9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– No doubt the Prime Minister has seen that hundreds of warrants have been issued for the arrest of British seamen who are being placed in gaol. Can the right honorable gentleman get into communication with the shipping companies to prevent, if possible, any further action to degrade these men by putting them into gaol!
– The matter to which the honorable member’s question refers is, of course, quite outside the influence of the Commonwealth Government. The shipping companies are operating under the Merchant Shipping Act of Great Britain; their head office is there, and their policy is controlled there. This is not a matter in connexion with which the Commonwealth Government has any power to interfere.
– In view of his statements and comments at Wonthaggi, Dandenong, and Brunswick in connexion with the investigation of the Deportation Board appointed to decide whether certain citizens who are trade union officials should bedeported from Australia, is it the intention of the Prime Minister to attend and give evidence before the Board at Sydney? Further, in view of the well-established custom of refraining from making comment calculated to prejudice the fair trial of accused persons, will the right honorable gentleman cease to condemn the men who are now standing their trial before the Deportation Board?
– If the honorable member had read my speeches with the care which I think he should have devoted to them, he would have found that I have said nothing with regard to the investigation by the Deportation Board, and nothing prejudicial to the fair trial of any one.
– Recently in this House the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration made a long statement in reply to a question by me regarding measures for the eradication of the tick pest, and the atttiude of the Commonwealth Government in the matter. The attention of the Minister for Agriculture for New South Wales was drawn to the statement, and he said, in reply to a question put to him on the subject in Parliament, “There is no truth at all in the statement made by Mr. Atkinson.” Later on he said -
He wanted to refute the statements made by Mr. Atkinson and Dr. Earle Page that the Commonwealth Government is waiting for the States to do their share, and that the States have repudiated their part of the bargain. The fact was that the States had waited year in and year out for the Commonwealth to carry out its part of the contract, and the Federal authorities had done nothing.
Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Atkinson) direct the attention of the Minister for Markets and Migration to the charge made by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture that incorrect information was given to this House in reply to the question I asked on this subject?
– I shall be only too glad to bring the observations of the honorable member under the notice of the Minister for Markets and Migration. I should like the honorable member to supply me with all documents and papers in the matter in order that the Minister may know exactly what is the charge to which he is asked to reply. The statement I made here in reply to the honorable member’s question was a long statement made in good faith. I believed at the time, and still believe that it was quite true in every particular.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister in regard to the speech which I delivered at Dandenong, and which he has described as “tragically weak,” whether he gained that impression of it from the condensed and, to some extent, distorted report which appeared in a partisan section of the press of this country, or after having had an opportunity to peruse the speech itself? If he has not read a full report of the speech, I invite him to consult some of his chief supporters at Dandenong to discover what they think of his address and of mine.
– The comment which I made was based upon the only information I had, namely, what I learned from the press.
– I thought so.
– While I need hardly say that it hurt me very much to make such comment, a sense of public duty compelled me to do so.
kirkpatrick v. war service homes Commissioner.
– The statement has appeared in the public press that asettlement has been arrived at in the case of Kirkpatrick versus the War Service Homes Commissioner. I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is in a position to make known the basis of the settlement?
– A settlement has been arrived at on the following terms: - The respondent to pay to the War Service Homes Commissioner the sum of £10,000 in full settlement of all claims and demands of the Commonwealth and the War Service Homes Commissioner against Herwald G. Kirkpatrick, and/or the firm of John and Herwald G. Kirkpatrick, and/or J. K. Miller, and/or the estate of the late John Kirkpatrick in respect of the building of War Service Homes by the Commissioner; all actions by the War Service Homes Commissioner against the firm of John and Herwald G. Kirkpatrick to be discontinued; the action instituted in the High Court by Herwald G. Kirkpatrick and John Miller to be discontinued; the parties to pay their own costs.
– I ask leave to make a brief statement with reference to a question I asked yesterday.
– Does the honorable member wish to make a personal explanation ?
– No, I am asking leave to make a statement.
– I object.
– There being an objection, leave is refused.
– Then I have a statement to make by way of personal explanation. I thought that perhaps the Prime Minister would give me the opportunity to deal with the matter in the way in which it ought to be dealt with. The matter on which I desire to make a personal explanation is the insult which has been uttered by the Prime Minister against the Public Service of this country and against me as a member of this House. Yesterday, realizing my responsibilities as a public man, I feltcompelled to direct the atten tion of yourself, sir, and the country, generally, to what I considered to be a gross misappropriation of public funds. I considered that it was my bounden duty as a public man to do that. I discovered that public funds were being used for party political purposes, and it was my clear duty to draw attention to such a reprehensible practice and have it stopped. I resent very strongly the Prime Minister’s insult to myself and the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The insult to the postal employees is entirely unjustified. The information I obtained was not secured through any member of the Postal Department or any other member of the Public Service. I give you, Mr. Speaker, my personal assurance on that point. If the Prime Minister wants an investigation he may have it when and where he likes. The information, I repeat, did not come to me from any member of the Service, and I take this opportunity of publicly vindicating the honour of the public servants of this country. I am insulted by the suggestion that I induced a member of the Service to break his oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth. The facts of the case are that public money has been used, deliberately, by this Government for party political purposes. As a public man . I had a duty to perform, and I felt called upon to expose such conduct. The Leader of the Government cannot escape from his responsibilities by hurling insults at me and at members of the Public Service. The charge that I have made is either true or untrue, and the gravamen of it is that the Prime Minister’s Department has deliberately misused public funds. I make that statement deliberately, realizing my responsibility.
– And has misused public servants.
– And, furthermore, the department has misused the Public Service of this country. I consider it disgraceful that public servants should be compelled to disseminate anti-Labour dope.
– Order ! The honorable member is now slightly exceeding the limits of a personal explanation.
– But, sir, a deliberate insult to myself has been uttered.
– Mock heroics!
– Nothing of the sort. I am just as honorable as the honorable member or the Prime Minister. Do honorable members opposite stand for the misappropriation of public funds? What would be said if a Labour Government were in power and acted similarly ?
– A set of political burglars !
– I am loath to check the honorable member for Dalley. The indulgence of the House is invariably granted to an honorable member who feels that he has been misrepresented by something which has been said either inside or outside this chamber ; but he may not introduce new matter, and thus initiate a debate to which there can be no reply. I therefore ask the honorable member to confine himself strictly within the limits of a personal explanation.
– I shall comply with your request, sir. I base my explanation on the Prime Minister’s remarks of yesterday, and the statement appearing in the press that I have demeaned myself in inducing a member of the Public Service to break his oath. As I have already assured you, sir, no member of the Public Service gave me the information, or even approached me directly or indirectly. If the Prime Minister is anxious to elicit the truth, let him send for his Ministers and supporters and ask them individually and collectively to examine their own consciences.
– I desire to make a personal explanation with regard to the remarks that I made yesterday concerning the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I understood then that he did not challenge the suggestion that he had obtained the information from a member of the Public Service I am extremely glad to learn now that the information was not obtained from that source. Equally with the honorable member. I am desirous that the honour of the Public Service shall be vindicated against any suggestion to the contrary. A departmental committee has been constituted to inquire into this matter. I am sure that, in view of what the honorable member has said, he will be prepared to tell that committee the source of his information, which, prima facie, could conceivably have been known only to public servants, so that the public may know that the conduct and honour of the Service have been vindicated.
– With regard to information that has reached me, that an inquiry is to take place with reference to some observation made yesterday by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) affecting the conduct of the Government, and incidentally that of some member of the Public Service, I desire to ask the Prime Minister if he will assure the House that the inquiry will be wide enough in its scope to enable the more important question, as to whether or not the allegations by the honorable member - matters of substance - were true, to be investigated?
– The honorable member is apparently under some misapprehension. In reply to the question addressed to me yesterday by the honorable member for Dalley, I said that the ordinary procedure in giving publicity to important public statements of the Prime Minister had been followed.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House who will comprise the board that is to make this inquiry?
– The permanent heads of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Prime Minister’s Department, together with Mr. Knowles, of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– I understand that the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Queensland has not received instructions regarding the Government’s decision, as recently stated by the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse), to grant a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. a week to ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force suffering from tuberculosis. Will the Minister state when effect will be given to this decision ?
-In anticipation of the regulations dealing with this matter, the Deputy Commissioner has been instructed to put the decision of the Government into effect, and make it retrospective.
– On the 25th August, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), in reply to a question in regard to the wages being paid by the Postal Department in South Australia, stated that the new basic wage of14s. 5d. per day had been paid as from the13th August, 1925. I have before me a letter from a returned soldier employee in South Australia, who points out that the returned soldiers who were appointed under Mr. Blundell’s amendment in 1922 were not in any one instance receiving this basic wage, but were still paid considerably less than that sum, notwithstanding their average service, including temporary employment, of eight years. Will the Postmaster-General ascertain the facts of the case before making such statements as that to which I have referred?
– The year is not 1925 but 1924.
– That makes the matter worse. Will the Minister see that the basic wage is paid generally?
– In asking the honorable member to place his question on the notice-paper, I may explain that an error of 2d. was made in the reply given in the Senate.
Medical Services : Sale of Expropriated Properties
– Will the Prime Miniter secure from Rabaul the file dealing with the recentreconstruction of the medical services in the mandated territories, and have it placed on the table of the House or the Library, and will he treat the matter as one of urgency?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Home and Territories.
– Has a date been fixed for the sale of expropriated properties in New Guinea?
– The catalogue of properties to be offered for sale is now. in the hands of the printer, and is almost ready for circulation. As soon as arrangements are completed the date will be announced.
– With regard to a board, known as the Deportation Board, which is now sitting in Sydney taking evidence as to the private and public characters of certain individuals from the time of their coming to the use of reason, if any, to the present, I ask the Prime Minister whether he contemplates taking proceedings against a person named
William M. Hughes, who, I understand, bought a second-hand cannon many years ago to further his revolutionary purposes, and was not. born in Australia, though he is still functioning here?
– It should be obvious to the honorable member, who belongs to the legal profession, that whatever the Government’s intentions might be in regard to any individual, they would not be disclosed before action was taken.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the present hold-up of shipping is confined to British ships, or whether French, German, Japanese, and other foreign vessels are also being held up?
– It is only British ships that are held up, and only British trade that is being dislocated. The vessels of all other countries are trading freely to and from Australia.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that the markers on the Port Adelaide rifle range are being paid the magnificent sum of 7s. 6d. for the afternoon’s work?
– The form in which the honorable member is putting his question is not in order
– Will the Minister make inquiries to ascertain whether the markers at the Port Adelaide rifle range are being paid an adequate sum for the services they render everyafternoon on which the range is in use ?
– I shall have inquiries made, and when the information is available I shall furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– For the information of honorable members, I think I should read Standing Order 93, which deals with questions to Ministers. Standing Order 92 prescribes when questions may be put, and Standing Order 93 employs these words, which I ask honorable members to be good enough to recollect for future use : -
In putting any such question no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor any facts stated, except so faras may be necessary to explain such question.
Mail Service and Wireless Communication
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The House of Representatives having passed a resolution that, in the opinion of the House, a Royal Commission should be appointed to make inquiries into the administration of Norfolk Island, will he extend such power to the Commission as will permit of inquiries being made into the mail service and wireless communication with Lord Howe Island?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will receive consideration.
Tenders: Tunnels, Bridges, and Culverts
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The whole matter is still under consideration of the council appointed by the Grafton-South Brisbane Railway Act.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether ho will have a statement prepared showing the relative anticipated costs of constructing the necessary tunnels, bridges, and culverts on the Brisbane-Kyogle Railway for single and double track respectively?
– Under the agreement embodied in the Grafton-South Brisbane Railway Act, this is a matter for determination by the council charged under the agreement with the construction.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-I have referred the honorable member’s questions to the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, and on receipt of a reply, he will be further advised.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
. -I beg to lay upon the table of the House the following reports of the Tariff Board : -
I move -
That the reports on towels and towelling and mining machinery parts be printed.
– What about the report on timber?
– That will be brought down to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported .
Message recommending appropriation reported.
The following paper was presented: -
Debate resumed from 16th September (vide page 2499), on motion by Mr. Marr -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of the bill is to enfranchise Asiatics who are domiciled in Australia. This matter has received some attention during the last few years. Many of us remember that when Dr. Sastri was here, he made an eloquent appeal for the enfranchisement of his fellow-Indians who were resident in Australia. Subsequently this matter was discussed at the Imperial Conference, and I think I am right in stating that it recommended that full citizen rights should be given to Asiatics within the British Empire. I have no objection to the bill, because it is only fair to permit those Asiatics who are domiciled in Australia to have the rights of full citizenship. They certainly have a right to the vote. It does not follow that because we exclude Asiatics from Australia, and have done so for many years, we should deny to those who are domiciled here a right that we enjoy ourselves. The franchise has already been given to these people in some of the States.
– In South Australia, and, I think, Western Australia.
– And in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
– I am safe in stating that Asiatic residents enjoy the right to vote at most State elections. The Commonwealth therefore should not deny to them the right to vote at the Federal elections. In passing the bill, we shall be doing long-deferred justice. According to the Minister’s statement many Asiatics were enrolled in Australia in 1902, and subsequently, through not paying sufficient attention to their enrolment, and perhaps because of moving from one place to another, their enrolment lapsed, and they do not now enjoy the privilege that they had when the Commonwealth first came into existence. It is, therefore, only fair that we should now legislate to allow these people to exercise the franchise.. After all, there is no great number of them in the Commonwealth. The Minister has stated that there are about 2,300 Indians, and from 270 to 280 Syrians scattered throughout the Commonwealth. It matters not in what way we regard these people. They are citizens of Australia, and we must deal out even-handed justice to them. There is also to be provision made to meet the case of members of this Parliament themselves, which will appeal to all of us.* As the law stands now, when this Parliament meets at Canberra, honorable members who are domiciled there will not be eligible to contest a Federal election. It is essential that this anomaly should be rectified, and for this purpose the Minister has circulated among honorable members an amendment that will be dealt with in committee. Today an honorable member may enroll for a subdivision within an electorate, but the position will be different when he is domiciled at Canberra, because it is in Commonwealth territory. The Minister is wisely making provision to allow any honorable member who happens to reside at Canberra in the future to contest a Federal seat. The bill has my support.
– I am entirely in accord with the object of the bill, and was delighted to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) give it his unqualified support. It is purely a non-party measure, and is long overdue so far as the enfranchisement of British Indians is concerned. It was my good fortune to hear this matter discussed at two or three Imperial conferences, and as early as 1917 a resolution was carried unanimously - Australia was absent at the time - in favour of the enfranchisement of British Indians already domiciled within the British Empire. Honorable members will recollect the admirable speech delivered by Dr. Sastri, which demolished the arguments which had previously been used against such enfranchisement. It left in our minds the conviction that we were in the presence of the representative of a race whose mental equipment, if Ave were to judge it by his, was at least equal to our own. Although we are apt to regard ourselves as the salt of the earth and all other nations as dust beneath our feet, this representative of a great people, speaking in a language alien to his own, showed a complete command over a vocabulary which would have put to shame that of 99 per cent, of the natives of the English speaking parts of the Empire. The en- . franchisement of British Indians will give pleasure to Dr. Sastri, and to millions of people in India; it will certainly five pleasure and satisfaction to all those Indians who are living within the Commonwealth. It will give them the assurance that the Empire is something more than a name, and that, although for various reasons we are unable to admit large numbers of Indians into this country, still we treat on an equality with ourselves those who have made their homes amongst us. I am not blind to the fact that this concession will involve us in no difficulties. We are told that the Indians who will be enfranchised by the measure number only 2,300. That number has been nearly stationary for some years; probably it is diminishing, but it is not, so far as I know, increasing. Thus we are able to do justice and give satisfaction to our Indian fellowcitizens of the Empire without disturbing in any way that political poise which is essential to the policy of this country. The other provisions of the bill are necessary to keep pace with the development of the country, and will commend themselves to honorable members.
.- I have just a few words to say regarding the proposed new clause that has been circulated by the Minister to enable persons resident at Canberra to become candidates for the Federal Parliament. The amendment might go a little further and give to those people who are resident in Canberra the right to cast a vote in Federal elections. A senator has the right to be enrolled for any division in his State, and a member of this House may be enrolled for any subdivision of his electorate. Following the same principle we might allow single men residing in Canberra the right to record a vote in, say, the electorate in which their homes are situated or in which their parents reside. Those men came from different parts of the Commonwealth, and I realize that all of them could not be allowed to enroll for any one electorate, but they should not be entirely disfranchised. At the present time they cannot participate in State or Federal elections. They are isolated; they are in Australia, but not of it. They are thus deprived of all interest in the government of their own country. The House must realize the justice of giving the full privileges of citizenship to those people; indeed, that is a logical development of the amendment which the Minister has circulated to make people living in the Federal Capital area eligible to contest Federal elections.
.- I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to inform me whether it will confer the franchise upon men who came from Indian native States. Nearly half the country known as India is divided into independent States ruled by native potentates. Amongst them are Bhutan, Nepal, Patiala, and Kashmir; Men from Indian native States and Afghanistan have done good work in the back country of Australia, and should not be discriminated against. I should like to know also whether Asiatic Jews will be eligible to exercise the franchise.
– I hope that the suggestion made by the honorable member for Werriwa will be favorably considered by the Government. When the Seat of Government is transferred to Canberra our wives and families will be resident there, and if they are deprived of a vote they will occupy a very anomalous position. Canberra, soon after its occupation by this Parliament, will have a population of approximately 5,000, and as the years pass that number will be very substantially increased. It would be a crime to deprive all residents of the Federal Capital Territory of the right to exercise a vote at Commonwealth elections. -Houses are being sold there now as quicklyas they can be built. People are leaving Queanbeyan to live in Canberra. It will be a great drawback if the residents of the Federal Capital Territory are deprived of the franchise. They will insist upon the right to vote at Federal elections. This is not a party manner. Every one in Australia should be on an equal footing in regard to the election of members to this
Parliament. I urge the advisability of providing that those who live in Canberra shall be allowed to exercise the franchise in relation to the constituency in which they were formerly enrolled, until provision is made to enable them to vote as residents of the Federal Capital Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section thirty-nine of the principal act is amended by inserting in sub-section 5 thereof after the word “Asia” the words “ (except British India).”
– I move -
That the words “ inserting in sub-section 5 thereof after the word ‘ Asia ‘ the words ‘ (except British India) ‘ “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ omitting from sub-section 5 thereof the words ‘ unless so entitled under section forty-one of the Constitution ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ unless -
he is so entitled under section forty- one of the Constitution;
he is a person to whom a certificate of naturalization has been issued under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State and that certificate is still in force, or is a person who obtained British nationality by virtue of the issue of any such certificate ‘ “.
With the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), I quite agree that the increase in population will make it essential to give some sort of representation in this Parliament to the residents of the Federal Capital Territory. The Government is considering that matter.
– They could be enrolled for the constituency of Eden-Monaro.
– Representation cannot be given to them under this bill; it must be done by a special act, as was found necessary in the case of the Northern Territory.
– Is it not ridiculous that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) should have the right to speak but not to vote?
– It will be for the Parliament to decide whether the representation of those who reside in the Federal
Capital Territory shall be similar to that of the inhabitants of the Northern Territory.
– Is it the intention of the Government to bring down a bill for the purpose?
