and to cut adrift from politics for a few moments and, without fear of the resultof their vote, give the pensioners a little British fair play.
.- I am very sorry that the debate has assumed this acrimonious tone. I am pledged to vote for a pension of £1 a week, and I shall do so. I thought that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was very moderate and tolerant. I am sorry that the Government will not accept his proposals. I want to pay a tribute to the Government for bringing the measure down. The Treasurer, I know,, has to act in a way that will con serve the financial interests of the people of Australia; but he should also act to conserve Australia’s honour. I believe that Australia would be better served by cutting down expenditure somewhere else and increasing the pension to £1 a week. I hope that even now the Government will agree to the amendment.
.- This question is one of the most important that this Committee has had to discuss. Every effort should be made to pay an equitable pension. Our duty is to pay the invalid and old-age pensioners an adequate amount; and even the Government admits that the pension is not adequate. The most pathetic correspondence that honorable members get comes from the old-age and invalid pensioners. Sometimes they get six such letters at a time, and all of them plead for an increase in the pension so that the pensioners may enjoy a little more of the good things of life. Even 20s. would not be a sufficient pension, for it would provide only a bare existence. I believe that the first call on the revenue of the country should be for these pensions.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that both £1 and 17s. 6d. a week are too little?
– I did say that. Honorable members on this side do not by any means admit that 20s. a week is an adequate pension.
– Then, the Government must make it vital that its judgment shall prevail over the judgment of the Opposition.
– I disagree with that. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) remarked that the wealthy classes of this community had been assisted by the Government. Unfortunately, the poor pensioners have no political “pull,” and therefore they have little chance to obtain justice.
– Do not put it in that way.
– I cannot help putting it in that way. A number of honorable members opposite advocate 20s. a week for the pensioners, but, because the Prime Minister has made the matter a vital issue, they will not stand by their convictions.
Sitting suspended from V to 2.30 p.m.
– The declaration oi the Prime Minister was such as might have been expected from a man in a desperate situation. Apparently the Ministerial supporters have weakened to such an extent, as a result of the onslaughts made by honorable members on this side, that the Prime Minister has resorted to the very desperate expedient of threatening them with a dissolution if they dare to vote for the amendment. The prestige and dignity of the Prime Minister should not be paramount in a matter like this. It is extraordinary that, in connexion with what is, perhaps, the most important measure that has been dealt with by Parliament this session, honorable members supporting the Government should meekly back down and desert principles which they have enunciated until recently. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) have been constant in their declaration that the aged and infirm people of this country are entitled to at least £1 per week. In the last Parliament, the Minister, who was then a private member, went so far as to put on the notice-paper a motion which, if carried, would have been a direction to the Government to increase the pension to £1 per week. It will be very difficult for him to justify his present attitude. I hope that honorable members will stand to their principles and vote for the amendment.
.- I desire to enter my protest against the action of the Government in introducing this Bill at the eleventh hour, and expecting its passage without affording honorable members a reasonable opportunity of considering its provisions. I protest, also, against the Prime Minister threatening his. supporters with a dissolution if they adhere to principles which some of them, until recently, have so enthusiastically supported. If they weaken now they will be guilty of gross political cowardice. Honorable members opposite have been prepared to vote away hundreds of thousands of pounds in remissions of taxation and for the payment of it is proposed to vote an additional £1,000,000 for the relief of the infirm ‘and aged in the community, they weakly obey the behests of the Prime Minister and oppose it. I have no desire to delay the passage of the Bill, but I could not allow this opportunity to pass without voicing my protest against the attitude of the Government.
. - I only wish to say that, like many other honorable members on this side of the House, I am quite in sympathy with the proposal to show every consideration to our invalid and old-age pensioners. But, as the Treasurer has stated that the Government are unable to grant more than the increase proposed in the Bill, and as the Prime Minister has stated the view which the Government will take of any action that is likely to put them in a difficult position, there is no option for honorable members who are in- the same position as myself; we must support the Government. For the Government is responsible (for its financial proposals, and any action which seriously embarrasses its policy may precipitate a crisis involving the pensioners. in the loss of the proposed increase. We are in full sympathy with the desire that our invalid and old-age pensioners shall receive the most liberal treatment possible, but we must agree to the proposal of the Government rather than risk that there shall be no increase at all. It is rather interesting to recall that Labour, when in power, made no attempt to increase pensions.
– [2.35]. - I do not view the payment of the invalid and old-age pensions as a dole or act of charity on the part of the Government, but as something to which the recipients are entitled for their services to this country. Many of the old people who aro now in indigent circumstances have made it possible for those who followed them to make good, and, therefore, there should not be the slightest hesitation in treating them as liberally as possible. I have tho greatest admiration for our old-age pensioners - far more, indeed, than I have for many people who have amassed wealth by dubious methods. During the last few days, we have been voting away hundreds of thousands of pounds in remissions of taxation and for the payment of bounties. Therefore, we should hot turn down this request for the payment of £1 per week to our invalid and old-age pensioners. We have been told that .the Treasurer cannot find the money. There appeared to be no difficulty on this score when it was a question of surrendering huge; sums of money in favour of the wealthier section of the community. This question should rise above all party considerations. In my opinion, any honorable member who declines to vote for >the maximum consideration being shown to our invalid and old-age pensioners is lacking in his duty. In many instances the old people are the true patriots of the Commonwealth. They pioneered the outback areas.
.- I regret exceedingly that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has seen fit to regard the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) as practically a motion of censure.
– He could do nothing else.
– That may be so, but I think that, perhaps unwittingly, he has placed some of his own supporters in an awkward position. On more that one occasion I have demonstrated my interest in these old folk. Only a week or two ago I crossed the Chamber and voted against the Government on this measure. I am, therefore, now in a very difficult position. I have no desire to do anything that will precipitate a crisis which would naturally prevent our aged and infirm people from getting the.increase in pensions almost immediately. At the same time, I have to look at this question, not from the point of view of expediency, but from the point of view whether what I may do will be right or wrong. I feel that I must give a vote this afternoon in accordance with the vote which I recorded on a previous occasion, and for the reasons then stated. I may, perhaps, bring, about my own political extinction, but I cannot help that. I intend to do what I feel is right, irrespective of the consequences to myself. I shall have to support the amendment.
: - I, too, am surprised at the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). It is all nonsense for the Treasurer (Dr. Earle. Page) to say that the Government could not afford the extra expenditure, which the adoption of the motion would involve. The Treasurer has a surplus of £7,500,000, and during this short session of ten -weeks, >we have voted hundreds of thousands of pounds in remissions >of taxation, and for the payment of bounties, on the production of shale oil, and = sulphur and the export of beef. We tare told that an additional 2s. 6d. per week for invalid and old-age pensioners will amount to more than £1,000,000. The Government are ready enough to -give away large sums of money to the wealthier sections of the community, but when it is a question of providing for the needs of the aged and infirm, they .show a strange reluctance to do anything. Honorable members opposite would not treat an old cart horse in the way they now propose to treat our old-age pensioners. They would at all events see that a horse that had served them faithfully was turned out in a decent grass paddock for the remainder of his day3. They admit that 17s. 6d. per week is not enough for our invalid and old-age pensioners, yet because the Treasurer says that the Government cannot find the money, they will not press for the extra 2s. 6d.
– Was not the honorable member in the Senate when .the amount was fixed at 10s.?
– Yes, but, as the honorable member very well knows, , ’10s. then was worth as much as £1 to-day. Honorable members supporting the Government would like to vote to increase the amount to £1, but, because the party whip has cracked, because the Prime Minister has broken his promise ‘to the Leader of the Opposition, and has threatened that if the amendment is carried, the Government will resign, they are now prepared to abandon their principles. Honorable members on this ; side of the House, regardless of the consequences, will vote to increase the pension to £1 per week.
Mr. MCNEILL (Wannon) £2.45].- The Prime Minister has placed his ‘supporters in a very unfair position. If he had accepted the very reasonable offer of the Leader of the Opposition, and !had allowed the Committee to divide on the amendment, I am satisfied that a majority would have voted for the increase of the old-age and invalid pension to £1 per week. I suppose it has never been -the lot of the Prime Minister to learn the conditions under which some of our old people are living to-day on the existing .pension of 15s. per week I believe that if he in- vestigated those conditions he would .be prepared to accept the amendment. However, the Government is determined to regard an adverse vote on the amendment as a i vote of censure, and so its supporters are put in a tight corner, because, while many of them agree that the pension should be increased to £1, they do not desire to see the Government defeated, and will, therefore, vote against the amendment. I wish to refer to some provisions of the existing Act which require alteration. A person must have resided continuously in the Commonwealth for .twenty years before he becomes entitled to an old-age pension. I had a letter a few months ago from a lady who was born in England, and who left that country for Australia thirty years ago. She spent the first eighteen years of her residence in Australia in the State of Victoria. She then went to New Zealand, and resided there for about -six years. She returned to Victoria, and, although she is now sixty years of age, and has resided in Australia and New Zealand for the last thirty years, she is not eligible for an old-age pension. J trust that the Treasurer will consider the desirability of altering the provision .requiring continuous residence for twenty years in Australia to entitle a person to the old-age pension. I consider that a British-born subject coming to Australia, and living, say, twenty-five years, continuously in Australia and New Zealand, is justly entitled to the benefit of the Commonwealth Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act. If the Treasurer is able by regulation to alter this provision in the way I suggest, and will do so, he will confer a great benefit on many deserving persons in this community. The Act further lays it down that a man or a woman must be absolutely incapacitated from all kinds of work to be entitled to an invalid pension. We all know of cases in which, for all practical purposes, a person is an invalid, but because he is able to do a little light work he is not entitled to an invalid pension. I have had a case of the kind in hand for some considerable time, and I must admit that in connexion with it I have received the utmost courtesy from every one in the Pensions Department. The officers there have done their very .best to overcome the difficulty, but the provisions of the Act prevent them from doing the right thing. The case I have had in hand is that of a man whose left leg ds so drawn up that his heel reaches the back of his knee-cap. He is nearly sixty years of age, and, of course, no one will employ him. He cannot run a business, and can only poke about in his home. His wife has a *mall grocery store, and he is able to open the. door in the morning and sweep the floor. They have .a little jinker in which they cart groceries from & .merchant’s stores in Warrnambool to their shop. The wife .or daughter harness the horse to the jinker, the husband is put into it, and drives to the . merchant’s store. The - goods .required are put into the conveyance, and he drives the cart back. Because. he does this light work for bis wife he is debarred under the Act from .obtaining an invalid pension. If the Treasurer ; could meet cases of that kind by regulation he would be doing a very fine thing. ‘1 have stated two cases, which show .the need for .alterations of the existing Act, and I suppose there are many thousands of similar cases which deserve consideration. I trust that if the amendment is defeated the Government will, within the next twelve months, take into consideration another amendment of the law to give the old people the reasonable allowance -of £1 per week.
.- I was hopeful that this Bill .would be passed without an exhibition of party feeling. I regard the action of the Prime Minister in informing his supporters that by voting for a pension of £1 per week they would jeopardize the position of the Government, as complete coercion. Such action can only result in the question being made a party one. I must commend the honorable .member for Corio (Mr. Lister) upon his manly attitude in connexion with this Bill. It is refreshing to ‘honorable members on this side to know that there is at least one man om the opposite side who has professed for some time his belief that the invalid and old-age pension should be increased to £1 per week, and has now the courage to stand to his convictions, and to declare his intention to support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. In the last fortnight we have been doling out money to the wealthy -interests of this country. We know that the Government was prepared, under the Land Tax Assessment Bill, to sacrifice taxation to the extent of £1,300,000 for their benefit. -We are told that the reason why the Government is not prepared to agree to an increase of 5s. per week in the old-age and invalid pension is that in their financial policy they have made no provision for such an increase. I should like to ask the Treasurer what would happen in the event of war breaking out to-morrow. Would he say that there was no provision on the Estimates for an increase of £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 for defence? No; there would be no trouble about raising’ millions for purposes of destruction, hut when it is a question of providing for a little extra comfort for aged and invalid people, honorable members opposite, in a hypocritical manner, profess that the money cannot be found. I feel heartily sick to think there should be such hypocrites in this National Parliament.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in using that term, and must withdraw it.
– I said it, and I mean it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know by what authority you order the honorable member for Cook to resume his seat.
– I understand that the honorable member for Cook has not concluded the remarks he wishes to make. If he said anything that was unparliamentary, the proper thing to do was to ask him to withdraw it; not to order him to resume his seat.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Cook used a certain term, which was not in keeping with the dignity of the Committee.
– Ho should he allowed to withdraw it.
Tho TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.lb was because he refused to withdraw the expression that I called upon him to resume his seat.
– I contend, sir, in tins matter, that if the honorable member refused to withdraw an unparliamentary expression at,your request, you should report him to the House, you should nob ask him to resume his seat. You should bear in mind that the honorable member for Cook is a young member, and I am sure it will be generally admitted that he has conducted himself well as a member of this Parliament.
There could be no more severe censure on an honorable member than to order him to resume his seat.
– It was because I recognised that the honorable member for Cook is a new member, and, therefore, did not desire to name him, that I called on him to resume his seat.
– I think the honorable member should be given another chance to withdraw.
Tho TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN . - The- honorable member for Cook will please stand. If it is his desire to withdraw the term to which I took exception, I will grant him permission to continue his remarks.
– You, sir, asked me to resume my seat, - and I obeyed the command of the Chair. I-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will not be in order in carrying on the discussion on those lines.
– Will you be good enough to inform me whether any honorable member on the opposite side objected to my using the word “ hypocrites.”
– Yes, we all did.
– It is not necessary that any honorable member should direct the attention of the Chairman to the use of an unparliamentary term. It is within the right of the Chairman to decide for himself whether a term used is unparliamentary.
– I did not think it was unparliamentary. I was not prepared to withdraw, in view of the action of honorable members on the other side; but, as the House is to deal with other measures . before it rises, to which I in- . tend to offer my strongest opposition, I withdraw the term.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in withdrawing in that way. He must withdraw the term used unreservedly, and without comment.
– I withdraw it. I am sorry that I had cause to make the remark. When it suits their purpose ‘the Government do not hesitate to raise huge sums of money, yet they refuse to expend an extra £750,000 to provide a little comfort for the closing days of Australia’s pioneers. If this country were threatened with war there would be no difficulty in raising funds for defence. The first consideration would be the national safely. I remind honorable members opposite that many of the poor old souls dependent upon the pension are the parents of sons who died on the field of battle. It is too much to expect sympathy at the hands of men who consider pounds, shillings, and pence of more importance than the contentment of the aged and infirm. Instead of dating the increase from the 1st July the Government are commencing the payment from 13th September. In strong contrast was their proposal to benefit the wealthy leaseholders by the remission of their taxation from 1917. Remission of taxation could be made retrospective; but the increase in the oldage pensions cannot! They are anxious to protect the interests of the wealthy land-holders, but they deliberately shirk their duty to the old-age pensioners. 1 hope the increase will be 5s. per week, and that the future Administration will extend more sympathy to these people than has been given in the past.
.- I regret the mode of this debate on old-age pensions. This question should not be made the “ cock-shy “ of party politics. It should be an occasion for calm and cool discussion rather than for invective and insinuation. I shall discuss the pension independent altogether of the fate of the Government, and I refuse to be embarrassed in any way by the statement of the Prime Minister. I am satisfied that this Bill is fair. I am perfectly justified in the stand I am taking, and will have no difficulty in satisfying my own conscience and my constituents when I appear before them. I expected that definite facts would have been stated to support the various opinions that have been expressed. Some honorable members have said that they consider the increase insufficient, and others have taken the contrary view. There has not been that quiet discussion that would form a basis upon which judgment could be formed. This is the position. The first old-age pension was 10s. per week, and, as far as I know, that was not then considered inadequate or ungenerous.
– Ten shillings a week then was worth more than 25s. now.
– I am coming to that aspect. In 1910 the pension was not considered inadequate.
– It was in my constituency.
– Individuals may have had different opinions, but the people as o whole believed that 10s. a week was a fair thing. The Treasurer has shown that the sum which represents the purchasing power of the sovereign at the time the pension of 10s. a week was granted is 34s. 3d., which is not an increase of 100 per cent. If the pension is made £1 per week it will be an increase of 100 per cent, on the original pension.
– That increase does not take the cost of clothing into consideration.
– For the first time in the history of the pension this Bill proposes to increase it in accordance with the purchasing power of the sovereign, which is both fair and generous.
– The honorable member should be fair, and take the increased cost of clothing into consideration.
– I am giving a comparison of figures that were fixed on the same basis throughout, and on which the Treasurer has based his estimates. In addition, the general conditions of the pension have been greatly liberalized. The Government are making the pension equivalent to the original rate, taking into account the depreciated value of money, and that seems to me a very powerful and convincing argument.
– The Labour party did not do that when they had the chance.
– I do not wish to make comparisons between one party and another. All the comments and insinuations of honorable members opposite will not convince my constituents that I am unsympathetic towards the old people, because I have their interests at heart just as much as has any one else. A great many old people live in my constituency, and when I return I am quite prepared to tell them how I voted, and why. This matter should not be simply governed by (sympathy. Every honorable member wishes to give freely; but I do not know whether there would be that desire if we were dealing with our own money.
– It is our own money
– The honorable member is one of 5,500,000. “We hold money in trust for the people.
– It is a mutual trust. Mr. MANN. - That is so. We must be just before being generous. Honorable members opposite speak lightly of the expenditure of £1,000,000, but it must be remembered that if we are committed to this expenditure this year, it means a similar commitment every year, which is a- very different consideration.
– The honorable member is “ stone-walling “.
– It suits honorable members to call it “ stone-walling “ because I am placing unwelcome facts before them. During my election campaign, I pledged myself to endeavour to get an increase: in the old-age pensions, but I would not commit myself to any definite amount, because I was not in a position at that time to know what sum would be justifiable. Probably other honorable members who committed themselves to a definite amount went a little further than was justified, not knowing the amount involved. At that time, I strongly favoured the ^establishment of a comprehensive scheme of national insurance, and the appointment of a Commission for that purpose. I was, therefore, delighted when the Government decided to appoint a Royal Commission to report on a comprehensive system of State insurance.
– On a point of order, is the honorable member for Perth- in order in discussing, on this amendment, the’ appointment of a Royal Commission ? He is making a second:reading speech.
– The question of the oldage pension has a direct connexion- with the Royal Commission, because it will be considered with that of State insurance. Everybody admits that we are approaching the limit for pensions, and it would be very inadvisable to take a step to prejudice or annul the work of that Commission. It is very easy to increase the pension; but, supposing, for the sake of. argument, that the Commission recommended that the,maximum pension should be 17s. 6di, if this House had already voted £1 per week, difficulty would be experienced in reducing it. On the other hand, if, after- due consideration of the facts, the Commission recommended an old-age pension of £1 per week, then, taking into’ account the financial position,, honorable members would gladly subscribe to it. But at present we are anticipating and may be going too far, and any further commitment will annul the work of this Commission.
– It is an old game ti* get behind a Commission for protection.
– The honorable member has been glad, on more than one occasion during this session, to get behind the reports of Royal Commissions. If honorable members have conscientious objections in regard to this matter, well and good, but I refuse to be classed with those who will smother their real- convictions’ and vote against their consciences upon- a matter in regard to which I have arrived at a deliberate and well -weighed opinion.
.- I am quite sure that the honorable member for Perth. (Mr. Mann) has convinced himself, and he reminds me of a Frenchman who convinced himself that he had only to place green glasses. over the eyes of his horse and he could feed him on shavings. But despite his conviction the horse died. The honorable member for Perth said that when the pension wasfixed at 10s., nobody objected to it. When the pension was fixed at 10s. in Victoria it was welcomed as a commencement only v for it was pointed out at the time that the Danish pension was equal to- 10s: of our money, and would purchase more than 20s. would in Victoria. Why is it that the- unemployed problem is not more serious: to-day ? It is because of the oldage pension. In earlier days, when unemployment became rife, the aged people were the first to suffer. Now they have- at least ,some income to keep them from want On that ground alone, I appeal to honorable members opposite to support the amendment. At the same time, I recognise the difficulty in which they have been placed by the Prime Minister’s statementthat he would resign and thereby forgo his trip to England as the representative of Australia at the Imperial Conference. That statement surpasses any I have ever heard in my political experience. I ask honorable members not to stifle their own convictions with specious arguments, but to make up their minds that whilst they are compelled to support the Government to-day they will bring pressure to bear upon the Ministry during recess to have the pension increased to £1. For years I have allotted £5 per week to .increasing the pension of some old people from 15s. to £1. Therefore, I welcome the increase to 17s. 6d. because it will enable me to help forty pensioners instead df twenty. If the people who created thiB Parliament were consulted by referendum, would they hesitate to sanction the payment of the paltry 2s. 6d. required to make the pension £1 per week? A sum of £340,000,000 has been spent on the slaughter and murder of men, but the rich money holders have not contributed their share. How many dependants of men who fought and died at the Front are helping to bear the accursed cross of interest on the war debt? Why do we not provide that the children of every soldier who died at the ‘Front stall be free of taxation, or be paid from the Consolidated Revenue an amount equal to the tax. I welcome the increase of 2s. 6d. just as in time of want if I stood on the brink of hell and the devil himself handed mo bread for the hungry, I would take it. But I am not content with the increase offered by the Government, and I am surprised that the Prime Minister should prevent men who are loyal to th Govern ment from voting in accordance with their consciences. An amendment is required to do justice to certain invalids who are subject to congenital defects. I have in mind the case of one who is afflicted with congenital dislocation of the hips, and who has no chance of ever being able to earn her own livelihood, but because she was four and a bale’ years, instead of three years or under, when she arrived in Australia, she is mot eligible for a pension. That contemptible provision was drafted by a legal mind. 1 have been long enough in .political life .to know that when a leader ‘of a party makes such a grave statement as the Prime Minister has made to-day, it ‘must influence his followers. The .-only thing they can do is to try to. persuade the Ministry during the recess to ‘be ‘a1 little more decent to those who are old, and often helpless, and thus wipe out the infamy or the vote that I know * will take place to-day.
Mr. W. M. HUGHES (North Sydney) f3 24]. - As the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) said, we cannot get all we want, but that does not prevent us from asking for it. Unfortunately time does not permit us to do so effectively, but we must do the ; best we can. This pension legislation, which .has been copied by many .countries, and in :the end will be copied by all, has :been on the statute-book for many years, and we have lived to see the errors we made ad initium. One of those errors is patent on the face of it. The present system of pensions discourages and penalizes thrift. If a person -who arrives at C5 or 60 years of age, ns the case .may be, has been so foolish or unfortunate as to save money in the hey-day of life to buy a house, or invest it in other ways, he or she is penalized. Naturally, people .do not like that, and, .therefore, in order to qualify for a full pension, they have t*> turn prodigal in the evening of their live.” n:id spend all they have accumulated. The Act requires radical amendment in that respect, and the discouragement of thrift should be eliminated. A person has done well for this country on having arrived at the age of 65 or 60 years, and deserves .of the country a pension sufficient to place him or her beyond the reach of that abject poverty which marked the condition of our forebears. Therefore, the prohibition against property and earnings should be wiped out, and all persons who choose to apply for a pension, if otherwise qualified, should receive it in full. Cases have been brought under my notice lately of .pensioners who had invested in property. In assessing the value of that property, no allowance is made for the rates and outgoings necessary to maintain it, and their pensions have been cut down. That is quite wrong. I certainly do not censure the present Government for that condition of things; they take the legislation as they found it ; but I point out what I conceive to be the road on which -we should s travel. As to the amount of pension, we as representatives of the people should be very thankful that the increase of the amount by 2s. 6d. per week has been proposed, but fi to-day will not purchase more than did 10s. when the pension was first instituted. I wish to point out to Ministers the obvious fact that during the war the payments made in respect of soldier’s pensions and repatriation were many million pounds in excess of such payments to-day. Our war expenditure will never vanish in our time, but is proceeding towards vanishing point, and when we have the means to be just to the old-age pensioner’s we should utilize them. So whilst I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne, that the dictum of the Prime Minister is final as regards our power to translate our wishes into action, I still say that the first thing the Government should aim at is, not tho saving of money, but the administration of the affairs of the country justly and wisely, and with due regard to those basic interests upon which the welfare of the community depends. There has been a remission of taxation, and a sensible, and indeed, large diminution of the amount payable for soldiers’ pensions and repatriation. Therefore, it is within our power to pay to the aged and invalid a pension commensurate with that prosperity which Australia, alone, of all the nations that engaged in the war, is fortunate enough to enjoy. The least we can do is to see that those who have spent their lives in building up the country shall receive a pension that will assure their comfort in their declining years. I therefore urge first the removal of all those provisions which prevent the old-age and invalid pensioners from obtaining the full pension because they have saved up a certain amount of money, and secondly an increase in the pension to at least £1.
– Many of the recent actions of this Government have been discreditable, but this is the most discreditable of all. It is almost pathetic to hear honorable members on the other side of the Committee trying to explain their attitude. They certainly have been placed in an unfortunate position through the Government having made this a vital issue. If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), and the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), who have said that though they favour a pension of £1 they will support the Government and vote for 17s. 6d. a week, would only take a firm stand the Government would soon alter its attitude.
– I made my position very clear. I said that I intended to vote for £1 a week.
– I am sorry if I have done the honorable member an injustice. I certainly understood him to say that although he deprecated the action of the Government he would support it. If he did not say it, other hon orable members on his side of theCommittee ‘did. A few days ago the honorable .member for Fawkner (Mr Maxwell) and some others on that side took a stand on a certain matter and the Government changed its attitude. I believe that if they made a stand now the Government would not risk suffering a defeat. By hook or by crook the Prime Minister intends to get to England, and if honorable members opposite, who say that they wish the pension to be £1, would stand by their convictions the Government would “ climb down.” I do nob think one honorable member opposite can really say that 17s. 6d. a week is an adequate pension. The honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has advocated £1 a week before now, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) is also favorable to the proposal to make the pension £1 per week. I remind that right honorable gentleman that when he was head of the Government he did not give any increase at all.
– I increased the pension to 12s. 6d., and then to 15s.
– The attitude of honorable members opposite seems to be determined very largely by whether they are members of the Ministry or not. I hope that the amendment will be carried. Even if it be not carried I trust that the Government will agree to pay the pension of 17s. 6d. from the beginning of the financial year. We wish to make the increased payment retrospective for only a few weeks. The Government wished to make retrospective for six years a measure that it had before honorable members a few days ago.
– The Prime Minister practically gave an assurance that this Bill would be treated in a non-party way. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), apparently, objected to that, and the Prime Minister has now made it a party question, and has said that if the vote is against him he will take it as a vote of censure. I regret that very much. A number of honorable members on the other side of the Committee who are favorable to a pension of £1 per week are to be compelled to vote with the Government, because this has been made a party question.
– You would do the same thing.
– That is so, but I complain that it has been made a party question. It is most regrettable that in the closing hours of the session the Government should try to prevent us from doing the fair thing by the old people. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) takes what he calls a logical point of view. He says that we are not doing the old people any injustice, because they are getting as much value now as they got when the pension was 10s. a week, according to the cost of living figures. We do not ask public servants to retire on a pension of 17s. 6d. a week, nor is any retiring allowance of which I know as low as that. Why should we ask, the old people to accept such an inadequate pension? If the remarks of the honorable member for Perth indicate his idea of what the standard of living should be, then God help the country if he ever obtained control of it. I trust that the Committee will agree to increase the pension to 20s.
.- I wish to refer to two statements that have been made. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) said that the £1,300,000 which was alleged to have been saved to the Government in respect of the Crown leasehold taxation should be used to pay old-age pensions. I point out to him what is obvious to almost every other honorable member in the Committee, that that amount has only been saved for one year, and the increase in taxation, in order to provide for oldage pensions, will go on year after year.
– That is a very silly statement. If the honorable member has not anything better than that to say he should sit down.
– The other statement to which I shall refer was made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). He stated, that war pensions were decreasing. As a matter of fact, they are increasing: , The figures for 1920 to 1922 are as follows :- 1920, £6,178,692; 1921, £6,915,454; 1922, £6,783,426. It is estimated that in 1923 £6,933,576 will be paid.- Honorable members will see, therefore, that the war pensions expenditure for this year is to be bigger than ever.
– I said that our war expenditure had diminished by £6,000,000.
– I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that war pensions had decreased. All I have to say in regard to the measure before us is that I do not hold with the doctrine that all sense of filial duty should be allowed to die out, and that the Government should do what children ought to do to assist their parents. I support the clause as it is.
– I impress it upon honorable members opposite that our pensioners are really the pioneers of Australia. It has been conceded that the Commonwealth Government, is able to pay a pension of £1 a week, but some honorable members behind the Government seem to fear for the future. I think we may leave the future to take care of itself. I am strongly in favour of increasing the pension to 20s. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) that 20s. a week now would not be worth any more than was the original pension of 10s.
– Statistics do not bear that out.
– I say to the Treasurer, as was said by another honorable member on that side of the Chamber a day or so ago, that he should not be too theoretical. Honorable members know that even statistics are misleading at times. I urge that the administration of this Act should be more in accordance with its spirit and not so much in accordance with the letter of it. A number of cases of great hardship have been brought under my notice during the last day or two. I shall take another opportunity to place the details before honorable members.
.- I wish to reply to a statement made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). He referred to the remark made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr; Parker Moloney), that the £1,300,000 which .the Opposition prevented the Government from giving to the squatters of Australia should be utilized for pension purposes, and said that that amount would only be available for one year. What the honorable member for Hume had in mind was that if that provision for taxation in the Land Tax Assessment Bill had not been defeated, there would have been additional revenue- to Australia that could have been earmarked for pension purposes. I trust that the Committee will deal with this measure in a non-party spirit. The Prime Minister- has placed some of his supporters in a most awkward position, and I regret that he has taken up such an attitude. It is distressing that the National Parliament of Australia should be haggling about whether the worn-out soldiers of industry in this country should be given a pension of 17s. 6d. or £1, a difference of thirty, pence per week. It is a sordid thing for us to be fighting about. Plenty of money was available for the. urgent needs of war, and. I suggest that we should see to it that the comparatively small amount of money involved in the question before us should also be made available. I regret that honorable members opposite have been ? laced in such an unfortunate position, would, much prefer to see some amicable arrangement made by which we could vote together on this subject, and secure £1 per week pension for old people. The Prime Minister has been autocratic, and is preventing the free expression of opinion in this Chamber. The Treasurer stated’ that in 1909 the pension of 10s. was the equivalent of 17s. 6d. to-day. The Commonwealth Tear-Booh does notsupport his contention.
– The Commonwealth Statistician gave me my figures. They would be later than those in the YearBooh.
– The Minister’s figures related to groceries, food, and house rent, and took no account of clothe ing, which, as every one knows, has increased fully 100 per cent, since 1909. A comparison of the weighted averages for forty-seven items of expenditure shows that as there has been a very heavy increase since 1911, our invalid and old: age pensioners should receive better treatment. Weighted averages for the capital cities of the Commonwealth are as follows: -
In some of the States the increase has been fully 100 per cent. Therefore, there is every justification for an increase- of the pension payments to £1 per week. Apart from that, we should remember that we are living in democratic times, and this subject is receiving attention in- all countries of the world; so it is up to Australia to lead the way.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted, stand part of the clause - put: The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I regret that, as this Bill amends several Acts, the Treasurer has not followed the practice adopted in connexion with other amending Bills, and provided us with printed copies showing the effect on the Act of the proposed amendments. las is impossible! for honorable, members to-‘ know, exactly what the various clauses’ really mean..
– Practically the whole of: the’ amendments deal simply with: sums of money and in a sense are selfexplanatory.
– lt would, have been much better if the sections proposed to be amended had1 been set out in a memorandum so, that, if necessary,., amendments could, have been submitted intelligently.
Clause agreed to.
THU’ Act shall’ commence on a date to , be fixed by proclamation.
.- Will the Treasurer indicate the probable date, to be fixed by the proclamation ?’.
– The date will be the day on which the measure has been passed, by both Houses. If the Bill passes today or to-morrow, the next fortnightly payment will1 be made at the increased, rate.
Mr.- Fenton. - The Government may have to wait for several’ days before assent ia given-, to the measure.
– There will’ be no delay.
’.- I suggest that the Treasurer make the Bill retrospective to the beginning’ of the financial* year.. During the past week or two we have- Had many instances’ of legislation, being made retrospective, and the Government might very well follow them in connexion with this Bill. The amount involved’ would not be very large, but it would certainly be a boon to the pensioners.
– The Government have decided that when assent has been given tb the Bill, .the first fortnightly payment thereafter will contain the increased’ amount of pension.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 17 of the- principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (e)- thereof the1 words “Three ‘hundred and ten:” and: inserting in, their stead, the words “ Four, hundred.”
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer’ [4.0]. - This clause- deals- with the amount of property which an old-age1 pensioner, may have without ceasing to derive benefit under- the Act. At present the’ amount fixed ia £310, and the value of’ the pension payable declines at the rate- of ‘£1 for every £10 worth of pro-i party. The present statutory exemption: of £50’ is being maintained. If a pensioner has property valued- at £390, he will, under the Bill, be able to draw a pension to the1 value of £11 10s. per year.
– I take advantage of this- clause to refer to the administration of the’ Act in’ connexion with property owned by- pensioners. If people live in their home, its value is not taken into account in- computing the pension, but. if they leave it, as very often they have to do for reasons beyond their control, they risk the loss of the pension. Many of - them are- ignorant of the law, and do not know that it is necessary for them to acquaint the Department’ with the fact that they have left their home. When that is discovered; -they receive- a communication from the Department informing them- of the amount of pension they have- received over and above what they are entitled (Sounder the Act, and’ are asked to make s refund, or the pension may be cancelled. 1 cannot say - a word against the Pensions Department, because all the officers’ there are sympathetic, but they have to’ take certain action under the law. I could in’ stance many cases of this- kind- that havearisen during the last twelve months.- A case I have in mind at present is that of a blind man, a. friend of mine, who lived: with his’ wife in their old home. The1 wife was stricken’ down, anc? confined to hexbed’ as an invalid, without much hope- of recovery. Because’ of the condition’ of the husband, they were compelled to< leave their home, and live with their son, who is a working miner, with a large family, and whose- income is.’ barely sufficient to. keep his own family. Being ignorant of the’ law, these old- people did’ not inform the Department that they had left their homey which they let’ for the magnificent) sum of’ 5s. per week-. They were notified, that they had’ been overpaid from the time they had- left their home: This, ia a very hard case* an>d: it was never- contemplated that the Act should operate- is this- way. As1 a. matter’ of fact, these’ oldpeople required more- money when they left their home than they did previously^ Many similar instances might be quoted; and something should be done- to> meet; these cases. The Government propose to increase the value of the- property which, “ may be possessed’ without affecting tha pension from £310 to, £400. I think it should be increased to at least £500.
When the original Act was passed, property was not half as valuable as it is today. A house that would cost £900 to build to-day could be built for £400 in 1912 or 1913. Where old people have to leave their home, and let it. the value of the home as property is taken into account in calculating the pension. That is a good reason why the maximum value should be raised to at least £500. The valuation generally accepted is that of the local authority, and so no deception could be practised upon the Department by pensioners. I prefer that the Treasurer should propose the amendment of the clause himself, because in view of the last decision of the Committee any amendment I moved, however desirable, would be defeated.
.- Whilst approving of the Government proposal to increase the value of property which may be possessed without affecting the oldage pension, I should like to direct attention to the fact that a few nights ago I pointed out that in connexion with soldiers’ pensions, the Commissioner of Pensions has decided that if a pensioner is possessed of property to the value of £100 he is supposed to have adequate means of support. I should like the Treasurer to direct the attention of those who have charge of soldiers’ pensions to the provision with respect to property which is contained in this Bill.
– I should like the Treasurer to say whether, in calculating the value of property for the purposes of this provision, due allowance is made for rates paid by the pensioner and other charges, including repairs. I know of a case where a man has been compelled by a municipal council to repair his house, and that cost” a great deal more than the rent he derived from it. Allowance should be made for rates and for repairs, particularly where they have to be carried out by direction of local authority. I agree entirely with what the Leader of the Opposition has said, and I should be glad if the Treasurer could tell us what additional expenditure under the Act would be involved by increasing the value of property which a pensioner might possess up to £500. I do not suppose that the honorable gentleman would contend that to increase the property value to £500 would involve a serious strain on the Treasury.
.- I hope the Treasurer will agree to increase the property value from the proposed £400 to £500. Anomalies in this connexion arise under the operation of the Act. A pensioner can live in his own house irrespective of its value, and continue to draw his pension ; but should circumstances render it necessary for him to vacate his home and live elsewhere, and its value exceeds the maximum amount provided for in the Act, he forfeits his pension. I have a case in mind of a resident of Guildford in my electorate. It is that of an old lady who was living in a property that was condemned by the health authorities. She was unable to effect the necessary repairs, having no money, and had to vacate the premises, which were demolished, and as the valuation of the residual exceeded £310 she forfeited her pension. There are a great many similar cases. The request which has been made is a reasonable one, and I propose to move -
That the word “ Four “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Five.”
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It will save time if I point out that the honorable member would not be in order in moving such an amendment, as its effect would be to increase the appropriation, and that would require a new message from the Governor-General. The Bill is based upon a message from the. Governor-General recommending the necessary appropriation, and no alteration increasing the appropriation can be ^ made without the Governor-General’s consent.
.- It is clear that we cannot make an amendment which would have the effect of increasing the appropriation; but the Treasurer might favorably consider the request made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). Old people are often compelled to leave their homes, though it may be only temporarily. Country pensioners sometimes come to the city in order to be able to attend a doctor, and let their home in the country for six or twelve months. They may pay a rent of 30s. per week in the city, and receive only 10s. per week for their home in the country; but under the Act the rent they receive is taken into account in estimating tho value of the property they possess. Of course, I am aware that rent is regarded in the same way as any other form of income, but there should be some provision to meet special circumstances, even if the maximum amount of property allowed cannot be increased as desired. Where it can be shown that pensioners are paying a rent foi a place that is not their own, which balances the rent they receive from their own property, there should be no deduction from their pensions.
.- I have had under my notice a peculiarly hard case arising under this provision. It is that of two old folk who were living about 10 miles from Fremantle. They had one son who went to the war, and came back gassed. He is now, I think, rambling about Australia trying to get a living. The old folk had a nome for many years, and a little garden that they were trying to develop. One was about sixty-nine and the other sixty-seven years of age. They developed rheumatism, and were too old to carry on, and were ultimately granted old-age pensions. They had to leave their place. They receive a rent of 12s. per week for it, whilst they have to pay 12s. per week for a room in Fremantle. Their position is exactly the same as before, but their pension was immediately affected to the extent of 12s. per week, and now those two old people are compelled to live in Fremantle on 17s. 6d. per week. T have tried every method to obtain assistance from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. He is sympathetic, but the Act prevents him from giving them assistance. These poor folk had a home valued at £500, and mortgaged for £150. They were trying to retain the equity for their son, who. they believed would, sooner or later, become utterly incapacitated. It is a very deserving case, and surely something can be done. I know of hundreds of cases on all-fours with this one.
.- I ask the Government to make the administration of the Pensions Department a little more sympathetic to deserving cases, not that I have anything to say against the officers, because they keep within the letter of the Act, for which no one can blame them. But the Government might give them a hint, or power, to use their discretion. A blind man of Sydney, who applied for a pension, has written to me as follows: -
The cause of mv application is blindness; mv occupation is that of a cigarette and tobacco vendor, and I earn about 35s. per week. I have not sufficient money in the bank to warrant a limitation of pension, and have no other property, &c. I was born in Australia, and have never been abroad.
