9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt.Hon. W. A.Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Iwish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question arising out of the following telegram I have received from the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce: -
Tariff representationsmade this chamber hardship to merchants through cargoes being held up southern ports owing strike. Collector Customs states all cargo not entered at
Customs yesterday must pay new duties. Will you please make representations Minister setting out extreme hardship?
I ask the Minister whether anything oan be done to afford relief to merchants in the circumstances disclosed by that telegram ?
– It is the invariable rule of the Department of Trade and Customs to charge the duties current on the day when the goods are cleared for home consumption, wherever they may happen to be, whether in Queensland, in Western Australia, or on ships between port and port along the coast. The duties tabled yesterday are payable this morning, and only those duties can be charged. The reductions in duties proposed will not come into operation until approved by this House.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has received about £100,000 from the British Government for the sale of captured German ships, it cannot settle claims made by Australian firms for work done upon such vessels, instead of compelling them to go to prize courts .for their settlement. For the capture of some of those vessels the claimants were themselves responsible?
– There are many complications with regard to the claims arising out of war proceedings during the period of active hostilities. I think I know the case to which the question refers. I am looking into it, and I think it would be better to refrain from expressing any opinion upon it until I have completed my investigation.
Queensland Railway Strike
– Yesterday I asked the Postmaster-General a question about the carriage of mails in Queensland, and he said that he would communicate with the Queensland Government, asking if it would assist in the matter. In view of the fact that many districts in my elec torate - which is in New South Wales - receive most of their mail matter, including some from Queensland towns like Stanhope and Killarney, by railway, from Queensland, will the honorable gentleman see what can be done to provide postal facilities for the northern districts of Kew South Wales whilst the railway strike in Queensland continues )
– It is somewhat difficult to answer the honorable member’s question. The Government is doing all that is reasonably possible to facilitate the transport of mails. I assure the honorable member that wherever mails for the districts to which he has referred can be delivered through New South Wales that will be done.
– In view of the fact that there is no reference to wood pulp in the tariff proposals tabled yesterday, and a promise was made by the Minister for Trade and Customs to Tasmanian members that a decision of the Government on the question of a duty on wood pulp would shortly be made, I ask the honorable gentleman whether we may expect that within a few days the Government will have arrived at a decision on this question, which is so vital to Tasmania?
– I think the honorable member is aware that the matter to which he refers is not so urgent now as it appeared to be a few weeks ago. I can only repeat what I told the House yesterday, that it will have the consideration of the Government within a short time.
.- If I arn in order in doing so, I desire, by leave of the House,- to move that the order of the day, No. 2 General Business’, for the resumption of the debate on my motion for the establishment pf a shipping service between Hobart and Melbourne, be discharged from the paper.
– If the honorable member will take counsel with the Clerk, he will show him a more orderly way of doing what he desires. It cannot be done to-day.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it afact, as reported, that the State Savings Bankhas reduced its rate of interest chargeable on farms, city, town., and suburban properties. If so. willhe request the Commonwealth Bank to follow the example and give the same reduction to the people of the farms, the cities, &c. ?
– I am informed that such reduction has been made by the State Savings Bank. On the 1st July, the Commonwealth Bank made a reduction of½ per. cent. on its overdraft rate. I shall, however, bring under the notice of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank the question raised by the honorable member.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice - 1.Whether the Butter Export Control Board has yet made any agreement with the marine underwriters in regard to the insurance on butter carried from Australia to London?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is itthe intention of the Government to proceed with the erection and equipment of a telephone exchange at Lakemba, as recommended by the Public Works Committee, during the current financial year?
– Building plans for the telephone exchange have been prepared, and the building will be erected in adequate time for the erection of the equipment. The invitation of tenders is being arranged for, and it is hoped to place an order this financial year.
– Some time ago questions concerning the eradication of cattle tick in Australia were asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The Minister for Markets and Migration has now supplied the following information: -
In January, 1918, the Commonwealth convened a conference in Brisbane at which were present representatives of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland. That State considered it desirable that a co-operative campaign should be launched throughout the tick- infestedareas in New South Wales and Queensland ; that this campaign should be carried out by the application of the Commonwealth’s legal powers and its administrative and financial resources, in conjunction with the application of similar resources provided by the States to an extent mutually agreed upon by the Commonwealth and the States concerned. The conference also recommended that the details of the work and expenditure of funds allotted for the purpose should be settled by a conference between the Commonwealth Director of Quarantine and the Chief Inspectors of Siock for the States of New South Wales and Queensland, and that the Commonwealth should supplement the funds expended in the areas affected. Unfortunately, the Queensland representatives withdrew from the conference prior to the drafting of the report and recommendations, as they dissented from the principle of Commonwealth intervention or co-operation in any form other than merely granting a financial subsidy. Despite this failure to get concerted action, the Commonwealth Government in May, 1919, asked Dr. Gilruth to proceed to America to investigate the methods of preventing and eradicating ticks, and his report was subsequently made available to the States. Nothing further was done by the State Governments until the 8th August, 1923, when the Premier of New South Wales, Sir George Fuller, asked for Commonwealth aid to the extent of £25,000 a year for two years to enable them to eradicate the tick in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government replied that the matter should be approached from a national point of view, aiming ultimately at eradication without reference to any State boundaries, and that failure to do so, no matter how successful the campaign in New South Wales, would leave a risk of re-infestation from Queensland, and urged the New South Wales Government to obtain unity of purpose between the States of New South Wales and Queensland as to the direction in which the Commonwealth could most effectively assist in the eradication of the tick pest. The Commonwealth Government would then be prepared to discuss any proposals in a sympathetic attitude. Despite the Commonwealth Government’s reply, the New South Wales Government still persisted during the early part of 1924 in asking for £25,000 a year for two years, which it intended in addition to their own expenditure of £100,000, would be sufficient to completely eradicate the tick in that time. On the 17th February, 1924, the Commonwealth Government pointed out that the Commonwealth had been trying for years to get the States of New South Wales and Queensland to fall into line in a comprehensive scheme to completely eradicate the pest, and that it was prepared to go on with the. work at once, and amply subsidize it if the States’ would only agree to a scheme which the Commonwealth Government would approve. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the request of New South Wales for a subsidy of £25,000 a year for two years was governed by a proper appreciation of its legitimate functions, anda sound knowledge of the situation, and the practical steps necessary to cope with it. Cattle tick will be eradicated more readily by co-operation between States than by independent action by individual States’. The matter must be approached from a national point of view aiming at complete eradication without reference to any State boundaries. We could subsidize New South Wales: for years, but without the co-operation of Queensland, from which State the disease first spread, there would always be a risk of re-infestation, and the problem from the Com- monwealth stand-point would be practically where it was.. The increasing expenditure of New South Wales is a sufficient proof thai the task must be approached in some better way. As a result of Commonwealth; pressure, finally an effort was made by New South Wales to get Queensland into line, and a committee met in September, 1924. This committee submitted a plan which involved the expenditure of £174,000 a year, to which the Commonwealth contribution would be £58,000. The main proposals agreed upon, and which were subsequently adopted by the New South Wales and Queensland Governments, were briefly : -
That co-operative effort in the. matter was desirable and necessary.
The first period of co-operation to be for six years.
The estimated expenditure for the first year to be as follows : -
Of this amount £149,000 (the Commonwealth and New South Wales contributions), to be spent in New South Wales, and £25,000 in Queensland. The Commonwealth contribution to be for six years, and always one-third of the total annual expenditure, but never to exceed £58,000 per annum. (This suggested contribution is. more than double the £25,000 asked fox by New South Wales a few months previously). This greatly increased expenditure is proposed with apparently little alteration in methods,which,. up to the present have, during 25 years of New South Wales action, permitted the pest to encroach on districts many miles south of the Queensland border where it was at the beginning of the century. The New South Wales Government, while admitting that its past methods have been unsatisfactory and ineffective, now maintain that it has an effective method. On this point the Commonwealth must be satisfied that the expenditure is properly justified before granting subsidies to State efforts.The Institute of Science and
Industry has never been fully supplied with the details of the proposed expenditure, nor with a complete outline of methods proposed to be followed. The Commonwealth Government recognizes the importance of evolving a thoroughly practical and comprehensive scheme, and, in view of the unexplained additional expenditure, has decided to submit the whole question to the Institute of Science’ and Industry, when reconstituted, to investigate, and, if possible, suggest a method for the cooperation of all governments concerned, in which the nature of the outlay, and. the reasons for the outlay involved, will be precisely defined. The question of the reconstitution of the Institute is under the consideration of the Government, and it is expected that a bill to amend the Institute of Science and Industry Act will be introduced very shortly. As, however, it is realized that some time may elapse before the reconstituted Institute will be in a position to deal with this question; the Commonwealth Government is approaching the Governments of News South Wales and Queensland with a view to coming, to some temporary arrangement which will enable a start tobe made with the handling of this important national question during the presentseason.
The following papers were presented : -
National Debt Sinking Fund. Act - National Debt Commission - Second annual report, for year ended 30th June,. 1925.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act- Appointment of P. F. Quigley, Department of Trade and: Customs.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move - .
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1925-26, a sum not exceeding £3,322,820.
Towards the close of the last financial year, Parliament granted Supply for the ordinary purposes of government, to cover a period of ‘two months. That grant is now exhausted, and I am therefore submitting a bill to provide Supply for a further two months. The total of the bill is £3,322,820, made up as follows: -
As the previous Supply Bill was passed before the Estimates for the current year had been prepared; the schedule was framed according to the form of the Estimates for 1924-25, and was not divided into the three parts shown above. Therefore a comparison of the first grant of Supply with the present proposal, to cover a similar period1, can be made on totals only. The total of the Supply previously granted is £4,459,235, as compared with £3,322,820, the total of the- present bill. It is only fair to state, however, that the first bill contained1, under Treasurer’s Advance, an amount of £1,000,000 to provide for the continuation of works, pending the passing of the revenue and loan works bills, whilst no such provision is necessary in the present measure. In addition, a larger amount was included in the first bill for refunds of revenue, to provide for special refunds of direct taxation, following on High Court judgments and amendments in the law. Omitting the Treasurer’s- Advance and refunds of revenue, the total of the present bill is £3,122,820, whilst the amount of the first Supply was £3,109,235. This slight increase of £13,5S5 is unimportant when it is remembered that many thousands of pounds will be expended in quarterly and half-yearly contract payments, which fall due in . the period covered by the Supply. The total of the two Supply Bills, which cover four months’ expenditure, excluding the Treasurer’s Advance and refunds of revenue, is £6,232,055, whilst one-third of the total expenditure provided for in the main Estimates is £6,.358,7S(L In other words the two bills total £126,725, less than one-third of the total estimated expenditure for the year. When it is remembered that in the four months covered by Supply there are ten pay days, the requirements for which are considerably m excess of one-third of the total salary provision: for the year, it will be seen that the proposed expenditure is well within the programme for 192.5-26. No provision is made for services of which Parliament has not already approved. This fact, in conjunction with the moderate amount for which I am now asking, shows that Parliament’s right of criticism of the Estimates and its control of the public purse are in no way curtailed.
Question, resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended;, resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Sir Littleton Groom do .prepare and bring in a bill to ear ry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The practice of delaying the discussion, of the budget and the consideration of the Estimates, and applying repeatedly to Parliament for Supply, is not a. wise one. Some weeks have elapsed since the Treasurer delivered his budget speech, and I hope that the House will have an opportunity to discuss it in th& near future. My only purpose in speaking at this stage is te- complain of the inaction of the Government in regard to the business of the League of Nations. Quite recently, and almost twelve months, after the meeting of the Fifth Assembly, the Australian delegates submitted their report to the HouseLast week, the Prime Minister, in replying to a question promised that an opportunity would be afforded to discuss the report in conjunction with the agenda paper for the Sixth Assembly. I understand that the Sixth Assembly will meet on Monday next, but this House has not discussed either the report of the last delegation or the agenda paper. Now, such a discussion will be a waste of time, in so far as it is too late to fortify our delegates- with the opinions of this House. Whether Parliament approves or disapproves of the Protocol, it should have considered the report of the delegates to the Fifth Assembly and the agenda paper foE the Sixth Assembly, so. that those who will’ shortly be required to voice Australian sentiments there may be guided by authoritative opinion.. Unfortunately, they will be in the same invidious position as was occupied by their predecessors; they will attend the Assembly without having the. support of .the expressed opinion of the Australian Parliament and people, and must be guided entirely by the proposals placed before them by other representative men. In these circumstances, the leader of the British delegation will probably expect the Australian delegates to acquiesce in what he says or does. If Australia is to continue to be a member of the League, this Parliament must deal with the League business seriously and methodically, and we should endeavour to so inform our delegates that they will be able to represent intelligently the views of our people. Representatives of fifty nations will be gathered at Geneva ; and there is bound to be much diversity of individual opinion. The Australian delegates do not know the opinion of this Parliament. I doubt if they know the opinion of the Government in regard to the business appearing on the agenda paper. It is useless for us to expend money in sending delegates to Geneva unless we intend to deal thoroughly with the business of the League. Year after year we send people to represent us at that most important gathering, and some time- later at the convenience of the Government their report is submitted’ to this House, but no adequate opportunity to discuss it is afforded. Little wonder that people are saying that attendance at the meetings of the Assembly is merely a picnic for representative men. The time has arrived when Parliament should deal with this matter in a deliberate way. If a decision is come to within the next couple of weeks, our representatives should be advised of it. It is not possible, by cable, to fully and adequately acquaint those representatives of the views of this chamber. Members of the Parliament who are on the delegation should be present whilst these discussions are taking place, so that they may know the views that are expressed. Their hands would then be strengthened when they attended the Assembly. Under existing circumstances they leave Australia without any fixed opinions, and are likely to be influenced by some domineering individual who represents, perhaps, Great Britain. The happenings of the last three of four months on the other side of the world are bound to have their effect upon them. If an alteration in the procedure is not made Australia should withdraw from the League of Nations. The expenditure of money annually to defray the cost of sending a delegation from Australia will be wasted unless matters are placed on a proper basis. If our present delegates were acquainted with the view of this Government and Parliament, they might be able to exert an influence on the British delegation before attending the Assembly of the League of Nations. By that means an agreement might be arrived at under which a uniform .course could be adopted by Great Britain and the dominions. At present, concerted action is not possible, and frequently the Australian delegates must follow the lead that is given by other representatives who are not in touch with Australian sentiment. A grave injustice is being done to the League of Nations. The Government as not justified in its refusal of an opportunity to discuss the report of the delegates to the last Assembly, and it ought not to have rejected the Protocol before consulting Parliament. If honorable members permit the .business to be carried on in that way they must accept the responsibility of their action. I, at- any rate, conceive it to be my duty to inform the Australian people of my dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Government is proceeding.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Glauses 1 -to 4 agreed to.
– I move -
That the Vote, “ The Parliament, £12,235,” be reduced by £2.
I move this amendment as an instruction to the Government to make arrangements for the payment by 15th September, 1925, of £1 per week to old-age and invalid pensioners. I desire to do justice to the old people whom the Treasurer, in his budget speech, promised will receive an increased pension simultaneously with the passage of legislation giving effect to the findings of the National Insurance Commission. It is difficult for me to understand the reason for the .bracketing of those two matters. I can only conclude that the Government wishes to procrastinate still further. The commission have clearly pointed out that old-age and invalid pensioners are entitled to a pension of £1 a week, without having, to make any contribution. The other scheme suggested by the commission relates to sick and accident benefits, which, no doubt, will involve provision regarding contributions. Honorable members must admit that that matter is entirely separate from the proposal to increase the old-age and invalid pensions. There can be no reason for withholding that increase, Ample funds are available to enable the Government to discharge the additional obligation. The increased payment could have been made during the last three years from the huge surpluses that have been returned. It is well known that at the last election the Labour party promised that, if returned to power, it would pay the oldage and invalid a pension of £1 a week. Had we been returned, that amount of pension would have been paid during the last two and a half years. Now, on the eve of an election, the Government, ‘for political purposes, has decided to grant an increase. It is evident that the Government does not intend to give it until it can no longer delay the matter, so that it can boast of its generosity during the forthcoming election campaign. If ever there was a bid for votes, this is one.
– An eleventh hour repentance.
– That is so. We oh this side have agitated for an increased pension ever since this Parliament assembled. Numerous attempts have been made by honorable members to get the Government and its supporters, who claim that they are in sympathy with the old people, to agree to an increase of the pension. Yet, although the Treasury was overflowing, it was impossible to get them to concede this meed of justice to the old and infirm of this country.
– Not all of them.
– No. I know the attitude then adopted by the honorable member, and he shall not suffer any injustice at my hands in regard to this question. On the 10th August, 1923, as recorded in Ilansard, page 2490, Mr. Coleman moved -
That the division, No. 22, “ Invalid and Oldage Pensions Office, £84,588 “ be reduced by £1 “ as an instruction to the Government to increase the pension to £1 per week. On that occasion, Messrs. F. Francis, Gardner, Lister, Maxwell, Watson and Whitsitt supported the amendment. On the 24th August, 1923, as recorded in Hansard, page 3564, I moved that the amount of the pension be increased by 5s., instead of by 2s. 6d. It appeared that some of the Ministerial supporters were in favour of the increase of 5s., but the Prime Minister rose and stated that the carrying of the amendment would be taken as an indication that the Government did not possess the confidence of the House. Thereupon, those Government supporters commenced to make apologetic speeches, stating that while they favoured the rate being £1 per week, they would have to vote against the amendment. It is interesting to re-“ cord the observations of honorable members on that occasion. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said that he was in favour of a pension of £1 per week, but, in view of the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister, he could not vote for the amendment. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. F. Francis) spoke in a similar strain, claiming that he had the interests of the pensioners at heart. Nevertheless, he did not vote for the amendment.
– A man cannot do more than be on both sides.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who on that occasion said -
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- also voted against the amendment.
– Naturally, in view of the sentiments I then expressed.
– The great majority of the people of this country are unable to support their parents, as they have sufficient to do to support their own families.
– If it were not that strikes are so numerous, people to-day would be in a better position to support themselves and their families.
– My amendment was defeated; the only Government supporters of it being the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson). It is interesting to read what the Bulletin thought of the action of honorable members. No one will contend that the Bulletin is a supporter of the Labour party, yet, on the 13th September, 1923, dealing with the spineless attitude of certain Government supporters, it said -
For two hours he (Mr. Bruce) wrested with the recalcitrants, and then overcame them by a threat of resignation. The number of jellyfish in the subsequent division made the House look like an aquarium.
That is the impression conveyed to the press ‘by the action of the Government and its .supporters. Again, on the i-Oth .September, 1924, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) moved that the amount of .pension be increased to £1 per week, but not one anti-Labour member voted for it. Now, on the eve of an election, the Government grants an additional 2b. 6d. per week. It is * good thing for the old people that ari election is penning, as had Parliament been elected for six years instead of three years their position would be much worse.
– This Government, within a year of assuming office, increased the pension by 5s. 6d. per week.
– I am referring to the attempt to increase the pension to £1 a week. Actions of this kind demonstrate clearly that it would be unwise to extend the period foi’ which a Parliament is elected. It -would be better for the old and infirm in our midst if there were an (election annually, as they would then have a chance of obtaining justice. I think that I have made it clear that the Labour party in this House has consistently advocated that the pension be increased to £.1 per week. In doing that, we have only endeavoured to fulfil our promise to the electors. That the old people have not received £1 per week is no fault of the Labour party.
I wish now to refer to the treatment meted out to those old-age pensioners who become inmates of public hospitals. On many occasions, I have sought information regarding their treatment, and on the 10th July last, I ascertained that after 28 days in a hospital an old-age or invalid pensioner who, before entering the institution, receives 17s. ‘fid. a week, has his pension reduced to 5s. a week. The sum of 3.0s. 6d. a week is paid to the hospital authorities, which, with the 8s. a week paid to the pensioner, makes the Government’s weekly contribution 13s. 6d. only, or a. .’saving of 4s. & week in respect of each old -age or invalid pensioner who is an inmate of a public hospital. . The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) then said that it. was not intended to increase the payment to the hospitals because they wove State institutions, and should be maintained by the States. When I asked him what the saving of 4s. a week represented, he replied that it would be about £2,000 per annum. In a letter which he subsequently addressed to me, the Treasurer said -
As the amount of pension which may lie paid to Inmates of institutions is fixed by law at 3s. per week, it will be seen that it is not possible to authorize the payment of an additional 4s. per week. If such payment were authorized, the Commonwealth would he involved in an -additional liability of approximately £50,<000 per annum.