– I cannot say. All that I can at present tell honorable members is that the Government is considering the matter.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Marr) proposed -
That the following new clause be added : -
Section forty-one of the principal Act is amended -
.- I am sorry that the Minister is unable to accept the suggestion of several honorable members, that provision should be made in this bill for the representation in the Commonwealth Parliament of residents of the Federal Capital Territory. He has said that that can be done only by a special act of Parliament. I did not suggest an additional member for the Federal Capital Territory. I do not think that the population there is sufficiently great to warrant that. But, I do not want the people of the Territory to have a restricted representation, such as has been given to the people of the Northern Territory. There is no analogy between the two cases. For a number of years the government of the Northern Territory was in the hands of an administrator, but, because of the difficulties that were constantly arising, the Government found it necessary to accord to its inhabitants the right to send to this Parliament some one who could give expression to their views and supply accurate information in relation to the Territory. The Federal Capital Territory is an altogether different proposition. Those who live there are concerned in the government of the Commonwealth. Many of them have their homes outside the Territory, though they are forced by economic circumstances to seek a livelihood within it. If returned at the nextelection, I intend to live at Canberra. I should then have the right to speak and to vote in Parliament, but my wife, if she lives there, will not have the franchise. The position is absurd, and unless some action is taken people will not care to live in the Federal Capital Territory. It may be said that the citizens of Washington do not complain of this disability, but I suggest that no people in the world value the franchise privileges so highly as do the citizens of Australia.
– It cannot be done under this amending bill.
– Surely if the disqualification of candidates for Parliament who may reside in the Territory can be removed by an amendment, it should be possible also to give the franchise to citizens of the Capital City area. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and I have been giving this matter close attention for some time. We thought that there were constitutional difficulties in the way, but I understand that the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) holds a different opinion. I trust, therefore, that the Government will take some steps to give the people living in the Federal Capital Territory an opportunity to exercise the franchise.
. -I point out to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that this bill seeks to amend the Commonwealth electoral machineryby providing for the qualification of certain persons, and removing a disqualification of persons living in the Federal Territory from representing the people in Parliament. The honorable member is seeking to incorporate in the bill an electoral distribution scheme, by which persons livingin the Capital City area shall have the right to vote in an electoratein which they do not reside and to which they do not belong.
Mr.E. Riley. - They will be citizens of the Commonwealth.
– Yes; but they will not be living within any State, and assuming that the population of Canberra may one day reach 60,000 people, there can be no justification for the Commonwealth adding them to other constituencies. The present scheme of electoral representation provides for the distribution of the representation equitably amongst the different States. It is not desirable, in a measure, to amend the electoral machinery of the Commonwealth to increase the number of electors in constituencies in this way. Every one will sympathize with citizens of the Capital City area who may not have the right to vote; but I may remind honorable members that when the demand was -made for adult suffrage, advocates of the proposal suggested that persons who, till then, were not qualified to vote, were suffering under some extraordinary grievance. Experience now has shown that the privilege has not been properly appreciated, and to ensure that all citizens of the Commonwealth shall exercise the franchise, a system of compulsory voting has had to be introduced.
– But what is the intention of the Government?
– I cannot say what the policy will be, but personally, I do not like to see any part of Australia unrepresented. I should like to see Canberra develop so rapidly that before long the people living there would have a just claim for representation in this Federal Parliament; but we cannot give them that privilege in this measure.
– Even then the Constitution would have to be altered.
– No; this Parliament has power to make laws for the government of a territory of the Commonwealth, but any such action would be outside the scope of this amending bill. The Government is removing the disqualification from persons resident in Canberra by providing that any citizen of the Federal Capital Territory may be eligible to stand forany constituency in Australia if the people of such constituency desire his or her services.
– While there may be much in what the Attorney-General has said, we should make provision at a reasonably early date for residents of the Federal Capita] Territory to have representation in this Parliament. When the Commonwealth took oyer the Northern Territory from South Australia, the attempt was made for many years to govern that portion of Australia without representation. It was not until a few years ago that the people living there were able to voice their opinions in this House through their elected representative. We are anticipating that Canberra will develop very rapidly. It is only right, therefore, that persons living in the Territory should have representation in this Parliament. People who have been accustomed to exercise the franchise will be under a great disability when they take up their residence in the Capital City area. There is nothing so repugnant to Australians as to be denied the right of parliamentary representation. Since it is not possible to attach thepeople living in the Federal Capital Territory to an adjacent constituency, we should do the next best thing, and give them the right to elect their own representative to this Parliament.
– I can understand that an officer transferred temporarily to the Federal Capital would retain his domicile in the electorate where his family remained, and would be entitled to vote there.
– That is understood.
– If a man was absent from Melbourne for six or nine months, and his wife and family were still in Melbourne, he could still claim the right to vote in Melbourne. Residents in the Federal Capital Territory are liable to State and Federal taxation.
– Residents in a Federal Territory are subject to Federal, but not to State, taxation.
– It is an accepted principle that taxation without representation is unfair.
– A Federal law can authorize State taxation.
– But it does not.
– How many people will have to reside at Canberra before it will be considered that they are entitled to parliamentary representation ?
– The question will become urgent when they equal the quota of an electorate.
– People will not submit to taxation, and obey the laws of this Parliament, without having representation here. I can imagine that if the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was transferred to Canberra, and became domiciled there, he would call public meetings, and demand that his political rights should be restored. I am certain that public meetings will be held at Canberra to demand parliamentary representation.
– We may safely depend on that.
– To be denied the right to vote is to be cast politically into gaol. Some method must be devised whereby all the citizens of this country will be given equal political rights.
.- Is any protection afforded to the public servant who is forced by the Government to go to Canberra, not permanently, but for a portion of each year? Under the existing regulations, the Divisional Returning Officer can remove from the roll the name of a man who has gone to another place to work, although he has left his family behind him. If a man obtains employment away from his home, and, after a brief period, does not return, the Divisional Returning Officer may remove his name from the roll. Will a public servant temporarily transferred from Melbourne to Canberra retain the right to vote in Melbourne? Provision for him to do so could be made by regulation. A member of Parliament may be compelled”, by his parliamentary duties, to remove his family to Canberra for a considerable period of each year, but the members of that family ought not to lose their right to vote in their home town.
. - A public servant has the same political rights as any one else. The honorable member has raised a question that is not relevant to the issue before the committee, but, as it is important, I shall reply to it. A man is entitled to vote where he lives, and “ Where does he live ?” is simply a question of fact. The general rule is that a man lives where his home is and where his wife lives. There are many people in Australia who, because they follow seasonal occupations, spend a lot of time away from their homes, but their domicile remains where their families live. That question is constantly being raised in the shearing and sugar industries in Queensland, and, no doubt, also to a less extent in farming occupations in Victoria and the other States. A man’s name is not removed from the roll until he has acquired a place of living in another electorate.
– Is the Minister sure of that!
– It is the general rule.
– It is not by any means the general practice.
– If a public servant goes to Canberra temporarily, and his wife and family remain in Melbourne, his home is still in Melbourne; but if ho is permanently transferred to Canberra, his home is then in Canberra.
– if a man is away from his home for a certain time, his right to vote is challenged.
– His right to vote may be challenged, but that does not necessarily take away that right.
– But his name is removed from the roll as a result of the challenge. I am certain of that.
– If his name is placed on another roll, it must, of course, be removed from the first roll. As a rule, an elector’s name is not removed from a roll except in pursuance of an objection or by transfer. I know it is the rule of the department that if a man works away from his home, his name remains on the roll for the electorate in which his family lives and to which he intends to return.
– If an elector’s name is removed from the roll he loses his right to vote.
– Not if he re-enrolls elsewhere.
– But there will be no electoral roll at Canberra.
– I am speaking of the general law, and showing how it will affect temporary residents in the Federal Capital Territory. An elector who abandons his domicile in some other portion of the Commonwealth to make Canberra his home, of course, cannot be enrolled. The question of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) related to public servants temporarily residing in the Federal Capital Territory. They and other persons residing only temporarily in the Federal Capital Territory would be enrolled for the constituencies in which they lived.
– The difficulty is to define the meaning of “temporary.”
– That must be determined by the electoral authorities. The franchise of a public servant who was sent to Canberra for a period, and was later to return to his permanent place of residence elsewhere would be fully protected.
– As the Government will require public servants to go to Canberra it should not compulsorily disfranchise them.
– Those who are sent to Canberra only for a time will not lose the franchise; their names will not be removed from the rolls of the constituencies in which they permanently reside. The question to be determined is whether an elector has ceased to live in the division for which he is enrolled.
– All the single men sent to Canberra will lose the franchise.
– If a person elects to reside permanently in the Federal Capital Territory as a member of the Public Service because of the remuneration’ paid to him for the performance of duties there he will lose the franchise. The discussion is really irrelevant to this measure. I have explained the position in answer to the question of the honorable member for Wakefield. The whole discussion has arisen in consequence of our desire to meet the wishes of an honorable member.
.- I am flattered by the statement of the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) that the provision under discussion has been brought forward to meet the wishes of one honorable member. The honorable gentleman has apparently misunderstood the point I raised when speaking on the second reading of the bill. I did not suggest, as the Minister contends, that the whole of the residents in the Federal Capital Territory should be attachedto some particular electorate. As provision has been made for allowing persons resident in the Federal Capital Territoryto nominate for the Federal Parliament, provision should also be made allowing persons resident in the Territory to exercise the Commonwealth franchise, and I intend to submit an amendment which I believe will meet the case. The practice at present is that if an elector is absent for one month from theplace in which he has been residing, his name is automatically removed from the roll, whether he is enrolled for some other division or not.
– The name of an elector is not removed from the roll until a notice of objection has been sent to him. If an elector does not reply to such a notice, and allows the matter to go by default, that is his responsibility.
– I understood the Attorney-General to say that the name of an elector was not removed from the roll until it was automatically transferred to another roll.
– When an elector’s name is transferred to another roll, it is automatically taken off the roll on which it previously appeared.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the officers of the Postal Department are operating in conjunction with the Electoral Department, and that postmen receive l1/2d. for every name removed from the roll owing to a change of address? On the report of postmen names are removed from the roll.
– That is a fact. It is done in many instances.
– If a person has left the address at which he is enrolled, he cannot receive and reply to the notice of objection, and consequently his name is removed from the roll. I move -
That the following new sub-section be added and (c) and any person qualified as a voter in other respects who lives in the Territory for the Seat of Government, if he so desires, may have his name placed upon and retained upon the roll for any subdivision in the State for which such person would have been entitled to be enrolled but for his residence in the Territory for the Seat of Government.”
If an elector living in any subdivision in the Commonwealth were permanently transferred to Canberra, he could, under the amendment, elect to be enrolled in the subdivision in which he previously lived and exercise his vote by post. All that would be necessary would be a polling booth at the Seat of Government, and facilities to be provided for postal voting to enable such an elector to vote in the subdivision in which he previously resided. That would not affect any redistribution scheme, as it would not mean 3,000 or 4,000 additional votes being cast in any particular division. Electors permanently transferred to Canberra should have the right to retain their name on the rolls of the subdivisions in which they lived until they desired them to be removed.
– I believe the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) will admit that the amendment is relevant. Many honorable members have no intention of residing permanently in the Federal Capital Territory, but if they should remain there for three months, their names will be removed from the roll. If the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzanni) is adopted, persons transferred to Canberra will be able to exercise the franchise. Why should public servants who are compelled to go to Canberra be deprived of the right to vote? It is not fair to ask them to go there under such conditions. The amendment is not unconstitutional, and even if it is, who will contest the point? It is well known that postmen receive l1/2d. each for supplying the returning officer with the names of persons who have left the district. Those persons are thereupon disfranchised. I hope that the amendment will be carried, so that the public servants who live at Canberra may not be deprived of their existing rights as electors. In most cases they will not go to Canberra from choice, and they should not be disfranchised because of their residence there.
– The amendment before the committee will not apply to public servants only, but to all persons who reside at Canberra. If residents of Canberra are to be entitled to vote as electors of the constituency from which they came, difficulties will arise; but the real point is that the principle is wrong. The principle underlying the electoral laws of the Commonwealth is that a person shall vote for the division in which he lives. If a man leaves another portion of the Commonwealth to reside permanently at Canberra, where special conditions prevail, he must accept the conditions applying to that area. It is not right that people should be allowed to vote for a constituency in which they haveceased to reside. With just as much reason could it be claimed that a man who leaves Western Australia to reside in Queensland should be permitted to vote for the Western Australian constituency which he left.
– A man who goes to Queensland from Western Australia is not deprived of his vote.
– Regarding the treatment of electors who have temporarily left their homes, I have had inquiries made, and find that the administration is in accordance with the law ; if a man is transferred temporarily to another district, and intends later to return to his home, he retains his right to vote for the constituency in which his home is situated. His name is not removed from the roll. No name is removed from the roll unless it is transferred to another roll, or until the elector has been served with a notice of objection.
– That is not so in many instances.
– Officers of the. department, whom I have just consulted, inform me that that is the practice.
– Every Divisional Re- . turning Officer is continuously looking for these cases.
– It is his duty to keep the roll clean. There may be individual cases of hardship, but it must be remembered that the department is dealing with thousands of electors. I ask the committee to reject the amendment because the principle underlying it is wrong.
.- The argument of the Attorney-General does not meet the case at all. Something should certainly be done along the lines indicated by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). We have in Australia a section of people resident in the territory of the future Seat of Government who are disfranchised because of the very fact of their residence there.
– The same thing applied in the Northern Territory also.
– It is true that a similar objectionable practice prevailed for many years in respect of the Northern Territory. Even now the position has been only inadequately dealt with. It is an affront to the residents of the Northern Territory that their representative in this Parliament is forbidden to take any part in the decisions arrived at in this chamber. But their condition is preferable to that of permanent residents in the territory of the future Seat of Government. It is amazing to find the AttorneyGeneral arguing that persons who go to reside in that Territory must be prepared to suffer disabilities because of their residence there. Apparently, the Minister assumes that on taking up their residence there they cease to be interested in the State or electorate from which they came. That seems almost an insult to our intelligence. This is an Australian Parliament, having Australian obligations, and its electors have Australian, and not merely local, interests. I admit that this is a difficult situation to overcome; and no doubt the honorable member for Werriwa recognizes that his proposal is far from being an ideal one. It is, however, a practical proposal, as, if agreed to, the residents in the territory of the future Seat of Government will not be disfranchised. I do not think that any question of the constitutionality of the amendment can arise, because, if I remember rightly, the provisions in the Constitution are subject to the later decisions of this Parliament in this regard. I hope that, on reconsideration, the Attorney-General will accept the amendment. I am surprised that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr), who professes to have a great interest in the development of the Federal Capital Territory, should meekly accept a condition under which the permanent residents of that Territory are to be deprived of their votes.
– The Constitution cannot come to the rescue of the Government.
– It has never been seriously argued that the Constitution places obstacles in the way. We dealt with the Northern Territory, and we can deal with the Federal Capital Territory.
– It could be done by direct legislation.
– It is immaterial to me, and, I suppose, also to other honorable members, whether.it is done directly or indirectly. Does the honorable mem ber for Swan suggest that we may not deal with the general question of the franchise for the residents in the Federal Capital Territory.
– I suggest that what is proposed is rather a policy of expediency.
– I suggest that itis a counsel of justice and propriety. We shall be starting off. very badly in the Federal Capital Territory if citizens of the Commonwealth resident there are to be deprived of citizen rights, and may not exercise the franchise. We take all sorts of care to safeguard the individual rights of the members of the Parliament and of aspirants for membership of the Parliament. With the opening of sessions of this Parliament at the Federal Capital there will naturally be a large increase in the population there. It would be regarded as an inspiration on the part of the Government if it took this opportunity to enfranchise the residents of the Federal Capital Territory. It seems to me that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Werriwa has been well conceived, carefully thought out, and meets the case as it should be met. I repeat that the honorable member for Parkes especially should be the last to derogate from the rights from the residents of the Federal Capital City.
– The honorable member’s “ holy city.”
– As the honorable member suggests, it is no doubt the “ holy city “ of the honorable member for Parkes, but on political grounds rather than personal association withholiness the honorable member should see that effect is given to the amendment.
– Perhaps the best way to keep the capital city holy is to . keep politics out of it.
– That would appear to be impossible; but something of a useful character might be achieved by keeping certain politicians out of it, and no doubt that will be attended to at the next elections
– Iam surprised that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) should advocate a policy of expediency without considering the amendment from a constitutional point of view.’ No one desires to disfranchise any person who goes to Canberra, but it would be very bad policy to admit as a principle that persons who have left a particular constituency for over twelve months may still record votes as electors of that constituency. Residents of the Federal Capital Territory might be permitted to vote for a New South Wales constituency until the population of the place is sufficient to warrant the return of a special representative. If the amendment were adopted persons going to the Federal Capital from Sydney, Melbourne, or Adelaide might reside there for eight or ten years and still be able to vote for the constituencies from which they came.
– We might regard the Federal Capital Territory as a suburb of an adjoining New South Wales electoral district.
– That is so. I am pointing out that the amendment is submitted as a matter of expediency rather than of sound judgment.
– The residents of the Federal Capital Territory will be concerned with national politics, and not with the local interests ofa particular constituency.
– I ask the honorable member to look forward for six or seven years. There are about 2,000 people in the Federal Capital Territory now, and next year there will be probably 3,500 or 4,000. Under the amendment all these people will be enrolled for various electoral districts in Australia, and, being on the rolls, will be capable of voting for those places for the next six years. The matter could be better dealt with by a special resolution. There is no doubt that some means should be devised to enfranchise residents of the Federal Capital Territory. If a special resolution to that effect were submitted, I should support it willingly. It is unfair and unjust that every person who has to go to the Federal Capital Territory should be disfranchised. I have often thought that the Northern. Territory should have been attached to some South Australian constituency, in order to give the residents a say in the conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Werriwa is not going the right way about the matter. We ought to consider whether some means consistent with our electoral law cannot be adopted to enable residents in the Federal Capital Territory to exercise the franchise.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Lazzarini’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th July (vide page 1279) on motion by Dr. Earle Page-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill contains two provisions, one dealing with co-operative societies, and the other with the appointment of a board of review in order to rectify an anomaly that has arisen under previous legislation. Prior to the recent amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act co-operative societies were not required to pay income tax on profits other than those put to reserves. When the last amendment was agreed to, I think that it was generally understood that there was to be no alteration with regard to that procedure. However, after the act had come into operation’ the commissioner found that it was necessary to alter the procedure, and, in addition to charging income tax on sums set aside for reserves, to levy the tax on amounts paid to shareholders. These societies are conducted on what is known as the Rockdale system, and it is necessary for a considerable amount of capital to be in the hands of the management for the purpose of carrying on the business. That capital is subscribed by the members, who, I understand, receive interest on it at the rate of about 5 per cent. The number of shares held in each society is not large, and, in consequence of a considerable amount of capital being required to carry on the business, the impost is a fairly heavy one. The shares in these societies differ from those held in ordinary companies, in that they may not be sold on the market. Only persons who deal with the society’s store can become shareholders. Their shares thus comprise part of the capital of their own store, and, in the circumstances, a hardship has been inflicted upon them. There has been a departure from the procedure which was adopted up to the time when the amending act was passed, and the present bill is necessary to rectify the anomaly. The measure does not fully meet the case, but I hope that, at the committee stage, an amendment will be accepted to place co-operative societies in the same position as that occupied by them prior to the alteration in the law. The second amendment made by the bill is of more importance than the first. By the Income Tax Assessment Act 1921 Parliament appointed a board of appeal with the object of assisting taxpayers who were dissatisfied with the decisions of the Commissioner of Taxation. The British Imperial Oil Company appealed against an assessment by the commissioner, and the point was raised that the board had no jurisdiction. In order to satisfy itself the board appealed to the High Court which decided that its appointment was invalid. In a further appeal to the High Court this company now contends that section 28 of the principal act is invalid, because it cannot operate except in conjunction with a validly-constituted board of appeal. If the High Court decides in the company’s favour it will mean that the tax of this and similar companies will have to be refunded. I do not know whether the sum of money involved is large or small, but one would imagine that over a period of two or three years the amount is considerable. This bill, therefore, aims at validating what has been done by the commissioner, and also provides that there shall be a board of review, so that taxpayers may appeal from decisions of the commissioner. The bill is mainly a machinery measure for careful consideration in committee. Most of the clauses are consequential on the main amendment to which I have referred. I support the second reading.