He says further -
A friend of mine, similarly afflicted and employed, applied for the pension as a cigarette and tobacco vendor, and as such he was granted the pension. Last week he was summoned to the Pensions Office and told that his pension was to be discontinued, and bc was likely to be the recipient of charity, and the pension was not for mendicants, and that the granting of his pension was a mistake in the first place.
In that case the Department said that the applicant might possibly become a recipient of charity. It would not harm the Commonwealth even if blind pensioners did receive a little over and above the minimum wage. I implore the Government to give their officers power to use their discretion, which I do not think they would abuse. An association of blind people has written to say that persons who come to Australia with defective eyesight are debarred from receiving the pension.
– They are being provided for in a later amendment.
– If that is so, I shall not press that matter further.
– I am very doubtful whether the Treasurer can amend the Bill in view of the present ruling.
– I have a separate Governor-General’s Message for that purpose.
– I have the case of a person who occupied a certain home and then disposed of it. He is not yet in full receipt of the proceeds of the sale, as the purchase money is being paid off by instalments, and those instalments are being used to purchase another home. To all intents and purposes this person is living in his own home, but the proceeds of the sale were taken into consideration by the Department, and the pension was very much reduced. I shall, later, move an amendment to section 25 of the principal Act, which deals with the exemption for homes.
.- I lodge my protest against the manner in which the Government have introduced the Bill, as it is evident that an advantage has been taken by them to the detriment of the Opposition. Some time ago, I asked the Prime Minister to make the order of leave sufficiently wide to enable an . amendment to be moved to test “the House, and he gave me a favorable reply. Subsequently I received the same assurance from the Treasurer. :Dr. Earle Page. - My reply was that i would consider it.
– It is futile for us to attempt to do anything for the aged people, as the Government debar the Committee from expressing any opinion or from altering the .Bill in any way. If -ever I was led to believe that the question of the increased pensions would be left to the judgment of the House, and that judgment accepted by the Government, it was this morning. Had I known that we were to be gagged I should certainly have taken action on the second reading. The ‘Government refused to agree to the amendment, and made it a vital question. T said nothing about that. There are many ‘improvements that could be made to the Bill by way of amendment, adding slightly to the cost, but if an amendment were proposed, involving only 2s. 6d., it could mot be put. We are wasting time in dealing with the Bill. I just now discovered, by interjection from the Treasurer, that a special message has been brought down to enable an amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The Government purposely narrowed the order in. the message to prevent us from amending any clause in the Bill, and yet they deliberately enter into a compact with >the honorable member for Fawkner ito bring down a special ‘message for his benefit. If a vote had been taken, and the -majority ‘of honorable members had been in favour of an increase in the pen.sion to £1, the Government could easily have brought down a further message to cover the increased cost. The honorable member .for Fawkner would have been favorable to an increase of the old-age pension.
– I promised to support the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister cracked the -whip, and the honorable member was not able to follow his desire. Now special provision is to be made for him.
– I suggested in any speech, a week or ten days ago, that this i amendment should be accepted by the Government, and the Treasurer agreed to to.
– I .shall support the honorable member’s amendment, -as !I know that it will assist the blind. It is strange that although I made my (request three weeks ago, and obtained ia favorable reply, I have not -received .the same consideration as has the ^honorable member for Fawkner.
– That is not so.
– It is so. We were prevented from getting a decision df this House because the Prime Minister and the Treasurer made the amendment te vital question. At least three members of the other side would have voted to increase the pension to £1. It is no credit to the Government to have prevented the House from .expressing its opinion, especially in view of the fact that seven or eight millions is at their disposal, and that the amendment would have cost: less than £1,000,000.
– I’ point out to the Leader of the Opposition that he is fighting shadows in taking up such an attitude. He evidently misunderstood the reply, which is given in Hansard, by the Prime Minister, and by myself, that the matter would receive consideration. The question was considered, and the Government found that its financial policy could not be altered to the extent desired by the Leader of the Opposition, and he was invited ito test the feeling of the House. He moved an amendment to the first clause of the Bill when in Committee, and he had abundant opportunity then to refer back the Governor-General’s message. The Committee decided otherwise. The honorable member for Fawkner is in an entirely different position. ‘He ascertained the exact cost from the officers, and the Government, after consideration of its financial position, has made provision, subsequent to the introduction of this Bill, for the moving of his amendment.
– My point is that the action of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer prevented the House from .giving an untrammelled decision.
– We promised to give the matter consideration. ‘We examined the ‘finances of the Government and for the first time in the history ‘of the old-age pension, we ‘have submitted to the Committee a .series of amendments, to correct the anomalies which at present exist. Because we. attempt to rectify to some degree every anomaly, we are unable to accept other amendments which, by the complete removal of a particular anomaly, would increase the expenditure. The Government recognise that the provision it is making is not yet sufficient to put the aid-age pensions on a proper basis, and is, therefore, appointing a Royal Commission to examine the whole question, and put it on a more equitable basis. The Government has considered the matter in the fullest and fairest way. The principal Act has been amended no fewer than seven times in fourteen years, and each time the conditions have been liberalized. But this Bill is the first that has attempted to deal with the anomaly in regard to the net capital value of property that may be owned by the pensioner. The pension has been increased at various times, but the earning capacity of the pensioner has not previously been increased concurrently. Every amendment that has been suggested has been considered by the Treasury officers in order to ascertain what effect it would have upon the finances of the country, and the Government has endeavoured to spread the money at its disposal over as wide a field as possible, in order to give the maximum relief. I ask honorable members to accept the assurance of the Government that, after months of careful study, it has come to the conclusion that the proposals contained in the Bill are not only the utmost that the finances will permit to be done at the present time, but also cover the greatest number of anomalies in the best possible way with the money available. If we had not considered the matter fully, and had brought down a hastily-evolved proposal, the Committee would, have been justified in taking the business out of the hands of the Government and laying down a new policy for the administration of the finances. But’ for the first time in the history of this legislation a duly considered Bill dealing with every anomaly has been introduced, and therefore I ask the Committee to support the Government. The Government agrees ‘with the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that this payment should not be regarded as charity, but as a right, and therefore it is appointing a Royal Commission to advise upon a policy of national insur- ance, which is the only means by which this assistance to the aged and invalid can be placed upon a non-charitable basis within the financial capacity of the Commonwealth. The Government does hot suggest that this measure is perfect, but it is the utmost that the Government can do in the present financial circumstances of the country. Realizing the imperfections of the measure, we desire the whole system to be inquired into in the fullest’ possible way, so that it may be placed upon a proper basis. Later this afternoon I hope to be able to announce the composition of the Royal Commission to deal with pensions and national insurance, lt will be, as far as possible, representative of both sides of the House, so that every political view may be expressed. In regard to the property qualification, the various amendments that have been suggested would accentuate, rather than remove, the real anomaly, which is that old-age pensioners who- live in their own houses, whether they be worth £300, £400, or £500, do not, on that account, suffer any reduction of pension. The raising of the allowable capital value to £500 would not remove the anomaly - that exists between those who have their own homes and those who have not. The instance mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra could not have been quite correctly stated, because if people left their own home in the country to temporarily reside in Melbourne that property, being still their home, would not be taken into account by the pensions office, unless it was yielding income in the form of rent.
– But it is taken into account.
– I am mentioning what the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions assures me is the practice of the Department. In regard to the point raised by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), rates and maintenance costs are deducted from the income yielded by property, when the pension is being computed. The ‘ honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) mentioned the blind pensioners. There is a special provision in the Act that earnings up to £221 per annum shall not debar a blind man from receiving the pension.
– It depends upon how he is earning the money. I brought up recently the case of a blind man who is selling race books, and adding to his income in that way, and his pension was stopped.
– The Department wishes to discourage street mendicancy.
– ‘«hat man is not a mendicant; he is selling something to the public.
– If that man is carrying on a genuine trade, it should not prejudice his pension, and if the facts are as the honorable member has stated, then I will do my utmost -to put the matter right. “We should discriminate between street begging and actual working or trading. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and a number of other honorable members have brought under my notice those persons suffering from congenital defects who, because they did not enter the Commonwealth before they were three years of age are ineligible for pensions. This matter has been further considered since this Bill was drafted, and a provision has been made to enable the matter to be dealt with. I ask the Committee to support the Government’s proposal because the increase of the property restriction to £500 would involve an additional expenditure of between £30,000 and £40,000 per annum, and would1 not remove the anomalies, but would make it more difficult for us to relieve those other anomalies that extend throughout the whole range of the pensions system.
– One anomaly to which the Treasurer has not given the least consideration is the varying economic value or purchasing power of the pension in different parts of the Commonwealth.
– The Constitution does hot permit of discrimination between different parts of the Commonwealth.
– No, but the anomaly arises out of the fact that the pension seems to- be based on the purchasing power of the sovereign in, say, Melbourne. As one proceeds from Melbourne that purchasing power decreases by as much as 50 per cent., yet the old-age pensioner is expected to live upon the same amount of money. In effect, the pension in the Northern Territory is 50 per cent, below the pension paid in Melbourne. Every
Arbitration Court allows Government servants in certain latitudes a special allowance equal to from 35 to 40 per cent. of their salaries. The same principle should apply to pensions, because, after all, if the amount is only sufficient in the southern States to keep the wolf from the door, it must be a starvation rate in other latitudes where its purchasing power is 30 to 50 per cent. less.
.- The only action I have taken on this Bill has been to vote for an increase of the pension. I have adopted that attitude because I hold that, until all restrictions and conditions are wiped out, we cannot have a real old-age pension. Unfortunately the Tory ideas and workhouse traditions of Great Britain still colour our legislation, and they account, for the conditions with which the pension is hedged. We shall have a true old-age pension when every Australian man of sixty-five years of age and every woman of sixty years of age, who has lived a certain number of years in Australia, has an absolute right to apply for the pension. The present restrictions are subterfuges to enable the Government to refuse the pension to those who are really entitled to it. The maternity allowance is payable to every woman who gives birth to a viable child, and similarly the old-age pension should be available to every person who has the qualifications of age and residence. When the maternity allowance was agreed to by this House no restrictions were laid down. Every mother was entitled to £5. Our object was that no mother who gave birth to a child should be in actual want in her hours of trial. We did not make it necessary to inquire whether a husband brought all his money home or whether he drank too much. All such restrictions as are imposed in connexion with the old-age pensions schemes are a result of the practices in countries in the Old World, which were ruled for so long by the landed proprietors. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) sought to prove certain things by reference to statistics. He mentioned house rent statistics. Let me explain to honorable members how those figures are fixed. A house may be obtained at Bourke, New South Wales, for 2s. 6d. per week; a friend of mine told me I could get a cottage there for ls. per week at Coolgardie houses may be obtained for 2s. 6d. per week, and in other parts of Western Australia the rents are even lower. The Statistical Department takes these low rents and also the high rents that obtain in the cities, and strikes an average, which it calls an economic rent. The basis is altogether wRong The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the Labour Government fixed the pension at 10s. per week. That honorable member knows that at that time old people could obtain a room in any of our cities for 2s. 6d. per week, whereas now they have to pay 7s. 6d. A bag of oatmeal cost lOd. in those days, and now it costs 3s. Mutton, which then cost 3d. per lb., now costs 8d. I do not wish ‘to weary the Committee by traversing all the foolish arguments that have been presented, although I have been bursting to get up about twenty times this afternoon. Honorable members desire to get the Bill through, and to prevent myself from rising to speak I have had to rush from the Chamber. The restrictions which surround the payment of these pensions must be removed if Australia is to continue to be known abroad for her progressive legislation. Every person who attains the age of sixty-five years, and women who reach sixty years of age, and are in needy circumstances, should be able to obtain the pension on application; we have fixed our high standard of wages, and under the same law a high standard of old-age pension. Honorable members know that though we retire our public servants at sixty-five years of age, legal practitioners of that age may still continue their work, and sometimes draw fees of 60 guineas for appearing in the Courts. Other professional men of similar age get as much as 40 guineas and 50 guineas per day. Why should we ask the people who have borne the heat and burden of the world’s ordinary work to accept such a small pension as the Government wishes to provide ? Public servants are rarely able to obtain work in outside concerns after they reach the age of sixty years, because it is considered that they have not been compelled to be so active all their lives, and are not able to work effectively. I consider that we should make the conditions of life for all old people as comfortable as possible. t trust that honorable members opposite will adopt this sane and humanitarian ideal. We should be permitted to discuss fully all these subjects, but the debate’ is to be smothered on account of the desire of the Prime Minister to go to England. It is only by taking a new line of action not wedded to precedents that we can make Australia the model country which it should be, and we certainly should adopt a new view on the payment of pensions.
.- I regret that the powers of honorable members to move amendments to financial measure are so restricted. The most cogent reasons may be advanced why certain measures should be amended, but if the Ministry remains adamant nothing can be done. It is a great pity that honorable members are so confined. I do not think that we should be bound so much by precedent. Age does not always increase “the value of precedents.
– My ruling was in accordance with the Constitution. I was not merely following precedent.
– I am speaking in general terms. It is time that the Constitution was amended to give honorable members wider powers.
– Surely Parliament should be supreme.
– It ought to be. Honorable members may convince the majority of the Committee of the wisdom of certain amendments they desire to move, but unless the Government is agreeable, nothing can be done. We could well afford to be more liberal with our pensions, because a large accumulated surplus is in the hands of the Government. The Treasurer seems to think it would be an awful thing to increase the expenditure on this item.
– We shall be able to take a broader view if, and when, we outgrow party government.
– If we abolish party government we shall be compelled to adopt log-rolling methods by which honorable members would make arrangements to suit their own purposes. That would cause utter chaos. Our hands are absolutely tied, so that we cannot move an effective amendment to this clause. An amendment that the value of property owned by a pensioner should be increased to £410 would be ruled out of order. I understand that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has a proposal to bring forward later which will increase the pensions expenditure. He will move by leave. Before a member of the Committee can do that, he must make special arrangements. I think we should not be so restricted. A great deal of time could be spent in discussing cases of individual hardship which have come under our -notice. I intend to place one or two on record, because debates of this kind are frequently referred to when amendments are contemplated to Bills of this character. Honorable members know that it frequently happens that the parents of a family are left alone in their little home because all their children marry, and go elsewhere to live. The time often comes when one of the sons returns to the old roof, and a general discussion occurs about the future. The mother says, “ Well, John, we find that we cannot manage things any longer. A couple of years ago, I could do all the cooking, and we could get on very well, but ‘those days have gone.” The father tells very much the same story. Then John says, “ Well, I have a proposal to make. We have a couple of rooms to spare in our home. Why not come with us, and spend the remainder of your days under our roof? We will do our best to provide for you in your declining years.” An arrangement may then be made for the old people to let the old home for a few shillings a week and live with the son, who is thus in a position to provide his aged parents with a few additional comforts. It is unfair that because the old folk receive a little income by the way of rent from the original home that a reduction should be made in the amount of pension paid. This is not an unusual case. Another instance which came under my notice in my own constituency may be mentioned. A pensioner, seventy-five years of age, decided to add a few shillings a week to his income by cracking stones. Of course, he was not able to do very much, so, occasionally, the younger men working in the same locality would go over to help the old man by cracking a few stones on his heap. In this way, his income was supplemented, and in his case, also, reductions were made in old-age pension payments. I direct attention to another anomaly. Payments are allowable to incapacitated miners from what is known as the Miners’ Fund, but deductions are made by the Pensions Department in the case of all beneficiaries under the fund established by the Victorian Racing Club for the assistance of incapacitated or aged jockeys or trainers. I do not blame the officials, because I understand they are guided by the provisions of the Act.
– It is a question of law.
– I have made repeated requests to successive Treasurers on this subject, and although I have always received sympathetic consideration, no amendment of the Act has been introduced. I trust that the present Treasurer will see his way clear to rectify this anomaly. I understand that the Treasurer’s objection to the amendment is that it would interfere with his financial proposals outlined in the Budget. The Government climbed down in connexion with the taxation on leaseholds, and agreed not to make the remission promised in the Budget speech. Why make fish of one and flesh of another. W[hy should difficulties be created because a little extra is asked for in connexion with invalid and old-age pensioners. The order of leave in connexion with any financial measure should be sufficiently wide to permit of members submitting amendments even if their effect would be to increase taxation.
.- I am in accord with the Government proposals. I believe that the pensioners will be well satisfied with the increase of 2s. 6d. per week, together with the liberalizing of the provisions of the Bill. Many of these old people live with friends, and their pensions are of considerable help. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that if we cannot get £1 per week for the old folk, the next best thing is to accept -I7s. 6d., especially as the old-age pensioners are allowed to supplement their income to a certain extent. If we directed more attention to the younger generation, and saw to it that they reached manhood or womanhood in a robust state of health, there would be less likelihood of their joining the ranks of invalid or old-age pensioners in the closing years of their lives. Let us take the case of any young working man who gets married. In the course of time, perhaps, he has around him a family of five or six children. If, unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he contracts a disease and dies, or meets with an accident and is killed, his unfortunate wife is left to struggle along as best she can with this young family. To some extent the children must be neglected. Their chance of growing up robust men and women must be seriously jeopardized. If, unfortunately, they should prove to be weaklings, they will become a burden on the State much sooner than otherwise they would. If both parents die, the children become wards of the State, and they may be placed with foster parents at 12s. per week.
- (Mr. Bayley). - Order! I have been waiting for ;the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I am endeavouring to show that if the younger generation were looked after properly, the probability is that our expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions would be considerably reduced.
.- The discussion of this clause at the beginning seemed to proceed on the assumption that a person having property valued at ?310 - now to be raised to ?400 - might still enjoy the full pension.
– I explained that there was a deduction of ?1 from the pension for every ?10 of property possessed.
– I ask the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to lend me his ear while I am discussing this question, because I know that along with honorable members on this side he takes a sympathetic interest in this matter. The original Act permitted the possession of property up to a value of ?310 before the right to pension ceased. No person was to receive an old-age pension unless amongst other exceptions provided -
Tim capital value of his accumulated property whether in or out of Australia does not exceed ?310.
Then under section 24 of the original Act we find that where the pensioner has accumulated property, the amount of the pension is subject to the following deductions -
One pound for every complete ?10 by which the net capital value of the property exceeds ?50.
That is to say, if a pensioner has property valued at ?310, the pension to which he is entitled gradually diminishes until it entirely disappears. The theory of the original Act was that the maximum ? value of property which the pensioner might hold without ceasing to bc entitled to a pension was ?310, and by deductions at the rate of ?1 for every ?10 of property, the pension would automatically disappear when the value of the property reached ?310. I want to know from the Treasurer why he has not preserved that principle in this Bill. If he had done so, instead of fixing the maximum value of property which a pensioner may possess without ceasing to be entitled to a pension at ?400, he should, in view of the increased rate of pension have fixed the maximum value of property at ?505. That is necessary to preserve the principle of the original Act. The totals pension payable under this Bill will be ?45 10s. per annum where there are nodeductions. Allowing for the exemption of ?50 value of property, and the existing rate of deductions for property of ?1 of pension for every ?10 of property over ?50, the pension under th’s Bill should disappear altogether when the pensioner possessed property to the value of ?505. The Government proposes ?400, and their proposals in this case would appear to be another attempt to cut down the rights of pensioners. I am aware that there is an objection to the cost of paying very small pensions; but I suggest that the maximum proposed is not so high that the Treasurer need concern himself so much about the minimum. My experience is that people are not anxious to make application for old-age pensions when they find that the amount to which they would be entitled in view of the value of property they possess would be inconsiderable. I understand that the objections to applying in this Bill the principle involved in the original Act, is that it would mean the payment in some cases of very small pensions of less than 5s. per week; but I repeat that the maximum is not so high that we need to be anxious to fix the minimum. I say that in practice it would be found that the suggested increase in the maximum value of property would not embarrass the Department with over-much bookkeeping in connexion with the payment of very small pensions. When people discover that the pension payable to them would be very small, they do not bother to make application for a pension. If the Treasurer has an answer to my objection by all means let us have it, because I think that the principle embodied in the original Act should continue.
– The explanation of the position the honorable member has discovered is this: The original limitation with respect to property was £310. That has been maintained all these years, for the reason that the pension diminishing under the Act, at the rate of £1 for every £10 of property possessed, left but a very small pension indeed for any person possessing property approximating the value of £310. If £50- the statutory exemption - is deducted from £310, there is £260 left. If there is a deduction of £1 for every £10 of this amount, it means that £26 has to be deducted from £39 - the annual value of the old-age pension at the present rate. This would leave an annual pension of £13, and a person possessing property to the value of £309 would be able to draw a pension of 5s. per week. The Government have tried to preserve that principle in this Bill. If you deduct £50 from £400, you have £350. This would involve a deduction from the pension on the existing scale of £35 from the annual pension, and under this proposal the pensioner would receive £10 10s. a year, or a pension of a little under 5s. per week. If the maximum value of property were raised to £500, and deductions were made in accordance with the same scale, it would be hardly worth a person’s while to apply for the pension that would be payable should the value of his property approximate £500. I am advised that, if the amount were raised as proposed, a tremendous amount of investigation would be required, and the results to pensioners would not be commensurate with the trouble involved. That is the reason why the maximum value of property has been fixed at £400. Another reason is that the amount available for distribution had to be parcelled out to the greatest possible advantage in_ correcting the anomalies that arise under the existing Act. It is estimated that the maximum amount of benefit to pensioners will be derived by fixing the value of property at a maximum of £400.
.- I can quite follow the argument of the Treasurer, but I point out that the Government are taking a good deal of credit to themselves for proposing to increase the oldage pension by £6 10s. a year, while at the same time, by the operation of this clause, it is probable that pensioners will be deprived of £10 10s. a year of the pensions to which they are legitimately entitled. Under this clause, if a man has property worth £390, he will be able to draw a pension at the rate of £11 10s. a year, but if his property is valued at £400, or only £10 more, he will be entitled to no pension at all. That is an anomaly which should be met. I can quite understand that the cost of paying pensions of 6d. per week would be out of all proportion to the value of the pension; but I should like to know from the Treasurer what is the experience of the Department in connexion with the payment of small pensions because of the operation of the provisions of the existing Act, to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has referred. If we make a deduction in the pension of £1 per annum for every £10 worth of property which the pensioner has over £50, why should we not stop at that. © Why should we wipe out the pension altogether if the value of a person’s property is £400, when a deduction of £1 for every £10 would absorb only £35 a year of the pension, and at the increased rate provided- for in the Bill the pensioner would be entitled to £45 10s.? This provision means that the old people will be denied pensions to which they are entitled to the extent of £10 10s.
– Under the existing Act, the pension would be absorbed by deductions where the value of the property reached £309.
– I am not disputing that, but I have shown that, under this Bill, with the maximum value of property fixed at £400, if the pension- is to entirely disappear, when that value is reached, the pensioner will lose pension to the extent of £10 10s. per annum, to which he is entitled. Under the original Act, the vanishing point of the pension was reached when the value of property possessed was £310, and - under this Bill the vanishing point, if the principle of the original Act were applied, would not be reached until the value of the property possessed by the pensioner was £505. A person with property worth £399 would draw a pension of £10 10s. per year, but if the property were valued at £400 no pension would be granted. Surely the Government do not intend that anomaly to exist ? The Treasurer’s answer is that they do not wish to incur the cost of administering small pensions. If that is so, I suggest that they increase the £400 to £480. An amount of £10 10s. per year is not an inconsiderable pension to people living on the bread line. It is 4s. per week If the Government do not wish to administer a pension less than that amount they should fix the vanishing point at £480. A maximum amount should be fixed, and if the principle of the original Act is to be preserved, that amount must be £505. I cannot see why there should be a vanishing point at all. The maximum amount fixed in the original Act was £310, and that was .exactly the point at which the pension would disappear. I invite the Treasurer to inquire of his Department, and ascertain the few cases of small pensions being applied for under that provision. I go further, and say if people ask the Department for a pension of 2s., it is strong proof that they want it ba’dly. Probably the Government will eliminate the very people who badly need the pension. I see no reason why we should profess to make available, as the equivalent of property, a pension of £45 a year, when, in actual fact to certain classes of people, it is only £35 a year. The Act provides that if a person has property valued at £400, £50 is free, and the balance is equivalent to a pension or income of £35. Therefore, the Department contends that the pension has disappeared. Under the Bill the amount will be £45 10s. a year, and even then it should not disappear, as it is by no means the equivalent of £26 in 1910. This anomaly has been in every Act since the original Act, but that is no reason why it should be preserved.
– This is not the clause that should be amended.
– It is clause 3. Mr. Gregory. - It does not provide for the deduction.
– The question of deduction is not in dispute at present. The Government are still preserving the original deduction of £1 in every £10. They are increasing the property limitation from £310 to £400, but we submit that it should be £500, and in strict accordance with the original Act it should be £505. If fixed at £500, it will obviate the necessity of, perhaps, allowing pensions of a few pence per week. It is unfortunate that we cannot move an amendment, but I am not certain that the whole clause should not be eliminated.
– If the whole clause was struck out, the position would be as before.
– The Government have tied our hands, which brings us back to the protest of the Leader of the Opposition, to which the Treasurer made a weak reply. He said that the Opposition were given an opportunity to test the House on the question of increasing the pension to £1 per week. The Prime Minister said that if the House carried the amendment the Government would take it as a vote of no-confidence, and resign. He cracked the whip over the head of every Government supporter. I shall not be hard in criticism of those who voted against their conscience, because when the Government crack the whip it is a . big responsibility to vote against them. The action was unworthy of the Prime Minister, especially after his assurance that the Labour party would be given an opportunity to test the House on the amount of the pension .
– It was not a test of opinion on that point at all.
– That is so. It is quite clear that if honorable members had been permitted to act according to their desires, the pension would have been increased to £1 per week. The Government made it a vital question, and honorable members voted against their own inclinations. “We cannot move for an increase of the appropriation.
– Ask the House to vote against the clause.
– If we vote against the clause the limitation of £310 would stand and the injustice would remain.
– The honorable member is looking a gift horse in the mouth.
– There is no gift at all. It is a long delayed act of justice to the old-age pensioners. These people are entitled to the increased pension. I admit that the Government have made improvements in the Bill. I cast no reflection upon the Administration, as 1 have not words to express my appreciation of the sympathetic attitude shown by the officers of the department. The Government must be given credit for many admirable amendments, but the Bill has been marred in two respects. The pension should have been increased to £1 per week and the maximum value of property allowed should have been increased to £500.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) did not properly put the facts concerning the alteration of property value allowed. He pointed out that if fixed at £400, a person with property worth £399 would receive a pension of about f 10 10s. a year, but a person possessing £401 would get nothing. Under the Act where property is held worth £310 the owner gets nothing. Under the proposed amendment the pensioner will receive an increase, not of 2s. 6d., but of 7s. 6d. per week, which is a marked consideration. That continues throughout the extra £100 fixed by the Government. This is the first time that this limitation has been amended. The Labour party were in office in 1916, and they increased the pension by 2s. 6d., but made no alteration of the property limitation of £310. In 1919 the pension was increased to 15s., but this limitation was not amended. The Government have endeavoured to meet every anomaly. We admit that the Bill is not perfect, but considering the financial circumstances, we have endeavoured to make the pensions as generous as possible. Persons with property valued at from £310 to £400 will benefit by from 5s. to 7s. 6d. per week. I ask honorable members to agree to the Government’s proposal. It is a substantial increase and all that can possibly be considered at present.
I protest against the action of the Government in tying the hands of honorable members and refusing to amend the Bill. Honorable members have pointed out anomalies and suggested improvements, but no amendments are permitted, since the appropriation cannot be increased. This action has been taken by the Treasurer, a gentleman who in the last Parliament frequently stated that the expenditure of the Government should not be influenced by party considerations, but should be discussed by the whole House and subjected to analysis, criticism and amendment by honorable members. We have to take the clause or leave it. As it is a slight improvement on the present law, it cannot be rejected. The honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and Batman (Mr. Brennan), have suggested important amendments, and it is unfortunate that the Government have shackled Parliament to the extent that honorable members cannot give an expression of opinion ou them. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) a few moments ago, by interjection, indicated clearly that the recent vote on the amount of the pension was not a test of the House, and it is evident that the vote on this clause will not be a true expression of the wishes of this Parliament. The Treasurer assumes that credit is due to the Government because this is the first alteration that has been made to the clause. To some extent they deserve that credit. The Government, in fixing the property value at £400 have increased it by £90, but since 1910, when the pension was first granted, the value of money has depreciated to a greater extent than is indicated by this increase. On the correct basis the value allowed should be at least £500, and -there is no reason why the Government should not fix this amount. The Treasurer stated that we should not look a gift horse in the mouth. I resent very much any reference to the old-age pensions as a gift.
– I did not say that at all. I implied that the Opposition were speaking as though it were a gift.
– Any increase in the old-age pension is an act of justice, and I hope, even at this la.te hour, that the Government will increase the value of property allowed to £500. The Government have made this Bill a vital question, and I know that honorable members opposite must vote with them They seem to have made up their minds that the Government must live and the Prime Minister go abroad; therefore, T suppose that even if we moved an amendment it would not be carried. I protest against the Government shackling its sup- porters. What is the good of the Committee even discussing the clauses, if we are powerless to increase the appropriation. .
.- It cannot be said that the Government has erred on the side of generosity in its treatment of the old-age pensioners, as it did with its earlier legislation which added considerably to the wealth already in the possession of the big squatters, financial institutions and shipping com,panies The Government was prepared to pay to those wealthy interests, tribute to the amount of millions of pounds from the public exchequer. But to those who have been for many years faithful citizens of the country, the Government is mean to a fault. The many disabilities to which the pensioners are subjected by regulation call for serious complaint. I understand that of some of them they are to be relieved, but the proposed amendments do not by any means provide a full measure of justice. An aged couple may have been able by sacrifices and thrift to save sufficient with which to buy a place they are pleased to call home. But when, as they become enfeebled with age, they find it necessary to live with relatives or friends in order that they may be better cared for, the rental value of their home, which should be the reward of their thrift, is deducted from their pension. There is no encouragement of providence and it is a gross anomaly, that those who have endeavoured to help themselves -should be thus penalized. I hope that the Government realizes that it is not by any means relieving all the hardships that are imposed by harsh regulations. The Government did not do itself credit when it suppressed its own supporters, in order to prevent them from voting according to their conscience upon the amount of the pension. A majority of the Committee was prepared to increase the pension to £1 per week, but because the Government declared the question vital to its existence, and so put pressure upon its own supporters, the old-age pensioners are deprived of their just due. I hope the people will realize that whilst the Government is prepared to give concessions representing many millions of pounds to those who are already well endowed with this world’s goods, it refuses a just measure of relief to those who have borne the burden of difficulties of a lifetime, and in the eventide of life are dependent upon - the pension for the means of subsistence.
Clause agreed to. ,
Clause 4 -
Section 24 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1) there of the words “ Thirty-nine pounds “ (wherever .occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ Forty-five pounds ten shillings “ ; and
by omitting from sub-section (1) there of the words “ Sixty-five pounds “’ and inserting in their stead the words Seventy-eight pounds.”
.- I am gratified to notice that the amount which may be earned by the pensioner has been, increased from £26 to £32 10s. I would have welcomed a greater liberalization of this provision. Every effort should be made to encourage the old-age pensioners to earn a little money. I know of many of them, who, as caretakers or in other light employment, could easily earn from 10s. to £1 per week. The Department is too strict in this matter, and when it finds that a man is earning a few shillings it immediately penalizes him in respect of his pension. .The pensioners should be encouraged as far as possible to earn money over and above their pension, and so increase their comfort, and preserve their self-respect.
.- I indorse the contention of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The Bill is only increasing the allowable earnings of the pensioner by 2s. 6d. per week. Under the original Act, the pensioner was allowed to earn an amount equal to his pension, namely, £26 per annum, making his total income £52. The Government might at least have maintained that proportion between earnings and pension, allowing the pensioner to have a total income of £91, instead of £7S, as is proposed. Pensioners should be encouraged to do a little work. By adopting the opposite policy, the Government is placing a premium upon idleness. I shall move an amendment to that effect.
– I regret that I cannot accept such an amendment.
– Although several alterations and amendments of the Act have been made since 1909, this is the first occasion on which any increase in tho allowable earnings of the pensioner has been, proposed. The total addition to the pensioner’s income, under this Bill, is £13, making the to.tal income £78, or 30s. per week, instead of 25s. The Government recognises the anomaly in the limitation of earnings, but the only way in which to remove it is to adopt a proper system of national insurance. We have tried to lessen as many of the anomalies as possible until such a system of insurance can be brought into operation. It is the purpose of the Government to propose such a system if a practicable scheme can be devised.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section 31 of the principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2.) thereof the words “two shillings” and inserting in their stead the words “ three shillings “.
.- I think the Government could well have increased the allowance provided by this clause to 4s.
– This is what was asked for by the pensioner inmates in the institutions.
– I represent 2,200 inmates of institutions at Lidcombe and Newington, and they certainly have not indicated to me that they would be satisfied with an extra ls. They are entitled to the full amount of the pension. Up to the present, pensioners who are inmates of institutions have received 2s. per week, and I understand that the Commonwealth Government has been allowing 10s. 6d. to the States for the maintenance of these inmates, and retaining 2s. 6d., which means that the Commonwealth has been making a good profit out of them ever since the pension was increased to 15s. Many persons voluntarily enter these institutions, and their liberty, is somewhat restricted. In the circumstances, they should be given the means to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Three shillings a week is not sufficient to . buy comforts which invalid and aged persons need. I move -
That the word “three” ‘be deleted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ four “.
– Before I can accept the amendment, I am required by the Standing Orders to inquire from the Treasurer whether the amendment, if carried, will increase the amount of money to be appropriated, and whether he is willing to accept it.
– I assure you, sir, that the amount of appropriation will need to be increased if the amendment be carried; and I cannot agree to it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.In that circumstance, I Cannot accept the amendment.
– On a point of order, I submit that the amount of appropriation need not be increased to give effect to this amendment.
– The maintenance of benevolent institutions such as those at Lidcombe and Newington is essentially a State function. As an act of grace, the Commonwealth Government has been giving to these institutions 10s. 6d. ai week towards the maintenance of each pensioner inmate. The responsibility of looking after these people really rests with the State Governments. This clause provides for an extra ls. per week to be paid to the inmates, and that is all that has been asked of the Government. We shall still assist the hospital authorities to maintain the inmates. We are also providing in this Bill that persons who were in institutions previous to the enactment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and who, therefore, are not entitled to any pension, shall also be paid 39. a week. In the case of hospitals, a request has been made that the payment for maintenance shall be increased to 12s. 6d. The Government has agreed to that.
– I still submit that there need be no increase in the appropriation. I take it that 17s. 6d.. is appropriated for each pensioner.
– There is not a uniform appropriation of 17s. 6d.
– A certain sum has to be provided for payments to the hospitals. I take it that the full 17s. 6d. must be appropriated. Of that amount 10s. 6d. will go to the hospital, 3s. to the pensioner, and the balance of 4s. will go back to the Treasury.
– It will not revert to the Treasury, because it will not go out.
– The hospitals could get less.
– We are not dealing with the payment to the hospitals.
– I am not at present arguing on the merits of the amendment. I submit that effect can be given to it without increasing the appropriation, and that therefore it is in order. The Commonwealth Government should not make a profit out of the pensioners. An appropriation of 17s. 6d. must be made for each of them. If the hospitals are granted 12s. 6d., and the pensioners 4s. each, there will still be ls. to the good.
– I realize that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) is not debating my ruling, but I wish to assure the Committee that when the Chair has received an assurance from the Minister in charge of a Bill such as this is that the amount of appropriation would need to be increased if the amendment were accepted, and that he is not prepared to accept it, the Chair must reject it. I point out to the members of the Committee that the only way in which the amendment can be accepted is for them to prevail upon the Treasurer to review the position.
– I trust that the Treasurer will agree to accept the amendment. The details of payment could be so arranged that no increase in the appropriation would be needed. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that the Government could reduce the amount it now pays to the hospitals, and so pay more to the pensioners. It is not paying the full cost of maintaining inmates. I understand that it costs 18s. 6d. a week to maintain the inmates in hospitals in my electorate. If the Treasurer would agree to pay 9s. 6d. instead of 10s. Bd. to the hospitals, he could pay 4s. to the inmates without increasing the appropriation.. I think that, in this matter, he has not stated the facts exactly.
.- I must refute the remark of the honorable member that I have not stated the facts. I have explained the exact position. In the appropriation for the purposes of this Bill the Government takes into consideration the number of patients who are expected to be in these institutions, and computes the amount that will be payable in respect of them. If the amendment is accepted,’ it must mean an increase in the amount payable. The Government has done all that it possibly can do to correct existing anomalies, and in this particular instance it has deliberately done what, the pensioners asked it to do. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) apparently wants it to do something more than it is doing for the States. We are doing something more than has been done in the past, for we are making an ex gratia payment of 3s. per week to certain persons dependent upon the States, who have never previously received a pension. The Government has agreed to do this because many of the poor people in these institutions keenly felt the discrimination that was shown. One inmate would get 2s. a week from the Government, and another would get nothing. The Government has increased the payment to 3s., and put all the inmates of the various institutions on the same footing. The amount we are providing is such that the authorities in charge of the institutions consider that it will put the inmates in a comfortable and satisfactory position. I can understand honorable members opposite fighting for an increase in the pension to £1 a week, but I cannot understand them fighting for something more than people most concerned have asked the Government to give.
– I had hoped that the Treasurer would see his way clear to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I am not satisfied with his explanation of why he cannot do so. At present the Government is making a profit out of these inmates, and even with the increased payments to the hospitals and the pensioners, it will still be 2s. better off in respect of each pensioner than would be the case if the pensioner were not resident in an institution. I cannot see any reason why the Government should retain that 2s. a week. There was always a grievance while the amount was 2s. 6d. Every hospital in my electorate has been writing to me for years about this matter. Personally, I think the difference should be paid to the patients. At present, when a patient leaves a hospital after having been an inmate for three months, he receives 28s. back pay, the balance being retained by the Commonwealth. The Treasurer says that he cannot accept the ‘ amendment because it will increase the amount of the appropriation. I cannot follow hia line of reasoning. I think the Commonwealth is benefiting to the extent of ls. 6d.
– If the honorable member will look at section 45 of the Act he will see that when a pensioner becomes an inmate of a public institution his pension is suspended, but there is now a proviso entitling him to 3s. a week.
– The payment to hospitals is purely an administrative act of grace.
– I contend that if the patient is entitled to the pension the Government should not retain any portion of it.
– We are doing just what the patients have asked us to do. I cannot understand men who say that they represent the patients in trying to get an increase which the patients have not asked for.
– The Treasurer knows that he gave no opportunity to the patients to express their opinions.
.- The Treasurer has reiterated over and over again that the patients have not asked for this increase. Will he say that .the patients of the Waterfall Sanatorium are satisfied ? I challenge the statement that there is a consensus of opinion among patients that the Government proposal is satisfactory. Some patients may have intimated .that they would be satisfied with the extra ls., but the majority of patients in hospitals in my electorate are not.
– How much are they asking for?
– They would take all they can get. When the pension was increased to 12s. 6d., pensioners who became inmates of institutions got 2s. a week, and the State Government were credited with 10s. 6d. for their maintenance. When subsequently there was a further increase in pensions of 2s. 6d. per week, tha amount paid to institutions was still 10s. 6d., and to the patient 2s., so the Commonwealth Government then made a clear saving of 2s. 6d. upon every pensioner in a public institution. But these patients contend that they are entitled to the full amount of the pension. The Government should give them at least 8s. per fortnight. Many of these institutions are caring for men whose health has been ruined in such unhealthy occupations as rock chopping to improve the sanitation and safeguard the health of people in our cities. There are a number of returned soldiers in the Waterfall Sanatorium. Will the Government refuse this extra allowance to them?