– That reply referred to the State institutions - a different matter altogether.
– How would it involve the Commonwealth in an additional £50,000 per annum if the pensioners were paid while in hospital the amount paid to them in ordinary circumstances ?
– There were two classes of pensioners - those who were already in institutions, and those who were not. To have granted all the inmates of institutions £1 per week would have considerably increased the Commonwealth burden. This Government was the first to pay anything to the inmates of hospitals who were not already oldage pensioners. That action was taken by the Government in 1923.
– I am referring to those old-age pensioners who become inmates of hospitals, and submit that at that time particularly they require a little additional money to obtain certain necessaries of life to supplement those supplied by the institution. I do not stand for paying them 3s. a week only in order to .save ourselves 4s. a week; T am prepared to .grant, them, the full .amount of the pension. If the hospital receives 10s. 6d. per week in respect of each of them, the pensioners should get the remaining 7s., in order to make i t possible for them to obtain a few additional comforts. This thing cries aloud for redress., and, if members of the Government had a spark of humanity in them, they could mot allow it to continue.
There is a phase of the invalid pensions administration to which I wish to refer. A person has to be totally incapacitated before he is eligible for an invalid pension. If it is proved by medical evidence that a man is partially incapacitated to the extent of being unable to do a fair day’s work, he should not fee entirely deprived of a pension, although he can earn, perhaps, 7s. or 8s. a week. These anomalies in our pension laws should be removed. If a man who is partially incapacitated can earn anything, he should receive from the Government an amount that will make his income equivalent to a full pension. To allow pensioners to earn something without becoming ineligible for a pension would relieve the Commonwealth Government of a certain amount of liability.
– The State Governments come to the rescue of such persons.
– Partially incapacitated people have to appeal for State aid, and that is not fair fo the States. The responsibility should be carried entirely by the Commonwealth. I conceive it to be my duty to take such action as will give honorable members an opportunity to- direct the Treasurer to- pay the increased pensions as from the 15th of the present month. That will give the Government a fortnight in which to pass the necessary legislation through Parliament. I should like to say “ forthwith,” but the pensions cannot be paid until the necessary bill has been passed. After having promised these old people an increase in their pensions, there is. no justification for withholding, it until next year. If an election is not held during the next month or two,, probably no payments will be made until January next. The. pensioners expect, the extra amount, and are entitled to it at once. The Government has sufficient money available to accede to my request.
,- I have pleasure in seconding the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and in doing so I strongly urge the Government to accept it and thus do a tardy measure of justice to the old-age and invalid pensioners. Honorable members on this side have on many occasions, moved in this chamber to increase the rate of pension to £1 a week, but not until the dying hours of a Parliament have we been able to obtain anything from the Government.. By the propaganda we have put forward, we have forced the Government on previous occasions to increase the rate of pension first from 12s. 6d. to 15s., and then from 15s. to 17s. 6d. History discloses that old-age and invalid pensions were first put into tangible shape in Australia at an interstate conference of the Austra lian Labour party. It waa because Labour held the. balance, of power in Parliament, and used that power in the. interests of the aged and infirm,, that the Government first introduced the proposal to pay pensions. Had not the Labour party demanded that pensions should be paid, they would not have been paid, and since then the Labour party has been responsible, by creating a public opinion that could not be disregarded even by an anti-Labour Government, for the increases that have been obtained. Now, in the dying hours of a Parliament^ the Government has promised certain increases conditionally upon other things being done, but we are not satisfied that old-age pensions should be made the catspaw of a Government which has been discredited in its legislative and administrative functions, or that- the Government should be allowed, by a deathbed repentance, or the promise of a deathbed repentance, te withhold the increase any longer. We have been told by the Government that when a certain bill dealing with national insurance has been passed, the old-age and invalid pensions will bc increased to £1 a week. Honorable members on. this side say that the increase in the pensions has been too long delayed, and. that there is no occasion to ask the pensioners to wait for the increase until a date which is unknown even to the Government, A commission has recommended, and the people have demanded, this increase, but owe Government is apparently content even to go to the electors without, paying it. If the increase is not paid, before the elections the Government will, no doubt, make the excuse that the Labour party held up. the business of the Parliament, and prevented the Government from passing the necessary legislation. When one considers the presents, the prizes, and the quid pro quos that, have been handed to influential and wealthy sections of the community, the withholding of old-age and invalid pensions becomes- even more scandalous. When we asked a few months ago for an increase from 15s. to £1, we were, informed by both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister that, owing to financial stringency, it was impossible to increase the pensions by that amount, and the- request, was curtly refused, until even the tory press of this country,, recognizing the justice of the claim.. brought sufficient pressure to bear on certain honorable members, who revolted against the Government, and compelled it, reluctantly, to give way. On that occasion, the pensions were increased to 17s. 6d. Although the Government told us that the financial stringency was so great that pensions could not be increased to £1 a week, a few months afterwards it promised to increase them to £1 a week: and it handed to the Inchcape combine, in the form of reduced taxation, over £100,000 a year. More than 90 per cent, of the concession on shipping tonnage will be enjoyed by the Inchcape combine. It also made a present of the Commonwealth “Woollen Mills, valued at over £400,000, to a syndicate of woollen merchants and importers of Flinders-lane, and senators and friends of members of the House of Representatives, who put into the concern only a small deposit, and are relying on the profits to pay for it. It was this same Government that presented leaseholders and freeholders with many thousands of pounds a year in remission of taxation. It attempted to pass a bill remitting taxation on leaseholds to the extent of £1,300,000. Then it has the effrontery and impudence to inform the people of Australia that the financial position of the Commonwealth is such that it will not permit of an increase of 2s. 6d. or 5s. to the old-age and invalid pensions. I could refer to several cases of hardship which have occurred under the administration of the act. There is the case of an unfortunate girl at Broken Hill which was responsible for much correspondence from the Barrier District Assembly of the Australian Labour party. This girl was for three years either an inmate or an outdoor patient of the Broken Hill hospital. She went to Adelaide for treatment at the hospitals there, yet she is told that, because she is not absolutely incurable, she is not entitled to receive the invalid pension. Although she has been told by the medical referees that she is not incurable, they have not been able to cure her, and do not appear to know just what is the matter with her. I think that, not only should the invalid and oldage pensions be increased, but the increase should be paid from the date suggested in the amendment. Further, it should not be made so difficult for in- valids and elderly persons to obtain pensions. Inmates of hospitals, benevolent asylums, and such institutions throughout Australia . entitled to the invalid or old-age pension are allowed only 3s. per week. If the Government do submit a proposal for the increase in the pensions, it is to be hoped that 5s. 6d. at least will be made payable to the inmates of such institutions as I have referred to. The present allowance of 3s. to an inmate of these institutions is not sufficient for an old man who may be a heavy smoker or desires some other little comforts of life, or for old people who desire alcoholic liquors and some small luxuries to make their lives a little happier. When men and women become old their need for beer, wine, whisky, and especially brandy, increases. Alcohol is, in their case, not a stimulant, but a medicine, andto obtain this medicine they require more than the 3s. per week at present allowed them. I urge upon the Government that the allowance to people in these institutions should be increased. I speak, of course, of the present Government, because the increase of the allowance will most certainly be granted by the Government in power after the next elections, when the act will be sympathetically administered by people who understand those who are entitled to these pensions and are much closer to them than are the members of an anti-Labour government.
.- I intend to support the amendment. One wonders why, at this stage of this Parliament, there is only a promise of an increase in the old-age and invalid pensions. I regard the promise as a placard to be put before the electors. I am not satisfied that the Government is sincere in the promise that has been made. It is, I consider, purely a political trick. It will be said that, owing to unforeseen circumstances, the Government had not time to carry out the promise, and it will be held over for the next election. If that is the course to be adopted by the Government, it will be one of the meanest political, tricks that has ever been played or could be played by any government. We were told, in the Treasurer’s budget speech, that the recommendation of the National Insurance Commission showed the necessity for increasing the invalid and oldage pensions. Honorable members on this side do not need to he asked the question, but I ask honorable members opposite whether they really required a royal commission to tell them that a pension of 17s! 6d. a week is not enough for invalids and old people. The fact that the commission dealt with the matter may have whipped honorable members opposite into action, but surely they did not require a recommendation of that commission to learn that invalid and old people require something more than a pension of 17s. 6d. a week. Those entitled to these pensions are told that they must wait until this and that are done before their pensions can be increased, but when, last week, the Government wanted to serve its own purpose, the whole machinery of Parliament was thrown out of gear, and we had to sit on Friday night and Saturday to push through legislation. The Government, cannot adopt that course to relieve old and infirm people ! It would not require an all-night sitting to pass a measure providing for an increase in the invalid and old-age pension. So far as the party on this side is concerned, the Government could pass such a measure in five minutes. The Government is going to increase the pension, but the people entitled to it must wait a few months in order that the Treasurer may rob them of a few more pounds to swell his surplus. I understand that the Prime Minister, on a previous occasion, practically consented to the increase of the pension from 15s. to 20s. being left to the Parliament to decide: but when one honorable member after another on the other side spoke in support of the proposal, and the right honorable gentleman saw that he was losing the majority which, up to that stage, he thought he had in his pocket, the whip of the party was sent round to inform the followers of the Government that it would regard the carrying of the increase as a vote of want of confidence. We were told on that occasion that the financial position of the Commonwealth would not warrant the increase. The Treasurer stood up proudly, and spread out his chest when announcing the surplus he had made ; but the people of Australia do not desire that surpluses should be built up by robbing invalids and old persons of the means of obtaining some of the comforts of life to which they are entitled. One might speak for a long time on this matter, but the facts are clear, and they have been set down by the Leader of the Opposition, who showed the insincerity of the Government in this matter. If the promised increase is granted, there will still remain some anomalies in the administration of the act to be rectified. Invalids who earn 4s. or 5s. a week are told that they are not incapacitated, and cannot be given a pension. In the case of inmates of benevolent institutions; 10s. 6d. is paid out of their pension to the institutions, and only 3s. to the pensioner. In this way the Government pares off 4s. from the pension which should be paid, in order to swell the Treasurer’s ‘surplus. If the pension is increased to £1. all in excess of the 10s. 6d. paid to benevolent institutions should be paid to the inmates of those institutions. I should like to see some members of the Government living in institutions for the aged and infirm, experiencing the conditions there, and receiving a pension of 6s. a fortnight. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the other day called the bluff of the Government by throwing out a challenge to the Prime Minister. He has now called the Treasurer’s bluff, on behalf of aged and infirm persons. The Treasurer should be sincere, and refrain from misleading the old people and invalids who cannot speak for themselves, and who have no organization to act for them. If the Treasurer will give an assurance to bring down a bill to give effect to the old-age pensions, he will have no trouble in passing the Supply Bill. If the Government is honest it will accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and thus confer a great benefit upon the aged people living in institutions as well as those outside them.
– I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has mentioned the old-age pensions to-day, because it enables me to put this matter in a very clear light before the House and before the country. The public generally are getting sick and tired of hearing the promises of the Opposition, especially when they recollect the record of the Labour party in regard to pensions. We hear a great deal from the members of the Opposition about -what should be done, and What they -would do if they had the opportunity. I propose now to tell the committee the history of the oldage and invalid pensions in this Parliament, and to point out the difference between the attitude of this Government which has definitely improved the position of the old-age pensioners, and that of the Labour party, which, comparatively, has done nothing at all for them. In the first instance, a royal commission, whose chairman was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman), brought down a report to this House.
– In what year?
– In 1907. In 1908, the Deakin Government, through Sir Littleton Groom, the present AttorneyGeneral, brought down to this House a bill dealing with Federal old-age and invalid pensions.
– Who forced it to do sol
– Ail we get from the Labour party is talk, not deeds. What action did the Labour Government take to raise the old-age pension rate when it had a majority of fourteen or fifteen in the House? It did nothing at all, and yet the Opposition talks about forcing the Deakin Government to act. In 1908, Sir Littleton Groom brought down to this House a measure dealing with old-age and in-valid pensions. He was congratulated by the then Leader of the Labour party, who expressed bis astonishment that it was possible to bring down such a comprehensive and liberal measure. To use his actual words, he thought that it would not nave been possible to introduce such a bill for years. The Labour party came into power in November of that year, and remained in office for six months. It paid not one shilling of the pension.. The Deakin Government regained office, and through the action .oi Sir William Lyne, the Treasurer in that Government, the first pension payment was made on the 1st July, 1909. Although the Labour party was in office for six months, it did nothing. In 1910 it returned ito power, and remained in office for three years. During that time it did nothing at .all to raise the pension rate, which was then 10s. a week, despite the fact that it had imposed the land tax, and thereby gained an additional revenue of nearly £2,000,000. This increased the cost of living, and decreased the purchasing power of the pound. The .sum of 24s. in 1913 was equivalent to £1 in 1909. The Labour party was returned to office in IS 14, and it did nothing at all to increase the pension, although price levels bad jumped considerably. It did nothing until 28s. was comparable with £1 in 1909. In 19.16 the Labour Government was still ia power. It remained in office for five and a half years, and then its ranks were threatened with disruption. In September, 1916, the conscription issue was splitting the party to pieces. The Labour Government feared that an election was imminent, and two months before it left office it increased the old-age pension. The record of the Labour party respecting the old-age and. invalid pensions is this : After five and a half years of office, and on the eve of an election, it increased the old-age pension from 20s. to 25s. a fortnight. Those who were responsible for that increase- men like Higgs and Hughes - have now no connexion with the Labour party. Yet honorable members opposite talk about anomalies. They weep crocodile tears on the floor ©f tha House in respect of the terrible things which they say exist in our midst. Did they do anything to alter them? No; they did not. I pay the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) the tribute that he has been consistent throughout his parliamentary career in his support of the old-age pensioners. But other honorable members of the Opposition are like dumb, driven cattle. They ha<re done nothing to bring about a real improvement in the conditions of the old-age pensioners. Their attitude is nothing but absolute sham and hypocrisy. Let ons look at what has been done by this side of the House. The Deakin Government, through Sir Littleton Groom, brought the first old-age pensions bill down to this House, but, before it could be given effect, the Government was defeated. The Labour party did nothing until 191<6, when, without any budget statement at - all, it granted, in a haphazard way, an increase of 2s. 6d. a week in the pension. This is ali on record in Mansard and in the public press of this country. Honorable members’ votes and speeches are on record permanently and indelibly. Governments om this side have continuously increased the pension rate. First of all, the Deakin Government introduced the oldage and invalid pension. In 1916 a panicstricken Labour party granted an increase of 2s. fid. a -week. In 1919 the then Treasurer of the first National Government (the Right Hon. W. A. Watt) increased the pension to 15s. a week. This Government, in its first budget, increased the pension to Its. 6d. a week. It did not -wait until the eve of an election. The public know that the ‘statements of members of the Opposition are nothing but twaddle. This Government, three years before it had to go to the country, increased the pension to place it upon its original basis. At that time 34s. was equivalent to £1 in 1909. This Government, in 1923, increased the fortnightly rate to 35s. That was part of the budget proposals and the National financial programme. Having done that, wo examined the whole position. In view of the progress that the National Insurance Commission has made in its inquiries, the Government has decided to increase the pension to £1 a week at the same time as the national insurance scheme comes into operation. Honorable members opposite view old-age pensions as a political placard, to be used on the eve of elections. This Government deals out even-handed justice, and attempts to rectify anomalies. We are prepared to grant an increased pension as part of our considered national plan of finance. In 1917 Lord Forrest made substantial additions in his budget to the old-age pension by making it independent and exclusive of payments for war pensions and contributions by the children of old-age pensioners towards their maintenance. In 1919 the then Treasurer (the Right Hon. W.. A. Watt) increased the pension to 15s. In 1920 .Sir Joseph Cook, the Treasurer of the second Nationalist Government raised the amount that the blind could earn from £65 to £221 per annum. Finally, this Government two years ago increased the pension to 17s. >6d. a week, lt now proposes to increase the pension to £1 a week. I should like to point out to honorable members that this Government is able to make this increase at a ‘ time when it is reducing taxation and carrying out a general policy to enable the cost of living to be reduced, thus increasing the purchasing power of the pension. Although the Labour Government in 1913 did not increase the pension, yet it enormously increased taxation. In its first year of office it took from the States £3,000,000, representing the difference between the per capita payments and tie payments under the Braddon section. It imposed a land tax as well. Altogether, the taxation was increased by that Government by approximately £5,000,000, because the States had to impose additional taxation, and this was reflected in the high cost of living throughout the country. The Labour Government increased the taxation, but did nothing to increase the pension. This Government has decreased taxation and increased the pension. The Labour party makes only haphazard propositions; this Government is evolving a considered and definite scheme that will let the old people and everybody else in the community know definitely what the future holds in store for them. What has been the history of the removal of anomalies in connexion with pensions administration? While the Labour party was in office it corrected two anomalies - the value of a pensioner’s home was exempted from the computation of property, and the contributions by children were exempted from the computation of income.
– The Treasurer stated previously that the Labour party did nothing.
– I said that the Labour party did nothing in relation to the raising of the rate of pension, and that statement is absolutely correct. Although the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act was then on die statute-book, not one of the three Fisher administrations did anything towards increasing the rate of pension. The amendments effected by Lord Forrest, when Treasurer of the first National War Government, included the exemption from the computation of income of any payment by the Commonwealth to a. person by reason of his dependence on a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces within the meaning of the War Pensions Act 1914-16,. and allotments made by members of the forces, and war pensions to dependants of members of the forces. Contributions from children were exempted from the computation of “ adequate maintenance’’’’ for invalid pension purposes. Sir Joseph Cook, as Treasurer, in the second National War Government, raised the income limit for blind pensioners, as I have already indicated. Two years ago the present Government investigated this matter in a systematic and methodical way, and altered eight anomalies - (1) We increased the rate of pension from 15s. to 17s. 6d. per week; (2) we increased the amount which the pensioner could earn, without affecting his pension, from 10s. to 12s. 6d. per week; (3) we advanced the limit of the pensioner’s income, including pension, from 25s. to 30s. a week - n very substantial concession; (4) the statutory limit to the amount of property that a pensioner might own was increased from £310 to £400. Previously a person owning £310 worth of property was not. eligible for a pension, but, as a result of our amendment, such a person would receive a pension of 7s. 6d. per week. (5) The payment to inmates of benevolent asylums was increased from 2s. to 3s. per week. (6) We made provision for an allowance of 3s. per week to be paid to all inmates of benevolent asylums who would have been eligible for pensions if they had resided outside an institution. Prior to that, a pension could be paid only to such inmates as were pensioners or claimants for a pension at the date of entering an institution. Honorable members opposite talk as if the Government, by paying 3s. per week to inmates of institutions, were doing something scandalous, but before we came into office those people received no payment, at all, notwithstanding that the Labour party had been in office for five years. (7) We also made provision for the payment of 3s. per week to pensioner inmates of hospitals after 28 days’ residence therein. Prior to that no pensions were payable to inmates of hospitals. (8) Finally we provided for the grant of pensions to persons suffering from congenital complaints after twenty years’ continuous residence in Australia.