.-I am not quite clear as to how this bill will alter the taxation with respect to cooperative companies. It is generally admitted that they serve a good purposein the community, but are frequently lacking in the necessary capital. It is likely that the imposition of a heavy income tax upon their co-operative earnings would hinder rather than help them. When the bill is in committee I propose to have something further to say on this matter. When this House was considering the amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act last year an excellent suggestion was adopted, at the instance of the Minister for Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse), namely, that expenditure in regard to vermin-proof fencing should be deductible from taxable income in the year in which the expenditure was incurred. The Taxation Department allowed the deduction only with regard to wire netting. I point out that in order to exclude rabbits and dingoes an ordinary sheep-proof fence is insufficient, extra expenditure for barbed wire, wire netting, and other contrivances being necessary. I know of instances in which expenditure on wire netting and the cost of erecting it has been allowed in the deductions, and the additional expenditure disallowed. My point is that the intention of the House in this matter has not been properly interpreted by the department.
– What was disallowed?
– Many persons consider that a fence of wire netting 3 ft. & in. in height is sufficient for the exclusion of rabbits, but when dingoes are to be kept out they erect additional posts and affix three barbed wires. If it were not for the dingoes and rabbits neither netting nor barbed wire would be necessary. I submit that the additional expenditure incurred in keeping pests from either sheep or crops was intended to be covered by the amending act.
– Did not the amendment refer only to wire netting ?
– It was not expressly stated in the House that it did, and, although the act mentions wire netting only, the intention was to exempt the total expenditure incurred in excluding vermin. In committee I shall propose an amendment that expenditure incurred on wire netting or barbed wire for erecting a vermin-proof fence, or for altering an existing fence to make it “vermin-proof , shall be exempted.
– When a bill amending the Income Tax Assessment Act is before the chamber it isan opportune time to impress on the Treasurer the- position of the pioneers, in the Northern Territory who are helping to develop that part of Australia against greatodds, and to ask that they shall get some relief in regard to the collection of income tax. To my mind, our system of taxationis economically unsound, because the purr chasing value of the sovereign is not taken into consideration. That, purchasing power is 30 per cent. less in the northern portions of Australia than it isin the southern portions. I think the Government should take this fact into consideration. Of course,the Minister will say that itis impossible to makea Commonwealth lawthat will apply to one portion of Australia and not! to another, but, nevertheless, I think this anomaly should be removed in the interests of those people who are holding the Northern Territory for the Commonwealth. In making this request, I am not asking the Government to do something that has not already been done . A similar exemption has been extended to residents of Papua, and, furthermore,, has been; made retrospective oyer a considerable number of, years. This is shown by an extract which I shall read from a booklet issued by the Commis- sioner of Taxation, dealing with the Income Tax Assessment Acts No. 31 and No. 32 of 1921, which amend in some particulars the Income Tax Assessment. Act of 1915-18. This quotation is as, follows: -
The words which follow “Papua,” where first occurring, were inserted in the section by section 3 of the IncomeTax Assessment Act Amendment Act,No. 31 of 1921, to give effect toa decision by the Commonwealth. Government that it would not collect the CommonwealthIncomeTax from residents in Papua on their income which was derived from sources in Papua.
The section exempts -
The exemption under (a) applies to income from personal exertion and income from property. It will exempt the salaries and wages earned by residents, and interest received by a resident in Papuaon advances made there on securities in Papua, and also dividends received by residents of Papua from companies which derive profits from sources in Papua to the extent that the dividend is paid out of those profits. The location of the company’s head office and place of control is not material, since the judgments of the High Court in the cases of Nathan v. Commissionerof Taxation, and Murray v.CommissionerofTaxationlay down the rule that a dividend arises from the, same source as the company’s income.
The exemption under (b) applies to personal exertion income derived bya personfrom Papuan sources while in Papua. It will apply to the remuneration received by a visitor to Papua for services rendered’ by him while there. It will also apply to the income of a company derived by it from Papuan sources either by the full activities of the company being centred in Papua or by the partial activities of the company there through its own officers. Therefore a company registered and controlled outside Papua, which has its own officers located in Papua tocarry on profitearning from. Papuan sources may be said to earn those profits “ while there.” The profits of a business are income from personal exertion, so that a company is fully covered by the words of the section. As stated in regard to (a) above, the exemption of the company’s profits will extend to dividend paid out of those profits to shareholders, resident in Papua, but all other shareholders are taxable on similar dividends because they are not resident in Papua. Thecompany would not, however, be exempt on profits derived by it from Papuan sources if they are derived through an in- dependent agent in Papua. For example; art Australian company selling good’s in Papua through a Papuan agent could not claim the exemption because the profits are not derived by the company while in Papua.
The exemption is limited to Papuan income, and does not extend to the income of any person, firm, or company which may De derived from sources outside Papua.
The exemption granted by the section has been made retrospective to “all past years in which Commonwealth Income Tax has been levied.
Therefore, in asking that the pioneers of the Northern Territory may be exempted from the payment of income tax, I am asking for nothing new in the administration of the territories under the control of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer will, no doubt, tell me that- during the war the residents . of Papua paid a self-imposed tax, but I remind him that in the Northern Territory there was also a voluntary tax of the same nature, to which had to be added the Federal income tax, a state tax, and a land tax. In these circumstances, if it was right to amend the act to make a refund to the residents of Papua, it would be equally right to amend the act and treat the people of the Northern Territory in the same way. As a matter of fact, some very prominent officials of the Papuan administration were able to go for a trip on the Continent after they secured a refund of the amounts they had paid in income tax over a course of years. Primarily the reason for the Papuan exemption was to encourage settlement of that territory. That commendable object applies just as aptly to the development of the Northern Territory. Men who are doing the. work of* development 800 miles from the railhead are as much” entitled to be considered as pioneers in other territories, and I trust that the Treasurer will see his way clear to exempt them from the payment of income tax. I know that he accepted an amendment from me, which was agreed to in another place, to exempt the primary producers of the Northern Territory from the payment of income tax, but I should like him also to take into consideration the fact that the residents of the Northern Territory are obliged to pay a State income tax, despite the fact that they have no State rights. As a matter of fact, I doubt whether it is constitutional for the Commonwealth Government to impose a State tax on the residents of a territory who are not enjoying any of the privileges enjoyed by the residents of a State. In consideration of the great service the people in the Territory are rendering to Australia in holding that country for the Commonwealth, I trust that the Treasurer will bring forward an amendment to exempt them from the payment of income tax, and particularly from the payment of the iniquitous State tax. Such an exemption would enhance the possibilities of development, and the Government would be repaid in a thousand different ways.
– In introducing this bill the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said that it was a non-contentious measure. However that, may be, it is certainly one of those bills which it is the despair pf the taxpayer to understand, whether he be an ordinary layman or an expert. First of all it proceeds to make constant references to other statutes. That is not a new thing, but for the purpose of illustrating what I mean I may point out that section 21 of the consolidating act of 1922 is amended by the amending act of 1923, is further amended by the amending act of 1924, and is again proposed to be amended by this bill. It should not be necessary in such an important matter to have all these amending measures. It is almost impossible for any one who has not had a legal training or a special training in taxation work to* understand what the law is. One has to peruse four different statutes to see whether this or that provision has been amended or not, and by the time we come to a third amendment I think we should have a consolidating bill comprising all the amendments made up to date. Honorable members and taxpayers generally would then ha vie an opportunity to know what the law is. A year ago I heard the. honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) appealing for some clarity and intelligibility in the drafting of bills of this character. I was in cordial agreement with what he said then, and to-day I have more reason still to agree with what he then said. This intricacy may be attributed, I suppose, to Parliament, to the draftsman, or to the department. It really does not matter to whom it is attributed, because the fact remains that the law should be understood. The Federal income tax laws are not understood, and therefore are compared unfavorably with State acts, not only in their drafting, but also in their administration. The uncertainty in the mind of the general taxpayer as to what they mean leads to a feeling of doubt, and as SirRobert Peel said in a famous speech, “ They are leavened with a sense of injustice.” The provisions of this bill, especially clause 8, sub-clause 2, clauses 14 to 16. and clause 20, have a retrospective effect. Last year I dealt at some length with retrospective legislation, and I do not think that it is necessary for me to cover that ground again. I, with, I think, most honorable members, hold the view that retrospective legislation is, at any rate in theory, not desirable. The Treasurer emphasized the point that the board of appeal, whose rulings have been declared invalid, and which will make way for a similar board under a different name, was established for the benefit of the taxpayer. 1 understood him also to suggest that the bill has been introduced for the same purpose. Such consideration by the department for the taxpayer is somewhat unexpected, and one. is irresistibly reminded of Lewis Carroll’s lines in”The Walrus and the Carpenter “ I weep for you,” the Walrus said : “I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
It appears to me that those words convey the taxpayer’s impression of this alleged sympathetic measure.
– The truth of that observation lies in the application thereof.
– That may be. The figures given by the Treasurer show that there were 234 references to the board of appeal. Eleven decisions favoured the taxpayer, and two were partially favorable to him. On the other hand, 54 decisions were in favour of the Commissioner, and two partially in his favour. On those figures, it cannot be said that the board has been of very great benefit to the taxpayer. A large number of appeals are still awaiting decision. On the 9th April of this year, 53 appeals were pending before the board, 2 were partially dealt with, and 26 are awaiting transmission. A certain number of appeals have, of course, been settled. I should like to know from the Treasurer the dates on which these appeals were made. It seems to me that the position is that the board of appeal which was appointed under the 1922 act is invalid, and its decisions, therefore, have no effect. The bill seeks to remedy this position by validating it and its decisions, which may also mean validating sections 21 and 28 of the consolidating act of 1922. The decisions of the appeal board seem to have been advantageous to eleven, or possibly thirteen taxpayers. I ask the Treasurer how many taxpayers will be detrimentally affected by the passage of the bill. It is impossible for the ordinary member of Parliament to ascertain this; but, in moving the second reading of the bill, the Treasurer admitted that if it were passed, the British Imperial Oil Company would fail in its action against the Commonwealth respecting section 28, because the alleged invalidity of the law would then be validated by Parliament. Is it right for Parliament to validate this law, and thereby prevent this company from succeeding in the action which it has instituted against the Commonwealth ?
– This bill will carry out the intention of Parliament.
– Section 28 refers to the taxation of Australian businesses which are controlled abroad, and if it was the intention of Parliament to levy certain taxation upon those businesses, it was the duty of Parliament to put its intention in proper legal phraseology. Theimportant point, as in the case of a man making a will, is not what was intended, but what was actually stated. The Treasurer also stated that the High Court, if asked to give a decision on section 21, would most likely declare it to be invalid. Against that section the Tesselated Tile Company Limited has lodged an appeal, which has been unheld by the High Court. I believe that a number of other firms have appealed on the ground that section 21 is invalid.
– I understand that in that case the High Court gave no decision on the real issue. It decided against the Commissioner because he was too late in giving notice.
– I do not know whether that is so or not. In any case, if this measure is passed this company will, . like the British Imperial
OilCompany., be debarred from a judgment that it would otherwise receive. . I understand that a number of appeals havebeen made, and that many of them have been awaiting hearingfor some considerable time. If this legislation is passed, what will be the. position, of the two companies that I have mentioned ? Isuggest that it would be much fairer to make the. operation of this measure date from its passage. I shall now deal with certain clauses of the bill. Subclause 2 of clause 8 reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a determination made by theboard under section 21 of this act shall notbe invalidated by reason of the ‘fact that it is not made with-‘ in the time prescribed by that section.
Section 21 of the 1922 act refers to the taxation of a company where the distribution is not considered reasonable owing to less than two-thirds of the taxable income having beendistributed. Subsection 1 of that section reads -
Where in any year a company has not distributed to its members or shareholders at least two-thirds of its taxable income; ‘the’ Commissioner shalldetermine whether asum or a furthersum(not exceeding the excess of two-thirds ofthe taxable income of the company over the amount distributed by it to its members or shareholders) could reasonably have been distributedby the company to them,such determination in thecase ofany financial year prior to that beginning on the firstday of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, to be made not later than the thirtieth day ofJune, Onethousandnine hundred and twenty-three,and in the caseofother financial yearswithin six monthsafter the date of the issue tothe company of its ordinary assessment.
It will be noticed that the determination is made by the Commissioner, and that section 21 does not refer to any determination or, award by the board.
– I refer the honorable member to sub-section 5 of section 21,
– It is proposed to omit that sub-section from the act.
– I shall be glad if the Treasurer will show whether I am wrong in this matter. I have gone into it carefully, and cannot find any reference to a determination being made by any one but the Commissioner. Section 21 does not refer to any determination or award by the board which comes under section 51; and. the time prescribed in section 21 refers to the Commissioner’s determination only. How then can there be a provision respecting a determination of the board, when no such determination is made? There is no. provision as far as I know for the time in which the board has to give its award.
– A determination could be made by the hoard under the old act.
Mr.DUNCAN-HUGHES.-There is no provision stating the time in which a determination must be given.
– The same provision will obtain with the board of review as obtained with the board of appeal.
– It seems that there is a mistake in the drafting of these sub-sections, and that where “ the board” is stated, “the Commissioner “ is really intended. No provision, so far as I know, states the time within which the board should give an award, though it is reasonable that there should be such a provision. Section 52 provides that income tax may be levied and recovered on the assessment as if no appeal were pending. It is, of course, most inequitable that the tax should be retained, and the appeal not. heard. Clause 18, sub-clauses 1 and 2, refers to pending cases, and provides that where a taxpayer hasrequested the commissioner to treat his objection against his assessment as anappeal,or to refer any determination or decision of the commissioner to a board of appeal, the commissioner may, upon receiving his request in writing, “made within thirty days after the commencement of this Act,” refer the determination or decision to the board of review. Why should this retrospective amendment of the act throw upon the taxpayer the further duty of giving notice thathe desires to have his case considered by the board of review? It would be eminently reasonable to allow any appeal made under the existing law to continue under the amending legislation; alternatively the taxpayer should be allowed a period of, say, three months, within which to make his appeal. As all taxpayers are not able to keep in touch with amending legislation, and the study of the details of this involved act would occupy at least a fortnight, a month is not sufficient time to allow a person to continue a course which he had already taken under the existing act. His appeal should be automatically kept alive without further action on his part, or, if that is thought too great a concession, he should he allowed reasonable time- in which to take action. Sub-clause 3, of clause 18,. provides that “where a reference has been made under the last preceding sub-section, the High Court or <Supreme Court, as the case may be, shall not have jurisdiction to proceed with the hearing, of the appeal.” That appears to me to be- a very drastic limitation of the powers of the High Court, but it is a matter for argument whether that sub-clause is not a contravention of section 55 of the Constitution, which enacts that laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect. In my opinion, the sub-clause is not a provision imposing taxation; it attempts to reduce the powers of the High Court in regard to a particular matter, and its validity is doubtful. It is necessary to study carefully legislation amending the Income Tax Assessment Act, because section .2 of the 1924 act, which was accepted without any protest, ,has been the cause of a good deal of trouble to many taxpayers, and I have read statements to the effect that, in New South Wales, taxation assessments are being re-opened as f ar back as 1917. That, I remind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), was not the intention of Parliament.
– I am circulating an amendment to put that intention beyond any doubt.
– I should like the Treasurer to inform me whether or not assessments have been re-opened as far back as 1917. If, as the .Treasurer said, the bill is not contentious, and its purpose is merely to re-enact a principle that was unanimously agreed to .by the House three years ago, and Parliament’s intentions are to be considered, why not apply the same principle to the taxation of bonus shares, and the decision of Parliament that re-assessments should not go back further than three years? Nothing in the bill arouses enthusiasm in me. I dislike intensely its retrospective provisions. This form of legislation is repeated year after year. Last year there were moTe restrospective proposals than in any preceding year, and this bill, I think, contains more clauses of the kind than have appeared in any other bill intro*duced since I have been a member of this House. I hope that some of the defects of the measure will be remedied in committee.
.- I ask the House to consider the measure carefully. Its principal purpose is to deal with certain matters arising out of the decision of the High Court that the board of appeal under the existing Income Tax Assessment Act was not validly created.. The Treasurer, gave the House to understand that the High Court . held that that board exercises part “bt the judicial powers of the Commonwealth - that is to say, its functions are judicial in character - and, therefore, its member! should have been appointed for life, because the Constitution provides that any persons exercising any of the judicial powers of the Commonwealth shall hold office for life. The court also decided that as Parliament imposed taxation sul>ject to the right of a dissatisfied taxpayer to have recourse to -a board of appeal, it followed that if there was no valid board of appeal to which the dissatisfied taxpayer could refer, taxation was not payable by him. That is the effect of the High Court’s decision in the cases of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Australian Tesselated Tile Company.
– Did the court actually come to that decision in respect of the Australian Tesselated Tile Company? My impression is that the court did not reach that stage.
– I think the honorable member is right. In that case the court held that the determination of the Commissioner had not been made within the prescribed time, and therefore the tax was not payable. But certain members of the court stated plainly their opinion that the board of appeal was not validly created, and their Honours Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Bich held that on that account taxation could not be collected from the company. This bill seeks to meet the position which has been practically, although not formally, established by that decision of the High Court, by substituting a board of review for the board of appeal. The board of’ review is to perform substantially the same functions as have been performed in the past by the board of appeal. Apparently it is thought that the board of review may be effective, although the board of appeal, exercising similar functions, has been held to be invalid. This device may succeed, but I doubt whether the Treasurer can give to the House an assurance from the Crown law authorities that they are satisfied that it will do so. Probably the view upon which these amendments are based is that the board of review will determine the facts upon which this legislation shall operate in order to impose a liability on the taxpayer, and, because it will not be really functioning as an appellate body, it will not be regarded as exercising judicial functions. We all know, however, that this is merely seeking to attain, by means of a board of review, the same end as was previously sought to be attained by means of a board of appeal. There is one straightforward method of dealing with this problem, and I do not know why it has not been adopted. The functions to be allotted to the board are judicial, and why should they not be performed by judges? Prima facie, if .there is to be an appeal from the Commissioner, the tribunal exercising the appellant power is judicial in character. Considerations of expense cannot have influenced the adoption of the course proposed in the bill, because in the long run proper and regular methods are the most economical. Surely the community has learned that it pays to have matters that require for their decision a high degree of knowledge and skill, determined by men who have such knowledge and skill, and are . absolutely independent of the Government of the day, their tenure of office not being dependent upon Ministerial favour or approval. That is the object of our judicial system. I do not suggest that the members of the board of appeal are not worthily discharging their functions. My contention is that the principle is embodied in the Constitution that judicial powers shall be exercised by judicial persons. The essence of a judicial appointment, as determined by the Constitution, is that the person exercising judicial powers shall not be removable at the will of the Government. Why do we not face the question, and either give this appellate work to existing judges or appoint suit- able judges with a proper tenure to perform it?