– We are giving them exactly what they have asked for.
– Can the Treasurer say how many in my electorate have said that they would be satisfied with the extra ls. per week? I shall not be satisfied until they receive the full amount.
– This is a question in which I have been interested for some years. The institution mentioned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) was formerly in my electorate. During the last election campaign I held meetings at the Liverpool and Parramatta institutions, also at the ones mentioned by the honorable member for Reid, and on every occasion I was asked if I would support an increase from 2s. to 3s. in the payment to inmates of such institutions. At Lidcombe the question was typewritten, and I believe it was provided for me by Mr. Peter Curran, a very strong supporter of the honorable member for Reid. In every instance the subject of increasing the payment from 2s. to 3s. was specifically mentioned, and I promised to do all I could to secure for them the increase asked for. The only other request was that the 3s. should be paid to all inmates, not only to some. I was never at the Waterfall Sanatorium, so I do not know what the feeling is there, but I am quite sure that the inmates of other institutions were perfectly satisfied with my promise to endeavour to get 3s. per week for them. I pointed out that the New South Wales Government had objected to the payments of any further amount to the pensioners, and had asked that the whole of the balance of the pension should be paid to them on the ground that it cost more than 15s. per week to maintain their patients. I was asked if I would be in favour of. that course, and I replied in the negative. As soon as the House met I brought the matter before Cabinet, and found that the extra ls. per week could not be authorized by regulation, so it had to come before Parliament for an amendment of the Act.
.- I think the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has made a mistake. If I remember aright there was nothing in the original Act dealing with this payment to patients in benevolent institutions. Why should not the Government pay the full amount to the old folks ? One old man I know always spends 6d. of his allowance on lollies for his little grandchildren. We would not like our mothers or fathers to be in such a humiliating position as many of these old people are in our public institutions. I ask the Treasurer to push this matter on, and do what is right by these old folk. They have not many years to live in any case, so the amount involved cannot be great. It is only just that we should, if possible, give them a little more comfort in their remaining years. Sitting suspended from 6.33 to 8 p.m.
.- I rise to support the request made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I regret to learn that the Government is unable to accede to it. In view of the unfortunate circumstances in which they are placed, pensioners who are inmates of institutions are worthy of .more generous treatment than the Treasurer proposes to give them. I should like to know whether I understood the Treasurer correctly to say, that he has received communications from pensioner inmates of institutions to the effect that they do not desire an increase of their pensions.
– The statement I made was that the Government has received requests from pensioners who are inmates of institutions to the effect that they desire the increase in the amount paid to them which the Government is proposing. That request has been made by inmates of institutions in several of the States.
– The Treasurer has said that to increase to 4s. the pension paid to the inmates of institutions would considerably increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth on old-age pensions, but that need not be so if the amount involved in the proposed increase were deducted from the payments made to the institutions themselves. I should like to know whether the Bill makes any provision for increased payments to be made to in- stitutions taking in old-age pensioners.
– It is proposed to increase the amount paid to hospitals to 12s. 6d. per week, but it is not proposed to increase the amount paid to other institutions in respect of old-age pensioners.
– Under the existing Act, 2s. per week has been granted to pensioners who are inmates of institutions, and the Government now propose to increase the amount by ls. I do not think that will meet the position.
– About four months ago a colleague of the honorable member, from South Australia, made a request to me for the identical increase provided for in the Bill, and he said that that would satisfy South Australian inmates of these places. The Government has proposed the increase requested, but, apparently, it is not sufficient for the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).
– I do not doubt the statement of the Treasurer that my colleague made a request for such an increase, but in view of the concessions made to other people, it is not asking too much to ask that pensioners who are inmates of institutions should be given 4s. per week. It should not be forgotten that when an oldage or invalid pensioner enters one of these institutions, he is not paid the pension which would be paid to him if he remained outside such an institution. The Government could well afford to grant an extra amount. Let us try to do something to make these old people feel that the great services they have rendered the country will not pass without some measure of recognition and compensation. It is not too much to ask that 4s. per week should be given to these old people who have been faithful citizens, and have made great sacrifices which have contributed to the progress of the Commonwealth at the present time. A pension of 4s. per week would permit these old people to feel independent of the institution in which they are, for the little comforts they require.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the request made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). It will be agreed that it is a very modest one. Under the clause provision is made for -the payment of 3s. per week to pensioners who are inmates of institutions. The Treasurer has said that from the information he has received, these old. people will be satisfied if they are given this amount.
– This is what they have actually asked for.
– So far as I know, pensioners in institutions in Queensland will not be satisfied with the proposal of the Government. Certain individuals may have said that they would be satisfied with a pension of 3s., believing that it was impossible to get it from this Government, and hoping that honorable members on this side would put up a fight for more generous treatment for them.
– They did not think of anything but what they wanted. They did not give a thought to honorable members on either side.
– If the AttorneyGeneral were in the place of these people, who have spent the best part of their lives in the service of the country, and now find themselves in these institutions, he would not be satisfied with a pension of 3s. per week, which is hardly sufficient to keep these old people in tobacco. It will not be sufficient to provide them with the little comforts that are so essential to people in the evening of their lives. There is one of these institutions in Rockhampton, which is the chief centre of my electorate. It is called the Rockhampton Benevolent Home. A very fine body of women manage the institution in the interests of the old people of central Queensland, who prefer to remain in the district in which they have spent their lives, to going into the State institution at Dunwich, which is 400 miles from Rockhampton. From visits made to the institution, I know that the old people there do not consider that they have been fairly treated in the past, and they will not be satisfied with a pension of 3s. per week. The institution is run with funds drawn from the charity of people in central Queensland, and although it receives, also, a grant of £600 from the Queensland Government, the total revenue is not sufficient for its proper maintenance, and requires to be regularly supplemented by collections which are periodically made in Rockhampton. These old -folk cannot obtain the wholesome foods which are necessary to keep them in good health, and in consequence I support the very modest demand for 3s. per week, which could go towards paying for little luxuries and comforts. This would allow the pensioners to purchase tobacco or clothing, and enable them to set aside a few shillings to have at their disposal if at any time they wished to leave an institution. The amendment would involve no great expenditure. The Government were prepared to remit to the wealthy classes of this community accumulated rentals amounting to £1,300,000 that were due to the Crown.
– The honorable member knows that that tax applied to a great many struggling selectors in his own country.
– I know that Sir Sidney Kidman and Edmund Jowett owe between £150,000 and £200,000. The Australian Estates owe about £60,000, as does the New Zealand Loan, and other big companies. There is an exemption of £5,000 on the taxable leasehold interest capitalized, so the struggling selector is not affected. The Government are prepared to assist the wealthy interests, but they do not display the same solicitude for the people in the benevolent institutions of Australia. An amount of 10s. 6d. per week is to be paid to the management of institutions in which pensioners are inmates, and 3s. is to be paid to the inmates themselves. There is still 4s. per week unaccounted for. Is it fair that the Government should profit because these old people are in institutions? If the pensioners were being cared for outside, they would receive 17s. 6d. per week. Why should the Government benefit because a philanthropic institution like the Rockhampton Benevolent Society has provided a home for the old folk? The full amount of pension should be paid to them. I am pleased that the pension is to be increased, although not to the extent desired. I strongly supported the Labour party’s amendment that the pension be increased to £1 per week. The Rockhampton Benevolent Society have frequently made requests to the Federal Government for increased payments to the institution. They receive 10s. 6d. per week for each inmate, and they find it impossible to carry on at that figure. This institution is not a Government concern, but is controlled by a number of humane ladies who devote the whole of their time to it. The Queensland Government provides a grant of £600 per annum, which does not nearly meet the expenses. The funds are augmented by public subscriptions and collections in the streets. On several occasions, the management have unsuccessfully approached the Federal Government for the payment of an extra 2s. 6d. per week for each inmate. That request could be met even if the amendment of ‘the honorable member for Reid were carried, since it would account for 17s. in all out of the 17s. 6d. that will be provided after the 10th September for every old-age pensioner in Australia. If 2s. 6d. per week in addition to the present 10s. 6d. were given, it would leave room for the payment of 4s. 6d. per week to each inmate of the institution, or 2s. 6d. extra to such homes as the Rockhampton Benevolent Society, and 2s. extra to the inmates. I ask the Treasurer to consider the advisability of making the payment retrospective to the 1st July. When the measure dealing with taxation on leaseholds was before the House, it was proposed to make its provisions retrospective to 1917. In this case all I ask is to make the payment retrospective to the 1st July, 1923. The justice of this request must appeal to the humane instincts of every Australian who has the welfare of the pioneers of this country at heart. They have lived on a basic wage, and reared large families, and have had no opportunity to provide for their old age. Through no fault of their own, they are now in a state of destitution. I regret that honorable members opposite are tied in this matter. They should b6 allowed to cast their votes according to their personal views, but the Government have cracked the whip over their heads and told them that a vote cast in favour of the increase of the pension to £1 would be taken as a vote of no-confidence in the Government. I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment, and so bring a ray of sunshine into the saddened hearts of the old people who are destitute and friendless.
.- I regret that the Treasurer could not accept my proposal to increase the allowance to pensioners in hospitals and other institutions to 4s. per week. As he pointed out, this concession would involve an amount of £50,000. In view of the manner in which public funds have been squandered as the result of the maladministration of the War Service Homes Commission and in other directions. I am surprised that the Treasurer should pose as an exponent of economy at the expense of the old-age and invalid pensioners. The Commonwealth are* at present retaining 4s. per week, and that is an injustice. The full amount of the difference should be given either to the pensioner in the hospital or te the hospital itself so as to improve the food and the general treatment that is meted out to the inmates. The Government’s only payment to these pensioners is 2s. per week, and 3s. is now proposed. If the extra 4s. per week is not to be paid to the pensioners, it should be given to the State Governments responsible for their maintenance. The Treasurer has stated that the allowance to the State institutions is not being increased. The actual position is that when pensioners enter public hospitals for medical treatment, those hospitals receive 12s. 6d. for the period of their detention. Yet the State institutions will continue to receive the 10s. 6d. that has previously been allowed. That is quite unjustified. In New South Wales are two large hospitals, the Lidcombe and Newington. In one are 1,600 aged and invalid men, and in the other 600 aged and invalid women. It costs 18s. 6d. per head to maintain the inmates of those institutions. I believe in Western Australia it costs 10s. 6d.
– It is a State institution.
– Nevertheless, the Commonwealth has no right to evade its responsibilities.
– The Commonwealth and States have their own institutions.
– The Commonwealth should give either the State or the pensioner the full benefit of the increase. Under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act a magistrate has power to force a pensioner to enter an institution, and can deprive him of his pension if the pensioner will not enter the institution. Sub-section 2 of section 31 of the Invalid and Old-age Pension Act reads -
If it appears to the magistrate that the claimant, although otherwise qualified for, is unfit to be intrusted with a pension, a pension at the rate of 2s. per -week may be granted to the claimant, and payment of the pension may be suspended until claimant has become an inmate of a benevolent institution.
Under the Act the Commonwealth has power to commit pensioners to benevolent institutions. It is certainly in the interests of the Commonwealth that pensioners who are feeble or completely incapacitated should seek the protection of an institution, but at the same time the Commonwealth has no right to profit at the expense of the pensioners. It should rather endeavour to improve the conditions of the institutions. It should, by making a weekly allowance and other conditions more generous than they are at the present time, offer inducements to some of these people, Who are now begging in the streets of the cities, to enter institutions. But the Government is not prepared to do that. It is willing to effect economy at the expense of flesh and blood, but not when millions of pounds can be saved by the collection of the Commonwealth’s just dues from the wealthy section of the community. That was demonstrated when the Land Tax Assessment Bill was before the House. There are a number of invalids in the benevolent institutions and hospitals who, in their declining years, require what to some in other circumstances might be regarded as luxuries, but in their cases are necessaries. I have seen in some of these institutions the deplorable condition of health which these people are enduring. It is a reflection upon the Government that it does not provide an allowance sufficient to give a little extra comfort to them in the evening of their lives. There are also in the hospitals many returned soldiers who have not been able to secure war pensions, on the ground that their present condition of health arose from a prewar disability; their conditions also should be considered. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) stated that he had visited the hospitals, and that the pensioners had not asked for more than 3s. a week. I have consulted the inmates of the hospitals in my electorate and they claim, rightly, that they should receive the full difference between the amount paid to the State for their maintenance and the full pension. They would then be receiving 7s. per week instead of the 3s. that the Government proposes to pay them. When the Minister for Defence visited the hospitals during the last elec- tion campaign he pledged himself, so I am informed, to increase the allowance to inmates as from 24th December last. The Government proposes to make the increase operative from September next, and that is another reason why it should increase the allowance from 3s. to 4s. as a set-off against making the clause retrospective. I am not attacking the management of the hospitals in my electorate. Newington and Lidcombe institutions are ably conducted on humanitarian lines. The food supplied in them is good, though plain, but the pensioners do not enjoy those extra necessaries that would help to make their lives more pleasant. I should like to Congratulate the pensions administration on its efficiency. The officials in New South Wales are thoroughly efficient, and invariably courteous, and if they can strain a point in favour of the applicant they do so. Such defects as I have complained of are not due to the administration, but to the restrictions and technical obstacles imposed by the Act.
Clause agreed to. Clause 7 agreed to. Clause 8 -
Section forty-seven of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : -
” If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum he shall not, so long as he remains an inmate of such asylum, be entitled to receive a full pension but shall be entitled to receive a pension at the rate of three shillings per week.”.
.- In section 47 of the principal Act the words “ or charitable institution “ appear. Those words are not in the proposed new section. Will the Treasurer explain the reason for the alteration?
– This clause relates to persons who were inmates of benevolent asylums before the Act came into operation, and it makes them eligible to receive an allowance of 3s. a week. But it excludes the mental cases, to whom the payment would be of no use. The clause is really a liberalization of the law, inasmuch as it gives to inmates of benevolent asylums something which they had not before.
– The amendment is not restricting the meaning of the words “ benevolent asylum “ ?
– No. Clause agreed to. Progress reported.
Message recommending an appropriation for the purposes of an amendment to provide for certain persons afflicted with congenital defects - reported.
– Can the honorable member for Barton propose to include in the Message an amendment to cover certain other cases?
– No honorable member is entitled to move to amend a Message from the Crown.
In Committee : (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message.)
Motion ‘ (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of an amendment in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1023, providing for invalid pensions to certain persons who are afflicted with congenital defects.
.- I ask the Treasurer to so word his motion that I may propose, when the Bill is recommitted, the following amendment: -
Provided that in .those cases where a pensioner or applicant for a pension satisfies the Commissioner that he is possessed of moneys, or has outstanding moneys due and payable to him by instalments or otherwise, which he is employing or proposes within a reasonable time to employ in the purchase of a home for the pensioner or applicant, such moneys shall not be taken into account when assessing the amount of pension payable.
Section 25 provides for the exemption of the home in which the pensioner or applicant is living. No matter what the value of the home may be, it is not taken into account to the detriment of the pension. But a number of cases of hardship have arisen out of the interpretation of this provision. The most recent one that has come under my notice is that of two pensioners who had been living in their own home, but thought it advisable to sell it and purchase another. They sold on time-payment, and bought another on time-payment, the instalments from the sale of the first being applied to the purchase of the second.
– Are they -living in the second home?
– They are getting income from one house which is being devoted to the purchase of another house.
– Yes; hut the proceeds from the first house are reckoned as income, and the pensions are reduced accordingly.’ I am satisfied ,that that action is opposed to the spirit of the Act, but I understand that the Commissioner has no power to do otherwise. In such a case the Commissioners should have a discretionary power. My amendment will meet the case to which I have referred, and other similar cases. It is quite conceivable that applicants for the pension may have certain moneys coming to them in instalments, and if they use these moneys to purchase a home on time payment they should not be treated as income.
– The Deputy Commissioner for Invalid and Old-age Pensions assures me that the case mentioned by the honorable member for Barton can be met under the regulations, and I am quite prepared t/o meet it.
.- I wish to have a clear assurance on the matter from the Minister.
– The case mentioned by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) can be met under existing regulations.
– It has already been referred to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales, and we have been informed that it cannot be met. The persons concerned had a small farm, on which they resided. They sold it. A certain amount of the purchase money was paid down, and the balance was to be paid by instalments. They then bought a home under similar conditions. They paid a small deposit, and the balance was to be paid by instalments. When application for the pension was made the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales, who is an excellent officer, and gave very sympathetic consideration to the matter, took the view that the money received in instalments from the sale of the farm was income, and therefore the recipients were not entitled to the pension. I make no complaint about the decision of the officer. He said that the case had been contested so often that there was really no doubt about it. One applicant went to the expense of obtaining legal assistance to determine the matter. It is an absolute anomaly that money which a person receives from the sale of one property and applies to the purchase of another should be counted as income. In this case the people were actually in debt over the transaction. I have a letter dealing with the case which was sent to me by the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales. It reads -
With reference to your representations concerning this case, I have to inform you that the position, as set out in letter dated 8th inst. (attached) is correct, according to information in Department’s possession when pension was granted.
The letter referred to was sent by the applicants for the pension to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald). It sets but the circumstances which I have described to the Committee. The letter from the Deputy Commissioner continues -
The sum of £546 was owing to pensioners, and there is no option but to hold it against the claimants in assessing the pension. The fact that they owe money on their present home does not affect the matter. The . Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act exempts the value of the home, but does not permit of money owing from any source being set off against the mortgage on the home, nor can the £300 said to be owing to a brother be taken into consideration, because only moneys secured by a registered mortgage are allowable deductions.
There is no doubt about the stand the Department has taken, and the Deputy Commissioner stated that he had no option but to act as he did. I think the Minister should do something to meet such a case.
– I assure the honorable member that I will give sympathetic consideration to this and similar cases. If they cannot be met under the regular tions, I will bring down amendments, if possible, at the earliest moment so that relief may be given.
.- I have a case very similar to the one mentioned by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald). An old lady bought a piece of land in a town some distance from the house in which she was living. She sold that home, and intended to make arrangements to build on the block of land. She was not able to get a builder immediately, so she put in the bank the proceeds of the . sale of her old home, which were to be spent in erecting the new one. All the time that money was in the bank her pension was practically stopped. Relief should be given in such a case as that, because, while the lady was waiting to secure a builder to put up her home, she had to live on the money with which she purposed to build. Eventually she got a contractor to undertake the work, but she had to borrow money to finance the contract. I understand that the amendment by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) would meet that case. When a pensioner can satisfy the Commissioner that the money realized on the sale of one home is to be used for the purpose of building another, I think the pension rights should not be affected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “3a. Section 22 of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (2) thereof the words ‘ or has resided in Australia continuously for twenty years.’ “
The effect of this clause is that a person who has been resident in Australia for twenty-five years, and is afflicted with congenital disease which renders him permanently incapacitated, or who is blind, shall be regarded as being eligible for the pension if he arrived in Australia before attaining the age of three years.
.- I heartily support the clause, but I think the residential qualification should be amended. Twenty-five years is a long time. In the other clauses of the Act the term is twenty years. I think that that should be quite long enough. If the Treasurer will make the term twenty years it will be in conformity with the other residential qualifications in the Act. Twenty-five years is almost a life-time. Honorable members on this side of the Chamber think that ten or twelve years should be sufficient qualification. I suggest that the Treasurer should at least reduce it to twenty years.
.- I support the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). It would not affect matters very much from the financial point of view if the Treasurer ‘adopted the suggestion. Immigrants are obliged to undergo a much stricter medical examination now than formerly. Therefore, it is unlikely that we shall have so many persons with congenital diseases coming to Australia.
.- I point out to the Treasurer that section 17 of the Act fixes the residential qualification for the ordinary old-age pension at twenty years. It is hardly reasonable from the stand-point of honorable members on this side of the Committee that the qualification in this case should be made twenty-five years. I also ask the Treasurer to reduce it by at least five years, thus bringing it into line.
.- When I discussed this matter with the Treasurer, I suggested that the residential qualification should be twenty years. That was in accord with the representations made to me. The Minister said he would consent to the amendment if the term were made twenty-five years. While I do not want to go back on any arrangement that has been made, I would be more than glad if he could see his way clear to reduce the period to twenty years.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer [9-0]. - The appropriation has been brought down on the basis which the honorable member for Fawkner had accepted. The payments will not be based on the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but on another basis, and it is necessary to take precautions to prevent invalids from entering Australia.
– The Immigration Restriction Act provides that safeguard.
– Unfortunately, as experience has shown, the medical examination in certain cases seems to be somewhat lax.
– Then “sack” the men who are to blame.
– In the circumstances, I ask the Committee to accept the Government’s proposal.
.- The Treasurer has told us that the appropriation is to be in accordance with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). Nothwithstanding a consensus of opinion in the Committee in favour of the period being made twenty years, the Minister says that he cannot agree to that because to do so would increase the amount of the appropriation. The excuse is too thin altogether. The. Treasurer can accept the amendment if he wants to.
.- I know a Minister does not like to back down upon any definite statement mad’e . in Committee, but I think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has fairly summed up the position. There is a consensus of opinion in the Committee that the term should be twenty years instead of twenty-five years. On a previous clause the Treasurer resisted an appeal to increase the payments to pensioners in public institutions beyond 3s. because, so he declared, they had not asked .for more than 3s. In this case, the honorable* member for Fawkner, who perhaps is more conversant with the nature of the requests from blind people than any other member, declares that they wish the term to be not more than twenty years. In the circumstances the Treasurer might comply with the request. In this he will have the support not only of members of the Committee, but of the people of Australia. If there is any difficulty in connexion with the appropriation it may be remedied by securing a supplementary appropriation.-
.- The number of congenital cases that will come under the provision of this clause is not very many. I know of only one, that of a woman who has been in Australia for twenty -fi ve years. Blind pensioners should get enough to keep them off our streets. This country is rich enough and the Government should be big enough to give them a sufficient pension to render begging unnecessary.
– I have looked at the message covering the appropriation and find that it does not fix a limit of twenty-five years in the case of congenital cases. Consequently it is open to the Committee to make the term twenty years if the Committee thinks fit.
– In the circumstances, I will accept the suggestion.
Honorable Members. - Hear bear !
Proposed new clause amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Title consequentially amended and agreed to. -
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
.- I should like to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to the need for elasticity in the administration of this Act. If this cannot be provided for in regulations, the Deputy Commissioners in the various States should be- vested with sufficiently wide powers to be able to deal with individual hard cases on their merits. I have in mind several instances in which, owing to the inflexibility of the regulations, considerable hardship has been inflicted upon pensioners. I have no doubt that other honorable members have had’ similar cases brought under their notice. I may, perhaps, be permitted to mention one case to illustrate what I mean. I refer to an invalid pensioner suffering from what is known as chalky rheumatism. He has a wife and family of young children. Being totally incapacitated, he received a pension of 15s. a week, which was totally inadequate to provide for their needs. To meet the situation, his wife obtained employment as a cleaner in the Post Office, and in the course of time, through working longer hours, she was able to earn £2 3s. 9d. per week. Because she had supplemented the family income in this way, the Pensions Department, acting under the regulations, reduced the pension payable to the husband from 15s. to 7s. 6d. a week. The Deputy Commissioner, whom I interviewed, was quite satisfied that this was one of the hardest cases that had come under his notice, but under the regulations he was powerless to do anything. This is an anomaly that ought to be rectified. It is, I think, typical of many similar cases throughout Australia. I impress upon the Treasurer the necessity for giving the Deputy Commissioners of the various States sufficiently wide power to administer the Act with discretion.
– I will look into the matter mentioned, and if it is not possible to correct the anomalies in the way suggested, we shall consider the question of an amendment of the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer in a Bill for an Act relating to the collection of Income Tax and for other purposes.
I submit this motion in order to permit of certain amendments being made in the Income Tax Collection Bill. The purpose *bf the amendments to be proposed is to meet certain points raised during the discussion of the Bill and to more liberally determine the amount of compensation and the way in which the term of service is to be arrived at. There is no occasion to labour the matter as honorable members will find that the amendments to be proposed are self-explanatory.
Question resolved in .the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 3357), on motion by Dr.
Earle Page -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This Bill has emanated from the recent Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. It will be remembered that at that Conference the question of permitting the State Governments to collect income tax was discussed. After several sittings of the Conference, a decision was arrived at, which, it appears, is not to be given effect to. The representatives of the Commonwealth at the Conference did not make the proposals which are contained in this Bill. What they proposed was -
For a period of five years from the 1st July, 1923 -
The Commonwealth shall not levy any income tax on any incomes except those of companies.
The income tax levied by the Commonwealth on the income of companies shall not exceed 2s. 6d. in the £1.
No interest shall be paid by the Commonwealth to Mie States on properties transferred to the Commonwealth tinder section 84 of the Constitution.
No payment shall be made by the Commonwealth to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act 1910.
The Commonwealth shall make payments to the States upon the following basis : -
There shall be calculated with regard to each State -
the amount of the payments made to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act 1910;
the interest on properties trans ferred from the States;
the amount of tax on the incomes of companies collected by the States. (6J There shall also be calculated with regard to each State -
the amount of tax on the incomes of companies collected by the States in excess of an average of ls. 3d. in the £1;
the amount of Commonwealth in come tax collections in the State, other than taxes on the incomes of companies. Where, in regard to any State, the total of the amounts calculated under paragraph (b) does not exceed the total of the amounts calculated under paragraph (a) by £100,000, the Commonwealth shall pay to the States the sum necessary to produce an excess of £100,000.
It will be seen that the proposals submitted a£ the Conference were altogether different from those embodied in this Bill. The Conference, after discussing those proposals, was unable to agree. After several days’ sitting, this was the result of the deliberations of the Conference:-
The following proposals of the Conference were acepted in principle by four States. New South Wales dissented, whilst Tasmania nas not represented at the Conference on the 9th June, when the proposals were dealt with: -
For a period of five years from the 1st July, 1923-
The Commonwealth shall not levy any income tax on any incomes except those of companies.
The income tax levied by the Commonwealth on the income of companies shall not exceed 2s. 6d. in the £1.
No interest shall be paid by the Commonwealth to the States on properties transferred to the Commonwealth under section 84 of the Constitution.
No payment shall be made by the Commonwealth to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act 1910.
The Commonwealth shall make payments to the States upon the following basis : -
There shall be calculated with regard to each State -
The amount of the payments made to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act 1910;
the interest on properties trans ferred to the States;
the amount of tax on the incomes of companies collected by the States.
There shall also be calculated with regard to each State -
The amount of tax on the incomes of companies collected by the States in excess of an average of ls. 3d. in ihe £1;
the amount of Commonwealth in come tax collections in the State other than taxes on incomes of companies.
That was the decision arrived at by four out of the six States, and, instead of effect being given to those proposals, we have before us a Bill which provides only that the State Governments shall collect both Commonwealth and State income taxes. I want to say that the Premiers’ Conference up to the present has been shown to be a dismal failure. Nothing of any consequence to the people of Australia has emanated from it. It might as well not have been held for any good that has come out of it. The representatives of New South Wales objected to the proposals I have just quoted, and the New South Wales Treasurer was able to prove, after investigation, that in the figures submitted to the Conference a mistake had been made approaching £2,000,000, plainly showing that there was no justification at the time for the Commonwealth Government rushing the calling of the Conference, as it had not the necessary data upon which to found a scheme. Instead of this House being called together to pass remedial legislations, its meeting was deferred pending the holding of the Conference, and now we are sitting night and day to get through our legislation. When the Conference met, it had no accurate data on which to work, and this House is now asked to pass this Bill to provide that the States shall collect income tax when only two of the States have agreed to do so. Up to the present only Victoria and New South Wales have agreed to the proposal embodied in this Bill.
– It is practically certain that Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania will agree, and Western Australia is already provided for.
– The point I am making is that only two of the States have so far agreed to the proposal contained in this Bill. The Government is putting the cart before the horse. We are asked to legislate on this matter before we know whether the States will come into line. It is time enough for us to legislate in the matter when we know that the States have agreed to what is proposed. I might reply to the Treasurer by saying that at the Conference, four States out of the six agreed to the proposals I have quoted, and yet one State was able to upset the whole affair. Those proposals have been turned down, although four States agreed to them. Only two States agreed to what is contained in this Bill, and we are asked to pass legislation, without knowing whether it will be accepted by the States.
– The State Parliaments will have a voice in the matter.
– They must have a voice. They must decide whether or not they will approve of the proposals contained in this Bill. Whilst we are making machinery available to carry out the proposals we do not know whether the States will agree to what is proposed. The State Parliaments must be consulted, and if they do not agree, it will make us look very foolish. If the States do nob agree to the proposal, what will become of the scheme ?
– What about the two States that have already agreed to it?
– The honorable member will see that we have made certain provision for the expenditure of public money to compensate officers who may be retired from the Commonwealth Service. If only two of the States agree to it, that will make all the difference in the world. I contend that too much -time is taken up in this House in pushing measures through before we know where we stand. This may make this Parliament, which should be the superior Parliament, look very small indeed. There is no escape from that. In this matter the State Parliaments should legislate first. Will honorable members agree that this Parliament should be subordinated to the State Parliaments? It says little for the Government, and it will say little for the members of this House, if, after years of Federation, when the trend of public opinion is in the direction of the abolition of the State Parliaments in order to economize, the Federal Parliament by its, legislation strengthens the State Parliaments by giving them greater powers in regard to taxation. The Government was prepared, if the States would accept it, to hand over income taxation altogether to the State Parliaments, notwithstanding the fact that it was imposed for the purpose of paying the cost of the war. We have to keep that in mind all the time. Although the agreement is for five years, the Treasurer desires to make arrangements whereby the State Parliaments will have the control of all income tax. I say as I said on a previous occasion, that this Parliament must walk warily. If we are not careful about what we are doing, we may find ourselves in such a position that we cannot finance Australia. The customs revenue is not going to keep up as at present, and if itfalls, and we have no Federal income tax, how are we to meet our obligations? We are going ahead at break-neck speed, and do not know whither we are driving. We are grasping at a shadow, and the time is not far distant when chaos will be rife in the administration of our national affairs. The Treasurer estimates that under the Bill a saving will be made of £260,000. A short time ago he expected a saving of £400,000. At that time I questioned his figures, and said that I very much doubted whether there would be any saving at all. That estimate has now been reduced by £140,000.
– I explained the exact reason. This is part of the scheme that will ultimately be put into effect.
– There has been a decided change in all computations of late. The saving is to be made by the dismissal of a large number of employees of the Taxation Departments of the Commonwealth and the States.
– And in other departments.
– Not many employees will be dismissed from other departments. If a saving of £260,000 is to be made and the average salary of Commonwealth employees is about £250, then 1,040 taxation officers will be dismissed. But it must be remembered that, although the Commonwealth will be relieved of a considerable amount of work, that work will be thrust upon the States, necessitating additional expenditure there.
– That has been taken into account. The States will show a saving as well.
– These savings are marvellous. The Treasurer has very little idea what the cost will be to the States when the Bill is in operation. In New South Wales the tax exemption is £250, as against £200 in the Commonwealth. The child allowance is £50. The result is that the great body of workers in New South Wales do not pay State tax at all. I suppose the bulk of the work of the Commonwealth Taxation Department concerns the small income taxpayers, because there are so many of them. In my own district there are several thousand workers who pay Commonwealth income tax, but not one of them pays the State tax. When the States take over the taxation work they will require additional labour, and I am doubtful whether the estimated saving of £260,000 will be made.
– One proof is that in New South Wales they are immediately dispensing with one of their buildings, and placing the combined staff under one roof.
– That is no reason why a saving should be effected. As a matter of fact, it would be better if the. Commonwealth concentrated the accommodation for public servants rather than housing them in buildings scattered all over the place. More co-ordination would mean less expense. But it does not follow that because the combined staff in New South Wales will be housed in one building instead of two, a saving in labour will be effected. What is the position of these men? There are 1,619 employed in the Taxation Department of the Commonwealth alone, and if 1,040 employees are dismissed they will join the ranks of the unemployed. There is very little opening for them here. Compensation is to be paid, but what is six or twelve months’ pay when employment cannot be found? After all, they are a class of workers who cannot make a success of any job. They have been trained for clerical work, and will have the utmost difficulty in obtaining a position anywhere in Australia. The national policy is preference to returned soldiers, and yet to-day there are thousands of them unemployed. How are these taxation employees to be placed ?
– That does not worry the Government.
– It may not worry them, but it worries me. If it were a matter of providing for one taxation return, that could have been done long ago. The authority that should collect the income tax is the Commonwealth; yet the States are to be permitted to collect it. They will say to the Commonwealth, “ Here is your income tax.” We take it, and say to the States, “ Here is your 25s. per capita pay- ment.” We take it with one hand, and give it away with the other. It makes one wonder where this method of government will end. Instead of treating the Commonwealth Parliament as the supreme Parliament, we are gradually whittling away its rights.
– Degrading it.
– We are, to an extent. There are members in this House who are prepared to give further concessions to the States. A few years ago we appealed to the people for larger constitutional, powers on certain questions. Today, things have changed, and the Government is prepared to shift its responsibility rather than take unto itself additional power. This Bill is an illustration of that. We are giving away our right to tax. In the past we had big Australians, and now we have little Australians.
– There is no suggestion in this Bill of giving away any right to tax.
– The proposal that the Treasurer made at the Conference with the State Ministers was to give away the Commonwealth right to tax, with the exception of that applying to companies. I am surprised that the Treasurer makes such an interjection when his proposal is in black and white. Those rights were not given away because the States would not accept them. New South Wales prevented it, and the Commonwealth Treasurer has been complaining ever since of the Treasurer of New South Wales not understanding his job. He refused to accept the proposal because the data were not available to work out the figures. When I stated the other day that the 1922 figures were taken as a basis, I was promptly told that last year’s figures were used. At the time the Conference was held, the financial -year had not expired.
– The figures were for the year 1921-22.
– The Treasurer corrected me when I made that statement the other day. “With such changes of front it is difficult to understand what really took place. I have stated that 1,040 officers will be dismissed. The provision for compensation is not as liberal as that provided for the Defence Department.
– The Defence Act is followed right through.
– With the exception that the officers had the right to retire from the Defence Department voluntarily.
– So they have under this Bill.
– Not voluntarily. Under this Bill, the Commissioner decides who is to be dismissed.
– That deals with the General Service, and not with the Taxation Department.
– When the Defence Bill was before the House, it was decided that any officer who preferred to resign and accept compensation could do so.
– If the honorable member will look at clause 7, he will see that the same provision is in this Bill.
– In place of six months it should be twelve months.
– There is an amendment to clause 4 relating to voluntary retirement.
– Many officers have already left the Service, fearing that if they stayed they would be dismissed. It is quite possible that some of them will find their ‘ employment unsatisfactory, and, in the event of them leaving it, they should have the right to compensation, because they would not have left the Service had they not anticipated the introduction of this Bill and the probability of being thrown out of work.
– In some cases the men are still looking for work.
– Some of them obtained employment, but were dismissed because they were unsatisfactory. They should not be deprived of compensation simply because they left the Department six or eight weeks before the introduction of the Bill. Those who left the Department after the intimation that a change was likely to take place should be given compensation. I have received many letters from different persons employed in the Taxation Department of New South Wales asking me whether it was possible for them to get employment in one of the other Departments. I advised them to remain in their positions, because it was possible that they would not be dismissed. I have no doubt that, notwithstanding my advice, many of them sought to secure themselves by procuring other jobs - a very proper course to be followed by a man who is married, and has a wife and small family dependent upon him. But if such a man has taken a job for which he is unsuited, and has no guarantee of permanency in his occupation, he should be entitled to get compensation under this Bill on the same basis as any officer who has remained in the employ of the Department. This measure is one to be dealt with in Committee. I hope that when we are considering the clauses we shall be able to make provision whereby the men to be dismissed will get adequate compensation, and be given every opportunity to get employment in other Departments. That has been promised from time to time, and I know that there is very little chance of their getting employment elsewhere at the present time. There are thousands of unemployed in the various cities, including many returned soldiers, and as the Government’s policy is preference to returned soldiers, it will be difficult to re-employ these men who are about to be displaced. In ordinary circumstances men who arc being dismissed from a Department after years of satisfactory service should have preference for vacancies in other Departments. If I were an employer, and were closing down one of two businesses, I would give the employees who were losing their positions in one business every chance to get work in the other. That is the policy the Government should adopt. Moreover, this scheme will be incomplete unless the Treasurer communicates with the States that are prepared to sign the agreement, and asks them to employ the Common-; wealth labour that is being displaced before they engage other officers.
– The agreement with New South Wales and Victoria provides that- the staffs of the Federal and State
Taxation Departments shall be pooled, and that retrenchment shall take place in each proportionately. For instance, if the Commonwealth has in New South Wales 500 officers, and the State has 300 taxation officers, and will require only 500 to do the whole of the work under the new arrangement, the 300 to be retrenched will be culled from the Commonwealth and States services in proportion to the original numbers in each.
– That seems to be a fair arrangement. I. am sorry that any persons have to be thrown out of employment at the present time. Those of us who have been through the mill know what it means in a home when the breadwinner is out of work. The men who are to be dismissed have my deepest sympathy, but their circumstances will not be so bad as are those of persons who lose their employment without getting compensation. They at least will have something to help them along until they they can find openings elsewhere. I am afraid, however, that conditions are likely to get worse rather than better. Europe is still in a disturbed state, trade is. practically paralyzed, and the avenues for the absorption of the unemployed are decreasing. That being so, it is quite possible that the compensation the retrenched men will receive will be almost exhausted before they can find other suitable employment. If the Government is determined to pass this Bill we are powerless to prevent it; but I hope the Treasurer will do all he can to find employment for the displaced officers, and will consent to the compensation being made as- liberal as possible. He has estimated that the compensation bill will amount to about £200,000; but if, as he anticipates, he will save £260,000 per annum by the new arrangement, he can afford to be more generous with the compensation. Even if the cost should amount to £400,000, he will, on his own figures, save more than that amount in two years.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Bill is one that can be best dealt with in Committee, but some aspects of it I propose to discuss at this stage. Only one of the agreements in regard to the amalgamation of Departments has been placed on the table, and that is the one between the Commonwealth and New South Wales. I am rather interested in the agreement to be made with Victoria, but as it is not before us we know nothing of what it contains, nor how it will affect the employees to be transferred from the Commonwealth Taxation Branch in Victoria to the State Taxation Office. To-day, a number of amendments to the Bill have been tabled, and as we have not had a chance to consider them we are seriously handicapped in discussing the Bill. This proposal is a fearful “ come-down “ from the promises made by the Government to the country when it called Parliament together in the early part of this year. We were told that the reason that the Government had no business to bring before Parliament was that a Conference between Federal and State Ministers was to be held, at which wondrous things would be done. In due course, the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse. Many Conferences were held, one after another, and after the members of this “ business “ Government had put their heads together to reform the whole taxation system of- Australia, what proposal did they submit to the Conference? They proposed a scheme that was derided by every taxation expert in Australia, namely, that the field of income taxation should be divided between the Commonwealth and the States, the Federal authority taxing all incomes above £2,000, and the States all incomes under. Apparently the Commonwealth Government did not realize that it was opening up a most wonderful field for dispute between the Federal and State authorities. I can imagine a taxpayer returning his income at £1,990, and the State authorities assessing it at that figure, and the Commonwealth authority claiming that the income was £2,000, and a battle royal taking place between the two as to which should pluck the pigeon.
– The honorable member misunderstood the proposal. The State would tax the income -whether it was under £2,000 or over £2,000.
– Not under the original proposal, which was that incomes under £2,000 should be taxed by the the States.
– No; the Commonwealth was to evacuate the field of taxation in respect of incomes under £2,000, but the States could tax all incomes.