That is a record of progressive relief which we can confidently place before the people. It is not an election placard; it is part of a definite and constructive national policy, covering old-age, invalidity, sickness, and unemployment. The Leader of the Opposition 3poke of people. who are partly incapacitated. It, is for the benefit of, such people that the Government proposes to introduce a system of national insurance. The problem must be dealt with in a comprehensive way. The Government is endeavouring to- do that, and it will not be stampeded into any course of action that cannot be approved by everybody who considers it with an unprejudiced mind. Much has been said of the anticipations that have been raised in the minds of the old-age pensioners on account of the Government’s announcement of its intention to increase the pension to £1 per week. The Government’s intentions are clear and unmistakable. This Parliament will not terminate without legislative effect having been given to that promised reform, and in such a way that its benefits will be continuous and permanent. . We are not proposing haphazard and momentary relief that may be subsequently taken away. After what has taken place, during the last couple of weeks, one must recognize that , the only way to ensure that this pension will be continuous is to keep out of office members of the Opposition, who, by advocating strikes, job control, and a 44-hour week, are endeavouring to lessen production. How can we raise the standard of our humanitarian legislation and make £1 per week continuously available for the aged and invalid unless we stimulate production ? The men who are fit and well must work honestly and efficiently in order to enable the old and infirm to be helped from the public treasury. Australia cannot continue for ever borrowing from people overseas, using the savings of other people in order to carry out a policy of humane legislation. The work of the country must* be done efficiently and continuously in order to increase the surplus of wealth, maintain our standards of living, and extend help to those who are unable to hold their own in the battles of life. The solution of the problem is to be found, not merely in raising the rate of the pension, but also in enhancing its purchasing power by increasing the pro- duction of wealth. I hope that the committee will reject this proposal to take the business out of the hands of the Government. The budget is a definite and considered statement of the policy of the Government, and I am satisfied that when it is put into operation it will meet with the approval of the majority of the people.
.- The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has been engaged in throwing a smoke screen about the issue raised by the amendment before the committee. We can imagine how jubilant the old and invalid people will be when they read the Treasurer’s, speech about producing wealth and keeping the wheels of industry going. The Governor-General’s Speech contained the announcement that the Government intended to increase the old-age and invalid pension. Honorable members on this side were pleased with that announcement, and say, “ Why not do it now V If the Government is sincere, the Prime Minister has an opportunity to assure the committee that a bill for the payment of the increased pension will be introduced within a week or a fortnight. No such assurance has been given : instead, the Treasurer has made a rambling, statement about what the present Government has done, and what the Labour party did. The only issue before the committee is whether or not the old-age pensioners are to get an increased payment immediately. If the Government will introduce at once a bill for the payment of £1 per week, honorable members on this side will unanimously support it. We have no desire to make political capital out of this subject; our only object is to get the increase paid at the earliest possible date. The Treasurer omitted to say that the Labour party has never opposed any increase in the amount of the pension. On the contrary, we have always urged that the rate should be increased.
– Why did you not increase it?
– We did increase the amount in 1916.
– Honorable members opposite are seeking an election cry.
– The solitary stalk in a corn field that stands erect when all the rest of the crop is leaning is invariably found to be empty. The interjections by the honorable member for Rich mond are to be accounted for in the same way. The Labour party was the first political organization to place old-age pensions on its platform, and did so at a time when such a, proposal was unpopular. The pension was first proposed by the Labour party in the Parliament of New South Wales.
– The Labour party never advanced any further with it.
– We forced the Deakin Government to introduce the pension, and every time an increase has been warranted we have unanimously advocated it. The Treasurer said that, although the cost of living had increased, the Labour party did not when in office increase the rate of pension. When Labour was in power the cost of living was normal.
– It was not: 23s. was required to buy what £1 would have bought formerly.
– The Treasurer was at the Front at that time, and did not know what was happening in Australia. While Labour was in office the cost of living remained normal, but it rose when the Nationalist party came into office and allowed the boodleiers and the profiteers to have their way. As soon as we regain the treasury bench we shall deal with the profiteers and bring the cost of living back to normal. Two years ago we endeavoured to have the pension increased to £1 per week, but honorable members opposite voted against the proposal. Last year we again endeavoured to get the amount increased, but the Government has deferred it until now, the eve of a general election. Honorable members should not make this a party question. If the Government will promise to bring down this week or nest week a bill for the payment of a pension of £1 per week we shall be satisfied, but Ministers seem to desire to hold back the measure until the last moment, so that they may go before the electors and claim credit for generosity to the pensioners. I would rather go out of politics than make political capital out of these old and invalid people. As is his custom, the Treasurer made a lot of wild statements.
– True statements.
– The honorable gentleman has a very poor conception of the truth. By the banking policy which he introduced, he has allowed the private banks in collusion with the Commonwealth Bank to raise the rate of interest and thus make profits amounting to millions of pounds.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– But because a few thousand pounds more is to be paid to the old-age pensioners the honorable gentleman waved his arms about and denounced the Labour party. Is it not right that the pensioners should receive an increased payment. Why not recognize the justice of their claim and announce that it will be conceded at once? In the Governor-General’s Speech delivered at the beginning of the session an amendment of the tariff was forecast. The merchants, who are the friends of the Government, immediately commenced to withdraw large quantities of goods from the Customs House, and were thereby placed in a position to make huge fortunes. Early last week the further announcement was made that an amending Tariff Bill would shortly be introduced. I am informed that hundreds of pianos and large quantities of spirits were subsequently withdrawn from the, Customs House. The Government has been playing up to its friends, who have made every possible use of their opportunities. But because these poor people who receive the old-age and invalid pensions have no wealthy friends to assist them they cannot get any consideration from the Government. They have no organization to push their claims, no newspapers to advocate their cause; but they have justice on their side. They are the pioneers who did the arduous and difficult work connected with the early stages of the development of this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has not moved the amendment in a spirit of antagonism to the Government. I hope that it will be carried.
.- The Leader of the Opposition has made the simple proposition that the Government should immediately do what it says it intends to do. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has attempted to discount the value of the honorable gentleman’s speech, and, as the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said, has endeavoured to throw a smoke-screen round the whole matter. The honorable gentleman claimed to speak the truth; but I contend that his statement was a tissue of half-truths and misrepresentations.
– That statement is offensive tome, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it; but I say that the honorable gentleman’s statement was full of inaccuracies. There may have been a half-truth here and there; to provide the condiment for the meal that the honorable gentleman served up to honorable members.
– That statement also is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Everything is offensive to the honorable gentleman. The truth is offensive to him.
– The Treasurer having taken exception to the remark as offensive, it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The truth is offensive to the honorable gentleman. He is not accustomed to speaking it in this House. Let me give a brief history of the old-age pensions legislation. The Treasurer claimed that the pension was first passed by the Deakin Government in 1908. I remind him that for eight years prior to 1908 anti-Labour governments sat in this House, and did not pay a pension. The Deakin Government in 1908 could not have remained in office for one hour without the support of the Labour party which issued the. ultimatum that unless legislation were introduced providing for. the payment of an old-age pension it would withdraw that support. Mr. Deakin approached the leader of the. Labour party (Mr.. J. C. Watson),, and said, “I am tied up with the Braddon Blot, and cannot finance such a proposal.” Mr. Andrew Fisher later suggested the Surplus Revenue Act, the passage of which was forced upon the Deakin Government by the Labour party.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I am not wrong. I challenge the Minister to consult the records of Parliament, in which he will find verification of my statement. The
Labour party was in office for a few months during the year 1909, but, before it had time to do anything, a treacherous coalition was formed by the Deakin and Reid parties, and the Reid-McLean Government came into office. It was defeated, and the Labour party again got behind the Deakin party, and said, “Although you are the smallest party in this House, we will keep you in office if you will do certain things that we want done.” One of those things was the payment of old-age pensions. That measure was placed on the statutebook by the driving force of the Labour party. Now the Treasurer says that nothing was done by the Labour party whilst it was in office from 1910 to 1913.
– It did not increase the rate.
– That is the most deliberate misrepresentation of a fact that has ever been made in this House. The Old-age Pensions Act was liberalized considerably by the. Labour Government. There were iniquitous features in the original act, that was only grudgingly conceded by the Liberal party. The amount of pension was really increased, because a deduction was not made if a home were owned by a pensioner. The Labour party did not hale before the court the sons . and daughters of pensioners, and ask them to givereasons for not contributing to the support of their parents. I shall now deal with the most important feature of the matter, that the Treasurer entirely overlooked when he said that the Labour party had done nothing. It was responsible for the payment of the first invalid pension in the history of the Commonwealth. I ask the Treasurer now to be man enough to withdraw his assertion.
– I said that the Labour party did not increase the rate.
– Will the Treasurer be man enough to admit that the first invalid pension was paid by a Labour Government in 1911?
– I admit that.
– The honorable gentleman did not say so when he was making his camouflaging speech.
– I mentioned the two things that the Labour party did.
– The honorable gentleman did not mention the fact that the Labour party was the first to pay the invalid pension.
– That is on my notes, and I believe that I mentioned it.
– The honorable gentleman took very fine care not to mention it. What he said was that the Labour Government remained in office for three years, and did nothing.
– Nothing to raise the rate.
– The honorable gentleman did not qualify his statement in any way. What have those honorable members who cheered the Treasurer to say about the matter now? A Labour Government again came into office in 1914, when Australia was sending its first contingents to the war, and it was necessary to direct every effort to the conduct of war operations. But, despite that fact, the Labour Government raised the oldage pension in 1916. The Treasurer has meanly said that that action was taken only because an election was imminent. I throw that charge back at him, and say that it applies also to the Government’s proposed increase now. Seldom in the history of this Parliament has a big or an important issue been so greatly misrepresented as the Treasurer has misrepresented this matter to-day.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [4.25].- I intend to quote from Hansard to supplement the statements of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and prove their correctness. The following appears at page 9301 of the debates for the 19th March, 1908:-
.- I move-
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas the State Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania have made no provision for the payment of old-age pensions, this House is of opinion that the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty.”
That was slightly amended, at the suggestion, I think, of the presenthonorable member for Kennedy (Mr. C.
McDonald). At page 9352 will be found the following statement: -
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That, whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas the Statu Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, AVestern Australia, and Tasmania have made no provision for the payment of old-age pensions, this House is of opinion that the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty; and further, this House is of opinion that the Government should take steps towards giving effect to such expressed will of the people during this session.
Those quotations show the power that was behind the throne, and was responsible for the placing of old-age pensions legislation on the statute-book of Australia. At nearly every turn in the corridors of this house, Mr. Deakin was informed that, whatever the consequences might be to his government, the Labour party would no longer support him unless he passed that legislation.
Mr.Brennan. - Does the honorable member remember the phrase, “ Yes, Mr. Watson”?
Mr.FENTON.- I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of the late Sir George Reid, but the older members of this House can never forget the gibes that, day after day, he threw at the Deakin party from the Opposition bench. How well he caricatured the then Leader of the Government with his “ Yes, Mr. Watson “ ! He kept the members of the Government on the gridiron day after day, because they had to do the bidding of the Labour party if they wished to retain office. You, Mr. Chairman, were a strong supporter of Mr. Fisher in those days, and you assisted him, by voice and vote, to pass the Old-age Pensions Bill motion, which never would have been passed but, for /the pressure that was exerted by the Labour party. Yet we have all this camouflage from the Treasurer, this late arrival in the political arena of Australia, this man who, whenever he quotes history, somehow manages to misread it ! If he correctly quoted the history of old-age pensions legislation he could not refrain from giving credit to the Labour party. I am extremely glad that he opposed the amendment, because it has given us an opportunity to turn up the records and show truthfully the genesis of old-age pensions legislation and its parliamentary history. The resolutions that I have quoted will play a part in the campaign that is to be embarked upon very shortly. If the younger generation do not remember what was done in the days of Andrew Fisher, the presentday Labour party, which is the rightful inheritor of the best traditions of the old Labour party, will tell them. I could quote numbers of speeches of a similar character. Regarding finance, I point out that, by establishing the Commonwealth Bank and taking over the note issue, the Labour party has proved its ability to conduct the finances of the country on a sound basis.
– The profits from the note issue are greater than the amount paid in pensions.
- Sir Joseph Cook, who, when Treasurer, was confronted with the necessity for redeeming a loan of nearly £8,000,000, was greatly relieved when informed by an official that there would be no difficulty in redeeming” the loan, because the accumulated funds in connexion with the note issue would meet the liability. The present Treasurer, if he lived to be as old as Methuselah, could not do what the Labour party has done in matters of finance. He must now regret that he has raised this question. If the motion moved by a member of the Labour party in 1923 had been carried, the old-age pensioners, in the time that has intervened since then, would have received £1,200,000 more than has actually been paid to them. In 1910, when a Labour government assumed office, the number of old-age pensioners was 65,000. There were then no invalid pensioners; but in 1911 that government brought into operation the sections of the act which provided for invalid pensions, and, in addition, liberalized the conditions; with the result that the number of pensioners increased to 75,502 in the following year. In. 1918, the number of persons enjoying the provisions of that beneficent legislation was 79,912. The Treasurer, in purporting to give the history of old-age pensions, was not manly enough to state the facts. He purposely evaded all reference to the action of the Labour party in bringing into operation those sections of the act dealing with invalid pensions. Fair-minded men who know the facts, although politically opposed to the Labour party, give that party credit for the introduction of a scheme to provide for old-age pensions, because they know that the resolution making it mandatory for the Deakin Government to bring in the scheme could not have been- carried without the support of the Labour party. The present Treasurer, who is a new arrival in the political arena, is a pigmy compared with Andrew Fisher. What right has he to criticize the attitude of the Labour party towards pensions? I do not say that all honorable members opposite are opposed to fair treatment being meted out to old-age pensioners : but when the Treasurer speaks in the 3 train in which he has done on this occasion, it is time that the facts were made known. The Treasurer has told half-truths only, which, it is generally agreed, are worse than lies. Why did he omit all reference to the motion moved by Mr. Andrew Fisher, the then Leader of the Labour party, which made necessary the introduction of a scheme to provide for oldage pensions? Unless honorable mem-, bers opposite are desirous that the pensioners shall, for an even longer period, be deprived of the additional pension, they should vote for the amendment.
– The amendment, if carried, would not give it to them.
– But a. bill would. If the amendment is carried, it will be an instruction, to the Government to introduce n bill.
– It would drive the Government out of office, and the honorable member knows it.
– Nothing of the kind! The Prime Minister could agree to introduce a bill conditionally upon the Leader of- the Opposition withdrawing his amendment, and all opposition would cease. There would be no sacrifice of dignity.
– The honorable member knows that if the Government accepted this amendment, another one would be moved to make the payment retrospective to an earlier date.
– While I cannot speak officially, I think that I can say, on behalf of. the Leader of the Labour party, who is temporarily absent from the chamber, that if the Prime Minister will agree to introduce a bill conditionally on the amendment being withdrawn, the amendment will be withdrawn, and no opposition raised to the speedy passage of the bill through this chamber.
– The Government will do its business in its own way.
– That will mean delay; and already the old-age pensioners - some of the grandest men and women in the community, dear old souls who fought our battles when we were toddlers -have been robbed of £1,200,000. If there is any section of the community by whom we should stand, it is that section which comprises the men and women who have borne the heat and burden of the day. Throughout the Commonwealth, they are to be found, their numbers totalling about 150.000. We cannot do too much for them. The Treasurer said that the Government would bring in a well-balanced scheme in order to make permanent the payment of £i a week. Does that mean that he fears that some future government might ‘ deprive the pensioners of their pensions? His tongue was in his cheek when he made the remark. I regret that this payment is designated n pension; it would have been better to have called it an allowance.
– What can there be objectionable in a word that means “ thoughtfulness “ ?
– The honorable member knows that the original meaning of words is not necessarily their meaning to-day. Some people call the maternity allowance a ‘'’baby bonus,” and others a “ bangle bonus “ ; but the proper name for it is a maternity allowance. Thousands of women have been thankful that the Fisher Government provided that allowance. Hansard is a true record of the actions of the Government, and extracts from its volumes, attractively reprinted in a form that those who run will be able to read, will be circulated among the people, so that they will learn from official records whom to thank for the invalid and old-age pensions.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked for a new name for old-age pensions. I suggest the term used by the Royal Commission on National Insurance - “ Superannuation benefits.” The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said that the Treasurer had attempted to draw a smokescreen across the real issue, but what the . Treasurer actually did was to rend the veil of lying, misrepresentation, and hypocrisy that has characterized this debate. I can describe some of the speeches I have heard this afternoon in no other terms. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who moved the amendment, said he would like to see an election every year, so that the invalid and old-age pensioners could get an increase in their pensions every year. I am afraid that he is only acting up to the creed of his party by making promises in the hope of gaining votes at the forthcoming election. The action of his party in 1916 was similar to his action to-day. His promises to the invalid and old-age pensioners- are made with the object of inducing them to vote for him and his party. Promises are easy to make, but difficult to fulfil. The “ sob stuff “ which we heard when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) turned on the sentimental tap towards the end of his speech is further corroboration of what I say. He and other members of his party have said the same thing in different words. The Royal Commission on National Insurance, in the course of its inquiries into superannuation benefits, ascertained that of the people born in Australia 50 per cent, reached the age of 65 years, and of that 50 per cent. 32 per cent, became claimants for the old-age pension. Those figures should give every honorable member cause for deep thought. Of the total number of people born in Australia, one in six becomes a claimant for the old-age pension. Of those Australian-born, who reach the age of 65 years, one in three becomes a claimant. That is a very bad state of affairs, for which we should seek an explanation. No doubt the ordinary ills to which human flesh is heir are .responsible for it to some extent, and another explanation is to be found in adverse circumstances, over which people have no control. Either or both of those causes prevent them from earning sufficient during their life-time to make provision for their old age. But leaving out of account the causes over which individuals have no control, there remain other causes which are capable of being if not abolished, at least ameliorated. I shall refer to some of them. Two of them affect the policy of the trade unions of this country. The trade unions, by refusing to allow a man to do piecework, restrict his earning capacity, and consequently his ability to make provision for his old age. That policy tends to keep men on the basic wage all their lives, and to prevent them from putting anything by for a rainy day. The man on the basic wage can make some provision for doctor’s expenses, but he has very little opportunity, even with good luck, of providing for his later years. The restriction imposed by the unions on a man’s earning capacity contributes to the large number of claimants for oldage pensions. Another factor is the restriction placed on apprenticeship. The royal commission is at present taking evidence in public on unemployment, and I am not disclosing a secret when I say that unemployment occurs mainly among the unskilled workers. By restricting apprenticeship the unions limit the number of skilled workers, and thus increase the number of unskilled workers, from which class the bulk of the unemployed come. The unemployment that is forced upon the unskilled worker decreases his earnings and lessens his chance of making provision for his old age. I am not now discussing the rights and wrongs of the policy of the unions ; I am merely pointing out the effect of it. There is another factor, however, the wisdom of which I shall discuss. The earning capacity of the workers is seriously curtailed when they are forced out of employment by strikes. For most strikes members of the Labour party are to a large extent deliberately responsible, and I make that statement fully knowing the meaning of it. There have been some industrial disturbances recently in Australia. Five gentlemen in New South Wales - the Premier of the State, two Cabinet Ministers, Messrs Willis and Baddeley, and the president and vice-president of the Australian Labour party, Messrs. Tyrrell and
Magrath - are directors of the Labour Daily newspaper. The managing director of that journal and his co-directors are largely responsible for its policy, and in that newspaper they have been deliberately fomenting strikes for some months past.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member’s remarks are very wide of the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member is not in order. I checked him on two occasions, and I again ask him to confine his remarks to the question of old-age pensions, which is before the Chair.
– I am dealing with the question of old-age pensions, and I said I would link up the remarks I was making with that question. I do so in this way: Strikes prevent a man from saving, and as a result he is unable to make adequate provision for the evening of his life, and is obliged to call upon the Government for assistance. That is why the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was passed, and why such pensions are deemed to be necessary. I think, in the circumstances, it must be admitted that my remarks have been relevant to the question before the Chair. As a result of the strikes fomented by the Labour Daily, aided by its managing director and four other directors, of New South Wales-
– The honorable member is deliberately contravening your ruling, sir. He is repeating the remarks for which you called him to order.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the matter before the chair.