My second point- is that it is sought to make the board of review a body with retrospective operation, the view held being that the board of appeal has failed because, in law, it has never existed!
– The board of review is to be said to have existed for three years before its birth!
– That is so. We cannot mourn the death of the board of appeal, because we now learn that it was never born! But we proceed to create an organism having the same functions and the same attributes, calling it a board of review, and solemnly declaring that it shall be deemed to have been bora two or three years ago, and to have been performing during the whole of that period the functions that we erroneously considered were being discharged by Me board of appeal. This device may succeed, but I gravely doubt it. If this House, by the device of passing legislation having a retrospective operation, is able to set up what, for the purposes of my argument, I shall call a proper and constitutional instrument, and to declare that the acts performed by an unconstitutional instrument that was formerly created shall be deemed to have been the acts . of the constitutional instrument, many of the provisions of our Constitution will not be worth a great deal. The Government should be very sure of its ground before it embarks upon such an enterprise. It is running very grave risks. We are aware that in some respects our income tax legislation is rather in a mess. A consolidating act was passed in 1922, and this Parliament passed amending acts in 1923 and 1924. We now have before us a further amending act, which it is proposed to make retrospective. Honorable members have heard of the difficulties that have been created by bad shots in taxation legislation. Although this retrospective legislation has been designed to remove the results of some of those bad shots, I am not at all sure that we shall not in future run into greater trouble because of it. If this device should fail - and it may - what sort of a mess shall we be in !
– We can then introduce another bill.
– That would be the only solution. There are in the bill various provisions that deal with decisions which have been given by the courts, and under which an attempt is being made to prevent those whose litigation has succeeded from obtaining the fruits of their victory. I have not in a professional capacity been associated either directly or indirectly with the companies which have engaged in the litigation that ha.s brought about this proposal; but, having regard to our experience, we can reasonably anticipate that these provisions will be contested. Certain litigants having fought the matter through to the highest court of appeal, and being - if what has often been stated in this chamber be true - wealthy corporations, we may expect that if there is any weak spot in this bill it will be discovered and fought. There is every inducement for the Government to make sure that this legislation cannot be successfully attacked. It is far from being able to give that assurance.
– That is the fault of the Attorney-General’s Department. Its officers are paid good salaries, - and they should draft measures that do not leave an opening for attack.
– There is a real and a grave degree of uncertainty as to -the effect of these provisions. I do not argue that they will not succeed,- but I am doubtful of their success. A particular feature of the bill is that, under it, decisions of the courts are to be upset, to the extent that the parties involved are to be deprived of the fruits of their victory. I approach this matter entirely’ from the point of view of principle, disregarding altogether any consideration of the interests of the parties who- are involved. It appears to me that this House is embarking upon a very dangerous course when it proposes to intervene to prevent a successful party from obtaining the benefit of a victory to which the court has declared he is entitled. Once we adopt that policy, where will it end ? There may be cases of an exceptional character, but for the moment I cannot call any to mind. Surely it should be the rule for the Commonwealth to stand by the law as it is, and allow its rights and the rights of every other party to be determined in accordance with it. Otherwise the Commonwealth will have two shots. First, it will legislate to impose a tax. The form of that legislation is entirely in the hands of this Parliament. Then, when the legislation is successfully resisted, it will have another shot by means of a measure such as this.
– Heads I win; tails you lose.
– It is a case of “ I win every time,” because it can go on for ever.
– That is quite right when it is necessary to protect the revenue.
– If this legislation fails, are matters to remain in statu quo until we pass another measure ? I ask honorable members to consider what their feelings would be towards, say, some small South American state that adopted this course of action. Let us assume that some of us have an investment in a small South American state, which seeks to collect from our agent a large sum by way ot taxation. Acting on the best advice, which says that the law does not reach that particular income, we litigate the matter as far as the highest court, and are successful. The state then passes a law having a retrospective operation, and placing us in the position in which it first, but unsuccessfully, contended we stood. What would we think of that state? What would be its financial standing and reputation? It would stand very low indeed. A country cannot afford to play with a double-headed penny. Revenue may be collected by this method, but in the long run such .legislation does not pay, because it is not fair dealing. This Parliament has the power to pass legislation for the collection of taxation. If it is framed in such a way that it catches a citizen, he has to pay. But if, on the other hand, it fails to catch him, he should not pay. In all taxation matters the revenue authorities and the citizens are at arm’s length. If a citizen does not come within the operation of a measure, he should go free. The Commonwealth can, with perfect propriety, legislate with respect to the future. There can be no objection to an amendment that relates to the future. I have given notice of an amendment that is designed to prevent this measure from having a retrospective operation. I have two reasons for adopting that course. The first reason is that it may help to ensure the validity of the bill. If, as I have already suggested, we seek to .create this board of review to say retrospectively that everything done by the board of appeal shall be deemed to have been clone by the board of review, then I suggest that the Government is running a grave risk of weakening the validity of this legislation. My second reason is, to use an ordinary term, that it. is bad parliamentary practice, and a bad thing for the reputation and credit of a country to legislate retrospectively for the purpose of catching citizens not caught by prior legislation. In the amendment which I propose to submit there is a second clause designed to meet a particular practice of the department. It has been put to me by honorable members with whom I have discussed this subject that it is the practice of the department to apply retrospectively in favour of taxpayers, as far as possible, all legal decisions, and that, unless this bill is given retrospective application,, a large number of people or companies * who paid taxation will be unable to recover, whilst the few who expressed dissatisfaction, and either litigated or took ‘the first steps towards litigation, will, because of their action, be in an undeservedly better position. It has been said that it would only be fair if everybody benefited by decisions obtained from t the .court. That is a position which I ‘ challenge entirely. If is a radically unsound” practice for the Taxation Department’ to give retrospective benefits to taxpayers because of decisions given by the courts. In the first place, it is a practice that cannot bo followed universally or for all time. Unfortunately, . the Commonwealth income tax is not . going, to be abolished at once. I am afraid we shall have it for a few years longer. We have had some intimation that its abolition has been under consideration, but it must be regarded as having a fairly strong grip upon the community. Suppose, then, that under existing legislation, a decision is given in 1940 that is a surprise* -to everybody, a new interpretation being given to a section of the act which had been applied since 1915, it is obvious that it would be quite impossible for the department to apply that decision retrospectively to 1915 in order to make refunds to taxpayers who had paid under a misapprehension of what the law was. I am not aware of the extent to which this departmental beneficence extends, but if, as I am informed, it is the practice of the department to give taxpayers who have not appealed the benefit of decisions given, in the case of those who have appealed, then, I submit, that practice is absolutely wrong. If a taxpayer is dissatisfied with his assessment, he has his remedy. If he. thinks he has been unjustly .treated, he may appeal, and, if he’ does not succeed, that ought to be the. end of it. If he objects and succeeds on appeal, that, also, ought to be the end of the matter. Accordingly, T propose, in the amendment which I intend to submit,; that, the Taxation Department shall be- prevented from making any repayment to. taxpayers by reason of the passing of this measure. My purpose is to prohibit retrospective beneficence in favour of taxpayers. It is not the function of .the Taxation Department to be. either harsh or beneficent. It should be absolutely disinterested and concerned only with the -administration of the law. This bill, should provide that the law which it enacts shall operate from the date of its coming into operation., We should then know where we stand. For the past we should have , the decisions of the courts, and could work out the position for ourselves upon , the law of the past, whilst matters for the future could be worked put ow the basis of the provisions pf this measure.
– Does the honorable member say that refunds of money paid in mistake should not be made by the department?
– Yes, unless” those mistakes are mistakes of fact. The common law is that money paid under mistake of fact is recoverable, but money paid under mistake of law is not recoverable. Both principles are absolutely fair. ‘ Were it otherwise we should never reach finality. If a person, knowing all the facts, pays money, he should stand by his payment. If a person thinks ha is not liable, there is a most admirable profession to assist him to find out. Every individual is presumed to know the law.. . If it were the practice to allow mistakes’ of law to> affect paym.ents.very great uncertainty would he introduced into our business, affairs. The law, as I have stated it, has been firmly established for centuries. It is the only practical way in which we can carry on our business transactions. Some remarks have been made about the profession to which I belong. I should like to say that, from a professional point of view, I should askfor nothing better than the passing of this bill. It haswonderful and most alluring possibilities for lawyers. But realizing that, . as a member of this Legislature, I owe to the people of this country the best judgment which I can bring to bear on matters of this kind, I urge the Treasurer to pause before he enacts a measure which, in some respects, is so inconsistent with sound principle, and in other respects so full of difficulties in administration and application.
– I listened with very great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). I was especially interested in his views as to the value of the bill as a validating measure. I am not competent to express an opinion upon that aspect of the bill. I know of no legislation about which there is so much uncertainty as to the opinion of the courts as our taxation laws.
– And the decisions of the courts have not all been unanimous, either.
– That is true. There is a difference of opinion, even among judges. It seems impossibleto place upon the statute-book taxation measures that will pass the test in our courts. If the department in sponsoring this bill is doing its best, I hope its best will be a little better than on the last occasion. Parliament has to take the assurance of the Government or its legal advisers that this measure will get through. If the honorable member for Kooyong with his legal training can protect the taxpayers of this country by preventing Parliament from passing a measure that will be declared invalid, we shall all gladly accept his assistance. But the question with which this Parliament is more vitally concerned is the larger issue raised by the honorable member, namely,whether what theGovernment is doing by this legislation now is right or wrong. On this issue Ifind myself entirely in agreement withthe Government. I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) that retrospective legislation is always dangerous! It would be very wrong for one Parliament to pass a retrospective law to do something which a previous Parliament never intended should be done. But we have to consider the special merits of every case, and in this instance I hold that Parliament is quite entitled to pass a measure to validate earlier taxation legislation to give effect to the intention of the elect of the people. But I still make a distinction and say that if the court had held in dealing with the merits of a test case that there was something wrong, Parliament should not legislate to validate an unjust law. What was the decision of the High Court? Let us examine the. position. Big wealthy corporations fought taxation demands, not on the question whether the demands were just, or whether the weight of their taxation had’ relation to that of the taxation which other taxpayers were called, upon to pay, but on the technical point whether the board that reviewed the decision of the Commissioner was validly created. I submit that whilst this is a free country, giving people the right to litigate on any question, no taxpayer or corporation, by raising a technical issue, is entitled to escape the just demands of the Taxation Department. 1 say, therefore, that Parliament is more than justified in legislating to patch up the holes in earlier legislation so that no taxpayers shallescape their fair share of taxation. The honorable member for Kooyong raises the issue whether the board had any judicial standing unless its members held their appointments for life.
– That is what the Constitution says.
– I agree very largely with that statement, but I point out to the honorable member that recently he has been very inconsistent in his attitude to. that principle of the Constitution. The right to appeal against a land tax assessment is a very small matter when compared with a man’s right to liberty, and to live in this country. We find the honorable member supporting a Government which gives to a board- a board whose members are not appointed for life, but are the creatures of that Government - the right to determine whether men shall be deported from this country.
– It has been held that the board referred to by the honorable member is not a judicial board. I have already said so in this House.
– Of course, it is not a judicial board, and the honorable member believes in a judicial tribunal to deal with taxpayers, but not to deal ;with unionists. There is not one sound reason why a board should deal with a question of deportation, but there are strong reasons why a board should deal with questions of taxation. The reasons should be well known to honorable members. The guilt, or otherwise, of men charged with a breach of the law of this country can be decided by judges without expert knowledge of the business involved, but whether the Commissioner of Taxation has made a just assessment of taxation on an individual’s income is a question that can be determined properly only by men who have a thorough knowledge of taxation, which is one of the most involved subjects that any one can study. Honorable members know the complexity of taxation bills generally, and of even the comparatively small bill now before us. “When dealing with taxation cases a judge, however learned he may be, has to be educated upon the principles of taxation and the provisions of the taxation acts, but the members of a permanent board of appeal are experts in taxation. If a board consists of men who “are impartial and just, it is a proper body to deal with such questions. Taxation is one of the few matters in connexion with which I would allow appeals to be made to a board instead of to a judge. Under this bill, no hardship will be inflicted upon taxpayers, because they will have the choice of appealing either to the courts or to the board - a choice that we do not give to strike leaders in this country. If a taxpayer is not satisfied with the Commissioner’s decision, he can choose between appealing to the Supreme Court, the High Court, or the board, but having decided to appeal to the board, which is the cheapest form of appeal, he has no right to go to the High Court, and claim that the board’s decisions are - invalid. The honorable member for Kooyong said that those who fight and win in a contest against the Commissioner are entitled to escape without paying, but that those who do not object to the Commissioner’s assessment should continue to pay. That may be law, but it is not equity. “When assessments are made on a number of taxpayers, some of whom pay without question, while others, by litigation, obtain a technical decision in their favour, if the latter escape payment, refunds ought in equity to be made to those who paid without raising, an objection.
– There is no provision for refunds. They are a departmental beneficence.
– The principle is the same. I shall be interested to hear the honorable member when We are discussing another bill, notice of which has been given by the Government, in which provision is made for large refunds to taxpayers who have paid their taxes under a decision that was not intended by this Parliament. We ought to lay down the principle that we are entitled to pass retrospective legislation to give effect to the intentions of the Parliament.
– Does the honorable member say that the intention, and not the .words, of an act should count ?
– I should certainly say that, with reservation; but I should say it absolutely in a case like this, because the board’s decision was not upset on its merits. The court did not hold that taxpayers had been unjustly assessed; but it decided that the assessments, which might be absolutely just, were made by a board that was not legally constituted. If the Government accepts that decision, refunds amounts that have been collected, and refrains from collecting moneys that have not been collected, it cannot in equity refuse to make refunds to those who paid without disputing their assessments. I do not argue that, by calling this a “ board of review” instead of a “board of appeal,” we shall make its appointment valid. Like the honorable member for Kooyong, I have grave doubts about that, and believe that possibly next year another’ bill will be brought down to validate the one we are now discussing. The Government must take responsibility for the acts of its advisers; but, on the merits of the case, I cannot see how honorable members can raise any objection to the bill. The honorable member for Kooyong said that ifa man went to court and won a case, he should not be deprived of. the fruits of his victory. That means that if a man has sufficient money to engage a heavy bar, and by so doing defeats, on legal and technical grounds, the intention of Parliament, nothing should be done to hinder him, and the Government should accept the loss.
– The intention of Parliament is thatwhich the court holds to be the true meaning of a statute.
– The court, by its decision, did not rule that the Parliament intended the board’s decisions to be invalid. The court knew perfectly well that this Parliament intended the board’s assessments to be valid. The honorable member, therefore, cannot say with truth that, the decision of the court was as to what Parliament intended.
– The point is that the court decided that the Parliament could not have intended to give the board judicial power. The effect of that is to make the board’s decisions invalid. I did not suggest that the Parliament intended that the board’s decisions should be invalid.
– I do not think that the Parliament intended the board to have absolute judicial power. It intended that the board should be a board of appeal to determine the justice of the Commissioner’s assessments, and to be a check on him. He has wide powers under the Income Tax Act - even wider powers than he has under the Land Tax Act, which makes him subject to the control of the Minister - and Parliament decided that there should be some cheek upon, appeal against, and review of his assessments. The board was made a board of appeal, and now it is proposed to make it a board of review. I am convinced that the Parliament intended that it should decide, not the law, but the merits, of appeals submitted to it. The court said that because the board was exercising judicial functions, which it was not properly constituted to exercise, its decisions could not stand. That offers a very simple way to escape payment of taxation. You first obtain legal opinion that the board is not legally constituted, and then, whether your assessment is right or wrong, you object to it, and appeal to the board - a board whose decision, you know, will be invalid. You obtain from the board an assessment, and then you proceed to the High Court and have the decision upset. This Parliament ought not to tolerate such procedure. Much has been said by both the legal gentlemen who have spoken about retrospective legislation. There will be more restrospective business to deal with if this bill is not passed than if it is. The money collected on assessments made by the board will have to be refunded.
– How far back would the honorable member go?
– We should have to go back at least to the statutory limit of three years. I refuse to support the principle that because a man contests his assessment in court, and wins, he should not pay, while those who have not contested their assessments must pay. If the people who dispute their assessments are allowed to escape taxation, the Government should refund the amounts paid by those who did not do so. That would involve a sum of £30,000,000. I do not think that any honorable member will seriously say that that should be done. I shall not vote against legislation like this, which will prevent a few companies, like the large oil company that has been referred to, from, by appealing from court to court, driving wedges through legislation that was specially designed for the benefit of the taxpayers of this country.
– The size of the company has nothing to do with the merits of the case.
-I agree that the thing is right or wrong, regardless of the size of the company; but I stress the fact that it was because the company was a large and wealthy one that it was able to escape taxation. The honorable member for Boothby, and the honorable member for Kooyong, mentioned the Tessellated Tile Company. That company appealed on two grounds, neither of which concerned the merits of the assessment. Speaking from memory, and subject to correction, the appeal was, on the one hand, that the assessment was reviewed by a board that was not legally constituted, and, on the other hand, that proper notice was not given by the Commissioner. On the last-mentioned ground the court upset the assessment. The company was entitled to win on that point. I cannot understand why the Commissioner was late in sending out notice of such a determination.
– This bill is designed to prevent that sort of thing.
– It is designed to prevent a taxpayer from winning on the first ground of appeal by that company.
– Is there any substantial difference?
– I think there is. This Parliament and this country has to accept any loss due to the neglect of its officers to carry out their duties. Because the Commissioner failed to send the notice in the time prescribed by the law, the company is entitled to win, although it. was not a very creditable win.
– And also if the legislationthatParliament passes is defective.
– I am not satisfied that this legislation was defective. There was not a unanimous decision on the point. If we are to be ruled merely by majority decisions of High Court benches on these big questions, as we have been on a lot ofconstitutionalpoints, and then, when we have the’ power to remedy matters, do not do so, we are not performing our work properly.We have suffered for yearsbecause a majority of theHigh Court bench declared that we hadnot the powerunder the Constitution to docertain things.I believe that the High Court to-day would give a different decision in ‘ the matter from the decision given by the High Court as constituted a few years ago; but we have lost the opportunity for doing much good for the people of the country. This is a case in which the High Court has given a decision on a technical point against the interests of the country, and if Parliament has the power to remedy thematter by retrospective legislation, it should do so, particularlyas that will not inflict hardship on any one. For the informationof the honorable member for Boothby(Mr.Duncan-Hughes) and the honorable memberfor Kooyong (Mr. Latham), I shall give an illustration. Iunderstand that a measure is to come before this House shortly to validate the refund of moneys paid on bonus shares. Parliament made nodeclaration on the subject, but merely accepted- a most extraordinary proceeding a statement of the then Treasurer. But although there was not provision by statute the intention of Parliament was clear. Wehavenowto consider whether we shall call upon a number of persons to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds, which was not collected from them. We should be perfectly within our rights in doing so. We are perfectly within our rights in saying that Parliament did not pass a law to exemptthem. But we ought to take a very serious view of the position before insisting upon the payment of that money.