– That proposal was discarded. Then the Commonwealth produced -a second, which, was hailed as a wonderful discovery. Only companies were to be taxed by the Federal authority, and all other income taxation was to be handed over to the States entirely. And the proposition of the Federal Government was that it should tax the companies at a flat rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1 irrespective of the number of shares held by any taxpayer. A person drawing £10,000 or £12,000 per annum from shares would pay 2s. 6d. in the £1, and a person drawing merely £10 or £12 would be subject to the same rate of tax - the most unjust and inequitable proposal ever put before the country. Its sole purpose was to relieve the big man of taxation and pile it on to the small man. I very- much fear that that will be the trend of other negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States. That scheme, however, was not adopted, and the next that was proposed is embodied in the hotch-potch measure now before us. It is a composite arrangement, typical of the Government itself. The much-vaunted elimination of duplication is a myth. , There will still be a Federal Department for the collection of income taxation, whereas, if the Government had made arrangements with the States for the Commonwealth to be the sole collecting authority, which was the natural arrangement, duplication in “every field and form of taxation would have been eliminated entirely. I do not know why the Federal Government proposes to surrender to subordinate authorities the right of collecting taxation - for the States are subordinate, and as time goes on and as the intelligence of the people is applied to our system of government, the States will become still more subordinate to the national Parliament. The Government’s proposal, however, is building up the authority of the States and making more absolute their sovereign rights. I shall never permit, without protest, any surrender of the Commonwealth’s powers and rights to a subordinate authority. That is the policy of the State-righters, and it leads to duplication in every shape and form. There can be uniformity and lack of duplication only when the Federal authority is the sole collector of taxation.
– When does the honorable member expect to get that arrangement ?
– Not until a strong Government is in power. In the per capita payments the Commonwealth Government has in its hands an all-powerful weapon, but it has never used it. It has made no serious attempt to bring the States to a realization of their responsibility in regard to duplication, but that will be done when there is in power a Government strong enough to apply the power it has got. When it does so, the people will support it. The Government boasts of having got rid of duplication in the collection of taxation, notwithstanding that the Federal Income Tax Department’ will continue. I predict that there will be no economy in the head office; there will, be no dismissals of highly-salaried officers at headquarters. The economy to be effected will be the throwing out into the cold of the smaller-paid men, who will find it difficult to get other employment under present conditions. I am not certain that economy is real when it means the saving of expenditure by throwing people out of work, and rendering them unproductive for a long time. Hearing the Government boasting that it was getting rid of duplication, one would think that it would start upon the worst form of duplication - that in connexion with land taxation. There duplication is found, not only in the assessments and collections, but also in valuations. The work of valuing is expensive, and variations give rise to many disputes. The Federal authority, the State authorities, and the municipal authorities are separately engaged in the work of valuation, and in some places other subordinate bodies such as Closer Settlement Boards and Savings Bank Commissioners are covering the same field, and very rarely do any two valuations agree. There was further scope for the elimination of duplication in connexion with the entertainment tax and probate duties. We should be seeking carefully for some real reform instead of rushing into illconsidered plans like this. The Federal authority should collect all the taxes. Under a proper system of co-ordination the services of the men and women who are at present employed in the various Taxation Departments could be gradually absorbed in other branches of the Public Service. There should be no need to throw them out into the cold world. To do so is to injure the Commonweath, and more particularly the people themselves. We shall deal further with this question in Committee. The Government has circulated some amendments to the Bill which I have been very glad to see, hut they do not by any means cover all the points which honorable members on this side of the House will raise. The Government has talked a good deal about giving preference to soldiers. It will have an opportunity to prove its sincerity ir. dealing with the soldiers who are temporary employees in the Taxation Department. We do not regard as adequate the compensation to be paid to these and other employees who are not soldiers. I hope that when we reach the Committee stage the Treasurer will be ready to adopt some suggestions for more generous treatment. Equal consideration should be given to employees whether they are returned men or not, and whether they are permanent or temporary employees. Many of the men who are technically termed temporary employees have been in the Service for four, five, and six years, and, whether they have passed an examination or not, have as much right to compensation as other employees who are regarded as permanent. We want all-round justice for the employees. I shall stress this aspect in Committee. The compensation which is to be paid to some of the lower-paid officers, whose salary ranges from £70 up to £250, is much too small. The majority of the lower-paid employees have less than eight years’ service, but many of them have been in the Service for six years. Do honorable members consider it fair that such employees should be turned out into the world with only about £90 compensation? These people had a right to believe that they were in the employ of the Government for life. A great difference is apparent between the treatment to be meted out to these employees and that accorded to the persons retired under the Defence Retirements Act. No fifth class officers were dismissed from the Military Department. The lowest grade of employees dismissed belonged to the fourth class. Honorable members will remember that the “ brass hats” were generously treated. Under this Bill nobody will be treated as generously as they were. At least twelve months’ salary should be given to the lower-paid officers who will be retired from the Taxation Department. I suppose the same old cry of interference with the appropriation will be made by the Treasurer when we suggest this in Committee, but I am giving him warning of the intentions of this side of the House. We will not agree to the dismissals of persons who are on the bread-line, uness they are given adequate compensation. Very few of them have been able to make provision for such a happening as this, because their salaries have been too small. What compensation is halfayear’s salary to a man who is receiving as little as £250 a year? I cannot congratulate the Government on the agreement it has made, nor can I congratulate it on the proposals in this Bill. These are simply stop-gap proposals. Much confusion will occur in trying to adjust the Commonwealth and States Taxation Departments, and the various methods of assessing and collecting income tax. We shall still have to maintain Commonwealth and State Departments, and the changes made under the Income Tax Amendment Act, and the rebate arrangement will be costly. The administration will be most difficult. I believe that the Government, will be very disappointed next year because so little economy has been achieved; and even that economy will be at the cost of much hardship to the lower -paid employees at present in the service.
.- The Government has made a huge blunder in making this agreement. The first Conference of Commonwealth and State Minister’s which dealt with this matter was attended, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who was then Commonwealth Treasurer. He put a practical scheme before the Conference. I believe that he i3 a good Australian. I cannot say the same for the Commonwealth representatives at the conference which earlier in this year considered the matter. Those honorable gentlemen seemed to agree to whatever the State representatives put before them. They are what are known in the Labour party as “State righters.” The proposal made by the right honorable member for Balaclava was that the capitation grant to the States should be gradually reduced until it was wiped out. Honorable members know that under the Braddon clause in the Constitution the States lost a considerable amount of the Customs and Excise duty. It was provided in. that clause that the arrangement made should he reviewed in ten years. At the end of ten years it was reviewed by the Labour Government, which arranged with the States that the Commonwealth Government should retain the whole of the Customs and Excise duties, and should pay to the States a capitation grant of 25s. for a further period of ten years, when the matter was to be again reviewed. At the end of the second period of tcn years our present Speaker, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), was Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and in addressing the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which met to consider the financial situation, he propounded his scheme for a gradual reduction of the grant. He stated that” that was necessary because of the heavy war expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth Government. He pointed out that under his suggestion the States would, in the year 1921-22, receive £684,000 less capitation grant than in the preceding year, and the figures for the following years, up to 1925-26, were as follow: - 1921-22, £1,407,000; 1922-23, £2,170,000; 1923-24, £2,977,000; 1924-25, £3,827,000; 1925-26, £4,726,000. He stated that the States would, during those years, be able to make provision to meet the loss incurred by the reduction in the capitation payments. He stated in the most emphatic way that the Commonwealth Government, on account of its heavy war expenditure, would be unable to continue the payment of the grant. In reply to the Honorable W. A. Holman, then Premier of New South Wales, he said that there was not the slightest hope of the Commonwealth Government surrendering any of its taxation powers. He added that the Commonwealth Government, on account of the heavy burden of debt it had to carry, would have to retain all the taxation powers that it then possessed, and the States would have to make up their mind to accept that situation. I do not know what was in the minds of the honorable gentlemen who at- tended the Conference on behalf of the Commonwealth Government this year. I believe that they had some ulterior motive in agreeing to the proposals which are now before us. We know that some of the members of the composite Ministry are in favour of the New States movement, and no doubt they hope that at the end of five years, if they are still in power - which God forbid ! - they will be able to make some provision to establish new States, and set up new Parliament Houses, and all the paraphernalia of government which may be necessary. The people of Australia are strongly in favour of reducing the cost of parliamentary government. They certainly do not want to see the creation of new States with all their parliamentary and official paraphernalia. I am satisfied that in the Commonwealth Taxation Department we have a splendid body of highly trained public servants, and that the proposed retrenchment will be a serious loss to the Government. The proposal is foredoomed to failure. Before long we shall have to begin de novo and gather together a new staff for the Department. I agree with the principle that there should be only one collecting authority, and that authority should be the Commonwealth. If members of this composite Government had had a true appreciation of their responsibilities they would have taken a strong stand in the conference, and insisted upon the collection of income taxation by the central authority. The adoption of the agreement will result in the loss to the Commonwealth of a large number of highly trained and exceedingly efficient officers. A policy of economy that does not insure efficiency is no economy at all. The Government proposal is exceedingly dangerous from this point of view. Honorable members should not be expected to pass such important legislation as this at express speed. It is impossible in the limited time at our disposal to give this measure adequate consideration. Up to the present the Treasurer has finalized an agreement with only one State. I doubt very much if Sir Henry Barwell, the Premier of South Australia, will come into line, and I am satisfied that Sir William Mcpherson, keen Scotchman that he is, will be no party to an agreement that is likely to land the Victorian Government in any difficulty. The proposal is doomed to failure. It is not founded on right principles. Honorable members have no information as to the details of the agreement. I believe that the cost of collection, instead of being reduced, will be increased, because the State Taxation Departments will have to add to their collecting staffs. Unfortunately, there is little prospect of another general election for a couple of years, so I suppose this muddle will be continued and the taxpayers will be annoyed until they have an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon this composite Government at the ballot-box. The agreement will create confusion in every direction. People will not know how much or to whom they will be called upon to pay. I do not know where I stand, but I am not going to worry about that. I shall wait till I receive a notice. It would be unwise to retrench in’ the Taxation Department at this stage. In view of the muddle which is sure to be created by this proposal, it would be better to retain the services of these trained officers. They might be placed in reserve, as it were, and given some other employment until the Government know definitely what is likely to happen. I should be very much interested to hear you, Mr. Speaker, on the floor of the House, express your opinion of thi3 scheme. It is most unsatisfactory in every respect. Sir Arthur Cocks, the Treasurer of New South Wales, has been very much troubled about the effect ‘ of this agreement upon taxpayers in his State. Until there is uniformity in assessments and exemptions, the agreement is not at all likely to be successful. In New South Wales, for instance, the exemption is £250 and £50 for each child under the age of sixteen years, whereas under the Commonwealth the exemption at the time of the Conference, was £200 and £30 for each child. Do not honorable members see what confusion will be caused by such discrepancies ? His view is, as the result of the’ agreement the New South Wales Government will be obliged to place a heavier impost on small and medium incomes, because they will not be able to deal with aggregate incomes or companies. He claims that the abandonment of the taxation of aggregate incomes will benefit the big taxpayers of the Commonwealth to the extent of £2,000,000, and that in order to make good an estimated loss to the State of about £200,000, the New South Wales Government will have to increase the taxation on the smaller incomes. He realizes that as the State Government are already in bad odour, further taxation difficulties will result in their complete obliteration at the next elections. If the taxpayers are annoyed, they will give no assistance to the Department in the collection of taxation. If the Treasurer is concerned about the success of the New State movement, I think that in submitting this Bill he has done the last thing he should have done. He should have submitted legislation to make the Federal authority the sole taxing power, and should gradually have worked towards Unification. With Unification there would be no trouble in the creation of new States. I am not opposed to the creation of new States if their- boundaries are fixed and their Constitutions are framed by this Parliament. The laws for the government of Australia should be passed by this Parliament, but there is no reason why the management of local affairs should not be left to local authorities. If the bodies given the management of local affairs are called Local Governments, that will probably please gentlemen who are anxious to be Premiers of small States. It would lessen the cost of government if the management of local affairs were placed in the hands of local authorities. I am prepared to assist the New State movement, but the whole matter must be managed by the Federal Parliament. If the subdivision of the existing States is to be left to the State Parliaments, it will not be brought about within the life-time of any member of this House. If different authorities are to have the right of taxation, we shall never have economy, and what is done will only defeat the intention of. the people that the Federal Parliament should carry on the government of Australia. It may not be quite relevant to the subject, but I should like to say that I consider there are some very dangerous provisions in the Companies Bill, lt would appear that people in a small way of business will be very foolish if they do not put their affairs into a company, as by doing so they may save themselves thousands of pounds in taxes. Another dangerous feature of the proposal to leave to the State Parliaments the imposition and collection of income tax is that they will not be likely to . impose such taxation on democratic lines, though that might be done if there were Labour Governments in all of. the States. Wo know that the Federal Parliament has endeavoured to apply democratic principles to the income tax, and has provided that individuals shall pay tax in proportion to their incomes. The members of the Premiers’ Conference were men largely concerned in public companies, and they seemed to have considered only the interests of the people with whom they are associated, and to have ignored those of the industrial section. I admit that I have only .skimmed over the report of. the Conference, but it appears to me that the members of it were concerned to relieve the wealthier section of the community, and to abolish, if possible, the graduated tax upon incomes. They know that, so long as the Federal Parliament has control of the matter, there is no possibility of that principle being departed from, and they feel that if the control of. income tax is handed over to the State Parliaments, it will be possible to abolish that principle. It should be remembered that Australia is not the only country in which there is a graduated income tax. In the United States of America there is no tax imposed upon incomes under £500, but the man who enjoys an income of £10,000 or £15,000 a year is called on to part up very handsomely. It was the graduated principle of our income tax that worried the gentlemen who attended the Conference of Ministers. We know that the Federal Parliament will always be more democratic than the State Parliaments because, with the exception of Queensland, there are Upper Houses in all of the States that take great care of the interests of those who enjoy the highest incomes, and endeavour to relieve them of taxation. After all, it is the industrial section of the community that pays the greatest amount in taxation. Every one has to pay Excise and Customs duties, which are imposed on! food and commodities which all the people must have. No matter how high a man’s income may be he will not consume very much more than is consumed by a man earning only £4 per week. I feel very keenly about what occurred at the Conference of Ministers, because I consider that at that Conference a very dangerous attempt was made to shift the burden of taxation from those who can best bear it to those who are least able to do so. I now personally some of the gentlemen who were members of the Conference, and I know that
Mr. West. their social connexions would prompt them to do that sort of thing. I consider this a dangerous Bill. I have no desire to -get rid of the officials of the Taxation Department. A number of people in Sydney dp not think that they should pay any tax at all, and possibly there are people in other parts of Australia who hold the same view. There are some who are unable to understand their assessments, and their difficulties have brought me into close touch with the officers of the Department in Sydney. I must say that I have found them to .be possessed of more than ordinary ability. I regard the action of the Government in submitting this measure as whimsical. No member of the Ministry can tell us what is likely to be its outcome. The Press has been, able to throw very little light on the matter, and we know only that it has led to misunderstanding and discontent. In my . view it is a dangerous thing to give the Government power to dismiss the officials of the Commonwealth Taxation Department, and this measure might very well have been allowed to stand over until the Prime Minister returned from England. I do not know what the right honorable gentleman is going to do there, but by the time he returns it is possible that every one will agree that in passing this measure we have committed a serious error, and must go back to where we were before the Conference was held.
– How many employees are there in the Taxation Department in Sydney ?
– I do not know, but my view is that none of them should be. got rid of. I consider that the Government would be wise to withdraw this Bill until the Prime Minister has returned from the Old Country. If possible, the Commonwealth officers should be transferred to the States. I believe the Federal servants are of a high calibre, and understand their business better than do the State servants. I urge the Government to put the Bill aside for reconsideration on the Prime Minister’s return from England. To-day we know nothing of these proposals. If the States require assistance in the collection of income tax, they should absorb the Commonwealth officers. I cannot see how the income tax returns will be simplified. Many of the large businesses in Sydney have branches throughout the various States, and many primary producers have interests in several States, and in those cases there will be great confusion in the collection of income tax. I regret that the proposal was ever made at the Conference with the State Ministers. I hope that a Government will soon be in power with a Federal spirit, and willing to recognise’ that it is the Commonwealth’s right to collect income tax, and disburse it to the various States
.- In many respects it is a retrograde step in the history of the Commonwealth Public Service to retire officers of the Taxation Department, which has been built up of men specially selected for work of a highly skilled nature. The Commonwealth Public Service was combed for brilliant young men, who had qualified in accountancy and in other ways to fit them for important positions in the Taxation Department. It is only right, therefore, that the voluntary retirements should be spread over the whole of the Public Service. Many officers in other Departments would be prepared to retire if compensation were paid to them, and this would leave the way clear for the appointment of taxation officers in their places. I favour the provision in the Bill applying compulsory retirement throughout the Service, since it will give the Board of Management an opportunity to retain the services of highly qualified officers who would otherwise be dismissed. Clause 5 is a welcome provision, although it is not as definite as I should like. Personally, I would insert a clause providing that officers who were eligible for active service, and did not enlist, should be retired before returned soldiers, preference being given to married men as against those who are single. There are many returned soldiers in the Taxation Department, and they should be absorbed in other Departments in place of men who were eligible but failed their country in its hour of need.
– The honorable member should apply that principle to the men accompanying the Prime Minister. None of them served at the Front.
– The Prime Minister’s personal record will stand for the rest of the party. Each man should be judged on his merits. Officers may have been prevented from enlisting on account of disabilities or other reasons. That is a question for the Board to consider. Honorable members on both1 sides will recognise the deplorable position of those officers, who will be unable to find employment. It is not our desire to put more men on the labour market, especially if they are married men with families. We should be as liberal as possible to these officers. There is no reason why some of these men should not find employment at tho Federal Capital.
– Most of these ‘men are clerks, and could not do pick and shovel work.
– For that reason they will find it hard to obtain positions. I know that in the Postmaster-General’s Department some of these men could displace linesmen who are at present doing clerical work. The Public Service Board, consisting, as it does, of two returned soldiers is likely to give returned soldiers every consideration. Preference should be given to returned men, other things being equal. It is to be hoped that the Board will read Hansard, and ascertain the views of honorable members.
– Does not the honorable member think the measure premature?
– We have been given to understand by the Treasurer that agreements have been entered into with two of the States.
– The other States are certain to come to an arrangement with us.
– This Bill affects two States, and a considerable benefit will be derived if an arrangement is made with them for one taxation return. I am glad to note that the officers of both Federal and State Taxation Departments will be retired in proportion to strength. The two staffs will be taken together, and the number to be retired will be taken from both the Federal and 1 State Departments. An amendment is to be moved to give those officers who are retired from the State services the benefit of their period of service for compensation purposes. We shall be able to deal more fully with the Bill when in Committee.
.- I express grave doubt as to the wisdom of this measure. Before its introduction we should have had a definite arrangement between the various States and the Commonwealth. As it is, the Bill is premature, and ill-timed. The Treasurer is optimistic as to the result of the negotiations with the various Treasurers of the States,1 but his hopes will not be borne out in actual fact, because we already have knowledge of the adverse comments made, and the attitude adopted by certain States on the proposals submitted by the ‘Commonwealth Government. Even if the agreement had been ratified and confirmed by the various State Parliaments, I should still challenge the wisdom of this Bill, because the Commonwealth Government should conserve its powers rather than surrender them to the States as is proposed in this measure. The arrangement is for one taxation return to be furnished to the State collecting authority.’ The Commonwealth has a much more effective scheme of coordination, and greater facilities for the collection of income tax than have the States, and it should retain its powers as an assessor and collecting authority rather than delegate them to ‘the States. It is logical to expect that greater efficiency would result if the Commonwealth were 1 the sole collecting authority throughout Australia. The effect of the proposed agreement- it has not yet been confirmed - between the Treasurer and the State Governments will be to do. serious injustice to many of the most capable and efficient officers in the’ Commonwealth Public Service. Some of the men have devoted themselves to taxation problems for many years, and have become specialists in that class of work, and a large number of other men and women are highly proficient in clerical duties. The compulsory retirement of these officers must cause a feeling of insecurity Amongst others in Commonwealth Departments. That uncertainty as to the future has been felt in the Commonwealth Service for a number of years, and, as a result of that and the scanty opportunities for advancement, some of the most efficient officers that the Commonwealth has had in its employ have left the Service to enter other walks of life that seemed to open up wider fields of opportunity. The efficiency of the Commonwealth Service has suffered in consequence. The present proposal to retrench in the Taxation Department, following upon the many compulsory retirements in the Defence Department, will accentuate the ‘existing feeling of insecurity. I have often heard it said that the smaller remuneration of the Public Service compared with that obtaining in similar employment outside was more than compensated for by the security of tenure attached to a Government position. I was at one time employed by the State of South Australia, and one of the arguments advanced whenever we sought higher wages and improved working conditions was that we should be prepared to accept a lower rate of pay than was received by men outside the Service because we had permanency of employment. This Bill demonstrates that, in the Government Service, whether of the Commonwealth or the States, there is no more security than in private employment. The Government is proposing to do a serious injustice to men and women who have been loyal and efficient officers, and I doubt whether it will be prepared to do all that it should to absorb in other Departments those displaced from the taxation branch. The Government preaches a policy of economy, but it practises false economy at the expense of the wage-earner, and it will retrench public servants in the belief that it is giving effect to that principle of economy which it has constantly enunciated. But the Commonwealth cannot afford at this time to lose the services of the many efficient officers who are employed in the Taxation Department. On the 1st June of this year there were in that Department 1,619 permanent officers, comprising 622 in the General Division, 651 fifth class clerks, 238 fourth class clerks, 54 third class clerks, 54 second class clerks, and 464 temporary officers - of whom the majority are, I understand, returned soldiers - comprising 153 fifth class clerks, and 311 in the General Division. If only 50 per cent, of these officers be dismissed they will have considerable difficulty in obtaining congenial employment that will give adequate scope to their valuable experience and knowledge. Not only should the Commonwealth endeavour to retain all officers for whom positions can be found in the Federal Service, but the States should be called upon to do their part in absorbing in their Service as many as possible of the displaced men. I do not suppose there is one member of the House who would feel pleased at the prospect of an early dismissal from his parliamentary position and the loss of the emoluments attaching to it. I know that when we are periodically called upon to submit our services to the review of those to whom we are responsible, many honorable members have an uncomfortable fear that they may not secure readmission to this Chamber, with the opportunity it offers for rendering service to the people, and enjoying certain privileges. Should we not, therefore, feel sympathy with those officers who are to be retrenched, and endeavour to get for those who have rendered loyal service the same consideration as we expect for ourselves? We would consider the electors ungrateful if, without good and sufficient cause, they terminated our long and faithful service, and it surely will be equally ungrateful on the part of the Commonwealth Government to throw out of employment men who have served it well in the past. I hope that the Government will realize that the proposed retrenchment of these officials is ill-timed, and will defer the operation of the provisions of this Bill until we have definite knowledge of the intentions of the various States regarding the proposals which the Commonwealth Government has submitted to them. I again protest against the way in which the Government has been prepared to surrender to the States the powers of the Commonwealth in re:gard to the collection of income tax. It has not actually surrendered the power of taxation, but its action suggests disquieting possibilities for the future if it should continue in power. These gentlemen are great “ State righters “, and I am afraid that they are prepared to surrender taxation powers to which this Commonwealth has a perfect right. I am very jealous of those powers. I hope that ultimately the Commonwealth Government will be the supreme authority in- Australia, and will be able to delegate certain powers to provincial councils or State Governments over which it will retain complete authority. The actions of the present Commonwealth Government, however. do not lead us to think that that day is near at hand. We are told that £200,000 is to be spent in compensating the officers who Will be affected by the retrenchments consequent upon the adoption of this scheme. The men who will be retired have specialized in taxation work, and may find it very difficult to obtain suitable employment outside. We are also told that the adoption of this scheme will save the Commonwealth £264,000 a year. In that circumstance, surely we can afford to be a little more generous to those who are being compulsorily retired. We should . not subject them to embarrassment and difficulty while they are seeking congenial employment. We can afford to spend a little more money to adequately compensate them. To achieve that object, a number of amendments to this Bill will be moved in Committee. Honorable members on this side of the Chamber intend to do all they possibly can to obtain for these retrenched employees a liberal compensation. Further, we shall seek to insure that officers who are transferred to the ‘ State services shall receive as much salary as at present, and also the child endowment and cost of living allowances, which are granted in the Commonwealth service. We hope considerably to improve the measure. There is certainly much room for improvement. When a Labour Government comes into power later, it will endeavour to rectify the mistakes that are now being made. It will take steps to make the Commonwealth Government the tax-collecting authority in respect of all taxes in “which it is interested, and will seek a proper scheme of co-ordination which Will effect a true economy. We should have the highest form of efficiency, and the best possible organization. The immediate efforts of this party, however, will be to insure to those who have well and faithfully served the Commonwealth, a generous compensation in the case of their retrenchment, and, in the case of their transfer to the State service, a proper protection of their interests.
– I call attention to the state of the’ House. [Quorum formed.]
.- Honorable members on this side of the Chamber anticipated that the Treasurer would make some reply to the speeches which have been delivered in this debate. If he Will do so, well and good; otherwise honorable members of the Opposition will not find it difficult to continue speaking all night. A couple of weeks ago I put a number of questions. to the Prime Minister in connexion with the position of different classes of employees in the Taxation Department, who will he affected by this Bill. I was informed, in reply, that the questions would be considered. I thought that the Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, would have dealt with the points referred to in my questions. No information has been given. I ask now what the Government intends to do in certain cases. 1 shall deal first with the position of officers whom the Government proposes to transfer to the State service. Some of those men may be quite willing to be transferred, and others may have objections. They may say that they are perfectly satisfied with their present employer, but are not willing to allow the Government autocratically to pass them over to some other employer. They may say, “ We are satisfied to remain in the employ of one feudal baron, but we have no sympathy with the one to whom it is proposed to pass us over.” Will the Government give to the men who object to the transfer the option of retiring with an adequate compensation, or will it say, “If you will not accept employment in some other service we shall decline to give you a single penny.” I desire to know whether the Arbitration Court award rights of the transferred employees will be preserved to them? Will i.hey still receive the cost of living allowance and the child endowment, which is their right in the Commonwealth service? Provision is being made in this Bill for declaring certain men “ Excess officers What will be the position of employees who are transferred to the State Service if, shortly after the transfer, they are declared to be excess officers? Is there any security against such a happening? There is none. If they go over to the State Services, the State authorities may not be able to give them a position or the status which they occupied under the Commonwealth Government. This Bill professes to do justice ‘ to ‘ these officials. It does nothing of the kind. If they are retired from the Service they will receive compensation on a definite basis, but if they are transferred to a State Service there will be no guarantee that their status or emoluments will subsequently be secured to them. Apparently, about 1,000 officers will be affected by this Bill. In this State the number will probably be 300. What guarantee is there that, subsequent to their transfer, they will not be declared excess officers. In that event, they will be in a much worse position than if they had been retired from the Commonwealth Service. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) urged the Government to give preference to men who had been on active service, and I took advantage of the opportunity to make an interjection, which was entirely disorderly, to remind’ the House that on the staff of the Prime Minister who is about to proceed to England, there is only one man who has been on active service. Apparently, the policy which the Government profess to believe in has gone , by the board. I again ask the Treasurer what guarantee is given to these men, that if they are transferred, their emoluments, their status, their seniority, and their retention in the service of the State will be insured. If the Treasurer is prepared to answer this simple question now, it may save considerable time and expedite the passage of the Bill through Commit-“ tee.
– One Bill follows so closely upon another at this stage of the session that it is absolutely impossible < for honorable members to keep pace with them. This Chamber is no longer a deliberative Assembly. The Government, in effect, say to their followers, “ Ope’, gape, swallow. We lead ; you follow.” I do not know if the silencing method is applied in Caucus first, but apparently it is, and when supporters of the Government come into this Chamber they remain silent; they readily obey the command of the Minister in charge of the Bill.
– Honorable members on this side have an entirely free hand.
– Most of them want to go to bed.
– And most of us are fit to go to bed. We are not in a condition to legislate.
– Why not let us get to the details of the Bill.
– May we then expect pearls of wisdom from the honorable member? It is always a convenient excuse, when a Minister wants to hurry a measure through, to impress upon honorable members that it is essentially one for the Committee stage. In this Bill the Government are taking steps towards the aggrandizement of State authority. I am one of those who believe in the maintenance of the rights of the Commonwealth. I have always endeavoured to do what I could to maintain them against all encroachments by the State. I mentioned the other night that, after twenty-three years of Federation, during which time successive Administrations bad resisted the encroachment of State-righters, it remained for this composite Government to surrender Commonwealth powers. This agreement, under which State authorities will collect the Commonwealth income tax, will place the State authorities on a higher pedestal than they have occupied in the past. I do not wish to take upon myself the role of a prophet, but I believe that many of these so-called agreements will be violated before many years have gone by. The Bill’ is premature. The Commonwealth Government went to the Conference with State Ministers with a proposal to evacuate under certain conditions the field of income taxation so far as individual incomes were concerned. That proposal was not favorably received. I intend to quote for the information of honorable members the opinion of the New South Wales Treasurer, Mr. (now Sir Arthur) Cocks, of the proposal submitted to the Conference by the Federal Government.
– Is the honorable member opposing the Bill ?
– I am, because the Government propose to hand over to State authorities functions which should be reserved exclusively to the Commonwealth. Sir Arthur Cocks, referring to the Prime Minister’s proposal at the Conference, said -
The figures of the Commonwealth Treasurer attribute to New South Wales a gain of ?348,000. But by reason of the 10 per cent, reduction which has since taken place in the Federal income tax, the increased exemptions, the averaging of incomes, and the additional allowance for children, we claim that we would be from ?170,000 to ?200,000 worse off if we had accepted the Commonwealth proposals. Unless we could say to the people, “ We have relieved you of the necessity of making out two income-tax returns and paying two separate taxes,” it would be foolish of us to face the odium of reimposing the taxation which the Federal Government had relinquished.
Sir Alexander Peacock. We would all lose our jobs if we did so.
– That very likely would be the case. We would be prepared to lose our jobs if it were in the interests of the people as a whole, but not for a fancied benefit which may have a boomerang effect, and be more disastrous than these present arrangements.
I am prepared to admit that that arrangement was not carried out, but I am justified in discussing the proposals submitted to the Premiers’ Conference. I hope that we shall be able to induce honorable members opposite to make some amendments in the Bill in Committee. One of my main objections to it is that I regard it as involving a surrender of Federal rights. That being so, I cannot consent, iri this Parliament, io any proposal df the kind. I am aware that our Federal Constitution is defective because we followed too closely that of the United States of America. We have suffered just as the people of the United States of America have done, because of the rigidity of our Constitution. Had we adopted a Constitution similar to that of Canada, none of these difficulties would be facing us to-day. The people of Canada were close observers of the operation of the Constitution of the United States of America over a number of years, and decided that it was not elastic enough, and did nob give the National Parliament of the United States of America the power it should have. Canada avoided the defects of the United States Constitution and adopted one much more in consonance with modern ideas.
– So did South Africa.
– That is so.
-It is not competent for the honorable member to discuss the Constitutions of all the Dominions of the British Empire on this Bill.
– I think I can connect what I am saying with the Bill. Those who are responsible for our Constitution would have saved us a great deal of trouble if they had modelled it more on the lines of the Canadian Constitution. I recall the remarks of General Smuts, when he was consulted in regard to the South African Constitution. When the people of South Africa were considering the framing of a Constitution, many memoranda were forwarded to them by Mr. Deakin, Mr. Glynn, and others, in which they were advised to avoid some of the things we did in framing the Australian Constitution. General Smuts in commenting upon the South African Constitution said, “ We have avoided the mistakes of the Australian Constitution, and have taken to ourselves powers that are not possessed by the National Parliament of Australia.” Had our Constitution been framed on different lines, we would not be passing legislation such as that now before us. There are different ways of practising economy, and for the economy which takes on the character of parsimony I have no liking. I hold that we shall never have true economy in Australian affairs until the National Parliament is supreme, and the State or provincial authorities are subordinate to the Federal authority. I believe that one of the purposes of this Bill is retrenchment. Honorable members in the Country party comer desire to be able to say that they have effected considerable retrenchment in the Commonwealth Public Service. The parsimonious members of this House will claim to have saved money for the people. They will claim to be responsible for the retrenchment of a number of Commonwealth public servants at a cost of £200,000 or £300,000 by way of compensation, ‘when the expenditure of very little more money would keep those officers fully employed in other Departments. Notwithstanding the criticism of the press, and the anxiety of a section in this House, to indulge in what they regard as retrenchment, I say that if the Federal authority had full power to develop on national lines, those who. are to be retrenched might be absorbed in the taxation department, or in other branches of the Public Service, with advantage. It is certain that very little will be saved under this Bill , in the first twelve months. I repeat, that in my opinion, this legislation is premature. The Government desires by passing a certain number of measures to proclaim that they are carrying out great reforms, and making savings. The Treasurer will no doubt tell me that he has the State Treasurers in hand, and they must do what he directs. I can see very little difference between the form now issued for returns of income for Commonwealth taxation and that which will have to be filled up under this Bill.
– They are 99 per cent, the same.
– The honorable gentleman is probably correct in that statement. Those who have to make up returns for State income tax in Victoria are aware that the form which has to be filled in is much more simple than that issued by the Commonwealth Government. Some people would sooner serve six months than write a letter or fill in a taxation schedule, but the filling in of these forms is probably a matter about which a man who is well off does not trouble. He, no doubt, gets a clerk or some one else to do it for him. I admit that I do not take very much trouble in making out my return, and am satisfied so long as I tell the truth. The State and Federal returns have to be sent in about the same time. My practice is to make out the .Federal return in duplicate, and I need then only make a copy of it in filling up the State form. If that practice is generally followed, very little trouble will be saved to the taxpayers in having to fill up but one form. However, the Government is out for retrenchment, and hopes to be able to dispense with the services of a number of persons who are breadwinners in this country, and are doing useful work.
– That is their idea of economy.
– It is, and I believe it will result in more of hardship than of benefit to the community.
Sitting suspended from 12 o’clock midnight to 1 a.m. (Saturday).
– When the members of the then Country party were submitting their programme to the electors, they made veiled hints that retrenchment was necessary in the Commonwealth Public Service. Of course, no party -would be bold enough to openly advocate wholesale retrenchment. There are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with cream, and this Bill is an attempt to put into effect the desire of the Country party. The then Leader of the party clothed his language with ambiguity, which made it difficult for the ordinary reader to detect Iris desire for retrenchement; but I honestly believe that that was his intention. We have had the same experience in the past. Premiers of the States have reduced the Public Services, and have suffered in consequence. These things react upon the political party responsible for them. With a little extra expenditure, the officers of the Taxation Department could he retained and utilized in other branches of the Service. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) pointed out the injustice that would be inflicted on these men if they were transferred willy-nilly to State Departments. The privileges of the Public Services differ. The Commonwealth servants have certain privileges, such as the right to appear before the Arbitration Court, that are not enjoyed by State servants.
– That is not so in New South Wales; in fact, that Service’ confers greater benefits than does the Commonwealth Service.
– Generally speaking, the Federal Service is superior to the others. Although the Country party contend that the field of income taxation should be relinquished by the Commonwealth in favour of the States, I believe that that section of the composite Government are really out for retrenchment in the Commonwealth Public Service. A grave error is being committed, and a great injustice will be done if the services of these men are dispensed with. Honorable members opposite will say that other men in ordinary employment are dismissed without compensation.
– The man who does his duty always has a difficult time.
– Sometimes when a man does what he considers to be his duty he makes it very difficult for other people. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), when speaking the other night at a commercial travellers’ gathering, gave expression to opinions that some of us’ have held for a number of years. He gave his own view, but not that of the composite Ministry. He said that . in Australia we had too many Governments and too many Governors, and that it would be a good thing for this country if we dispensed with the services of a number of them, and concentrated more upon one Government. Many public speakers, even members of State Parliaments, have stated that the Commonwealth will never be properly managed until the States have less power and the’ Commonwealth increased power. This Government take a different view, v
They bow the knee to the god of State rights. They have introduced a measure, and honorable members opposite are supporting it, to hand over to the State authority the collection of all income tax, despite the fact that we have a Federal taxing authority, competent officers, and a Taxation Department that is second to none in Australia. The Victorian income tax return is in a simple form, and I think could very well be adopted for the collection of Federal tax. tf the forms were simple, the taxpayers would not object to filling in two returns. The Commonwealth should be the taxcollecting authority, and not six separate States. My main objection to the measure is that it subverts the rights of the Commonwealth. The Country party have leanings in this direction, if one can judge by the following statement that was made when negotiations were taking place for the formation of the composite Ministry : -
In regard to general finance, the Country, party puts forward a rather intricate scheme for re-organizing direct taxation by the Commonwealth. Sir. Bruce stated that on this question an understanding had been arrived at, but as the co-operation of the States was involved, the scheme would require time to mature. The Country party argues that it was never intended that the Commonwealth should exercise the right of direct taxation.
That was the dictum of the then Country party, and I cannot conceive the reason for such an utterance when, under the Constitution, unlimited powers of taxation are given to the Commonwealth. No one can deny that we have not the right to enter the field of direct taxation. Some honorable members had no objection to the Commonwealth encroaching on the domain of direct taxation during war time, but now that the war is over they contend that this Government should discontinue the income tax. Although the war drum is no longer beating, and our men have returned from the battlefields, the responsibility of liquidating the debts that accumulated during the war time remains. Within the next eighteen months loans involving a very large sum of money will mature, and in those circumstances the Commonwealth cannot afford to evacuate any portion of the field of taxation. Money is as essential to the Commonwealth to-day as when we were at war ; and the Government is doing wrong in relinquishing a certain area pf direct taxation to the States and allowing them to act as collectors for the Commonwealth. Other items in the Country party’s platform as published in the Melbourne Age are -
Part of that proposal is contained, in the Bill now before us.
– Those proposals must have been evolved, by the Age itself.
– No, they are part of the platform of the Country party.
If the composite Ministry were to seek to bring about an amendment of the Constitution tol reduce the number of Governments, minimize the State Parliaments, and augment the powers and status of the National Parliament, it would be proceeding on right lines. This piecemeal legislation to meddle with the taxation scheme cannot be truly effective. In the first place it is subverting the rights of the National Parliament, and as such is a retrograde step of the worst character, which incidentally will throw a large number of men out of employment. . It would be better for the taxation arrangements to continue as at present for another twelve months, and in the meantime the Government could evolve an all-embracing scheme for which the people have long been waiting. ‘ So much do I object to the proposal contained in this Bill, and to the injustice that will be done to the Commonwealth and to a large number of Federal public servants, that I move as an amendment -
That all the words after the word “ That “ bo struck out and the following words be inserted in lieu thereof:: - “this Bill subverts the powers of the Commonwealth Government, to subsidiary authorities, works injustice to a large number of Commonwealth employees, and therefore should be referred back for further consideration.”
I trust that the House will discuss the amendment as a National Parliament should, and come to a logical decision.
If it does, there will be an overwhelming majority for the amendment, the Bill will be referred back to the Government, and that will be a command to it to go ahead on broad national lines instead of proceeding on the narrow parochial lines of which this Bill gives only too much evidence. I submit the amendment with all confidence.
– The honorable member is an optimist.
– To me this is a most serious matter. It is the keystone of our’ national existence that the dignity and value of the Federal Parliament should be preserved at all hazards. If there are to be amendments of the Constitution, let them be such as will confer greater powers upon the National Parliament and lessen the powers of the subsidiary Parliaments. Whilst we need not copy the South African or the Canadian Constitutions to the dotting of an “ i “ or the crossing of a “ t,” we should endeavour to .evolve a Constitution that will place this Parliament upon the pedestal it should occupy, and enable it to perform those great, national duties that the founders of Federation intended it to perform. I hope the Government will accept the amendment, as expressing the feeling that should animate this National Legislature.