– I am sorry, sir, if, in your opinion, I wandered from the question before the Chair, but the interference of honorable members opposite shows how unpalatable to them is a statement of the truth in this matter. They claim to be great sticklers for the truth, but when they are faced with it in this connexion we find them howling as a dog does when it is kicked. I still hold the opinion which I expressed two years ago, when a proposal was under consideration for the increase of the invalid and oldage pension from 15s. to 17s. 6d. per week. I then said that old people had a right to look to their children for a certain amount of help. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act lays it down quite distinctly that an invalid child must be supported by its parents if they are in a position to do so. There have been very strange interpretations of that provision. A case came under my notice of parents who were nearly 70 years of age being called upon to support a man 42 years of age because he was their “child.” Parliament, in passing the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, recognized that parents owe a duty to their children, and I ask Parliament to recognize also that children owe a duty to theirparents. I should like to correct an impression which has gone abroad, and under which the Leader of the Opposition appears to labour, that the Royal Commission on National Insurance distinctly reported that the Government should pay an oldage pension of£1 per week. The commission did nothing of the sort. At page 23 of the report of the commission upon which the Government is acting, to a certain extent, under the heading of “ Superannuation Benefits,” the commissioners say -
Your commissioners recommend that superannuation benefit of 20s. per week be payable to male insured members after attainment of age 65, and to female insured members after attainment of age60.
I particularly draw attention to the words “ insured members.” The commission recommends compulsory national insurance, and sets out in its report a scale drawn up by the Commonwealth Statistician of contributions from the age of entry to the payment of superannuation benefit. According to this scale the contributions for males at age 16 years should be 9.4d. per week, and at the age of 45 years should be 4s. 7.8d. to secure a superannuation benefit of 20s. per week at 65 years of age. For females to secure a superannuation benefit of 20s. per week at 60 years of age the contribution proposed is ls. 7.3d. at 16 years of age and 10s. 8.4d. at 45 years of age.
– What does the commission report upon the payment of an oldage pension without contribution?
– The commission reports -
Your commissioners are of opinion that the existing rights of pensioners under the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-23 should not be interfered with.
I have said that the commission recommends compulsory insurance, and for insured members the contributions to which I have referred are recommended to secure a superannuation benefit of 20s. per week.
– - Then, how does the Treasurer link up the Government proposals with the recommendations of the National Insurance Commission, who say that the old-age and invalid pensions should not be interfered with?
– The superannuation benefits recommended by the commission are linked up with quite a number of matters, such- as casual sickness, and so on. I need not refer to them in detail, as the report of the commission is available to honorable members, and I have no doubt that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has read it with great interest. The Government has promised that a comprehensive scheme of national insurance will be brought down during the present session providing for superannuation benefits, casual sickness, accident insurance, and various other matters dealt with’ by the commission. In my opinion, the Government is doing right in proposing to1 include the invalid, and old-age pensions in a bill to give effect to a comprehensive scheme of national insurance.
.- I shall not endeavour to traverse the arguments of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, because I do not think an angel from heaven could do so. It has been my privilege to be connected with every measure introduced in the Victorian Parliament and in the Federal Parliament pertaining to the question now under consideration. History, will show that there would never have been an Old-age Pensions Act passed if it had not been for the driving force of the Labour party. I was glad to hear the Minister make that admission in connexion with the invalid and oldage pensions. I suggest to the Government that in considering an amendment of the existing act, it should see that it is absolutely idiotic to provide that an old person who has saved £310, and has that amount in cash, is not entitled to an old-age pension, whilst an old person who has a home worth £5,000 can draw the full pension provided he does not let rooms at a rate which will earn for him more than 12s. 6d. per week. I suggest that nien who have reached the age of 65 years, and women who have reached the age of 60 years, should be permitted to draw the full pension, even though they may be millionaires. Such a provision would remove the stigma of poverty that formerly was hurled by the forerunners of honorable members on the Government side at persons who accepted the old-age pension. The office in which I meet my constituents every day of the week, except Sunday, is directly opposite a.n office in which old-age pensions are paid. If I walk up the street on the side of the office in which the pensions are paid, numbers’ of men and women ask me when they are to receive the increase in their pensions. As an old politician, I may remind the Government that the party responsible for the increase of the pensions will be given a great deal of credit by the people. Honorable members will remember that when a division was taken on the proposal to increase the invalid and old-age pensions last year the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Sir Austin Chapman) voted against his pledge and his. convictions, because he was a supporter of the Government. Subsequently, he gave notice of a motion proposing an increase in the pension, possibly in order to prevent others from submitting such a motion. As soon as the honorable member gave notice of that motion I was inundated with letters from all parts of Australia asking me to give him my support. I did not like to reply that the honorable member when he had the opportunity of increasing the pension voted against an increase. If the people had the power, as they should have, of recalling “ Bill “ Maloney, General Ryrie, or any other member of this House who has broken a pledge, honorable members would think very seriously before they voted against their pledges and convictions. I ask the Government for the sake of the old people, and to fulfil the hopes that have been raised, to bring in a measure to provide for the proposed increase in the invalid and old-age pension. I am satisfied that if the Treasurer would undertake to do so at once the Leader of the Opposition would be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
– I shall do so with pleasure.
– The Treasurer will see that the adoption of the course I suggest would save time. A bill introduced for the first time in Australia to give effect to a national system of in’surance must give rise to great debate, and take a long time to pass. The Government should in this matter take time by the forelock, accept my suggestion, and enable old men and women in the Commonwealth to receive immediately a little more than the pittance they are now getting.
.- It is not my intention to argue as to who was originally responsible for the introduction of the invalid and old-age pensions. It is generally known throughout Australia, and was clearly shown in the excellent speeches made by the. honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), that, although the Labour party did not actually introduce the pensions scheme, it compelled a Liberal Government to do so. I was a’ member of this Parliament at that time, and I know perfectly well that the Labour party told the Government then in power that unless it introduced a scheme of Federal invalid and old-age pensions it would be thrown out of office. I was glad to hear the Treasurer admit, when the honorable member for Yarra was speaking, that the payment of the invalid pension was entirely due to the Labour party. It is not widely known that although the original Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provided for the immediate payment of the old-age pension, the invalid pension was not to be paid until a date to be proclaimed. The act was. therefore, absolutely useless to our infirm people.. The Labour party was returned to power in 1910, and took immediate steps to pay the invalid pension. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that quite a number of anomalies under the act should ‘be removed. Within the last few years I have come into contact with a number of oldage pensioners in hospitals. While receiving the benefits of those institutions, their pensions are stopped, with the exception of a paltry pittance of 3s. a week. Only recently I found t in a hospital on the west coast of Tasmania, an invalid pen sioner who, before becoming an invalid, had spent most of his life in the out-back country prospecting and trying to develop our mineral areas. Through no fault of his own he is now in hospital receiving the invalid pension. He has no relatives in the district, and consequently is given no luxuries such as tobacco, fruit, or, at times,’ a little alcoholic stimulant. Iri such a case as this the invalid pensioner receives 3s. a week, and the hospital 10s. a week. There is, consequently, a saving of 4s. 6d. a week effected by the department for each individual so situated. I do not think that that was intended. Several cases have been brought under my notice of aged and invalid persons who are not receiving the old-age and invalid pension. They are Australian-born, but because they left this country for two or three years and then returned to it, their continuity of twenty years’ residence in Australia has been broken, and they are therefore denied a pension. I admit that these are difficult cases to deal with, because there must be safeguards under the act. In one case a woman, a native of Tasmania, went to New Zealand to earn her living. She lived there for about three years aud then returned to Tasmania. She was refused an invalid pension because the doctor who examined her declared that on the evidence before him her invalidity had its source in New Zealand. In view of the fact that New Zealand has an old-age and invalid pension scheme in operation, and that similar cases of hardship may occur there, it would be an excellent thing for is to have reciprocity with that country respecting the payment . of old-age and invalid pensions. I should like the Treasurer to consider that suggestion. The Leader of the Opposition stated definitely that he would withdraw his amendment if the Government would promise to pay the increased pension within a week or two. The Labour party is, therefore, not viewing this matter from a party aspect. Ever since the announcement was made in the ‘press that the Government intended to increase the old-age and invalid pensions, we have been constantly asked by pensioners when the increase will be paid. It is a bitter disappointment to them to find out that the payment is to be delayed until such time as the Government can give effect to the recommendations of the royal commission on national insurance. If the Government is sincere, it should accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition.
.- Last session, I voted in favour of increasing the old-age and invalid pensions from 17s. 6d. to £1 a week. I am very pleased that the Government intends, this session, to give effect to that vote. Honorable members opposite, in their criticism of the Government, are resorting to purely political tactics to give them some kudos at the next election campaign . They will say, “ We did it; we pushed the Government, and compelled it to increase the pension.” I wish to know why they were wrapped in apathy while they held office for five and a half years. They have been so long in a somnolent and comatose state that they have had to pinch themselves towakeupso that they may try to create the impression throughout the country that the Government is increasing the pension for purely political purposes. I cannot support the Opposition in its desire to take the business out of the hands of the Government. The Ministry intends to do its job, and that satisfies me. Members of Parliament, being only human,arevery eager to take advantage of any opportunity to create a votecatching sensation on the eve of an election.
– The honorable member knows the game.
– I am always sincere, and do my job conscientiously. This debate is possibly delaying the ‘earlier payment of the increase, and I hope that the Leader of the Opposition, having obtained the desired advertisement, will withdraw the amendment. Ishall vote with the Government.
.- The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) providing for the payment of a pension of£1 per week from the 15th of this month deserves the support of all honorable members. That reform is long overdue, but the Government would not have made any move to give effect to it had it not been for the strong advocacy of honorable members on this side. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) said that parents should look to their children for support in their old age. What chance has any married man, to support his parents if he is earning; say, the Victorian basic wage of£3 18s:, and having a wife and four children? It is quite possible that he pays£1 per week for rent, and there is left£2 18s. to provide food and clothing for six people, in addition to schooling for the children, and medical expenses for which, even if he belongs to a lodge, be must contribute about 2s. per week. In those circumstances a man cannot reasonably be called upon to maintain his parents. He has only 9s. 6d’. per week each for the six members of his family. It is the duty of the Government to provide an adequate pension for the old people who in their younger days pioneered the Commonwealth, and did their best, when working for a weekly wage, to rear a family. It was impossible for them to put sufficient aside to keep them in their old age. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) said that he would not vo.te for the amendment, the effect of which, if carried,he said, would be to take the business out of the hands of the Government. The honorable member could not have been sincere in that objection, because in the Tasmanian Parliament, and in this House, he has often voted independently, and if he honestly desired to give relief to the old-age pensioners he would not be deterred by the consideration he mentioned, from voting with the Leader of the Opposition. It is all very well for the Treasurer to offer excuses for further delaying this reform. What Governments did eight, ten, or twelve years ago is not pertinent to the issue. Having entered this House at the last general election, I am concerned only with the present. Since I have been a member of the House, Government members have on three occasions voted against amendments moved by honorable members on this side to increase the old-age pension. No election was impending then,and Ministers thought that if they granted an increase it would be forgotten by the old people before pollingday came, but if they deferred the relief until the eve of the election they could use it as a political stunt. The promised increase, like many other reforms introduced by Conservative Governments, has been forced from the Ministry by the
Labour party. On the 10th August, 1923, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) moved that the old-age pension be increased to £1 per week, and he supported the motion with a very eloquent appeal. Ministerial members, with a few exceptions, whose conduct was explained by the Leader of the Opposition, voted against the motion. Later in the same year the Leader of the Opposition moved that the pension be increased to £1 per week, and again honorable members opposite voted against the increase. On the 10th September last year, I moved that the pension be £1 per week, but could get no help from Ministerial supporters. All the Labour members voted for my amendment. Yet the Labour party is charged with not having done its duty towards the old-age pensioners. On the 8th August, 1923, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) said -
I come now to my second point, which is to the effect that our financial position does not justify an increase in these pensions at the present tune. It is an easy matter to increase the old-age pension, or any other pension, but it is a very much more difficult business to take off the increase granted. I do not think any one will deny that once we make an increase in the old-age pension it will be about the last thing that will be taken off.- It would be taken off only in a caBe of extreme, financial stringency. I therefore wish honorable members would take into very careful consideration any proposal to increase the existing pension, realizing that it must bo a permanent increase, and not one that can be taken off at any time. Honorable members should realize, also, that if an increase is given, we are likely to go further in the future. Honorable members opposite arc already iu favour of an increase of 2s. fid. in advance of the increase proposed by the Government. . . . This increase is likely to lead to further increases; indeed, it ls a regrettable encouragement to them.
The honorable member for Boothby had the courage to express an opinion which is held by other honorable members on the Government side. I wonder what the old-age pensioners and their relatives in the Boothby district will say to the honorable member at the next Election. Honorable members on this side of the House have consistently advocated the increase of the pensions to £1 per week. It was one of the prominent features of our policy before the last Federal elections, and had we been returned to power the larger payment would have been paid to the old people immediately. The Trea surer may argue as he pleases about what happened ten or fifteen years ago, but he knows that but for the conditional support given in 1908 by the Labour party to the Government of the day, invalid and old-age pensions would not have been introduced until some years later. Honorable members opposite often assert that the Labour members who supported the Hughes Government years ago were very much superior to the members of the Labour party to-day. But in connexion with the matter of old-age pensions, Government supporters seek to protect themselves by quoting the sins of omission of the Labour party of the Hughes period. The present Labour party cannot justly be blamed for any short-comings of the Hughes Government. The Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act requires liberalization in many ways, and if the Government will introduce within the next fortnight an amending measure, it will be given by honorable members on this side a quick passage. The conditions governing the payment of old-age pensions should be made less harsh. For instance, there are in my district a number of invalid pensioners who, finding it impossible to live on 17s. 6d. per week, take a job for a few weeks in order to earn money for the purchase of clothing and other necessaries. Because of that, their pension is discontinued on the ground that they are not totally or permanently incapacitated. The act should be so amended as to allow a pensioner to earn a good deal more than the limit now prescribed. The same argument applies to the old-age pensioners. It is difficult to understand how the old people can live on 17s. 6d. a week. They cannot out of that amount provide themselves with clothing, and they almost invariably depend upon relatives and charitable neighbours for assistance. Sometimes they have to take a job in order to earn a few pounds for the purchase of clothing, and for that their pension is either stopped or considerably reduced. They are allowed to earn up to 12s. 6d. per week, which, with a pension of 17s. 6d., makes their maximum income 30s. per week. If they earn more than 12s. 6d. per week, their pension is reduced proportionately. The act should be more generously. administered, so that they may be able to earn a fair income for at least a couple of months in the year in order to provide themselves with clothing for the winter.
– A married man is allowed to earn twice as much.
– A married man is allowed to earn. 25s. per week, in addition to the pension drawn by himself and his wife. In that respect, also, the law requires liberalization. At present, a person must have resided five years in Australia before he is eligible for an invalid pension. I know a number of very deserving people who, after coming to Australia, were stricken down either by disease or through accident. They are unable to earn a livelihood, and because they have not been here for five years, they cannot obtain an invalid pension. That is a wrong policy. The Government should reduce t-b/- period from five to say, three years. No man or woman can receive the old-age pension unless he or she has been in Australia for twenty years. There are persons with whom I am acquainted who have been here for anything from ten to fifteen years, but are unable -to obtain a pension. They have no one to whom they may go for sustenance, and they appeal to- the Government in vain. A burning grievance is the small amount that is paid to those who are compelled to go into charitable institutions. The institution receives 10s. 6d. a week, whilst the pensioner is given only 3s., the Government retaining the balance of 4s. The Government should not benefit by the fact that a pensioner finds it necessary to become an inmate of an institution. The same procedure is adopted when a pensioner enters a hospital. If the amount paid in these circumstances were raised to 7s. a week, these people would be able to purchase necessaries which would enable them to have some degree of comfort when they left the institution. The secretary of the Rockhampton Benevolent Asylum has written to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) complaining that the Government’s allowance is altogether inadequate, and pointing out that the maintenance of these old people costs the institution 15s. a week. The Government has turned a deaf ear to the plea that it should assist the philanthropic body of women who are conducting that institution. A visit was paid to it by the Treasurer during his tour of Queensland, and he seemed to be favorably impressed with what he saw, but he has not since taken any action to lighten the burden that is cast on Mrs. Woolcock, the president, and the committee, who are carrying on a noble work. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is doing a great service for the old people when he endeavours to have the increase made available immediately. The Government would act with promptitude if it were dealing with a highly-paid public servant, like the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth. We know what happened when Sir Samuel Griffith was retired. A pension of £1,500 was paid to him without delay. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, as a member of the Executive Council of Victoria, also enjoyed a pension. We know that Victorian judges have been given pensions amounting to £1,500 per annum, and have lived in England for the remainder of their days. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) opposed the granting of a pension to Sir Samuel Griffith. I ask him now to show his sympathy for the aged people by voting for the amendment. Every week that passes increases the difficulty of the pensioners, who are striving to make ends meet on a mere pittance of 17s. 6d. a week. If the Government wishes to prove its sincerity it . will make the payment retrospective to the beginning of the financial year; that is, from the 1st of July. Honorable members cannot realize the hardships of these old people, or they would support the amendment. It is of no use to hold out a promise, like a bunch of carrots, on the eve of an election, and say, “ If you vote for us you will get the increase.” What is wanted is, not a torrent of words such as we heard from the Treasurer this afternoon, but definite action such as that asked for by the Leader of the Opposition. If the Treasurer wishes to prove that he did not make this promise on the eve of an election for vote-catching purposes, let him make the payment applicable from the 1st July, or, at the latest, the 15th September. This increase is long overdue, . and it has been promised now only because of the consistent advocacy of- honorable members on this side, who have continually urged that more generous consideration should be shown to the old people of Australia.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches of honorable members of the Opposition. Whilst they claim to have practically a monopoly of humanitarian feeling, it is a remarkable fact- that the Pensions Act was not introduced by the Labour party, the rate was not increased by the Labour party, and no material advantage was received by old-age pensioners during Labour’s occupancy of the Treasury bench that was not originated by our party. Mr. Andrew Fisher and the members of the Labour party maintained an absolute silence for seven years, during which Australia practically had money to burn, as it was not expending anything approaching to the amount that it was collecting, and was returning to the States very much more than they were entitled to receive. During those years no mention of old-age pensions was made by any member of the Labour party, nor was the Labour party in office in three of the’ States concerning itself in the slightest degree with the matter. Honorable members who were in this House at the time will, perhaps, recollect . that Mr. Fisher suddenly sprang a motion upon honorable members when Mr. Deakin was Prime Minister. He moved that the question of the payment of old-age pensions should be taken into consideration by the Government as an urgent matter. Mr. Wilks, then member for Dalley, with the concurrence of the Opposition, which comprised members of the Liberal party, supported the proposal, and wanted the scheme brought down at once. He moved an amendment providing that the Government should, without delay, introduce a bill to give effect to the proposal. The majority of the Labour party, including its leader (Mr.. Fisher), voted against that amendment. Whenever the pension has been raised, or other advantages have been given, those responsible have not been confined to- members of the Labour party, but the opponents of that party have done most in the direction of treating pensioners more liberally.
– What about the increase of 2s. <>d. a week in 1916? Was not the Labour party also responsible, in the first place, for the payment of the invalid pension?
– The truth is that there is no party opposed to the pensions. If honorable members will turn to Han.8ard, page 9140, they will find the report of a debate relating to the position of hospitals. Mr. Higgs was then . Treasurer in a. Labour Government. Mr. Rodgers, the then member for Wannon, drew attention to the disabilities under which old-age pensioners laboured when they were compelled to enter a hospital. Replying to Mr. Rodgers, Mr. Higgs stated that financial considerations prevented the Government from placing hospitals in the same position’ as benevolent asylums. That, from a Treasurer’s point of view, was a perfectly legitimate argument, which, no doubt, other Treasurers have since found it necessary to use when increases have been proposed. Mr. Rodgers asked -
Will the Treasurer, under the bill, -place hospitals in the same position, as benevolent asylums, for, if so, any objection I have is removed? At, present hospitals are the repository for old-age pensioners just at the very, time they require most assistance; and it is proposed to compromise the matter by giving each pensioner 2s., leaving the hospital high and dry. There are many hospitals, for example, in old mining districts, that cannot he conducted without assistance.