– That is essentially a different matter. That legislation will not impose a retrospective liability upon citizens.
– It is the contrary position.
-That is retrospective legislation in favour of certain citizens.
– Quite so; but a principle should work both ways.
– It is Parliament that makes the laws.
– When Parliament makes mistakes it shouldendeavour to rectify them. Is this instance a hardship has not been inflicted upon taxpayers, and we have now to consider whether we should validate our own legislation. This is not a case of imposing hardship, because the Government merely proposes to provide for the collection of a tax whichParliament intended to impose. Parliament provided a board of appeal in order to save expensive litigation, and certain individuals, after taking advantage of that provision, are avoiding taxation byob- taining on an appeal to the High Court the decision that the board was not validly constituted. We should not tolerate such a position. I intend to support the second readingof the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Billread a second time .
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Income received from sale of trading stock).
– The object of this amendment of the law is topreventa taxpayer from appealing successfully to the High Court against any assessment made under this section on the ground that the section is invalid because the Board of Appeal was hot validly constituted. This amendment of the act has also a bearing on sections 4, 5, and 6 of the. act. As this is essentially a committee bill, I did not reply to the second-reading debate, but I intend to take this opportunty to refer to some of the observations made by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). No one is. more opposed to retrospective legislation than I am, but I do. not think that this, bill can be regarded in the same light as some other retrospective measures that have been passed by Parliament. Provision was made in the Income Tax Assessment Act of 1922 for. the appointment of a board of appeal, with the specific object of providing taxpayers with a simple and direct method of getting their appeals heard. If taxpayers, however elected to appeal to the court, they had not. the right to approach the board of appeal. The honorable member for Kooyong sUKgested that in addition to giving taxpayers the right to approach the court we should appoint another ‘ judicial board of appeal. That would have been a duplication of machinery. In 1922, to meet the expressed wish of taxpayers, ‘ a board of appeal was appointed to ‘ enable appeals to be dealt with promptly, as the honorable member for ‘ Yarra (Mr. Scullin) ‘ suggested, by men- who had been closely’ associated with taxation matters for many years. That was provided for in section 51 of the act, which reads -
In that section the words “‘court or board of appeal “ are used,’ and’ the High Court has held that the. Board of Appeal was intended to; exercise judicial functions. The object of this bill’ is- to entirely dissociate the two bodies - -the court and the board of appeal. There can be no question as to where the judicial power lies; and’ where lie appeals on questions of fact from the Commissioner’s assessment. The wording of the section enabled the British. Imperial Oil Company to succeed with, its ‘ appeal. From the observations of the judges as to the validity of the- section, during, the> hearing of - that case, there can be no doubt that they were strongly- of the opinion that the taxation ‘sections of -the act were invalid ‘ because of the power to go before the board t©’ appeal from’ the
Commissioner’s assessments. Those provisions were put in specifically to benefit taxpayers. All will agree that it would be monstrous if, when provision had been- made: for- taxpayers to obtain justice at less cost than previously, those taxpayers: who employed counsel and raised objections should escape the payment of their just taxes: simply because, such a provision, was- made. If the company had succeeded in its appeal on some question of justice, the position would be different. But it is not right that legislation which has been enacted to assist taxpayers to obtain justice without undue expense, should be availed of to prevent effect being given to the spirit and intention, and, indeed;, the express wording, of the legislature. Public opinion’ in this country would not favour- a’ continuance of such an unsatisfactory, state of. affairs. It is proposed to omit from the principal act sub-section 5 of section 17, which reads - “ Any taxpayer who- is dissatisfied- with the decision of the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, or Deputy Commissioner, - under this section may require the Commissioner, to refer Ins ease to a board of appeal, arid- the Commissioner shall refer the case accordingly..
That sub-section is being ( deleted for the express purpose of dealing with this question in a separate place, sot that, no ques-tion pf the validity of the various taxation sections of the act shall arise, as has been suggested by the judges. One other point I desire to make clear. It has been said that section 28 of the principal act, as proposed to be amended by clause 6a of the. bill,, will, deprive a successful appellant of the, fruits of his victory. That is not so. j; There .w,ere no fruits of victory so. far, .as the litigation being prevented by this legislation , are concerned: There was the case of the- Tessellated Tile Company, which, having won its case because the provisions of the “act were not carried out, received a refund. The case of the British Imperial Oil Company waa . different. That company endeavoured to establish that the particular section of the act under which the- assessment was made was invalid, and succeeded in doing so, The company has not, however, won its case on the ques-tion of ‘ the1 assessment; : so- that it Ms gained no fruits’ Of victory. If the honorable member’s suggestion were adopted, it would be an inducement to taxpayers in the future to lodge appeals, so that they would be covered by any legislation which might subsequently be enacted by this Parliament. That is undesirable. It should be our aim to pass legislation which, so far as is possible, will encourage taxpayers to let it run freely. For that reason I trust that, although the effect of this clause is retrospective, honorable members will agree to it.
Sittingsuspended from6.27 to8p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported .
In committee :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend sections 24, 31, 45, and 47 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1923.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in abill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and rend a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The sections of the existing act which the bill is introduced to amend are those which deal with the amount of payments. Section 24 of the act is proposed to be amended by omitting from sub-section (1) thereof the words “ Forty-five pounds ten shillings,” wherever occurring, and inserting in. their stead the words “Fifty-two pounds “ ; and by omitting from subsection (1) the words “ Seventy-eight pounds “ and inserting in their stead the words “ eighty-four pounds ten shillings.” Honorable members will see that the increased amounts proposed by the amendments represent the increase in the pension from 17s. 6d. to £ 1 per week, and the amount of income not involving a reduction of the . pension.
Section 31 of the. principal act is proposed to be amended by omitting from sub-section (2) the word “ three “ and inserting in its stead the word “ four.” Section 45 of the act is proposed to be amended by omitting from the proviso the word “ three “ and inserting in its stead the word “ four.” Section 47 of the act is proposed to be amended by omitting the word “ three” and inserting in its stead the word “ four.” Commonwealth old-age pensions were first brought into existence by this Parliament by an act passed in 1908. At thattime the amount proposed to be paid to pensioners was at the rate of 20s. a fortnight-, and the total amount involved was £1,624,000 a year. The first payment was made on the 1st July, 1909. In September, 1916, the first increase in the pension was made, the fortnightly payment being raised to 25s. At this time price levels had risen to such a degree that 24s. 7d. in 1909 was worth only £1 in 1916. The increase then . made involved an annual expenditure of £2,900,000. The next increase in the pension took place in August, 1919, when the fortnightly rate was increased to 30s. £1 in 1909 would be represented; at that time, by 33s.11d. The call upon the revenue to meet the increased payment of 30s. per fortnight amounted to £4,037,000 per annum. In September, 1923, a further increase was made, bringing the fortnightly payment up to 35s. £1’ in 1909 was represented by 34s. 3d. in 1923. Prior to the increase the annual expenditure involved was £4,500,000. The cost of invalid and old-age pensions last year amounted, roughly, to £7,000,000, and, with the increase in the pensions provided for by the bill under consideration, the total annual payment will amount to over £8,000;000.
– That includes invalid pensions.
– Yes ; invalid and old-age pensions. It is unnecessary to refer at length to the action taken by this Parliament to provide for these pensions. The matter has been frequently discussed, and was thoroughly threshed out only quite recently. I may say that in 1923 the Government brought forward proposals for increasing the pensions to 17s. 6d. a week, and at the same time a statement was made that a royal commission was to be appointed to investi- gate the whole question of national insurance against old age, sickness and unemployment. That commission has been sitting since its appointment and has presented during the present year an interim report, in which it recommends that a 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 age 60; and, further, that the existing rights of pensioners under the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should not be interfered with. In discussing the position in its interim report, the commission points out that the increase in the number of old-age pensioners is due to the growth of population and to the fact that, as the commission previously indicated, a greater percentage of the population is now included in the eligible age groups. The Government was hopeful that it would receive a final report from the commission in time to bring down considered proposals with regard to national insurance during the present Parliament. The slow progress that is being made with the report indicates’ that it may yet be some time before it will be presented. In the circumstances, the Government has brought down its proposals for an increase in the invalid and old-age pensions which were outlined in the budget statement and are set out in this bill. Whilst it is proposed to increase the amount of the pension, steps are taken also to increase the allowance, which is practically pocket money, paid to pensioners in various hospitals and benevolent asylums. Prior to 1923 the allowance in the case of certain pensioners was 2s. per week, whilst in some cases no allowance was made. The present Government, after discussion with the authorities and a general consideration of the position, to discover what would be an adequate amount which the pensioner would be likely to make a proper use of, increased the amount of the allowance to 3s. per week. Under Ibis bill it is proposed to increase the allowance to 4s. a week. The position with regard to pensioners in the benevolent institutions is not quite understood. If honorable members will study the principal act, they will find that the method of dealing, with these institutions was adopted by reason of the fact that the States had already made provision ‘for these pensioners. They will find that the action taken has been supplementary action previously taken by State authorities, and the allowance paid during the past few years was fixed as the result of an investigation as to what was the approximate cost of the maintenance of these patients who were the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Certain of them were not the responsibility of the Commonwealth. In this way the amount paid during, the last few years was fixed and that amount it is now proposed to increase. It is felt that the whole position of the pensioners wi)l be completely altered when a national insurance scheme is brought into operation. Since old-age pensions have been paid by this Parliament they have been to a greater or less extent supplementary to State action. The pensions, have been regarded as something in addition to what the State authorities were doing. In the case of national insurance, however, the relationship between the pensioners and the Commonwealth will be that of individuals. All the anomalies that exist in regard to earning capacity, &c. , will be corrected more or less automatically by the national insurance legislation which will eventually be passed. The following statement appears in the commission’s report: -
During the year ended 30th June, 1924, 1,545 old-age pension claims were rejected mainly owing to the property and income clauses of the act, and it is desirable that under national insurance a definite superannuation benefit should be paid to every insured person, irrespective of property or income qualifications.
Since national insurance legislation is imminent, the Government is now simply taking steps to increase the pension, and to make an additional allowance to pensioners in hospitals and benevolent asylums.
.- I have no doubt that the bill will meet with the unanimous’ support of honorable members, but it has been too long delayed. It should have been introduced certainly at the commencement of this Parliament, and, having regard to the state of the finances, there is no reason why throughout the life of this Parliament the additional payment should not have been granted. It is gratifying, however, to know that even at this late period the bill has appeared. A few weeks ago it was not the intention of the Treasurer to bring it down for some time.
He made it quite «lear -in ‘his budget speech that its’ introduction would depend on ‘the testation . Wrat would : be necessary in’ connexion ‘with die -national insurance ‘sebtSnie, font now we are %old that, in view e!! the fact that -the Royal Commission ‘is not ‘yet ready to present its report, the ‘scheme cannot be launched tins session. ‘That- may or may not be so, but it is strange that w;hen ‘the Treasurer made his financial statement he ‘did not know what the position was. He might have got into touch with the chairman of the commission” awl have ascertained when its’repoit could’ fee’ expected’. TBtt whole sequence of-‘events -clearly points to the fact that something has happened that has caused’ the GWverniiient to ‘change its attitude. What ‘it’ is. can only be conjectured, but it is Evident tnat the ddbafee that took place’ in ‘this chamber a few weeks ago did’ no harm. On that occasion honorable mem’bers on this side of the -House pressed rthe need- fer an increase at tihe earliest pdssiMe moment in the payment Hso thes -old and infirm, and now this measure has appeared. As I said ‘on that -occasion, it -may foe due to the fact that an election js approaching, and may take place within a very «!hort time. I” realize, of course, that it is convenient -for the Government to <be able to’say’fco’ the bid people “who have ‘siiffiered for ‘many’’ years^ . and.’ have, waited patiektly !for’ ‘£hej increase, that is due to them, -that -at. last-. At has -conceded it.
Mr.Bayley.- i«oeite^i very . little while tihe Labour party wag in -power.
– We fcwe iheard that asemark so often that we (do not mind its repetitioM .. . 9Ste liaiboiir- i pai’by jhas a-dvocated . this and other . humanitarian legislation from its inception. It., was this party that supported the late Mr. Deakin ‘when he broixght. down the original measure to. provide for invalid and old-age pension^.. ; ‘,
Mr.R. Green. - If the honoraMe member intends to support the bill, why -is he making an electioneering -speech ?
Mr.CHARLTON. - The honorable jnemT>er need not be annoyed. I am merely expressing my view of the position. “1 am indeed pleased that the bill has been brought, down. . The old folk have much to ‘be thankful . for in having an active Opposition in this House. ‘The Government is not sure whether or not it will have to go to the country fm the near future, irrespective of its wishes in the matter, and -at considers it -betiter -to ; have placed this’ -measure- -on the statute-book than to -take the risk of going to the electors without having passed it. If a crisis were precipitated within the next few weeks, and justice had not. been meted out to the old-age pensioners, the Government would be in a nice predicament.
– JSThat . crisis ?
– It would not - be much of a crisis to some of us. But if an election took place, the honorable member and his friends would have little chance of placing this bill on the statutebook.. I am glad that, in the discussion that !took place a few weeks ago, the Opposition was able to show the necessity for the measure. Honorable members opposite will be able to vote for it without trouble in regard to either their conscience or their, party. Previously, many of them were in sympathy with the demand for. an increase, but were not free -to vote for it on account of party considerations ;; but I am Ijlad that that difficulty has., been obviated. I ‘dnaw attention to the fact that the bill touches tonly certain aspects of the -‘subject. . It raught to . go further than it does, and deal with imany, of- the anomalies that need . to be rectified. The Treasurer stated this evening that pensioners in hospitals and benevolent institutions were to receive an extra Is. a week. It is difficult for . Parliament to justify its action in -regard to pensioners in. tihese Ms’trtutions. I understand that, for the first 2’8 days after they enier an institution, no payment’ whatever is ‘made to them.
– The pension is saved up for them. . i
Mr.CHARLTON.- But it should be paid to them (to enable them to purchase a few delicacies. At the end of the 28 days, the institution is paid 10s. 6d. a week on account of each inmate, and the pensioner receives 3s. The latter amount is now’ to he 4s. This makes tihe total cost to the Government ‘only 14s. 6d. a week. Since it is now proposed to pay the pensioner j outside, £1 a. -week, why should -the Government deprive the inmates of an institution of the’ balance of 5s. 6d. a week! !’
– Why does the Government not give the pensioner the full amount, and allow him to make his own arrangements with the institution?
– There is much to be said in favour of that . suggestion. Take the hospital system in New South Wales. On the industrial fields, the residents practically maintain the hospitals. If it were not for the contributions reicervedfrom the miners, in addition to the assistance from the New South Wales Government, the splendid hospital’s in any district would be. unable to carryon their good work, Seeing that the residents, during their, yearsof health, have subscribed largely towards the maintenance of the hospitals, is it Mr that, in their closing years, when’ infirmity hascome uponthem, they shouldbe forced to accept areduced pension because they have become inmates of a public- institution? This matter plainly (calls’ for attention. I suppose thatevery honorable member has had his attention ‘drawn to the injustice of theposition.
Mr.O’Keefe. - It can be remedied in this bill.
– Yes. I believe that the Treasurer recently stated that it would cost the ‘Government an additional £40,000 a year to pay the full pension to these inmates. It -means that the Government is retaining £40,000 that belongs to these old people. One of the numerous anomalies that should be rectified relates to the deduction fromthe pension when the recipienthas a small income from property. Honorable membersare we’ll aware that some pensioners, after a life of toil, manage by dint of great thrift, to save sufficient to purchase, in addition to a home for themselves, another house, which returns them a small rental. If it is now necessary to increase the amount of the . pension, this deduction should be adjusted proportionately. Some persons who received the full pension when living in their own homes, have found it necessary, perhaps, because of increasing infirmity, to reside with . some member of their family,” and their pension hasbeen . cut down according, to the -income that is derived from the property vacated. There is no reason why this bill should not deal with such cases. The department has had wide experienceof the difficulties that arise, but the ‘Government, . since it is on the verge of an election, ‘apparently, thinks that the requirements of the position are sufficiently met by merely increasing the amount of the pension, and disregarding the other anomalies. Take the invalid pension . and the maternity allowance. I admit that, under the act, we can; not grant . the maternity allowance to Asiatics, but consider the case of a woman born in Asia, who arrived in Australia at the age of two or three years, and has married an Australian. Two. such women recently put “their case to me. Each of them has married an Australian, and has a family. One of the women arrived in this country whenshe . was eighteen months old. They have been denied the maternity allowance. No provision is made for such cases, . although the matter hasbeen, brought, under the notice -of tike ‘department . from time to time. The bill shouldbe more comprehensive in its scope,and should do. justice to all aged and infirm persons.. I do not know how the . bill will square with the Treasurer’s . recent statement that the increase in the pension would cost between £600,000 -and £700,000 this year. . I am prepared to say that it will probably involve an increased expenditure of -double -that sum if we are to make’ the pension payable from the 1st October. I agree that the payment should operate from that date, but the bill will wipe out the Treasurer’s anticipated surplus at one stroke.
– But the Government are going to increase the Customs duties.
– The honorable member cannot . speak with any certainty ion that matter.
– A large number of ships are tied up.
– If the honorable member will assist to get them running again, his action will be appreciated. This bill will, no doubt, be supported by every honorable member ; but it does not go far enough. The order of leave should have -been [sufficiently wide to enable honorable members to move amendments they deem necessary tocover the anomalies to which I have referred. Every . honorable Member is anxious that the mea sure . should be placed on . the statute-book atthe earliest possible moment. We are all pleased that the Government has departed from its original intention, and has brought forward the bill now so that the old people can get the benefit of the increased pension from the 8th of next month.
.- It is good news to learn that at last the Government has decided to give this small measure of justice to the old people of the community; but the bill falls short of what it ought to be doing to remedy the defects that have been discovered in the administration of the’ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Because we are all anxious to expedite the passage of the bill, I. shall deal but briefly with one or two of the outstanding defects of that act.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has already referred to the anomaly relating to the payments made to institutions of which old-age pensioners are inmates. It should not be the prerogative of the Commonwealth Parliament to lay down conditions under which these people should be received as inmates of these institutions. Surely a person who, after being a certain number of years in Australia, has reached the age at which he can draw the pension, should be entitled to that pension without any qualification, and should be in a position to make his own arrangements with any institution of which he becomes an inmate. The system now in operation robs the old-age pensioners of about £40,000 a year, because, instead of a pension of £1 per week being paid to each inmate of an institution, the cost to the Commonwealth is only 14s. 6d. per week, made up as follows: - 10s. 6d. per week to the institution, and 4s. per week to the pensioner. In my opinion, the pension should be paid direct to all persons who are eligible to draw it, and they should. be allowed to make their own arrangements with the institutions.
– The institutions might charge them more than 10s. 6d. per week. They might charge them the full £1 per week.