– I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment, and I think it would be in the interests of the Commonwealth if the Bill were withdrawn, or, at any rate, given more consideration than it has received so far. I agree with much that has been said by the honorable member for Maribyrnong and other honorable members on this side of the House. I object to the Bill,’ on the broad ground that it subverts the interests of the Commonwealth because of the clamour of the State-righters. I realize that this Bill will not take from the Commonwealth the right to impose direct taxation; but it seems tra me that if the Commonwealth hands over any of its functions to the States, even temporarily, that action must necessarily weaken the Federal spirit.” We have reached a stage in the history of Australia when we should seek to make stronger the Federal spirit, in order to hasten the day when this Parliament will be the supreme legislative and governing power in the Common- wealth, delegating limited powers to provinces or States. The handing over of the power of direct taxation to the States by a voluntary arrangement would be a retrograde step, which would be calculated to do great harm and encourage those who are. clamouring for State rights and endeavouring to foster the parochial spirit, and detract from the Federal authority. I believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) is. sincere in expressing the view that the Federal Parliament should be supreme, ‘ and that State Parliaments and Governors should be abolished, but I cannot reconcile that advocacy with his support of this Bill. Whilst this measure does not permanently surrender any power, it does involve an arrangement whereby the Commonwealth, in certain respects, will become secondary to the States. Moreover, the Bill is premature. It is brought down in the dying hours of the session, and is being rushed through’ the House at express speed. Why 1 After the conference between Federal and State Ministers, the Acting Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Oakes) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Cocks) declared that they could not agree to certain features of the Commonwealth Government’s proposals. It appears that only two States are likely to sign an agreement with the Commonwealth. Even if we pass it, it’ is doubtful whether it will ‘ become effective. I shall always oppose measures which militate against the Federal spirit. I am inclined to think “there is a certain amount of make believe associated with this Bill. If the Government desires to know what the people really think about the duplication of public services, let it take the proper and courageous course and test public feeling by a referendum. It is natural to wish to eliminate duplication, but I am not prepared to agree to any proposal which will weaken the authority of the Federal Parliament. Many big business interests which spent large sums of money to defeat the Labour party’s attempt to broaden the Federal Constitution are now clamouring for some relief from the Commonwealth and State duplication. The Government proposes to eliminate* a certain amount of duplication in taxation by sacrificing .its authority in respect of income taxation. Unfortunately, it has) already mutilated our land taxation arrangements. Such actions must in the course of time compel the Federal Parliament to rely upon the Customs Department for practically the whole of its revenue. The development of such a policy will seriously interfere with the progress of Australian industry. Large increases in Customs and Excise revenue indicate that foreign goods are too freely coming into Australia. I oppose the Bill, and hope the Government will withdraw it for further consideration. An additional reason I have for adopting th’is attitude is that its passing will adversely affect a large number of Commonwealth public servants, who have been specially trained in the distinctive methods of the Commonwealth Taxation Department. Stripped of all its superficiality, the Bill means economy by retrenchment of some of our best public servants. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) was much concerned lest some returned soldiers should be dismissed. I do not wish to see any employees dismissed. It is all very well to talk about finding work for them at Canberra. Men who have been following a clerical occupation for half their life-time are unfitted to undertake manual labour. That has been proved time after time. It would be disastrous and cruel to put these men to hard outdoor work. The only fair and humanitarian plan for retrenchment is to retire the public servants as they reach the age limit and not fill their places. That method may take a considerable time, but it will be the cheapest and best way. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), and J trust that in justice to the people of Australia this Government will not barter away any of the Commonwealth powers or weaken the Federal spirit.
.I recognise that it is futile to expect this Government to show any mercy to the public service. Such conduct is not in keeping with its general policy. All its economies are accomplished at the expense of the working class. The advantage of any saving that may be achieved in consequence of retrenchments in the Federal Taxation Department will be more than outweighed by the confusion that will be caused by the action to be taken. The Federal taxation staff has been specially selected, and represents the cream of the Federal Public Service. Our taxation laws and methods are entirely different from those of the States. Even if the confusion is only temporary, it will result in heavy loss and considerable’ trouble to the taxpayer. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), that taxation is a Federal function, and that the Government should retain whatever taxation powers it possesses. This- question involves the supremacy of the Federal Government, and as the Labour party stands for the extension of Federal powers it cannot consistently support any proposal which will limit our present fields of taxation. That aspect is important, apart altogether from the humanitarian consideration. When the elections take place these public servants will have their opportunity to show their displeasure at the ruthless sacrifice of their interests, and the treatment they have received at the hands of this Government.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) suggested ‘ that the Bill aimed at the subversion of the powers of the Commonwealth. A perusal of the measure will convince any one that nothing of the kind is attempted. The arrangement for the collection of Commonwealth taxation by the States interferes . in no way with the rights of the Commonwealth. In the agreement with New South Wales, which I laid upon the table of the House two or three weeks ago, clause 9 specially provides -
Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed to restrict or impede the Commonwealth or the State in the exercise of its rights and powers under the Constitution of the Commonwealth or the State, and the laws of the Commonwealth or the State now or hereafter in force.
During the last three or four days we have been considering the Income Tax Assessment Bill, and we have fixed our rates. All this talk about Commonwealth rights being endangered has no relation to the question under discussion. If the original proposal of the Commonwealth had been accepted by the Conference of State Ministers, there might possibly have been some reason to discuss the point that has been raised, but under this Bill there is no question of
Commonwealth rights being infringed in any ‘way. There is no need for me at this early hour of the morning to labour that point, and, therefore, I shall turn to ‘the criticism levelled at the measure by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). I regret, that he was unable to make himself familiar with the information that was available to him. I had no idea that he had not seen the agreement with New South Wales, which, as I said, was laid on the table of the House two or three weeks ago. If the honorable member cares to peruse the document, he will find that clause 4 states - 4. (») The State shall transfer to the Permanent Service of the State all officers who, on the 1st day of July, 1923, were, and at the date when this Agreement comes into operation are, permanent or probationary permanent officers in the service of the Commonwealth engaged in income-tax work in the State of New South Wales (not including officers employed in what .is known as the Central Office of the Commonwealth Taxation Branch).
Subject to this Agreement, each officer so transferred -
– Is the agreement with every other State in similar terms?
– We have been able to secure a similar agreement with Victoria, and hope likewise to arrange the same terms with South Australia.
– Has the Minister read in this morning’* newspaper, the statement made by Sir Henry Barwell? He is reported to have said that he is not prepared to accept the suggestion made by the Commonwealth.
– Anyhow, there is no difficulty with regard to Victoria and New South Wales. ‘
– Has Victoria signed the agreement ?
– That portion of the agreement has been accepted by Vic-, toria, but there are still minor details affecting other portions of the agreement to be settled.
– Is it worth while going on if only two States have accepted the agreement ?
– We shall be able to come to terms with Tasmania. With regard to Queensland, I may say that Mr. Theodore has accepted the principle, but details as to the exact proportion of Commonwealth and State staffs have still to be considered.
– What about Western Australia 1
– We have had one collecting authority in that State for the last two years.
– That is the Commonwealth staff.
– The arrangements in Western Australia will stand. Very shortly we expect to agree upon one uniform return for the whole of the States.. Early next month we expect to have completed arrangements with practically every State. The point at issue with South Australia is the proportion and status of officers to be transferred.
– Is the Minister referring to the’ classification of officers?
– Will transferred officers be secured in) their« remuneration and status?. That is to say, if an officer is getting £10 a week and £1 cost-of-living allowance will that remuneration be secured to him ?
– So far as we can do that, yes. Sir William McPherson recognised the necessity of agreement upon these points, and has emphasized the determination of his Government to carry out the spirit, as well as the letter, of the agreement. In New South Wales the conditions are better than in the Commonwealth Service.
– Will the agreement prevent State Governments reducing men from the fourth to the fifth class?
– Order! This is a matter for the Committee stages of the Bill.
– I intended, when the Bill was in Committee, to deal with these questions at length, but, in deference to the request made by the honorable’ member for Bourke, I am discussing them now. I turn now to another aspect of this subject which may be of interest to honorable members, and that is the, arrangement being made with the various States as to the proportion of officers to be retrenched owing to the reduction in the amount of work. On this question clauses 5 ‘ and 6 of the agreement sets out - 5. (a) All permanent officers of the State employed in the Taxation Office in the State, and all Commonwealth officers transferred to tho State pursuant to this Agreement, shall be merged into, and form, one combined staff.
Thus, if in New South Wales there are 400 permanent and probationary permanent officers of the Commonwealth, and 200 in the State Service, and if 300 are required to do the work, the reduction - will be in proportion to the numbers ‘ employed, that is 200 Commonwealth and–’- 100 State officers. We could not get an ‘ exactly similar agreement with Victoria, but we have an arrangement which works out in very much the same way. It is really this matter that has delayed the finalization of the agreement with Victoria. “
– Then officers will be in the same position as if they were retired under this Bill?
– Yes, if they are immediately retired by the State .they will be entitled to compensation, which will be paid by the Commonwealth. Sir William McPherson pointed out that during the last three years, in view of the possibility of an agreement being made along these lines, very few men had been appointed to the permanent staff of the Victorian Taxation Department, and on Monday last he agreed to pool the Victorian and the Commonwealth staffs employed in Victoria in proportion to the numbers employed. If any officers are retrenched, the understanding is that they shall be compensated, in the manner indicated. This arrangement, I submit, is reasonably good from the Commonwealth point of view.
– Has that arrangement been made ?
– Order ! I cannot allow this discussion to continue. This is a matter for the Committee.
– I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that these matters will not come up in Committee.
– The principles only of a Bill may be discussed on its second reading. I shall rule th’e Minister out of order if he proceeds further with this discussion of the details of the measure.
– My intention was to deal with these matters on clause 4 of the Bill.
– That will suit me.
– I, can assure the honorable member that the intention of the Government has been to deal in a most sympathetic and generous manner with those public servants who will be affected by the Bill. With this end in view, I have had frequent consultations with representatives of the taxation staffs and representatives of the returned soldiers employed in that Department. I have listened carefully to all they had to say, and have been able to include almost all of their requests in this measure. While the honorable member for Maribyrnong * was speaking to-night, I was called out of the Chamber to see one of the officials of the Association, who assured me that, with the exception of one point, they were perfectly satisfied with the Bill, and recognised that the Government had fought most strenuously to secure proper and considerate treatment of the staffs that would be transferred. They also recognised the generous nature of the treatment which the Government has meted out to them in connexion with the details concerning compensation.
– Was this man a responsible representative of the association?
– Yes, he was. “ Mr; Penton. - The statement is in contradiction of what appears in the circulars issued by the association.
– I have had no difficulty with the representatives of the association. I can show honorable members copies of circulars I have received, and side by side with the various requests that have been made I can show which were allowed and which disallowed. It will be found that 90 per cent, of the requests have been acceded to. Requests which have not .been acceded to have been submitted to members of this Parliament who are ex-civil servants, and they have professed themselves thoroughly satisfied with the treatment of the officers proposed by the Government, and have admitted that, those requests were unreasonable and not such as the Government’ could consent to. With regard to the permanent officers, the Government is satisfied that everything possible has been done to meet their position. The Bill will make it possible for any retrenchment found necessary to be universal throughout the Commonwealth Public Service. A. clause has been introduced which will permit discrimination to be shown by the Public Service Board, and practical preference to be given to men in the Taxation Department over men in other Departments if they are found to be more- deserving. The only men about whom I am much perplexed are the temporary employees, and especially the returned soldiers amongst their number. There are 150 of them in the Taxation Department, and we have tried to meet them in every way we can. Honorable members will notice certain clauses in the Bill which provide that men who have qualified for permanent appointments, but have not yet received them, will be regarded as if they were already permanent employees. Of the 150 it is found that fifty have never had an opportunity to sit for the special qualifying examination for the Public Service, during their temporary employment. There was such an examination held in 1918, and another in 1920. We have decided that these fifty men shall have an opportunity of sitting for a qualifying examination, and if successful they will be treated in exactly the same way as permanent men already in the Service. That is as far as we can go to meet their ease. We find that there are altogether six limbless men employed, and I have assured the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) who, because of his own affliction, has a very great sympathy for these men, that without question we shall be able to find employment for them in some other branch of the Commonwealth Service. With regard to the balance of ninety odd officers, we have requested the Public Service Board to use every endeavour to see if it is not possible to place them in other branches of the<, Service. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) raised the point that, because many of these men are in the Fifth Class, and, consequently, receive a very small salary, they will, if discharged, be entitled to a very small amount by way of compensation. I want to say, in this connexion, that, with the exception of typists and sorters who are mostly female employees, I hope that most of the others will be absorbed in the State Departments, or throughout the Commonwealth Service. I am informed that the State Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Whiddon, and Mr. Stephens, Secretary of the State Treasury, have been in close consultation with Mr. Collins, the Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury, Mr. Ewing, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, and Mr. Hume, the Deputy Taxation Commissioner of New South Wales, and they expect that they will be immediately able to absorb the whole of the permanent staff in New South Wales, though it may be found that some further reduction of staff ‘ will be necessary later. In any case we will be able to give these officers probably several months notice before they are called upon to retire. There is a certain amount of arrears of work to be overtaken in the State offices, and in the Central Office, and it will be possible for us to give officers who are to be discharged comparatively long notice, in addition to the compensation which will be paid to them. It may be possible to utilize the services of some of the temporary men’ in this way for a time. With regard to returned soldiers and temporary men who do not come within the classes I have mentioned, we will make the same arrangement for them as has been made for the officers, retrenched from the Repatriation Department, who were also temporary employees. We will give them, for eight weeks, half -pay as a sustenance payment, if unable to obtain employment, and will use every endeavour through our repatriation organization to try to place them in employment. I would like to assure the House that the Government has, in this matter, recognised its responsibility as an employer of some 2,000 men and women. It will make use of every means in its power to secure that the ‘ hardships attendant upon the retrenchment, ^ which this step renders necessary, will be felt as little as possible by those concerned. The Government looks confidently to the House to indorse the action it has taken. Even to-night, when we found that there were some other matters which, dealt with sympathetically, would prevent a certain amount of hardship, honorable members will have noticed that I brought down a supplementary Governor-General’s Message to enable amendments to be made in the Bill to permit the most generous and sympathetic consideration of these cases. Without wasting further time, I ask the House to negative the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), which is based on absolutely false premises, to carry the second reading of the Bill and enable us to get into Committee, where the real work on the Bill can be done, and we can consider the points which the honorable members for Yarra and Bourke wish to have discussed.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the Bill he now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Arrangement “ means on arrangement made in pursuance of section four of this Act; “ Pay “ means pay at the rate received by the officer immediately prior to his retirement, and includes basic wage allowance, cost of living allowance, and such other allowances as are prescribed; “Service” means service under, or employment by, the Commonwealth, and includes any service which is, for the purposes of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922, reckoned as service in the Commonwealth Service, and any temporary service with which the permanent service of the officer is continuous. “ the Public Service Board “ means the Board of Commissioners constituted under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922; “ the Taxation Branch “ means the Taxation Branch of the Department of the Treasury.
In any case where the appointment of an officer who is a returned soldier within the meaning of the Commonwealth Public Service Act has been made retrospective the period of service of the officer shall be deemed to include the period to which his appointment was made retrospective.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That after the words “ living allowance “, line 10, the words “ higher duties allowance, child endowment, and special allowance under arbitration awards “ be inserted.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That after the words “ Commonwealth Service” line 17, the words “or which would have been reckoned as service in the Commonwealth Service if that Act had been in force at the time of appointment of the officer to the Commonwealth Service” be inserted.
.Do I understand that under this clause officers who resigned from the State Service and joined the Commonwealth Service, would suffer no break of continuity of service?
– The State Service is counted as continuous with the Commonwealth.
– I do not mean officers transferred from the State Service to the Commonwealth, but those “who resigned from the State to tate up work with the Commonwealth. Would they “suffer any break of continuity of service?
– Certain transferred officers are covered by section 48 of the Public Service Act. Mr. SCULLIN. - I am referring to certain State officers who qualified by examination for the Commonwealth Service and resigned from the State.
– Section 48 reads -
Where a person becomes an officer of the Commonwealth Service and his service in the ‘ Commonwealth Service is continuous with - ^ _ . -i
That would cover the case mentioned by the honorable member.
– Officers in the State Service will resign and be formally engaged by the Commonwealth, and that will count as a transfer and a continuation of their State service.
– That is so.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following words be added to subclause (2), “Provided that the existing and accruing rights of Commonwealth officers shall be preserved.”
– A clause which is in the agreement, submitted to all the States, and which has been accepted by them, provides that an officer who is transferred to the State Service “shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights,” and, as far as practicable, shall be employed on duties of a status not less than the status of the duties now performed by him.
Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to. Clause 5 agreed to. Clause 6 -
Provided that the amount payable to any officer shall not he less than the equivalent of six months’ pay, and shall not exceed the pay of the officer for the unexpired period of hie service. …
– I move -
That after “section” in line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ or to any taxation officer who has retired voluntarily since the 1st April, 1923.”
There may be a number of men who, anticipating this amalgamation of taxation services, resigned from the Commonwealth Service in order to take other positions. It may be urged that men who have left the Service have no claim to compensation, but there is another side to the question. If a man thought that a change in the status of the Department was likely to occur, he may have thought it necessary, in order to protect himself and his family, to seek another position, not necessarily a better one than that which he occupied in the Department. He may find himself not fitted for his new position, or it may not be permanent, and he may be liable to be thrown out of employment at any time. Some of those men may have been,, ten or twelve years in the Department, and I submit that they are entitled to the same consideration as. are men who have remained in the Department.
– The Government have carefully considered the date from which . this compensation should apply, and it has come to the conclusion that it cannot be made retrospective to the date suggested by the honorable member. Ever since the amalgamation of Taxation Departments has been mooted, an intimation has been given that compensation would be payable to retrenched officers, and considerable doubt existed almost to the end of
June whether the negotiations would yield any result. On the 4th July I presented to the House a statement of the finances for the preceding year, and I mentioned that an amount of £200,000 was being allotted from the surplus for the purpose of compensating retrenched officers. It was, therefore, plain to the members of the Service that if they awaited’ developments they would participate in the compensation. It is practically impossible to determine why members of the Service retired during the preceding months. Some men may have resigned solely because better jobs were offered to them, and as they would have left the Service in any case, they are not entitled to compensation. To make the compensation retrospective three months is out of the question, and I ask the Committee to negative the amendment.
.- I am sorry that the Treasurer has announced his hostility to the amendment before he has heard it discussed, because it will be difficult for him to withdraw from the attitude he has adopted. A strong case can be made out in favour of the amendment. I have with me a number of newspaper extracts showing that the proposed amalgamation of the Taxation Departments was “in the air” as far back as April. A few officers have taken positions outside the Department - not always better, positions - because they foresaw this development. They, believed that they, like the officers and clerks in the Defence Department, would receive compensation upon voluntary retirement. There was a clause in the Act relating to the retirement of Defence officers which made the compensation payable to anybody who retired voluntarily before a certain date, which was about three months before the Bill was passed.
– The Bill was assented to in September, and the payments were made retrospective to the 30th June.
– Some officers of the Taxation Department, who retired voluntarily, believed that the compensation would be similarly retrospective. I remember asking the Treasurer, in April, for his advice in regard to one officer who had been offered another position, and the Treasurer, in a friendly way, advised that the man should accept the offer. He certainly did not promise that the officer would receive compensation, but the general impression, was that it would be paid to those who voluntarily retired.
– It was known in January or February, 1922, that compensation would be paid to the employees in the Defence Department. .
– I do not think that the Treasurer can suggest that he » has only made up his mind in the. last week or two that compensation would be paid to the retrenched employees in the Taxation Department.
– Hundreds of employees retire from the Taxation Department every year.
– Not many men will be affected by the amendment and only a small amount of money will be involved. In those circumstances, I think the Government ought to accept it. Why should an injustice be done to any employee? If those who are still in the employment of the- Department are entitled to compensation, I think that those who left it because of the uncertainty of their position, and who thus saved the Treasurer the unpleasant task of dismissing them, are also entitled to it. Morally, they have as much claim to it as the other men.
, - I support the view put by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I do not know how many persons will be affected, but to my knowledge quite a number of men have left the Department because of the uncertainty of their positions. I know of one employee who left who would have had twenty years’ service in another twelve months, and so would have qualified for six months’ furlough. Such a man must have retired because of the disturbed conditions arising out of these new arrangements. Why should he be arbitrarily cut out of the scheme of compensation?
– Does the honorable member for Batman know that that was the reason for his retirement?”
– It was. I urge that compensation should be paid in those cases where it can he shown that the reason for , retirement, was uncertainty about the future. . I realize that a man may retire for any one of many reasons, but, as a rule, one does not find senior officers, with a record of seventeen or eighteen years’ service, retiring in a casual way. Usually they have a very good reason. A prudent man must look ahead, and take time by the forelock. He must provide for emergencies. I am sure the number of cases affected by the amendment is not great. It seems a pity that men who have been good servants to the Commonwealth Government should be arbitrarily excluded from the compensation conditions of this Bill, which are not too liberal.
– It is not a bad Bill.
– It could be improved a good deal. But, in any case, I do not think the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) would be a party to doing an injustice to any individual. I trust that the Treasurer will reconsider his attitude.
– I support the amendment.. We know that when these proposals were first made something of a panic occurred in the Taxation Department. The Minister will realize that the officers who would be on the look out for employment outside would probably be the more prudent, and so the best, officers of the Service. They would realize when a position offered that even if the salary were not as large as that which they were receiving in the Department, it would be better for them to accept it, and so fee sure of a position, than to wait until they were retrenched and then look for work. If the retirement of these officers had caused the Taxation Department any inconvenience, one could understand the” Government feeling some resentment, but the action of these men will really make it easier for the Commonwealth Government to effect the change that it desires. These men are really entitled to the same consideration as will be given to the officers still in the Service.
– I regret that the Government cannot see its way clear to adopt the amendment. To do so would be to open the way to serious abuses. Hundreds of .changes occur every year in the staff of the Taxation Department. It is easy to see, therefore, that if the Government adopted the amendment some men might receive compensation who deserved none. Only a fortnight ago the case was brought before me of a man who left the Taxation Department to become managing clerk to an accountant in Brisbane at a salary 50 per cent, in advance of that which he was receiving in the Department. It can scarcely be said that that man is entitled to compensation.
– Where there is one case like that there are hundreds of a reverse kind.
– He was driven out of the Department. 1
– He left it to better his position. I think that the Government’s proposition is a reasonable one. The Government announced its policy respecting these employees at the earliest possible moment.
– How many men have gone out?
– I cannot say exactly, probably 200 or 300.
– I regret that the Treasurer has given unfavorable consideration to the amendment. For every case that has occurred like the one to which he referred, there will be dozens in which the employee who leaves the Department will have to accept a position disadvantageous to him.
– The Government can examine each case, and deal with it on its merits.
– Quite so. If the Treasurer desires to do justice to his Department he can easily include in the Bill a clause which will prevent abuses. Consideration should be given to those who, through fore-knowledge of retrenchment, accepted service outside the Department prior to the passage of this Bill. I hope the Minister will reconsider his decision.
– I am rather surprised that the Minister has not seen his way clear to accept the reasonable amendment that has been submitted. In justification of his attitude the Minister has pointed out that, at about this time of the year, a large number of men usually leave the employ of the Department. These are chiefly temporary hands who are not covered by the Bill.
– A fair number of permanent employees also leave about this time every year.
– But an officer must have been in the employ of the Department for twelve months to he entitled to compensation under- this measure. We should do justice by these men. Quite a number, knowing that certain changes were pending, took advantage of any opportunity that offered and secured employment outside the Department, believing, no doubt, that they were assisting the Government to get over a difficulty, and all honorable members have received letters from employees asking if it is possible to get a transfer to some other Department. Many of those who have gone out of the Public Service are to-day in positions inferior to those which they occupied in the Department, but they believed that it was better to accept what employment was offering, rather than wait for the retrenchment scheme to be put into operation. If they had hung on to their positions until this Bill was passed they would have received a month’s salary for every year of service rendered. They are now shut out. The acceptance of the amendment would not involve very heavy expenditure, but it would be an act of justice to those men.
– Possibly many of them were advised by the head of the Department to accept positions outside in view of pending retrenchment.
– No doubt, and in all probability, -they thought they were helping the Government by accepting outside employment. It was known many months ago that the Government contemplated coming to an agreement with the States in regard to taxation matters. Accordingly, a certain number of employees looked elsewhere for employment. It is possible that, in many cases, they have no chance of permanency. They may soon be thrown out on the world again. The least we can do is to make the Bill retrospective to April last, so as to include all men who were then in the employ of the Department, and who had given faithful service to this country. The Government should endeavour to be an ideal employer. They should, as far as possible, make the conditions attractive, and, in the event of retrenchment, should treat their employees fairly liberally. I am afraid the Treasurer was rather hasty. Perhaps, on reflection, he will realize that these men have a just claim to reasonable consideration. Even if there were half-a-dozen cases, such as the Treasurer mentioned, out of forty or fifty, justice should be done to the latter. Perhaps it will be possible to exclude the cases referred to by the Minister. It is very hard for an employee to be shut out of the provisions of this Bill simply because he left the employ . of the Department a few weeks, or, perhaps, only a day, before this Bill was passed. Some of these employees may have established homes of their own, and have contracted obligations. What is to become of those homes. Possibly also, if they were granted a lump sum, by way of compensation, some of them would be able to start a small business, and make their future secure in that way. It is very hard on a man who, perhaps, had given eight or ten years’ faithful service to the Department to be denied compensation simply because he took advantage df an opportunity to obtain employment outside the Department a week or two prior to assent being given to this Bill. I am prepared to accept a compromise in this matter, and if the Treasurer thinks that April is too far to go back, let him agree to go back as far as June. That would not involve very heavy additional expenditure. We have to bear in mind that a single man need not be greatly concerned about looking for other employment, in view of his possible retirement as the result of this measure, but the married men with dependants must look to the future. He knows this retrenchment is to take place, and he knows what the loss of his employment will mean to his little ones. He naturally looks out for a job, and if. he takes one a month, or a fortnight, before we pass this Bill, he is to be given no compensation, whilst the single man who hangs on until the Bill is passed, will get compensation. When I was working for a private employer, if I received notice I did not wait until it expired before I looked for another job.
– Did the honorable member’s previous employer chase him with an offer of compensation?
– As a matter of fact, he treated me better than the Treasurer proposes to treat the officers of the Taxation Department. He said that he did not wish me to go, and would find something else for me to do, and I want the Government to find some other em- ployment for these taxation officers. We know that, as a rule, private employers will dismiss an employee without the slightest consideration, but it does not follow that because that is the practice of private employers we should treat our employees in the same way.
– They are not our employees, but the employees of the’ public.
– The honorable member, in common with other honorable members, is a director who is called on to act on behalf of the public, and he is entitled to consider the position in which these officers will be placed. He cannot call it equitable treatment if a man who hangs on to his job in the Taxation Department until this Bill is assented to, is given a lump sum of money by way of. compensation, whilst another, who may have left the Department a day or two before the Bill is assented to, is deprived of all compensation.
– The men to whom the honorable member is referring have got jobs, and I take it that the compensation is for the man who has not got a job.
– I am dealing with the case of men who will have left the Department before the Bill is assented to. We shall find that this provision will work very harshly in many cases. We should encourage men to find other employment, when they know that retirement from the Public Service is before them, and we should not cut them off from any hope of compensation. These men should receive fair treatment. I urge the Treasurer to reconsider his decision and to split the difference.
– I ask the Treasurer to make some concession to the men who have recently left the Service. I do not know any of them, so I am quite without bias. But there does seem to be a possibility of hardship being inflicted ton them. It is perfectly natural that, when a number of dismissals are likely a prudent man should take the bull by the horns and even accept an inferior job rather than remain in the Service to later be dismissed. I do not think that such a man should be penalized, particularly when his resignation assists the Government in their retrenchment scheme. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition to date back compensation to the 1st April is going rather too far, but I urge upon the Treasurer to at any rate consider dating it from the beginning of the financial year, the 1st July, ‘ or preferably the 1st June. I agree that the State should be a- good employer, and ‘ I think it is. I regret that the Leader of the ‘ Opposition should have criticised private employers, because I am certain many of them have the interests of their employees at heart.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– Then I am quite satisfied. I urge the Treasurer to make some concession in this matter.
.If anything should convince the Treasurer of the justice of the amendment moved’ by the Leader of the Opposition, it is the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby.. The mere fact that he supports the amendment should satisfy the Treasurer that the claim is justified.
.- I ask the Treasurer to seriously entertain the representations made by the Leader of the Opposition. As the Treasurer has indicated his unwillingness to accept the amendment, I ask him to ante-date the compensation scheme to the 1st June. For several years I had the honour to represent the clerks of the Taxation Department. I was secretary of their organization, and am therefore familiar 1 with the men arid the nature of their employment. When a person has been in the Commonwealth Service for a number of years, engaged on ,one particular class of work, he is not fitted to seek employment ‘outside, and this is a distinct, disadvantage. Knowing that this agreement was likely to be made between the States and the Commonwealth, any one who had an opportunity to obtain a position outside of the Service would be very foolish not to accept it. The Commonwealth and the State Governments have had the benefit of the faithful services of these men for many years, and. the least we can do is to extend to them the same consideration that has been given to many highly paid officials of the Commonwealth Service. A number of officials who were retired from the Defence Department received compensation ranging from £500 - to £780. I urge the Treasurer to consider the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition and to ante-date the payment of compensation to the 1st June.
– I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. I have discussed’ this matter fully with the officers of the Taxation Department and of my own Department, with public “servants and ex-public servants as well, and they all agree that it would not be fair to pay compensation to the men in , question.
Mr- C. Riley. - That is most ungenerous on the part of the Department, because a number of returned soldiers are affected.
– I would like to put on record in Hansard that I was very pleased with the close consideration and sympathy that was shown by the heads of the Department in this matter, and it ill.becomes any honorable member to cast a reflection upon them. The utmost circumspection has been exercised to try to prevent any hardship accruing to the taxation officers in any way. In my own Department the secretary has cudgeled his brains to find employment for temporary men. These men have accepted other jobs on their own responsibility, and with their eyes open.
– That is as ungenerous as the statement complained of by the Treasurer.
– Honorable members’ have stated that discrimination should be shown in some cases. The honorable member for Batman instanced the case of a married man. I’ know one case in which a man obtained a better job, and- would any honorable member suggest that he should receive compensation? It is absolutely impossible to discriminate between these men, and, therefore, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Charlton’s) he agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The clause provides than any officer who is retrenched shall receive Compensation in the proportion of one month’s pay for each year of service. A man may have served for so many years and ten or eleven months, and for those odd months he will receive no compensation. That is not fair. Some provision should he made to compensate a man for the incomplete year.
– What the honorable member has suggested is the intention of the Bill, and I am surprised that there should be any need for the amendment. To make sure that that intention is expressed, I .move -
That in sub-clause (1), , lin’e 4, after the word “ service “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “or (portion of a year of service v.
If those words are found to be unnecessary they can be struck” out later.
Amendment agreed to.
.I move -
That the word “.six” in the proviso to sub-clause (1) be omitted, and the word twelve inserted in lieu thereof.
The proviso will then read that the compensation payable to any officer shall not be less than the equivalent of twelve months’ pay. On the second reading I pointed out that the majority of these men who have had less than twelve years’ service are the lowest paid, and, consequently, will be retired on a very small amount of compensation. About 66 per cent, of the officers in the Taxation Department have less than eight years’ service, and about 85 per cent, less than twelve years’ service. Officers with less than twelve years’ service receive* very small salaries. Replying to my remarks on the second reading, the Treasurer said that the majority of the lower-paid officers would be absorbed in other Departments. That makes my plea all the stronger, because if the majority will be provided for in that way there will be fewer to compensate. It may be argued that the provision I am suggesting was not made in connexion with the retirement of the Defence Department officers, but none of them were below the fourth class, and, therefore, they were drawing higher salaries than are the majority of those who will be retired from the Taxation Department. I understand that the average amount of compensation paid to Defence officers was about £600, out the average under this Bill will be much less. Of the 1,600 officers in the Taxation Department, about 1,250 are in the fifth class, or even lower grades of the Service. A messenger with six years’ service receives £144 per annum, and if dismissed will under the clause as drafted get £72 compensation. Female sorters with a similar length of service receive £153, and will get £76 in compensation. Male assistants with six years’ service receive £180 per annum, and will get only £90 as compensation, and female assistants with six years’ service receive £165, and will get £82 compensation. The position of fifth class clerks will be: - One year’s service, salary £90, compensation £45; two years’ service, salary £108, compensation £54; three years’ service, compensation £63; four years’ service, compen sation £75 ; five years’ service, compensation £93; and six years’ service, compensation £99. Nobody will suggest that these officers can re-establish themselves in employment with such a small amount of compensation. As a plea has been made for returned soldiers, I point out. that a large number of both temporary and permanent officers with short service are returned soldiers, and the brevity of their service is due to the fact that for a number of years they were absent at the war. The majority of those who have less than twelve years’ service are receiving small salaries. The Minister may object that if a minimum of twelve months’ pay be given in compensation some of the highlypaid officers will receive very large sums. To meet that objection I am willing that the minimum compensation shall be fixed at, say, £200. *
– Would not £200 be more than the average twelve months’ pay.?
– It may be a little more. If a fifth class officer were retired on twelve months’ pay he would get only £198 after six years’ service, but if he had been in the Department for ten years ho would get £252, and, if married, £272. The amendment is very reasonable. I do not want to fight the matter any longer. I admit that the amendments prepared’ by the Treasurer have greatly improved the Bill, and I want to give him credit for so doing ; but, apparently, he baulked at the proposal in my amendment. This question and that which concerns the whole of the temporary employees are the most important in the Bill. I remind the Treasurer that the employees for whom I am now fighting have had to run the gamut of examinations to obtain entrance to the Department, and have since been trained as specialists in taxation work. This happening is a tragedy in their lives, and has caused them great anxiety.
– Does the honorable member think that they will be out of work for more than six months?
– I think that the whole career of many of them will be destroyed.
– Most of them are young.
– That makes the destruction of their career Ihe more serious.
– Some of them have been sitting in the gallery all night waiting to see what will be their fate.
My. SOULLIN.- That shows how deeply they are interested. The majority of them will find suitable employment outside, bub that makes it all the more desirable that we should give the minority adequate compensation. A responsibility rests upon the Government to absorb them in other Departments. The transition period should be gradual so that such an absorption could occur. The Government has allowed the duplication to go on, and has encouraged boys and girls to enter the Department. _It tells us that something like £260,000 will be saved by this measure. Surely it is not too much to ask that that amount should be used in doing justice to them, seeing that we. are firing them out* into the cold world.
– Could it not be arranged for the Government to keep a list of them with a view to giving them future employment? . “
– That could be done; but, in the meantime, many of them will be out of work. The Government policy of preference to soldiers will prevent many of them from re-entering the Service for a considerable time. These men have had special training, and though they will not be useless in ordinary commercial pursuits, their experience has not fitted them for such work. It would not be any hardship on the Government to give them the equivalent of twelve months’ pay as compensation. The average amount thus paid to them would be under £200. The Bill provides for miserable compensation. They had to prepare themselves by considerable study, and at a cost of much sacrifice by their parents, to enter the Department, and they should be more generously compensated.
– I support the amendment, and I trust that the Treasurer will’ see his way clear to accept it. Approximately, 1,250 employees will be affected, of whom 289 are in Queensland, and comprise the following : - 131 clerks, 37 typists, 76 sorters, and 45 assistants and messengers. Ninety-six soldiers are included, 11 of whom are limbless. One can understand what a hardship it will be for these persons to be compelled to compete in the labour market with, unemployed ,clerks bookkeepers, and others who are accustomed to ordinary commercial occupations. The experience, that the taxation officers have will be of little service to them in outside employment. Men engaged in ordinary business undertakings obtain a training in one commercial house which fits them to accept a situation in another, whereas men who have spent many years in the Public Service may become adept at interpreting regulations and Acts of Parliament, and gain a good knowledge of taxation affairs, and even become expert assessors, but are not specially qualified for the usual commercial duties. Seeing that these public servants believed that they were absolutely secure in their positions, it is most unfair to turn them out with a compensation which is a mere pittance. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) indicated that the amount will vary from £45 to £90 in many cases. That is insufficient to enable them to become established in any business, and it will not afford them much relief while they are searching for employment. It is well known that the salaries in the Public Service are such that it is quite impossible for these men to accumulate money. They cannot save money on the miserable pittance they get in the Public Service, particularly those who are married and have families. A number of the men in Brisbane who will be affected are well known to me. In consequence of the belief that their employment was permanent, they entered into obligations which in other circumstances they would not have undertaken. Many of them have purchased dwellings on the time-payment system, and have arranged to continue the payment of instalments over a period of twenty years. They did so only because they considered that they were in permanent employment. Very great hardship has been inflicted upon them by the action of the Government, and they should be paid a compensation .which will tide them over the period in which they will be searching for work. They should have at least the equivalent of twelve months’ salary. It is exceptionally hard that officers of the Taxation Department should be retrenched, because, generally speaking; they obtained their positions after considerable study in primary and secondary schools. It is well known that the qualifying examination for entrance to the Service is not easy. As a rule the parents of the young people who enter the Service are poor, and have made sacrifices to enable their sons and daughters to qualify for it, believing that in so doing they were placing them beyond the pale of want. It is possible that until they are absorbed in employment elsewhere these young people will be a burden to their parents, to whom their dismissal will be- a great blow. If they are not successful in securing outside employment, those who are married will be in a most distressing position. They will not be able to discharge their financial obligations. Buin and disaster are awaiting many of them. I trust, therefore, that the Treasurer will give sympathetic consideration to the amendment. -I have received the following letter on the subject from a female sorter in the Brisbane Taxation Department: -
I am a female sorter employed in the Federal Taxation Branch of the Commonwealth Service. At present there is general unrest throughout the office, caused by the probable ratification of the agreement re taxation matters arrived at during the Premiers’ Conference. As a result of this agreement the taxation staff in Brisbane will be reduced from 300 to about 30. I have had four and a-half years’ permanent service with the Department, and am totally dependent upon myself for support. My father has been an invalid for nine years, so that it is impossible for me to return home should I lose my position. I had to seek employment in Brisbane, owing to the closing down of the mine in which my father worked. There is no opening for me in my home town, and were I “retrenched I do not see any possibility of being able to find another position in Brisbane. My younger sister, who is in delicate health, is earning a living in Brisbane, and I help her as far as possible. I trust that you will realize the hardship that must ensue if I am left without means of support, and that you will do your utmost to prevent retrenchment, or to see that I am adequately compensated for the loss of my position, which, on passing my examination, I was led to believe was a life-long one.
I have quite a number of other letters couched in similar language, and I have no doubt that other honorable members also have had correspondence on this subject. When the proposals of the Government were announced, there was almost a panic in many of the Departments. The position is a very serious one for these officers. Many of these girls entered the Taxation Department during the war. When the male members of their’ families joined up, the girls had to go out to work and’ help keep the home. When the boys returned they got married, and in a great. many instances the girls are still continuing to support the home. They have given up the idea of marriage, .with the view to caring for their aged parents. I know several instances of girls who are looking after their mothers. If they are callously turned out of the Department, as the present Government, I regret to say, will be turning them out under the provisions of this Bill, the compensation payable to them should be not less than the equivalent of six months’ pay. Contracts made by the Government should be honorably observed, and if broken, the persons concerned should be amply compensated. These officers qualified by examination for entry into the Taxation Department, on the definite understanding that, so long as they behaved themselves, their position would be a life-long one. The happiness of many employees is being wrecked because of the anxiety concerning the impending retrenchment, and the impossibility of getting suitable employment outside. I know of only too many cases of public servants who believing that they could do better outside, resigned after a life-long service, only to find that their training in the work of a public department unfitted them for competition with rivals in private business. There is a mistaken idea in some quarters that no public servants do a fair day’s work.