Dr. Maloney, a member of the Labour party, supported Mr. Rodgers’s proposal, and ultimately it was agreed to. That, liberalization of the old-age pension was due, not to the action of any member of the Labour party, but to one who sat in opposition. Mr. Rodgers later said -
Under section 45 of the act, if a pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane or of a hospital, his pension is suspended. When he is discharged the payment of the pension is resumed, and he is entitled to four weeks’ instalment of pension in respect of a period of suspension if that period has continued for four weeks. Under another provision, a magistrate may commit a pensioner to an institution, in which case the institution benefits.
Further on in the speech he said -
Our public hospitals are kept going only through the efforts of those who undertake their management without charge, and are Supported by public contributions and small State subsidies. What I ask is that hospitals may he placed in the same position as benevolent asylums.
He moved the following amendment : -
Provided that, out of the amounts so suspended and not paid to the pensioner by this section, a sum equal to 10b. 6d. per week shall bc paid to the treasurer of any hospital in which such pensioner was an inmate, for the term during which the pension was not paid to the pensioner..
That amendment of the Liberal member waa agreed to. I then moved an amendment dealing with another aspect of the question, with which I am still in sympathy. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has contended that the pensioners should be allowed to supplement their pension to a greater extent than is now permitted, by the amounts which they earn. When I made a similar proposal to a Labour Treasurer (Mr. Higgs), he and his party opposed it in 1916, after I had actually carried it, and they struck it out. A pension should not be regarded as a charitable dole, but as a recognition of good service faithfully rendered. In 1916, when the cost of living was not so great as at present, in order to overcome the difficulties under which the pensioners were then labouring, I moved -
That the following new clause, to stand as clause 7, be inserted: - “Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, persons in receipt of pensions shall be entitled to supplement their income by earnings up to £52 per annum without being subject to any deductions in the pension paid.
That amendment was agreed to; but Mr. Higgs, the Labour Treasurer, recommitted the clause, and the Labour party voted against it, and struck it out. I desire to emphasize that it was not moved by a member of the Labour party, but by a member of the party to which honorable members opposite, for political purposes, have frequently referred as being composed of men without bowels of compassion or humanitarian instincts. Two of the principal amendments which have made for the amelioration of the conditions of pensioners were moved by men who were at the time in opposition to the Labour parly. I would like to see the increase . now proposed paid at once, but members of the Labour party know full well that their amendment, if supported on this side, would wreck the bill, and the pension could not then De increased. The time has arrived, not only for an increase of the pension and of the amount the pensioners may earn without any portion of their pension being liable to forfeiture, but for the maximum amount which they are permitted to have on deposit in a bank, or invested in property, to be increased also. After all, these people have not a great many years left, and their earning capacity cannot be very great. We should make their declining years as comfortable as possible, and not regard them as objects of charity. Their savings bank deposits are in most cases the result of thrift, or the proceeds of the sale of some small property which they at one time held. Generally, the principal sums are small, and the interest received insufficient for their requirements. They therefore require the assistance which the pension provides, as otherwisethey have to draw on their principal, which soon becomes depleted. I hope that the Treasurer will give serious consideration to this aspect of the question, and see if it may not be possible to amend the act during this session, to grant some measure of relief along the lines indicated.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has spoken of the things accomplished by the Nationalist or Liberal party-
-i have given facts.
– Notwithstanding his profession of sympathy with these pensioners, the honorable member said nothing regarding the amendment before the committee. He did not urge the Treasurer forthwith to grant the increase. He said that the pension should not be regarded as a charitable dole, but I remind him that his one-time leader. Sir William Irvine, coined that phrase. Sir William Irvine said that the pension should be regarded and treated as a charitable dole, and nothing else. I hope that the time is not far distant when every person on attaining the age of 65 years will be entitled to claim the pension as a right.
– I agree with that sentiment.
– It should not be necessary for a person to fill in a form and answer a number of questions before he is granted a pension. During the last two or three years every invalid and old-age pensioner has had supplied to him annually a form containing 30 or 40 questions which have to be answered. These forms trouble them a great deal, as many of them are unable to read. In one day recently in Ballarat I filled in 150 of these papers.
Mr.Mann.-Surely there is not : so much illiteracy among the pensioners?
– These official forms frighten a number of these old people, and they are afraid to fill them in by themselves. Moreover, their signatures must be witnessesd by a member of Parliament or a justice of the peace. That should not be necessary. I believe that by using these forms, instead of gaining money, the department is losing revenue, because a big clerical staff must be required to dealwith them. One of the questions which has to be answered is whether the pensioner owns his home. In one case which came under my notice, instead of writing the word “No” in the space provided, the pensioner drew a stroke. The form was returned, with a blue pencil direction that the question was to be answered “Yes” or “No.” In many cases pensioners receive 15s. per week only, instead of 17s. 6d. While 1 make these criticisms, I think that every honorable member will agree that the department administering the invalid and old-age pensions legislation is the most sympathetically administered department in Australia. The magistrates when dealing with applicants treat them as citizens worthy of respect and consideration. There is only one thing in connexion with these examinations which, in my opinion, should be altered. In Ballarat the pensioners are required to attend at the police court.I admit that the examination is in private, but many of the applicants have never previously been inside a police court, and they object to being examined in a police court building. There are anomalies also regarding the amount paid to the hospitals in respect to pensioner inmates. In one hospital in my constituency I found that the 3s. which was supposed to have been paid to the pensioners had not been paid to. them, but had been retained by someone else or paid into the hospital funds. In this connexion I should like to say that I regard the present payment of 10s. 6d. per week to the hospitals as altogether too small. It is not sufficient to maintain a patient while in the institution. Moreover, it is not right that the Government should save 4s. a week because a pensioner is unfortunate enough to require treatment in an institution. While there are scores of anomalies in connexion with the working of the Act, I hope that the Treasurer will rectify those which have been mentioned. Payments for incapaci tation should be made on a different basis. At present a man may be totally incapacitated for a period of six months, and be unable to earn a penny; but because he is not permanently disabled the doctors cannot certify to that effect, and he therefore is not entitled under the existing law to a pension. Probably this anomaly will be rectified in a bil] to deal with national insurance.
– We are doing that.
– I suggest to the Treasurer that he agree to the amendment without a vote being taken. Let him take all the credit for the increase, especially in view of the approaching elections. In my constituency there is a great deal of poverty. The old-age pensioners, with their 17s. 6d. a week, have not been able, this winter, to buy firewood. Many of them have to pay from 6s. to 8s. rent a week, and how can. they possibly buy the necessaries of life on the remaining 9s. 6d.? The winter has not passed yet, and there are in Australia many colder places than Melbourne, where firewood is an essential. I appeal to honorable members opposite to accept the suggestion of my leader, to pay the increases forthwith, and to go to the electors with that to their credit. My attitude is not dictated by a desire to gain votes, but by the knowledge that people are suffering distress,, that they have not sufficient clothes, and that they are unable to buy fuel and the necessaries of life. Australia is probably one of the most prosperous parts of the Empire, and surely no one is content that old-age pensioners, some of whom were the pioneers of this country, are denied the necessaries of life. I hope the. Treasurer will accept the amendment, and introduce a bill to make the increased payment retrospective to the date of his budget announcement.
.- one who, on previous occasions, has supported the increase of the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, I feel that 1 ought to express my views on the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition(Mr. Charlton). I yield to no one in my interest and sympathy for the invalids and aged people of this country. Because I have had a close association with them for the last six or seven years, and am acquainted with the conditions of their lives, I persisted in this chamber some time ago. in spite of the wishes of my loader and members of my party, in urging the increase of the pension to £1 a week.
– The honorable member admits, then, that the Government opposed the increase?
– The Government opposed it, I think, for specific reasons. I have not changed my views, and I should to-day support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition but for the fact that the party I support has decreed that the old-age pension shall be increased to £1 a week. My understanding of parliamentary procedure is that the defeat of a government on a money bill is tantamount to a vote of no confidence. Therefore, if the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is carried, the Government must resign, and the subsequent delays that would take place would probably mean the postponement for a considerable time of the payment of the larger pensions.
Mr.Fenton. - No vote need be taken. The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw the amendment if the Government will agree to increase the pensions immediately.
– The honorable member may satisfy himself by making that suggestion; but it, however, does not satisfy me. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) regarding the need for increased payments to the old people; but we should not bring matters to a head by accepting the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition in the terms in which he has moved it. On these grounds, I cannot vote for the amendment. Still, I do not wish members to assume that I am antagonistic to the proposal to increase pensions. There is a right and a wrong way to make the. increases, and I believe that the Government, which I intend to support, is adopting the right way.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr.
Charlton’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority … . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to8 p.m.
– I move -
That the vote “ The Parliament, £12,235.” be reduced by £1.
I submit this amendment as a protest against the action of the Government in appointing Mr. J. J. Garvan a director of the Commonwealth Bank, having regard to the fact that (1) Mr. Garvan was at the time of his appointment as director also managing director and chief sharesholder of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited, which was then a borrower from the bank; (2) that preferential treatment was accorded to Mr. Garvan through his company, in that it was given an overdraft for an extended term at a lower rate of interest than that applicable to ordinary customers of the bank: (3) that the appointment was out of harmony with the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act, and the well-established principles governing the conditions of persons in the employ of the Crown. I base my amendment on the reply. I received to certain questions I asked the Treasurer. On the 20th August I asked the Treasurer the following questions -
The Treasurer replied to this question on the 21st August, by stating that he had telegraphed for the information to the chairman of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and had received the following reply from Mr. Love, secretary to- the board of directors: - ‘
Replying to your telegram of to-day : Under section 15a of the Commonwealth Bank Act, members of the board are prohibited from disclosing the business of the bank or its customers. Mr. Garvan informs us he is furnishing you with a statement. For your informatio’n, advances were made by all banks to enable subscriptions to be made to early war loans at one-half of 1 per cent, less than the rate the loan was floated at. For instance, all banks were advancing to the general public at 4 per cent, to enable subscriptions to be made to the 4£ per cent, loan, and these overdrafts were arranged for eighteen months, or in special cases longer. The general overdraft rate for the Commonwealth Bank was never more than 6 per cent, during the period of the Mutual Life and Citizens subscriptions to the loans.
And which I had commenced to read when I was interrupted on a matter of order. . The Treasurer also’ stated that he had received the following telegram from Mr. John J. Garvan, chairman of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited
Referring to your telegram to the bank on the subject of Coleman’s question, as managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens, I desire to make the following statement : - In 1015, nine years prior to my becoming a director of the bank, the Mutual Life and Citizens made an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank to overdraw its account to unable it to subscribe to war loans. This arrangement was common to all banks, and all loan subscribers, except that in the case of the Mutual Life and Citizens the amount subscribed has been £12,000,000 sterling, and that’ it lias involved the appropriation of all the company’s accumulations for a period of nearly ten years, during which the company was perforce compelled to abstain from carrying on its ordinary business of lending money. When I joined the board last year the overdraft was £350,000. This amount has since been paid off and the bank is indebted to the company in the sum of £50,000. On 11th instant the bank was informed that no further accommodation would be required, and that the account would be closed.
In connexion with that statement I should like to point out that Mr. Garvan was somewhat evasive in replying to my question, and went to a lot of trouble to explain his transactions with the Commonwealth Bank in his capacity as a director of an insurance company, but he did not answer the question. It is clear, however, from his admissions that the Commonwealth Bank did give an overdraft to the company. Mr. Garvan and the bank do not deny that an overdraft was allowed to his company at 5 per cent, for interest. Mr. Garvan admits that when he joined the Commonwealth Bank Board his company had . an overdraft with the bank of £350,000, at the rate of 5 per cent, when the rate to all other customers of the bank was 6 per cent. It may well be asked : Who is Mr. Garvan ? Besides being chairman of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, he is managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited. The capital of that company is £200,000, in 200,000 shares of £1 each. The shares standing in the name of “ Garvan,”- and held by him jointly with J. W. Power, of England, total 56,850. The market value of those shares at the present time is £15 each, but they are not obtainable on the exchange because of the profit they yield. Mr. Garvan’s controlling interests in the company is valued at £852,750. He was a member of the Notes Board from 1920, when he was appointed to the position by the Nationalist Government. Prior to that he was a financial adviser of the Government, and became chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board of Directors by appointment of the Government in 1924. Let me make at this stage the important point that in that capacity he was expected to work in the interests of the Commonwealth Bank and the national currency of Australia, just as the bank in turu is expected to operate “ in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. Amongst the principal objectives of the bank are. the lowering of the rate of interest and the stabilizing of exchange. Every one will agree that that is so. The gaining of these objectives is in entire opposition to the business interests of Mr. Garvan in his capacity as managing director of an insurance company. I shall elaborate that statement at a later stage. I have distinctly stated that I consider that Mr. Garvan’s acceptance of his appointment as a director of the bank is contrary to the law, and the principles which should govern the conduct of public servants. For the information of the Treasurer, let me say that the Commonwealth Bank Act, section 17, prescribes that the directors and officers of the bank shall not borrow money from it. Let me emphasize the fact that that provision was inserted in the bill last year by the Treasurer himself. Again, ‘section 15b of the Commonwealth Rank Act provides .that a director or officer of any corporation the business of which is mainly that of banking shall not be capable of appointment as a director of the Commonwealth Sauk. The financial transactions of Mr. Garvan’s insurance company have been very largely in the nature of banking transactions. I shall prove that assertion presently. The knowledge obtained by him as a member of the Notes Board, and later as a director of the Commonwealth Bank, has been invaluable to him in connexion with the financial transactions of the insurance company of which he was managing director. Every one with business experience will subscribe to that statement, and will realize the logic and common sense of it. In the face of these facts, of which the Government must have been well aware, it appointed him to a position of trust and confidence as a director of the bank in defiance of the broad and obvious intention of the act, and also in defiance of that well-known and generally-accepted principle of governing the Public Service which disqualifies any man from attempting to serve two masters and being influenced by conflicting interests - a principle which applies to Ministers of the Crown and to members of this House. This is a principle for which -there is a very delicate regard when it comes to the control of minor interests. I have tried to concentrate as much as possible what I desire to say on this subject. Every statement I make has been carefully considered,, and I take full responsibility for making it. I should like, in this connexion, to refer to a case that arose in Sydney recently. A Labour alderman who happened to be mayor of. a municipality attended a public auction of certain municipal lands. He bought one of the lots at auction, on behalf of his wife, and he was subsequently fined £50, was removed from his position as alderman, and prevented from contesting the position again by a disqualification of twelve months. When the Minister for Justice of the National Government of New South Wales was approached in connexion with the matter, he refused to wipe out the fine, although the offence was merely a technical one. When we find governments with so nice a regard for political propriety and constitutional procedure, in so comparatively trivial a matter, surely in constituting the board of directors of a great national undertaking like the Commonwealth Bank of Australia the Government should have considered very fully and carefully the factors which were calculated to make the appointment of Mr. Garvan to the directorate somewhat improper. Returning to the answer made by the bank and Mr. Garvan to my questions, the following facts emerge. To enable subscriptions to be made to war loans, advances were made by the bank at rates lower than the ordinary bank rate of interest. Those advances were for a period of eighteen months and, according to Mr. Love, secretary of the bank, “ in special cases, longer.” I want the Treasurer to inform Parliament, and the public generally, whether there was more than one special case in which a private individual or corporation secured preferential treatment in regard to overdrafts, and also in regard to rates of interest. Every one knows that advances were made during a limited period of great financial stringency and stress - about 1918 - when the British Empire was on its knees and money to carry on the conflict hard to get. We were taking money out of ordinary economic channels and putting it into war loans, which meant, to a great extent, the starving of our industries of the capital they required. At that time some one conceived the idea of encouraging the citizens to save money and put their savings into war loans, and for this purpose the Government arranged for overdrafts, for a limited period of eighteen months, at a slightly lower rate of interest than that ordinarily charged. At the end of eighteen months the bank insisted on the ordinary rate of interest applying to its overdrafts. The preferential treatment in the way of lower rates of interest immediately ceased. Was this done in the case of Mr. Garvan’s company? I say advisedly Mr. Garvan’s company, because I have told honorable members of the enormous number of this company’s shares which he possesses. He has actually a controlling interest in the Mutual “Life and Citizens Assurance Company, and therefore for my purpose I call it Mr. Gar.van 8 company.. In reply to my question it was not denied that Mr. Garvan s company received £2,000,000 at 5 per cent, when the bank rate to the ordinary customers was 6 per cent. It was further admitted that this loan was not paid off at the time when Mr. Garvan was appointed a director of the Commonwealth Bank in 1924. He then owed the bank £350,000. This admission I did not expect, but I am duly grateful for it, because it helps to prove my case. In addition the period of his loan at 5 per cent, must, on his own admission, have extended for nearly ten years. As other subscribers were charged the lower rate of interest for eighteen months only, it is obvious that preferential treatment was given to Mr. Garvan’s company. The intention of the Commonwealth Bank Act has been violated not only by the appointment as a director of the Commonwealth Bank of one who manages a company and is its principal shareholder, but also by extending to Mr. Garvan better treatment than that given to other customers of the bank. The advantage of receiving a loan at 1 per cent, below the ordinary interest rate, when applied to £2,000,000, represents a considerable sum. This concession over ten years would mean £200,000 to the lucky company, and that sum actually represents the total subscribed capital of the company. This comparison takes no account of the advantage of investments in tax-free loans, which show a considerable profit. I have said that the financial transactions of Mr. Garvan’s company are largely in the nature of banking transactions. It is well known that one of the most profitable departments of banking business is dealing in bills of exchange. _ Banks have made huge profits out of abnormal rates of exchange, which, “it is hardly necessary for me to say, hit very hard the primary producers and manufacturers of Australia. This allegation against Mr. Garvan is all the more serious in the light of the very tragic economic position which faced our country during the year 1923-4. Mr. Garvan had huge sums of money to juggle with through the Commonwealth Bank during the exchange block in 1923-4. At that time the banks declared that they had millions of pounds in London, but not enough to finance Australian trade and industry. They paid as much as £102 10s. for every £100 which a customer would lodge in Sydney to purchase a draft payable in London Taking advantage of these conditions Mr. Garvan’s company, with accumulated Australian funds, commenced buying exchange on London in hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Commonwealth Bank must have known that Mr. Garvan’s company could not want those funds in London for the ordinary business purposes of an insurance company, and yet the bank allowed Mr. Garvan to use it for the purpose of conveying his credits. At the time Mr. Garvan was on the Notes Board, and no immediate measures were taken to relieve the exchange block, although our newspapers were full’ of complaints from primary producers, manufacturers, and others, and Australian industry was suffering. Honorable members made many complaints in this Parliament. Mr. .Garvan’s company profited by the situation, for in the six months from 1st January to 30th June, 1924, the Commonwealth Bank paid it nearly £40,000 in hard cash on these exchange transactions. While Mr. Garvan was playing with this money, he owed the bank, on his own admission, hundreds of thousands of pounds, which should have been repaid within eighteen months of the time at which it was borrowed. Why did he not use those funds to discharge his overdraft, and why did not the bank insist upon his doing so? He was borrowing money at 5 per cent., and utilizing funds to make 2^ per cent, on every £100 in, say, two months, by manipulation of finance within the bank itself. It was anticipated by every one that Mr. Garvan would be a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. It was freely stated in this Parliament that the Government intended to appoint him to the board. In his position on the Notes Board, he understood the economic and financial situation. It can be said that he was in the confidence of the Government, and knew the trend of exchange, and this fact, together with his ripe business experience, enabled him to take full advantage of peculiarities in the financial situation that might be missed by others. The screaming farce of the whole business is that the main banking business of Mr. Garvan’s company was really done at the Bank of New South Wales, and he should have carried out his exchange business there. But, obviously, the shrewd men running the private banks would not have tolerated his exchange .speculations. The Commonwealth “Bank was a good milch cow to him in this instance. It was freely stated that Mr. Garvan’s company cut into the bankers’ business in this direction, and made very large profits. I am ad vised that in twelve months the company cleared through the Commonwealth Bank a profit on exchange of approximately £100,000. It was not bad business for a company whose entire subscribed capital was £200,000. My point, however, is that while Mr. Garvan’s company was in the fortunate position of having large sums of money in Australia with which to take advantage of the abnormally high rates of exchange, it had an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank at 5 per cent. Upon that admission, I base my principal charge. The other facts are subsidiary. Instead of allowing that overdraft to continue for nearly ten. years at 5 per cent., the Commonwealth Bank itself could have utilized this money, and made the profits on the exchange that the company made, or it could have used it to assist the struggling primary producers to market their produce, and the manufacturers to overcome the economic difficulties brought about by the financial situation. It did neither. Mr. Garvan’s company enjoyed concessions from the bank at the bank’s expense, that is, at the people’s expense, and as one of the financial advisers of the Government, and as a member of the Notes Board, Mr. Garvan largely influenced the control, of credit, which, in turn, influenced the rates of exchange out of which his company was making large profits. One thing fits into another. My case is’ a matter of logical deduction from the facts. An insurance company depends for its success, to a great extent, on the return received from its investments. Therefore the higher the rate of interest on gilt-edged securities the greater its profits. Mr. Garvan, as managing director and chief shareholder of the insurance company, naturally desired high rates of interest. All his business interests were served by high rates of interest. The higher the interest the higher the profit and the bigger the business. He took advantage of increased* interest rates whenever opportunity offered, by converting his loan securities. He prided himself upon his business acumen in doing so. On the other hand, Mr Garvan, as chairman of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, acting for the Government, which is faced with the flotation of huge loans, should endeavour to keep down interest rates. In this conflict of interests, which side should win and which did win ? One can only be guided by Mr. Garvan’s actions as chairman of directors of the Commonwealth Bank. He certainly is only one of the directors, but he is the man who largely directs the financial policy of the bank, and he, therefore, must accept responsibility for the actions of the Board. One of the first actions of the Bank Board, almost immediately after Mr. Garvan’s appointment to the directorate in October, 1924, when on his own admission he owed the Commonwealth Bank £350,000 at 5 per cent., was to raise the bank’s rate of interest to every one else to 7 per cent, as from the 1st January, 1925. I ask the Government to deny that statement. The boast that Mr. Garvan’s company invested £12,000,000 in war loans throws the cloak of patriotism over his transaction.