– They would not do so. The institutions which are drawing 10s. 6d. per week from each old-age pensioner are doing very well out of it, and the Commonwealth is saving money at the expense of the pensioners. I do not think that honorable members will stand for the principle that, because some pensioners are inmates of institutions, the Commonwealth should save £40.000 at their expense. Yet that is the principle laid down in the act, and we are told that if the full amount of the’ premium were paid to these pensioners, the cost to the Commonwealth would be £40,000. This anomaly should certainly be rectified.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt with one aspect of the property question. There is another phase of it to which I wish to draw attention. When, for various reasons, old-age pensioners leave the homes they own and occupy other premises, the department charges them according to the value of the houses they have left despite the fact that they have to pay rent in their new homes.
– Very often they have not been lucky enough to secure tenants for the houses they have left.
– That is so. If the home that has been left in these circumstances is of a greater value “than £400 the pension ceases. Honorable members will know the type of house whose value does not exceed £400. In other cases old-age pensioners have sold their houses on terms, and entered into arrangements to buy other houses on terms, the scale of payments being so arranged that the amounts received for the sale of the old homes meet the purchase payments on the new homes. But whenever this is done the department deducts from the pension the amount of income received by the pensioner from the sale of his old borne. I contend that the position of the pensioner in the new home is exactly what it was in the old home. It is simply a transfer from one residence to another, the pensioner’s income remaining unaltered, but the department deprives the pensioner of so much of his pension. . That is another anomaly which I think should be removed very speedily.
The act stipulates that before an invalid pension can be paid the applicant must be permanently . and totally incapacitated ; that is to . say, he must be practically awaiting the arrival of the undertaker. Some of the worst cases that have come under the notice of honorable. members are those of persons who have been unable to work, but yet have not been prevented from walking about. Many tubercular cases come under that heading.
The department regards these persons as not being permanently or totally incapacitated, and rules that they are not eligible for the pension. In other cases persons may be suffering from an affliction that in the course of years may be overcome by special but expensive treatment, and by a course of dieting quite beyond their financial resources. The department, relying on medical testimony, declares that these persons are not permanently and totally incapacitated, and, therefore, deprives them of the invalid pension. These anomalies should also be removed, and I hope that the Treasurer will, in committee, afford an opportunity to honorable members to move an amendment to remedy this defect in the act.
Many honorable members have had brought under their notice the cases of husbands and wives who in their old age are living apart. A wife may be deserted by the husband; she may have been unable to locate him for many years; he may have left the Commonwealth. If she applies for an old-age pension the department will institute inquiries, and if eventually it traces the husband, and discovers that he is in some employment, it declines to grant the wife a pension on the ground that for the purposes of the act half of_ the husband’s earnings are considered to belong to the wife. Consequently, although the wife gets nothing from the husband she cannot obtain a pension. The position may be reversed. The husband may be living apart from a wife who has property, or an income of her own. Cases of this sort have come under my notice. The husband is absolutely unable to earn any money, yet because his wife, from whom he is living apart, has. Property, or income, or perhaps money in the bank, he cannot get a pension because, for the purposes of the act it is considered that part of the wife’s money belongs to .the husband. I think that opportunity should also be afforded to honorable members to remove that anomaly.
– It would open the door to a great deal of fraud.
– That may be so; but the honorable member’s interjection affords me the opportunity to say that the administration of the’ Pension Department is indeed a credit to the officials in charge of it. It stands as an example to every other Government department. The officials, besides being efficient, obliging, and sympathetic, are prepared to do the right thing, and are alert in watching the interests of the Commonwealth. I have every confidence in the department. Hundreds of cases have been brought under my notice that are deserving of consideration, but the officials’ hands are tied by the limitations of the act. I admit that Mr. Collins, the Commissioner, does everything possible to assist old-age pensioners if their cases are in any way deserving, but there are hundreds of cases in which even Mr. Collins, sympathetic as his administration is, cannot act because of the limitations of the act. As a member of the royal commission on national insurance, I have had the opportunity of listening to the evidence given by the officials of the Pensions Department. They pointed out case after case which, although deserving, could receive no consideration from the department. They considered that the act should be widened to give the department jurisdiction vo deal with them. I hope that the Treasurer will, during the committee stage, give honorable members an opportunity to remedy the glaring defects in the act.
– The Government is to be congratulated on the introduction of this measure. I support it enthusiastically, although it may not. cover every anomaly and certainly does not go- so’ far as some of us would like. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), when dealing with the position of pensioners who are inmates of hospitals or benevolent institutions, levelled against the Government what amounted to a charge of taking £40,000 per annum from the invalid and aged people of this country. May I remind those honorable gentlemen and the Opposition generally that the system of which they complain has obtained for quite a long time. They seem to have forgotten when it was introduced. I propose, therefore, on this occasion, to play the role of a recording angel. In this matter we are all particeps criminis. It was in the “good old days” when Labour was in office that this was done, and Labour took to itself a good deal of credit for the doing of it. The Labour party is fully entitled to the credit, if not of originating the payment of Commonwealth invalid and old-age pensions, at least, of forcing’ through)- Parliament the original legislation and placing it upon the statute-book. Like most other legislation, it fell short pf perfection. I have been a member of every Administration, except the .present one, since 1908, when the system was introduced,, and under the fostering care of the. Labour party it has grown up and assumed, whatever formidable and monstrous proportions it may now have. %.The party, however, did not pull out the weeds from its. Garden of Eden, so the resultant ills cannot be fastened upon the shoulders of the present Administration..; On. occasions I have acted, perhaps, as the candid, critic of this Government, but I am not going to allow honorable, members opposite- to get away with, the statement, that this- Government, in connexion, with the payment .of .pensions to inmates of benevolent institutions, has taken ..£40,000 from the old people. i must. remind them that the Labour party in; its time has acted in this way.., The fact that we have all er,red does nob justify the practice^ The Government, however, is guiltless. All these evils of the system came to it, and .if it has not wiped them all away, as it hoped to, do, with; its sponge of efficiency, it is because, now that it is brought face to, face with them, it finds that the sponge is worn out and its solvent not as good as it was thought’ to be. The blame for the defects in this legislation must be shouldered by every Administration, and the original blame . must be assumed by the ‘first’ Labour Administration, of which I was a member. Now what are we to do? Is it right that a citizen having received the old-age pension after playing his or her part worthily ‘and well in building up this country,, should be forced to go into hospital” or some poorhouse, and in consequence” have to forgo the, ‘. pension in whole or in part ? . The .practice is quite wrong, and’ I. am aurel that the Treasurer does’ riot ‘ attempt to justify it. I never did1. There it was, and there it .is now. ,1. hope- that , the .Treasurerwill’ be. able” to .smooth away, these difficulties, and . deal , out even-handed justice. The “position will be aggravated how. ,,that. the pension: is to be increased, ^because the margin will be greater. We should give to the infirm and aged in our hospitals and benevolent asylums, what is due to them. . I do. not agree with’ the honorable member for. Dalley (Mr. Mahony),., that they should receive the full pension to dc what they like with -it. , .Pensioners are as other people. Money goes through one’s hands like- water.- Man is very weak and full of good resolutions, but good resolutions do not take one very far when one’s money has gone. What is due to the hospital for maintenance of the pensioner should be paid to it, and the pensioner should be given the balance.
I wish.- to draw attention to the position of ‘j Indians who caine here about the time of federation. Under the measure we have just passed they will soon be citizens of the Commonwealth, and . I hope that since we are. going to make citizens .of them, those- of them who have fallen on, evil days, and- have spent the statutory time -in this” country, will receive a pension just as other citizens, are entitled to obtain it. One- great: anomaly of. the : act- is thm invidious and odious db*tinction it makes’ between those who; have nothing and- those who have little. Many men and’, women have spent .years of laborer: in putting .aside a nest-egg, which is literally _stained. with their > own swea’t’ arid Mood: Years of” labour have gone to the acquisition of’ a little ‘ house - a “ little- < property –but because these people have been” saving they are. penalized, while others .who have squandered their substance in riotous living are received- with op”en arms. The parable is overdone.. .Pensioners should not be- -penalized merely because they have a little property. The circumstances to which the honorable member for Dalley alluded are entirely familiar to us all. We have been bombarded from all “ides with cases pf that sort. I, myself,- was approached in regard to a icas© very similar ito- that mentioned by the honorable member’, where the husband and’ wife were ‘living :apart. We may deplore’ these unfortunate separations, ‘but they will’ occur. Age cannot wither nor custom stale these ‘unhappy differences that divide people. ‘ Under such circumstances the earnings of the absent husband should not be considered as part » of the income of the wife. I do not think- that a court! of . law ‘ would so ‘ .regard them.’ The Government, however, is to ‘ be congratulated in doing something which will bring- -comfort, satisfaction’, arid joy into the’ lives,, homes’, and hearts ;of tens of thousands of our unfortunate citizens. There are some things -yet to be done, but
Rome was not built in a day. I am sure that the Treasurer has. listened with sympathy to the plea put up by honorable members on behalf of old-age and invalid persons. There is no honorable member in this House who would not do everything possible to- help the old people of this country; but we have not the purse ofFortunatus. We must do- the best we can for them, and by passing, this- bill we shall show the people of this country, and indeed of the world, what our concept of true citizenship is.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [8.57].- I regret with honorable members who have spoken that we have, not had an opportunity of dealing with many of the anomalies existingunder the act.. I regret particularly that the’ Treasurer could not see his- way to pay the’ whole of the increase in the pension to inmates of institutions. The Commonwealth Treasury will be showing.’ a; profit of 5s.. 6d..< a> week.- ‘on every pension in a’ hospital;, or-benevolent– .asylum.I was. hopeful,. ^as- I ‘ stated– a few Weeks ago, that when this measure, was- introduced the Treasurer, after his. indication of a large surplus, would be ableto pay. an increase, of: 2s. 6d. to- old persona in institutions, . thus enabling them to ‘receive 5s. 6d.. a week,, . instead- of. the proposed allowance of. 4s. That wouldgive them a better opportunity to obtain! a few extras ; such i as tobacco and other things to which they were previously accustomed.: Many of these people are. in ‘ institutions against their will. For instance, in the Waterfall Consumptive Sanitarium are many people who would leave the institution, to-morrow, and live. upon, their pensions’, if they; could do so, but ‘ that is practically the only place where they can- get the necessary care and attention. Therefore, it would be’ an act of grace on the part of the Government to pay the proposed increase of 2s. 6d. to thepensioner inmates. The -honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes): has said that all parties are to blame for the existing defects and limitations of the act. ‘ That may be so, but let us face the facts. ‘now;; there- is no- reason -why injustice should, be perpetuated. The limitation upon the earnings of pensioners, is too harsh. We all know of pensioner’s who would like to earn a few shillings a’ Week. !As a matter offact,employment often gives to old people an, added interest which helps to prolong their life, but if a man earns a few shillings a week he cannot get a doctor’s certificate that lie is totally incapacitated,, and so cannot qualify for an invalid pension. . I hope it is not too late for the Government! to introduce amendments for the rectification! of: various anomalies in the act and to provide, for the- payment of the extra half-crown. a week to the inmates of institutions.
Mr.COLEMAN (Reid) [9.3].-Our maincharge against the Government ‘in regard tothis bill is that it ‘has- been guilty of procrastination. In 1923 the cost of living was probably higher than? at is- ‘to-day, and the justification- for giving to the–” Aged arid invalid ‘ a. higher pension was even greater than:it is now. But: . we. must . thank the Government -for- small,mercies, . - however… belated. . As . the ; honorable, member for North Sydney has said, members now unanimously desire -the rate; of Pension, to.be, increased-.., The honorable member for’ Bailey (Mr.Mahony) - referredto,, the position of inmates ofhospftals and benevolent institutions. I am particularly; interested in them, because there are” in my electorate two of ‘ the largest . institutions of the kind in New. South Wales,, namely, the home for’ aged and invalid men at’ Rookwood, with 1,600 inmates, and the home for aged and’ invalid women at Newington,, with 600’ inmates. I support the request that ‘ the whole amount of the “ ‘ pension shall be paid to inmates of institutions, leaving the institutions to obtain from the pensioners a proportion of the amount “ for material’.’ . If . the Goyernment will not agree”, to that proposal, it should certainly consent to pay . the difference, between the amount at present paid”:to the institutions, and the amount received by the pensioners.’ The amount paid to the hospitals, most of which are, maintained by; the State Governments, is 10s. 6d. a week: for each inmate; The1 pensioner will’1 receive 4s . when- the’in-, creased pension -is agreed- to and “the Commonwealth -will be- ‘ withholding 5s. 6d. It will be- robbing eitherthe pensioners or theState, ‘fromwhich ever-.stand-point.it is’ viewed. The State accepts. ‘ the- responsibility- of’ maintaining these -people, andit should receive the difference between the fullamountof the pension and the few shillings paid to the inmates, if the Government will not agree to pay the difference to the pensioner himself. It is dishonorable for the Commonwealth to retain money to which it is not morally entitled. If the full amount of this difference were paid to the State Governments, the inmates of institutions would receive better treatment, and a more adequate diet. I have nothing to say against the two institutions in my electorate, except that the accommodation is somewhat rough, and there is not that variety of diet whichwould conduce to contentment. But I am informed by the State authorities that they lose money by the maintenance of pensioner inmates. It is said that the cost of maintenance is about 14s. or 15s. a week.
– The honorable member for Dalley said that the State is doing very well out of the amount which it receives from the Commonwealth for each pensioner.
– I am told that the maintenance costs in the two hospitals to which I have referred is more than 10s. 6d. per week. It is inconsistent for the Commonwealth to withhold money from the States in these circumstances, and yet hand out hundreds of thousands of pounds for- main roads and other activities which are exclusively of State concern, and which, it may be argued, should be paid for by the States. I know that State Governments resent the withholding of pension money, and have approached the Federal authorities in this regard time after time. Only recently, I urged the New South “Wales Government to press for the full payment of the pensions in respect of pensioner inmates of institutions, in view of the fact that the Government refuses to pay the difference to the pensioner. If the 5s. 6d. per week which the Commonwealth withholds be paid to State Governments, the treatment of the inmates of institutions will be materially improved. The accommodation in some of the hospitals, is not what it should be, owing to the avowed necessity for the authorities to keep down the overhead expenses. The act gives the magistrates power to compel people to enter institutions: they can suspend payment of the pension of any person who will not enter an institution, or, having entered one, will not remain there. Surely, when the Commonwealth throws Upon the State authorities the responsibility of maintaining these people, it should pay to the State the full amount of the pension. The Commonwealth cannot legitimately argue that the maintenance of the inmates of institutions is not partly a Federal responsibility.
– That argument is used.
– Yes ; notwithstanding that the act provides that a pensioner must enter an institution if the magistrate so decides.
I understood the right honorable member for North Sydney to suggest that the disqualification of Asiatics should.be removed from British Indians. That, I believe, is part of the Government’s proposal.
– The position of Syrians has been brought . under my notice. These people conform to our standard of civilization, although they are regarded as Asiatics. Those of my acquaintance are good Australian citizens. They have been granted the franchise, and their sons are subject to the compulsory military training laws. Yet Syrians are debarred from enjoyment of the invalid and old-age pensions and the maternity bonus. I know of one Syrian who is a respectable citizen in a big way of business, and who takes an intelligent interest in politics. He is the father of six or seven good Australian-born children; but his wife has not been allowed to draw the maternity allowance in respect of any of them., That is unjust. If the Government proposes to make eligible for pensions British Indians resident in Australia, it should also extend that right to Asiatics who become naturalized subjects of the Commonwealth. If a person is qualified for naturalization, surely he should be eligible for a pension.
The act provides that if a pensioner has accumulated property to an amount exceeding £50, his pension shall be proportionately reduced, although the home, whilst he resides in it, is exempt, regardless of its capital value. He shall not be entitled to a pension, if he has property exceeding the value of £400, and the pension is reduced to the extent of £1 for every £10 by which his assets exceed £50. That limitation should be increased to at least £750, to meet the circumstances of people who for health or other reasons cannot reside in their own homes. Another section of the act provides that a pensioner who deprives himself directly or indirectly of his property in order to get a pension shall be disqualified. Many pensioners may innocently sell property without being cognisant of the provision of the act. That section should be amended by theaddition of the word “ with intention to defraud.” No person should be deprived of a pension for a mere technical breach of the act. Persons who have been temporarily absent from Australia are unable to get a pension. I have repeatedly discussed this matter in the House, and have examined the files of correspondence between the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments over a period of thirteen or fourteen years. About ten years ago a reciprocal agreement in regard to pensions was made by the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments, but although the Dominion Parliament ratified the arrangement, this Parliament has never done so. Thus a great injustice is done to shearers, meat workers, and others who go to New Zealand for seasonal employment, thus breaking the continuity of their Australian residence. A similar anomaly exists in regard to invalid pensions. An Australian while at sea or in New Zealand, following a seasonal occupation, may meet with an accident, but because he is out of Australia at the time he may not draw an invalid pension. This provision has been responsible for many cases of grave injustice. The act should be amended to, at least, provide that any person who incurs a disability during temporary absence from Australia for a period not exceeding six months shall be entitled to draw an invalid pension.
The Treasurer does not propose to increase the earning power of the pensioners. At present they are allowed to earn up to 12s. 6d. per week. Many men are fairly sturdy and virile at 70 years of age, and like to earn a few shillings a week. “Why should they be forced to live in idleness in order to qualify for a pension ? The Government should encourage them to augment their pensions, and I think they should be allowed to earn, say, 15s. a week. When they are able to use their energies their economic value to the community is enhanced.
– But the employment of these old people is always objected to.
– It can be abused, and a limitation must be imposed, but I do not think it would be unreasonable to allow a pensioner to earn, at least, 15s. a week. The amount provided for pensioners who become inmates of hospitals is inadequate, and if our parliamentary procedure permitted me, I should move to increase it to at least 5s. a week, instead of 4s., as now proposed. With other honorable members I regret that there will not be an opportunity to submit amendments that would remove many of the anomalies which have caused hardship to applicants for pensions.
– I imagined that this bill would be received with acclamation by honorable members opposite.
– It has been.
– It appears to me that honorable members opposite are disappointed at its having been brought forward.
– Not at all. We think that it will pave the way to an early election. The sooner that comes, the better.
– For many years several honorable members have moved motions calling upon the Government to increase the rate of pension. Endeavours have been made to prove that the Government has been inept and careless, but I believe that it is worthy of congratulation. It will have to find a very large additional sum to give effect to this proposal. My principal reason for rising was to urge the Government to introduce as speedily as possible a scheme of national insurance. I recognize that the investigations of the commission involve a great deal of inquiry and research, which must necessarily occupy a considerable length of time. Any scheme brought forward should provide for contributions by employers, employees, and the State, whether it relates to old age, invalidity, accident, sickness, or unemployment. Such a scheme is very urgently required in Australia. I have read a good deal regarding the German system that was initiated by Bismarck some decades ago. Under it magnificent work was done and enormous sums collected. Whilst we cannot advocate a schema exactly on , these lines, it ought to be possible to provide for ali sections as an actual right, arid not as a ‘dole from the Crown. I urge the Treasurer to - formulate a scheme which will be as .good as, if not better than, any (Other in the world to-day.