– That, of course, is a libel.
– Some people affect to believe that- there is a go-slow policy in all Government Departments. That is not so. Many public servants, in the hope of being able, by merit and industry, to qualify for some higher position, return to their offices night after night. If the Treasurer were to realize the position of these unfortunate people who are faced with dismissal and consequent unemployment, for probably a lengthy period, he would know how keenly they feel it. Many of them have financial responsibilities, and are seriously worried about their future prospects. Wherever possible, they are curtailing expenditure, which is necessary to keep the home going, and are looking forward with dismay to impending expenditure which cannot be’ avoided. The troublous times through which they are passing is having a serious effect upon the health of many of them. I earnestly appeal ho the Treasurer to give sympathetic’ and favourable consideration to- the amendment. If he can see his way to accept it I am sure that the large body of men and women who will be affected will be truly grateful.
– The Government have considered the position very carefully. I have discussed this matter with representatives of the officers, and of the returned soldiers, and, after grave deliberation, the Government have decided that, in view of all the circumstances, the provisions in the Bill meet the situation. We think that the terms and conditions laid down with regard to this matter in the Defence Compensation Act are applicable to the officers in the Taxation Department, and, in fact, more so, because the training which officers in, the Taxation Department receive fits them better for outside employment than does service in the Defence Department. The only cases for which this concession has really been asked by the officers themselves, are those of the General Division and the 5th . class clerks. In connexion with these, I point out that the probability of their employment in other departments is very good. In New South Wales it is anticipated that almost the whole of the permanent staff will be absorbed. I think the figures quoted by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) must have “ slipped “ a bit, because Mr. Theodore advises that Queensland expects to be able to absorb 65 per cent, of the 300 Commonwealth public servants in that State.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. Those who have been writing to me did not have that information, and I could not be expected to know what the Premier was thinking.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted the case of the junior paid officers, and the 5th class clerks. Of the messengers, some joined the Department at the age of fourteen or fifteen years. Those who are paid small salaries are practically youths. The other officers in the General Division comprise chiefly female typists, and there is no question about the capacity of the general industrial market to absorb them. These young women usually enter the Service at sixteen or seventeen years of age, and they should have no difficulty in taking up a career outside. The compensation proposed in the case of these officers is much more liberal in several particulars than that given to officers retired from the Defence Department. There is, for instance, the increase of furlough pay to be allowed. It is proposed that these officers shall be given furlough pay of six weeks for every five years of service.
– That was done for the Defence Department officers by regulation.
– This is the first time such a proposal has been made. Recreation leave is to be added as well. Out of a total of. 1,619 permanent officers in the Taxation Department, 584 are returned soldiers. . It is hoped that it will be possible to absorb practically the whole of them in the Taxation Department or in other Departments throughout the general Service. Out of a total of 464 temporary officers in the Defence Department, there are some 150 returned soldiers. Twenty-six of these have qualified by examination for permanent appointment, and although they have not received permanent appointments they will be regarded as if they had been permanently appointed. Some fifty of the number have had no opportunity during the last three years to sit for a qualifying examination for permanent employment, and they are to be permitted to sit for such an examination, and if successful they will be. treated as if they were permanent officers. The Government has considered this matter very . carefully, and the proposals made are reasonable and fair, having regard to the public servants themselves and the public interests. The Government has come to the conclusion that it must stand by these proposals, and regrets that it cannot see its way to alter them. In respect of every other request preferred by these officers, it has met them in a substantial degree.
– This is a matter in connexion with which the Government may earn a reputation, I will not say for generosity, but for fair treatment, if it is prepared to accept the amendment.- It is no argu- ment to tell the Committee that the treatment of public servants proposed by this Bill is as liberal as that afforded to officers retrenched from the Defence Department, because it may be that those officers were not treated as liberally as they should have been. The Government cannot say that they cannot afford to accept the amendment. We know very well that if the party on this side had come into power at the last elections, the step which the Government is taking would not have been taken, and these officers would have been retained in their present positions, and .the Commonwealth would have gone on paying their salaries. No doubt a very great blessing fell upon ‘the Commonwealth when the composite Government came into power, with its bright and brilliant idea of taking this step. I do not say that Australia deserved this blessing, but it has come upon
Us, and it would not be a very great hardship if its fruits were delayed for twelve months. In the meantime something like justice would be done to these public servants who are going to be turned out of their employment with six months’ pay. I know something of the Government Service, and of how its routine unfits men to compete with others in the commercial and industrial world. If one of these officers receives £100 or £150 as six months’ pay on retirement, it is very unlikely that within six months he will be able to place himself permanently and satisfactorily outside. Every Arbitrator and Board that has ‘ assessed the pay of public servants has taken into consideration the continuity of their employment, and the fact that their salaries are likely to be increased by periodical increments. This has been considered a justification for assessing the salaries of public servants at a very low rate. As a consequence, these officers have been unable “to save anything, and now they are to be cast out with six months’ pay, which is by no means “adequate compensation for their disappointment, the loss of their positions, and the comparatively small salaries they have been receiving for years, on the assumption that their employment would be permanent. ‘ The Government cannot deny that it oan afford to give them twelve months’ full pay, which is no more than they should be given. I have no great confidence that any considerable saving will be effected by this arrangement. The Commonwealth may save something, but the expenditure of the State Governments is likely to be increased as a result of the proposal, and we cannot differentiate between the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the States. If the( Government will not be more just, I am satisfied that before long it will be very severely blamed by many people in Australia.
.I regret to hear the verdict of the Treasurer in this matter. Were the Government to accept the amendment there is not one person in the Commonwealth who would find fault with it, but on. the contrary it would be commended. The Treasurer, as a doctor visiting the homes of average people in his district, must know how difficult it is for a married man to rear a family on casual employment. The civil servants are supposed to be in receipt of fair wages, but I venture to say that there is not 2 per cent, of married men amongst them who have saved £20 in the last five or six years. No public servant who has a wife and one child can * live in the city on a salary of less than £5 per week. These men are to be kicked out with compensation in the shape of six months’ salary. There is yet time for the Government to retrace its steps, and I hope it will do so. If these men could follow any class of work it would be a different matter, but they have had no commercial training in the Public Service. It will be argued that there are vacancies for commercial men throughout the Commonwealth, but I venture to .say that if a man offered £20 for a position as a commercial traveller in Victoria he could not get it. Not one of these men have saved £20 from his salary as a civil servant, and the small amount of his compensation will vanish before he is able to find employment. I regret that there has been any need to dismiss these men. In a young and growing country like Australia we should be able to find employment for them somewhere. If the agreement with these officers is to be terminated, the Government should treat them fairly. I favour the suggestion of the honorable member for Yarra to make the minimum of compensation £200, and no man or woman in this country would find fault with the Government if that were done. - I consider the Treasurer a. kind-hearted man, but on this question he is like the Rock of Gibraltar. The Government are determined that the compensation shall consist of six months’ pay, and I hope the Committee vote will be against them.
.To do justice to the men concerned, the Government should accept this amendment. They entered the Taxation Department in the belief that they had assured prospects and permanency of employment, and to dismiss them with six months’ pay is a gross betrayal of confidence. I understand that £200,000 has been set aside for, compensation, but on the Treasurer’s own statement the bulk of these men will be absorbed in the Services of the States. Therefore, that sum should be quite sufficient to enable the Government to pay those who are retrenched twelve months’ salary. If the amendment is carried it will induce the Public Service Board to make » every possible attempt to absorb these men, whereas if only six months’ salary would be involved, that body might retrench in a drastic manner. Most of these men will have very little opportunity to get other positions. There is a glut in the market for clerical work. The Treasurer stated that there were vacancies for typists. I was secretary of the Australian Clerical Association of New South Wales for some time, and I profess to know a little about the condition of the market for clerical work. In no industry does there exist more depression than in the clerical occupation. Thousands of clerks are out of work, as the awards which prescribe a living wage practically prohibit employment, because the employer uses female labour at cheap rates in preference to male labour. Hundreds of junior typists are being thrown on the labour market, and when female clerks reach twentyone or twenty- two years of age, and require a living wage, they are dismissed and replaced by girls of sixteen or seventeen years of age. Unless these men are exceptionally lucky, or hold special qualifications, they will be compelled- to sac rifice years of special training to accept labouring work or any other work offering. They should be given a sufficient sum to- keep them while looking for employment. Even twelve months’ salary is far from adequate. To appeal to the Treasurer is like speaking to a stone wall, hut even stone walls will crack under the weight of persistent effort. I trust that the honorable gentleman will yield to our request.
– This request for twelve months’ salary as compensation is reasonable, and I am surprised that the Treasurer has not accepted it, but he appears to be adamant. I was surprised at his recent remarks, since they were so much in contrast with his previous utterances. I have pointed out that the estimated saving is problematic, because a large number of additional hands will be required by the various States when taking over the work of the Commonwealth Department. That has been repeatedly denied by the Treasurer. First there was to be a saving of £4005000, and now it is £260,000. To my surprise, he stated just now that Queensland would take 65 per cent, of the men retrenched from the Commonwealth, and that New South Wales would also take a high percentage. That supports my statement that New South Wales must obtain assistance for the additional work to be thrown upon her in the collection of income tax. The same thing will apply- to the other States. At last we have the true facts, and it is very evident from the Treasurer’s statement that nothing like 1,040 officers will be thrown out of employment. That being so, then the whole of the money that has been allotted for compensation will not be expended. Whatever the Commonwealth saves will be spent by the States, and as they, are acting together in this matter no saving will be effected at all. As not half the employees will be discharged, there will be no difficulty in adopting the amendment and granting those who are retrenched twelve months’ pay. This is a reasonable amendment. Some of us have young boys, and we are in a better position than the working man. He sends his boy to school and struggles to give him a decent education. Probably he can ill-afford it on his limited income, but to give his boy a chance to obtain a good position, he and his wife deny themselves’ many things. The boy is sent * from the public school to the high school, and probably, in some cases, he may get a bursary and continue his studies at the University. When he completes his education, his parents decide to put the lad into the Public Service, which, to many people, offers an alluring prospect. When parents have consulted me I have advised them that the Government Service is not the place foi* a bright lad, because he will not progress so well in it as he would in private employment. He gets stuck in a groove, and even when he is moved to a higher class’ his salary is increased by only a few pounds. After he has worked in a Department for six or nine years he is fit for nothing, else. Yet, because the Government has decided to make certain changes in taxation administration, some of these men are to be turned adrift in the world. Men who have been trained in shorthand, type writing, and clerical work are, to-day, a drug in the market. They can get no employment. I have in mind one lad whose parents made sacrifices in order to keep him at school until he was eighteen years of age. He engaged in clerical work, but for eighteen months he was out of work, and, eventually, had to undertake ordinary manual labour. Many of the men who are to be retrenched from the Taxation Department will have a similar experience. Since the war, clerical workers have had a very bad run. All positions that are available are given to returned soldiers, many of whom have qualified for clerical work. What is more destructive of a man’s spirit, and the incentive to self-improvement, than unemployment? If a young fellow is without a regular income, and has not some “prospects, his life is blighted, and he becomes despondent and hopeless. If a man is given a fair amount of compensation he may be able to engage in some little business ; at any rate, he can keep the wolf from the door until he finds some new employment, but without money he can dp nothing. To-day £100 does not go far, aud some of the officers to be retrenched will not receive more than about £50 or £60. That is not much to give to men who, after doing good service for the country, have been dismissed through no fault of their own. The Government should be as liberal as possible, and if the Treasurer’s statement is correct, the money already appropriated by the House for compensation will be more than sufficient to provide for the increase involved in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra. I have always held the view that when the Taxation Department is taken over by the States they will not be able to collect two taxes [without employing considerably larger staffs than they do now. The Treasurer stated that 65 per cent, of the employees ‘ of the Federal Taxation branch will bs transferred to the State Service, and will not require to be compensated.- If only 35 per cent, are to be compensated, what is there to prevent the Commonwealth paying the compensation which the honorable’ member for Yarra has suggested? I cannot, understand why the Treasurer is adamant. Many members opposite are, I believe, in sympathy with the amendment,- because they know that the officers to be dismissed are entitled to reasonable consideration. When once the service of these men is dispensed with they may be out of employment for a very long time. They are not suited to ordinary manual labour, and are certainly not fitted to go on the land. They will have to be absorbed in some form of city activity. The Treasurer admits that even the expenditure of the first year’s saving will not be required to compensate them. That being so, I cannot understand why he will notaccept our reasonable amendment. It appears that he will not even compromise. We are getting no response at all to our appeal. It is as though we were talking to men who are deaf or asleep - as, in fact, some honorable members are. I do not want unduly to labour the matter, but it is important that all aspects of it should be placed before the Committee. Perhaps, after a little longer consideration, the Treasurer will yield to our appeals. I have had ray ups and downs in life, and I know what it means to be unemployed. I am certain that there is every justification for the adoption of this amendment. We are placing every phase, of the situation before honorable members, so that later on they will not be justified in saying they did not realize how much was at stake. If we could visualize for a moment the situation in- which these men will be placed when they are retrenched, f am sure we would willingly consent to the amendment. The Treasurer has informed the Committee that the New South Wales. Government intends to absorb 60 per cent, of the Taxation Department’s employees in that State, and that Queensland will absorb 65 per cent. If the other States will act similarly, a very small amount will be required for compensation. More than a sufficient amount for the purpose is already voted. We should, insure that these employees shall receive an amount which will be an incentive to them to earnestly seek for employment elsewhere. We must enable them to make strong efforts to gratify their ambitions in life and to make progress. When once the incentive to progress is destroyed, life follows a downward track. Surely no honorable member wishes to place any of these employees in such a position that they will feel too disheartened to make any effort to retrieve their position. In view of the valued -service that they have rendered to the community, we should pay them adequate compensation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The arguments which have been advanced by honorable members on this side of the Committee in favour of giving the employees of the Taxation Department who are to be retrenched the equivalent of twelve months’ pay as compensation have been sound. These employees will be under a great disability in seeking employment elsewhere, because of the specialized nature of their training. On that account the Government should not under-estimate its obligations. These employees have rendered valuable service to the community, and the Committee should not hesitate to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin),. It is quite possible that ordinary clerical work will not be available to these men, and we should protect them from undue embarrassment while they are seeking suitable employment. The Leader of the Opposition and other members on this side have so’ far appealed in vain to the Treasurer for justice to be done to these men who are to be retired compulsorily from the Department. Unfortunately, any suggestion emanating from this side is discounted. ‘ I do not know why the Governmnet refuse to recognise their obligations . towards these officers. It would appear, however, that no consideration is to be given to men in the lower ranks of the Service. If we were considering claims on behalf of the officers in the higher branches, we would find that very liberal arrangements had been made to compensate them for retirement. The action of the Government in this matter demonstrates that they are prepared’ to advance the interests of those who have, at the expense of those who have not. I trust, however, that the Treasurer will show a little mare consideration for the claims of these deserving public servants, many of whom will find it exceedingly difficult to obtain outside employment, Surely the Minister realizes that unless the amendment is agreed to grave injustice will be done to men, many of. whom, from life-long experience in public departments, are unfitted for competition in the outside business world. I submit that they have a just claim upon the Commonwealth. The amount involved cannot be very great. They are ‘entitled to twelve months’ pay instead of six. months, as provided in the clause. I appeal in all earnestness to the Treasurer to accept the amendment, and do the fair thing by the officers concerned.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I want a little more information about the clause. It provides that -
The amount payable to any officer shall not be less than the equivalent of six months’ pay, and shall not exceed the pay of the officer for the unexpired period of his service.
It occurs to me that some very hard cases may arise under this provision. I take the case of a man who has thirty years’ service and is sixty-four years of age. He has only twelve months to serve, and it appears to me that under this clause he will get only twelve months’ pay as compensation, and not thirty months’ pay. A man who has served twenty or thirty years in the Public Service is entitled to more than twelve months’ pay on compulsory retirement. Such a man will, in most cases, have reached an age when he cannot expect to obtain employment outside.
– What is intended by this clause is to protect the revenue. In a case such as that cited by the honorable member, there would be no advantage in retiring the officer if he were to receive thirty months’ pay, when he would be retired under the Public Service Act in twelve months. Such a man would not be retrenched, but would be retained in the Service until his retirement under the Public Service Act in the ordinary way.
– What complaint could such an officer have if he were paid his regular salary up to the end of his service under the Public Service Act? On his retirement he would be entitled to superannuation.
– The clause provides for six months’ pay; an amendment has been proposed from this side that ib should be increased to twelve months’ pay, and I ask the Treasurer now whether he cannob see his way to split the difference and make provision for nine months’ pay?
– No. The matter has been gone into very carefully.
– I am very much inclined to move an amendment to provide for nine months’ pay; but there appears to be no hope of moving the Government or its supporters.
.I should like to know whether we are to understand that as the result of an amendment made earlier, when an officer is retired he will be given compensation at the rate of pay he was actually receiving at the time of his retirement,
– Even though he should be .working outside his class on higher duties, will his compensation be estimated on the higher salary?
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Compensation in accordance with the last preceding section shall also be payable to any officer who, with the written consent of the Treasurer, retires voluntarily from the Commonwealth Service within six months after the date upon which an arrangement with the State in which he is employed comes into operation, and
The provisions of this Act shall apply in relation to ‘any such officer who retires in pursuance of this section in like manner as they apply in relation to officers who are retired in pursuance of section 5 of this Act.
– This clause refers to officers retiring voluntarily, and I should like to know just what its effect will he. “Will an officer -who has been transferred to the Service of a State, should he retire voluntarily, have the same rights under the Bill as if ho had retired from a Commonwealth Department? The Treasurer has said that the State Governments will take over quite a number of these officers of the Taxation Department, and some of them for sufficient reason might, after their transfer to a State Department, wish to retire. If ‘they retire while in the Service of the Commonwealth they will be entitled to compensation, but I am very much afraid that no provision is made for officers who transfer to a State Department and then voluntarily retire.
– Clause 7 will not apply in the way understood by the Leader of the Opposition. It is intended to meet the case of an officer in the Commonwealth Service whose retirement makes a position vacant for an officer of the Taxation Branch, or whose position on voluntary retirement is filled by an officer of the Taxation Branch. It is necessary to give effect to the proposal that retrenchment shall operate throughout the Service. It is not the Taxation officer who will be affected by this clause.
.- - I understand the Treasurer’s meaning, but the clause does not convey it. The clause as drafted provides that any officer of the Taxation Department who enters any other Commonwealth Department, and who retires within twelve months of doing so, is entitled to compensation ; but if the officer is sent to a State he will not get that benefit. Clause 7 deals specifically with compensation to officers retiring voluntarily, and its meaning is not clearly expressed.
– Those men are governed by paragraphs a and b. Mr. CHARLTON.- I doubt- it very much. As the Bill is drafted those officers who go to the service of the States, and retire voluntarily within twelve months, do not receive compensation, and that is not equitable.
– If they go to the service of the States they are not taking another man’s position.
– That has been the argument right throughout. There is a grave doubt about the Bill, and I wonder that the Treasurer does not realize it.
– Any officer who is transferred to a State and desires to voluntarily retire, could be dealt with under clause 5.
– I do not think so. That clause does not deal with voluntary retirements. The essence of the Bill is that every officer shall have the same t, privilege, and there, shall ‘ not be any distinction.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a man transferred to another position instead of being retired, is also entitled to compensation?
– That has been the contention of the Treasurer throughout. I move -
That after the word “ Service “ the words “ or from the service of a State after transfer “ be inserted.
.When making the adjustment under the Bill some men will be retained in the Commonwealth Service and others will be transferred to the State Service. The former have the right, within twelve months, to voluntarily retire with the consent of the Treasurer, and to obtain compensation. The same right should be given to the man who is transferred to the State against his will.
Mr.- Groom. - He would be a State servant.
– Both men should be placed on the same footing. Surely it ls a reasonable request.
– When an officer voluntarily retires his position will be filled by a taxation officer who might otherwise have been retired. In that case the officer who makes way for the taxation officer receives compensation. If an officer is retired on the ground of economy he receives compensation. That is- compulsory retirement. If a man in the Public Service, and not in the Taxation Department, gives way to a taxation officer, he will receive compensation. That is voluntary retirement. This was the problem : We were carry- ing out this taxation reform and endeavouring to get the work done by the States. To deal with the unemployment thus occasioned in the Commonwealth Taxation Department it was decided either to place the men in employment in the State Service or to give them compensation if they were retired or voluntarily retired. If transferred to a Stale, they would be provided with employment; but if not so transferred, then we would endeavour to employ them in the Public Service. If a man in the Public Service made way for a taxation officer he would receive compensation provided his resignation was approved by the Treasurer. There would be no need to give compensation to an officer for whom we provide work. If compensation were provided for these men on their voluntary retirement from the State Service, the position might be that they would go to the States, andwithin twelve months resign possibly, on accepting better positions elsewhere and might ask for compensation. No injustice will be done under this clause. If an officer should retire voluntarily the Public Service Board will fill the position with a taxation officer.
– Paragraph b of sub-clause 1 provides for compensation to an officer who retires voluntarily and whose office is filled by an officer of the Taxation Department “who, in the opinion of the Treasurer, is of substantially similar status to the officer who has retired.” If the office were filled by a person who had not those qualifications, would the person who vacated it still be entitled to compensation? Surely the very fact of a man’s position being filled by an officer of the Taxation Branch should be sufficient to qualify him for compensation.
– I think that the point raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) is reasonable. “We cannot control State officers, but the two paragraphs in sub-clause 1 are substantially sufficient to meet the case. I promise that in administering this Bill, clause 5 will always be construed to give an officer who has been transferred to the State twelve months in which to make up his mind to retire, and if his office is filled by an . officer of the Taxation Branch he will receive compensation.
– I would not like to be administering the Act and have the task of construing it as the Treasurer has promised.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed - ,
That in sub-clause (1) the word “ six “ be omitted and “twelve” inserted in lieu thereof.
– Will the Treasurer make it clear that an ‘officer will not be retired, unless because of misconduct, at a lower salary than is payable to him on the data of the passing of this Bill.
– That is already provided for.
.We should compliment the draftsman on the clearness with which the purposes of the Bill are expressed. For instance, clause 7 relates to the “ last preceding section.” Turning back to the last preceding section we find that it also refers back to. the last preceding section. So that in reading clause 7 we get back to clause 5. However, I congratulate the Treasurer on the amendment he has submitted, to allow voluntary retirement within twelve months instead of six months. At 4 o’clock this morning he could not see the point which honorable members on this side were trying to make, but now his vision has become clearer. If we continue the discussion for a few hours longer the provisions of the Bill may be further liberalized.
Amendment agreed to.
– It has been suggested^ that a scheme could be formulated to facilitate retirements generally upon just terms, in order to give an additional opportunity for assimilating those who under this Bill will be required to retire.
– This clause is drafted in such a way that it will be sufficiently comprehensive for the pur-, pose the honorable member has in mind.
– Which part of it deals with that aspect of .the question?
– Sub-clause 1 reads -
Compensation in accordance * with the last preceding section shall also be payable to any officer who, with the written consent of the
Treasurer, retires voluntarily from the Commonwealth Service within six months after’ the date upon which an arrangement with the State in which he is employed comes into operation.’
– Apparently that does facilitate retirements, and will provide an easy method of assimilating employees. The Treasurer will realize that I am struggling under great difficulties to comprehend the intricacies of this intricate Bill.
– I think we are wasting time on the Bill.
– I object to the remark that I am wasting time, and I ask the honorable member for Henty to withdraw it.
– If the honorable member for Henty made such a remark he must withdraw it.
– I did not state that the honorable member was wasting time. I suggested that in my opinion it was time we made better progress with the Bill.
– I am not permitted under the Standing Orders to refer any further to the apology of the honorable member for Henty, but I- will say that he has not made a single suggestion for the betterment of the Bill, and apparently he has not the slightest interest in the Public Service.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Compensation payable in pursuance of this Act shall bc in addition to any pay in lieu of furlough payable to the officer under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1022.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the words “ any pay in lieu of furlough payable to the officer under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922 ‘’ bc omitted, and the following be inserted in lieu thereof: - ” (a) Any pay. in lieu of furlough payable to the officer under the provisions of’ section 73 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922;
Where the officer is, immediately prior . to his retirement, eligible for recreation leave for any period, the sum equivalent to the amount of salary which would be payable to him for 0 that period if the leave were granted to him.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause- 9> (Compensation where person entitled to pension, &c).
– I ask the Treasurer whether the existing rights, under the old New South Wales Superannuation Act, of former public servants of that State who are now Commonwealth officers will be preserved? Hardship may be inflicted upon some of these officers if they are compelled to retire under this measure.
– We cannot compulsorily retire officers in any Department other than the Taxation Department.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed- to.
Clause 12 (Application of Act to temporary employees who have passed examination).
.Under this clause I understand that the Government proposes to give temporary employees an opportunity to pass the prescribed examination. Is that so? A number of returned soldiers who are temporary employees sat for the examination, but some failed to pass it because of war disabilities. Some of them have been in the Service for five or six years. Will the Government allow all of them the right to sit for the examination, and will returned soldiers who fail to pass be dealt with under the Repatriation Act?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Regulations).
.Under the scheme of this Bill the State and Commonwealth income tax assessments will be received at once, and the taxpayers will be put in a difficult position if two amounts have to be paid simultaneously. The Treasurer has in- formed us that arrangements are being made in Victoria and New South Wales to issue the uniform taxation forms. The forms have already been issued in Western Australia, and the taxes are now being demanded. Will the Treasurer take steps immediately to inform the taxpayers in Western Australia that they will not be required to pay both taxes at the same time?
– I will immediately ask the various State Governments which will collect the taxes to try to make provision for the Federal and State payments to be made on different dates, and also, if possible, to intimate on the assessment form the date on which the respective payments will be due. I will do that immediately.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate, without amendment or request: -
River Murray -Waters Agreement Bill.
Sulphur Bounty Bill.
Customs Tariff (Sulphur). Bill.
Shale Oil Bounty Bill.
Land Tax Assessment Bill.
Special Annuity Bill, o
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is only a temporary measure to provide for the establishment of the Royal Australian Air Force as a distinct part of the Defence Force of the Commonwealth, and for its organization. I hope, early in the next session, to bring in a comprehensive measure to deal, not only with the establishment of the Air Force, but with the subject of air defence as a whole. At the present time the Air Force is part of the Military Forces, and, consequently many difficulties have been experienced in connexion with the administration. It is, therefore, essential that the Air Force shall be administered as a separate branch. of the defence services. Until distinctly substantive provision can be- made for the government of the Air Force, the Force, and the members of it, will be subject to the Defence Act in the same way as at present. Power is given in the Bill to modify and adapt the Defence Act and regulations, and to give them full effect as regards the Air Force. The Defence Act cannot, however, be modified, or adapted so as to make the Air Force Act of the United Kingdom applicable in any circumstances. There are certain references in the Defence Act, which have been adopted by this Bill, to the Army Act, but those references do not apply to the Air Force in any way. The Army Act applies only to the Military Force; not tq the Air Force at all. The only other question of importance has relation to enlistment either within or outside the” limits of the Commonwealth. The clause dealing with this matter is only inserted to cover the case of men in seaplanes, based on the coastline of Australia, who may fly’ beyond the 3-mile limit, or who are attached to any naval vessel for the purpose of training. If this provision were not included in the Bill it- would be doubtful whether the men would be subject to any Act at all, or which Act they would be subject to when outside the 3- mile limit. This doubt is set at rest by providing that wherever men may be they will be subject to the provisions of this Bill which, as I have said, is only rergarded as a temporary measure.
– Honorable members will recollect that, when this subject was last before us in another Bill, strong objection was taken to the measure, because it incorporated the Imperial Army Act. It was withdrawn for that reason. Though this Bill seems to be an innocent measure I find that it contains the same obnoxious provisions to which exception was taken in the Bill that was withdrawn. If passed in its present form we shall be in exactly the same position as we would have been in had the other measure been accepted. I am quite sure that honorable members, the people, and our soldiers, do not want that. We all took it for granted that the measure to provide for the establishment, organization, and government of the Australian Air Force would contain none of those provisions. We were under the impression that the new Bill would make the Australian Air Force purely Australian, and omit all reference to the British Army Act. The definition clause states that “Defence Act” means the Defence Act 1903-1918. The Air Force Act is defined as “An Act to provide for the discipline and regulation of the Air Force,” being the Army Act modified in accordance with the provisions of the Air Force (Constitution) Act 1917. It will be remembered that, when discussing this subject before, I pointed out .quite clearly, and it was generally accepted, that the Air Force Act in Great Britain incorporated the Imperial Army Act, and that for all purposes they were one and the same. The Minister, instead of bringing the ^Australian Air Force under the Imperial Air Force Act, is bringing it under the provisions of the Imperial Army Act in time of war, and, as all honorable members know, the Imperial Army Act contains provisions to which we strongly object. Clause 3 of the Bill provides -
Section 15 of the Defence Act 1917 reads as follows : -
The Military Forces shall at all times whilst on war. service, whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth, be subject, to the Army Act, save so far as is inconsistent with this Act, and subject to such modifications And adaptations as are prescribed, including -the imposition of a fine not exceeding £20 for an offence either in addition to or in substitution for the punishment provided by the Army Act and the increase or the reduction of an amount of a fine provided by the Army Act. . . .
– That refers only to the Military Forces. The section will not apply to the Air Force, which is made a separate Force.
– From my reading of the Bill the Defence Act, having adopted the Imperial Army Act, will automatically bring the Australian Air Force under that measure.
– The honorable member is in error. _That section refers only to the Military Forces.
– According to my reading of clause. 3, the Australian Air
Force, whilst on war service, will be under the Imperial Army Act, because the Defence Act of 1903-1918 includes the Defence Act of 1917, and automatically it brings us under the Imperial Army Act.
– If the honorable member does not think -the .Bill is sufficiently clear on the point, I am prepared to insert a provision that the British Army Act shall not apply to the Air Force.
– I wish first to complete my case. This is a very important matter, and it passes my comprehension, in view of the discussion on. the first of these Bills introduced, that the Government cannot establish an Australian Air Force without embodying in the Bill for the purpose the provisions of the Army Act. Section 20 of the Defence Act of 1917 reads -
Section 78 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - ‘ “ 78. Any member of the Citizen Military Forces who, having! been required- to serve pursuant to a proclamation made tinder Part III. of this Act, and any person who, having been required to serve pursuant to Part IV. of this Act, absents himself without leave for a longer period than seven days from his corps or from the place at which he should be present, shall be deemed to he a deserter, and shall he liable to the punishment -provided for desertion by the Army Act.”
If we pass this Bill as it stands the men in the Air Force will be subject to the punishments provided by the British Army Act. I do not think that the Min- .ister intends that, but the Bill provides for it, and I suggest that the honorable gentleman should withdraw the Bill for the time being. The public of Australia will not stand for a Bill of this kind. That was made apparent through the press and in other ways when the first of these measures was under consideration. There is not one returned soldier in twenty who will stand for the application of the Army Act to an Australian Force. I make another quotation from the Defence Act of 1917- - Nothing in this section shall affect the powers conferred by the Army. Act in regard to the Military Forces or of the Naval Discipline Act in regard to “the Naval Forces of convening courts martial and confirming the findings and sentences of those courts. That brings us again to courts martial under the British Army Act. The mean- ing is so plain to me that I hope the House will not allow this Bill to pass in its present shape. Australia desires the establishment of an Air Force on Australian lines, and wants to have nothing io do with the British Army Act. Here is another section of the Defence Act of 1917-
Section 88 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ 88. Except so far as is inconsistent with this Act, the laws and regulations for the time being in. force in relation to the composition, procedure (including the reception of evidence), and powers of courts martial in the King’s Regular Land Forces, the revision, confirmation, effect, and consequences of the findings and sentences of such courts martial, and the mitigation, remission, and commutation of the sentences thereby imposed, shall apply to courts martial in the Military Forces, and their findings and sentences, and the like laws and regulations in relation to the King’s Regular Naval Forces shall similarly apply to the case of the Naval Forces.”
Whether the Minister desires it or not, this Bill embodies the British Army Act. There should not be the shadow of a doubt that the British Army Act is not incorporated in our legislation in any shape or form. It cannot be disputed that if we pass this Bill in its present form it will embody the British Army Act. When I looked at the Bill first I thought there was not much in it, but when I looked into it more closely I discovered what I have now placed before the House. Clause 3 in this Bill is, with the exception of the omission of a few words, the same as a clause in the first Air Force Bill that was introduced. Whilst in this measure there is no direct reference to the British Army Act, it is indirectly incorporated by the incorporation of our Defence Act of 1917. The Minister would be well advised to drop this Bill or amend it in such a way as to provide for a purely Australian Force subject only to Australian legislation.
– I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition, and I am inclined to think that he is right in his contention ‘ that under this Bill the Air Force would be subject to the British Army Act. I know that honorable members opposite differ from me in the matter, but I do not think there is anything objectionable in any part of our Forces coming under the British Army Act. I know it was the intention of the Minister for Defence and of the Government to submit a short Bill providing for the establishment of an Air Force which should be subject in no way to the Army Act. We have too much drafting of measures by legal men, and it is very hard indeed for laymen to follow their meaning. A layman could draft a Bill which an ordinary individual could understand at a glance. I know from previous debates that a majority in this House, and I believe a majority of the people outside; are against the incorporation of the Army Act in our legislation. . There should be no trouble in overcoming the difficulty by inserting some provision to say that. ‘ the Army Act shall not apply to the Air Force. I hope that that will be done, and that the House will pass the Bill so that the Air Force will be established, because we have some very good men who will not continue in our. service indefinitely unless there is a prospect of their permanent employment.
– I am glad to know that it is fully realized by honorable members on both sides that the Bill recently presented for discussion in this Chamber was objectionable by reason of its incorporation of the Army Act. The Government having promised us a Bill which would be free from that objectionable characteristic, I do not suppose it would in a devious way impose a measure upon us which would be a repetition of .the Bill which was so objectionable to honorable members on both sides. The Bill, in one of its provisions, clearly adopts the Defence Act in globo, with the exception of Part 15 of the Act. The Minister referred to section 54a of the Defence Act of 1903-18, which reads - 54a. (1) Members of the Military Forces, whether on war service or not -
serving with Imperial Forces outside Australia; or
on their way back to Australia after so serving or after war service, shall be deemed to be on war service and shall be subject to the Army Act as if they were part of His Majesty’s Regular Land Forces, with such modifications and adaptations as are prescribed.
I think I understand the Minister’s’ point that the reference to the Military Forces excludes the Air Force.
– The Naval Discipline Act is referred to concerning . the Naval Force.
– That may be so. That would meet the objection of the honorable member for Warringah that the Military Force included the Air Force. I take it that that is the view of the Government.
– That is so.
– One wonders why we adopt this Act in globo, since, even assuming that the Military Forces do not include the Air Force, it puts us to the necessity of examining every section of the Defence Act to see how far this Bill - is really affected by it. The simplest way to meet the objection is to make the position clear, either by an affirmative amendment or by dropping the clause, and I suggest that it would be better to delete the clause altogether. As already stated by the Minister, the object is merely to place the separate existence of the Air Force on a legal basis. Coupled with that statement was the promise that we were later to have a detailed Bill for discussion, but I should have thought it sufficient to establish the Air Force without incorporating in this measure our .own Defence Act, since it is a very long Act, and we do not know how far-reaching the Bill may be. I suggest to the Minister that we should drop the clause until we know the precise meaning of the Bill. I am not quite sure that our suspicions of this Bill are not well founded. I am somewhat mystified as to why we have adopted the Defence Act, carefully excluding the unimportant part at the end of the Act relating to military colleges, and embodying everything else. If the position is not clarified it will become necessary, of course, to examine this Bill in detail side by side with the Defence Act. It has been suggested that the objection might be met later by a provision to this effect : -
That notwithstanding anything contained in this section the Imperial Act, called the Army Act, and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force, shall not apply to the Air Force.
On the face of it, that appears to be sufficient.
.- The Minister seems to doubt the correctness of the Leader of the Opposition’s interpretation of this Bill, and its relation to the Defence Act. The better plan would be to delete sub-clause 3 of clause 3, and then there would be no doubt about it. Sub-clause 3 says that the Defence Act (except Part XV. thereof) shall apply to this Bill. Then, in the definitions, it is stated that the Defence Act means the Defence Act 1903-18. That shows plainly that the whole of the Defence Act, leaving out Part XV., applies to this Bill. I am prepared to accept the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition. If he is prepared to agree to the amendment offered by the Minister, I shall have no objection to it. But I should have preferred to delete sub-clause 3 of clause 3.
– I do not want honorable members tobe under the impression that I have been trying to side-step my promise to them. I remind honorable members that there are three forces - the Air Force, the Military Force, and the Naval Force. The forces referred to in the Defence Act, having relation to the Imperial Acts, are the Military and Naval Forces. Provision is made in the Defence Act that the Military Force, in certain circumstances, shall come under certain provisions of the Army Act. It also provides that, in certain circumstances, the Naval Force shall come under the Naval Discipline Act. Neither of these two Acts refer to the Australian Air Force, nor to the Air Force of England. Those Acts will be inoperative as far as the three forces as a whole are concerned, because they relate to either the Military Force or the Naval Force.
– The Imperial Air Force Act comes under the Army Act in many respects.
– No ; the Imperial Air Force, does not come under the Army Act. The British Parliament passed an Imperial Air Force Act in the same way as we did when we constituted a separate force, which Act, of course, embodied nearly all the provisions of the Army Act and adapted them to the Air Force, but a separate Act was necessary.
– But every amendment of the Army Act automatically affects the Imperial Air Force Act.
– The Air Force in England is controlled by the Air Force
Act only. I am not aware whether the Imperial Act makes such provision as the honorable member indicates. We have to provide, not only for the formation, but also for the organization and government of the Australian Air Force.
– This Bill brings the Air Force under the Defence Act 1903-1918, which embodies the British Army Act.
– The Defence Act embodies the provisions of the Army Act in reference to the military forces only. We might have included in this Bill all the provisions of the Defence Act that are applicable to the Air Force, but as this is only a temporary measure and the Air Force has, up to the present time, been working under the Defence Act, I thought it better to provide in this Bill merely for the constitution of the Air Force, and to carry on under the Defence Act by reference until a comprehensive measure can be brought down. Part XV. of the Defence Act is excluded, because, otherwise, the Air Force officers would be required to go through Duntroon Military College, and that is not desirable. In order to make the Bill as simple as possible, it has been drafted in this way, and its general effect is to continue the Air Force under the Defence Act as heretofore. The only extra provisions are- those duly constituting the Air Force and rendering it unnecessary for officers to pass through Duntroon College. But, in order to meet the view of the Leader of the Opposition, I shall be prepared to move, in Committee, an amendment to specifically provide that the Imperial Army Act shall not apply to the Air Force.
– That will do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 - .
.Subclause 3 empowers the GovernorGeneral to make any regulation his advisers may recommend under the Defence Act. That Act was passed in war time and contains about 150 sections. This , Committee is again asked to legislate by reference. Laws were passed in war . time which should not be repeated in time of peace. Surely a Bill could have been drafted which would have stated in its own clauses all that the Government desires done.
– Yes, but that would have extended the Bill to about eighty or ninety clauses.