In hia report to the company, he refers to the profitable character of the war loan investments. Hie prides himself on the fact that these are gilt-edged securities. The various laws regulating insurance companies limit the securities in which they can invest their capital to such as are regarded as gilt-edged. Mr. Garvanstated in his report that he had exchanged shortdated tax-free loan scrip, -which he took up in the early stages of the war, for loan scrip bearing higher rates of i uteres r. The extent of his patriotism therefore may be seen by a perusal of the company’s balancesheet. The dividends and bonuses on a subscribed capita] of £200,000 amounted to £79,968 in 1915, or 40 per cent, on the capital, whilst for the last five years - I quote them because during that period and iu the years immediately preceding. Mr. Garvan’s company had this concession from the Commonwealth Bank - they were : For the year ended December, 1920, £105,000, equal to 52.5 per cent, on the paid-up capital: 1921, £115,000. or 57.5 per cent.; 1922, £150,000, or 75 per cent.; 1923, £160,000, or 80 per cent.; and 1924, £160,000, or 80 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. F. W. Bamford). The honorable member’s time has expired.
– With your permission, sir, I shall take my second period now. Other insurance companies, notably, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, operating under less favorable conditions, invested as much money in Government loans as did Mr. Garvan’s company; therefore, he has no reason to prate about his patriotism in putting all the accumulated funds of his company into war loans. Anyhow, what does this business patriotism amount to when compared with the sacrifices which the soldiers made during the great war? Mr. Garvan’s boast makes one disgusted. I suppose that in accordance with that conception of business and political morality which usually characterizes its answers to the charges made by honorable members on this side, the Government will attempt to explain away the transactions of Mr. Garvan with the Commonwealth Bank. I anticipate that my action in bringing these facts’ before the committee will be deprecated. I could give in ad vance, almost word for word, the speech which the Treasurer will make in reply. But the Government cannot, escape its responsibility in this matter. Last year, when the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before the House, the Government gagged “ honorable members and prevented the discussion of vital clauses. The various sections I have been quoting - section 17, which prohibits directors of the bank from borrowing from the bank; and section 15b. which excludes from the Commonwealth Bank Board directors of corporations whose business is mainly that of banking - were by the operation of that delightful instrument, the guillotine, got through committee without discussion. Some of the facts I have mentioned should have been known to the Government, because the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), during the debate on the bill, and subsequently by way of questions, referred to the exchange speculations of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company. and specifically mentioned Mr. Garvan in his capacity of managing director. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) trenchantly criticized the operations of that company and Mr. Garvan, an’d asked whether it was the Government’s intention to appoint him to the Commonwealth Bank Board. During the hectic passage of the Bank Bill we had no adequate opportunity for the calm and considered explanation of its various clauses. The only information vouchsafed by the Treasurer was a very long speech dealing with banking in every other country except Australia. Everybody must be convinced that the broad intention of section 17 was to prevent doubth.il transactions such as those in which Mr. Garvan, as managing director of an insurance company, has engaged. Ordinary common sense would dictate such a precaution, and the Treasurer, in his second -reading speech, said-
Provision is also made in the bill that directors or officers of the Commonwealth Bank shall not be eligible to receive overdrafts or advances from it.
The bill refers merely to “ advances,” but. the Treasurer’s speech elaborated the intention of the Government by mentioning overdrafts also. That section, however, has been absolutely disregarded. The
Treasurer also emphasized the fact that section 15b prohibited directors of corporations, whose business was mainly that of banking, from being appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board. A corporation includes a company. Was not the Mutual Life and Citizens Insurance Company a “ corporation,” and was- not Mr. Garran its managing director, its controlling genius, and the in aster-mind that directed its administration 1 And was he not also the chief shareholder in the company, and as such able by the exercise of his voting strength to direct its policy? If the bill was intended only to prohibit directors of other banks from occupying a seat on the Commonwealth. Bank Board, why did the Treasurer add a provision that included the word “ corporation “ ? If the prohibition was intended to apply specifically to bank directors, the section would have said that directors of “ banking corporations “ were prohibited from being appointed to the Commonwealth Bank directorate; but the qualifying word “ banking “ is not in the section, and my interpretation of its meaning is endorsed by legal authorities other than the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), than whom I know of no one better qualified to express an opinion. The Government cannot plead ignorance, because all the members of the Opposition warned it against handing the bank over to “big business.” We asserted that the Government was strangling the bank by delivering it, bound hand and foot, to private enterprise. No matter how the Treasurer may attempt to palliate them, my charges are proved conclusively. Viewed even in the most favorable light, the actions of Mr. Garvan, in his dual capacity, have been most improper and regardless of those delicate considerations that usually affect transactions involving the probity of Ministers of the Crown and members of Parliament and public servants. Mr. Garvan, in reply to my question, admitted by implication the impropriety of his dual position of managing director of an insurance company having an overdraft with the bank and chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, by stating that on the 11th August last, “ The bank was informed that no further accommodation would be required, and that the account would be closed.” Was not that action induced by press criticism? It was, apparently, not an uninfluenced action, because on the 15th July, three weeks before Mr. Garvan stated that he had intimated that the account would be closed, an attack was made in the Sydney Labour daily upon his dual position of managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company and chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The newspaper strongly criticized the incongruity of Mr. Garvan’s position, and said, amongst other things -
The fact is as plain as the noonday sun that those entrusted with the control of the Commonwealth Bank should have no personal interests that run so palpably contrary to those of tha public.
On the 11th August, ten months after Mr. Garvan’s appointment to the bank directorate, and three weeks after the publication of that article, he gave notice that the account with the Commonwealth Bank would be closed. All the statements I have made to-night require close investigation. I do not intend to apologize for anything I have said. I have acted in the public interest, because any transaction in connexion with a national institution which is in its nature suspicious should be exposed to the light of day. After all, the Commonwealth Bank is the people’s bank, and it is our duty as their representatives to see that its administration is above suspicion. Only if we. ensure tb at that is so will the institution be respected and enjoy the confidence of the public. No doubt these big business men are acting in accordance with their conceptions of business morality, but the ordinary political morality of the citizens of the Commonwealth requires that the circumstances I have related shall be definitely aud clearly explained. “Big business “ attempts to throw the cloak of patriotism over its predatory capitalistic policy in much the same way as in olden days a pirate, when he held the King’s commission, applied to himself the more genteel name of privateer, although his occupation was still piracy. It is an interesting fact that on the share list of this company is the name of another director of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Samuel Hordern, who holds over 9,000 shares. There are quite a number of other interesting names, .in-, eluding those of Nationalist politicians in the Federal Parliament and the Parliaments of the States, and officers of the bank. I mention that fact for what it is worth, in con junction with the other matters to which I have referred. I could have elaborated this case very considerably, but I think that “I have said sufficient. I feel sure that the Government’s lamentable lack of vision in its administration of the affairs of big undertakings such as the Commonwealth Bank, the character of its legislation and administration in connexion with the land tax, and the bitter class nature of its recent legislation, that has abrogated our most cherished constitutional principles, will result in its being tried in the balance and found greatly wanting:
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer) ~8.47]. - Honorable members opposite profess to have an interest in the progress and welfare of the Commonwealth Bank, yet they are pursuing a most deliberate policy that is aimed at the strangulation and destruction of the bank. If there is one thing that must be maintained, it is confidence between a banker and his client. Should honorable members of the Opposition succeed in having every account in the. Commonwealth Bank dragged into the glare of parliamentary debate, no reputable citizen will dare to keep his account there. This Government will at all times refuse to ask from the administration of the bank details regarding its internal business. That is the way in which the operations of the bank wore carried on whilst a Labour Government was in office. The late governor of the bank, Sir Denison Miller, would not, for a second have tolerated such an inquisition into the business of the bank. I desire to see the Commonwealth Bank become a really national bank, exerting an influence for the good of every interest in the community, and controlling the nation’s financial operations. I very much regret, firstly, the question that was asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), and, secondly, the debate which he has ‘precipitated. I am pleased, however, that he has given me an opportunity to place on record, indelibly and permanently, the Government’s recognition of the very great services that were performed iu the public interest by Mr. Garvan, by other directors of the Com monwealth Bank, and by the Council of Finance during the war period. I challenge anybody to deny that every Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who has held office since 1914, no matter to which party he was attached-Mr. Fisher, Mr. Higgs, Mr. Watt, Sir Joseph Cook, and Mr. Bruce - would, bear witness to the magnificent services that have been rendered to the Commonwealth by the men to whom I have referred. I intend to place on record my appreciation of the services of these men, and then to blow away this murky smoke, this dirty, filthy insinuation, that is continually being levelled at men who give public service gratuitously.
– They receive the benefit of an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank at 5 per cent, whilst other persons have to pay 7 per cent.
– All’ that they receive is base insinuation and innuendo such as we have heard in this chamber to-night. Let us examine the train of these operations. The honorable member for Reid did me the justice to say that I was completely frank in the answers that I gave. Mr Garvan also has been perfectly frank. What was the commencement of this “ hideous “ arrangement that is now paraded before honorable members? It started in 1915. It was made between the then Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Denison Miller, and Mr. Garvan for the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company.
– It was to continue for only eighteen months.
– Nothing of the sort. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. It was made whilst a Labour government >vas in office. According to honorable members opposite, when a Labour government makes any arrangement, it is a good one, but it is. an altogether different matter when another government continues it to its conclusion. This arrangement was to be for the duration of the loan.
– It was to be for no longer than eighteen months.
– I give the lie direct to that assertion. It was to be for the duration of the loan. That loan, it may be remembered, is the very one that . is now being converted. It was the first big’ ‘war loan,, amounting to something over £60,000,000. The arrangement provided that if Mr. Garvan would agree to put into that loan all the income of his company, he-would be given certain concessions by the bank.
– Over what period?
– He has been putting money into Commonwealth loans ever since. The loan limited the period. That, loan is not yet due. At the present time the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company holds £2,800,000 worth of stock in it. It is worth noting that the other directors of the Commonwealth Bank thought so highly of Mr. Garvan that they elected him Chairman of Directors of the Bank. Even though he then held £2,800,000 worth of Commonwealth stock, he owed the Commonwealth Bank only £350,000. In the ordinary course of business he has gradually wiped out the indebtedness oi is company. The foul insinuation that the Labour Baily or some other rag has been responsible for bringing the matter to light will be assessed at its proper valuation by the people of Australia. Everybody remembers what took place in connexion with the raising of war loans. The first, suggestion was that £5,000,000 should be raised in Australia. That was considered a tremendous amountto raise locally. A certain company, which is stronger than the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company, took up £250,000 worth of stock. Mr. Garvan snowed his courage and patriotism by taking lip £1,000,000 worth of stock. In every subsequent war loan that the Commonwealth floated he took up his full share. Honorable members have asked for evidence of the patriotism of that company. It is well known that at the termination of the war it restored the excess premiums that had been collected from the soldiers. This “hideous1’ arrangement, which honorable members say ought -to be condemned, and which should make it impossible for these men to serve in any Commonwealth institution, was entered into whilst , the Labour party had control of the Commonwealth Bank. The annual reports of the company have referred to it. The honorable member for Reid read certain statements purporting to set out. the present position. The Government does not seek to disguise its position. In fact, it puts all its cards on the table. . Secrecy dwells only in the mind of the honorable member : there is no sign of it anywhere else. Mystery and dark ness are suggested to him because his eyes are darkened and refuse to see the light.
– Tell us about the 5 per cent.
– That arrangement was made with the bank. I shall endeavour to- show how stupid is the argument of the honorable member. In one breath he says that the Government went to a great deal of trouble to insert in the bill clauses designed to prevent the appointment of directors from amongst certain persons. He is so stupid as to suggest that the Government then straightway appointed a man who was prohibited. Could a more nonsensical statement be made? This is merely a mare’s nest that the honorable member has discovered. It is said that this is a preferential arrangement. I point out that it was entered into by the Governor of the Bank, as a business arrangement, and not by the Treasury. Sir Denison Miller was rightly trusted by the citizens and the governments of this country, no matter what their political complexion happened to be. He considered that; from the point of view of the bank and the public, this was a fair arrangement. Honorable members opposite would not have dared to make these rotten insinuations had Sir Denison Miller been alive. It is only because the man is dead and is unable to defend himself that they trot them out. Let ns compare contemporaneous action by the Labour Governments. I have here particulars of the arrangements that the Labour Treasurer made with the associated banks. It first of all put forward a proposition to which I referred in my second-reading speech on the Commonwealth Bank Bill. I then pointed out that the Government gave to the banks the right to obtain £3 in notes for every sovereign that was paid to the Treasury. Of every £3 issued, £2 was treated as a loan to the banks on which interest at the rate of 4 per cent, was charged. The arrangement was not for eighteen months, as the honorable member has suggested, but for the whole period of the war.
– What were the arrangements entered into with other people?
– The arrangements were made by the Labour Treasurer of a ministry whose wonderful financial capacity was this afternoon lauded by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton).
– What was the date of it?
– November 1914. Later, other advances were made by the Labour Treasurer. For instance, in 1916, because the Commonwealth Government of the day had not sufficient stocks of gold, it borrowed from the banks 5,000,000 sovereigns for export. In exchange for those sovereigns the banks were given notes of equal value, and the right to obtain loans in notes to a similar amount if they deposited war bonds as security. Interest at the rate of 4½ per cent. was charged. The honorable member said that the arrangement made with Sir Denison Miller with the Citizens Company provided for 5 per cent. interest. Subsequently, the rate of interest to the banks by the Treasury was reduced to 3 per cent. That is to say, the Labour Treasurer made a much worse deal with the banks than did the Commonwealth Bank Board with the Citizens Company. This, then, is the “hideous “ transaction to which the honorable member has referred ! Later, the time came when the primary products of Australia could not be disposed of, and it was necessary to’ make advances to producers. The banks undertook to make the advances, and in return were given the right to obtain paper money from the Treasury bearing interest at the rate of 4 per cent. Similar arrangements were made at a still later date for advances in relation to wool and wheat, from 4 to 5½ per cent. interest being charged. I have made those comparisons to show the misrepresentation indulged in by the honorable member, who asserted that the arrangement under discussion was made for a special purpose during war time, and was without precedent. I challenge any honorable member to show that those arrangements were better than those entered into with the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited.
– We did not endorse those arrangements.
– They were entered into by the party to which the honorable member belongs; there are members now in the chamber who then sat behind that Government as docile followers. I admit that some honorable members belonging to the party objected to those arrangements. Let us now examine another phase of this awful transaction of ten years ago. It is not sug gested that this Government or the bank made any alteration in the arrangement when Mr. Garvan took his place on the board. The arrangement was the same right through.
– The rate to outside people was increased to 7 per cent., while in this case it remained at 5 per cent.
– I repeat that no change was made. Let me now deal with the other rotten statement that has been made.
– Get another word instead of “ rotten.”
– My vocabulary of’ permissible parliamentary expressions is insufficient to set outmy views on this matter. Some honorable members opposite are ‘capable of going to any lengths to damage an institution that has done good service to the community. The honorable member suggested that after Mr. Garvan was appointed to the board the interests of the board were found to run counter to those of the public, and that the board desired to keep up the rates of exchange. I give that an unqualified denial. For many months the bank board, headed by Mr. Garvan, continually urged the Government to return to the gold basis. Every one knows what took place when that was done - the exchange rate fell from £3 10s. to 15s. per £100. I remind honorable members that the decision to return to the gold basis was agreed to unanimously by the board. During the preceding eighteen months, I was in close and constant touch with Mr. Garvan, and know that he wanted the Government to return to the gold basis as early as possible. I think that my remarks are a complete refutation of the charges that have been made. We come now to a discussion of Mr. Garvan’s position as a director of the bank. The position is perfectly plain. The act provides that a director shall not borrow money from the bank. The wording of sub-section 15b of section 7 is definite - 15b. . A person who is -
No one suggests that Mr. Garran had a personal account with the bank, although his company had one there. The honorable member gave away his case by saying that the ordinary account of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited was with the Bank of New South Wales. The company’s only account with the Commonwealth Bank was that arranged by Sir Denison Miller and Mr. Garvan in connexion with the loan. The honorable member said that no transaction of this nature had ever taken place previously, and then proceeded to show that a director of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the claims of which he was urging all the time had shares in that company. The honorable member has supplied the refutation of his own charge. These arrangements were made in war time, and were publicly acknowledged on several occasions by the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited, reference to them being made in the company’s annual statements. The effect was to prevent the company from carrying on its ordinary mortgage business, which would have returned it from 6 per cent. to 8 per cent., as against the 4½ per cent. received in connexion with these loans. Because, in the public interest, it invested in thewar loans £2,800,000 for ten years at4½ per cent., the company had to forgo the profits it otherwise would have made. Because a man was public-spirited enough to get his company to do that, and to give his time and the benefit of his experience to the public by serving on the board, the honorable member has seen fit to drag his name through the mire, and make foul aspersions regarding his character, integrity, and honour. If charges of this kind are permitted to pass without protest, it will be difficult in the future to get men to accept positions of responsibility. Mr. Garvan acted as chairman of the Break of Gauge Commission, in’ which capacity he rendered excellent service. He acted also on the Notes Issue Board, giving gratuitous service for four years. Some may have disagreed with his actions as a member of that board, but no one who knows anything of finance has ever suggested that heused his position on that board for his personal advantage. The Govern ment repudiates the sinister suggestion of the honorable member. To sum up, the arrangement was made - whether it was a good or a bad one, I do not propose to say - between the bank and the chairman of the Mutual Life and’ Citizens Assurance Company Limited during the regime of a Labour Government. On the honorable member’s own showing, it was a better arrangement from the public point of view, and from the stand-point of finance, than the arrangement entered into between the Labour Treasurer and the banks. Ten years after that arrangement was entered into, and almost at the time when the loan will be converted - the conversion will take place on 15th December next - this matter has been raised, and the honorable member referred to it as a “shocking transaction.” He suggested that Mr. Garvan should not be allowed to serve the public further in connexion with the bank. Yet the arrangement has been made public time after time during that period. Mr. Garvan has no personal connexion with the Commonwealth Bank in the way of advances or overdrafts. Simply because he acted in a public-spirited manner, and for many years applied practically the whole of his company’s income to the service of the public, in order to provide silver bullets with which to turn back the German Army, the honorable member has thought fit to attempt to injure his reputation. I think that there is no need for me to say more, because the honorable member himself has answered the charges that he made. The honorable member has made a great outcry about these arrangements, although worse things were done by a Labour Government. The action of Mr. Garvan has resulted in great service being rendered to Australia.