Mr. O’KEEFE (Denison) £.9.2.0] - With others who have spoken, I heartily congratulate the ^Government on the introduction of this measure. Despite the lecture of the honorable .member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), honorable members -on this side have a perfect right to suggest to the Government directions in which the bill may ,be improved. That has. been the motive underlying the remarks of honorable members who have spoken from this side. For a long time difficulties .have confronted honorable members who have had dealings with the Pensions Department in the various .States. We have always kept alive the hope that, when an amending bill was introduced, it would remedy any. anomalies that existed. Those .anomalies aire very serious, and I am sure that the disappointment which has been voiced by honorable members on this side will be echoed by thousands of .those who, unfortunately, .are compelled to apply for the pension. The bill does not attempt to remedy anomalies, and I am afraid that it has been framed in such a way that we shall not be able to amend it in that direction. Reference has been made to the allowance that dS provided for pensioners who enter hospitals. I have been brought face to face with cases of very great hardship. One .swell came to my .notice within the last few weeks. It was that of an invalid pensioner who has dependent upon, him -a wife and several children. The full pension has .not been sufficient for their needs,, and the wife has had- to go ‘©tit to work to -earn sufficient to feed and clothe her family. I do not think .a t *the legislature -intended- that the payment of 17s. 6d. a week should be withheld from the family of an invalid, /pensioner if he entered a hospital There is another direction in winch, for a long time, it has been -necessary to amend the act. If an invalid is physically -able to earn even a small amount, he is mot entitled to receive any pension. Before die can sustain a claim, he must be declan-od by the departmental doctor to be permanently incapacitated ; and the meaning given to “permanent incapacity” is inability to earn anything. It is anomalous that an old-age pensioner should fee allowed to earn,a few shillings a week without having his pension re1duced, whilst an invalid cannot obtain a pension if he earns even the smallest amount, lt “would be a humane act to provide that an invalid may earn as much as ‘ an old-age pensioner is allowed to earn.
– Twelve shillings and sixpence a week.
– Many pf those who draw the invalid pension are able to undertake light employment when they can get it. I contend that a man or a woman is permanently incapacitated when lie or she is prevented from earning the full wage, and that is the meaning which should be given ,to the term used in the act. If an invalid pensioner were permitted to earn 12s. -6d. a week, his total income, witu the pension, would amount to 32s. 6d. a week. That is not more than is sufficient to feed and clothe himself, and is too little if he has others dependent upon him. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) may intend to make that provision when his long-promised measure of reform - the National Insurance Bill - is before the House. Tt is difficult to guess the date of its introduction. It may not be brought down during the life of this Parliament. I nope that the Standing Orders will not preclude honorable members from moving amendments to improve this measure. An opportunity should be afforded to test the feeling of the House on some of the questions which have, been raised to-night. ; I commend the- honorable member for Dalley (Mr.. Mahony) for having expressed appreciation of the courtesy and helpfulness of the officers who are charged- with the administration of the act. My experience in that respect has been a very .satisfactory one. The y old-aged are particularly sensitive, and many of them defer for a long time the lodging of a claim because of their fear of encountering discourtesy from the officials. When we find that those officers throughout Australia are courteous, sympathetic, and helpful, it is our duty to say’ so in this House.- I have received nothing %ut satisf actory treatment in my own State, and I am very glad to learn that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is also satisfied with the treatment he has received in his State; I hope that the Treasurer will not prevent honorable members from submitting amendments to the bill when we reach the committee stage.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has expressed surprise that honorable members onthis side of the House are not disposed to congratulate the Government uponthe introduction of this measure. Those with a knowledge of the history of this . Parliament, and the record of the Ministry with respect to invalid and old-age pensions,, will give the Government very little credit., The bill would not have been introduced but for the persistence of the Opposition. The Governmenthas been compelled to bring, it in. On two occasions, when honorable, members on this side took action to ensure an increase in invalid and old-age pensions, the Government and its supporters were found in opposition.
– Possibly the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) was the exception. The recordsshow conclusively that the Government has repeatedly deprived our old-age and invalid pensioners of this increased’ payment which is so long overdue.
– For over two years.
– That is so. It is as well, also, that the people should know of the: procedure adopted by the Government to prevent honorable members on this side of the House from expressing their views concerning this much-needed increase in: payment to our old-age and invalid pensioners. At the commencement of every session- a supporter of the Government has. placed on the noticepaper a motion relating to old-age and invalid pensions, and has thus- prevented honorable members on this side from discussing the matter. Therefore very little credit is due to the Government for the introduction of the bill. We do not intend to allow the- Government to “ get away with the goods “ in this’ manner. The introduction of the measure on the eve of a general election is a clear indi- cation that the Government intends to use it for political purposes. Ministers hope that they will strengthen their position in the eyes of the electors by a display of so-called generosity, when, as a matter of fact,, this increased pension is long overdue.
– It is merely a political placard:
– Of “course it is. Honorable members on this side have on many, occasions referred to serious anomalies in the’ act, and it is only right that an opportunity should now be presented to remedy them. I have no complaint to make against the officials at. the head-quarters of the. department in Melbourne. Indeed, I go so far as to say that they are exceedingly efficient in administration,, and display the greatest sympathy in connexion ‘with all cases brought before them. ‘ I should like especially to- express my appreciation of the Assistant Commissioner of Pensions, Mr. Metford, the man who is really behind the scenes’,, and who is- doing excellent work. Many cases, have come, under my notice, including that of a young man over the age of 21 years,, living with his parents in my division. ‘ From infancy he has been dependent uponhis parents., but when he reached the age of 21 years he desired to contribute in a small way towards his own upkeep: He attempted to perform some light employment, but ‘ found it impossible, and had to desist. Because his father is in receipt of a’ wage rather better than that usually paidto an artisan:, the view taken by the’ department is that this young man is adequately maintained by his parents’, ‘ but, as I have pointedout, he is over the- age- of 21 years, and his case should be decided on its’ merits. He shouldbe entitled to the invalid! pension, ‘irrespective of his father’s financial: position. There is no reason why his parents should be further handicapped in making provision for their own old age. We can all imagine the feelings of this young man. If he left his home he would receive the pension as a matter of course, but because he remains with his parents he is deprived of his pension, and his parents are penalized. It is not my wish to unduly delay the measure. I understand that other honorable members desire to speak and offer some words of advice to the Treasurer as to how the provisions of this law should be liberalized. Old-age pensioners who, through thrift, have secured a home for themselves receive the pension while they remain in their own home, but if, through advancing years, they find it necessary to live with a son or daughter, the Pensions Department immediately deducts from their pension payments the rental value of the cottage which they have left. 1 realize, of course, that the Pensions Department is only doing its duty, but unquestionably it is an anomaly when pensioners are treated in this way. I hope that, before the debate closes, weshall hear from the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes).
– You will.
– When last he spoke on this subject the honorable member for Boothby expressed himself as against any increase in invalid and old-age pensions. I shall be glad to know if he is a recent convert to the provisions of the bill. I trust that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will offer no objection to amendments to widen the provisions of the act in order to remove the many anomalies that have been brought under his notice.
– In August, 1923, in my speech on the budget I referred to the invalid and old-age pensions. My remarks on that occasion gave rise to a great deal of criticism.
– Which was well deserved.
– For some reason I still hear criticism of that speech. A few weeks ago in this House, and when I was out of the chamber, the honorable member forCapricornia (Mr. Forde) was good enough to allude to my remarks on the occasion referred to, and ask what would the electors of Boothby think about them. Since I was elected on a definite programme, and since I confirm to-night the statements which I made then, and in August, 1923, I am prepared to go back to the electors of Boothby and ask them for their endorsement.
– The honorable member will not come back.
– That may be. Nevertheless, I confirm what I said in August, 1923, and I make the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Capricornia a present, of that fact. There is something else which I wish to say. It relates to the position of those honorable members with whom I have the privilege to be associated in this House. The honorable member for Capricornia suggested that my views on invalid and old-age . pensions are shared by honorable members who sit beside me. So far as I know that is not so. My views may be bad - and I can hardly imagine that, as I am the only one that holds them, they are good - but whether good or bad, they are my views, and, as far as I know, they are not the views of those associated with me. It is only right that I should make that point clear, in justice to those who, in most other respects, agree with me.
.- I cannot congratulate the Government on this bill, because I feel that it is evidence only of an eleventh-hour repentance. It is very fortunate for the old-age pensioners that there is a threatened political crisis, and that we are nearing the end of the life of this ‘ Parliament. The Government, with the record that it has, is not game to go to the electors without attempting to placate at least one section of the community. Regarding the proposal to pay pensioners in hospitals 4s. a week, I support the conclusions, but not the arguments, of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). I do not think that the hospitals receive enough, but I believe the suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley, that the pensioners should receive’ the whole of the pension while they are in hospital, and should, make the necessary arrangements with the hospital authorities, is a good one. I have in my constituency a very large hospital which, I found on inquiry, was not paying to four old-age pensioners the stipulated 3s. per week. In the ‘first case, which I brought under the notice of the Deputy Commissioner for Pensions, the hospital authorities had to refund £4 16s. to the old-age pensioner and afterwards they had the audacity to demand 30s. from him. Foolishly he paid it as a donation. The three other cases followed immediately afterwards. I do not know whether the secretary to the hospital put the money into his own pocket, or whether it went into the exchequer of the hospital, but I know that it was refunded by the secretary to the old-age pensioners. The widow of a pensioner who had died came to me, and, upon my making representations to the Deputy Commissioner, a sum of” over £2 was refunded to her. It is not of much use increasing the payment to the pensioners from 3s. to 4s. a week if other people are to be allowed to appropriate the money. If the Treasurer cares to make inquiries, he will find the particulars of the four cases I have mentioned recorded in the department in Melbourne. J hope that the matter of British Indians will be dealt with. I have received a request from some of those people who, now that they are permitted to become naturalized, are anxious to participate in the benefits of the old-age pension system. Another question arises regarding pensioners who have property. I have a letter from a man at Meredith, who asks me what would happen if an intending applicant for an old-age pension was to sell his home for £360 and go to live with a retired farmer in Geelong. I will have to tell him that if he sells or lets the home, for every £10 that he receives over £50, the pension will be reduced by £1 a year. If he lets the house for 12s. 6d. a week, he will receive 12s. 6d. a week less pension. “We allow old-age pensioners who earn up to 12s. 6d. a week to receive the full amount of pension, and I believe that without an alteration of the act the Treasurer could, by regulation, provide that the 12s. 6d. received as rent should be regarded as earnings, so that the pensioner could receive the full pension.
– Has the department refused to do that?
– Yes. A case was brought under my notice this week in which a pension was refused because the pensioner was receiving rent for his home. The Pensions Department ought to confer frequently with the Repatriation Department. “When men enlisted for the war they were told that certain pensions would be paid to the dependants of those who were killed. I have in my constituency soldiers’ widows and mothers who have been receiving £1 a week pension, and when they have become eligible for an invalid or old-age pension, their war pension has been reduced by 7s. 6d. a week. That was never intended when the act providing for war pensions was passed. I hope that when the bill is in committee the Treasurer will offer some explanation of the points I have raised.
.- -I do not think that the Government is worthy of congratulation for bringing down this measure, because if it had done its duty to the old people of Australia it would have brought it down two years ago. During the last Federal election campaign those honorable members who carried the banner of Labour made a definite promise that if they were elected as a Government £1 a week would be paid to the invalid and old-age pensioners. Honorable members on this side will not vote against the bill, because it is better that the pensioners should have an increase of 2s. 6d. a week than nothing at all. It is a great pity that the Government did not deal with the matter in a comprehensive way and liberalize the conditions under which pensions are paid. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that honorable members on this side were as blameworthy as any one else for certain hardships that are now inflicted on the old-age pensioners, but I should like to remind him that no Labour Government has been in power in this Parliament for the last nine years.
– And no Labour Government will be in power for another nine years.
– There will be a Labour Government in power almost immediately. There will be. another nine-year period, during which the Labour party will be in power. “We shall have nine years in, and the honorable member’s party nine years out. The right honorable member for North Sydney may be blameworthy for not altering these conditions, but he has no right to chastise honorable members on this side.
– The Labour party was in power for five years and did nothing until the last day.
– I do not intend to deal with that aspect of the question now. The honorable member should not speak of a subject of which he knows nothing.
– I have the record before me.
– Order ! The record is not in order now.
– The honorable member knows quite well that for eight years after federation nothing was done in the direction of paying invalid and old-age pensions. It was in 1908, when the Deakin
Government was in power, that, on the conditional support of the Labour party, the Old-age Pensions Act was passed. Mr. Alfred Deakin was very definitely told by Mr. J”. C. Watson, who was the Leader of the Federal Labour party at that time, that if he did not introduce an old-age pensions bill he would have to get out of office. Because of that ultimatum the Government passed the measure, and Mr. Deakin had to suffer the gibe of Sir George Reid that he” had acted. on the dictates of the Labour party. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. .Lister) should know that the Labour party was in power only for a, few months in 1909. Owing to the treachery of Mr. Alfred Deakin and Sir George Reid, a coalition was formed; the Labour party was turned out of office, and the Reid-McLean Government was formed. After that the Labour party did not come into power again until 1910, and in 1911 that part of the act which provides for invalid pensions was brought into operation by proclamation, and the pensions were paid for the first time to invalids in Australia. To the Labour party stands all the credit for passing that measure. In 1916 it was the Labour party that increased the amount of the invalid and old-age pensions, and, in many ways, liberalized the conditions of payment.
– At the instance of honorable members sitting opposite Labour..
– At the instance of honorable member’s sitting opposite to the honorable, member now. In the caucus meetings of the Labour party these matters were forcibly argued, and the Cabinet took the matter up. The act provided that the children of applicants for pensions need not be required to swear that they could not afford to help their parents. Applicants were also allowed to own their own homes. I should like to point out to the honorable member for Corio that, on the 10th August, 1923, the honorable member for Reid (Mr.1 Coleman) moved for an increase in the invalid and old-age pensions, and nearly all the honorable members on. the Government side voted . against his amendment. The honorable members for Corio (Mr. Lister), Robertson (Mr. Gardner), Henty (Mr. F. Francis)., Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), Fremantle (Mr.
Watson), and Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) voted with members of the Opposition, but all the other honorable members on the Government side, by their votes, delayed the passing of this bill for two years. It is of no use their saving now that members on this side are delaying the passing of the measure,’ for if we had had our way the increased payments would have been made two years ago. On the 24th August, 1923, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved for an increase in the invalid and old-age pensions. What happened? With the exception of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), honorable members opposite voted against the Labour party’s amendment, which delayed the increase being granted for two years. It was on that occasion that the honorable member for’ Richmond (Mr. R. Green), in an impassioned speech, 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.
That was a most unsympathetic ‘utterance to come from a member of the Countryparty. He thinks that all the responsibility should rest upon the children of these old people. How could pensioners’ sons, many of whom are receiving only the basic wage, be expected to maintain not only their families, but also their parents? Many in Victoria, where the basic wage is about £3 ,18s. per week, have to pay at least 30s. for rent, and could not be expected to assist in maintaining their parents. On the 10th September, 1524, I moved that the rate of pension be increased to 20s. a week, and on that occasion every member of the Country party and of the Nationalist party voted against the proposal, and in doing so delayed the granting of the increase by at least twelve months. I say, without fear of contradiction, that but for the fact that an election is approaching, this bill would not be before the House to-night. Indeed, it would have been still longer delayed if it had not been for the action taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.” Charlton) on the 3rd September of this year, when he submitted a motion providing that the invalid and old-age pensioners should be paid the increased rate from the 15th September. The Government was practically forced to. bring this measure down, and the Treasurer cannot deny the accuracy of my statement. When the Leader of the Opposition submitted a motion on the 3rd. September to increase the pensions as from the 15th of this month, every honorable member opposite voted against this amendment because they wished it delayed so that they could tell the electors that if they voted for the candidates supporting the composite Government, increased pensions would be paid. In consequence, however, of the attitude adopted by honorable members on this side of the chamber, theywere forced to introduce this bill. I congratulate the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) upon saying that he meant all he said when he took the Government to task for increasing the pension from 15s. to 17s. 6d. a week. He is candid, if nothing else. Inview of his statement on that occasion, I ‘know that he is bitterly opposed to an increase to 20s. a week.
-“.Bitterly, opposed “ are not the words to express my attitude.
– Will the honorable member vote against the proposed increase?
– I am not surprised. I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member, and I am glad to know that be is at least consistent. On the ‘8th August, 1923, he said -
Icome 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 time. 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 not; be so if the honorable member had hisway. The honorable member for Boothby, however, gauged . the temperament of the majority of honorable members. If it were not for the attitude of members of the Labour party, , he would endeavour to have the rate reduced.
– Will the honorable member read the ‘ concluding portion of my speech, and quote what I said about national- insurance ? He has carefully avoided that.
– The speech of the honorable member occupies about ten pages of Hansard, and from the honorable member’s point of view, it was a good speech. The honorable member said that it was not fair to say that he expressed the views of honorable members on . his side of the chamber. I remind the honorable member for Boothby that, in Hansard of the 21st June, 1923, the following is recorded : -
– Why did’ the late Government not increase the ‘ pensions?
-HUGHES.-I am -unable to say. Duringmy election campaign I referred to this question at every meeting, and always expressed -the opinion that I have just now submitted to honorable members.’
– If the honorable member had to live on’ 15s. per week, he would see some reason for an increase?
– I am not suggesting that any man would not, gladly increase the pensions if . he thought it proper to do so to-day.
– Give” your reasons for objecting to an increase.
-HUGHES. - One reason is that Parliament is the trustee , of the people’s money, and we have no right, in the present financial situation, to sanction an - increase.
That was more than two years ago; and I am rather disappointed that I did not hear more from the honorable member on this occasion, because the surplus two years ago was greater than that disclosed at the end of the last financial year. I presume the honorable member was “ carpeted “ in caucus, or was told by the honorable members with whom he is associated that an election was approaching.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member was probably informed that there are 155,670 pensioners throughout Australia who, with their sons and daughters, go along to the ballot-box and record a cross opposite the names of the candidates whom they wish, to support. They probably said, “ Look here! You are honest and straightforward in a lot of the things you do, but when you have been in politics as long as we have, you will not be so outspoken.” I can imagine the honorable member replying to the effect that he comes from a State where bis party i.3 led by Sir Henry Barwell. Sir Henry Barwell is noted for his outspokenness. He said that he had the courage to say many things that thousands of Nationalists throughout Australia believed, but were not prepared to say. He said that he alone had the courage to advocate black labour for portions of Australia, and added that many Nationalists agreed with him.
– The honorable member has quoted only those portions of my speech that suit him.
– The speech of the honorable member was a long one. Had I started to read it at 8 o’clock, I might still be reading it, unless I had been called to order for referring to matters not connected with invalid and old-age pensions. ‘The honorable member’s speech was delivered in connexion with the budget, and dealt with a number of things which concerned South Australia. I 0have to-night extracted from it a number of references to invalid and old-age pensions, showing that the honorable member was opposed to their being granted. I shall not accept his statement, nor will honorable members on this side, that he is not speaking for honorable members opposite. The honorable member has been chastised.
– That is not correct.
– He has been chastised for having said something that will rob Government supporters of votes. I congratulate the honorable member on his courage, and express’ the hope that the old-age and invalid pensioners will read his remarks. If they do, they must decide that their true friends in this House are to be found in the Labour party, and no’t among the Nationalists.
– The honorable member should not “ Stone-wall “ the bill, and so delay the payment of the increased pension.