– We are asked to take the word of the Government as to what this sub-clause means. Is anybody so foolish as to think that an Air Force can be established by a Bill of three clauses? The original Air Force Bill which was withdrawn contained over 100 clauses. It is clear, therefore, that it is necessary to embody the provisions of the Defence Act, some of which would be eliminated if the House had a chance of voting on them to-day. How can there be parliamentary control under a sub-clause such as this? I have read the Air Force Act, which distinctly says that any amendment of the Army Act automatically applies to the Air Force Act; and under this clause the Defence Act, which embodies the Army Act, may be modified and adapted in such a way as to bring the Australian Air Force under the Imperial Air Force Act.
– There is no mention of the Imperial Air Force Act in the Defence Act.
– No, but the Air Force Act, like the Defence Act, embodies the Army Act, and I can see nothing to prevent “ the Governor-General from making regulations embodying all the provisions of the Army Act. I would state in the Bill all that is considered necessary in connexion with the establishment, organization, and control of the Air Force, and would limit the power of making regulations to certain specified matters.
– We can only adapt and modify the Defence Act, and as the proposed new sub-clause that the Minister has promised to add will exclude the Army Act, there will be no authority to embody any portion of the Imperial Air Force Act.
– It is clear that, under this Bill of three clauses, everything that the Government desires done must be done by regulation, whereas, if the Bill were self-contained the power of regulation would be restricted by the provisions of the statute.
– It is proposed merely to adapt the provisions of the Defence Act to the purposes of the Air Force Act.
– But the Act may be adapted in the wrong way.
– Has the honorable member in his mind any specific danger?
– It is impossible for any honorable member to have much in his mind at this hour of the morning. It is unfair to ask us to take the responsibility of passing a Bill with three clauses, giving the Government power to establish the Air Force, and make regulations, and modify and adapt the provisions of another Act of 150 sections. All the powers that are necessary for the temporary organization of the Air Force should be stated in the Bill. We should vote against this clause.
.- I protest against the introduction of this Bill. I desire legislation to be passed for the establishment of the Royal Australian Air Force, because I realize that, in the absence of such a law, the men and officers of the Force are in a very unsatisfactory position. As a result, the Commonwealth U losing the services of good men. Nevertheless, it is not fair for the Government to expect any honorable member to record an intelligent vote upon this Bill. It embodies by reference the Defence Act. “What do I know about that measure, except that the original measure was passed in 1903, and was amended at various times up to 1918? How can I allow even one section of the Defence Act to be incorporated in this Bill if I do not know the text of it? This legislation has been introduced so hurriedly that honorable members have not had an opportunity of reading the Defence Act. It is five years since that Statute has been amended or reviewed. Because it was acceptable in 1918 it does not follow that it would be acceptable in 1923. I notice that sub-clause 1 of clause 1 reads -
There shall be an Air Force, to be called the Royal Australian Air Force, which may be raised, maintained, and organized by the Governor-General for the defence and protection of the Commonwealth, and shall be part of the Defence Force constituted under the Defence Act.
Does that mean that the GovernorGeneral will maintain and organize the force? I suppose it would be a great relief to the Minister for Defence if he did so. If he is not to do so, why do these words appear in the clause?
Amendment (by Mr. Bowden) proposed -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Imperial Act, called the Army Act, and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force, shall not apply to the Air Force.”
– Will that include regulations ?
– Yes, “ Act “ includes regulations.
– Unfortunately, sometimes the Act is departed from in framing the regulations. I would like to see the words “or any regulations framed thereunder “ included in the amendment.
– We are prepared to put them in, but, really, they are quite unnecessary.
I suggest to the Minister that he should alter the amendment to read - “ Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the Imperial Acts, called the Army Act and the Air Force Act, and any Acts amending or in substitution for those Acts for the time being in force, shall not apply to the Air Force.”
– The Air Force Act is not referred to in the Defence Act.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Yarra is quite unnecessary.
– It is quite possible that regulations framed under the Imperial Air Force Act may be applied to our Air Force.
– That cannot be done.
– The very fact that the Minister resists my suggestion makes me feel that what I am afraid of is intended.
– The only reason why we ask the honorable member not to press his suggestion is that it will make the amendment absurd.
– It may be said that we are too suspicious, but we have very strong reasons for suspicion. The Minister told us that this Bill was quite all right, and we found it was not so. The original Air Force Bill was not drafted by the ordinary legal advisers of the Government, and this Bill has come from the same source. These Bills bear on their face the mark of blue-blooded militarists. It makes one suspicious when he learns that the Imperial Acts make possible a death penalty for the ordinary rank and file and only cashiering for the officers.
– This Bill was drafted by the legal advisers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I hope that the honorable member for Yarra will not start the old discussion again.
– I do not want .’to start it again, but we are justified in taking every precaution.
– I hope the honorable member will not press his suggested amendment. There is no reference in our Defence Act to the Imperial Air Force Act. His suggested amendment is unnecessary.
– In all the circumstances, I think it will be safer for me to go on with it. Therefore I move -
That after the words “Army Act “ the words “ or Air Force Act “ be inserted.
– When the previous Air Force Bill was before us, the Minister for Defence will remember that I specially referred to one clause of the Canadian Air Defence Act under which numerous regulations were framed. The Minister said then, “I would not mind if I had a clause like that.”
– But I purposely refrained from using that clause because I did not want a general power to make regulations.
– Our Defence Act gives considerable power to make regulations. Will it be possible for the Minister, under the clause now before us, to introduce and apply to the Australian Air Force what are practically British Army Act regulations?
-Will the Minister be able to apply to our Air Force the pains and penalties which are provided for in our Defence Act ?
– Yes, because we are adopting the Defence Act in this Bill.
– Then the Minister will be able to frame numerous regulations under this measure, which may be practically on all fours with the British Army Act regulations.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is wrong, because the power under our Defence Act to impose penalties in peace time is very limited. I think the most severe penalty that can be imposed is a fine of £5 or a month’s imprisonment. As a matter of fact, we are almost entirely dependent upon the civil law for the enforcement of the Defence Act in peace time.
– Will the Minister give Parliament an opportunity to discuss the regulations he frames for the control of the Air Force before they become operative? .
– I cannot promise that, because Parliament will not be sitting. I can assure honorable members that I do not intend, under these powers, to do anything in the direction of bringing in extreme penalties in connexion with our Defence Force.
Amendment of amendment withdrawn.
Amendment agreed to.
– We have now reached the stage when we are free to vote, as I propose to vote, against the clause as amended. I am opposed to the attachment of the whole of the Defence Act to this Bill, and its acceptance, in globo, by this Committee. Personally, I would not accept the Defence Act 1903- 1918 if it were submitted to us in detail. There are many features of the Act to which I am strongly opposed. I am opposed also to the principle of legislation by reference. I know of no abuse which we have had to condemn so frequently, and with such good reason, as this principle of legislation by reference. Almost every measure that comes before us has to be considered by reference to some document, or Bill, or Act, which is not ‘before us. In this case I am pretty safe in saying that I would not accept the Defence Act of 1903-1918, not because I am not acquainted with its provisions, but because I know too much about them. Without delaying the Committee I wish to say that I cannot accept the clause as amended. I accept the Minister’s assurance, and his draftsmanship, as being sufficient to exclude the operation of any Imperial Act. That is satisfactory, so far as it goes. My present contention being that it does not go far enough, I intend to vote for the rejection of the clause, and I hope that honorable members associated with me on this side of the Committee will do the same.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment. Standing Orders suspended: report adopted. Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I present the papers, prepared in the Prime Minister’s Department, in connexion with the League of Nations, and relating to the mandatory system. I move -
That the papers be printed.
– This may be a convenient opportunity to ask the right honorable the Prime Minister the intention of the Government with regard to sending an Australian delegation to the International Labour Congress in connexion with the League of Nations. The Prime Minister intimated some time ago that, the Government had reconsidered their attitude, but since then nothing further has been done. It is essential that the delegates should be selected at the earliest possible moment.
– The honorable member is not correct in saying that nothing has been done since I made the announcement that the Government proposed to send a delegation. All the Labour organizations of the different States have been communicated with, and have been asked to send in nominations. A majority of the States have done so, and an announcement will be made within the next few days as to the delegation it is proposed to send.
In Committee: (Consideration of Governor-General’s message.)
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to guarantee advances made to finance schemes for the marketing of wheat.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short Bill, and is introduced for one purpose, namely, to enable the Commonwealth Government to guarantee overdrafts given by the Commonwealth Bank in respect of advances to Wheat Pools. That is all that there is in the Bill. This is the first time a Bill of this character has been introduced, although on many occasions we have guaranteed advances to wheatgrowers in Australia. The reason why this is being done by means of a Bill on this occasion is that by reason of a decision of the High Court it is very doubtful whether the Executive has the power to guarantee the Commonwealth Bank against any loss in respect of advances made to a Wheat Pool. Notwithstanding .an announcement in this House that it was . the intention to so guarantee the Commonwealth Bank, and although there may have been, as there has been in this case, a fairly protracted debate on the question of advances to wheat-growers, and a discussion as ,to whether the advance should be 3s. or 4s. per bushel at sidings, because of the legal decision to which I have referred, there are grave doubts whether the Commonwealth csm actually indemnify the Commonwealth Bank in respect of the advances it makes for this purpose. This is purely a Bill intended to overcome any difficulty which may arise from the position which the decision of the Court has created. It is intended to make it perfectly certain that the Government can guarantee these advances by the Commonwealth Bank. The question of how much is to be advanced to the Pools does not arise under this Bill. We have already - on the 3rd July - dealt with the subject of Wheat Pools and the amount of the advance. I believe that a vote was taken in this House as to whether the advance should be 3s. or 4s. per bushel at railway sidings. The result of that vote was to show that a majority of honorable members were of opinion that the advance should be 3s. per bushel at sidings plus 8d. for charges. I think that this is all the explanation of the Bill that is necessary.
– The right honorable gentleman made a mistake when he said that on the 3rd July a vote was taken on the amount of the advance. As a matter of fact, what occurred at that time was that I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the matter, and the motion was talked out, and no vote was taken. There is, therefore, nothing to show whether the House is in favour of a guarantee or not. Of course, the House can say whether it is in favour of a guarantee now. The Prime Minister has referred to the Commonwealth Bank, but I see. no mention of it in the Bill.
– The Commonwealth Bank is not mentioned in the Bill, but it is through the Commonwealth Bank that all the arrangements in connexion with the Wheat Pool will be made.
– Would it not be as well to have the Commonwealth Bank mentioned in the Bill?
– That- is not necessary, and the Commonwealth Bank will probably get assistance from all the
– I do not wish to prolong the discussion after an allnight sitting, but I re-affirm the opinion I have already expressed that the guaranteed advance should be 4s. per bushel. Honorable members on this side representing country constituencies are of the same opinion. The only statement in opposition to this view made during the discussion of the motion for the adjournment of the House was that made by th-j honorable member for Echuca, who said that there might be a difficulty, because wheat might not realize 4s. per bushel. The honorable member was, of course, quite entitled to give his opinion, and it is just as competent for another honorable member to take a different view. But assuming that the price of wheat did not reach 4s. per bushel, that would only mean that the difference between the price and the guaranteed advance, if it were 4s. per bushel, would have to be made up out of the Consolidated Revenue. The honorable member for Echuca seemed to say that he would consider that a wrong thing to do, but when only a few days ago we were considering the case of the wealthy leaseholders of this country, honorable members opposite took an entirely different view.
– Order ! The honorable member has so far referred only to debates of the present session. That is not in order, and I .direct his attention to the question before the House.
– I was going to say that I see no reason why wheat-growers should be treated differently from other primary producers. Honorable members on this side stand for the principle that the primary producer should receive for his products an amount sufficient to cover the cost of production plus a reasonable profit.
– So do we.
– Will the honorable member agree with me when I say that wheat cannot be produced in this country to-day at a cost of under 4s. per bushel? In dealing with the question on the motion for the adjournment, I put before honorable members the facts and figures supplied by a nonparty authority, a Committee appointed by the Government of New South Wales to see what is the cost of the production of wheat in Australia. That Committee decided that wheat could not be grown for less than 4s. per bushel.
– The wheat-growers will be better off than the fruit-growers. Mr. PARKER MOLONEY. - I may agree with the honorable member, but that does not affect my argument. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) said that, taking it on the average, wheat could not be produced in Australia under 4s. a bushel.
– The guarantee of 3s. 8d. is not supposed to represent the cost of production.
– No ; it is merely a guarantee. If wheat realized only ls. 6d. or 2s. 6d. a bushel, the wheat-grower would go out of business, and that would be a very bad thing for this country. We have not had a vote on this question, although the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said that he believed it was the opinion of this House that 3b. 8d. was a sufficient guarantee. When the Bill is in Committee I propose to move an amendment to increase the guarantee to 4s. per bushel.
– Under the Bill I find that advances may be made - by institutions other than the Commonwealth Bank. I hope the time is not far distant when the whole of the Government business will be transacted per medium of that bank..
– These Wheat Pool operations are to be financed, as far as it can handle them, by the Commonwealth Bank in association with other banks.
– I prefer that the whole of the wheat transactions shall be dealt with by the Commonwealth Bank. It is very .important that this institution should be utilized for its original purpose, which would facilitate the work of the officers conducting the Wheat Pool. We should not be too keen to place the Commonwealth transactions in the hands of private institutions. Such institutions have not the welfare of the primary producers at heart. If the whole of the wheat operations were financed by the Commonwealth Bank, the producers would gain a distinct pecuniary advantaage. This Bill is another example of hasty legislation and the stupidity of Parliament. The advances by the Commonwealth Bank are not different from ordinary advances, and the time is fast approaching when the whole of the business of the Commonwealth Government will be dealt with by the Commonwealth Bank.
– I am disappointed with the Bill. Although the Prime Minister states that the wheat operations are partly to be financed by the Commonwealth Bank, still it is not specifically stated so in the Bill. By way of interjection he said that other banks would assist to finance the scheme. We on this side consider that there is no necessity to bring in Other banks when we have the Commonwealth Bank, with the whole of the resources of Australia behind it. There is absolutely no need to go outside the sphere of the Commonwealth Bank to financethe Wheat Pool. Instead of the present arrangement to finance the wheattransactions, the Commonwealth Government should have endeavoured to enter in- to agreements with the States to form a compulsory Pool, operating throughout the whole of Australia. There is to-day a great deal of dissatisfaction among the secondary industries of New South Wales owing to the price of wheat for home consumption being higher than that charged for wheat for shipment overseas. In consequence the Australian milling trade has been seriously hampered. A properly managed Commonwealth Wheat Pool would not allow of this position. With a number of voluntary Pools the competition for available markets will tend to cut prices and to lessen the returns to the growers; but a compulsory Pool under unified control, would limit competition and increase the price obtained for the product. Of course, it is not necessary to have a guarantee in good seasons, but we are likely to face a critical period within the next twelve months, when the price of wheat may not be sufficient to cover the cost of production. It is then that every resource at the disposal of the Commonwealth should be used to safeguard the interests of the primary producers. We have had ample evidence to prove that we cannot possibly produce wheat at a less cost than 4s. per bushel, and in giving a guarantee of 3s. 8d. per bushel the Government are throwing the responsibility of any loss upon the shoulders of the primary producers.
– There is no indication that the producers will get only 3s. 8d.
– The Bill says that the guarantee will not be more than 3s. 8d. If the guarantee does not cover the cost of production it might just as well be ls. 3d. or ls. 6d. We maintain that this guarantee of 3s. 8d. per bushel is of no practical use to the man on the land. The argument was brought forward that if the wheat guarantee were made 4s. a bushel any loss would have to be met out of Consolidated Revenue. I remind honorable members that a Tariff duty is imposed to protect an industry which is a direct charge on the earnings of the people. The people’ have to pay for the Tariff : but they do that willingly, in order that our industries may be maintained. The Country party do not believe in the Tariff, but still they exerted pressure on the Government to pass several Bounty Bills to assist secondary industries, and of course those grants were taken out of Consolidated Revenue?
– Does the honorable member favour meeting any loss on Pools out of the Consolidated Revenue ?
– I am not in favour ‘of making good losses that are due to inefficiency. But there is no evidence that the farming industry to-day is not efficiently managed. The evidence of the Commission appointed to inquire into that matter reported, that wheat could not be produced year by year under 4s. per bushel. Honorable members objected to a guarantee of 4s. because, as they said, any loss sustained would have to be met out of Consolidated Revenue. The purpose of a guarantee is that if a loss is sustained the primary producer shall be safeguarded. Such protection is on all-fours with Customs duties for the protection of the manufacturing industries. It is a remarkable fact that the so-called representatives of the primary producers in this Chamber who are prepared to vote for bounties for the secondary industries are not ready to support the giving of similar assistance to the man upon the land. The Bill provides that if certain conditions of the guarantee given to the banking corporation are not observed the Treasurer of the Commonwealth may be relieved of all liability thereunder. I do not know that it is competent for ‘the Commonwealth to contract itself out of a liability. If it can do so there is nothing to prevent the Government saying at any time that it does not believe that the banking corporation is honouring the conditions it has laid down, and it will, therefore, withdraw the guarantee.
– That is not possible. The guarantee is subject to certain conditions, but when it appears that the conditions are not being observed, the Treasurer may disclaim liability.
– We do not know what conditions the Government intend to lay down.
– Each year an agreement has been made between either the Commonweath Bank and the Wheat Pool or between the Commonwealth Government and the Wheat Pool, and this proposal follows exactly the same procedure.
– I am pleased to have that explanation. Will the right honorable gentleman say why there is no specific mention of the Commonwealth Bank in the Bill? The Commonwealth, having given the guarantee and stipulated certain conditions, should also insist that the business be done through the Commonwealth Bank, unless the Deputy Governor has stated that it is impossible for him to finance the Pool.
– That is exactly the position. It is at the request of the Deputy Governor that this business is being conducted in the way proposed.
– That explains the omission; but, as a general principle, all Government transactions should be done through the Commonwealth’ Bank. In Committee an amendment will be moved from this side of the House that the guarantee be not less than 4s. per bushel, and I trust that those honorable members opposite who have the interests of the farmers at heart, and have voted to remit large sums of taxation to the wealthy section of the community, and for the payment of bounties to secondary industries, will show their sympathy for a great branch of primary production.
Mir. LAMBERT (West Sydney) [8.46 a.m.]. - Whilst I have no objection to the claims advanced by the honorable member for Gwydir for the granting of assistance to the man on the land, I would like to see all classes’ of the community treated equally well. For instance, a measure should be brought down to guarantee the workers of Australia a minimum or living wage. If the primary producer is to be protected by the Commonwealth, similar assistance should be extended to the waterside workers and others who are working for wages. Having been a farmer some years ago, I understand the position of the man upon the land, but I cannot see why one class of the community should be favoured at the expense of the taxpayers generally.
– This guarantee has never cost the taxpayers a half-penny.
– I do not see why distinction should be made between different classes of the community. The farmer is nothing less than a loafer upon the State. He gets his wire netting duty free, he gets seed wheat for nothing, and he is given all sorts of. assistance by the State and Federal Governments. All the members of the community should take the same chance as does the ordinary labouring man. If the State is to assist the man on the land, it should assist also the wharf labourer, the coal miner, the bush worker, the gold miner, and the copper miner. I take strong exception to the public revenue being expended upon any privileged class.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Provided that the amount so guaranteed shall not exceed the sum of 3s. 8d. per bushel of wheat marketed under the scheme. * y*
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) proposed -
That in sub-clause- (1) the words “ exceed the sum of three shillings and eightpence “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “‘bc less than the sum of four ‘shillings.”
– As the amendment would increase the appropriation, I am unable to accept it.
.- We all appreciate the contention of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) that the States should make good to the wheat-grower the difference between the market price for his product and the cost of production. But that principle, if applied to wheat, should apply to all primary products, and I fail to see how the finances of the country could stand the strain. I’ take strong exception to the statement made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) that the farmers are. loafers on the State. I feel sure the honorable member for Gwydir did not appreciate that remark.
– There are loafers in all walks of life; there are loafers in this House.
– I protest strongly against the remark of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert). It is a distinct insult to a large number of people represented by honorable members opposite.
– On a point of order, I understood you to rule, Mr. Bayley, that the amendment of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) was out of order, because it increased the appropriation. I point out that it is quite possible that no appropriation will be made under this Bill. Possibly you overlooked that. When we deal with messages from the Governor-General a certain amount is usually mentioned to cover a particular liability. This is simply a guarantee. Honorable members on the other side have taken the stand that the guarantee shall be so small that it is unlikely that any appropriation will be required.
– On the point of order, I draw your attention, Mr. Bayley, to sub-clause (4), of the clause, which reads -
The Treasurer may pay out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, any amounts which become due and payable under any guarantee given by him in pursuance of this Act.
No amount is mentioned in that subclause. I submit, therefore, that it cannot be said that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) will increase the appropriation.
– It is desirable that we should keep within our Standing Orders. It must be clear to honorable members that, if the word “ three “ in sub-clause (1) is altered to “four,’’ and an appropriation became necessary, more would have to be paid than if the word “ three” remained in the clause. It is obvious that the amendment must increase the liability of the Consolidated Revenue. The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley). - I cannot alter my decision in regard to the amendment.
– I had not noticed that the amount payable was to be appropriated out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I think you are perfectly right, Mr. Bayley.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment. Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to* something that happened in Committee, of which the Temporary Chairman has not acquainted “you.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion for the adop-tion of the report.
– I report to you, sir, that eight honorable members opposite, who have a direct and pecuniary interest in this Bill, voted on it in the Committee stage. Later I shall challenge their votes
– Order! The honorable member is not speaking to the question of the adoption of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 9.9 to 11.15 a.m. (Saturday).
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– The Senate has amended clause 4 by reducing by £1 the amount of £6,124,426. mentioned therein, and has made a similar amendment in the schedule. The reason for these amendments, I understand, was to register the objection by the Senate to the proposed erection of a provisional Parliament House, instead of the nucleus of the permanent parliamentary buildings at Canberra. This question was fully debated in this House on the report and recommendation of the Public Works Committee, and after full discussion it was decided that the better course to pursue would be to proceed with the provisional building, leaving the erection of the permanent structure to be undertaken at a future date. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) advanced adequate reasons why, from every point of view, and particularly from the standpoint of economy, this course was preferable to the recommendation made by the Public Works Committee. As a result of the debate, honorable members came to the conclusion that the provisional building should be erected, lt was pointed out that the erection of the nucleus of the permanent buildings would have the effect of delaying, for at least four or five years, if not longer, the removal of the seat of Government from its present location to Canberra. There is also another side to this question. If Parliament decides to proceed with the erection of the permanent Parliamentary buildings, it will be necessary to suspend all operations in the Capital territory, and immediately to take steps for a world-wide competition for the design of a monumental building, and the House has, however, already decided that the Capital shall be removed at the earliest possible date. There is also the question of finance, which I do not propose to go into at length now, but we have to .remember that a commencement of the nucleus of the permanent structure would place upon the people of Australia very heavy financial obligations. It is obvious that we could not be content with the nucleus of the building; we should have to continue with the building programme, and, consequently, the Commonwealth would be involved in the- expenditure of a very large sum of money which, in the present state of the finances, should, if possible, be avoided. We have to remember also, that in the design for the permanent, Parliamentary building, accommodation may have to be provided for a much larger number of members than we have at the present time. For these reasons, I move -
That the amendments be disagreed to.
– I welcome the action of the Senate. This subject was by no means fully discussed in this House when the recommendation of the Public Works Committee was before it. It was one of those matters that had to go through because, in the special circumstances of the debate, it was felt that about the only thing to do was to pass . the proposal put before us. Surely honorable members recognise the pretence that lies behind this idea of a provisional Parliament House. For a long time the question was, whether a temporary or a permanent Parliamentary building should be erected. Then some one conceived the bright idea of suggesting a “ provisional “ Parliament House, “ provisional “ .being something which had all the advantages of a temporary building, in that it was cheap, and all the advantages of a permanent structure, in that it would last for ever. Without the slightest consideration of the plans, this
House solemnly decided not to accept the report’ placed before it, but determined that a structure, to be described as a provisional Parliamentary building, should be -erected in front of the site for the permanent Parliament House, so that the permanent Parliament House would have the disadvantage of looking into the outbuildings of the provisional parliamentary building.
– Surely the honorable member is reflecting upon the decision of the House.
– I am certainly reflecting upon a decision with which I do not agree. We recognise that the bargain made by New South Wales, that the capital city shall be in that State, has to be carried out, but most people in Australia now regret that the Federal Parliament is going to move to a place which, in itself, is a very fine site, but which is hopeless as a Seat of Government. Yet, as the work has to go on, we should not waste a considerable sum of public money by erecting what has been described as a provisional building. Why should we not accept the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, and proceed with the erection of the permanent structure? I am prepared to support a motion for expenditure upon the construction of the nucleus of the permanent parliamentary buildings. I cannot support a motion for the building of a provisional, but which I regard as a “ temporary-permanent,” Parliament House. I hope the Committee will accept the amendment made by the Senate.
– I feel confident that when he is older the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) will be very sorry for many things which he has said in his youth. The honorable member seems to have taken umbrage at the decision of the House with regard to the recommendation of the Public Works Committee. The erection of national public buildings like the Parliament House is usually spread over a long period of time. The British House of Commons, I believe, was seventy or’ eighty years in the building. Many of the fathers of my old schoolfellows were engaged as apprentices on that building, and were still working on it in their old age. The Parliament House at Ottawa also took a long time to erect, and we know the history of the Capitol at Washington. I also remind the honorable member that in twenty:five years time when, perhaps, the erection of the permanent building may be under consideration, it may be necessary to provide accommodation for a much larger number of members than at present constitute this Parliament. The trend of Australian politics is every day in the direction of Unification . and the abolition of State Parliamentary institutions, so.it is quite likely that within the next decade or two there will be a substantial addition, to the number of members of this Parliament. The Prime Minister has discovered that Melbourne is not the only place in the Commonwealth, and in a very fine spirit has asked the Committee to disagree with the attempt made by the Senate to dictate to this Chamber in this matter. On a previous occasion when the Senate disagreed with a decision of this House, and it was insisted on, honorable senators showed their wisdom by admitting that this House had the control of the pursestrings. I feel sure that the Senate will be glad of the opportunity to reverse its decision on this occasion, because honorable senators will fear a double dissolution.
– May I suggest that we hand to New South Wales the Federal Capital with the £2,000,000 already expended there and say, “ Here, you can have the lot, and can go on with this building.” There is no necessity to proceed with the building of a Parliament House at Canberra for the next three years, and what is three years in the life of a nation? If it is imperative to proceed with it, a permanent structure should be erected.
– This matter was very fully debated a few nights ago in this Chamber. Honorable members are aware that, as Chairman of the Public Works Committee, I recommended the building of the nucleus of a permanent Parliament House at Canberra. After a good deal of consideration this House decided by a large majority that the better course to adopt would be to erect a provisional Parliament House. I am content to abide by that decision, although I regard the rush to Canberra as the maddest thing that was ever proposed. I think that if we make proper representations to the Senate, and honorable senators are informed. that an overwhelming majority in this House supports the proposal, they will give way. The Prime Minister was hardly correct iu what he said, because I believe that to build the nucleus of a permanent building would be found to be the most economical course to adopt in the end. I should like to direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Railways and those connected with the construction of big works in Australia to the extraordinary conditions connected with the erection of buildings in the Commonwealth. I have here a magnificent photograph of a glorious stone building that is being erected in Kew Zealand. Half of the building is to cost £325,000, whilst the total cost of it is estimated at only £580,000. It is quite evident that there are combinations at work here which are responsible for the rising cost of everything in the Commonwealth, and it is time that we took some action to see that we get fair value for our money. I accept the decision of this House in this matter, and will now support the action taken by the Government. Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted. Ordered -
That Mr. Bruce, Mr. Groom, and Mr. Stewart be appointed a Committee to draw up reasons for disagreement with the Senate’s amendments.
The following reasons were presented and adopted : -
Reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing with the amendment of the Senate : -
Because the amount is provided in the Bill in order that effect may be given to a resolution of the House, which was passed without division, in favour of the erection of a provisional Parliament House at Canberra.
Because in the interests of the Commonwealth it is essential to make provision for the meeting of Parliament at Canberra at the earliest practicable date.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Agreements Validation Bill. Wheat Pool Advances Bill. Air Force Bill:
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 2937), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate was adjourned I had almost completed my remarks on the Bill, but I wished to have an opportunity to consider it. I have since perused it, and I find that it was introduced merely for the purpose of extending a section of the Act for one year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Although from its bulk this Bill may look formidable, as a matter of fact it is merely a reprint, with modifications to suit Australian conditions, of a law passed by the Imperial Parliament for British Possessions. The object of the Bill is to enable prisoners who are sentenced to imprisonment in a Territory to’ be committed to the prisons of the States in order that they may serve their sentences there rather than in the Territory in which they were convicted.
– White prisoners?
– Yes; only white prisoners, and not aboriginal natives of a Territory. The measure is based on humanitarian grounds and drawn up in a form making it applicable to all the Territories. It is based also on the advisability, where there is only one prison, of preventing the imprisonment of members of the white and coloured races in the one place. The measure provides that the administrative arrangements shall be made by the Commonwealth with the States. When a man is committed to prison in a Mandated Territory, he will be transferred to a prison in one of the States. In pursuance of this object arrangements are being made, if they have not already, been made, with the Queensland Government for the smooth working of the measure. Beyond this the Bill merely provides the machinery to give effect to’ its objects. The measure is highly recommended, and I ask the House to agree to it.
– I have a very few words to say on this Bill, and I confess that I have to take the word of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) for what it contains. Merely glancing at it, which is all I have been able to do, it appears to me that it is introduced for. the purpose of removing white prisoners from the Mandated Territories to prisons in Queensland, to prevent their confinement in the only quarters available in the islands. I believe that practice has been adopted in the case of persons sentenced to imprisonment in Papua.
– I believe so.
– In any case, Papua, as one of the Territories of the Commonwealth, will be covered by the Bill.
– In view of the statement made by the Attorney-General, I think it is unnecessary to further discuss tine measure*
– I should like to extend a welcome to this Bill. In the course of my official visit to the Mandated Territory last year, I found a white man imprisoned in the gaol there. The conditions in that heat, and the malaria, were simply appalling, and he could not be removed. He was in the presence of blacks, and this alone is had. The Bill is absolutely necessary, and I congratulate the Government on its introduction.
– What trial do white persons get?
– A special Supreme Court is constituted in the Mandated Territories. There are two Judges - one the Chief Justice, and the other a puisne Judge. The prisoners are tried according to the British procedure.
– Does the Bill cover the Northern Territory?
– It applies to the Northern Territory, and can be used if required.
– Would any indictable offence mean the deportation of the convicted person?
– Clause 8 provides that he can be returned.
– I have not had time to read the provisions of the Bill. The honorable member for Wentworth raised the question of the mixing of white and black prisoners. I know what that means. The Bill should not apply to the Northern Territory, because it would be unfair to send a man away from his home town.
– He can be returned.
– If the Bill provides for his return, I withdraw my objection.
– The Bill provides for that.
– If a person in the Mandated Territory were sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment for addressing a meeting while standing on - a soap-box in the street, would he be sent to Queensland ?
– What provision is there in the Bill dealing with such a case ?
– There is no provision. The Bill deals only with more serious offences.
Bill read a second time, and, by leave, passed through all its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916. Briefly, there are two amendments which vitally affect the Postal Department. The first amendment deals with the opening of undelivered letters. Under the present Act undelivered letters have to be returned to the capital cities of the States, and honorable members will recognise the delay occasioned in transmitting a letter to Darwin, back from there to Adelaide, and again returning it to Darwin. A great deal of the time is taken up in sending the mails backwards and forwards. Permission is being sought to open these letters at other centres than the. capitals. They will be opened at places like Darwin and Townsville, and returned to the sender. It may be considered a small matter, but there are millions of letters sent through the post-office insufficiently addressed, and we are seeking permission to have them opened at other convenient centres rather than at the capital cities. The second amendment relates to telephonic communication in country districts, ‘ and the shortening of the telegraph poles. For some years I have endeavoured to effect this innovation, and now that it has been decided upon a considerable saving will be made. I have in my mind a long-delayed section of telephonic communication in one of the northern parts of the Commonwealth, and the saving on that line, if the Bill is passed, will be £20,000. On each pole erected the Department will save £1. The short poles are for use in the sparsely populated areas, where the settlers have asked for telephone lines.
– What is the length of the pole?
– Eight feet from the ground, instead of twelve as previously. The saving of £1 per pole takes into consideration the height, the cost of erection, and the sinking of it 1 foot less depth into the ground. That briefly explains the Bill.
– I am glad the PostmasterGeneral is introducing this Bill. I did not realize that it would mean a saving of £1 per pole.
– That is the estimate oi the chief engineer of the Postal Department.
– This considerable saving to the Commonwealth will greatly increase the telephonic facilities in the out-back country. I should like to know from the Postmaster-General in what way it will affect the- guarantee to be given by the people desirous of obtaining telephone connexion. I take it that the less the cost is to the Department the less will be the amount of the guarantee.
– The cost of construction will -be lessened by £20 per mile, and the guarantee will be affected to that extent.
– Do 1 understand from the Minister that the guarantee of £1,500 will be reduced?
– It will not be altered.
– While the minimum guarantee of £1,500 remains, the people in the out-back country will be beyond the ambit of the privileges extended to people adjacent to. populated - parts. The further back the country is the more likely are the people to be outside the £1,500 minimum.
– It does not necessarily affect guarantees of over £1, 500.
– It will affect mostly the people who come within the £1,500 minimum.
– Where there is a certain amount of settlement the people must expect to give some guarantee.
– The farther back the country is the sooner will the minimum of £1,500 be reached.
– The lessened cost of erecting poles will enable the £1,500 minimum to cover a greater mileage than previously.
– I agree that the lessened cost will help to overcome the difficulty in obtaining telephonic communication in the out-back country.
– The mileage will be onethird greater.
– I trust that in the near future further consideration will be given to the people living f sir th.er back*
– I congratulate the Postmaster-General on the Bill, as it is one with which we all agree. In travelling through the country districts, I have often wondered why the Postal Department did not use shorter poles and every available means to carry the telegraph wires, and thus cheapen the telephonic services in country districts. I am surprised to know that there will be a saving of £1 on each pole erected.
– That is the estimate of the engineer.
– I do not doubt the figure. It is a large saving when one considers the number of poles erected for every 100 miles. We are borrowing money to meet the requests for telephonic facilities, and the shorter poles will greatly cheapen the work. A saving of £20 per mile will mean a great, deal to the country people. At one time I represented a country district, and I have a knowledge of the heavy expenditure incurred and the difficulties experienced in obtaining telegraph lines, and in many cases those people who were to benefit were required to pay a portion of the cost of erection.
– I am very pleased that the PostmasterGeneral has introduced this Bill. The amendment to allow the construction of low-level telephone lines is very necessary. As a representative of a country constituency, I have often wondered why such very expensive lines, costing up to £60 per mile, have been built when more cheaply constructed lines would serve equally well. The Postmaster-General has been an advocate of reform in this regard for some time, and I am glad that he has now embodied his idea in this Bill. Another way in which people in the country districts can be further assisted is in regard to the maximum cost of a line for which a guarantee is not required. At present the amount is £1,500, but I think that might be extended to £2,500 or £3,000. That would enable the Department to build much longer lines without calling upon the persons benefiting to guarantee any proportion of the cost of the service. I have in mind many places, 30 miles or more from the nearest post-office, which require telephone lines. For instance, Byfield, which is 30 miles from Yeppoon, has sought for some years to get a telephone service, but until recently it was refused on the ground that the cost was so high that the line would not be a payable proposition. It is true that there are only about forty settlers at Byfield, but they are cut off from civilization, and I am glad that recently, as a result of representations I was able to make to the Postmaster-General, approval has been given for the erection of a line of cheaper construction. I again urge the PostmasterGeneral to take into consideration the advisability of increasing the maximum cost of unguaranteed lines from £1,500 to £2,500 or £3,000. By affording telephonic facilities to country centres at a minimum of cost we shall encourage people to go into the remote parts ‘and do the pioneering work. The Labour party will always indorse any measure that tends to make the conditions easier for those who live in the outback districts. I personally welcome this Bill, and hope that further amendments will be proposed in the next session for the liberalization of the provisions under which people in rural areas may get telephonic facilities.
– I am glad that the dispute between the engineers has been settled in favour of the Australian system of erecting country telephone lines. I believe that these services have cost the Commonwealth tens of thousands of pounds -more than “they need have cost, because the English engineers insisted upon the use of long poles and short arms, whereas the Australian engineers urged the use of short poles and long arms. A battle royal over this question was fought. ‘in 1912, and I regret that the Australian engineer was not supported by the then PostmasterGeneral.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That it is expedient to carry out the erection of Officers’ Hostel at Canberra/ - a proposed work which has been investigated and reported on by the ‘ Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921.
In the scheme submitted by the Advisory Committee a superior hostel was proposed on a commanding site near the governmental area, providing for eighty persons, at an estimated cost of £39,000. The Parliamentary Works Committee has recommended that the proposal be modified, and that a hostel of a cheaper description, to cost less than £25,000, be erected. The reduction of capital outlay was proposed in order to decrease the resultant charges for board and residence, in the interests of lower-paid officials. The Advisory Committeerecog . nised the necessity for several hostels to meet the need of lower-paid, as well as higher-paid officials; but, as the cheaper hostels proposed by the Advisory Committee would cost less than £25,000, reference to the Public Works Committee was unnecessary. Before Parliament sits at Canberra it will be necessary to provide a hostel for those higher-paid officers and others who would prefer to take such accommodation. It is desired, therefore, to proceed with the erection of the hostel as proposed in the reference to the Parliamentary Committee. In addition thereto, it is intended to erect a hostel at a cost not exceeding £25,000, as proposed by the Public Works Committee, but on a less prominent and important site. In recommending the construction of a less expensive hostel, the Works Committee was of opinion that the Department was proposing to build hostels which would cater particularly for the higher paid officials, and was neglecting the lower-paid officers.
– Will the cheaper hostel hold the same number of guests as the other ?
– Yes; but the main hostel now being erected will provide accommodation for a considerably greater number of guests. I assure the House that the Department does not intend to neglect the lower-paid officials. We have noted the opinion expressed by the Works Committee. We consider that the more expensive hostel will have to be erected, but we can go ahead with the building of a cheaper hostel without reference to the Public Works Commit-
.- The Public Works Committee is of opinion that in the earlier stages of the occupation of Canberra there will probably be a fairly large proportion of officers who will not be able to afford to board at the more expensive establishment. I do not think that at the hostel which the Advisory Committee proposed it will be possible, after paying interest and the cost of general upkeep, to charge less for board than £3 to £3 5s. per week. But a large number of officials will not be able to pay more than 30s. to 35s. per week. We are desirous that that section of the Service should be looked after before the more expensive building - which probably will not be required until Parliament actually meets at Canberra - is erected. The Minister assures us that the Committee’s recommendation is appreciated, and that adequate provision will be made for the lower-paid officials.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That it is not expedient to carry out the construction of Provisional Administrative Offices, with accessory engineering services, at Canberra - a proposed work which has been investigated and reported on by the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Public Works, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921 ; but that it is expedient to invite competitive designs for Permanent Administrative Offices, as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its report.
It is unnecessary for me to go into the detailed reasons for submitting this proposal, beyond saying that there is some doubt whether, if the proposed competition be held, the administrative offices will be ready when Parliament meets at Canberra. We propose to take the precaution of erecting other buildings of a less pretentious character, which may be used subsequently for other official purposes. In the event of the permanent administrative offices not being quite complete by the time Parliament assembles at Canberra, the temporary buildings can be used for the time being. _ Briefly stated, our intention is to adopt the recommendation of the Public Works Committee in regard to calling for competitive designs.