.- Both inside and outside this House I hear many things concerning myself that I do not like. Similarly unpleasant things I come across in my reading, but I do not squeal about them. I take what is coming to me, and am thankful that it is no worse. But it would appeal’ that no one has any right to criticize the public actions of the Treasurer, or any one connected with him. Should any one have the temerity to do so, the Treasurer squeals like a stuck pig. I am surprised at his audacity, his cold callousness, his shamelessness. He seems to be entirely forgetful of the past. One would think that he had never uttered an unkind word or attempted to defame any one. Has he forgotten the expressions he once used - “cooked accounts,” and “ a looter among looters.” On the platforms of this country he told the people that it was time that those with whom he is now associated were prevented from pursuing their pernicious practices. He continued to denounce them until they took him into their company. Then those whom he had previously defamed became honest men. He has a way of forgetting these things. T do not cast any blame on him; it is his business to get away with as much as he can while he is in office, for he will not be there long. He has made statements that obscure the issue. He has endeavoured to make it appear that there is some similarity between the management of the bank under the late Sir Denison Miller, and under its present administration. There is no similarity, because the Labour party, when it established the bank, had to silence a public clamour engendered by those who told the people that we would dip into the funds of the bank-. In order to assuage the timidity of the public, we took measures to provide that no politician, Labour or otherwise, could ‘ interfere in the operations of the bank. Everything Sir Denison Miller did was entirely his own responsibility. If he did wrong, he was to blame; if he did right, it was to his credit; but no Government, whether National or Labour, can in any way be held responsible for his misdeeds, or claim any credit for his achievements. The Treasurer further stated that the Labour Government, in the early stages of the war, assisted, the banks to a greater extent than the bank and Mr. Garvan, by common arrangement, have assisted each other. He read a statement in which he said that some honorable members of this party opposed the action of the Government of that time. I was one of those who assailed the Labour Government of that time for entering into that arrangement. I assailed it in caucus, and in the House. Mr. Fisher, in caucus, denied that he was in any way responsible. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that we have a truthful and honest Treasurer, who reads to them a statement that he asks them to believe. Mr. Fisher, who was also Treasurer, said, “ If Mr. Anstey does not believe my statement that I am not responsible for this matter, and that it was done by the Government of Sir Joseph Cook, who was in power at the outbreak of war, and for some weeks afterwards, I suggest that he should make inquiries at the Treasury.” I went to the Treasury and saw Mr. Collins, who explained the position; and whether he told the truth or not, he at least told me that Mr. Fisher was blameless, and that the business was settled before he took office. As a result of that interview with Mr. Collins, I had to apologize to Mr. Fisher. The Treasurer said the arrangement was made in November, 1914, and when I asked him for the date, he would not state it, but simply reiterated “ November, 19.14.” 1 shall read an extract from the Economist of the 14th October,. 1914. Honorable members will remember that the war broke out on the 4th August, 1914, so that the Economist of the 14th October was published eight weeks after the outbreak of war. The Labour party did not assume office until several weeks after the outbreak of war, and the war was on when the elections took place. As the message was sent by the Sydney representative of the Economist, it must have been written at least four weeks before publication. It dealt with the arrangement made by the Government with the banks. I said that that arrangement was outrageous, and because I believed it was outrageous, and because I was under the impression that it was made by the Labour Government, I assailed that Government. I now tell the Treasurer that the Labour Government was not responsible. The letter by the Sydney correspondent, of the Economist stated -
There is to he a sufficiency of paper money to advance to the private banks such paper money as they may require. The banks welcome the scheme as one calculated to relieve any pressure on their resources, It makes it easier for the stronger banks, as it relieves them of .the responsibility of coming to the support of their weaker brethren.
If it is true that Mr. Collins now says that the Labour party was responsible, he lied to me, and put me in a false position with my party and the Labour Government of that time.
– I think he told the honorable member the truth.
– As to that I leave Mr. Collins to explain. What was the Treasurer’s other statement? He said that Mr. Garvan was a most honest and immaculate man, who had rendered great service to this country. Who denies that he has rendered great service?
– Service to himself, perhaps.
– I care not whether to himself or to his country. I do not deny that he has rendered great service, but many a gallant soldier who has fought on the field of battle is suffering in the penitentiaries of his country for a smaller misdemeanour. I can recall in this State a certain Minister of the Crown, who was outwardly a good and honest man, who could sing excellent hymns and was punctilious in his genuflexions before the altar of his God. who always carried a hymn-book and Bible about with him. aud who continually counselled others to pursue the path of honesty. That man. while, posing as honest, was secretly and privately pursuing slimy tracks for his own ends. Of what use is it to tell us of Garvan’s past? I am not concerned with what he was, but with what he is. I want to know what his relations with the business of the country are,, and how he came on the scene? There is no service that he renders for nothing; he makes no great sacrifice without remuneration, and he derives apparently from many sources the emoluments of the split efforts of a day. He came on the scene because Sir Joseph Cook wanted to employ him on a council of finance. The Parliament objected to men who had nothing but their wealth to recommend rhein being a secret government behind the Government. Then came tin? Notes issue Board’. Garvan was placed on that, board, and finally given his present position in the bank. What does he represent ? He represents, apparently, the Mutual Life Association. What is the Mutual Life Association? He holds, in the name of himself and his family, some 60,000 shares in that company. He holds 44,000 of them in his own name, and 14,000 in connexion with
John Power, who also owns another 14,000. Sir Samuel Hordern, a bosom friend, who has £150,000 of interest in the company, is also on the directorate of the bank. The family of Garvan and Sir Samuel Hordern hold between them shares in that company worth £1.000,000, and whatever may be their emoluments from the Commonwealth Bank, they are between them the dominating force in the Mutual Life Company. Early in the war the Government issued an advertisement that was not exclusive of any particular individual. It did not offer special . privileges to certain persons in the community. It did not say, “ The man who is rich shall have advantages the poor cannot get,” but it said, “ There is a -war in Prance, and we want money. If there are any men or women in this country in this hour of trial who have no ready money to lend, they can take securities in the form of title deeds for land, or mortgages, and place them in the Commonwealth Bank, and if they do so, the bank will advance them a loan at 4 per cent, to reinvest in the National Loan at 4^ per cent.” The borrowers were to refund the money lent at 4 per cent, within eighteen months. Nearly every man in the community went into the scheme, and, apparently, the much boomed Mutual Life and J. J. Garvan made a great patriotic contribution to it. The public thought that J. J. Garvan and those connected with him went into the scheme on the same footing as the humblest and poorest citizen, to take a temporary loan to tide them over an emergency. There was no one in this community, except themselves, who knew that the loan was not merely for a period of eighteen months. If any other individual who secured a temporary advance at 4 per cent, did not repay it within eighteen months, he had to pay a rate of interest on the overdraft greater than that received from the National Loan. J. J. Garvan, however, did not repay the loan at the end of eighteen months, but continued to hold it year after year. He was thus able to secure at 4 per cent, money for which the public eventually paid 6 and 7 per cent. He had £1,000,000 in one dose, and for it he paid only 4 per cent. He now sits on the Board of Directors of -the bank, and is a controlling and dominating influence there. It has been pointed out that he formerly carried on his business with the Bank of New South Wales, which would not, however, make him an advance of money-
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I would not make the statement unless I knew. The bank would not advance him money to enable him to speculate upon the market, and conduct exchange transactions in opposition to them. They not only refused to advance him money, but they went a step further. He secured the money from the Commonwealth Bank, for he was Chairman of Directors of that bank long before he was formally appointed. For all practical purposes he was DirectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Bank from the day Sir Denison Miller died. He had offices in the bank, and they wore the centre of operations in which he manipulated the bank. So strong was the resentment of the private banks that last year, when he was in the midst of operations with Commonwealth money, which he was obtaining at 4$ per cent., and farming out at 6£ and 7 per cent., they threatened to cease business relations with the Commonwealth Bank. That is why I raised the question in this House. And now, looking over the list of shareholders of the Mutual Life, I observe that, in addition to the huge interests of the Garvans and Horderns, officers of the Bank of New South Wales and officers of the Commonwealth Bank also have monetary interests in the company. It is a matter for investigation how and when they came to possess those shares. The money which the Commonwealth Bank lent to the Mutual Life Company could better have been advanced to the citizens of this country when the financiers were holding our industries by the throat. The bank could have come to the aid of the primary producers, could have helped the exporters of primary products, and could have broken the banking ring by advancing that money at 4 or 5 per cent. Instead of doing so, it held off, and took part in the boycott of our exportable products. While the country suffered, this man was obtaining money from the country’s bank and operating with it on the markets in the processes of exchange.
What was yesterday a bank that was public property, administered by a man independent of political and social influence, is to-day a public institution administered by private capitalists in the interests of private capitalists, and to the detriment of Australia generally.
.- I feel that it is a very great mistake that the Commonwealth Bank was ever established. The Yarra bank is the only bank about which honorable members opposite know anything. I know something about this business. The manager of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company went to the late Sir Denison Miller, manager of the Commonwealth Bank - the gentleman who’ made the bank what it is by his business acumen and knowledge of banking, and not by political clap-trap- and said that, the company would take £2,000,000 of the bank’s money at a certain rate of interest for a certain term. That term was not eighteen months. Do honorable members imagine that the manager of an insurance company would go to the manager of the Commonwealth Bank and say, “ I want to borrow £2,000,000 of your money for eighteen months”?- That would not be business. No. The company said that it wanted the money for an extended term. It was not like a man investing a paltry £100 for the purchase of a little war loan stock. The manager of the company said. ‘‘I want £2,000,000 for a fixed term to protect the shareholders of my company. What terms can you give me ?” The terms were ten years at 4 per cent. At that particular period every Treasurer and banker was at his wit’s end to find money to finance the war. We all mortgaged ourselves. I mortgaged myself, and obtained money for a. longer term than eighteen months. That blows out honorable members on the other side.
– From whom did the honorable member get his. loan?
– From the Bank of Australasia. Everything depends upon the nature of the business done with the bank. I have listened to-night to so much piffle that it is enough to make angels weep, let alone members, of Parliament. I cannot understand why a man who did so much for the country and invested his money during the war period to keep the flag flying should now be condemned and for. political purposes. It is lamentable that such a thing should occur.- i;-. In view of i;he piffle to which we hav« -listened to-night, I ask what inducement there is for any man who loves his country to come to its assistance ? Everybody is bad, filthy, and corrupt except . honorable members opposite. They are the “ Simon Pures.” They are marvellous men. I thought that we were all ki.th -and kin-, that the same blood flowed in -our veins, and that we were al] trying to do the best we could for the Commonwealth. But do honorable members mean to say that this man of business acumen would have gone to the Commonwealth Rank to make investments in the interests of the country if he thought that he would be subjected 1 1> the exposure to which we have listened r.o»-night? Who turned traitor on the bank and gave the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) the information upon which he based his attack? Who divulged the secrets of the bank? It is clear that there are “ scabs “ in .the, Commonwealth Bank as well as elsewhere: The officers of the bank are sworn to secrecy, and I want to’ know who. made his case for the honorable member for Reid. ‘The honorable member should stand up and let the people of Australiaknow who divulged to him the secrets of the bank. Has he been given the sack? Some one must have prompted the honorable member, and I hope, that he will be mau enough to get UP and name the traitor, or traitors, in, the Commonwealth Bank who are prepared to divulge the business of the bank, to a member of this Parliament. This . is . the* people’s bank, and we have no right here to criticize ‘the management of those in charge of it. They are men who know their job, and can be trusted to conduct the business of the bank on proper lines. I am very sorry that such a matter should have been discussed in this chamber. It is a case of “ save me from my friends.”
.- Following on the tempestuous address of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), it is a little difficult to come back immediately to the calm consideration of the serious question raised by the honorable member for Reid- (Mr. Coleman) in submitting his amendment. But we must endeavour to do so. One cannot compliment the Treasurer (Dr. Earle
Page) upon the speech he made in defence. I give the honorable gentleman credit, however, for the very high compliment he paid the honorable member for Reid in that he was obviously disturbed by the charges made by that honorable member, and the method with which they were presented. I watched with great interest to use a word that is perhaps unknown to my honorable friends opposite, the “ colloguing “ of , the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), whilst the speech of the honorable member for Reid was in progress. Although I could not hear precisely what was passing between them, I gathered that it was to this effect: The Prime Minister, I understood, was saying, “ This is pretty hot stuff, Page, what are we going- to do about it ?” and the Treasurer replied, “ Well, I do not know what we are to do about it, but, obviously, it is up to you, as Prime Minister, to make a defence of the bank.” It appears to me clearly that the Prime Minister replied to that by saying, “ I cannot say anything in defence. I do not know the facts. It looks bad and my advice to you is . to spit blazes, and give me time to think about it.” That is the only possible explanation of the temper, tone, and matter of the speech delivered by the Treasurer. We beard from the honorable gentleman that he had been pained by seme “ rotten insinuations,” He has been moved by the “obvious stupidity” of honorable members on this side. In fact, for a professional gentleman, accredited with an unimpeachable bedside manner, his language approached more nearly to that of the renowned Biddy Moriarty, of the country of my own ancestors, than anything I ever heard in this chamber before. “ Why,” the honorable gentleman said - lightly scanning the pages of history, and especially those irrelevant to the question - “ have we not the testimony of each of’ the Treasurers “ - and he ran them off with an easy grace which showed that he had been reciting the list for some time before the honorable member for Reid made his speech. “ Have we not,” said the honorable gentleman, “ the testimony of each of these Treasurers in support of the view that Mr. Garvan was amongst patriots the most shining patriot of them all.” I do not know whether we have that testimony, or not, but I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance on the point. It is, as the honorable member for
Bourke pointed out, mainly irrelevant, but it has this degree of relevancy, at all events, that if one-half of -what -was said by the honorable member for Reid about Mr. Garvan, and his connexion with the bank and public enterprises, is correct, it is quite possible that Mr. Garvan was in a position to be magnanimous to the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasurer, aud the public generally, because he seems to have done remarkably well in this country for himself and for bis company. It seems to be taken for granted in the mysterious regions of high finance that it is not only moral, but in the highest degree an evidence of patriotism, to borrow money from the Commonwealth Bank, the nation’s bank, in the time of the nation’s distress, at a certain rate of interest, and to invest it in the name of patriotism at the time of the nation’s distress at a rate 1 per cent, higher than the rate for which it was borrowed. It appears to be taken for granted that, in this regard, Mr. Garvan was no exception to the general rule, and that his action was in accord with a financial policy which, on moral grounds, and in time of war especially, is not only defensible, but to be applauded. I let it go at that. That, unknown to me, may be a test of high morality in regions of high finance. Perhaps I do not understand the standards of financiers in the same way as that brilliant exponent of high finance from Darwin appreciates them. But I know that to the 60,000 dead and the 400,000 who offered their lives for this country in a time of war, very little was said of a profit of 1 per cent, on their investments in connexion with the war. . Why is this standard of morality applied to the wealthy, which was never thought of in connexion with the working people in this community? Why was it never suggested as being fairly applicable to the men whose bodies were to be snatched, under conscription, and thrown willy-nilly into the furnace of war during the four bloody years of torture that .the country passed through? In the realms of high finance, and also of patriotism, men who made substantial profits out of their very safe sacrifices are said to have made them for the country. I listened with close attention to the Treasurer to ascertain if he had a reply to the case put- by the honorable member for Reid. Is there any honorable member who listens to me to-night who will deny that the honorable member for Reid put his case in temperate and carefullyconsidered language. Bus address - and it is to the honorable member’s credit - was admittedly carefully prepared and considered. Every sentence of it was expressed in language to which no man could take the slightest exception on the ground of good taste or the method of the honorable member’s presentation of his case. That is as to its form. As to its substance, we have been told that the. honorable member was throwing about reckless and poisonous innuendo. There was no innuendo. The honorable member made deliberate and serious charges, and made them in language which could not be misunderstood. I venture to declare that no honest critic of debate in this chamber, or out of it, can say that the Treasurer gave a clear and concise answer to any one of the charges made by the. honorable member for Reid. On the contrary, he ran away from them all. Let me repeat them, and then ask honorable members again how far they were answered. A protest is being made against the action of the Government, and as usual when we make a charge against the Government, and link up with it the name of an individual, it is the policy of the honorable gentlemen opposite, by the judicious operation of the smoke screen, to make it appear that our whole charge is against some other individual and not themselves. I direct attention to the fact that this grave charge is more against the Government than against an individual. The individual fulfils to” the full his proclivities for making money. He revels in that sphere in which he is a past master. But this Government is responsible to the whole of the people, and in the last resort for the management- of the Commonwealth Bank, because as we pointed out in this chamber in debate a week or two ago when discussing the case of a late officer of the bank, Mr. Young, if there is any scandal affecting the relations of the bank with the public, the bank cannot hide behind the provision in the act which dec-lares that the directors alone are responsible for its internal management. The Government is responsible for the relations of the bank with the general public. Our protest relates to the fact that Mr. Garvan was at the time of hig appointment as a director of the bank, also managing director and chief shareholder of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited, which was then a borrower from the bank. The Treasurer has been referred to the Commonwealth Bank Act. If he is acquainted with that law he will know that it is unbecoming, nay, that it is unlawful for a director to be a borrower from the bank. Although it may be technically urged that Mr. Garvan personally was not a borrower, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) pulverized tha i: aspect of the case, or any possible answer in defence, by pointing out that Mr. Garvan had a substantial interest in this insurance company, and that any advantage, and there were substantial advantages, that was received from the bank affected him personally to his advantage. Did the Treasurer answer that, charge? Can any one in this chamber say that he definitely defended the policy of a director of the bank being a borrower from the bank, or of a director of the bank, who” is largely interested in a company, permitting it to be under an obligation to the bank or to trade with the bank? The second charge is that preferential treatment was accorded Mr. Garvan through his company in that he was given an overdraft for an extended term at a- rate of interest which was not applicable to the ordinary customers of the bank. Did the Treasurer compare the position’ of the ordinary customers of the bank with that of the insurance company of which Mr. Garvan was a member? I listened attentively to his speech, but I heard no comparison of, or justification for, the preferential treatment given to Mr. Garvan and his company. I still await an explanation. A declaration to the effect that Mr. Garvan is a shining patriot, that he came to the rescue of the Commonwealth, or that he Avon the approval and applause of seven succeeding Treasurers, or even that he won the war. is not an explanation. I want to know whether he received a preferential treatment from the bank. I want a definite answer to that charge.
– The increase in the rate of interest to 1 per cent., while Mr. Garvan had an overdraft with the bank, requires explaining.