– The honorable member who has interjected has only just strolled into the chamber. Two years ago, he voted against an amendment to increase the pension to £1 a week. Three months later, when the Leader of the Opposition moved that the pension be increased, he again voted against the increase. On the 10th September last year, when I moved that, the pension be increased, he opposed the amendment, and again this year he has done the same. Now he accuses me of causing delay in the payment of the increased rates! There are many ways in which the principal act could be improved. Like the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), I regret that we shall not have an opportunity of moving some necessary amendments. There is, for instance, the question of the payment to hospitals for pensioner inmates. It is most unfair that only 10s. 6d. a week should be paid to the hospital authorities, and 3s., or under this bill 4s., to the pensioners, while at the same time the Government will benefit to the extent of 5s. 6d. a week because of their misfortune. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said that the action of the Government was tantamount to robbing the pensioners of £40,000 a year. While I maintain that 10s. 6d. a week is too small a payment to make to the hospitals, I point out that, in Queensland, numbers of people who are not invalid or old-age pensioners receive treatment in public hospitals absolutely free of charge. I presume that similar conditions exist also in other States. It would be better to allow the pensioners to make their own arrangements with the hospital authorities for treatment. No hospital committee in Australia would turn them out if they were unable to pay 10s. 6d. a week. If this were done, it would mean that many of these old people would receive medical and hospital treatment free of charge; in so doing, they would not be receiving more than they deserve. They would then have a few pounds with which to buy delicacies and clothing when they went out of the hospital. Rather than allow the Government to benefit !o the extent of 5s. 6d. a week, or £40,000 per annum, because pensioners find it necessary to receive treatment in hospitals, the amount now paid to those institutions should be increased. At Rockhampton, in Queensland, we have a very fine home, . at which a number of old people receive great care and attention. That institution is conducted by a philanthropic body of women known as . the Rockhampton Benevolent Society, who find that they cannot keep a patient for 10s. 6d. a week. I should like to refer to section . 16’ of the principal act of 1908, which reads -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension, namely: -
No woman having married one of the persons disqualified by this section shall, in consequence only of such marriage, be or become disqualified to receive a pension.
Dealing with sub-section 6 of that section I point out that there are many instances of people who have been in Australia for 25 or 30 years, but, until recent years, have not become naturalized. Because a period of three years has not expired from the date of their naturalization, they are unable to obtain a pension, and consequently they suffer hardships. A further provision of the existing legislation is that a person must have been a resident of Australia for twenty years to be eligible for an old-age pension. I know of many old people who for fifteen or sixteen years have been citizens of Australia, doing pioneering work, and rearing families, who are denied pensions because they have not completed twenty years’ residence in the Commonwealth. In matters of this kind the departmental officers should be able to exercise discretionary power, and deal with all applications on their merits; they should not. be hampered, by hard and fast rules or regulations. Section 22 (b) of the principal act reads - -
No person shall receive an invalid pension unless -
he has on that date resided in Australia continuously (within the meaning of section 18) for at least five years.
I know a number of old people who have been in Australia for . three or four years, and whose income is insufficient to keep them. They are deprived of an invalid pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That is quite wrong. I am very sorry that the introduction of this measure has been so long delayed, and that it proposes the amend ment of the existing act in a haphazard fashion, and does not provide for the liberalization of its conditions on the lines suggested by honorable members on this side. I wish to say a few words regarding the amount which pensioners are allowed to earn. Under this bill they will be permitted to earn only 12s. 6d. per week in addition to the pension. They should be allowed to earn at least 15s. per week. The hardship is greater when we consider the case of the invalid pensioner. In many cases invalid pensions are stopped if the pensioners earn 6s., 7s., or 8s. a week. That is not right, especially in view of the fact that on the pension of 17s. 6d. per week which they have been receiving they have found it quite impossible to properly clothe themselves and at the same time pay for a room and for their food. Cases have come under my notice in Queensland in which old people by their thrift throughout their lives have been able to put together sufficient for the purchase of a small house in addition to the home in which they live. Where these persons have been in receipt of a rent of 7s. 6d. or 10s. a week for the small property they have owned, their pensions have been reduced accordingly. That is not right, and the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was quite right when he said that these old people should not be penalized because of their thrift. They should be permitted without penalty to receive a small rental for the little property which is the result of their savings on a very small wage. There is one point I would like to make before resuming my seat. I want to say that the proposed increase in the invalid and old-age pensions is not much when one considers the great increase in the cost of living throughout Australia. From the quarterly summary of Australian statistics, I find that in Sydney what might have been purchased for 21s. in 1911 cost in March,. 1925, 35s. 7d. What cost 18s. 8d. in Melbourne in 1911 cost 36s.1d. in 1925. What cost 17s. 4d. in Brisbane in 1911 cost 29s. 7d. in the first quarter of 1925. What cost 21s. 5d. in Adelaide in 1911 cost 34s. 5d. in 1925. What cost 23s. 3d. in Perth in 1911 cost 34s. 7d. in 1925. What cost 18s. 9d. in Hobart in 1911 cost 35s. 5d. in 1925. I have said that the introduction of this measure has been long overdue, and that the old people of Australia should have been given the proposed increase in their pensions two years1 ago, when honorable members on this side advocated it. The increase would then have been given if we had been assisted by one-half of honorable members opposite to carry the amendment we submitted for the immediate payment of a pension of £1 per week in accordance with a definite election pledge which we made to the people of Australia. Honorable members opposite deprived the old people of the -Commonwealth of at least £4,000,000 in the last two and- a half years by the callous indifference with which they then voted against the increase so strenuously advocated by- the Australian1 Labour party.
.- One thing which has been disclosed by the debate is the admission that the pensioner inmates of the different asylums have reason to be well pleased at the removal from office of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because that has- made it possible for the Government to bring down a measure providing something for them. Much- has been said to-night about anomalies- arising under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I could say much more on the same subject, but I am hoping to be a member of a caucus behind the Government, after the next elections, and it is in that caucus r.hat we shall be able to remedy these anomalies. That being so, I shall not waste words on that matter to-night. Whilst I am pleased’ that it is proposed, to- increase the invalid and old-age pensions, by 2s. 6d. per week, and the allowance paid to inmates of hospitals and benevolent asylums by ls. per week,, I cannot .let this occasion’ pass without expressing, regret that the Government has not seen its way to increase; the allowance, to pensioners in. benevolent institutions tq the same- extent as the increase proposed for .the invalid and old-age pensioners outside.- I listened carefully to the Treasurer .(Dr. Earle Page) to try to understand the reason why the Government has not done this. The honorable gentleman gave no reason whatever except that, it is. one of the anomalies which the Government proposes to remove under a measure to- be introduced later on to -provide, for national insurance. I do not regard that as- a sufficient reason.. In the- past the Government has been taking 4s. per week, the difference between. 13s.. 6d., the amount paid for each pensioner in benevolent institutions, plus the: allowance to the pensioner, and 17s. 6d., the amount paid to old-age . pensioners outside, such institutions. I fail to. see why it should, have done so, but as in the past it has made this differentiation between pensioners it might very well have given the full 2s. 6d. per week to pensioners who are the inmates of benevolent homes, instead of making the difference 5s. 6d. per week between the payments’ made for them and to oldage pensioners outside such institutions. I hope that when- the bill is being considered in committee the Treasurer will give the reasons which have actuated the Government in the.- course it has followed. There is one of these,- - benevolent homes in ‘my electorate, amd. the . old- people who- are being looked after there come to me to- explain. the position. - I ann unable to satisfactorily do so. I do not go- so far as some honorable members have gone; and assertthat all the blame in connexion,, with thematter rests with the Common-wealth Gbvernment, and none upon the StateGovernments’. . I know that- there has- been wrangling over -this- ‘ matter between the State and Commonwealth’ Governments for ,a considerable- time1. At the ‘OM Polks’ Home at’ Magill, inSouth Australia, the officers help the inmates by taking charge of their pension money and using it to purchase for them’ articles of food and clothing that are not provided by the institution. It seems to me that 5s.. 6d. a. week, is not too much, to ‘allow the inmates., to. help them in purchasing clothes, tobacco, and other articles they may need. I do not intend to labour the matter, because I know it will be useless to do so. If no amendment is submitted in committee for the purpose of rectifying this position^. I intend to propose one. I regret that the- Government that has looked after the interests of the wealthy section of the- community; refuses to give to these old-age pensioners that to which they have a right - the full increase in their pension. . The Government was willing to deduct, £2,500^000 from the land tax of Crown lessees in the Northern . Territory, to let the private banks have, as reduction in interest from 6, per cent, to 4.per cent., in connexion with- the- -notes i supplied to them, to play into the hands of the big soft-goods merchants of Australia by selling the Geelong “Woollen Mills, and to allow Sir Sidney Kidman to evade the payment of some of his land tax for over six years. But it denies this small measure of justice to some of the old people on whose behalf honorable members on this side have often pleaded. 1 hope that when a Labour Government obtains power after the next elections, it will prove itself to be the friends of these people. I do not contend that the ids. 6d. a week paid to the institutions for the maintenance of each pensioner is sufficient,- but I claim that when this payment is increased, the difference between the amount fixed and the full amount of the pension should be handed over to the inmate.
.-I share the optimistic view expressed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), and I hope I shall soon be sitting behind a Government that will show the inmates of public institutions the consideration to which they are entitled.
– There is no tax on hope.
– If there were, the honorable member who interjected would be relieved from all anxiety as to taxation so far as his political position is concerned. It has been suggested by the honorable- member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that honorable members are not entitled to suggest amendments to this bill. The outstanding feature of the debate is the paucity of speeches from the other side. Honorable members opposite seem to be in -no way concerned with the anomalies existing under the old-age pension system. The Labour party has advocated consistently that if the revenue would permit of it, the pension should be raised. .To show a death-bed repentance, the Government has now come forward with an increase of 2s. 6d. a week, and I suggest that this would not be paid in the second week in October had it not been for the agitation by the Opposition. The Treasurer’s policy in regard to pensions was wrapped up with a proposal for national insurance, and if the Minister was candid, he would admit, that the Government saw the justice of the claim made by the Opposition or was influenced in its action by the imminence of an election. It does not matter to me whether the Treasurer denies this or smiles satirically. The public will understand the tactics of the Ministry. “When the old-age pensioners have appealed for assistance, honorable members on this side have had to tell them that owing to the attitude of the Government their hands have been tied; but last week the cord was severed. So much for the political aspect of this matter. Regarding the bill itself, I do not intend to reiterate what has already been said, but I desire to bring one anomaly under the notice of the House. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) some two years ago brought this matter under the notice of the Treasurer. The secretary of the institution that I have in mind - “ Minda,” a home in South Australia that has been established for the care of weak-minded children - has written to me as follows : -
Hie Pensions Act provides that no person is eligible for the pension until attaining the age of sixteen years. “ Minda “ admits Applicants at two years of age and upwards. ‘ If a boy (or girl) remains outside the institution till sixteen years old, he can, subject to the provisions of the act, get tlie pension, and if subsequently application is made for admission, and he is accepted, the pension continues. But if the lad is admitted to the home before reaching the agc of sixteen years, the provisions of the act do not apply when the inmate attains that age. The only provision made for those who enter the institution while under the age of sixteen years, and whose parents or guardians are not in a financial position to maintain them, is a pay-, ment of 3s. per week to provide extra comforts. This, of course, only applies after they reach sixteen years. I think you will agree that this is an anomaly. We have inmates in the home to-day over tlie age of sixteen years, some of whom get full invalid pension, and others the 3s. a week only, and yet the parents of the former may be in a better position than the latter.
This is an anomaly that the House should be given an opportunity to rectify, and I intend in committee to submit an amendment to meet such cases. Then, again, we have the position of the blind, whose claim for justice will surely appeal to honorable members of every shade of politics. Our whole-hearted sympathy goes out to those who are afflicted with blindness. Repeated attempts have been made by institutions for the blind to get what they regard as justice. I have with me a. communication from the lady who is secretary to the Blind Workers Union of South Australia.
I promised her that I would endeavour to have the act amended, and that I would submit to the House any reasons she might advance in support of the request of her association for an amendment of the act. Her letter to me is as follows : -
The Blind Workers’ Unionof South Australia. 13th July. 1925.
In November of last year, a meeting of the Blind Federal Council (which represents five organizations of the blind in the Commonwealth) was held in Melbourne. At a meeting, at which Mr. G. Maxwell, M.H.E., presided, the following resolutions were carried: -
That this conference recommends the payment of the Commonwealth pension to all blind persons over the age of sixteen years, as a compensation for blindness, irrespective of income or occupation.
That in the case of blind persons arriving in the Commonwealth, five years of continuous residence shall be sufficient qualification for receiving the pension.
Of course, the matter is being dealt with by the executive of the council in Melbourne; but it was deemed wise to acquaint all our representatives with the above resolutions, in order that, when the question is discussed, all may be fully informed as to the exact position.
When, at the end of 1020. the amendment was passed allowing blind persons to receive £45s. per week, including the pension (the highest basic wage then prevailing in the Commonwealth), a very great benefit was conferred upon those employed by institutions. There was no longer any reason for such institutions to pay their blind employees the smallest possible wage. All who were able and desirous of benefiting the blind whose employment they controlled were free to do so to a larger extent than had previously been possible. But, while the amendment was of immense assistance to those employed by institutions, there was, and still is, a fairly large section of our fellow blind who are totally unprovided for either by the act itself or the amendment.
It must be apparent to the most casual observer that those blind who are employed by institutions are better provided for than those who are not: because, in the first place, their employment is regular: and, in the second place, though their earnings are much smaller than those of the average worker, they at least receive certain bonuses which, together with the pension, give them a fair income. It must not be supposed, however, that the blind as a whole receive the amount allowed by the amendment. . . .
As the hour is late, I shall not read the balance of this letter, but at a later stage I shall communicate its contents to hon orable members, so that they will understand the claim put forward by the blind workers. Another anomaly which should appeal to honorable members has recently come under my notice. A blind man left Broken Hill for Adelaide so that he could earn something in the blind institution there. His wife remained in Broken Hill, where she is earning a livelihood for herself by keeping a boarding-house, but this fact debars the man from getting a pension. If honorable members opposite are as sympathetic as they claim to ‘ be, they will help us to have all these anomalies rectified. Personally, I do not stand for the act as it is to-day. My opinion is that every one who pays a tax should be entitled to draw a pension when he has lived here sufficiently long to entitle him to do so. My view is, perhaps, too far advanced, or too bolshevistic to meet with general approval, but when it is a matter of wiping out anomalies I shall be found voting to wipe them out one after another until the act conforms to my idea of what a pensions act should be. To-day it is class legislation. There is too much of the charity dole aspect about its application, and the sooner we recognize that every citizen has a right to what he pays for in taxation the sooner we shall have something in the shape of a pensions act which will approximate equity and justice. I shall say no more on the matter now, because the committee stage will give an opportunity to deal with the various anomalies that need rectification. I trust, however, that the Treasurer will go further than merely throwing down an extra half-crown to those entitled to a pension, and that he will review the provisions of the act with a view to removing the many hardships that are now inflicted.
.- I wish to bring under the attention of the Treasurer a few anomalies to which I hope he will give serious and sympathetic consideration. I know a number of very old people who own a little property worth, perhaps, £400 or £500, but are living with their sons and daughters. If the houses they own are let at £1 or £.1 2s. 6d. per week, they are deprived of a pension, despite the fact that their sons and daughters with whom they are living are often obliged to provide medicine and in some cases nursing for their aged parents. In cases where
.- I wish briefly to reply to some of the statements made by honorable members. Any one who compares the cost of invalid and old-age pensions when this Government took office with the estimated, cost this year will see that the Government has not attempted to be cheeseparing. In 1922-3 the amount paid was £5,300,000. This year the amount estimated to be paid is £8.000,000, au increase of £2,700,000. In that time not merely were the invalid and old-age pensions increased from 15s. to £1 a week, but, as I pointed out previously, in 1923 the first comprehensive alteration of anomalies was undertaken .by the Government, and no fewer than eight anomalies were actually removed. Previously it had not been possible to alter more than two anomalies at one time. The suggestion that, first of all,’ this Government is not sympathetic to the oldage pensioner,- and secondly, that it has been forced to take this action, falls to the ground, because one of the first acts of .this Government when it assumed office was to include in its first financial proposals ah increase of the pension to 17s. 6d. a week. Honorable members tonight have contended that the basis of payment for invalid and old-age pensions is not sound, because of the anomalies that arise from the possession of a few hundred pounds or ‘ of a house that is being let, or of a small income .which interferes with the payment of ‘ a pension. The Government set out to try to remedy those anomalies by adopting, a differentbasis altogether. It recognized as a basis for payment of pensions the fact that old folks had lived many years in- this country and had helped to develop it. Under these circumstances, therefore, everybody must realize that there must be some reason other than a desire to curtail expenditure, for the anomalies, ‘which undoubtedly exist, and which are really accentuated by the liberality ofthe Government- towards old-age pensioners. We have paid during the last two years 3s. a week to all pensioners in hospitals and institutions. Previously nothing was paid to certain of these persons; we made the first payment to them. “We are now increasing the allowance by ls. a week, which is an increase of 25 per cent., whereas the pensioners outside will receive an increase of about 14 per cent, or 15 per cent. The men and. women outside, who have to live on a pension of £1 a week, are not as. well ofl as those who are in institutions, and who’ under the bill will receive 4s. a week, in addition to their keep. These pensions were originally brought into being to, supplement the provision made by the States. Mr. Speaker (Bt, Hon. W. A. Watt), “as a member of the Victorian legislature, was instrumental in bringing about the payment of pensions in this State, and he assures me that the first basis of the pension was to help, to some extent, these outside institutions. Later, the Commonwealth took up that role. Never have the pension payments to institutions and pensioners resident therein corresponded with the total amount of pension. At the beginning the payment to institutions was 5s. a week, and nothing at all was paid to the pensioner- inmates. In 1916 that amount was increased to 7s. 6d.. to the institutions, and 2s. to the pensioner inmates. At that time the total pension was 12s. 6d., so that there was always a difference of 3s. Subsequently the payment to institutions was raised to 8s., and later to 10s. 6d., which is the present rate. This payment to State institutions and subsidized institutions has always -been, an act of grace on the part of the Commonwealth. The present payment of what I have described as pocket-money is regarded by those who control the institutions, and by many of the pensioner inmates themselves, as the proper amount which they can profitably use to supply their needs. The Government has no desire to prevent institutions, especially those that are subsidized by the States find carry on a good deal of charitable work, from obtaining the benefit of an increased portion of the pension. It is quite prepared to go into that -question. The present basis on which, institutions -are paid has not been altered for years. This Government has no desire to penalize these institutions or old people, nor to rob them, as has been suggested. After all, these are public moneys, paid to the. public, and they return to the public exchequer in various ways; I would. emphasize the point that the suggested increase of the allowance from 4s. to 98. 6d. would grossly discriminate between the pensioners outside, who- are really our chief cure, and those in institutions. The Government does not think that the House desires that discrimination. .Honorable members hove mentioned the case of those who, for some reason, have had to leave the districts, in which they own their own homes, and who have only been able to sell on terms To meet such cases a regulation has been framed which will permit those old folks to pay an amount down on a new home, and the amount they stilt have out on mortgage, on the other house, will not be regarded as a deduction. This will enable them to get the full benefit of their, homes, and not militate against them as in the past. I shall deal in committee with the other matters that have been raised during this debate..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed, pro forma.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250917_reps_9_111/>.