– Have any arrangements been made to get an impartial adjudication upon the designs?
-Yes. That will be arranged in a way that will, I believe, give satisfaction to the architectural profession. There will be a fair and independent adjudication of the designs.
– I wish that a similar motion had been proposed in regard to the Parliament House at Canberra, and that a permanent structure, instead of a provisional building, had been proposed. It appears that although it is proposed to erect permanent administrative offices after calling for competitive designs, other buildings are first to be erected which may be used for administrative offices, and can then be dismantled and utilized for some other purpose.
– No. I stated that those buildings would afterwards be used for other purposes.
– I will be interested to see the class of building that can be put up temporarily, readily, and inexpensively which will be suitable for administrative offices, and afterwards for some other use. I presume that the details will be laid before the House prior to the work being proceeded with. I hope that the competition for designs for the administrative buildings will be conducted in a more creditable way than former competitions.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear I
– T have no doubt that the Minister will realize the necessity for this, and will fix conditions which will be suitable to the architects.
– I am sure that the honorable member recognises that this Government is not responsible for what has happened in the past.
– I realize that. I think the Minister is aware that a tendency is evident amongst the architects of Australia to have nothing to do with any further work at Canberra. If proceeding with the erection of these buildings is to be made dependent upon obtaining competitive architectural designs, the Minister will realize how necessary it is that the wishes of the architects shall be consulted. I hope that the architects will not take the stand that they will refuse to have anything to do with future work at Canberra.
– We have had their assurance that they will not take that attitude.
Mr. -LATHAM. - I have some acquaintance with the position of the architects. I hope that the Minister will give the House an assurance that the views of architect3 will be considered, and that he will make every effort to plan a competition in which they will participate.
.- The proposal that temporary galvanized iron and wooden buildings should be erected at Canberra was strongly resisted by the Public Works Committee. Hence the present proposal. I can assure the honorable member . for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that the architects are willing to enter into a competition. They gave the Public Works Committee that assurance.
.- I must express my satisfaction at the concluding remarks of the Minister for Works and Railways regarding future competitive designs for the Federal Capital city. The architectural profession have had reason for very serious com- plaint in connexion with Canberra work for some years past. Even before the war competitive designs were invited for work at Canberra, but nothing further was done in the matter by the Government. The terms of the competition should be clearly set out. A feeling prevails amongst members of the architectural profession that the officials of the Works and Buildings Department think that they can do everything that is necessary for the erection of public buildings better than anybody else. I hail with great satisfaction the Minister’s remarks, and I trust that he will consult freely with the architectural professional in regard to work at Canberra.
– I am well acquainted with the matters in dispute between the architects and past Governments. I think I may say “ past Governments,” because this Government is entirely without responsibility for the disagreements that have occurred. Some time ago the Victorian branch of the architectural profession met me, and suggested that competitive designs should be invited for certain groups of cottages at Canberra. I agreed with this. Subsequently another deputation of members of the architectural profession met me in Sydney, and discussed what T may call the old sore. They adopted the regrettable course of saying that unless the old competition was satisfactorily dealt with they would refuse to allow members affiliated with their society to enter into any other competition for designs. I have informed them that if they will put in black and white what they desire to be done in respect of the old competition I will submit their views to the Cabinet. I refused to say whether I would agree to what they asked, but I told them that the Government’ was willing to do everything it could to settle* the old dispute. I urged them then, and I urge them now, not to give effect to their declaration that they will have nothing to do with future competitive designs for Canberra buildings unless the old score is settled. The Government is most anxious to work harmoniously with the profession, and I am doing my best to improve relations.
– The profession has not declared Canberra “black,” but desires that the Minister will co-operate with it much more than has been done.
– I shall do that. Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That it is expedient to carry out the erection of Commonwealth Offices, Brisbane, a proposed work which has been investigated and reported upon by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921.
This proposal is to utilize the valuable vacant land, in the centre of Brisbane, which is the property of the Commonwealth Government, by erecting thereon a suitable building to be occupied by the local branches of the Commonwealth Departments, which are now in rented premises, some of which have to be vacated next year. The utilization of this land was the subject of a report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in July, 1921. In that report the Committee recommended the donation of a portion of the land towards the formation of a soldiers’ memorial square. The State Government and the municipality of Brisbane were also interested in the movement. The donation of the land required has been made. In its report the Committee also referred to the necessity for the erection of. Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, and considered that the remainder of the land would be suitable for such buildings. Similar building projects are in progress in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth. Drawings of a five-story building to cover the whole area of the land having frontages to Adelaide and Ann streets and Memorial-square have been submitted as required by the Act. The first section of the building provided for in the drawings is intended to give 86,000 feet of effective office space at an estimated cost of about £127,000. This space is considerably in excess of the initial requirements, but it may be found advisable to provide a structure of this size even if portions of it have to be let pending expansion of the Commonwealth Government requirements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
. (By leave.) - I move -
That the report of the Committee appointed by the Commonwealth Government to inquire into the value of the late Mrs. Ellis Rowan’s collection of paintings be printed.
I am taking this course to give the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the report, and upon the action that should be taken by the Government in connexion with the proposed purchase of the pictures.’ In connexion with this proposal, the Premier of New South Wales, in February, 1921, introduced a deputation to Sir Joseph Cook, which urged that the Commonwealth should purr chase the pictures, the value of which was stated to be about £21,000. On the 27th July, 1922, the then Prime Minister said, “ If the House approves of the purchase of the collection the Government will acquire it at a reasonable price.” In the House of Representatives on the 12th October, 1922, Mr. Massy Greene, then Minister for Defence, moved -
That this House approve of the purchase, upon such terms as may be arranged, of the late Mrs. Ellis Rowan’s collection of’ paintings, depicting bird and flower life in Australia, Papua, and New Guinea.
Mr. Massy Greene explained that the original price asked for the whole collection was £21,000. He added -
The Government will endeavour to carry the negotiations through to a conclusion; but - if that be possible - it will not acquire them until Parliament has had an opportunity of deciding definitely upon the matter of the actual purchase price.
Greatly divergent views have been expressed as to the merits of the pictures from both the scientific and artistic point of view. An advisory committee consisting of Mr. G. F. Mann, director of the Sydney Art Gallery (chairman) ; Professor A. A. Lawson, Professor of Botany, Sydney University; Mr. John Longstaff, and Mr. Will Ashton was appointed by the Commonwealth Government to report on the collection. That committee said -
After a careful and detailed examination of the entire collection, the Committee is unanimous in its opinion that the collection would have great historical, artistic, educational, land scientific value if the drawings were suitably framed, glazed, and labelled, and placed in such a position as to be available to the public.
It recommended that the collection together with the copyrights pertaining thereto, be acquired for the nation. The. reasons for the recommendation were set out at length. In a supplementary report, made at the request of the Government, the Committee stated that they could not take the responsibility of recommending the purchase of the Australian and New Guinea works, numbering 952, for a sum exceeding £2,000. Efforts have been made over a long period to sell the collection. In 1918 Mr. G. D. Meudell applied for permission to form a company with a capital of £10,000 to deal with a collection of 328 pictures of New Guinea birds. Mrs. Rowan was to receive £2,500 from the company and 5,500 £1 shares. No business apparently resulted. Sir George Fuller, at a deputation, said Mrs. Rowan was prepared to take £6,000 in cash, and the remainder in the form of property in Papua worth another £6,000. In November, 1922, it was stated that Miss Ryan (the late Mrs. Rowan’s sister) would accept £10,000 cash, or £5,000 in cash, and a pension of £500 per annum. The late Prime Minister stated in the House of Representatives on the 29th November, 1921-
I, however, am not going to offer Mrs. Rowan £2,000 for her life’s work. If the House thinks that we should acquire these paintings, we should offer Mrs. Rowan a fair price for them. She has asked £20,000 for the collection. Whether that is fair or not, I am unable to say ; but an offer of £2,000 would obviously be absurd.
In January, 1-923, a business committee was formed for the purpose of reporting to the Government as to the value of the pictures. The Committee consisted of Alderman the Hon. William Brooks, M.L.C., nominated by Miss Sarah Hynes, representing Mrs. Rowan’s executrix; Mr. James Kell, deputy governor, Commonwealth Bank; Mr. J. R. Collins, secretary to the Treasury. Messrs. Kell and Collins, representing the majority of the Committee, reported as follows : -
In letters written to the Commonwealth Government by various persons, reference has frequently been made to an American offer for the collection. We questioned Miss Hynes closely as to this, and learned that Mrs. Rowan had written to & friend in America describing her work, and saying the collection was worth at least £10,000. The friend replied that, when Mrs. Rowan had finished with the pictures, the friend would buy them. This was not a definite offer to buy, and we cannot regard the matter as in any way indicating the value nf the collection. The letter was not produced.
We have not been supplied by Miss Hynes with particulars of any other negotiation for thu sale of the pictures, though she said that Lord Novar, formerly Governor-General of Australia, had requested that’ the pictures be sent to him in England for sale.
We have come to the conclusion that there is really no buyer for the collection as a whole.
We have carefully considered the terms of the first report furnished by the expert Committee appointed by the Government, and we note the superlative terms in which the expert committee recommended that the pictures be acquired by the Government. Its second report, in which it recommended that only ?2,000 be paid, is a little astonishing. We can only conclude that the expert committee assumed there was no market for the pictures, and fixed the price arbitrarily at a sum the taxpayer might fairly be asked to find. We have not thought it proper to question the expert committee oh the subject.
It being impossible, in our opinion, to fix a market value for the pictures, the question resolves itself into what the Government is willing to pay. In considering this aspect of the matter, we have been influenced by the fact that on several occasions the proposed purchase has been before the House of Representatives, and the Prime Minister has informed the House that the sum of ?2,000 was too low a price. On the last occasion the House approved of the purchase at a price to be agreed upon. Under the circumstances, it cannot be expected that the executrix will part with the pictures unless she is offered a considerable advance upon the sum fixed by the expert committee.
Seeing that the executrix is in such a strong position to bargain, we have thought an offer of ?5,000 would not be unreasonable. At the same time, we are firmly of the opinion that any sum above ?5,000 would be extravagant, and if the executrix refuses to sell at that price, the idea of the purchase should be abandoned.
Mr. Brooks made this report:
Whilst agreeing with the general term’s of the foregoing report, I entirely disagree with the conclusion as to the price which should be paid for the Ellis Rowan pictures, as contained in the final paragraph. The position appears to me to be as follows: -
The 950 paintings in question have been determined by an expert committee appointed by the Federal Government to be of great historical, artistic, educational, and scientific value, and worthy of securing as a national record.
The Federal Parliament, acting on this eulogistic report, has decided that the collection of paintings shall be purchased at a price to be arranged.
The committee of four experts who reported so favourably on the merits of the pictures in terms of highest praise, when asked to place a value on the whole collection, stated that they could not take the responsibility of recommending the purchase of the Australian and New Guinea works (numbering 952) for a sum exceeding ?2,000.
The executors of the late Mrs. Rowan ask the sum of ?10,000 for the collection.
In the Sydney Sun on the 17th January, 1923, the opinions of prominent artists were set forth. These were unanimously against the purchase of the pictures, and particularly against the payment of any such sum as ?10,000. As a guide to the action which the Government’ should take, the following expressions of opinion appear to have much weight.
Mr. Julian Ashton is reported to have said that the purchase by the Federal Government of 900 pictures by any one artist, even if the artist were a Valasquez, would be a grave error. This opinion is supported by Mr. W. Lister Lister, president of the Royal Arts Society. The Advisory Committee would not take the responsibility, of recommending the purchase for a sum exceeding ?2,000. This is a matter which the House has taken into its own hands. The Government feels that its responsibility is to lay all the facts before honorable members, who may come to a decision on the question. - If necessary, an amendment, fixing the price to be offered for the collection, may be submitted.
– Can the Minister give the House a lead in the matter?
– Unfortunately, I am in the position of having expressed myself in unequivocal terms when last; the question was before the House. I stated then that I regarded the proposal to purchase the collection as a grave error, especially in view of the fact that Mr. Julian Ashton had emphasized that the collection comprised 900 pictures by one artist, and that very great difficulty would be encountered in housing and displaying them in a way that would make them of immediate value to the public.
– Can the Minister say who will be the principal beneficiary in the. event of the purchase, now that the artist is dead?
– A memorandum prepared for me by Mr. Cerutty, the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, states - . . the wholesale purchase by the Government of the pictures under notice does not seem to be an attractive proposition, and, in any case, there is no reason why the Government should pay an exorbitant price which would now be of benefit only to the late Mrs. Rowan’s relatives.
– Has the Government a composite mind on this question?
– The House, by deciding to purchase the collection on certain terms, has already taken this matter into its own hands.
– The House having already decided to purchase the collection, it is now only a question of the price.
– The point is: the last Ministry promised that, if it were possible, they would submit to Parliament the terms upon which, in their opinion, the collection should be obtained.
.- If I am in order, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion, “ and that the collection be not purchased.”
I submit this amendment on the facts disclosed in the report, which states that the collection comprises about 900 pictures, all by one artist, not altogether famous in the world, and that the cost of housing the pictures would be considerably in excess of the price to be. paid for the collection. It is not properly the’ function of Parliament to acquire this collection. It should be purchased by the several art galleries throughout the Commonwealth .
– I suggest that the honorable gentleman’s amendment be in the form of an addition of certain words to the motion. This will be a more convenient way of testing the feeling of the House. It is competent for the honorable member to move a relevant addition to the motion.
– I understand that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has submitted an amendment providing that the collection be not purchased. I suggest that we come to some decision upon this question, and if the opinion of the House is that the collection be purchased, an honorable member may submit a motion fixing the price. If he so desires, another honorable member may move to amend the motion by altering the price.
– I know something of these pictures, and the painter. Mrs. Rowan was a friend of my family. She was a very remarkable woman, a little frail creature, possessing an abundance of energy, and of remarkable gifts. Her work in New Guinea resulted in a collection of pictures of flora and fauna which, I think, would be an acquisition to the Commonwealth. Parliament should not miss the opportunity of purchasing this magnificent collection. Miss Ryan, sister of Dr. Charles Ryan, is a sister of the late Mrs. Rowan. She is in anything but affluent circumstances, and I understand that she would benefit by the purchase by the Commonwealth of the late Mrs. Rowan’s collection. The Prime Minister has suggested that it is competent for any honorable member to submit a motion fixing a price at which the Commonwealth should acquire the collection. If I am in order I move- -
That the House agrees to purchase the Rowan collection for the sum of £5,000.
– I have a prior amendment from the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). If the honorable member will hand to me his amendment, I will see that it is in order, and it may be taken, if desired, after the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Forrest has been disposed of.
– I happen to know something about the Rowan collection and something about the artist. The suggestion that she is practically unknown is based upon a misconception. The artist was a lady whose pictures are known all over the world, and have been in very great request. It has been suggested that the public galleries might acquire most of the collection, but if honorable members will visit the picture galleries of Australia they will find that Mrs. Rowan is represented there. I have had the opportunity of seeing many of - her pictures, and there is no doubt whatever that an unbiased person who knows anything about art will not say that they are inartistic productions. Were they to be sold as pictures purely and simply, I could not honestly advise that they should be acquired by the Federal Parliament, as art collecting is not one of its functions. The reason why I think it desirable that they should be acquired is not because of their value as examples of the painter’s art, but because of their value from an educational stand-point. Many of them would be extremely useful to students. The collection is one of the flora and fauna of Australia, and particularly of northern Australia and New Guinea, which should, I think, be in the possession of the Commonwealth Government.
It will be very useful indeed to future generations.
– What a beautiful book the pictures would make reproduced !
– I was about to direct the attention of honorable members to Gould’s Birds. We have here reproductions of Gould’s work, and they have enormously increased in value and are, I think, to-day practically unprocurable.
– They are valued at £280 per set.
– That is for reproductions. We have a set in our own Library, and it is so much in demand that it has been found necessary to take special care to prevent it being injured by many people handling it. I am not prepared to offer an opinion as to the monetary value of the Rowan collection. It is very difficult indeed to estimate its value. It is said that £5,000 is too much to pay for it, but, in my opinion, that amount is less than half the selling value of the collection to-day. My reason for making that statement is based upon experience, because I recently paid a visit to an exhibition of some of Mrs. Rowan’s pictures in Anthony Hordern’s fine gallery in Sydney. A friend of mine asked me to acquire one of Mrs. Rowan’s pictures for him, and he left the selection to myself. He wanted only a small picture, and I found that the lowest price for which I could obtain one was fifteen guineas. That was for a very small picture. I noticed that many of the pictures were priced at sums varying from 15 to 150 guineas. They were selling very rapidly, there were very few left, and the pictures I wanted were absolutely unprocurable. That is a fair guide to their value. There are nearly 1,000 pictures in the collection, and an average price of £10, which would be a very low valuation indeed, would mean a total value of £10.000. The Rowan collection is not offered as a collection of pictures, but as a national collection of special value to the student, and the pictures were painted with the idea that they should be acquired by the Commonwealth as a national collection for Australia by Mrs. Rowan, whose love for her country and its birds and flowers was unbounded. She devoted the whole of her artistic life to the work of reproducing faithfully, in colour, the flowers and bird life of Australia. That was the ambition and dream of her life. I am not prepared to say what the actual value of the Rowan collection of pictures is, but I am sure that £5,000 is very much less than its value. »
.- I understand that the executrix of Mrs. Rowan is anxious that the Commonwealth ‘ should make this purchase, and I submit that it is too late now to discuss the question whether the purchase should be made, because the House has already committed itself to the purchase by a resolution which was passed that the purchase be made subject to terms being arrived at satisfactory to both parties. I understand that it was pursuant to that resolution that the Committee was appointed whose report we have just heard from the Treasurer. It seems to me that we are bound by our resolution, and it is now merely a simple question’ of terms. ‘ As the Committee referred to has suggested that the sum of £5,000 should be paid for the collection, I submit that that would be a fair price to offer, and I shall have much pleasure in supporting that proposal.
.- It is a well-known principle that a new Parliament is not bound by any decision of its predecessors. If the fact that the last Parliament passed a resolution in favour of the purchase of the collection were the only argument in its favour, it would be a matter for consideration. I am not an artist or a judge of artistic work, but, looking at the Rowan collection exhibited in the Queen’s Hall, I have to admit that the pictures struck me as distinctive and beautiful. When we are told that, in the opinion of some artists, the collection is not a valuable one, I have only to say that artistic values and ideas of art change. Many an artist whose name is to-day revered throughout the world, was, in his lifetime, comparatively unknown. I have in mind one, who perished in the streets of Amsterdam, and who, in his last days, earned his living as a public-house artist and by painting pictures on the footpaths. He is to-day regarded as one of the greatest artists who ever lived, and the value of his pictures is estimated in millions. The great pity in this matter is that we are proposing to make the purchase of the Rowan collection to-day and did not let this woman know before she died that her country appreciated her great work, her courage and endurance, and the privations she suffered in order to present to it these wonderful conceptions of her brain. If any one asked me whether I would be prepared to vote £10,000 to purchase these pictures, I would say “Yes,” not merely because of their value as pictures, but as a mark of appreciation which this country is willing to pay to this woman of unflinching courage who suffered in health and strength in order to be able to present to her country representations of its flora and fauna, and something of their beauty in their natural surroundings. I do not wish to occupy time unnecessarily. The woman who painted these pictures is dead, and any purchase of them now will be merely an appreciation of her work by those who have reaped the results of her labour.
– Her work in the jungles of New Guinea, which no white man had previously penetrated, is a proof of her courage.
– That is so. Apart from the value of her beautiful pictures, there is the object lesson, which she presents, of what an artist has accomplished. These pictures should be purchased as a national collection. In Holland to-day, the people would not permit a Rembrandt picture to go out of the country. It would be regarded as a crime to export it. We should regard the collection which was the lifework of Mrs. Rowan in a similar way, and it should be purchased to mark our appreciation of a great woman.
.- I do not think that long speeches are necessary on this matter. We know the extreme divergence of opinion amongst artists themselves as to the value and excellence of pictures/ We have the “ Cubist “ and the “ Vorticist,” and while a “ Vorticist “ picture may, in the opinion of some, appear to be a representation of a ‘bus in a London street with the D.T.’s, and a “ Cubist “ head may look to others like a number of Hansards after an allnight sitting, there are people who will eagerly and seriously discuss the merits of these extraordinary pictures. I have seen some of Mrs. Rowan’s pictures, and I thought them beautiful. I am not much concerned about art. I appreciate that which pleases me, and if a picture does not please me I have no time for it. But these pictures did please me. I thought they were beautiful. I have spoken of them to people who have been to New Guinea, and I know a good deal of the Australian bush and Australian birds myself, and I felt that I was able to look at these pictures’ and express an opinion about them. Notable artists have deliberately stated that the Rowan collection is worth only so much, but we have had notable artists recently criticising the artistic works of a gentleman who, I should say, is the black-and-white artist of this century, and that is Norman Lindsay. His work has been condemned by men occupying high positions in the world of art, but when it came to the question whether Norman Lindsay should send his pictures to London, or not, they were more intolerant, shall I say, than the members of the Government when they ‘ apply the guillotine to our debates. I hope the opportunity to acquire this beautiful collection of pictures will not be lost, and personally I should be prepared to pay £10,000 for it, the price asked by Mrs. Rowan.
.- I rise for the purpose of saying that I am unable to regard myself as bound in any way by this resolution of a previous Parliament. If that Parliament desired to take the responsibility for the purchase of the Rowan collection it was very easy ti> do it, but it is to my mind very objectionable that a Parliament should have agreed to a resolution approving the purchase without naming the price, and should expect a subsequent Parliament to regard itself as bound by such a resolution.
.- I merely wish to say that I was a member of the last Parliament, and I regard myself as, to some extent, bound by the resolution which it passed. I also considered that the committee, consisting of Mr. Brooks, Mr. Collins, and Mr. Kell was really formed to indicate what was a reasonable price for this Parliament to give. I am’ therefore in favour of giving the sum of £5,000 for this collection of pictures.
– I do not consider myself bound by the resolution of Parliament,nor do I consider that the collection should be purchased
Amendment (by Sir Granville Ryrie) agreed to -
That the following words -be added to the original motion: - “ and that the collection be purchased by the Commonwealth Government for the sum of £5,000.”
Original question, as amended, resolved in the- affirmative.
That the paper be printed, and that the collection be purchased by the Commonwealth, Government for the sum of £5,000.
Sitting suspended from 1.5 to 2.15 p.m. (Saturday).
– (By leave). - I assume that the House desires a statement of the Government’s intentions regarding the Northern Territory Crown Lands Bill. Honorable members will recollect the circumstances in which this measure came before the House. In the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, provision is made for government of the Territory by Ordinance, and that method has operated throughout the Commonwealth’s period, of control. A land Ordinance was gazetted in May of the present year, but when this Parliament met certain honorable members expressed a desire, that it should not be put into operation before being discussed in Parliament. In compliance with that wish, the Government embodied the Ordinance in a Bill, which is now upon the notice-paper. That Ordinance provides for leases to be issued for a period of forty-two years, and states the rentals that are to be paid, the manner and time of re-appraisement, and the method of surrender. Having given the House an undertaking that before any proceedings would be taken under the Ordinance, Parliament would be given a full opportunity to discuss it, and the Bill having been discussed only in the
Senate, the Government does not propose to bring the Ordinance into operation until Parliament, upon reassembling, has expressed its opinion thereon. But in the meantime the Government must endeavour to do something to stimulate and help the development of the Territory. I give the House an assurance that no action will be taken in regard to the extension of the leases for- forty-two years, the basis of the rentals, re-appraisements, nor any other matters contained in the Ordinance, until the opinion of Parliament in regard to them has been obtained. The only action weshall take in the,Territory - and it must necessarily be taken if a period of stagnation is to be avoided - will be such as will not commit the Parliament, so that when later an opportunity is afforded of reviewing what has been done, the discretion of the House will be unfettered. If the Government did proceed to grant leases for forty-two years, as is contemplated in the Ordinance, and that Ordinance were subsequently to be disallowed by this House, there could be no reversion to the status quo without repudiation by the Commonwealth. Nothing will be done by the Government to create an embarrassing situation of that character.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every honorable member of the House of Representatives from the termination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each honorable member by telegram or letter.
– As the motion we have just agreed .to indicates, the Government proposes that the House shall merely adjourn for a period, and, upon re-assembling, continue the present session. That, I think, was generally .expected and understood by honorable members. The Government set forth its policy in the Governor-General’s Speech at the commencement of this session, and has succeeded in passing through Parliament most of the measures embodied in it; but there still remain some of importance to be dealt with, and it is proposed that they shall be considered upon the resumption of the session in the new year.
During the week I was asked by an honorable member to indicate the probable time when Parliament will be called together again, but I refrained from answering the question, because it appeared to me to be an inquiry that should come from the Leader of the Opposition, and that it would be more courteous if I gave that information when he asked for it, or before the House suspended its sittings. It is proposed that! the House shall reassemble as early as possible after my return from the Imperial Conference in order that I may submit a report upon the proceedings at the Conference, and so that legislation arising out of it may be dealt with. I shall probably return to Australia towards the end of February. I had hoped to get back at the end of J January, but in order to do so, as I shall return via Canada, I should have to leave Great Britain almost immediately after the conclusion of the Conference, and, as a result, would have no opportunity to visit various parts of the Mother Country and say some of the things which I think the people of Australia desire shall be said. That early departure would also have allowed me a very limited time, if any, in the United States of America, and certainly would have given me very little opportunity to discuss with the Canadian Government the reciprocal Tariff arrangement which it is desirous of discussing with me when I pass through the Dominion on my homeward journey. I have received a most cordial invitation from the Government of the United States of America to visit “Washington, <and I think it would be the wish of the Australian people that ‘ I should avail myself of it, and attempt to do something to cement those feelings of friendship which exist between the peoples of Australia and that great Republic.
– The Government indicated in the Budget speech that it proposed to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate and report upon national insurance in relation to old-age,- health, and unemployment. I am now in a position to announce that the Commission will be issued immediately a meeting of the Executive Council can be held, and the Commissioners will be: - Senator J. D. Millen (Chairman), Mr. “W. G. Mahony, Mr. A. E. Green, Mr. J. A. J. Hunter, Senator Guthrie, Mr. J. Francis, and Senator A. McDougall.
– Some weeks ago this House appointed a Select Committee, to inquire into the operation of the Navigation Act. It has since been considered desirable that such Committee should be converted into a Royal Commission, which will have greater powers, and receive more publicity. I think honorable members will agree that a Royal Commission offers the best prospect of a thorough investigation of this very important question. The personnel of the Royal Commission will be: - Mr. J. H. Prowse (Chairman), Senator Duncan, Senator Elliott, Senator McHugh, Mr. F. Anstey, Mr. G. E. Yates, and Mr. A. C. Seabrook.
– In the Governor-General’s Speech, the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into certain transactions connected with the administration of War Service Homes was foreshadowed. The Government has been attempting to finalize that matter, and announce the name of the Commissioner. I am sorry that I am unable to do so today, but I hope to be able, within the next two or three days, to make known through the press the name of the Commissioner, and have the Commission issued. o
Clerical Division: Appointment of non-commissioned officers.
– On the 23rd August, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions : -
House all papers in connexion with these appointments?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies : -
This was merely &, reclassification of the positions already occupied by the officers in question, and no steps were necessary.
Employees at Swan Island - Uniform of Trainees.
– On the 10th August, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) stated (vide Hansard, page 2523)- o
At Swan Island are employed a number of labourers who, I understand, are receiving less than the basic wage. The Commonwealth should be a model employer, and I cannot conceive how the Department can justify the pay- , ment to its employees of a wage less than the .minimum which any private employer in the district has to pay. Many of them are handling explosives - a dangerous occupation - and yet are receiving only lis. or 12s. per day. It has been said that they are only temporary men; but, if that bc so, it is an added reason .why they should receive the .basic wage.
I am informed that -
Certain employees at Swan Island are paid at the rate of 12s. per day, which is above the rate fixed by the Federal Arbitration Court for labourers in these districts. The decision on the matter was based on the fact that the men concerned were not engaged as storemen, or to work in a naval store, but as casual labourers on unskilled labourers’ work, similar to that of municipal employees, whose award rate is lis. 6d. per day. The matter was dealt with by the previous Minister for Defence, who did not consider that the men concerned could be regarded as coming within the designation of “ storemen and packers “ or “ store labourers “.
I shall, however, go into the whole question afresh at the first opportunity.
On the 23rd August, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) asked whether I would issue instructions that compulsory trainees should be supplied with uniforms sufficiently large to fit them. I promised to inquire into the matter, and am now in a position to inform the honorable member that instructions have already been issued in Standing Orders for clothing to the following effect: -
All clothing will be fitted in the presence of an officer. Care will be taken, particularly in the case of Senior Cadets, that due regard is paid to the future physical development of the trainee that tight-fitting articles are on no account issued.
Sitting suspended from 2.80 te 3.80 p.m.
Message received from the Senate that it did not insist on its amendments in this Bill disagreed to by the House of Representatives.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– The Senate has made five amendments to this Bill. The first is the addition of a new clause which could not be added in this Chamber by reason of the expiration of the time allotted for the consideration of the Bill. I promised the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in my second-reading speech that this amendment would be inserted. It is as follows : -
After clause 1, insert the following new clause: - 1a. After section 5 of the principal Act the following section is inserted in Part I. :- “5a. (1) This Act shall not apply to any income derived from primary production in the Northern Territory by ia. resident of that Territory prior to the 1st day of July, 1927. (2) In this section -
I (iii) mining; or (iv) fisheries; and includes dairy produce manufactured by the person who produced the raw mate- rial used in the manufac ture of that produce; and (6)* income derived from primary / production ‘ means income which is derived directly and in the first place from primary production “.
The second amendment is to delete from the Bill the provision which provides for the inclusion of 4 per cent, of the value of a person’s own residence in his income tax return. The Government is accepting the amendment, and is making some slight verbal alterations, so that it may more adequately carry out ‘what is intended. That amendment is as follows: -
Clause 4: - Leave out paragraph (e), insert the following new paragraph:. - “ (e) by omitting’ from paragraph (e) all words after the word ‘ five ‘.”
The next amendment relates to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron), and deals with taxation on companies which are engaged in afforestation. It provides that the clause shall apply only to those companies whose principal business is afforestation. A number of companies are engaged in afforestation only as a side-line. The amendment reads -
Clause 7. - After “ afforestation “ insert “ as its principal business “.
The next two amendments are simply to alter the position of the provision moved yesterday by the- honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). The amendment was put into clause 7, and it should have been inserted as a new clause at the end of the Bill. These amendments read -
Clause 7. - Leave .out paragraph (6). After clause 12, insert the following new clause: - “ 13. Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act or this Act, there shall be deducted from the assessable income of a taxpayer for the financial year commencing on the 1st day of July, 1923, all sums paid by the taxpayer during the financial year commencing on the 1st day of July, 1921, in calls on shares in any company or syndicate prospecting for oil in the Commonwealth.”
Amendment No. 1 agreed to. Amendment No. 2 verbally amended and agreed to.
Amendments No. 3, 4, and 5 agreed to. Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 3.J/.0 to 5 p.m. (Saturday).
The following Bills were returned from the Senate, without amendment or request : -
Income Tax Bill.
Income Tax Collection Bill.
War Precautions Act Repeal Bill.
Post and Telegraph Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Bill returned from the Senate, with the message that the Senate had agreed to the amendment of the House of Representatives on its amendment.
– I move-
That this House places on record its deep gratitude to the International Health Board (Rockefeller ‘Institute) for its generous and valuable assistance in connexion with the public ‘health of the Commonwealth.
I should like to couple with the motion the names of Dr. Lanza, Dr. Sawyer, and Colonel Longley, who have done work of such incalculable value in connexion with the investigation of ankylostomiasis or the hookworm disease, in the endeavour to abolish it from the tropical parts of the Commonwealth. The Rockefeller Institute, through the International Health Board, has given to the Commonwealth extremely generous assistance indeed. At the outset, the Board undertook to contribute approximately £33,000, and a trained supervisory staff to determine the prevalence of hookworm in Australia and its dependencies, and to inaugurate a system for the permanent control of the disease. Subsequently, upon the condition that the Commonwealth established a Ministry of Health, the Board undertook to furnish an expert adviser in each of the fields of tropical hygiene, industrial hygiene, sanitary engineering, and laboratory administration. We have now had the advantage of the presence for two years of the three gentlemen whom I have named, and already the Commonwealth has profited enormously from their presence and advice. I think it fitting that the House should place on record its appreciation of the work done by the institute for the uplift of humanity in such a noble and generous fashion.
.- By the charming courtesy of the Leader of the Opposition, I am permitted to second the motion. I brought this matter under the notice - of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and I think it is only fair that this House should recognise this last and splendid effort of the United States of America to show their desire to assist us as a younger brother of the great comity of the British race. I could, if time were not very precious, give members reasons to look upon the civilization of America as being, possibly, the highest at the present time existing in this world. On a frontier of 3,500 miles, beyond which live the people of another strong nation of British stock, she maintains not one single soldier. She is the first nation of which such a thing could be said, and the fact is a monument to peace unequalled by any other monument throughout the wide world. The return of indemnities to China and Japan also illustrate America’s greatness. As for the dread hookworm disease which the International Health Board of the Rockefeller Foundation is endeavouring to control, its effects are but too apparent in the difference between two members of a family of whom one is affected with the disease and the other free from it. The unaffected person will be physically and mentally the superior; even where if the cases are those of children, he may be three years the younger. Remembering that each of the parasites takes at least one drop of blood from the human system, the deteriorating effects of the disease on the unfortunates whom it attacks can easily be understood. For the knowledge imparted by the scientific institute of the Rockefeller Foundation, with whom the three splendid men mentioned by the Treasurer are associated, we are much indebted. I feel sure that if we are generous in the means we take for the preservation of the public health, we shall be able to entirely eradicate this fell disease.
– I assume the unanimous concurrence of honorable members in the resolution.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the vote of appreciation just carried be conveyed by Mr. Speaker to the Rockefeller Institute.
Valedictory Speeches. Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper - Treasurer) [5.9]. - Mr. Speaker, in moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I should like to express the appreciation, which I am sure all members of the
House have felt at your urbanity, uniform courtesy, and kindness, during the whole of this session. We all recognise the heavy strain which a session of. .this character has imposed, not merely on honorable members, but on you, sir, and we are deeply sensible of the value whichyou, with your wide experience and parliamentary knowledge, have been to the House during its protracted sittings. We desire also to express our thanks for the valuable services rendered by the Chairman of Committees, and express our regret at his unfortunate illness. We hope that he may soon be restored to health. Especially do we desire to thank the Deputy Chairmen for the very onerous work which’ they performed during the long Committee stages which the character of the legislation brought forward rendered necessary, and to thank them for their fairness, and for the manner in which they assisted the work of the Parliament. We also appreciate the courtesy and assistance which the officers of the House have always given to honorable members. To the Hansard staff ‘ we extend our thanks for the accuracy of their reports, and the way in which they invariably improve the spoken word. We appreciate the services rendered by the attendants associated with this Chamber. In conclusion, and on behalf of the Government, I wish, you, sir, and all members with whom we have been associated during the past ten weeks - not forgetting our friends, the newspaper reporters, who have been sitting with us through many long nights that never seemed to end- a pleasant recess. As probably we shall not be meeting again before Christmas, I wish all, too, a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
.- On behalf of the Opposition I indorse the remarks of the Treasurer, and wish to convey to you, Mr. Speaker, our warm appreciation of the able manner in which you have presided over this Chamber. Your tact and judgment have assisted, on many occasions, to soothe feelings that, at times, were somewhat irritated. We realize that you have discharged the duties of your high office in a manner that is creditable to you and to the traditions of this Parliament. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that we have never sat under a better Speaker. In regard to the . officers of the House, I indorse all that the Treasurer has said. We regret very much that our Chairman of Committees, Mr. Bamford, has been stricken with illness. We hope, however, that he may soon recover. It may be some consolation to him to know that he left with us a sufficient number of Deputy Chairmen to see us through the work of this strenuous session, and that they discharged their duties faithfully and well. In regard to the officers, I can honestly say that I know of no men who have worked harder during the strenuous times through which we have passed. Probably they feel the strain more than we do, because they are in the chamber all the time. A better staff could not be found anywhere. As for the Hansard reporters, they also have had a difficult task during the past few weeks. Frequently I wonder how members of the Hansard staff manage to keep up. The work this session has been very trying for them. In regard to the attendants and messengers, of which you, sir, have control, I do not think there could be a better staff. They do everything they can to assist us. During the past few days they have felt the strain of the long sittings, but never once have I heard a complaint from one of them. As for the press, I can only say that, although they criticise us freely, personally I have to thank those who attend in our press galleries. They have always given me a fair deal, and that is all that a man need expect. To them I extend my very best wishes, and with the Treasurer, I hope they will enjoy their recess. As we are not likely to meet again before Christmas, I wish one and all a happy Christmas and a bright New Year.
– Before submitting the motion, I might be permitted to say to the House that I am deeply sensible of the kindness evidenced in the remarks of the honorable the Treasurer and the honorable the Leader of the Opposition. Coming new to the Chair I have tried to exercise the functions of the office impartially. The thought that I have nOt been unsuccessful is, of course, sufficient reward. I have had many manifestations of consideration and good-will from, honorable members on both sides of the Chamber, and I may say that I have not been blind to them. I appreciate them to the fullest extent. I share the unanimous regret of honorable members at the unfortunate illness of the father of the House, our respected Chairman of Committees (Mr. Bamford), who has gone north, where, we hope, he will speedily recover. He can always be sure, in this Parliament, of a glad welcome by members, irrespective of party, because of his manhood and his fine qualities. The Temporary Chairmen of Committees deserve the thanks of the House, as the Treasurer so properly observed, and particularly my own thanks as the representative both of the Speakership and the Chairman of Committees, for the unselfishness with which they have laboured unceasingly to administer to both Chairs. 1 thank them on behalf of both Mr. Bamford and myself.
May I thank the House generally on behalf of the staff. In the clerical staff we are singularly fortunate in the possession of men of wide experience, of excellent qualities, and a splendid disposition to helpfulness. I speak of them both as a private member and as presiding officer. I fear that members may not value sufficiently their services. Their work is frequently not seen, but it is enormously powerful in keeping going the machine. Happily Hansard, under its new Chief, is running as smoothly as ever, and to Mr. Robinson I say that we are glad he hap succeeded to his important office. The staff of attendants, as both the Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition have said, are of the utmost assistance to members. Their courtesy is never failing, and with out it the life of members of Parliament would indeed be irksome. I hope that honorable members, after this strenuous session,’ will revel for a little while in the luxury of the recess. I say to. the Acting Head of the Government, who for the next few months will be called upon to administer the affairs of the country, that we hope that he will have an enjoyable time in the occupation of the office, and that he will not make the recess too brief. One more comment and I have finished. There has been keen fighting in the session that has just closed. While not partaking of the views of either the Government or the Opposition, as to the procedure which has been adopted, I am bound to say to the House and the country that the strife and fighting have been strenuous and fair from start to finish. Rare ability and good temper have been exhibited, which bodes well for the future of the Parliament of this country. The fact that, after these keen and protracted sittings, we are able to part in friendship while still preserving our political differences, I think ought to be gratifying to students of political and constitutional government in this country. I put, in the spirit of sympathy and’ goodwill, the best resolution that has been proposed in this session - That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– There is one final announcement, and it is that the House stands adjourned until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting will be notified by Mr. Speaker to each honorable member by telegram or letter.
House adjourned at 5.18 p.m. (Saturday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230824_reps_9_105/>.