– Mr. Garvan, when he had an overdraft at 4 per cent., was instrumental in raising the bank’s rate of interest to 7 per cent. The .third charge is that the relations of Mr. Garvan with the bank have been out of harmony with the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act and the well established principles governing the condition of persons in the employ of the Crown. Considerations of honour should prevent any person in the employ of the Commonwealth from profiting by transaction with the Commonwealth. It has ever been a test of honor that no man in the Public Service shall attempt to serve two masters, or attempt to make profit out of an equivocal position of that kind. The honorable member for Reid has absolutely established the case as it stands at present. The charges remain unanswered, and they ought to be answered. They can never be answered by any splenetic outburst. / These definite charges require definite answers. They should be answered by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, because no more damning or grave charge could be levelled against a government, than that is was a party to the transactions disclosed by the honorable member for Reid, whose case was supported by a wealth of ‘ argument.
– For the information of honorable members I shall quote from Hansard the actual statement that was made by Mr. Fisher in respect of the arrangement made by him with the private banks. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has stated definitely that the arrangement was not made by Mr. Fisher. The following statement appears in Hansard of 9th October, 1914 : -
I do not propose to discuss the measures arrived at by the conference which was convened by the Leader of the Opposition when Prime Minister, unless he wishes me to say something about them and our present difficulties. The efforts of this Government will be in keeping- with those of previous Governments. We shall try to assist and protect the States in every possible way, and shall do all that we can to keep the wheels of industry revolving. I regret to say that the cooperation expected has not been realized.
– I do not understand what the Prime Minister means.
– The right honorable member convened a conference of all parties to deal with the finances. Certain recommendations and resolutions were agreed upon one of which provided that Australian notes should be ad vanced to the States against a deposit of not Jess than 25 per cent. in gold, and that the same assistance should be given to the banks if they deposited against the advance not less than 33½ per cent. in gold. But the negotiations with thebanks were left incomplete, those institutions not being in agreement with the proposals as understood at the conference.
– The negotiations were completeas far as we were concerned; that is to say, our terms were submitted to the banks.
- (To enable the arrangement arrived at by the conference to be of real value to the country, the banks would have to hold the notes in excess of their ordinary issue. The matter is still unsettled, as the right honorable member knows.
SirJosephCook. - The Prime Minister means that the banks have not yet agreed to the terms imposed upon them as the result of the conference?
– Yes. I am not in a position to make any statement on the subject, and the question is whether the matter should be discussed now.
That show conclusively that when Mr. Fisher took office this matter had not been settled.
– Sir Joseph Cook took credit for settling this natter in conference.
– It was settled by’ Mr. Fisher, as shown by the following passage fromhis budget speech, delivered on 3rd December, 1914: -
WhenI returned to office in the middle of September of this year, the financial position generally was critical, and there was much apprehension and fear in all circles in regard to it. At a conference of all parties convened by my predecessor, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, subsequent to the breaking out of war, butprior to the general elections, a unanimous agreement was arrived at that the financial resources of the Australian note issue should be utilized to assist in financing the States, the banks, and the Commonwealth. Finding the position unsatisfactory, I immediately invited Sir Alexander Peacock, as the available representative of the States, to meet me and made him acquainted with the position and made certain proposals, which I desired him to communicate to the Premiers of the States. T also communicated with the representatives of the associated banks here, withthe same object in view.
That shows conclusively that the arrangement was finally completed by Mr. Fisher after he took office.
.- During the budget speech the Treasurer told honorable members that this arrangement was made by the Labour party in 1915.
– In 1914.
– The Treasurer said 1915 in his budget speech. I challenged him at the time, because he said that it was one of the most questionabletransactions of the war. I know all about Mr. Collins and the double-faced business he is playing with the different Treasurers of this country. The Treasurer said that this arrangement was made in November, 1914, and that the Labour party was responsible for it. I know all about it, because I had to suffer for my attitude at the party meeting. My testimony is borne out by the fact that Andrew Fisher told his party in caucus that the arrangement had. already been made. What was the arrangement) When war broke out the Government of that day called together, not the political parties, but the Stock Exchange and the Banking Association. This arrangement was made, and Andrew Fisher, who was fighting me on this matter, said to the party, “ What can I do in the midst of war? This arrangement is practically settled.” Mr. Collins pointed out to me that Mr. Fisher was not responsible for the arrangement. If the Treasurer denies my statement, he puts me in a false position. Mr. Fisher had to take the responsibility cast upon him by his predecessors. As. a matter of fact, if the Fisher government had been responsible for the arrangement, the Labour party would not have stood by it. The reason that the party stood to the arrangement was because it understood it had practically been completed by the previous government. Upon that I justify my attitude during the last twelve months. I do not entirely blame the Treasurer, because I know what Mr. Collins is capable of. Last year the Treasurer said that the arrangement was made in 1915, and now he says it was in November, 1914. The evidence is clear and definite that the arrangement was practically made before the Labour party took office.
– In justification of the Treasurer’s reply, I wish to explain what the position was. The Treasurer, when dealing with a certain transaction between the bank and Mr. Garvan, was challenged by the Opposition. He replied that the Treasurer of
It will be beat to wait for tile budget speech for a fall statement regarding this matter. The- books, have come to a voluntary arrangement with the Government covering a proposition of the kind mentioned.
When delivering his budget speech on the&rd. December, 1&14-,. Mr. Fisher announced what cbe terms and conditions were.
– What were they?
– Mr. Fisher said that associated with tie loans to the States was -
An. agreement made with die associated banks whereby they should give to the Commonwealth £10,000-,009 in gold for Australian notes.
Mr. Fisher went on to say
In undertaking- this financial transaction, I impressed upon the banks’ representatives that, as Treasurer, I should require their assistance, end they, recognising the national emergency, cheerfuly agreed to render the Government every possible atd in their power, ft should be clearly understood that the 10,000,000 advanced by the banks will be redeemed at the- close of the war.
It was a transaction’ covering the whole period of the war. Therefore, the Treasurer’s statement was absolutely correct, and1 tire position he has taken up is absolutetly justified. .
Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter) [1Q-.3L, - I haVe never beard more definite charges made, in this House than those .levelled by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. -Coleman)- as the board of directors, of the Commonwealth Bank. But. instead of meeting, .those charges, Ministers; axe endeavouring to camouflage the position. The Treasurer’s quotation from Hansard shows that whatever happened at the time of which he was speaking, took place after the commencement of. the; war, and shortly before- tha Labour party succeeded in winning the election. The party in power at the. time went to the country believing that the- people would not “ swop horses crossing a streamy* but the people did so,, and returned us to power. Prior to- that,, certain- conference! had been held, and an agreement had been reached. Speaking from information he received at the time,, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey)’ has. made certain statements. I remember- the discussion of the matter nt the party meeting, and I know that the honorable member is absolutely correct in saying that. Mi. Collins gave him the information that Mr. Fisher was- simply carrying out an arrangement with the banks which, had been practically agreed to by the Cook Government. But what has all that todo with the definite charges made here by the honorable member for Reid Two- Ministers have spoken, but neither has made any reply to those charges. . -I have never heard a lamer- speech delivered here than that of ‘ the Treasurer, and. the Attorney-General has not helped his catleague in any way. A case isas* be’ a bad one if it has to be- camouflaged in this way. The Government changed the management of the- Commonwealth Bank, notwithstanding, that we on this side of the House pointed out the danger of such, a. change The Government has appointed as directors men who are directly interested’ n» other financial institutions. Would any fair-minded person expect directors who are interested in. private banks to do their best, for Commonwealth Bank? The– balancesheet of tha bank is not yet availably but this fact stands out that, as a result of placing; the institution in the hands of persons whom the honorable member; .for Reid has charged with Baking money -at the expense of the bank, it has made no progress during the eight or nine months that ‘have elapsed since the change. Rather it has .gone back. The deposits in the savings, bank branch have decreased, whereas every State savings bank is showing- an increase. On the business side the ,bank is making no progress whatever. No effort is being made to open out. People who have asked for loans, primary producers in particular, have not been able to get them because the bank will not come’ into competition with the private institutions with which the directors are connected. We know that Mr. Garvan is interested in a wealthy assurance company. We know the amount of profit, his company is making, especially through the loans it has been able to get by his connexion with the Commonwealth Bank. All these things cry out for investigation. Statements such as we have heard to-night cannot go unchallenged. Ministers may pass them over in a free and easy manner, but there is a day of reckoning ahead for them. The public will want to know why these charges have been made, and why directors have been appointed who are connected with private institutions, who have no sympathy with a national banking institution, and who: are entirely devoted to forwarding : the interests of private enterprise. How can we expect the Commonwealth Bank to be a success in such circumstances? When charges are’ made showing clearly that things are riot going right, when the balance-sheet of the bank shows that it is going back under the. new regime, we are entitled- to some explanation ; but we have heard .no reply whatever. The least thing the Government could do was to say that it would institute a thorough investigation- into the position of the bank. But it will not allow the light of day to come into the management of the institution. Its policy in regard to this bank is to keep everything from the public. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was under consideration, we pointed out what was likely to happen. It has all turned out as we prophesied. Men appointed to these responsible positions always look after themselves. They axe not to be blamed lor it. In this competitive world of purs, if a man can make ‘£100,000 for Jus own company he will do so. But according to the honorable member for Reid, it has been done in this instance at the expense of the Commonwealth Bank and to the disadvantage, of the private bonks, too. What connexion is there between the arrangement made by the Government with the associated banks and the arrangement with this life assurance company ? The Treasurer will not admit that this company does banking business. . The honorable member for Reid says that it does certain banking business and that it should be classed as a bank. If the Treasurer were to admit that this life assurance company should be regarded as a banking institution Mr. Garvan’s appointment as a director of the Commonwealth Bank would - be a breach of the provision of the act - which stipulates that no. one’ connected with another bank can be appointed director of the Commonwealth Bank. The matter is so serious that if the Government did the’ right thing it would have an investigation made into these charges. If there is nothing in them, so much the better for’ the. bank. But can honorable members believe that all the material collected by. the honorable member for Reid counts for, nothing? How did the matter originate? How did the honorable member get. possession of this information ? How did he come to know about Mr. Garvan’s position in regard to the company with which he is associated ? Mr. Garvan’ and another man hold between them 60,000 or 70,000 shares in ah institution with a total share issue of 200,000. Each fully paid-up £1 share in the company is worth £15 and a profit of 80 per cent, is earned .on its capital. That is a staggering position. A man in the position of Mr. Garvan should not be connected with the directorate of the Commonwealth Bank. It. is idle for the Treasurer to say that Mr. Garvan is a financial genius, and that he acted patriotically in accepting a position on the Commonwealth Bank Board. If he does his work faithfully, he has enough to do in attending to the institution of which he is managing director. R is of no advantage to the Commonwealth Bank to have him, and men of similar calibre, in charge of its administration. The time is coming when the electors will have to pronounce upon this matter, and then there. will be a- cleaning up of the whole business. The. Commonwealth Bank will., have to function as . the Labour party intended it to do. It willhave to be a bank for the people, and not merely a central bank for the bankers. It must play, its part in developing and populating the country. The Government has not answered the charges made by the honorable member forReid, and I shall be surprised if Mr. Garvan, when he reads the newspaper report of the debate, is satisfied’ with the Treasurer’s reply. If he isa man, he will ask that an inquiry be held, so that he may have an opportunity to clear his name of these charges. It is the Government’s duty to hold, an investigation. Serious allegations concerning a national institution like the Commonwealth Bank cannot be allowed to go unanswered. Suspicion has been created sincethe Government appointed the present hoard.
– What about those officers of the bank who hold shares in the company of which Mr. Garvan is a director?
– That statement, too, requires investigation. I have heard that every officer employed in the Commonwealth Bank is required to go to the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company to he insured. I do not know whether or not the statement is correct, but it is common talk. If these allegations are disproved by investigation, so much the better for all concerned. The Treasurer had no right to castigate the honorable member for Reid and say that he was talking rubbish and nonsense. It is bis duty to appoint a committee - I do not care how it is constituted - to sift all the evidence bearing on these charges, so that we may know definitely whether the institution is being strangled by the people who now direct it. If it is, a change in the administration should be made at once. The bank Bhould be of great service to Australia. It should be the financial bulwark of the country. Everybody admits that during the great war it rendered yeoman service. We must not allow its powers to be diminished ; rather should we increase them and extend the ramifications of the institution, so that it may become in reality a people’s bank. Unless the Government, orders an inquiry into this matter, a stigma will rest upon the institution . The honorable gentleman did not meet the charges and the Attorney-
General, when he rose to defend the Government endeavoured by a reference to a transaction that occurred over ten years ago, to throw responsibility upon ‘Mr! Fisher. Apparently, the Government’s case is’ so weak that it has no answer to make to the strong and” ‘definite charges made by the honorable member for Reid-. If they are not probed to the bottom now, the people will demand in the near future the fullest inquiry. If there is one public institution of. which the whole of our people approve, it is the Commonwealth Bank, and they will demand that it shall have a fair run, and not be hamstrung and strangled by the legislation which this Government has introduced.
.- The arguments of the Leader of the Opposition are somewhat extraordinary. Thegravamen of his charge is that the action of the Government in appointing. a board of directors to control the Commonwealth Bank has damned that institution: He has condemned the Government’s policy as injurious to the bank and liable to lead to all sorts of wrong-doing, with resultant loss to the bankand the country. I was not present in the chamber when the honorable member for Reid made his speech, but I do not propose to accept any exparte, statement. Where were honorable members opposite, a week ago, when certain charges were made against the Governor of the bank, and an inquiry was asked for?
– All honorable members on this side of the House voted for the inqui ry.
– What is the charge made by the honorable member for Reid.?
Mr.Fenton.-It is proved.
– Nothing is proved.. What is the use of making such a stupid and improper assertion ? When was. the large loan made to Mr. Garvan’s company,’ and who was responsible for making it ? If anything wrong was done, was it not the result of handing the entire controlof the bank over to one man ? I do not believe that any wrong was done.
– Oner of the honorable member’s kidney would never think that.
– The honorable mem ber is always too ready to throw mud. I accept no- expartestatement against the late Governor ofthebank, or Mr. Garvan, or anybody else. During the war, did not the Government, by advertisements in the press and on the boardings, urge all citizens and corporations to takeup war bonds, and in order to enable them to do that, were they not promised advances by the bank for, . I think, eighteen months, at a lower rate of interest than was being offered by the Government? So that I might take up 5 per cent, bonds, I ob- tained from the bank an advance which was repayable in instalments. In a similar way other individuals and large companies were induced to invest in the war loans. I feel satisfied that the same conditions applied to every subscriber, but if some wrong-doing has resulted in connexion with those transactions, the person responsible was the late Governor of the bank. Surely there should be greater safety in control by a large body of directors-
– Yes, if they are disinterested ;but if they arc not there is a grave danger.
– I know nothing more of Mr. Garvan’s transactions with the Commonwealth Bank than his public statement that, in reply to the request for . subscriptions to the war loan, his company applied for a large amount of stock and obtained an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank. Later Mr. Garvan was appointed to the Commonwealth Batik Board. In regard to the charges made against him to-night, it is for the Government, to say whether or not anything wrong was done. lt can easily make inquiries and explain the transaction to the House later, but I repeat, that there is surely less danger in the control of the bank by a body of directors than in the absolute control by one man, no matter how competent he may be. I deprecate some of the speeches made to-night, by honorable members opposite, particularly as the charge is based upon an assumption. If I bad not been prevented from attending the House last week owing to indisposition, I would have supported the motion for an inquiry into the relations between Mr. Mark Young and the acting governor of the bank, because I believe, from the information I have obtained, that a prima facie case has been made out. But some honorable members opposite who have, been pro minent in making charges against the Government and the bank, did not support that inquiry. They are insincere, inasmuch as they now desire to make political capital out of this matter instead of endeavouring to support the policy of the bank.
– We all voted for the motion.
– I do not think that is so.
– The division lists will show that we did.
– Under a board the affairs of the bank should be satisfactorily controlled, and its operations should be conducted with advantage to the institution and to the country.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) evidently “got under the skin “ of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), as I have never seen him more annoyed or irritated than he was this evening. The action of Mr. Garvan and the bank officials has been dealt with fairly exhaustively, and I do not wish to refer at length to the manner in which that gentleman has “raked off the wool.” because he is only one of many who have had not only their nose but their feet in the trough. It, is not the first occasion on which T have taken up this attitude in regard to the war profiteers. Suggestions were made during the war for financing it. and we all know how the “pocket patriots” stood back until they obtained what have been advertised above the name of the Treasurer as “ guilt “- edged securities. We remember the taunts made during the campaign, and how we were continually confronted with placards bearing such questions as, “ This is a soldier’s hat. Does it fit you? “‘There is a gap in the ranks - can you fill itf” and “What did you do in the Great War, daddy?” What did these socalled patriots, who are to-day fleecing the community, do in the Great War? We have had a revelation of it to-day, and remarks such as those made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) apparently ‘‘get under the skin” of the Treasurer and those who support these “ pocket, patriots.” We were told that money was a good soldier, and that the sacrifices should be equal. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has told us of the great sacrifice he made. What did it amount to? He purchased 5 per cent, bonds on money advanced to him by the bank, which was paid back in instalments. But the honorable member is hanging on to the interest as strongly to-day as many other so-called patriots. What are we told when an appeal is made on behalf of an ex-soldier suffering from tuberculosis? We are informed that we are unable to .prove that his health was undermined during the war.. How often have we to approach the Repatriation Department, and plead on behalf of Australia’s manhood who went overseas to fight, and who now cannot get that consideration to which they are entitled? I know of one man living on the charity of the soldier’s fund, and I cannot get the Repatriation Department to admit its liability. Some doctors have recommended that he should receive the benefit of the doubt, as his disability is due to war service, and yet no satisfaction can be obtained from the authorities. The Minister has said that we cannot prove that he was in hospital at Codford when he said he was there, because there was no hospital for pneumonia patients, although the soldier avers that he then suffered from pneumonia. The man concerned has been living on charity, and is now dying. Another, who was living at Galway Gardens, a suburb in Adelaide, died a fortnight ago. He could not obtain assistance because he could not prove that he was ill in England or in France. He has since been buried in the Westterrace Cemetery, and did not receive even one penny in the way of some compensation for what he suffered.
– I realize that the amendment before the Chair is to reduce the vote by £1, but I am speaking on the items, and, in doing so, am endeavouring to explain, as I have done on previous occasions, the manner in which our returned soldiers have been treated. I am making a comparison between those who went away and those who stayed at home and juggled with money to such an extent that we have now to shoulder a war liability of over £400,000,000.
– I subscribed as much to war loans as the honorable member.
– The honorable member subscribed more, because he had the money. I contributed one-third of what I was worth, which was all I could afford; and when I put my bond in to the bank, I said I did not want any interest, and I did not take any.
– The honorable member offered his life.
– I am not mentioning that. I do not want anything for myself, but have always said that every one suffering from war disabilities should be fairly treated by the Government. The liability is a diminishing one, as it will cease to exist before very many years, but our loan liabilities will never cease. There is another case which I wish to place on record. A lady was sent to me by a school teacher, who, I presume, was made aware of her position by the children who attended the school. Her husband had blown out his brains. She went to the repatriation office to apply for a war widow’s pension, and she was told that her husband was not killed in action. She told me that he had not had fi day’s good health since he returned. He had been in Bedford Park Sanatorium, and eventually he finished the work that Fritz had begun. Yet they had the effrontery to tell her that he was not killed in action! If that is so, then I do not know of any man who was. When I made representations, the pension was granted to her. It should not be left to any member of Parliament to speak on behalf of an incapacitated soldier who has seen service in the line. I hope that the Government will agree to an inquiry being instituted so that those who contributed funds for the prosecution of the war will be subject to the treatment that is meted out to the soldiers who actually did the fighting. When a soldier seeks a pension he has to prove up to the hilt that he is clean. If he has come back with syphilis he is told that that is not a war complaint. By heaven, it was! These officials ought to have experienced the temptations to which the men were subjected. If the Government did the right thing it would say, “ That is our concern. If you had not gone oversea you would not have contracted that disease, because you would not have been subjected to the temptation.” I have been amongst these things. I am not a painted lily. I saw all that there was to be seen whilst I was over there. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to succour to the end every soldier who is suffering from any complaint.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Coleman’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from Senate, and (on motion by Mr.Bruce) read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250903_reps_9_111/>.